Yankees trade Barbato to the Pirates for nothing in particular

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees announced they have traded right-hander Johnny Barbato to the Pirates for cash or a player to be named later. I’d bet on cash. Barbato was designated for assignment last week to clear a 40-man roster spot for Jordan Montgomery. Does this count as the annual Yanks-Pirates trade?

Barbato, 24, came over from the Padres in the Shawn Kelley trade back during the 2014-15 offseason. He made the Opening Day roster last season and threw 13 mostly ineffective relief innings (7.62 ERA and 4.45 FIP). The Yankees planned to try Barbato, a career reliever, as a starter this season, but they needed the 40-man space.

Even with Barbato gone and Dietrich Enns (shoulder) on the minor league disabled list, the Yankees still have Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Chasen Shreve, Ben Heller, and Gio Gallegos sitting in Triple-A and on the 40-man roster. There’s no shortage of shuttle arms right now.

Yankees bring back veteran catcher Eddy Rodriguez

(Scranton Times Tribune)
(Scranton Times Tribune)

The Yankees have added another layer of catching depth. The club has signed veteran journeyman Eddy Rodriguez and assigned him to Triple-A Scranton, according to his Twitter feed. The Yankees have not yet announced the move. Rodriguez was in the organization in 2015 and 2016. He was in camp with the Twins as a non-roster player this year, and was apparently let go at the end of camp.

Rodriguez, 31, was Gary Sanchez‘s primary backup at Double-A Trenton in 2015 and Triple-A Scranton in 2016. Last year he hit .214/.265/.329 (68 wRC+) in 44 Triple-A games last year, though the Yankees didn’t sign him for his bat. They signed him for his glove and because he’s long been regarded as a great clubhouse guy and mentor. Rodriguez has a little big league time with the Padres in 2012. His only MLB hit? A dinger:

This season Rodriguez will be tasked with backing up Kyle Higashioka with the RailRiders. I know this seems like a nothing signing, but Rodriguez is a much more viable big league option than Wilkin Castillo, who was originally slated to back up Higashioka. Should Higashioka get called up due to injury or whatever, Rodriguez would be a perfectly fine No. 3 catching option in Triple-A.

The minor league season starts this Thursday, April 6th. The official Opening Day rosters have not been released yet. The Yankees and their affiliates are notoriously slow to release those. We might not see them until Thursday afternoon.

Game One: Opening Day

For the first time in 185 days, the New York Yankees will play a meaningful baseball game today. It’s Opening Day, the first day of the 2017 regular season, when every team is tied for first place and thinking this is their year. The Yankees had a phenomenal Spring Training, an everything went right Spring Training, so we’re all feeling good right now. I know am.

This is very much the start of a new era for the Yankees. They’re transitioning away from older veterans to young up-and-comers, with even more youngsters on the way. The farm system is loaded. The old stalwarts, guys like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann, Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano, are all gone. The Yankees are trying to build a new core from within, moreso than at any point in the last two decades.

The Yankees are 63-50-1 all-time on Opening Day, but, believe it or not, they’ve actually lost their last five season openers. They’ve lost seven of their last eight too. Seriously. That’s pretty annoying. The Yankees have never once in their history lost six straight Opening Days. That is not the kind of record I want to see them break this year. Here is the Rays’ lineup and here is Joe Girardi‘s first lineup of the new season:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. 1B Greg Bird
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is sunny and warm in St. Petersburg this afternoon. Pretty much perfect baseball weather, but alas, the Yankees and Rays will be playing indoors at Tropicana Field. The Yankees last opened in Tampa back in 2012, the first of these five straight Opening Day losses. That was the “hey let’s intentionally walk Sean Rodriguez to load the bases for Carlos Pena” game, not that I’m still bitter or anything. Anyway, this afternoon’s game will begin at 1:10pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy the first of 162.

Roster Move: The Yankees officially announced their 25-man Opening Day roster and it is as expected. No surprises or last minute changes. Tyler Austin was placed on the 60-day disabled list to clear a 40-man spot for Pete Kozma. The Yankees are officially calling it a fractured left ankle for Austin, if you’re into specifics. Also, Didi Gregorius was placed on the 10-day DL with a right shoulder sprain. Yes, it’s the 10-day DL now. The 15-day DL is no more. Gregorius was placed on the DL retroactive to March 30th. The Yankees didn’t say anything about backdating Austin’s DL stint.

Pirates return Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Webb to Yankees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Another Rule 5 Draft pick player is back. The Pirates have returned left-hander Tyler Webb to the Yankees, both teams announced today. That means he cleared waivers. Webb is back with the Yankees as a non-40-man roster player, and the team has assigned him to Triple-A Scranton.

Webb, 26, was New York’s tenth round pick back in 2013. He’s pitched to a 3.61 ERA (2.91 FIP) with 26.3% strikeouts and 7.2% walks in 127 Triple-A innings the last two years. Although he’s spent most of his career as a reliever, the Yankees tried Webb as a starter last season, and he made a few spot starts and extended relief outings. I wonder whether they’ll have him try that again this year.

I thought Webb had a pretty good chance to stick as a Rule 5 Draft player because he’s left-handed, has a little something on his fastball, and has had success in Triple-A. Alas. He allowed four runs in 13 innings this spring while striking out eleven and walking one. The Pirates went with former Yankee Wade LeBlanc for their final bullpen spot over Webb. He would have had to remain on their 25-man big league roster all season.

Three of the four players the Yankees lost in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft have now been returned: Webb, Tyler Jones (Diamondbacks), and Caleb Smith (Cubs). The only one left is catcher Luis Torrens, who is in camp with the Padres and is reportedly the front-runner for their backup catcher’s job. He’s 20 years old and making the jump from Low-A to MLB, plus the history of Rule 5 Draft pick catchers is terrible, so I think he’s coming back at some point, sooner rather than later.

Cubs return Rule 5 Draft pick Caleb Smith to Yankees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The Yankees have welcomed back another one of their lost Rule 5 Draft players. Left-hander Caleb Smith has been returned by the Cubs, both teams announced. Smith was reassigned to minor league camp as a non-40-man roster player. He had to remain on Chicago’s big league roster all season, or be passed through waivers and offered back to the Yankees, which is exactly what happened.

Smith, 24, was New York’s 14th round pick in the 2013 draft. He had a 3.96 ERA (3.15 FIP) with 25.1% strikeouts in 63.2 innings with Double-A Trenton last season, his second straight year at the level. Smith is a lefty and he has good velocity on his fastball, so it’s no surprise a team took a chance on him in the Rule 5 Draft. He figures to be part of the Triple-A Scranton bullpen mix.

The Cubs acquired Smith from the Brewers following the Rule 5 Draft. Milwaukee selected him then traded him to Chicago for cash. The Rule 5 Draft rules still apply following the trade though. There seemed to be very little chance Smith, who struck out seven and allowed three runs (including three homers) in 6.1 innings this spring, would stick with the Cubs given their bullpen depth.

Last week the Yankees received Tyler Jones, another Rule 5 Draft pick, back from the Diamondbacks. Lefty Tyler Webb (Pirates) and catcher Luis Torrens (Padres) are still out there. Webb has a pretty good chance to stick. I still expect Torrens to be offered back sooner rather than later. A 20-year-old catcher jumping from Low-A to MLB is so very unlikely to stick, even with a bad rebuilding team.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Diamondbacks have returned Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Jones to the Yankees, both teams announced earlier today. That means Jones, a right-handed reliever, cleared waivers and was removed from the 40-man roster. The Yankees have assigned him to minor league camp.

Jones, 27, signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent last offseason. He had a 2.17 ERA (1.50 FIP) with 34.2% strikeouts and 5.6% walks in 45.2 Double-A innings last summer. This spring he allowed five runs (three earned) in 6.2 innings with Arizona. Jones fanned eight and walked none.

The D’Backs aren’t particularly deep in the bullpen and I thought Jones had a chance to stick as a middle reliever. Arizona would have had to carry him on their 25-man big league roster all season as a Rule 5 Draft pick, otherwise put him on waivers and offer him back to the Yankees, which is what happened.

The Yankees still have three other Rule 5 Draft picks out there: catcher Luis Torrens (Padres) and lefties Caleb Smith (Cubs) and Tyler Webb (Pirates). Webb has the best chance to stick with his new team, I believe. Torrens and Smith are almost certainly coming back at some point before Opening Day.

Yankees sign Ernesto Frieri to minor league contract

Frieri circa 2014. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Frieri circa 2014. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

6:14pm ET: Jon Heyman says Frieri will make $800,000 at the big league level. The contract also includes incentives based on appearances and games finished in case, you know, he becomes the closer or something.

6:00pm ET: As expected, the Yankees announced today they have signed veteran right-hander Ernesto Frieri to a minor league contract. He’ll be in big league camp as a non-roster player. Frieri worked out for the team recently and was in the clubhouse yesterday, at which point it was pretty obvious a deal was in the works.

Frieri, 31, did not pitch in 2016. He was in camp with the Phillies, got released, remained unemployed all summer, then threw in winter ball in Venezuela. Frieri struck out one in two scoreless innings with Colombia during the World Baseball Classic, and PitchFX says his fastball averaged 95.0 mph.

Once upon a time Frieri was a quality late-inning reliever with the Padres and Angels, throwing 229.1 innings with a 2.79 ERA (3.45 FIP) and 32.4% strikeouts from 2010-13. He wasn’t very good with the Angels, Pirates, and Rays from 2014-15 though (6.37 ERA and 5.76 FIP). Even at his best, Frieri walked a lot of batters (career 10.9% walk rate).

Joe Girardi told Dan Martin that Frieri is “going to get an opportunity here,” and as a non-roster invitee, he carries no risk. He’ll throw a few innings in Grapefruit League games, and if he looks good, the Yankees will keep him. If not, they’ll move on. I’m not too optimistic Frieri will help the Yankees, but there’s no such thing as too much pitching.