Report: Yankees sign infielder Donovan Solano to minor league contract

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

The Yankees have signed infielder Donovan Solano to a minor league contract, according to a report from El Heraldo in Colombia (translated article). A hat tip goes out to longtime reader Ramon De Valencia for passing this along. Solano received an invitation to big league Spring Training.

Solano, 28, originally signed with the Cardinals as an amateur free agent out of Colombia back in 2005. He hooked on with the Marlins during the 2011-12 offseason and has been with Miami since. The Yankees have never had a Colombian born player in their history. Solano would be the first.

In 361 big league games, all with the Marlins, Solano is a career .257/.307/.328 (75 wRC+) hitter with eight home runs, eleven steals, a 16.9% strikeout rate, and a 5.6% walk rate in 1,145 plate appearances. He’s a right-handed hitter with a career .236/.274/.302 (57 wRC+) line against left-handers.

Solano came up as a middle infielder and has played the three non-first base infield positions extensively. He’s also spent time in left field. Solano could be in the mix for the last bench spot, though I think he’s likely destined for Triple-A Scranton, where they really need infielders after Tony Renda, Eric Jagielo, and Jose Pirela were traded away.

Eddy: Yankees sign Vinnie Pestano, three others to minor league contracts

Pestano. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
Pestano. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

The Yankees have started filling the gaps in the upper levels of the farm system. Matt Eddy reports the team has signed righty reliever Vinnie Pestano, outfielder Cesar Puello, catcher Sebastian Valle, and lefty Richard Bleier to minor league contracts. I assume Pestano received an invite to big league Spring Training. Not sure about the others.

Pestano, 30, is the most notable of the bunch. He spent most of last season in Triple-A with the Angels, pitching to a 2.10 ERA (2.58 FIP) in 34.1 innings. Pestano also threw 11.2 ineffective innings with the big league team (nine runs and 23 base-runners). What are the odds his grandmother calls him Vincent? Like 99.8%, right? Definitely.

Anyway, a few years ago Pestano had a great season as a setup man with the Indians, pitching to a 2.32 ERA (2.67 FIP) in 62 innings in 2011. He had a strong follow-up season in 2012 (2.57 ERA and 3.42 FIP) but has struggled since, posting a 3.97 ERA (4.79 FIP) in 65.2 innings for the Indians and Halos while spending a bunch of time in Triple-A.

The Yankees subtracted Adam Warren and Justin Wilson and added Aroldis Chapman this offseason, so while they could use bullpen help, but I wouldn’t pencil Pestano into the Opening Day roster just yet. I think he’s nothing more than a depth arm, one who might not even get through Spring Training if he doesn’t impress. If anything, Pestano may be the guy who fills in at Triple-A if a few of the relief prospects who spent 2015 on the shuttle make the big league team.

Puello, 24, is a former top Mets prospects who got caught up in the Biogenesis scandal a few years ago. In fact, Eddy notes Puello is the only player suspended for his ties to Biogenesis who has yet to play in MLB. Puello played only one game this past season, going 0-for-3 in a rookie ball contest. He missed the season with a stress fracture in his back and was released in late-August.

Puello. (Sarah Glenn/Getty)
Puello. (Sarah Glenn/Getty)

When healthy and not suspended, Puello hit .252/.355/.393 (98 wRC+) with seven homers and 13 steals in 105 Triple-A games in 2014. Baseball America ranked him as the No. 77 prospect in the game way back in 2011, one spot ahead of Andrew Brackman. How about that? “(Puello is an) average runner with the instincts to play all three outfield posts capably … His minor league track record suggests he could platoon against lefthanders,” wrote Baseball America in their 2015 Prospect Handbook, when they ranked him the No. 26 prospect in the Mets system.

The Yankees are loaded with Triple-A outfielders at the moment, even with Jake Cave going to the Reds in the Rule 5 Draft. Some combination of Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Aaron Judge, Ben Gamel, and Tyler Austin figures to be the Triple-A outfield next year, though one of those guys could end up on the MLB bench. Puello might be ticketed for Double-A Trenton, where the Yankees lack outfield options.

The 25-year-old Valle hit .279/.341/.413 (118 wRC+) in 70 Double-A games with the Phillies this past season. They originally signed him out of Mexico in 2006. As with nearly every catcher the Yankees acquire these days, Valle has a reputation for being a strong defender. My guess is he will open next season with Double-A Trenton. The Yankees don’t have an obvious everyday catcher for the level at the moment.

Bleier, 28, is a journeyman who’s spent the last few years bouncing around different organizations. He had a 2.57 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 171.2 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A with the Nationals in 2015. Bleier is an extreme control pitcher: he had a 9.5% strike rate (!) and a 2.4 walk rate this past season. Either the Yankees are going to try Bleier in relief (he’s done that before) or he’s just an innings guy for Double-A and Triple-A next year.

In addition to these four, the Yankees also signed catcher Eddy Rodriguez and infielder Pete Kozma to minor league deals this offseason. I’m sure they’ll sign a few more players to minor league contracts in the coming weeks. They’re said to be looking for a starting pitcher and will need some Triple-A infielders since both Eric Jagielo and Tony Renda were in the Chapman trade. The Yankees usually don’t announce their non-roster invitees until early-February, so it’ll be a while until these deals are made official.

Yankees acquire Aroldis Chapman from Reds in five-player trade

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The best end-game bullpen in baseball just got even better. The Yankees have acquired left-hander Aroldis Chapman from the Reds for four prospects, the team announced. Third baseman Eric Jagielo, righty Rookie Davis, righty Caleb Cotham, and second baseman Tony Renda are going to Cincinnati in the four-for-one swap. Both teams have announced the trade, so it’s a done deal. Official.

For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman confirmed the plan is add Chapman to Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances to form a Murderer’s Throw (h/t @rileysteele11) bullpen, not trade someone away. “We completed this trade with the intent of having Chapman, Miller, and Betances as a real force in the back-end of the bullpen,” said the GM on a conference call with reporters.

Chapman, 27, is currently being investigated by MLB under the new domestic violence policy due to an incident that occurred in October. Tim Brown and Jeff Passan have the details. Long story short, Chapman’s girlfriend said he choked her and threw her against a wall during an argument. He also fired eight shots in the garage of his Miami home. No arrests were made.

Cashman said the Yankees did their “due diligence” before the trade and noted the Reds had “modified” their “price point” in recent weeks, meaning they lowered their asking price following the incident. The incident caused a deal that would have sent Chapman to the Dodgers to fall apart a few weeks ago. MLB is investigating and there’s a chance Chapman may be suspended.

Chapman is currently scheduled to become a free agent next offseason and a suspension of at least 46 days would delay his free agency another year. The domestic violence policy is new so no precedents have been set yet. We’ll see what happens. MLBTR projects Chapman to earn $12.9M through arbitration next year, so it’s a hefty salary by reliever standards, but it is only a one-year commitment. (For now, anyway.)

On the field, Chapman is the hardest thrower in baseball history and one of the most dominant relievers in the game. He used a fastball that averaged 100.4 mph (!) to post a 1.63 ERA (1.94 FIP) and 116 strikeouts in 66.1 innings this past season. That 41.7% strikeout rate was actually Chapman’s lowest since his rookie season in 2011. He’s struck out 45.0% of the batters he’s faced the last four seasons. That’s just bonkers.

For all intents and purposes, the trade is Chapman for Jagielo and Davis. Cotham and Renda are basically throw-ins. Cotham was a 27-year-old rookie this past season who was stuck in an organization with more upper level bullpen depth than they know what to do with. Renda, who came over from the Nationals in the David Carpenter trade this summer, is a light-hitting contact guy whose arm relegates him to second base. He went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft a few weeks ago.

Jagielo, 23, was New York’s first round pick in 2013 (26th overall) and is the best prospect in the trade, in my opinion. He hit .284/.347/.495 (141 wRC+) with nine homers in 58 Double-A games this past season before jamming his knee sliding into home plate in June and needing season-ending arthroscopic surgery. The knee and an oblique strain have limited Jagielo to 143 games the last two years.

The 22-year-old Davis broke out with High-A Tampa this past season, pitching to a 3.70 ERA (2.22 FIP) in 97.1 innings before a late-season bump to Double-A Trenton. He was the Yankees’ 14th round pick in 2011. Davis is a huge guy (listed at 6-foot-3 and 235 lbs.) with a mid-90s fastball and a curveball. He made significant strides with his command in 2015 and earned himself a spot on the 40-man roster after the season.

The Yankees traded away Justin Wilson and Adam Warren earlier this offseason and Chapman more than makes up for the loss of Wilson. The team does still need rotation help however, preferably someone they could rely on to soak up innings. Betances, Miller, and Chapman are a hell of a thing, but Joe Girardi doesn’t want to have to use them every single day either.

Yankees send Brendan Ryan to Cubs to complete Starlin Castro trade

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Earlier today the Yankees sent Brendan Ryan to the Cubs as the player to be named later in last week’s Starlin Castro trade, both teams announced. This was totally expected. It was an open secret Ryan would be part of the trade, but the Yankees held on to him for a few extra days as a courtesy while the Cubbies sorted through some 40-man roster issues.

Ryan, 33, hit .201/.244/.271 (40 wRC+) with one homer in 289 plate appearances and 113 games for the Yankees after coming over in a September 2013 cash trade with the Mariners. Yes, he actually hit a home run in pinstripes. Here’s the video evidence:

Although he was primarily the backup middle infielder, the Yankees used Ryan at all four infield positions as well as right field over the past two seasons and one month. He even threw two shutout innings in a blowout loss this past season. Ryan exercised his $1M player option after the season.

The Yankees now have 38 players on the 40-man roster. They also have an open bench spot, and if they’re truly willing to use Castro as the backup third baseman, that spot can go to any type of player. If not — Castro hasn’t played third since rookie ball — they’ll need a backup third baseman.

Yankees re-sign Domingo German, Diego Moreno to minor league deals

Moreno. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Moreno. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

The Yankees have re-signed right-handers Domingo German and Diego Moreno to minor league contracts. The team announced the German signing while Chad Jennings reported the Moreno deal. German was non-tendered last week and Moreno became a minor league free agent after being dropped from the 40-man roster in October.

German, 23, did not pitch at all this season after blowing out his elbow and having Tommy John surgery in Spring Training. He came over from the Marlins last winter in the Martin Prado/Nathan Eovaldi deal. By non-tendering German, the Yankees were able to remove him from the 40-man roster without exposing him to waivers. They did the non-tender/re-sign trick with Slade Heathcott and Vicente Campos last year.

I ranked German as the No. 11 prospect in the system coming into the season. The right-hander broke out with the Marlins in 2014, pitching to a 2.48 ERA (3.26 FIP) in 123.1 innings for Miami’s Low Class-A affiliate. He’s a sinker/slider guy and represented the Marlins in the 2014 Futures Game. My guess is he heads to High-A Tampa once he’s done rehabbing next year.

Moreno, 29, split last season between Triple-A Scranton and the Yankees. He had a 2.18 ERA (2.73 FIP) in 53.2 innings for the RailRiders and a 5.23 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 10.1 innings for the big league team. Moreno’s season ended in August due to surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. He’s a Triple-A depth arm heading into 2016. Nothing more.

Yankees make no picks, lose Jake Cave and Evan Rutckyj in Rule 5 Draft

Cave. (AP)
Cave. (AP)

The 2015 Winter Meetings came to an unofficial end Thursday morning with the Rule 5 Draft. Everyone usually heads home afterward. The Yankees did not make a pick in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft today even though there were rumblings they were considering it. They haven’t made a Rule 5 pick since taking Cesar Cabral and Brad Meyers in 2011. Here are the Rule 5 Draft results.

The Yankees did, however, lose two players in the Rule 5 Draft. Outfielder Jake Cave was selected by the Reds with the No. 2 pick, and left-hander Evan Rutckyj was selected by the Braves with the No. 3. Atlanta really seems to love their ex-Yankees, huh? This is getting kinda creepy. Anyway, by rule, Cave and Rutckyj must remain on the 25-man active roster all season in 2016, or pass through waivers and be offered back to New York.

Cave, 23, was the Yankees’ sixth round pick in the 2011 draft. I ranked him as the No. 19 prospect in the organization prior to the season. Cave hit .276/.337/.356 (102 wRC+) with 25 doubles and two home runs in 134 games at Double-A and Triple-A this summer. He’s a lefty hitting fourth outfielder type — not enough power for a corner and just enough defense for center. The Reds have little outfield depth, which bodes well for Cave. He might stick next year.

The 23-year-old Rutckyj (pronounced root-ski) was the Yankees’ 16th round pick in 2010. He’s a surprise Rule 5 Draft pick for sure. Even Rutckyj seems surprised. The southpaw had a 2.63 ERA (2.59 FIP) with a 31.5% strikeout rate in 61.2 innings with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton this past season. Rutckyj’s a low-to-mid-90s fastball guy with shaky command. The Braves have a disasterpen, though it still would be a surprise if Rutckyj stuck all season.

The Yankees did select three (!) players in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft: righty Yefrey Ramirez (Diamondbacks), righty Julian Aybar (Cubs), and catcher Santiago Nessy (Royals). I can’t remember the last time the Yankees took even one player in the Triple-A phase, though I could be forgetting someone obvious. The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. These players are Yankees now, no strings attached. There are no roster hoops to jump through.

Ramirez, 22, had a 5.35 ERA (5.78 FIP) in 69 rookie ball innings with the D’Backs in 2015. Aybar, 23, had a 1.82 ERA (2.33 FIP) in 39.2 rookie ball innings for the Cubs this summer. The 23-year-old Nessy hit .220/.287/.340 (82 wRC+) in 62 games split between two levels of Single-A with Kansas City this past season. He’s the guy the Blue Jays traded to the Royals for righty reliever Liam Hendriks last offseason.

The Yankees also lost four players in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft: righty Luis Niebla (Rockies), outfielder Danny Oh (Athletics), catcher Eduardo de Oleo (D’Backs), and righty Yoel Espinal (Rays). As with the three guys the Yankees picked up, none of these four are prospects. They’re all organizational player types. The Yankees lost two righties and a catcher so they took two righties and a catcher to replace the depth. That’s all.

So, all told, the Yankees selected three players in the minor league phase while losing six players total, two in the Major League phase and four in the minor league phase. Rutckyj is probably coming back at some point. Cave might stick though, and even if he does get offered back, the Yankees might opt to work out a trade to let him stay with the Reds. The Yankees have a lot of Triple-A outfield depth and there are only so many at-bats to go around.

Yankees trade Justin Wilson to Tigers for two prospects

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees have traded a left-handed reliever, just not the one who’s been in all the rumors the last few weeks. New York has shipped Justin Wilson to the Tigers for right-handed pitching prospects Luis Cessa and Chad Green, the team announced. Cessa and Green rank 6th and 19th on MLB.com’s top 30 Tigers prospects list. Cessa is on the 40-man roster. Green isn’t.

Earlier today Brian Cashman confirmed he was listening to offers for both Wilson and Andrew Miller, the latter of whom has been in trade rumors all offseason. “If we are willing to discuss Andrew Miller, we are willing to discuss Justin Wilson,” he said. I would not assume Miller is now off limits just because Wilson’s gone. The Yankees could get a major haul for Miller and it would silly to take him off the table.

Wilson, 28, had a 3.10 ERA (2.69 FIP) in 61 innings in 2015, his only season with the Yankees after coming over from the Pirates in the Francisco Cervelli trade. He emerged as Joe Girardi‘s seventh inning guy and proved he could retire both righties and lefties, so he wasn’t just a left-on-left matchup guy. Wilson is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and is projected to earn $1.3M next year.

The 23-year-old Cessa was one of the prospects the Mets traded to the Tigers for Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline. He had a 2.56 ERA (2.69 FIP) in 77.1 Double-A innings this year, then got hammered to the tune of a 6.97 ERA (3.57 FIP) in 62 Triple-A innings. Cessa had a 19.6% strikeout rate and a 5.9% walk rate in 139.1 total innings. Here’s a piece of MLB.com’s scouting report:

As a former middle infielder, Cessa brings excellent athleticism to the mound. He also brings a solid three-pitch mix. His fastball will sit at 93 mph, and he’ll touch 95 mph on occasion. His breaking ball is a bit slurvy but has shown improvement, and he has the makings of a Major League average changeup. More than anything, he throws a ton of strikes, proof of which comes in his career 1.8 walks-per-nine ratio heading into 2015.

Green, 24, had a 3.93 ERA (3.22 FIP) with a 20.9% strikeout and a 6.6% walk rate in 148.2 innings this summer, all at Double-A. He was Detroit’s 11th round pick in the 2013 draft. MLB.com says he “used a combination of a very good fastball and outstanding command to outsmart hitters at that level.” Green has a low-90s sinker as well as a slider and changeup. I’d guess both he and Cessa will start 2016 in Triple-A, though they could be flipped elsewhere.

Losing Wilson is a blow to the bullpen, but, if there’s one thing the Yankees are able to do consistently these days, it’s churn out a quality relief crew. This trade could mean Jacob Lindgren (or James Pazos) will get a chance to assume a regular role next season. Lots of offseason left and the Yankees have a whole lot of interesting young relievers on the 40-man roster. We’ll see what happens.