Archive for Transactions
The Yankees had a surplus of Double-A and Triple-A outfielders, so they turned one of them into a serviceable big league reliever. New York traded Abe Almonte to the Mariners for right-hander Shawn Kelley, the team announced. Alex Rodriguez was placed on the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot.
Kelley, 29 in April, was designated for assignment by the Mariners when they signed Joe Saunders six days ago. Buster Olney confirmed Kelley has a minor league option remaining, meaning he’s likely ticketed for the Triple-A bullpen to start the season. He and Cody Eppley figure to ride the Scranton-Bronx express this summer. Kelley will earn $935k in 2013 following his second trip through arbitration as a Super Two. He can’t become a free agent until the 2015-2016 offseason at the earliest.
A two-time Tommy John surgery survivor, Kelley owns a 3.52 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 128 big league innings spread across the last four seasons. He misses bats (career 8.58 K/9 and 22.6 K%) with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a power mid-80s slider, and his walk rate (2.74 BB/9 and 7.4 BB%) is strong as well. Ten of his 39 walks as a big leaguer were intentional, so that walk rate is inflated a little bit. Kelley is a fly ball pitcher (29.5% grounders) and homer prone (1.34 HR/9 and 9.7% HR/FB), which is not ideal. As long as he’s working low-to-mid-leverage innings, it won’t be the end of the world.
Almonte, 23, did not make my annual Top 30 Prospects List. He hit .276/.350/.392 (106 wRC+) with 30 steals in 359 plate appearances for Double-A Trenton last summer. Once an infielder, Almonte moved to the outfield full-time in 2008 and has experience in all three spots. He re-signed with the team after becoming a minor league free agent in October, then went unclaimed in December’s Rule 5 Draft. With Slade Heathcott, Tyler Austin, and Ramon Flores ticketed for Double-A and Zoilo Almonte, Melky Mesa, and Ronnie Mustelier in line for Triple-A — don’t forget about Adonis Garcia and Thomas Neal either — Almonte was completely expendable.
The big league bullpen is pretty much set at this point, but extra arms are always going to be needed. The Yankees used 17 different relievers just last season, for example. Kelley adds some depth and they traded a player they won’t even notice is gone thanks to all the outfielders at the upper levels. I wouldn’t say it’s something-for-nothing, but they definitely used their minor league surplus to help the big league club.
February 5th: Jon Heyman and Ken Rosenthal say the contract is worth $1.2M guaranteed if Rivera makes the team, with another $800k available in incentives. I guess that’s the going rate for mediocre right-handed hitting outfielders these days — Diaz’s contract has the exact same terms.
January 28th: The Yankees have added another player to their inevitable right-handed outfield bat competition in Spring Training. Andrew Marchand and Wally Matthews report New York has signed former Yankee Juan Rivera to a minor league contract with an invitation to big league camp. No word on the money, but I’m guessing it’s in the low seven-figures if he makes the team. Chances are he can ask for his release if he doesn’t make the club rather than report to Triple-A.
“Obviously, he’ll compete for that vacancy for the right-handed hitting outfielder,” said Brian Cashman to Anthony McCarron. “He played for (High-A Tampa manager Luis Sojo) in Venezuela and Sojo said he was playing well and in good shape. We’ll see what he can do.”
Rivera, 34, originally signed with the Yankees as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela back in 1997. He spent parts of three seasons in the Bronx before being traded to the Expos as part of the package for Javy Vazquez during the 2003-2004 offseason. Rivera spent just one year with the Expos before being traded to the Angels for Jose Guillen. He’s played for the Blue Jays and Dodgers most recently.
A career .274/.323/.443 (102 wRC+) hitter, Rivera owns a .286/.333/.489 (115 wRC+) career line against southpaws. Over the last three seasons those wRC+ numbers are 92 and 109, respectively. As I wrote earlier this month, Rivera does a swell job of getting the bat on the ball (12.9 K% and 84.2% contact rate since 2010) and he’ll even take the occasional walk (7.1 BB%). He will not, however, play anything more than passable defense in the outfield corners or at first base. Speed and stolen bases aren’t happening either.
Rivera joins fellow scrap heap pickups Matt Diaz (minor league deal) and Russ Canzler (waiver claim) as right-handed bats with a chance to make the team out of Spring Training. Internal options like Melky Mesa and Ronnie Mustelier should not be ruled out either. The Yankees recently signed Dan Johnson to a minor league deal, and I suppose any of these guys is a candidate for the DH role as well. That position as well as bench help will be the priorities in the coming weeks.
The Orioles have claimed Russ Canzler off waivers from the Yankees, the team announced. New York designated him for assignment last week to clear room on the roster for Travis Hafner. Canzler would have competed for the right-handed hitting outfielder’s job had he remained with the team, but instead he was claimed off waivers for the fourth time this offseason.
Got a quartet of minor league signings to pass along. None of these guys have a realistic chance of making the big league team anytime soon, so they’re just depth guys to help fill out the affiliates’ rosters. Everything comes from Matt Eddy…
- RHP Kelvin Perez: The Yankees re-signed the 27-year-old right-hander, who posted a 1.14 ERA (3.26 FIP) in 74.1 relief innings for Double-A Trenton last season before making a brief late-season cameo with Triple-A Empire State. Walks have long been his bugaboo (career 3.9 BB/9 and 10.0 BB%). He has the best chance of eventually helping the big league club of anyone in this post.
- LHP Josh Romanski: Like Perez, Romanski re-signed with the team after spending most of last season with Double-A Trenton. The 26-year-old managed a 4.97 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 29 innings across three starts and nine relief appearances. He missed a bunch of time due to injury.
- RHP Chris Smith: The Yankees signed Smith, 24, out of the independent Frontier League. He pitched to a 2.92 ERA with 116 strikeouts and 50 walks in 129.1 innings across 19 starts with the Washington Wild Things last summer. Josh Norris spoke to a scout who said he’s a command and control guy who lives in the high-80s.
- SS Leugim Barrosco: Another indy baller, the 27-year-old Barrosco hit .317/.345/.364 with 14 steals in 91 games last season. They signed him away from the Rio Grande Valley White Wings of the North American League. Barrosco was born in Cuba and the most interesting thing about him is that his name is Miguel spelled backwards.
Saturday: The contract includes an additional $4M in incentives according to the AP. Hafner will earn $100k each for his 150th and 155th plate appearances, with six-figure payouts for every 15 plate appearances thereafter. He’s going to rack up some big incentive bucks in a hurry if he stays healthy.
Friday: Spring Training opens in less than two weeks, and the Yankees finally have their new DH. New York has agreed to sign Travis Hafner to a one-year contract according to Jon Heyman. Ken Davidoff and Dan Barbarisi say the deal is worth $2M guaranteed with “reachable incentives.” The contract is pending a physical, which is far from a slam dunk in this case. The Yankees will need to make a corresponding 40-man roster move once things are finalized.
Hafner, 35, picked the Yankees over the Rays according to Buster Olney. He’s a career .278/.381/.507 (135 wRC+) hitter who had some monster seasons back in the day (167 wRC+ from 2004-2006). Hafner hit .267/.363/.447 (124 wRC+) overall and .278/.385/.470 (136 wRC+) against right-handers over the last three years. The one they call Pronk takes a lot of walks (12.7% since 2010) and his strikeout rate is a touch better than the league average (19.2 K%). He’s not a dead pull hitter (2010-2012 spray chart) but he is most dangerous when he hooks the ball into right. The move into Yankee Stadium should boost his numbers plenty.
Injuries have been a big problem for Hafner the last few years, which is why the physical is not given. He had right shoulder surgery (debridement) in October 2008 and right knee surgery (meniscus) this past May. Shoulder inflammation (2010), an oblique strain (2011), a foot strain (2011), and a bulging disc in his lower back (2012) are also in the not-too-distant past. Hafner has played in 95+ games just once in the last five years (2010). Staying on the field has definitely been an issue and will be a concern in 2013.
Hafner has not played the field regularly since 2003 or at all since 2007, so he’s strictly a DH. It’s not ideal, but the options are limited at this point. He’s also a big lumbering dude (listed at 6-foot-3 and 240 lbs.) who offers no speed whatsoever. We’re talking never gonna take the extra base, will need three singles to score from first, Molina-esque speed. Mark Teixeira will look like Brett Gardner by comparison. Okay, maybe he’s not that slow, but you get the point. Hafner’s career-low .233 BABIP lat year can be blamed on a sky-high 10.1% infield fly ball rate, but otherwise his batted ball profile was unchanged.
The Yankees signed Dan Johnson to a minor league contract last week, so he’s likely ticketed for Triple-A Scranton now. Hafner’s lack of durability means Johnson will probably get a shot at some point, however. Bench help and general pitching depth are the last remaining items on the offseason agenda since it’s now obvious a new starting catcher just isn’t happening. Matt Diaz (minor league deal), Russ Canzler (waivers), and Juan Rivera (minor league deal) will compete for the right-handed bench bat role while Jayson Nix and Eduardo Nunez are the favorites for the backup infielder spot.
The Yankees have designated Russ Canzler for assignment, the team announced. The move clears room on the 40-man roster for Travis Hafner, whose one-year contract is now official. That means his physical went well, so good news.
Canzler, 26, was claimed off waivers from the Indians earlier this offseason. It was the third time he was claimed off waivers this winter, so it’s no slam dunk he clears and remains with the organization. Canzler owns a 91 wRC+ in his very brief big league career and was expected to compete for the right-handed hitting bench bat role in Spring Training.
The Yankees and David Robertson have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $3.1M according to Jon Heyman. The team has since confirmed the agreement. The 27-year-old setup man filed for $3.55M before last Friday’s deadline while the club countered with $2.85M, so they settled just below the midpoint. Nothing surprising here. I wrote a little about a multi-year extension for Robertson a few days ago, but that wasn’t going to happen. He won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2014 season, so they’ll go through this again next winter.
Spring Training is less than three weeks away and the Yankees still need a DH, bench help, and miscellaneous minor league depth. They brought in a player who might be able to satisfy any one of those needs on Thursday, signing corner infielder Dan Johnson to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training according to Sweeny Murti. Andrew Marchand says the deal is worth $900k at the big league level.
Johnson is probably best remembered by Yankees fans for his two-out, two-strike, game-tying homer off Cory Wade (video) in the ninth inning of Game 162 in 2011. He actually has a bit of a history when it comes to super-clutch late-season homers, including this 2008 shot against the Red Sox that helped keep the Rays in first place and this 2010 walk-off shot against Boston that kept Tampa tied atop the AL East. Johnson has been dubbed by the Great Pumpkin by the Rays faithful because he pops up once a year to do something awesome, so hooray for original nicknames.
Anyway, none of that really matters to the Yankees. Johnson, 33, is a career .237/.338/.412 (102 wRC+) hitter in over 1,550 career big league plate appearances, but most of that came during his time with the Athletics back in the day. Since landing with the Rays in 2008, he’s been a .185/.309/.379 (93 wRC+) hitter in a little less than 300 plate appearances. He had a very brief (eight games) stint with the White Sox last year and hit three homers in the final game of the season. Johnson’s career Triple-A numbers are gaudy: a .294/.408/.553 line with more walks (15.7%) than strikeouts (15.1%) in nearly 3,000 plate appearances. He also spent the 2009 season in Japan.
Defensively, Johnson fits best at first base or DH, but he can fill in at third in a real pinch. I’m talking an emergency, not once a week or anything. Since he doesn’t steal bases or offer any speed, he’s just a pure left-handed bat who needs a platoon partner. Given his pull-happy approach, Johnson could have some fun with the short porch in right field even though his homers have averaged over 380 feet over the last three years according to Hit Tracker. That’s pretty impressive. It’s also worth noting that he doesn’t strike out as much as guys with this profile tend to do (18.9 K% since 2008), so that’s cool.
At worst, Johnson will man first base for Triple-A Scranton — he was the International League MVP in 2011 — while at best he takes over as New York’s regular DH. In the middle, he serves as a defensively limited left-handed bat off the bench. The signing is similar to the Russell Branyan pick-up last year, except Johnson is younger and doesn’t have a history of back problems. The move won’t preclude the Yankees from signing another player to be their DH or fill out the bench.
According to Matt Eddy, the Yankees have signed infielder Reegie Corona to a minor league deal. The 26-year-old spent the 2004-2011 seasons in the organization and was even on the 40-man roster for two years for no apparent reason. He’s healthy after suffering a brutal arm injury in a collision with an outfielder in July 2010 and has had a decent stint in winter ball. Corona is just infield depth for Double and Triple-A, essentially filling the role of the recently-released Yadil Mujica.
In other news, the Yankees have signed Thomas Neal according to the outfielder’s Twitter feed. I assume it’s another minor league deal. The 25-year-old was recently released by the Indians to clear room on the 40-man roster for Nick Swisher. He had a huge year in the hitter-friendly High-A California League a few seasons ago but otherwise has hit much in recent years, including a .289/.343/.391 line in 70 career Triple-A games. As a right-handed hitting outfielder with a .316/.382/.412 batting line against southpaws over the last two seasons, you have to figure he’ll get a look in Spring Training.
The Yankees and Boone Logan have agreed to a one-year contract worth $3.15M, according to CAA Sports. MLBTR projected $2.8M. The left-handed reliever was arbitration-eligible for the fourth time as a Super Two, so he’ll be up for free agency next winter.
David Robertson is the team’s only remaining unsigned arbitration-eligible player.