Heyman: Yankees sign Anthony Swarzak to minor league deal

(Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty)
(Brace Hemmelgarn/Getty)

It appears the Yankees have their Triple-A innings guy. The team has signed right-hander Anthony Swarzak to a minor league contract, reports Jon Heyman. The deal will pay him $750,000 at the big league level. Safe to assume Swarzak received an invitation to big league Spring Training.

Swarzak, 30, made the Indians’ Opening Day roster last year, but was sent to Triple-A after allowing nine runs (five earned) in 13.1 innings. He made six relief appearances in the minors before latching on with the Doosan Bears in Korea. Swarzak had a 5.56 ERA in 92.1 innings for Doosan last summer. He worked mostly as a starter.

In 453 career innings spread across 32 starts and 159 relief appearances, Swarzak has a 4.45 ERA (4.18 FIP) at the MLB level, mostly with the Twins. That’s broken down into a 5.87 ERA (4.81 FIP) as a starter and a 3.64 ERA (3.81 FIP) as a reliever. Swarzak a low-to-mid-90s fastball/slider guy at this point. He doesn’t throw his curveball or changeup much out of the bullpen.

There are three open bullpen spots at the moment, so I wouldn’t rule Swarzak out as a candidate for the big league roster. I think it’s more likely he’ll be the designated Triple-A innings guy though. Last year it was Kyle Davies, the year before it was Bruce Billings, and the year before that it was Chris Bootcheck. Teams always need a veteran guy to soak up some innings in Triple-A.

Yanks acquire lefty Tyler Olson, infielder Ronald Torreyes in minor deal with Dodgers

Torreyes. (Darin Wallentine/Getty)
Torreyes. (Darin Wallentine/Getty)

In a very minor trade, the Yankees have acquired left-hander Tyler Olson and infielder Ronald Torreyes from the Dodgers for infielder Rob Segedin and either a player to be named later or cash, both teams announced. The 40-man roster is now full.

Torreyes, 23, is both well-traveled and the more notable of the two players the Yankees acquired. He originally signed with the Reds as an international free agent out of Venezuela (2010), then was traded to the Cubs in the Sean Marshall deal (2011), traded to the Astros for international slot money (2013), sold to the Blue Jays (2015), then sold to the Dodgers (2015). Phew.

This past season Torreyes hit .262/.310/.348 (82 wRC+) with a tiny 8.2% strikeout rate in 464 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A. He also made his MLB debut in September and went 2-for-6 with a double with Los Angeles. Baseball America ranked Torreyes as the No. 24 prospect in Houston’s system coming into 2015.

Torreyes originally came up as a shortstop but he has experience at the three non-first base infield positions as well as left field. He’s a right-handed hitter — albeit not much of an offensive threat — who seems like a candidate for the final bench spot given his versatility and extreme contact ability. Torreyes has two minor league options left.

Olson, 26, made the Mariners out of Spring Training last season but stunk (eight runs in 13.1 innings) and was quickly shipped back to Triple-A. The Dodgers claimed him off waivers earlier this offseason. Olson had a 4.47 ERA (4.37 FIP) in 54.1 Triple-A innings in 2015. He’s a fairly generic reliever with an upper-80s fastball and a mid-70s curveball. Like Torreyes, Olson has two options remaining.

Both Torreyes and Olson had been designated for assignment in recent days, which is why they came at such a low cost. Segedin, 27, hit .286/.359/.425 (129 wRC+) in 72 games split between Double-A and Triple-A last season. He was New York’s third round pick back in 2010 but didn’t pan out as hoped. Segedin settled in as a nice organization player these last few seasons.

In a nutshell, the Yankees upgraded the 39th and 40th spots on the 40-man roster, which weren’t even occupied to begin with. Olson and Torreyes give the team some more optionable depth — the Yankees can send them up and down as needed next season. That’s about it. Maybe Torreyes can be a useful bench bat. Probably not. Didn’t cost much to find out.

Eddy: Yankees sign righty Tyler Jones to minor league deal

(News Press)
(News Press)

The Yankees have signed right-hander Tyler Jones to a minor league contract, reports Matt Eddy. No word whether he received an invite to big league Spring Training. The Yankees usually don’t release their list of non-roster invitees until early-February.

Jones, 26, was an 11th round pick by the Twins in 2011. They released him following the 2014 season and he spent 2015 with the Braves, putting up a 2.50 ERA (2.05 FIP) with a 28.4% strikeout rate and an 8.7% walk rate in 54 relief innings split between High-A and Double-A.

After beginning his pro career as a starter, Jones moved to the bullpen full-time in 2013 and saw his stuff tick up a notch. He’s a classic mid-90s fastball/low-80s slider reliever with spotty command. Fun fact: Jones and Nick Rumbelow were teammates at LSU in 2011.

The Yankees have more than enough righty relievers in the upper levels of the organization at the moment. It seems like Jones is a depth bullpen arm for Double-A more than an actual prospect, but who knows. The Yankees have a knack for identifying scrap heap relievers.

Eddy: Yankees sign infielder Jonathan Diaz to minor league contract

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

We’ve reached the point of the offseason where teams begin to load up on non-roster invitees, and the Yankees are doing just that. Matt Eddy reports the team has signed infielder Jonathan Diaz to a minor league contract. I assume he received an invitation to big league Spring Training as well.

Diaz, 30, is the quintessential all-glove/no-hit infielder. He’s gone 8-for-55 (.145) in 35 career big league games with the Blue Jays and Red Sox the last few seasons. Diaz hit .223/.328/.284 (84 wRC+) with two homers, seven steals, and a bunch of walks (11.9%) in 118 Triple-A games for Toronto last season.

In the field, Diaz has a reputation for being a defensive wizard, which is why he has managed to stick around despite a total lack of offense. He’s spent the majority of his career at shortstop but has also played a ton of second base and plenty of third as well. Diaz has even seen time in left field too.

The Yankees needed Triple-A infielders after trading away Jose Pirela, Eric Jagielo, and Tony Renda earlier this offseason. They inked Pete Kozma to a minor league contract early in the offseason and Donovan Solano last week. Those two plus Diaz help replenish the lost Triple-A infield depth.

There is an open bench spot at the MLB level, and I’m sure Diaz and the other non-roster infielders will be given a chance to complete for the job in camp. I think (hope) the Yankees will look for a better option, however. In all likelihood, Diaz will join Kozma, Solano, Rob Refsnyder, and Greg Bird in the RailRiders’ infield come Opening Day.

Update: Yankees acquire Kirby Yates from Indians in cash deal

(Alex Goodlett/Getty)
(Alex Goodlett/Getty)

Sunday: The Yankees sent $78,000 to the Indians for Yates, according to the Associated Press. It’s not often we hear how much money exchanges hands in these cash deals. Neat.

Friday: The Yankees have acquired right-hander Kirby Yates from the Indians in a cash trade, the team has announced.

Yates, 28, was designated for assignment earlier this week when the Indians signed Mike Napoli. Cleveland picked him up in a cash trade with the Rays back in November. Yates has a 5.27 ERA (5.51 FIP) in 56.1 big league innings, all with Tampa Bay. Here’s some video:

Yates had a 5.33 ERA (4.70 FIP) in 25.1 Triple-A innings this past season. He’s got a low-90s fastball and throws a mid-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball, so he’s one of those rare four-pitch relievers.

As best I can tell, Yates has a minor league option remaining, so he’s another candidate to ride the bullpen shuttle next season. This is basically Chris Martin 2.0. The Yankees picked up Yates for practically nothing and will see if they can get some decent innings out of him.

The club still has two open spots on the 40-man roster.

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.