Yankees designate Austin Romine for assignment, John Ryan Murphy wins backup catcher job

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The backup catcher competition is over. The Yankees have designated Austin Romine for assignment, the team announced following this afternoon’s game. “He had a tough spring. You wish the best for the kid,” said Joe Girardi according to Ryan Hatch.

Romine, 26, is out of minor league options, meaning he couldn’t go to Triple-A without passing through waivers. The DFA gives the Yankees more time to figure things out — they now have ten days to trade, release, or waive Romine. If he clears waivers, he can go to Triple-A as a non-40-man roster player.

The move means John Ryan Murphy will be Brian McCann‘s backup to start the season, as expected. The writing has been on the wall since last season. Although Romine spent most of 2013 with the Yankees, Murphy got called up last year when Frankie Cervelli got hurt and then again as the third catcher in September.

The 25-man Opening Day roster is set, for all intents and purposes. The Yankees just have to make it official. Murphy will be the backup catcher, Gregorio Petit the backup infielder, and Chasen Shreve and Chris Martin the sixth and seventh relievers in the bullpen.

Latest roster cuts clarify Opening Day bullpen and bench pictures

(Presswire)
Whitley. (Presswire)

The Yankees announced their latest round of roster cuts earlier today, optioning Chase Whitley to Triple-A Scranton and reassigning non-roster invitees Rob Refsnyder, Nick Noonan, and Eddy Rodriguez to minor league camp. By my count there are still 32 players in big league camp, four of whom are injured (Brendan Ryan, Chris Capuano, Ivan Nova, Vicente Campos).

Today’s roster cuts clarify if not finalize the Opening Day bullpen and bench pictures. Whitley was one of four candidates left for the final two bullpen spots along with Andrew Bailey, Chasen Shreve, and Chris Martin. Bailey told Mark Feinsand today he will stay behind when the team heads north tomorrow and continue working his way back from shoulder surgery with High-A Tampa when the minor league season begins. That leaves Shreve and Martin for the last two bullpen spots.

Ryan’s calf injury opened up the backup infielder’s spot, and while Joe Girardi hinted at Refsnyder being a candidate for the job, his reassignment to minor league camp today confirms he won’t make the team. Same with Noonan. Fellow reserve infielder candidate Cole Figueroa was sent to minor league camp last week, leaving the recently acquired Gregorio Petit as the front-runner for the backup infielder’s job. That makes sense, he can play defense all around the infield (unlike Refsnyder) and is right-handed hitter (unlike Didi Gregorius, Stephen Drew, Noonan, and Figueroa).

I’m very surprised Whitley was sent down. He’s pitched very well in camp. I guess the Yankees feel Whitley is more valuable as the sixth starter in Triple-A than as the second long man in MLB. The backup infielder situation is whatever. As I said this morning, sitting on bench does Refsnyder no good, and picking between Petit, Noonan, and Figueroa is a toss-up. There’s no right or wrong answer. There’s just an answer, and it appears the answer is Petit.

Adam Warren has officially been named the fifth starter, and with Shreve, Martin, and Petit now looking like safe bets for the Opening Day roster, the only position battle left in camp is for the backup catcher’s job. All signs from the last 12 months point to John Ryan Murphy being the guy, but Austin Romine is out of minor league options and Brian Cashman admitted that will play a role in the decision. We’ll see.

Yankees acquire infielder Gregorio Petit from Astros

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

8:39pm: Done deal, both teams have announced the trade. Petit for a player to be named or cash, as Ortiz reported.

8:38pm: According to Jose de Jesus Ortiz, the Yankees have acquired infielder Gregorio Petit from the Astros. He was with Houston as a non-roster player and was recently reassigned to minor league camp, so he’s not on the 40-man roster. The Yankees are sending a player to be named later or cash to the Astros in the swap.

Petit, 30, hit .278/.300/.423 (102 OPS+) in exactly 100 plate appearances with the Astros last year. It was his first MLB action since 2009. Petit is a right-handed hitter and a career .269/.323/.373 career hitter in over 2,800 (!) Triple-A plate appearances. He has experience all over the infield and is considered a sound defender.

The Yankees lost Brendan Ryan to a calf injury earlier today and are still without Jose Pirela (concussion), so Petit helps replenish their infield depth. I wouldn’t assume he’s automatically the favorite to be the backup infielder during Ryan’s absence, however. He’s just an extra body.

Eddy: Yankees sign Mat Gamel to minor league contract

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

According to Mat Eddy, the Yankees have signed first baseman and former top Brewers prospect Mat Gamel to what we can safely assume is a minor league contract. No idea if he’ll come to Spring Training as a non-roster invitee. Mat is the older brother of Yankees farmhand Ben Gamel, an outfielder who spent last season with Double-A Trenton.

Gamel, 29, has not played at all since 2012 due to a series of knee injuries, specifically torn right ACLs. He tore it the first time in May 2012 running into a wall chasing a pop-up, re-tore it during a Spring Training workout in 2013, then injured the knee again working out at home prior to the 2014 season. Gamel has been rehabbing and working his way back since then.

When he last played in 2012, Gamel went 17-for-69 (.246) with one homer in 21 games for Milwaukee. He’s a career .229/.305/.367 (78 wRC+) hitter in 269 big league plate appearances and a .301/.374/.512 (~120 wRC+) hitter in over 1,200 Triple-A plate appearances. Baseball America ranked Gamel as the 34th best prospect in baseball prior to 2009, but gosh, that was a long time ago.

Kyle Roller, Greg Bird, and Mike Ford are set to be the starting first basemen at Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton, and High-A Tampa, respectively, so it’s unclear where Gamel fits in at the moment. He might still be rehabbing for all we know. Gamel could be a DH candidate at Triple-A or Double-A, but there’s no reason to think he’s some sort of big league option.

Yankees sign righty Jared Burton to minor league contract

(Getty)
(Getty)

Sunday: According to Mike Bernardino, Burton has four opt-out dates in his contract: March 30th, June 1st, August 1st, and August 31st. He can elect free agency if he’s not in the big leagues on those dates. Burton gets a $30,000 bonus for his 20th appearance, $40,000 for his 25th appearance, $50,000 for his 30th appearance, $60,000 for his 35th appearance, and so on until maxing out at $120,000 for his 65th appearance.

Tuesday: Burton will earn a $2M base salary with $750,000 in incentives at the Major League level, reports Jon Heyman.

Monday: The Yankees have signed right-handed reliever Jared Burton to a minor league contract with an invitation to Spring Training, the team announced. He will be the 28th non-roster invitee in camp, joining the original 26 and the recently signed Kyle Davies.

Burton, 33, had a 4.36 ERA (4.23 FIP) with 16.9 K% and 9.2 BB% in 64 innings for the Twins last year. He had a 3.02 ERA (3.50 FIP) with 22.1 K% and 7.2 BB% in 128 innings as Minnesota’s primary setup man from 2012-13. Burton has always been a bit of a fly ball pitcher and his signature pitcher is a splitter-changeup hybrid he calls a splangeup:

Major shoulder surgery caused Burton to miss most of the 2011 season and his fastball has nevertheless managed to hover in the 91-92 mph range the last three years. His numbers are all — and I mean all: strikeouts, walks, grounders, homers — trending in the wrong direction, which is sorta scary, but it is a minor league deal, so it’s not like there’s any serious risk.

The Yankees have a ton of bullpen depth. Righties, lefties, 40-man guys, non-40-man guys, you name it and they have it. Burton is just another arm for depth and unless he comes to camp throwing the ball like he did from 2012-13, I think he’ll start the season with Triple-A Scranton. Chances are his contract includes some kind of opt-out clause if he isn’t on a MLB roster on a specific date. That’s pretty standard for big league vets.

Links: Tickets, Pace of Play, Trades, Travel, Hensley, Ichiro

I'm sick of the offseason too, Brett. (Presswire)
I’m sick of the offseason too, Brett. (Presswire)

Got a whole bunch of random links and notes to pass along, some more important than others. Here’s the latest:

Single game tickets on sale February 24th

Individual game tickets for the 2015 regular season go on sale online on Tuesday, February 24th at 10am ET, the Yankees announced. The Mastercard pre-sale runs from February 18th through the 23rd. You can walk up to the ticket window to purchase tickets starting February 25th. All the details are right here.

MLB, MLBPA making progress on pace of play changes

According to Jon Morosi, MLB and MLBPA are making progress towards rule modifications to speed up the pace of play, and they should have an agreement in place before Spring Training. Teams and players are going to want any changes in place relatively soon so they have all spring to adjust.

It’s unlikely a pitch clock will be added or hitters will be forced to keep at least one foot in the box, says Morosi. It’s more likely both sides will be required to begin play as soon as the television broadcast returns from commercial breaks. That’ll shave, what, a minute or two off each game? It’s something. MLB and MLBPA are expected to continue to look into speeding up games going forward.

Yankees settle all outstanding trades with cash

This stuff is easy to forget about, but the Yankees had several outstanding “player to be named or cash” trades to finalize this offseason. Specifically, they owed a player or cash to the Diamondbacks for Martin Prado, the Athletics for Jeff Francis, and the Indians for Josh Outman. Chad Jennings confirmed all of those trades were settled with cash this offseason, not a player. So there you have it.

2015 travel map

Yankees to travel 29,137 miles in 2015

Over at the indispensable Baseball Savant, Daren Willman posted travel maps for all 30 clubs for the upcoming 2015 season. The Yankees are set to travel 29,137 miles this summer, which is exactly middle of the road — 15th most out of the 30 teams. That is up slightly from 28,001 miles last year. The isolated Mariners will again travel the most miles this year (43,281) while the Reds will travel the fewest (20,612). Usually a more centrally located team like the Royals or Cardinals travels the fewest miles. Lucky for the Reds, I guess.

Preliminary hearing for Hensley attacker set for May

A preliminary hearing for Anthony Morales, the man who allegedly attacked RHP Ty Hensley over the holidays, has been set for May according to Brendan Kuty. Morales has been charged with felony aggravated assault and battery after attacking Hensley following an argument about signing bonuses. Hensley reportedly wouldn’t tell Morales, an ex-college football player who was in training camp with the Carolina Panthers last year, the size of his signing bonus, which is easily Googleable. Hensley suffered multiple facial fractures and lost a tooth in the attack but did not suffer a concussion or other neurological damage. He has resumed throwing bullpens even though his jaw had to be wired shut.

Minor League Ball’s top 20 Yankees prospects

Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels posted his annual top 20 Yankees prospects list. RHP Luis Severino and OF Aaron Judge predictably claim the top two spots and both received “B+/Borderline A-” grades. “While the Yankees farm system is not at the very top of the organization rankings, it has improved over the last couple of years, should continue to improve, and certainly rates as an upper-tier system,” wrote Sickels. “The large amount of Grade C+ talent gives depth and since much of that talent is quite young and projectable with potentially higher grades to come, there is a lot to look forward to.”

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

Ichiro‘s been looking for “enthusiasm” the last two years

A few weeks ago Ichiro Suzuki joined the Marlins on a one-year contract worth $2M. He’ll serve as the fourth outfielder behind a young group that includes Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna in addition to Giancarlo Stanton. At his introductory press conference, Ichiro told Jim Armstrong he felt “incredible enthusiasm” when meeting with the team, “so I wanted to respond to their enthusiasm and I believe that is something I have been looking for the last two years.”

So there’s a very subtle little jab at the Yankees there. Remember, at the end of last season, Ichiro cryptically told reporters that “obviously there’s a lot of things that go on that the fans and the media can’t see, that goes on inside (the clubhouse), but what I can say is that the experiences I had this year, those experiences are going to help me in the future.” Eh, whatever. Seems like Ichiro holds a bit of a grudge against the Yankees for whatever reason — dropping him into a fourth outfielder role last year? — but that’s in the past now. Onwards and upwards.

Yankees sign right-hander Kyle Davies to minor league deal

(Jamie Squire/Getty)
(Jamie Squire/Getty)

The Yankees have signed journeyman right-hander Kyle Davis to a minor league contract, the team announced. Davies did receive an invitation to Spring Training and will be the team’s 27th non-roster invitee. Fun fact: Davies gave up Alex Rodriguez‘s 500th career home run (video).

Davies, 31, has not pitched in MLB since 2011, when he had 6.75 ERA (4.39 FIP) in 61.1 innings for the Royals. He has a career 5.59 ERA (4.89 FIP) in 768 career big league innings with Kansas City and the Braves. Davies spent last season in Triple-A with the Indians, where he had a 4.11 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 124.2 innings. He was out of baseball entirely in 2012 before resurfacing with the Twins in 2013.

Obviously the Yankees need rotation help, but I think Davies was signed to be the veteran innings guy for Triple-A Scranton rather than be a serious MLB option. The Yankees figure to dip into their minor league pitching reserves quite a bit this summer and someone has to pick up those innings for the RailRiders, like Bruce Billings and Brian Gordon last year or Chris Bootcheck the year before. Davies is that guy in 2015.