Archive for Hot Stove League

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

(Jeff Zelevansky/Getty)

Yesterday was pretty damn close to a disaster day for the Yankees. Before their 3-2 win over the Red Sox, we learned Derek Jeter and Brian Roberts were day-to-day with a sore quad and back, respectively. Jeter missed just about all of last season with various leg problems and Roberts has missed most of the last four years with all different kinds of injuries. Any sort of physical malady is a red flag with these two.

Then, during the actual game, Frankie Cervelli went down with a right hamstring injury. He had an MRI last night and while the results are not yet available, it sure seems like he is headed for the DL based on the way he crumbled to the ground and limped off the field. Two innings later, Yangervis Solarte appeared to hurt his leg running through first base, but it turns out he took an errant fist below the belt. Don’t ask me how. Soon after that, Brian McCann was hit in the bare hand after a pitch deflected off A.J. Pierzynski’s elbow guard. It looked bad but he is apparently okay. Catchers, man.

In the span of about seven hours, the Yankees almost lost a full infield worth of players. That’s how Carlos Beltran wound up playing first base for the first time in his life last night. The Jeter and Roberts injuries were somewhat predictable given their age and recent injury history — Girardi toldĀ Vince Mercogliano that Jeter “went through some (quad) tightness in Spring Training that he got through. He had it in his calf at one point, and he got through it,” which isn’t exactly reassuring — while Cervelli, Solarte, and McCann were a bit more fluky. Cervelli hasn’t been all that durable throughout his career though, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised.

Girardi confirmed Jeter is not scheduled to have any tests and an MRI on Roberts’ back came back negative, so those two are nothing more than day-to-day. That said, the season is 13 games old and the team’s starting middle infielders are already dealing with physical issues. Brendan Ryan is out with a back problem too. I have a very hard time believing these will be one-time injuries. And, even if the are, the Yankees can not treat them that way. They came into the season with questions about their infield (both production and health) and so far nothing has changed. Sunday was a reminder from the baseball gods.

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

(Jared Wickerham/Getty)

You’re smart, you know where I’m going with this. Stephen Drew remains unsigned and is just sitting there waiting for a job. He would cost the Yankees only money, their second round pick (55th overall), and a 40-man roster spot. Drew, who is said to be willing to play another infield position, would fit the roster like a glove as a defensively capable shortstop with a dead pull left-handed swing geared for Yankee Stadium’s short porch. Remember, even when Roberts was perfectly healthy, he was a total zero at the plate (37 wRC+). Long, pain in the ass at-bats (4.56 pitches per plate appearance) are great, but at some point he has to get on base.

The second base problem is one Drew can help correct, either directly (playing there) or indirectly (playing third with Kelly Johnson at second). He’d give the Yankees protection for Jeter and heck, they could sign him to a two-year contract and have their 2015 shortstop situation already sorted out rather than waiting for the offseason. Of course, Scott Boras isn’t an idiot, he knows the Yankees are in desperate need of infield help, especially after the Jeter and Roberts injury scares. I don’t think he’ll take a sweetheart deal (two years, $16-20M?) despite his client’s continued unemployment. But man, it’s a great fit on paper.

The Yankees came into today’s off-day with a 7-6 record and a -5 run differential, but I think they’ve played pretty well overall. Following some early-season struggles, the offense have been productive and diverse, ranking in the league top six in AVG (.273), OBP (.335), ISO (.154), and steals (11). Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda have added a new and exciting dimension to the rotation, and the increased use of infield shifts has helped defensively. The Yankees committed all that money this winter in an effort to win now, but the job is incomplete as long as the infield remains status quo. The team needed Drew before the season and they need him even more right now.

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Via Jerry Crasnick: The Yankees are one of several teams that are believed to have interest in Joel Hanrahan. They were monitoring him a few weeks ago. The right-hander is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery and other elbow procedures (flexor tendon, bone chips). He will throw for teams during a showcase next week.

Hanrahan, 32, had a 2.24 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 128.1 innings for the Pirates from 2011-12, his last two healthy seasons. There is no such thing as too much pitching depth and the Yankees could always find a way to squeeze someone like Hanrahan into their bullpen and late-inning mix. They signed Andrew Bailey to a one-year deal with an option geared towards 2015 just before Spring Training, but Hanrahan is in a better position to contribute immediately.

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According to his representatives at the MCA Agency, the Yankees are one of several teams with interest in free agent right-hander Brian Omogrosso. He recently elected free agency after being outrighted off the 40-man roster by the White Sox, and has been throwing for teams in Phoenix. The Rangers and Blue Jays are among the other clubs with interest.

Omogrosso, 29, has a 5.54 ERA (4.52 FIP) with a 8.2 K/9 (19.5 K%) in 37.1 career big league innings, all with the ChiSox from 2012-13. His career Triple-A numbers aren’t anything to write home about (5.20 ERA and ~3.26 FIP), but his strikeout (9.8 K/9 and 25.0 K%) and walk numbers (2.7 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%) are strong. Baseball America ranked Omogrosso as the 17th best prospect in Chicago’s system before the 2012 season, saying he throws in the mid-90s with a hard slider, but his “peak value is probably as a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever.” Here’s video. Sounds like the Yankees are looking at him as a power depth arm for Triple-A.

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Via Jack Curry: The Yankees do not appear to have any interest in Ike Davis. The Mets have made it no secret they are open to trading their first baseman, but they have turned down a bunch of offers these last few months according to Andy Martino. The Yankees lost Mark Teixeira to a right hamstring strain and the 15-day DL on Friday.

Davis, 27, is currently riding the bench as Lucas Duda gets an extended audition at first. He hit .205/.326/.334 (90 wRC+) with nine homer in 103 games last year, and was so bad in the first half that he was shipped to Triple-A for a month. Davis hit .227/.308/.462 (111 wRC+) with 32 homers as recently as 2012. He has big lefty power and patience, two things the Yankees love, plus he has at least one option left and can go to Triple-A. Davis would made sense as a depth player and reclamation project for the Yankees.

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Via George King: The Nationals do not have interest in either John Ryan Murphy or Austin Romine in the wake of Wilson Ramos’ injury. Ramos had surgery to remove the hamate bone from his left wrist and will be out 4-5 weeks. Former Rays backstop Jose Lobaton will handle starting duties in the meantime.

Since Ramos is coming back relatively soon, Frankie Cervelli doesn’t make much sense for Washington. He is out of options and can’t go to the minors, and they already have two quality catchers in Ramos and Lobaton. The Nationals don’t have any spare infielders to move for a catcher anyway. They insist they’re going to hold onto Danny Espinosa. Oh well.

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(Stacy Revere/Getty)

(Stacy Revere/Getty)

The Yankees designated Eduardo Nunez for assignment on Tuesday, giving them ten days to trade him, release him, or slip him through waivers. That is down to eight days now, and considering the waiver process takes three days, it’s really more like five days. This situation could be resolved before the start of next week.

According to Marly Rivera, the Astros and Mariners* are among the teams with interest in Nunez. The middle infield bar is pretty low around the league right now, especially at shortstop, so I figured there would be some interest. That the Yankees couldn’t work out a trade before designating him suggests interest isn’t that high though. For what it’s worth, George King hears Nunez is expected to wind up elsewhere, either through a trade or waivers.

* As you surely remember, the Mariners wanted Nunez as part of the failed Cliff Lee trade a few years ago, so their interest now is not surprising.

Since he’s been designated for assignment, Nunez has pretty much zero trade value. He had very little trade value before being removed from the 40-man roster, but this clinches it. The Yankees forced their own hand with the move and other teams know they have to move him. That’s the way the DFA game has been and always will be. If they were to ship him to the Astros or Mariners, the likely return would be a nondescript non-40-man minor leaguer, cash, or a player to be named later. Don’t get your hopes up.

Nunez, 26, has hit .267/.313/.379 (86 wRC+) in parts of four seasons, in a league where the average shortstop put up a … wait for it … 86 wRC+ from 2010-13. His offense isn’t the problem, especially since he can steal bases on top of the league average-ish production. The issue has been and always be his defense, which hasn’t improved after years and years of work. This has been a career long problem and his career started in 2005.

The Yankees are short on shortstops right now, especially with Brendan Ryan hurt. Derek Jeter appears to be healthy and is moving fine in the field, but at age 39, he’s not someone who can play the position day after day. Joe Girardi‘s going to mix in some DH days every once in a while. He has to. Dean Anna is the backup shortstop, Yangervis Solarte the emergency backup, and the Triple-A starter is Carmen Angelini according to Chad Jennings. (Addison Maruszak was released yesterday according to Donnie Collins.) The 25-year-old Angelini had a 73 wRC+ at Double-A Trenton last year, so yeah.

Even though his defense is nightmarish, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if Nunez slipped through waivers and went to Triple-A (he can’t elect free agency since it would be his first outright assignment), at least until Ryan returns. The Astros and Mariners and whoever else probably won’t give up anything of value for him in a trade, so keeping Nunez around as an emergency backup plan is better than losing him for nothing. Especially with no shortstop at Triple-A. If he doesn’t stick around, they’ll have to find someone just like him to stash in the minors.

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Will Cervelli be packing his bags before Opening Day (Presswire)

Will Cervelli be packing his bags before Opening Day? (Presswire)

As Spring Training winds down, expect there to be a small run of transactions as teams finalize their rosters. Out of options players will be dealt, veterans on minor league contracts will be released so they find a big league job elsewhere, all sorts of stuff. Two years ago the Yankees pounced on this late-spring market to get Chris Stewart from the Giants, for example.

The Rangers have suffered a ton of injuries in recent weeks, losing guys like Jurickson Profar and Derek Holland long-term. Others like Yu Darvish, Matt Harrison, and Elvis Andrus are banged up and expected to miss Opening Day. Starting catcher Geovany Soto will miss 10-12 weeks after having surgery to repair a torn meniscus early this week, meaning Robinson Chirinos and J.P. Arencibia will be their catching tandem at the start of the season.

According to Buster Olney, the Rangers called around to check in with clubs with extra catchers, including the Yankees and Frankie Cervelli. They are far from the first team to show interest in him this spring. With the bullpen more or less sorted out — we don’t know the exact names yet, but there are plenty of candidates to choose from — the Yankees figure to seek an infielder in any trade involving Cervelli, especially with Brendan Ryan‘s back acting up. Therein lies the problem:

Rangers Infield Depth Chart

Those are the infielders on Texas’ 40-man roster. The non-roster guys are pretty bad, as non-roster guys tend to be. Andrus, Profar, Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder, and Mitch Moreland are not worth talking about for obvious reasons. It would be nice to have a true backup first baseman, but Moreland doesn’t make much sense for the Yankees, especially not with a $2.65M salary. He doesn’t fit the roster well.

That leaves journeymen Andy Parrino and Adam Rosales, as well as actual prospect (!) Luis Sardinas. Both Parrino and Rosales are cut from the no hit, good glove cloth, but with Andrus and Profar hurt, the Rangers need both of them. Sardinas, 20, hit .288/.342/.348 between High-A (96 games in 2013) and Double-A (29 games) last year and is slated to return to Double-A this year. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Sardinas as the team’s seventh best prospect a few weeks ago and said he has the contact and defensive chops to play short everyday, as long as he improves his plate discipline and gets stronger.

Given the infield situation, it makes sense for the Yankees to look at acquiring a young infielder. I can’t imagine the Rangers (or any team) would give up a prospect of Sardinas’ caliber for an out of options catcher — Stewart-for-George Kontos is a nice estimation of Cervelli’s trade value, no? — though I suppose they may be desperate in the wake of Soto’s injury. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Sardinas would not improve the 2014 Yankees though, and probably not the 2015 team either. As Olney says, there isn’t much of a fit here even though Texas needs a backstop. They don’t have the infield depth to give up because of their own injuries. It seems like Cervelli’s value to the team is greater than anything the they could get in a trade.

(Presswire)

(Presswire)

In other news, Joel Sherman says the Yankees are not interested in infielder Kevin Frandsen, who recently elected free agency after being outrighted by the Phillies. He forfeited $900k in salary by doing that. Might end up regretting that one. I wrote about the 31-year-old Frandsen as a trade target last summer, mostly because he can fake the three non-shortstop infield positions and hit southpaws (career 108 wRC+). Is he better than Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte? Eh, maybe. Is it worth a 40-man roster spot to find out? I don’t think so.

The Ryan injury made the need for another infielder a little greater, but the Yankees brought in Solarte and specifically Anna for this very situation. Cervelli to Texas for an actual infield prospect would be great but it just seems so very unlikely. At the same time, another veteran journeyman like Frandsen might not be worth the trouble. The Yankees stocked up on similar players this winter and while there’s never any harm in adding another body, there’s no desperate need for a player of that caliber. Despite their recent history of late spring moves, I would be surprised if the Bombers make a trade or some kind of notable infield addition in the next six days.

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Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have spoken to Stephen Drew and agent Scott Boras recently, but they are “tapped out” financially and can not hand out another sizable contract. I don’t buy that they can’t take on more money for a second, so this sounds like posturing more than anything.

The need on the infield is obvious, especially in the wake of Brendan Ryan‘s back injury. Both Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte have no MLB experience but at least one of them will be on the Opening Day roster at this point. We’ve discussed Drew ad nauseum here and nothing has changed, really. He would help the Yankees quite a bit, especially if he’s willing to accept a one-year deal and play another position (presumably third).

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Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees are willing to eat some money in an Ichiro Suzuki trade in order to receive a decent prospect in return. He is owed $6.5M this season and is slated to be an extra outfielder who specializes in pinch-running and playing late-inning defense.

The Yankees have been shopping Ichiro for months and it wasn’t all that long ago we heard there was “nothing doing” regarding trade interest. They’ve been playing him in center field recently, presumably in an effort to boost his trade value. I dunno, I just can’t see a team getting involved without a sudden rash of outfield injuries, especially not if the Yankees are asking for an actual prospect.

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(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

The Yankees have swung a trade late in Spring Training in each of the last three seasons, and if they’re going to do the same this spring, they’ll have to do it soon. Opening Day in Houston is only 12 days away. Infield help figures to be the top priority at this point but adding another arm, specifically for the bullpen, wouldn’t be a bad idea. It’s not like you can have too many relievers.

This time of year, most trades involve players who are out of options and can’t go to the minors without passing through waivers. Teams don’t want to lose them for nothing, so they’re traded if don’t make the roster. That’s how the Yankees wound up with Chris Stewart in Spring Training 2012 and why they traded away Sergio Mitre in Spring Training 2011. MLBTR has this year’s list of out of options players and one of the most well-stocked teams is the Pirates, who have four out of options pitchers for three bullpen spots. Both Travis Sawchik and Tim Williams expect a trade before Opening Day, not someone to be placed on waivers. Is there a trade match with the Yankees? Let’s look.

Jeanmar Gomez
If the name rings a bell, it’s probably because Gomez threw a perfect game against Double-A Trenton back in May 2009. The 26-year-old right-hander was the Pirates swingman last summer, pitching to a 3.35 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 80.2 innings across eight starts and 26 relief appearances. Gomez is a classic low-90s sinker, low-80s slider, low-80s changeup guy who gets grounders (55.4%) but doesn’t miss bats (15.9 K%) or really limit walks (8.4 BB%). On the bright side, he did not have much of a platoon split last year, holding righties to a .269 wOBA and lefties to a .278 wOBA. Not the sexiest pitcher in the world, but for a swingman, you could do worse.

Vin Mazzaro
Mazzaro, 27, is local guy from Hackensack who really blossomed after moving in the bullpen full time last year, posting a 2.81 ERA (3.31 FIP) in 73.2 innings. He’s a low strikeout (15.1 K%), low walk (6.9 BB%), high ground ball (52.2%) pitcher despite a mid-90s two-seamer and upper-80s slider. Mazzaro had a small reverse platoon split in 2013, holding righties to .286 wOBA and lefties to a .269 wOBA. Given his two power pitches, there’s a chance the Yankees and pitching coach Larry Rothschild would be able to really unlock his strikeout potential, something they’ve done with guys like Shawn Kelley and Boone Logan in recent years.

Bryan Morris
Morris came over from the Dodgers in the Jason Bay/Manny Ramirez trade way back in the day, but it wasn’t until last season that he got extended time in the big leagues. The 26-year-old had a 3.46 ERA (4.89 FIP) in 65 innings, getting … wait for it … lots of grounders (57.5%) but few strikeouts (13.7 K%). His walk rate (10.4 BB%) was really high and lefties gave him a bit of a hard time (.320 wOBA) as well (.295 for RHB).

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

Morris. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty)

The numbers aren’t anything special but what makes Morris interesting is that he’s shown increased velocity and a new pitch in camp. Sawchik says scouts have clocked Morris’ four-seamer at 97 mph and his cutter at 91 mph this spring, both up 2-3 from last season. He’s also added a two-seamer in the mid-90s. A hard low-90s slider is his breaking ball. Morris has battled elbow and shoulder problems over the years and once upon a time Baseball America (subs. req’d) said he had “a 92-94 mph fastball that has hit 96 mph” and “the stuff of a frontline starter.” It could simply be that his old velocity has just started to fully return now that he’s a few years away from his last arm injury.

Stolmy Pimentel
Pimentel, 24, was part of last winter’s Mark Melancon-Joel Hanrahan trade. He made his big league debut last September (1.93 ERA and 1.76 FIP in 9.1 innings) after pitching to a 3.35 ERA (~3.96 FIP) in 169.1 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. His minor league strikeout (17.3 K%) and walk (7.9 BB%) weren’t anything to write home about. In their 2014 Prospect Handbook, Baseball America said Pimentel “sits at 92-94 mph … topping out at 95″ and has an “excellent, mid-80s split-changeup,” though they caution “he’s probably not quite ready for prime time” and will “have to earn his stripes in low-leverage work.”

* * *

The Yankees have several guys just like Gomez in David Phelps, Adam Warren, and Vidal Nuno, and as interesting as his two-pitch mix may be, Pimentel wouldn’t really move the bullpen needle all that much this year. Mazzaro and Morris are decent middle relievers with the type of power stuff the Yankees love, though the strikeout numbers don’t back it up. It’s obvious New York values having strikeout pitchers in their bullpen for what I think are obvious reasons. For what it’s worth, Rob Biertempfel and Ken Davidoff say everyone but Pimentel is available.

What would the Pirates want in exchange for Mazzaro or Morris? How do you value an out of options middle reliever? Stewart had knee surgery and will likely miss 4-6 weeks according to Sawchik, but would the Yankees really deal a spare catcher for a middle reliever who might not last the season? Maybe Austin Romine, but even then that feels like a stretch. Remember, the Yankees have a full 40-man roster, so they’d not only have to give up something in a trade for these guys, but they’d have to clear a 40-man spot as well (which they could do in the trade, obviously). Pittsburgh has some extra interesting arms, but I have a hard time seeing a trade fit here. Then again, the Yankees and Pirates get together for a trade every other week it seems, so who knows what’s cooking now.

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