Joe Girardi finishes fifth in AL Manager of the Year voting

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

Earlier tonight, the BBWAA named Indians manager Terry Francona the 2016 AL Manager of the Year. Rangers skipper Jeff Banister finished second and Orioles manager Buck Showalter finished third. Francona is the 15th man to win the award twice. Here are the voting results.

Joe Girardi finished fifth in the voting behind Francona, Banister, Showalter, and Red Sox manager John Farrell. Girardi received one second place vote and two third place votes. He’s finished fourth, fifth, or sixth in the Manager of the Year voting every year since 2010. Girardi finished third in 2009.

The last Yankees manager to be named Manager of the Year was (who else?) Joe Torre in 1998. Tough to earn recognition when you have a huge payroll and expectations are always high. Manager of the Year is basically the “manager of the team that most exceeded expectations” award.

Gary Sanchez finished second to Michael Fulmer in the AL Rookie of the Year voting. Masahiro Tanaka will surely receive some Cy Young votes when the voting is announced tomorrow. Chances are one or two Yankees will get down ballot MVP votes as well. MVPs will be announced Thursday.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: November 2011

Sanchez. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)
Sanchez. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)

Now that we’re into November, our series looking back at the MLB Trade Rumors archives is heading into the offseason. That’s the best time of the year for free agent and trade rumors. As a reminder, the purpose of this series is to simply look back at things that were being written five years ago to see how silly or spot on they were with the benefit of hindsight. What good are rumors if you read them once and forget ’em?

We’re in November 2011 now. The Yankees went 97-65 and won the AL East in 2011 despite some season-long pitching problems. They lost out on Cliff Lee during the 2010-11 offseason and had to rely on guys like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. The Yankees wasted no time handling their most pressing offseason business after getting bounced from the ALDS by the Tigers in five games though. They inked CC Sabathia to an extension before he could use his opt-out on October 31st, 2011. Now let’s see what happened in November 2011.

November 1st, 2011: Yankees, Cashman Agree To Extension

The Yankees have agreed to an extension with GM Brian Cashman, according to Jon Heyman of SI.com (on Twitter). The sides agreed to a three-year deal, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter) and they are waiting for the World Series to end before making any announcements.

The other pressing piece of offseason business. For a while it seemed Cashman would not return to the Yankees following the 2011 season. There were rumblings he was unhappy ownership had gone over his head to make some moves, most notably the Rafael Soriano signing, though it’s unclear whether that was actually true. Also, after 14 years on the job, some burnout could have been setting in.

Instead, Cashman re-signed with the Yankees the day after the Cardinals won the World Series, which took all the mystery out of it. The Yankees didn’t have to start the offseason with no GM. If Cashman was upset about the way the team was being run, it didn’t stand in his way of coming back. He had options that offseason — the Cubs, Orioles, and Astros all hired new GMs that winter — but chose to stay.

November 1st, 2011: Yankees Decline Option On Andrew Brackman

The Yankees declined their 2012 option on righty Andrew Brackman, GM Brian Cashman told reporters on a conference call today.  The 6’10” 25-year-old righty is now a free agent; ESPN’s Keith Law explains that Brackman’s contract called for the Yankees to release him if they didn’t pick up his option. 

The Yankees swung for the fences in the 2007 draft and came up empty. Brackman was one of the top prospects in the draft class but was also one of the riskiest, because he was a huge guy (6-foot-10) who split time between baseball and basketball in college. His mechanics needed a lot of work. The Yankees gambled on his upside with the 30th overall pick.

It didn’t work out. Brackman had Tommy John surgery almost immediately after signing — the Yankees knew he needed the procedure at the time of the draft — and worked his way up the minors. He did reach the big leagues, appearing in three games with the Yankees at the end of 2011. Brackman allowed one hit and three walks in 2.1 big league innings. He struck out zero and allowed no runs.

Back in those days teams could sign draftees to Major League contracts, and the Yankees gave Brackman a four-year deal worth $4.5M guaranteed. Escalators and options could have pushed the total value to $13M across seven years. The Yankees reportedly ended up paying him around $11M before cutting him loose after 2011.

Brackman spent time with the Reds (2012) and White Sox (2013) before giving up baseball and going to play basketball overseas. I have no idea what happened to him after that. He turns 31 next month. Isn’t that nuts? It still feels like the Yankees just drafted the guy. Geez.

November 1st, 2011: Quick Hits: Moyer, Darvish, Yankees, Tigers

The Yankees expect to be heavily involved in trade talks this offseason because they have prospects to trade and are willing to deal pitching, according to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (on Twitter).

The Yankees did eventually trade prospects for pitching that offseason. That was the Jesus MonteroMichael Pineda offseason. Prior to the 2012 season, Baseball America ranked New York’s farm system as the 13th best in baseball, and that was after trading Montero. They had some prospects to deal.

Here’s the complete list of starting pitchers traded during the 2011-12 offseason: Jonathan Sanchez, Trevor Cahill, Mat Latos, Edinson Volquez, Travis Wood, Gio Gonzalez, Carlos Zambrano, Jason Hammel, A.J. Burnett, and Pineda. Not the most exciting group there. Gio has been by far the most effective pitcher since that offseason, though Cahill and Latos were also highly regarded at the time. So was Pineda.

November 2nd, 2011: AL East Notes: Red Sox, Oswalt, Sabathia

The Yankees are “open-minded” about the possibility of moving A.J. Burnett or anyone else without a full no-trade clause, according to Chad Jennings of the Journal News. However, the GM sees value in the innings Burnett has provided.

Burnett was coming off his second straight awful season with the Yankees. He had a solid 2009 season (4.04 ERA and 4.33 FIP) before crashing hard from 2010-11 (5.20 ERA and 4.80 FIP). There were two years and $33M left on his contract too. Needless to say, Burnett’s trade value was nil. As soon as the Yankees brought in some other pitchers that offseason, they dumped Burnett as quickly as possible. He had a bad 2010 season, was given a chance to right ship in 2011, then was let go.

November 4th, 2011: Brian Cashman On Wilson, Pujols, Sabathia

“I think he would be on anybody’s wish list,” said Cashman when asked about Albert Pujols. “In our circumstances, our roster, he doesn’t fit. It’s not an efficient way to try to allocate your resources.”

The Yankees had a pretty good first baseman in Mark Teixeira, who was three years into his eight-year contract. Also, Alex Rodriguez needed more time at DH with each passing season. There was no room for Pujols on the roster, but that didn’t stop people from connecting him to New York. Sign Pujols and trade Teixeira, as if it would be that easy. Thankfully the Yankees did not sign Pujols. What a disaster that would have been.

November 5th, 2011: East Notes: Oswalt, Wilson, Garcia, Madson Cuddyer

The Yankees have contacted the agent for free agent starters Roy Oswalt and C.J. Wilson, according to Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger. Bombers GM Brian Cashman, however, cautioned that he’s “in the process of talking to everybody.”

Roy Oswalt! He had a good year with the Phillies in 2011 (3.69 ERA and 3.44 FIP), but no one bothered to sign him until May 2012. People were mad the Yankees didn’t sign Oswalt. People are mad about everything these days. Anyway, Oswalt had a 5.80 ERA (4.23 FIP) with the Rangers in 2012 and people stopped being mad. He did find a job for 2013 …

Oswalt Rockies

… and I have zero recollection of Roy Oswalt as a Rockie. None whatsoever. I’m looking at it with my own eyes and I still don’t believe it really happened. Apparently he had a 8.63 ERA (3.08 FIP) in 32.1 innings with Colorado. Hasn’t pitched since.

November 7th, 2011: Yoenis Cespedes To Gain Free Agency

5:49pm: Yankees GM Brian Cashman confirmed that he saw the Cespedes video, but wouldn’t say whether the Yankees are interested, according to Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger (link on Twitter; the video has been removed). 

2:25pm: The Yankees, Phillies, Blue Jays, Giants, Marlins, Nationals, Indians, Athletics, and Pirates have had a presence at Cespedes’ workouts, reports Yahoo’s Tim Brown.  Giants GM Brian Sabean told reporters today that his team will not be involved on Cespedes, however (via Andrew Baggarly on Twitter).  

Remember the Yoenis Cespedes workout video? No one had heard of the guy, but then he released this over-the-top workout video, and bam, everyone had to have him. The original video has apparently been taken down. Here’s a muted version instead:

Good times. Brings back some memories. I don’t think anyone went from “I’ve never heard of this guy” to “holy crap my favorite team needs to sign him now!” quicker than Cespedes. At least he lived up to the hype. A few too many of these big name Cuban guys are falling short of expectations nowadays.

The Yankees attended Cespedes’ workouts and did their due diligence, but as is the case with every big name Cuban player these days, they didn’t sign him. He went to the A’s of all teams.

November 7th, 2011: Quick Hits: Maddux, Maine, Jackson, Darvish

The Yankees have had preliminary discussions with agent Scott Boras about free agent starter Edwin Jackson, according to George A. King III of the New York Post.

Jackson was a stathead darling for a few years, back before everyone realized a pitcher’s ERA doesn’t have to equal his FIP over the long haul. From 2010-11, he had a 4.14 ERA (3.71 FIP) in 409 innings. After signing a one-year deal with the Nationals — I remember folks being stunned he had to settle for a one-year deal — Jackson had a 4.03 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 189.2 innings. That’s who he was, but because he was young (28) and had the whole ERA > FIP thing going on, people expected more, and it never came. Classic tease pitcher.

November 8th, 2011: Heyman On Posada, Dodgers, Beltran, Morrison

The Yankees were disappointed Jonathan Sanchez went to the Royals, as they believed they had more to offer to the Giants.  The Royals acquired Sanchez and a minor leaguer from the Giants for Melky Cabrera yesterday.

Sanchez, who was 29 during the 2011-12 offseason, had a few good years with the Giants and threw a no-hitter, but he was generally a good stuff/bad command guy. Kinda like Pineda. Someone who left you wanting more. The Yankees were disappointed they didn’t get Sanchez but it’s a good thing they didn’t. He immediately fell apart after the trade. He had an 8.73 ERA (7.15 FIP) in 78.1 innings after the deal and hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2013. As best I can tell, Sanchez was completely out of baseball last year. Still, starters were being moved and the Yankees were missing out. Fans were getting restless.

November 8th, 2011: Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox Interested In Buehrle

1:54pm: The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers are interested in free agent lefty Mark Buehrle, report Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, and the Marlins are meeting with him today.

I didn’t like the idea of signing Buehrle at all. He was 32 at the time, he’d thrown more than 2,500 innings when you include the postseason, and he was already sitting low-to-mid-80s with his heater. It seemed like his margin for error was nil, and really, it was. He still made it work for a few years.

The Marlins duped Buehrle into signing a big contract with a low base salary in year one — it was a four-year deal worth $56M, and his salary in year one was $6M — then traded him to Toronto the following offseason. They did the same thing with Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes. Even after moving to the AL East, Buehrle remained effective until things started to fall apart late in 2015. In hindsight, yeah the Yankees probably should have made a stronger push to sign him.

November 9th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Sanchez, Catchers, Pitching, Posada

Clubs have already inquired about the Yankees’ young catchers, such as Jesus Montero, Austin Romine, and Francisco Cervelli. “I’ve had a lot of teams express ‘Hey, if you’re ever going to do something there, mark us down,’ that type of things,” said Cashman.

It’s kinda crazy how much catching talent the Yankees have given away in recent years*. Montero, who was nominally a catcher, was traded during the 2011-12 offseason. Russell Martin was allowed to walk during the 2012-13 offseason. Chris Stewart was traded during the 2013-14 offseason, then Francisco Cervelli was traded during the 2014-15 offseason, then John Ryan Murphy was traded during the 2015-16 offseason.

It sounds like this trend will continue too. Reports indicate Brian McCann is very much available, so much so that the Yankees are supposedly open to eating half his remaining contract to facilitate the trade. Pretty crazy that after moving all those catchers, potentially including McCann, the Yankees will still have Gary Sanchez behind the plate. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable at all by saying Sanchez has the best long-term future among all catchers the Yankees have employed since 2011.

* I don’t mean “given away” as in they didn’t get anything in return. I just mean these are guys the Yankees were willing trade — or Martin’s case, let walk as a free agent — because they were comfortable with their catching depth at the time. The Yankees know catching. Give ’em that.

November 15th, 2011: Eight Teams Interested In Grady Sizemore

MONDAY, 7:38pm: There’s no shortage of interest in Grady Sizemore this offseason. The free agent outfielder has drawn interest from eight teams, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick. The Cubs, Rangers, Giants and Yankees are potential suitors for Sizemore, along with the Phillies, Rockies, Red Sox and Indians.

Grady Sizemore! Everyone wanted him back in the day because a) he was still only 28, and b) he was a monster when he was healthy. The problem: he hadn’t been healthy since 2009. Sizemore hit .220/.280/.379 (81 wRC+) with -0.1 fWAR and -0.4 bWAR in 104 games from 2010-11. He ended up re-signing with the Indians about a week after this report, then got hurt in Spring Training. Sizemore did not play in MLB at all in 2012 or 2013. He didn’t play in 2016 either, and was reportedly at the GM Meetings lobbying for a coaching job last week.

November 16th, 2011: Minor Moves: Kimball, Corporan, Rottino, Pascucci

The Yankees signed lefty reliever Mike O’Connor, tweets SI’s Jon Heyman.  The 31-year-old appeared briefly in the Majors for the Mets this year, also posting a 5.22 ERA, 9.8 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, and 1.0 HR/9 in 60 1/3 Triple-A innings.

O’Connor had some big league time with the Mets and Nationals when the Yankees signed him to be their designated Triple-A innings eater. He had a 3.73 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 108.2 innings spread across 15 starts and 16 relief appearances with Triple-A Scranton in 2012. That was the season Scranton had to play entirely on the road because PNC Field was being renovated. Kinda stinks to go from the big leagues one year to that situation the next like O’Connor did, huh?

November 18th, 2011: Sherman On Yankees’ Search For Pitching

The Yankees have “looked into” Matt Garza, but a Cubs official downplayed the likelihood of any deal involving the right-hander, according to Sherman. The Yankees particularly like Gio Gonzalez and the Athletics are open to anything, but GM Billy Beane is asking for an ace return for Gonzalez or Trevor Cahill.

Theo Epstein had just taken over the 91-loss Cubs and Garza was his biggest trade chip at the time. He was coming off a 3.32 ERA (2.95 FIP) season — easily the best season of his career — and was under control for another two years. Epstein fielded trade offers all winter but decided to hold onto Garza, who in 2012 was hurt and just okay. He was able to salvage things by trading him to the Rangers for, among others, Carl Edwards Jr. at the 2013 trade deadline. Edwards is now Chicago’s closer of the future.

I was all about Garza. I wanted the Yankees to go after him so bad. So, so bad. It didn’t happen. Probably for the best, really. I was never really in on Gio — I liked Cahill more at the time, actually — because his league leading walk rate scared the crap out of me. The Nationals scooped him and his four years of control up for an underwhelming package (Derek Norris and Tommy Milone were the headliners, yawn), and have been rewarded with a solid mid-rotation horse. As with Buehrle, the Yankees probably should have been more aggressive here.

November 18th, 2011: Yankees Notes: Swisher, DePaula, Cashman

A year after signing with the Yankees for a $500K bonus, Dominican right-hander Jose Rafael DePaula still hasn’t made the contract official because he’s been unable to obtain a visa, reports Ben Badler of Baseball America.  DePaula has been working out at the Yankee’s Dominican academy in the interim.

Ah yes, Rafael DePaula. That was an ordeal. Age and identify issues led to a one-year suspension plus a 16-month investigation by MLB before they would approve DePaula’s contract with the Yankees. Eventually they gave the thumbs up, and he spent three and a half years in the system as an occasionally great but mostly good pitching prospect before being traded to the Padres in the Chase Headley deal.

DePaula, now 25, had a really good season as a full-time reliever at Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 (2.66 ERA and 2.17 FIP), so we’ll see what happens with him this offseason. He went unselected in the Rule 5 Draft last winter. The Padres might not want to risk it again. Either way, the Yankees waited an awful long time to sign DePaula, and ultimately he wasn’t really worth the trouble. Alas.

November 20th, 2011: Heyman On Rangers, Pujols, Fielder, Nunez

The Braves have long been interested in Yankees shortstop Eduardo Nunez but the Bombers will have to part with much more to land Jair Jurrjens in a trade, Heyman tweets.

Oy. What a rumor. Jurrjens had two good seasons (2009 and 2011) and one bad season (2010) with the Braves. He was an All-Star in 2011, in fact. Nunez had basically zero good seasons at the time, but he was young and he could play up the middle, so the Yankees put a high price on him.

The two sides never did get close to a Nunez-for-Jurrjens trade as far as we know, and that’s a good thing because Jurrjens broke down the next year. He threw only 48.1 innings of 6.89 ERA (5.64 FIP) ball in 2012. Following that All-Star season in 2011, Jurrjens had a 7.20 ERA (5.76 FIP) in 65 innings the rest of his MLB career. Geez. Between Jurrjens and Jonathan Sanchez, the Yankees really dodged some bullets during the 2012-13 offseason.

November 23rd, 2011: Yankees Sign Jayson Nix

The Yankees have signed Jayson Nix to a minor league deal that includes an invitation to Major League Spring Training, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Nix, a 29-year-old who bats from the right side, will presumably compete for a utility job next spring.

It begins. The “He’s A Ballplayer” era. Nixy did not make the Opening Day roster in 2012. He spent some time in Triple-A before being called up when Eric Chavez got hurt in May. Nix spent the next two years as the “good gravy why is he playing so much?” utility guy, hitting .239/.307/.340 (78 wRC+) in 505 plate appearances. He was a ballplayer though. He played ball.

November 23rd, 2011: Yankees, Freddy Garcia Nearing Deal

The Yankees are nearing a one-year deal with Freddy Garcia, according to David Waldstein of the New York Times (on Twitter). The Yankees offered the right-hander arbitration earlier tonight.

Sweaty Freddy had a fine season in 2011, pitching to a 3.62 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 146.2 innings. The next year didn’t go as well. He had a 5.20 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 107.1 innings after signing that new one-year contract. Probably should have just let him walk and taken the supplemental first round draft pick (it would have been in the 55th to 60th overall pick range). Can’t have too much pitching though. I understand why the Yankees brought Garcia back. Just didn’t work out.

November 24th, 2011: Olney On Rodriguez, Ibanez, Lee, Yankees

The Yankees are quietly confident that Phil Hughes will start Spring Training in improved physical condition and have a bounce-back season in 2012. They will continue to discuss available starting pitchers, even after agreeing to terms with Freddy Garcia.

Hughes did have a bounceback season in 2012. Shoulder and back trouble limited him to 74.2 crummy innings in 2011 (5.79 ERA and 4.58 FIP). He was healthy in 2012 and gave the team 191.1 innings of 4.19 ERA (4.59 FIP) ball. Not an ace or anything, but a fine back-end starter option. Of course, Hughes was still far below expectations from his prospect days, when he looked like a future front of the rotation guy.

Phil’s tenure with the Yankees wasn’t bad, just disappointing. He gave them +6.3 bWAR and +10.8 fWAR during his team control years, but he never came close to meeting expectations. Expectations that were maybe a little unrealistically high to begin with. Such is life.

November 28th, 2011: Blue Jays Notes: Cooper, Drabek, Rasmus, d’Arnaud

The Yankees are interested in Kyle Drabek, according to Elliott. Drabek started the season in the Blue Jays’ rotation before being demoted to the minor leagues. He had a standout season in 2010, but struggled with command in the Majors (6.3 BB/9) and in the minors (4.9 BB/9) in 2011.

Fun fact: Drabek pitched in the big leagues in 2016. Who knew? He threw two innings with the Diamondbacks. Back during the 2011-12 offseason he was still a Very Big Deal, even after posting a 6.06 ERA (5.52 FIP) in 78.2 innings in 2011. Drabek was a former top prospect and he was the headliner in the Roy Halladay trade, which raised expectations even more.

It’s interesting to hear the Yankees were interested in Drabek considering he played for a division rival. The Blue Jays went 81-81 in 2011, so they weren’t the AL East threat they are now, but an intradivision trade still seemed so very unlikely. I remember reading the Yankees were on Halladay but Toronto was basically unwilling to trade him within the division. I get not wanting to lose a trade to a division rival, but if you’re trading someone as good as Halladay, don’t you have to focus on getting the best possible return no matter what?

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. Years of injuries and control problems prevented Drabek, who is still only 28, from living up to the hype. I can understand why the Yankees wanted him back in November 2011 given his power arm and pedigree, it just wasn’t going to happen. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos wasn’t going to trade his top young pitcher to an AL East rival. No way, no how.

The Extra Outfielders [2016 Season Review]

Gamel. (Presswire)
Gamel. (Presswire)

As our season review series winds down, it’s time to get into the spare part players. The guys who came up from the minors or were picked up off the scrap heap to plug roster holds for a few days or weeks. Every team needs players like this to get through the 162-game season. These days it takes 40-50 players to win. Maybe more. Not 25.

For all intents and purposes the Yankees had five regular outfielders this past season. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury were the mainstays. Carlos Beltran was the right fielder until being traded away, which is when Aaron Judge took over. Aaron Hicks was the fourth outfielder all season. The Yankees also used three fill-in outfielders too: Ben Gamel, Mason Williams, and Eric Young Jr. All three had big league time in 2016.

The Blocked Outfielder

The 2015 season was a breakout year for Gamel, who went from fringe prospect to big league consideration by hitting .300/.358/.472 (138 wRC+) with 28 doubles, 14 triples, ten homers, and 13 steals in 129 Triple-A games. That earned the 24-year-old a spot on the 40-man roster and a long look during Spring Training this year. He wasn’t going to win an Opening Day roster spot unless someone else got hurt, but the Yankees had their eyes on him.

Gamel started the 2016 season relatively slowly with the RailRiders, hitting .286/.346/.363 (104 wRC+) in his first 23 games. The Yankees called him up for the first time on May 5th. Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) was on the disabled list and Gardner (elbow) was day-to-day after being hit by a pitch, so the bench was shorthanded. Gamel appeared in three games (two starts) and picked up his first career hit in his first career at-bat.

Gamel went 1-for-8 (.125) with a walk and a strikeout in those three games before being sent down once Gardner’s elbow starting feeling better. The Yankees called Gamel up one other team this season: on August 1st, after trading away Beltran. Gamel was on the roster for three days until Gary Sanchez was called up. He laid down a sac bunt in his only plate appearance during those three days.

With Triple-A Scranton, Gamel hit .308/.365/.420 (126 wRC) with 26 doubles, five triples, six homers, and 19 stolen bases in 116 games. That earned him the International League MVP award. A tremendous honor, no doubt, but there was one small problem: the Yankees still didn’t have a spot for Gamel on their big league roster, both short and long-term. Even with Beltran gone. The team is very deep in outfielders and something had to give.

That something was Gamel. On August 31st, a few hours before the deadline to acquire players and have them be postseason eligible, the Yankees sent Gamel to the Mariners for righties Juan DePaula and Jio Orozco, a pair of 19-year-old rookie ball pitching prospects. Orozco is the more highly regarded prospect of the two. At least we got a chance to see Gamel’s long flowing locks before the trade:

Ben Gamel hair

The Yankees traded Gamel because, unlike Tyler Austin a year ago, he wouldn’t have slipped through waivers unclaimed. They needed the 40-man roster space and outfield was a position of depth, so they moved Gamel when his value was at its absolute highest. The guy had just won IL MVP. How much higher could you sell?

Following the trade Gamel was a semi-regular for Seattle in September. He hit .200/.289/.325 (72 wRC+) in 47 plate appearances while striking out 31.9% of the time. I’m not really sure what the Mariners have planned for him going forward — he has two minor league options remaining and there’s a very real chance he’ll spend a third straight season in Triple-A in 2017 — but they offer him a clearer path to big league playing time than the Yankees.

The Injured Outfielder

Williams. (Presswire)
Williams. (Presswire)

Last season was a breakout year for Gamel. It was maybe the most important year of Williams’ career. Following years of poor play and insubordination, the proverbial light bulb went on, and Williams began to take his career more seriously. He tore up Double-A and Triple-A, and earned his first MLB call-up in May. His first taste of the show lasted eight games before a shoulder injury ended his season.

Williams, now 25, tore up his shoulder diving back into first base on a pickoff throw and needed season-ending surgery. His rehab carried over into 2016 and it wasn’t until early July that he played in his first official minor league rehab game. Williams took the usual rookie ball to High-A to Triple-A rehab route, and in 47 total minor league games this summer, he hit .309/.327/.399 (106 wRC+) with ten doubles, two triples, and a homer.

When rosters expanded on September 1st, the Yankees did not call Williams up. Their plan was to leave him with the RailRiders through the Triple-A postseason so he could play everyday and make up for all the time he lost to injury. Plans changed when Judge tweaked his oblique and had to be shut down for the season. The Yankees needed another outfielder, so Williams got the call.

Mason appeared in only 12 games with the Yankees and five of them were as either a late-inning defensive replacement or at the end of a blowout. In his seven starts, Williams went 8-for-25 (.320) with three multi-hit games. His biggest moment came on September 25th, when he tied the game in the ninth inning with a single against Blue Jays closer Roberto Osuna.

All told, Williams put up a .296/.321/.333 (77 wRC+) batting line with a 41.4% strikeout rate in a mere 29 plate appearances after being called up. He also played some mean outfield defense. Those numbers don’t really help us in any way. They don’t tell us anything about Williams going forward. The most important thing is that the shoulder is healthy.

Depending how the offseason shakes out, Williams could come to Spring Training next year with a legitimate chance to win an Opening Day roster spot. Heck, if the Yankees trade Gardner, Williams might have a chance to win a starting outfield job. He does have a minor league option remaining for next season, which means at worst, he’ll go back to Triple-A Scranton and be the first outfielder called up when the inevitable injury strikes.

The Designated Pinch-Runner

The only photo of Young with the Yankees. (Presswire)
The only photo of Young with the Yankees. (Presswire)

Not long after trading Gamel to the Mariners, the Yankees picked up Young in a cash trade with the Brewers. The veteran speedster was going to be the team’s designated pinch-runner in September, the job Rico Noel held last year and Freddy Guzman held in September 2009. All Young had to do was run. That’s it.

Turns out the Yankees didn’t need Young all that much. The 31-year-old appeared in six games with the Yankees, and two of those appearances came in the late innings of blowouts, when Joe Girardi wanted to get the regulars off their feet. Young pinch-ran four times, and on two of those four occasions the next batter hit a home run, so he didn’t even have to run.

In those six games Young stole one base, scored two runs, and went 0-for-1 at the plate. He also played five innings in the outfield. That’s it. Some years the September pinch-runner has more impact than others. This was not one of those years. The Yankees outrighted Young off the 40-man roster after the season and he elected free agency. So it goes.

Scouting the Trade Market: Houston Astros

Musgrove. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Musgrove. (Bob Levey/Getty)

According to multiple reports, the Astros are prepared to do something big this offseason. They had a breakout 2015 season, winning 86 games and beating the Yankees in the AL Wildcard Game before losing to the Royals in the ALDS. Rather than build on that success in 2016, they slipped to 84 wins and fell five games short of a postseason berth. They want to wipe that disappointing 2016 season from their memories.

So far this winter Houston has been connected to big name players like Edwin Encarnacion and Miguel Cabrera. More realistically, the Astros are also said to have interest in Yankees catcher Brian McCann, who has been deemed expendable thanks to the emergence of Gary Sanchez. Jason Castro is a free agent and the ‘Stros want a veteran backstop who can lead the staff and also provide some offense. McCann can do exactly that.

The Yankees are reportedly willing to eat up to half the $34M remaining on McCann’s contract to facilitate a trade, but if they do that, they want a better package in return. Makes sense. Pitching is said to be the top priority this offseason and I’m guessing that will be the focus in any McCann trade. McCann has a full no-trade clause, so he’s in control here. There are indications he will approve a trade to the Astros because they figure to contend and he’ll be able to DH. We’ll see.

Despite all their tanking over the years, Houston’s farm system is not loaded with talent at the moment. They’ve got plenty of good prospects, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not like the Yankees will be sifting through a farm system as deep as, well, their own. Here are some ‘Stros youngsters who could pique New York’s interest as they work through a McCann trade. The players are listed alphabetically and all scouting reports come from MLB.com.

RHP Chris Devenski

Background: Devenski, 26, was a 25th round pick by the White Sox in 2011. The next year he was sent to the Astros as the player to be named later in the Brett Myers trade. Devenski worked as both a starter and reliever in the minors, and after making his MLB debut as a starter this season, he settled into a relief role and had a 2.16 ERA (2.34 FIP) in 108.1 innings. Only Michael Fulmer bested Devenski in fWAR (3.0 vs. 2.8) and bWAR (4.9 vs. 2.8) among AL rookie hurlers.

Scouting Report: “The key to his success is his plus changeup, which allows him to get swings and misses from lefties and righties alike despite having otherwise fringy stuff. Devenski’s fastball operates at 89-91 mph and tops out at 93. He also has a curveball that he can throw for strikes. Devenski can’t overpower hitters, but he keeps them off balance and doesn’t beat himself with walks or homers.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Devenski has the tools to start thanks to his three pitches and good control. His velocity ticked up as a reliever — he averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 97.6 mph in 2016 — but even at 89-91 mph he can have success turning a lineup over multiple times, especially if he maintains his 4.9% walk rate. The upside here is a cheap back-end starter with the fallback option of a pretty good reliever.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There are reasons to believe Devenski is not as good as he was this past season. I can’t help but look at his 33.5% ground ball rate and 0.33 HR/9 (3.5 HR/FB%) and think that’s probably not going to last long-term, especially not for a dude with an 89-91 mph fastball as a starter in a small ballpark like Yankee Stadium. That doesn’t mean Devenski can’t still be valuable with, say, a 1.00 HR/9 as a starter, it just means his 2016 performance probably isn’t who he will be going forward.

RHP Michael Feliz

Background: The 23-year-old Feliz originally signed with the Athletics as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic, but his contract was voided after he failed a drug test. The Astros scooped him up, he served his 50-game suspension, and he’s since blossomed into a hard-throwing righty. Feliz received a cup of coffee last year and spent the entire 2016 season in Houston’s bullpen, where he had a 4.43 ERA (3.24 FIP) with a great strikeout rate (35.2%) and an okay walk rate (8.2%) in 65 innings.

Scouting Report: “His fastball sits in the mid 90s and gets up to 98 mph. His slider is his best secondary offering, and his changeup gives him a third quality offering. He mostly works around the zone, but his delivery will need more refinement before he truly commands all of his pitches. If he can make the necessary adjustments, he’ll have all the makings of a frontline starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Feliz has good size — he’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 230 lbs. — and tremendous raw stuff, though he didn’t throw his changeup a whole lot in relief this year. The natural ability is there, as is the potential to start long-term. A 23-year-old kid with this kind of arm is always worth pursuing.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Like many young kids with big arms, Feliz lacks overall command and it’ll come down to improving his delivery. That’s not easy to do. Also, some other scouting reports, such as Baseball America‘s (subs. req’d), aren’t as enthusiastic about his slider and changeup as MLB.com. Feliz has talent. He is need of refinement though, and he may not be ready to step into the rotation next season.

RHP Francis Martes

Background: Martes went to the Astros in the Jarred Cosart trade with the Marlins, when he was still in rookie ball. He’s since developed into one of the game’s top pitching prospects. Martes, 20, had a 3.30 ERA (2.73 FIP) with a 25.0% strikeout rate and a 9.0% walk rate in 125.1 Double-A innings this summer, where he was more than four years younger than the average Texas League player. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 29th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “(Martes) now operates at a consistent 93-95 mph with a peak of 98. His breaking ball improved even more significantly last year, becoming a devastating power curveball. His changeup is in its nascent stages but shows some promise. Martes’ control also got a lot better during his first full year with his new organization … (He’s emerged as) a potential frontline starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Martes is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, and he’s nearly MLB ready. He figures to start next season at Triple-A and could earn a midseason call-up, regardless of whether he’s with the Yankees or Astros or whoever. The fastball/curveball combination points to a future at the front of a big league rotation.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? As with most 20-year-old pitching prospects, Martes is still rough around the edges. He doesn’t have much of a changeup, and that’s a pretty big deal. His control isn’t all that great either. Martes is very exciting. That fastball/curveball combo is as good as it gets. But until he refines his changeup and strike-throwing ability, it’s hard to think he’ll be an effective MLB rotation option.

RHP Joe Musgrove

Background: The Blue Jays drafted the 23-year-old Musgrove with the 46th overall pick in the 2011 draft, then traded him to the Astros in the ten-player J.A. Happ trade at the 2012 deadline. (Ten-player J.A. Happ trade!) Musgrove was a borderline top 100 prospect coming into 2016. He made his MLB debut in August and had a 4.06 ERA (4.18 FIP) with nice strikeout (21.5%) and walk (6.3%) rates in 62 innings spread across ten starts and one relief appearance.

Scouting Report: “Musgrove takes advantage of his big, physical frame to throw his low-to-mid-90s fastball from a good downhill plane. He mostly attacks hitters with his fastball and pounds the zone with it, creating plenty of ground ball outs. He also has a good curveball and some feel for his changeup, but both of his secondary offerings still need more refinement … He has all the makings of a future workhorse starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The MLB.com scouting report doesn’t mention what Baseball America (subs. req’d) calls “plus command/control,” which allows everything to play up. Musgrove is a no-doubt starter long-term thanks to his ability to locate four pitches — PitchFX has him throwing a slider in addition to the fastball/curveball/changeup in the scouting report, and you can that slider in the video — and that’s exactly what the Yankees are looking for.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many reasons, really. Musgrove is not a budding ace or anything. His ceiling isn’t sky high. He’s more likely to settle in a solid mid-rotation pitcher, which is perfectly fine. Not exciting at all, but fine.

RHP David Paulino

Background: Like Martes and Musgrove, the 22-year-old Paulino was acquired in a trade when he was still in rookie ball. The Astros got him as the player to named later in the Jose Veras trade with the Tigers in 2013. Paulino was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the time. This season he had a 1.91 ERA (2.32 FIP) with 28.6% strikeouts and 5.4% walks in 94 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. Paulino made his MLB debut in September and allowed four runs in seven innings. MLB.com currently ranks Paulino as the 70th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “(Paulino) came back from his elbow reconstruction to operate at 93-95 mph and hit 98. His curveball also has improved significantly, becoming a legitimate power breaking ball and giving him a second pitch that grades as well above-average when at its best. Paulino has made strides with his changeup too, and he had no problem regaining his control after Tommy John surgery … He has frontline-starter ceiling but also little track record.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Paulino’s raw stuff is electric. Mid-90s gas, a bat-missing curveball, and an improving changeup, all with decent control. On top of that, the kid is listed at 6-foot-7 and 215 lbs., so he’s a big intimidating presence on the mound who gets great extension out in front. It’s very easy to dream on Paulino and envision him becoming a top of the rotation starter.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Injuries, for starters. Paulino had Tommy John surgery in 2013, and that along with some other issues limited him to 106.1 total innings from 2011-15. Also, Paulino was suspended for a month this past season for an undisclosed violation of team rules. Like Jorge Mateo, but a longer suspension. Even if the suspension doesn’t bother you and you’re willing to overlook the injuries, the bottom line is this kid has thrown 203.1 innings over the last six years. Total. That’s an awful lot of development time missed.

OF Kyle Tucker

Background: The only position player in this post was the fifth overall pick in the 2015 draft. Tucker, 19, is the younger brother of Astros outfielder Preston Tucker. Kyle hit .280/.354/.433 (125 wRC+) with ten homers and 33 steals, plus promising strikeout (16.6%) and walk (9.8%) rates, in 122 games between Low-A And High-A this season. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 49th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “Tucker makes consistent hard contact thanks to fast hands, a balanced left-handed swing and a mature approach. He also has plenty of raw power and could deliver 20 homers per season once he fills out his lanky 6-foot-4 frame … (Tucker) profiles best in right field. He has solid arm strength and speed, though he figures to lose a half-step once he matures physically.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Because he’s one of the best pure hitting prospects in the minors, that’s why. Tucker is not quite Christian Yelich but it’s the same basic skill set. Quick hands and a sweet lefty swing that generate oodles of hard contact. The Yankees have a ton of outfielders in their farm system, but that doesn’t matter. Tucker is better than pretty much all of them. He’s the best prospect in Houston’s system in my opinion and therefore the best non-big leaguer the Yankees would be able to pry loose in a McCann trade.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Aside from the fact Tucker is only 19 and in Single-A, meaning there’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong, I can’t think of one. I guess also because he doesn’t satisfy the Yankees’ long-term pitching needs?

* * *

The Yankees have had interest in righty Lance McCullers Jr. before, specifically last year during Andrew Miller trade talks, but the Astros shot that down. I assume McCullers is still off limits. The same is probably true of righty Forrest Whitley, Houston’s first round pick in this past summer’s amateur draft. Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Astros prospects list, if you want to sift through that some more.

I’d love to see the Yankees get Tucker in a McCann trade, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, even if they eat $17M of the $34M left on his contract. Out of everyone else in this post, Musgrove is the guy I hope the Yankees target. He has four pitches and good command, plus he got his feet wet at the MLB level this year, so he’s ready to step right into the rotation. It would be nice to have a young pitcher who is more than a good stuff/bad command guy one of these years, you know?

Gary Sanchez finishes second to Michael Fulmer in Rookie of the Year voting

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

Alas, Gary Sanchez‘s two historic months were not enough to be named 2016 Rookie of the Year. Earlier tonight the BBWAA announced Tigers righty Michael Fulmer, not Sanchez, won the AL award. Sanchez finished second in the voting and Indians outfielder Tyler Naquin was third.

As far as the voting goes, it wasn’t all that close. Fulmer received 26 of 30 first place votes and amassed 142 total points. Sanchez received the other four first place votes as well as 23 second base votes, which works out to 91 points. One voter left Gary off their ballot entirely. The full voting results are right here.

Sanchez was not called up for good until early-August, but he was in the Rookie of the Year race because he had a historically great two-month stretch. He hit .299/.376/.657 (171 wRC+) with 20 homer runs in 53 games, plus he showed off an insane arm behind the plate. Gary was a two-way threat.

In terms of games played, no player in history reached 11, 18, 19, and 20 career home runs faster than Sanchez. He led all AL rookies in fWAR (+3.2) and was second to Fulmer in bWAR (+3.0). Fulmer had a 3.06 ERA (3.76 FIP) in 159 innings. He was three innings short of winning the AL ERA title.

The Yankees haven’t had an AL Rookie of the Year winner since Derek Jeter in 1996. Sanchez is the third Yankee to finish second in the voting since 1996, joining Robinson Cano (2005) and Hideki Matsui (2003). Cano lost out to Huston Street and Matsui lost to Angel freaking Berroa.

No other Yankees received Rookie of the Year votes, which isn’t surprising. Guys like Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge had less playing time than Sanchez and didn’t have nearly as much impact.

Monday Night Open Thread

I’m posting tonight’s open thread a little earlier than usual because, at some point in the next hour, we’ll find out whether Gary Sanchez has been named AL Rookie of the Year. He’s up against Michael Fulmer and Tyler Naquin. Naquin is the third wheel here; both Sanchez and Fulmer have a legitimate chance to win. Maybe they’ll tie. That’d be weird. The announcement show begins at 6pm ET on MLB Network.

After that, use this as tonight’s open thread. The Giants and Bengals are the Monday Night Football game, plus the Knicks, Nets, and Islanders are in action. There’s a whole bunch of college hoops on the schedule as well. Talk about the Rookie of the Year award(s) and those games right here.

International free agency rules may stand in the way of Shohei Otani being posted this offseason

(Masterpress/Getty)
(Masterpress/Getty)

According to J.J. Cooper, MLB’s international free agency rules may prevent the Nippon Ham Fighters from posting right-hander Shohei Otani this offseason. Otani is still only 22, which means if he comes over this winter, he’d only be able to sign a minor league contract. He still qualifies as an international amateur and would count against the bonus pool. Even through the posting process.

Furthermore, because the Yankees are still subject to the penalties from their 2014-15 international spending spree, they would only be able to offer Otani a $300,000 bonus. Obviously that won’t be enough to sign him. The Red Sox, Dodgers, and Angels are in the same boat. Otani doesn’t turn 23 until next July too, so it’s not a matter of waiting a few extra weeks.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires on December 1st, so it’s possible the international free agency rules will change and make it more realistic for Otani to be posted. That seems unlikely though. Every change made to international free agency these days further limits spending. There’s no reason to think that’ll change this time around.

Otani would be, by far, the best available pitcher this winter. The (Ham) Fighters could still post him, but they know he’s not going to sign a minor league contract, so there’s no real point. They figure to instead keep him one more year, then post him next offseason, when he’ll be able to sign a contract of any size at age 23. We’ll see. Maybe the upcoming CBA will change things for the better.

This season Otani had a 1.86 ERA with 174 strikeouts in 140 innings while also hitting .322/.416/.588 with 22 homers in 382 plate appearances. The consensus is his future is much brighter on the mound, though when it comes time to sign him, the team that gives Otani the chance to pitch and hit may be the one that gets him.