7/21 to 7/23 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

We’re now into the dog days of summer, and this week the Yankees will play a fairly important three-game series at home against the Orioles. Every intra-division series from here out will be super important. The Yanks and O’s have split ten games this season, though the Yankees took three of four at Yankee Stadium back in May. The other six games were in Camden Yards.

What Have The O’s Done Lately?

Baltimore had an off-day yesterday like the Yankees. They took two of three from the Tigers over the weekend in their first series of the season half after losing ten of 13 to close out the first half. The O’s are 46-45 overall with a +44 run differential. They’re in second place in the division and four games back of New York. So no matter what happens this series, the Yankees will be in first place when it’s over.

Offense & Defense

Manager Buck Showalter’s offense is a tick above-average, scoring 4.42 runs per game thanks to a team 102 wRC+. They are perfectly healthy on the position player side. No one on the DL or even day-to-day.

Machado. (Presswire)
Machado. (Presswire)

OF Adam Jones (129 wRC+) is the big name, and 1B Chris Davis (116 wRC+) hit all those home runs a few years ago, but 3B Manny Machado (149 wRC+) is the O’s best player. He’s already set career highs in homers (20) and stolen bases (13) and is still only 23. He just turned 23 earlier this month too. Machado is very quietly having a “hey guys, I’m a superstar now” breakout season. Also, Davis has been playing right field of late.

Ex-Yankees farmhand UTIL Jimmy Paredes (118 wRC+) is still having an inexplicably good season while 1B/OF Steve Pearce (87 wRC+) hasn’t been able to repeat last year’s effort. C Matt Wieters (95 wRC+) is back from Tommy John surgery but isn’t playing everyday just yet. They’re easing him back into things. SS J.J. Hardy (61 wRC+) and IF Jonathan Schoop (177 wRC+ in very limited time) are the middle infield combo. Schoop came back off the DL recently, just in time to get back to killing the Yankees.

OF Nolan Reimold (99 wRC+ in limited time), OF Travis Snider (96 wRC+), and OF David Lough (70 wRC+) are the other outfielders who seem to take turns playing each game. C Caleb Joseph (94 wRC+) splits time with Wieters and both IF Ryan Flaherty (92 wRC+) and 1B/OF Chris Parmelee (107 wRC+) are the bench players. The O’s have great defenders in center (Jones), on the left side of the infield (Hardy and Machado), and behind the plate (Wieters). The defense is average to poor most other spots.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BAL) vs. LHP Wei-Yin Chen (vs. NYY)
I didn’t realize the 30-year-old Chen will be a free agent after the season. He’d had a good walk year (2.78 ERA and 4.19 FIP in 110 innings) and should land himself a nice little contract. Chen’s strikeout rate (20.4%) is about average but he’s allowed fewer walks (5.7%) and gets fewer grounders (40.4%) than the league average hurler. His homer rate (1.39 HR/9) is sky high and righties (.307 wOBA) have hit him harder than lefties (.290 wOBA). Chen operates with low-90s two and four-seamers, low-80s changeups and sliders, and a low-70s curveball. The slider is his go-to offspeed pitch. The Yankees have seen Chen twice this year, scoring two runs in six innings in April and one run in seven innings in May.

Wednesday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
Gausman, 24, looks like the next great O’s pitching prospect who is going to fall short of his ceiling. This club hasn’t had a top pitching prospect max out since Mike Mussina. Gausman missed time with a shoulder injury and has bounced up and down between Triple-A and MLB this season, pitching to a 5.00 ERA (3.87 FIP) in only 27 big league innings. His peripherals are average-ish across the board: 21.2 K%, 7.6 BB%, 43.9 GB%, and 1.00 HR/9. Lefties (.367) have had way more success against Gausman than righties (.258 wOBA), both this year and in his career. A mid-90s four-seamer sets up his mid-80s changeup and low-80s slider, the latter of which he’s yet to really develop a feel for since being the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft. Gausman has faced the Yankees once this year, allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning in relief.

Ubaldo. (Presswire)
Ubaldo. (Presswire)

Thursday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. NYY)
It appears Good Ubaldo has shown up this season. The 31-year-old has a 3.29 ERA (3.49 FIP) in 104 innings this summer with a good strikeout rate (23.4%) and average walk (7.3%), grounder (46.6%), and homer (0.95 HR/9) numbers. Jimenez has a reverse split (.318 vs. .293 wOBA in favor of righties), which is typical of his good years, because his out pitch is a mid-80s splitter. He sets it up with low-90s two and four-seamers, and will also throw low-80s sliders and mid-70s curves. The curve is his distant fifth pitch. The Yankees have faced Ubaldo just once this year, scoring three runs in five innings last month.

Bullpen Status
Showalter’s bullpen started the season horribly but has gotten better the last few weeks and months. They currently have a 2.84 ERA (3.41 FIP) as a unit. Closer LHP Zach Britton (1.67 ERA/1.76 FIP) has the best sinker in baseball and is set up by RHP Darren O’Day (1.04/2.86). Both of those dudes were All-Stars. LHP Brian Matusz (2.43/3.63) is the situational lefty.

RHP Tommy Hunter (4.08/3.36) and ex-Yankee RHP Chaz Roe (2.48/2.95) are the middle innings righties along with RHP Brad Brach (3.02/3.06). RHP Bud Norris (6.82/5.65) lost his rotation spot a few weeks back and has been pitching in long relief. Head over to our Bullpen Workload for the status of New York’s bullpen, then check out Camden Chat for updates on the O’s.

Scouting The Trade Market: Miami Marlins

Baker. (Presswire)
Baker. (Presswire)

We are now a little more than one week away from the trade deadline, and at this point the buyers far outnumber the sellers. FanGraphs says nine teams have less than a 5% chance of making the postseason (only two in the AL), which actually seems kinda high. Not all nine of those teams will sell of course, and even the ones that do sell might not be matches for the Yankees. Making trades is really tough nowadays thanks to the second wildcard.

One club that is very much out of the race and as ready to sell as it gets is the Marlins, who come into today 38-55 and 12 games back of a postseason spot. The Marlins don’t screw around, when they decide to sell, they act quickly and decisively. There aren’t weeks of rumors. They know who they want, pull the trigger, and move on. Obviously this season hasn’t played out as hoped, though I doubt they’ll go full tear down. Probably more like a retooling. Luckily for them, they have a lot of rental players to market, some of whom could fit with the Yankees. Let’s look ’em over. (Players listed alphabetically.)

UTIL Jeff Baker

Yesterday we heard the Yankees are looking for a right-handed bat, and the 34-year-old Baker has hit .290/.350/.509 (126 wRC+) against lefties in his career. That’s great! The problem? He’s hitting .208/.288/.434 (99 wRC+) against southpaws this season, albeit in only 59 plate appearances. This could easily be a sample size issue. Baker hit .319/.362/.462 (128 wRC+) against lefties just last year.

We’re talking about a bench player here, a platoon bat on the short side of the platoon, and it’s damn near impossible to predict how guys like that will perform the two months after the trade deadline. Not only are they transitioning to a new team and a new city and all that, they also don’t play a whole lot. Remember Craig Wilson? That dude hit .282/.384/.518 (134 wRC+) against lefties in his career, including .307/.378/.545 (136 wRC+) for the Pirates in 2006, then put up a .222/.286/.400 (76 wRC+) line against lefties with the Yankees after being acquired a deadline.

With bench players like Wilson and Baker, the only thing you can do is bank on track record and hope they play up to their career averages. Baker has experience all over the field but is mostly a first baseman, a second baseman, and a left fielder at this point. He’s an impending free agent on a bad team and that figures to make him available. The Yankees are looking for someone for a similar skill set. Baker is a fit and hardly guaranteed to produce, because baseball doesn’t work like that.

What Will It Cost?: Baker is a utility guy. Utility guys get traded for cash or players to be named later. Gordon Beckham was traded last year for player to be named later that turned out to be a non-top 30 pitching prospect (Yency Almonte) down in rookie ball. Boom, there’s your trade reference point.

Cishek. (Presswire)
Cishek. (Presswire)

RHP Steve Cishek

Unlike the other guys in this post, Cishek isn’t a rental. He’s more of a 2016 piece than a 2015 piece, because his 2015 has been awful: 4.65 ERA (3.45 FIP) in 29 innings. This is a guy who had a 2.70 ERA (2.59 FIP) in 253.1 innings from 2011-14. Then poof, it was gone, so gone the Marlins sent Cishek to Double-A earlier this year. Not Triple-A, Double-A. To his credit, Cishek has a 0.77 ERA (2.20 FIP) since being recalled, but that is only in 11.2 innings.

The 29-year-old Cishek has a funky low arm slot and a low-90s sinker/low-80s slider combination that neutralized lefties despite said arm slot. Left-handed batters have hit .237/.325/.357 (.295 wOBA) against him in his career, which is stellar by low-slot guy standards. Batters of the opposite hand see the ball well from low-slot guys. For what it’s worth, Cishek told David Laurila earlier this month that his struggles were all mechanical:

“When the season started, my arm slot was a little low and my velocity was down,” explained Cishek. “I tried a little too hard to bring my velocity back up and started yanking everything. I was flying open and the ball was just taking off on me.

“If I’m throwing from too low, my sinker doesn’t sink. It’s flat. If I’m able to move my hand up an inch or two, I’m able to get the diving action I’ve had in the past, with a little more thump behind the ball.”

The PitchFX data shows Cishek has climbed back into the 92-94 mph range after sitting right at 90 earlier this season, which backs up the mechanical trouble. Here is Cishek’s delivery in case you’ve never seen him pitch. It’s easy to see how a delivery like that could fall out of whack from time to time.

Cishek saved 94 games over the years and he’s a Super Two, so he’s already pulling down $6.65M this season, his second year of arbitration. That puts him in line for $8M or so next season even with this year’s struggles, making him a non-tender candidate. The Marlins are not exactly a big spending team, as you may have heard. Cishek’s salary likely made him a goner after this season no matter what.

Trading for a non-tender candidate who might not help this year is sorta dumb, though the Yankees are one of the very few teams who can afford to pay Cishek that $8M next year to be a seventh or eighth inning guy (or eat it if he stinks). They talked to the Marlins about relievers before signing Andrew Miller this offseason, and I assume Cishek’s name came up, so they could have long-lasting interest. (He is 6-foot-6, after all. The Yankees love their tall pitchers.) I think this is unlikely to happen, but I figured I’d cover all my bases.

What Will It Cost?: Boy, this is interesting. The Marlins are going market Cishek as the shutdown closer he was from 2011-14 while teams are going to look at him as a reclamation projection. An expensive reclamation project. Two busted closers were traded for each other last summer (Jason Grilli for Ernesto Frieri), but that doesn’t help us. The Brewers traded John Axford for a control-challenged MLB ready reliever (Michael Blazek) a few years ago, which could be the asking price for Cishek. The Marlins could very well be in “we’re going to non-tender him anyway, so we’ll take what we can get” mode.

Haren. (Presswire)
Haren. (Presswire)

RHP Dan Haren

I feel like Haren is a perennial “should the Yankees get him?” guy. Every year we’re talking about him. Haren was very good for a very long time with the Athletics and Diamondbacks, but he is clearly in the twilight of his career nowadays, so much so that he was considering retirement before the season. Haren has a 3.46 ERA (4.31 FIP) in 117 innings this season, though the ERA hides his career-low strikeout (17.1%) and ground ball (31.4%) rates.

I’ve long felt Haren was not a good fit for the Yankees because he’s always been extremely homer prone — 1.31 HR/9 this year and 1.11 HR/9 in his career, and that’s after spending all those years in Oakland — and now he’s still homer prone, only with an 86 mph fastball instead of a 93 mph fastball. Haren doesn’t walk anyone (4.9%) and he’s really durable, so you know he’ll take the ball every fifth day and there’s value in that, I’m just not sure they will be quality innings.

Haren will be popular at the trade deadline because he comes with zero salary — the Dodgers are paying all of it. That doesn’t help the Yankees any. Quite the opposite, in fact. It levels the playing field and the concept of absorbing salary to lower the prospect price flies out the window. Haren will be a pure talent swap, not a salary dump. Given his decline and propensity for the long ball (even in big parks), Haren doesn’t seem like a fit for the Yankees unless all hell breaks loose in the next ten days.

What Will It Cost?: The going rate for an impending free agent back of the rotation veteran innings guy appears to be two or three Grade-C prospects. The Ricky Nolasco trade from a few years ago seems like a decent reference point. The Dodgers sent three pitching prospects to the Marlins for Nolasco: a Triple-A reliever (Josh Wall), a Double-A reliever (Steve Ames), and a Single-A starter (Angel Sanchez). Sanchez was ranked as the Dodgers’ 16th best prospect before the season by Baseball America while Ames and Wall were not in their top 30. Haren coming with zero salary could complicate things.

Latos. (Presswire)
Latos. (Presswire)

RHP Mat Latos

The Marlins acquired Latos from the Reds in the offseason and, in his very first start with Miami, he allowed seven runs in two-thirds of an inning. Yikes. Since then though, the 27-year-old Latos has a 4.10 ERA (3.41 FIP) in 13 starts and 74.2 innings, which still isn’t great, but it is better than the overall numbers would lead you believe (4.90 ERA and 3.48 FIP).

Latos has had a lot of physical problems over the last year or two, including hamstring, knee, and foot injuries this season. He also missed the first two and a half months of last season due to elbow (bone spur) and knee (meniscus) surgery. Latos’ velocity hasn’t really been the same since all the injuries:

Mat Latos velocity

The velocity did come back earlier this season, albeit temporarily. Latos is back to sitting in the low-90s now, where he was earlier this season and last year. His strikeout (20.8%) and walk (7.5%) rates are fine, and Latos has never been a ground ball guy (40.9% in 2015 and 43.1% career), so his underlying performance has been right in line with the rest of his career. The problem is his career-low pop-up rate (6.5%), his career-high hard contact rate (33.9%), and his near career worst performance against lefties (.336 wOBA). The contact he’s giving up is bad contact.

Latos is owed about $4.7M through the end of the season and will be a free agent this winter, so there’s no long-term risk, just the risk that you’ll give up an asset for him and he’ll stink. It happens, that’s part of baseball, but Latos seems riskier than most given his recent injury history and so so performance. He’s a warm body who can come in and take a rotation turn every fifth day, but is he the kind of guy who can put a team over the top? Maybe three or four years ago. But not now.

What Will It Cost?: Latos and Haren are both rental starters but they’re different. Haren’s a known commodity, proven durable, pitching like he always has. Latos is coming off injuries and his performance hasn’t been great. He’s a broken starter, so to speak. I’m not sure what a good reference trade would be. Justin Masterson to the Cardinals? St. Louis gave up their No. 8 prospect (James Ramsey) to get him. Brandon McCarthy last year? The Yankees gave up an MLB ready swingman in Vidal Nuno. The Marlins traded an MLB ready arm (Anthony DeSclafani, their No. 5 prospect) and a minor league depth catcher (Chad Wallach) to get Latos in the offseason. So I guess the asking price has to be lower than that, give his performance and half-season of team control, right?

Prado. (Presswire)
Prado. (Presswire)

UTIL Martin Prado

Prado is a fine player, but I’m not sure anyone has seen their perceived value increase thanks to two months in pinstripes as much as him. He raked in 37 games with the Yankees last year (146 wRC+). It was pretty awesome. Prado is also hitting .281/.325/.407 (101 wRC+) in his last 1,525 plate appearances. That’s good. It’s not great, it’s not bad, it’s just good. Basically average. Average is valuable! But given his recent history (117, 104, 103, 92 wRC+ from 2012-15), I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be even average.

That said, the Yankees have a total black hole at second base, and even a below-average Prado is a big upgrade over what the Yankees are running out there. As an added bonus, he’s a right-handed bat, which will help balance the lineup. As an extra added bonus, Prado’s versatile and would give the Yankees coverage at other positions. That said, should they bring him back, it should be to play second everyday. That’s the area of need right now.

Prado is making $11M both this season and next, and the Yankees are actually playing $3M of that each year as part of the trade that sent him to Miami. The Yankees have said they prefer rental players at the deadline, but they did acquire Prado and his contract last year, and he would be a nice depth player next season, albeit an expensive one. Prado is not really the hitter he was with the Yankees last year, but he’s a quality two-way player who would help New York quite a bit.

What Will It Cost?: Well let’s see, the Yankees traded Peter O’Brien to get two and a half years of Prado last year, though the Diamondbacks aren’t exactly known for making smart decisions. One and a half years of Prado should cost less, in theory, especially considering he’s been hurt (shoulder) and isn’t hitting as well (.275/.317/.375 and 92 wRC+ this year), and at that point you wonder if the Marlins will simply hold onto him for next year and try to contend again.

Thoughts ten days prior to the July 31st trade deadline

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2015 non-waiver trade deadline is now only ten days away. There are more buyers than sellers (as usual) and this season the Yankees are absolutely a buyer. I mean, they’re always buyers, the Yankees are never going to sell, but this year they’ve got a decent lead in the AL East and their 82.1% postseason odds are the third best in the AL right now. Buy buy buy! Here are some thoughts prior to the trade deadline.

1. I want the Yankees to be aggressive at the deadline, even if it means “overpaying” to make a trade. That doesn’t mean they should empty the farm system for the sake of it, but don’t lose out on someone because you’re not willing to kick in that extra mid-range minor leaguer, especially if the alternative is the player going to a division rival. (I expect the Blue Jays to be very active at the deadline. GM Alex Anthopoulos might not be back next year if they miss the postseason.) Why do I want them to be aggressive? Because I don’t think the Yankees can count on Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez being this productive next year. Same with Carlos Beltran. Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow might not cooperate next year and others like Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Chase Headley are inching closer to age-related decline as well. I’m not saying the Yankees won’t contend next year, just that I don’t think their chances will be as good as they are right now at this very moment. The offense is very good, the bullpen is great, and the rotation is promising. Strengthen the roster and go for it. This might be the last chance to win with this core.

2. Starting pitching should be the club’s top priority, even ahead of second base. Tanaka (elbow), Michael Pineda (workload), and CC Sabathia (performance) all carry some kind of significant red flag. Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t been great and Ivan Nova has been uneven since returning from Tommy John surgery as well. I’d rather see the Yankees add a starter at the deadline and have “too much” pitching than need it and not have at some point in the second half. Jon Morosi says New York is still scouting Johnny Cueto and Susan Slusser says they had a scout watching Scott Kazmir over the weekend, so they’re out there looking for rental arms. (Ken Rosenthal says the White Sox are in “listening mode” with Jeff Samardzija, another rental starter.) Cueto, Kazmir, Samardzija, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy, Bartolo Colon, Yovani Gallardo, Dan Haren, Mat Latos … the rental pitchers are out there. At this point I think I prefer Kazmir to everyone else, but the Yankees should bring in some rotation help either way. It’s a clear area of need.

3. Now, if the Yankees do bring in a starter, they’ll need to squeeze him into the rotation. I don’t think that will be too tough though, even if the team is unwilling to bump Sabathia into the bullpen. The easiest solution is using a six-man rotation until rosters expand on September 1st, simply sucking it up with a six-man bullpen or a three-man bench. It could be both — the team has three off-days in August and could pull off a six-man bullpen for part of the month and a three-bench the other times. I doubt this would happen, but the Yankees could also control Pineda’s workload not just by skipping a start, but by sending him to the minors for ten days to free up the roster spot. Pineda has minor league options left (two by my count) and he’s probably never going to use them at this point, so that’s an option. (Besides, ten days in the minors won’t burn an option. It takes 20 days.) That said, I don’t see the Yankees doing it, and the idea of undeservingly sending a player to the minors is sorta yucky. The “too many” starters issue will sort itself out. It always does. And if it doesn’t, celebrate!

Gyorko. (Presswire)
Gyorko. (Presswire)

4. Aside from pitching, the biggest need is at second base, though I’m not sure who is realistically available other than Ben Zobrist. I’m sure the Reds would give Brandon Phillips away, but I want no part of him. Martin Prado is another name, but I could see the Marlins holding onto him and trying to contend next year. Dustin Ackley? He’s barely outhitting Stephen Drew and I’m not sure the “he was a former top prospect!” line of thinking applies anymore. Just go with Rob Refsnyder rather than try to squeeze water from the Ackley rock. Jedd Gyorko? He has a 78 wRC+ since signing his six-year, $35M contract last year. Gyorko’s been so bad the Padres had to send him to Triple-A a few weeks ago. If the Yankees can’t make a trade for a second baseman, then they have to go with Refsnyder the rest of the way. Drew had his chance. Time to move on.

5. Brian Cashman told reporters yesterday (including Erik Boland) that it is “more likely that we don’t do anything rather than predicting we do something significant,” which is GM Speak 101. Ever notice how almost every GM says he doesn’t expect to do anything significant this time of year? It’s all posturing, nothing more. There’s no benefit to a GM coming out and saying he’s looking for X, Y, and Z at the deadline. The Yankees are excellent at keeping things quiet too — the Justin Wilson, Didi Gregorius, Chasen Shreve and Eovaldi trades all came out of nowhere this offseason. Rumors are fun! But the Yankees are good at keeping things under wraps, and that can make the deadline sorta boring. I’m pretty sure they’re going make a move or two before next Friday. And I’m also pretty sure it’ll come out of nowhere and be a total surprise. Trying to predict their trade deadline activity is futile.

6. Annual reminder that July 31st is not really the trade deadline. Teams can still make trades in August and September through trade waivers — a player has to be in the organization by August 31st to be eligible for the postseason roster, however — though the Yankees typically handle their business in July. (Here’s a primer on trade waivers.) Here’s the full list of players they’ve acquired in August waiver trades since 2009: Chad Gaudin and Steve Pearce. That’s it. (They did acquire Brendan Ryan in September a few years ago because Derek Jeter got hurt and they needed a shortstop.) The club’s most notable August pickups in recent years were Chris Young and Mark Reynolds, who signed as free agents after being released their former clubs. I’m not saying the Yankees won’t make an August waiver trade if something makes sense, just that recent history suggests they’ll make their most meaningful moves before next Friday.

DotF: Mateo steals three more bases in doubleheader

Got a bunch of updates to pass along:

  • Chad Jennings has a whole bunch of minor league notes to check out. Most importantly, Brian Cashman confirmed OF Aaron Judge is day-to-day with “some minor stuff,” so he’s been out the last three days but it’s not a big deal. Also Jennings hears LHP Ian Clarkin is not expected to have surgery. That’s … good?
  • Other stuff from Jennings: OF Mason Williams (shoulder) has resumed playing catch, OF Slade Heathcott (quad) is close to playing in minor league rehab games, and LHP Jacob Lindgren (elbow) is rehabbing but has yet to begin a throwing program. RHP James Kaprielian is working out in Tampa, but Cashman doesn’t know when he’ll make his pro debut. That’s up to farm system head honcho Gary Denbo.
  • IF Nick Noonan was released from Triple-A Scranton, reports Brendan Kuty. He hit .262/.308/.328 (83 wRC+) in 67 games before landing on the DL. This pretty much confirms IF Cole Figueroa will be the starting shortstop the rest of the season.
  • And finally, 1B Kane Sweeney was named the Appalachian League Offensive Player of the Week. This year’s 29th rounder came into the day hitting .273/.373/.568 (158 wRC+) with three homers in 14 pro games.

Know what I haven’t done this season? Updated the standings. So let’s do that now.

Triple-A Scranton (5-0 loss to Indianapolis) they’re 51-46 and a half-game back in the division

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 K
  • LF Jose Pirela: 2-4 — 13-for-25 (.520) in his last six games
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 2-3, 1 2B
  • RHP Eric Ruth: 6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 8/6 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) — 58 of 88 pitches were strikes (66%) … his strong season at Double-A was rewarded with a Triple-A spot start in place of RHP Luis Severino, who is away from the team because his wife is having a baby

[Read more…]

TiqIQ: Even With Secondary Market Hot, Primary Tickets Remain For Yankees-Orioles Series

It’s been a very up-and-down season for the reigning AL East champion Baltimore Orioles. After a slow start to the year that saw them saddled with a 23-29 record in early-June, the Orioles turned things around with their best stretch of the season, going 18-7 throughout the rest of the month to vault back into first-place. However, they would proceed to go cold again, losing 10 of their last 13 entering the All-Star break, which sunk them down to the .500-mark and right back into the middle-of-the-pack.

 

Fortunately for Buck Showalter’s club, they’ll have a very nice opportunity to gain some ground back, as they travel to Yankee Stadium for a crucial series with the first-place Yankees. The Bronx Bombers have experienced their own highs and lows throughout the season, but at the moment, have sustained a decent lead for first over the rest of the division residents and will try and keep it going as the second half gets rolling.

It’s been an evenly-matched season series between the two clubs up to this point, as they’ve split ten meetings heading into this three-game set. Ironically, it’s been the road team that has dominated, as the Orioles took two of three from each of their series at Yankee Stadium, while New York took three out of four when they visited Camden Yards in Baltimore in early-May. With this series being in the Bronx, the Yankees will look to reverse that trend.

Speaking of trends, fans might be surprised to learn that a majority of superior ticket deals can actually be found on Yankees.com, as opposed to on the secondary market and the same holds true for this very series. For instance, look no further than the highly coveted seats in section 128, row 25 on the field for Thursday’s series finale. Those who explore their options on the Yankees website can get those premium seats for $155, which is an immense bargain when compared to what other sellers are asking for. In fact, those same tickets are going for whopping $235 on the secondary market.

Furthermore, the same game sees tickets in section 228, row 7 going for just $90 from the Yankees, which easily bests the $149 price tag those same seats are listed at from outside sellers. Fans can also attain better value straight from the team for the series opener in section 234, row 1. On Yankees.com, those seats cost $55, whereas on the secondary market, they cost $70.

Early on in the second half, this is as close to a “must-see” series as it gets, considering how tightly-contested the race in the AL East is, and the storied organizations involved. Without question, this will be one of the more high-profile series throughout this week, and that’s why the demand for tickets is so high on the secondary market. Thus, your best bet is going straight to the source for your ticketing needs.

Monday Night Open Thread

The Yankees have yet another off-day today — doesn’t it seem like the off-days have been bunched together this year? — so this is a good time to pass along this great Billy Witz article on Hideki Matsui, who joined what is essentially a high-end Sunday rec league on Randalls Island. Matsui pitches and, to make it fair, bats right-handed. He also sponsors his team. Godzilla turned 41 last month and he has bad knees, yet here he is, playing in a rec league because he loves the game. So great.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing the Nationals and that game will be on ESPN (Harvey vs. Gonzalez). Believe it or not, the Mets are only two games back of the Nats in the NL East. Talk about that game, Matsui’s rec league, or anything else right here.

Hal on Jeter rejoining the Yankees in some capacity: “He will … I have no doubt”

Derek got slimed by Nickelodeon recently. (Kevin Winter/Getty)
Derek got slimed by Nickelodeon recently. (Kevin Winter/Getty)

Aside from the occasional photo globetrotting with his girlfriend, Derek Jeter has managed to keep a low profile since retiring last season. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. Jeter perfected the art of keeping a low profile despite being a megastar in New York.

During a recent interview, Hal Steinbrenner told Marc Topkin he expects Jeter to one day rejoin the Yankees in some capacity. Not as a player, of course, but in some sort of ex-player role. Whatever it is Reggie Jackson does, for example. Here’s what Hal told Topkin:

“He will be (involved in some capacity), I have no doubt,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “He lives here in Tampa. . . . I think he’s just trying to relax for a year. God knows he earned it. It’s a good relationship and I have no doubt he’ll be involved in whatever way he wants to be involved.”

We all know Jeter wants to own a team one day — “That’s the next goal, buddy. Calling the shots, not answering to someone, that’s what interests me,” he said to reporters last summer — and hey, who can blame him? We all not so secretly want to own a team one day. It’s good work if you can get it.

Could the Yankees let Derek buy a piece of team? I suppose, but who really knows. Hal simply said Jeter would “be a great owner, no doubt about it,” when asked. Either way, I’m certain Jeter has a job waiting for him with the Yankees whenever he’s ready to get back into baseball. It benefits both sides to keep the relationship going.