Learning curve, hard-hit ball tendencies point to offensive upswing for Didi Gregorius

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Over the winter the Yankees were tasked with finding a replacement at shortstop for Derek Jeter. Well, replacement isn’t really the right word. It’s not like they chose to move on from Jeter, he retired. Successor might be a better term here than replacement. Anyway, the search for a new shortstop led them to Didi Gregorius, who came over from the Diamondbacks in a three-team trade in early-December.

The Yankees had been trying to acquire Gregorius since at least the 2013 Winter Meetings, though they needed to wait until after his disappointing 2014 campaign for the price to drop low enough. Simply put, the Yankees bought low on Gregorius, at least relative to what they think he can become. They’re banking on a just turned 25-year-old improving in the coming years and becoming a no doubt starting shortstop down the road.

Gregorius was born in Amsterdam but grew up in Curacao, which has produced a bevy of talented young middle infielders in recent years. A bevy of talented young middle infielders who all initially struggled at the MLB level. Jurickson Profar started slow before his recent shoulder woes, and others like Gregorius, Xander Bogaerts, Andrelton Simmons, and Jonathan Schoop have been below-average hitters early in their careers. They all have that in common.

“(Players from Curacao) are all highly educated, all speak four to seven languages,” said Rangers GM Jon Daniels to Peter Gammons in December. “They almost all come from very strong family backgrounds. So they have little issues adapting to the American society in the minor leagues, and are able to blow through on their natural skills. But in the Majors, when they have to make adjustments for the first time, they haven’t got the baseball backgrounds to make those adjustments. And because we have gotten so intrigued by them, we tend to be disappointed. It’s not fair.”

Current Giants hitting coach and ex-Yankees infield prospect Hensley Meulens, who grew up Curacao, agrees with Daniels. “It doesn’t surprise me at all,” said Meulens to Gammons. “The kids on Aruba and Curacao don’t play a lot of baseball when they are young, and the level is very crude. They play like eleven games in a Little League season. If you’re a kid in the Dominican or Venezuela, you’re playing year round. Don’t lose patience.”

Gregorius doesn’t have the offensive potential of Profar or Bogaerts and he isn’t as gifted in the field as Simmons, but he was considered a potential two-way player coming up through the minors, someone with above-average defense and the ability to be a league average-ish or better hitter. Baseball America (subs. req’d) consistently lauded Didi’s glove during his prospect days and a few years ago noted his “combination of solid bat control, good pitch recognition and plus speed lead some scouts to project him as an above-average hitter.” That sounds promising.

Now, here’s the catch: we don’t know if Gregorius, Profar, Bogaerts, Schoop, and Simmons will be able to make the adjustments Daniels spoke about. Meulens sure didn’t during his days as a player. Others from Curacao like Wladimir Balentien and Roger Bernandina didn’t make the adjustments either. Andruw Jones is the best position player (and best player overall) to come from Curacao by a mile. The second best hitter is probably Randall Simon. It’s not a great collection of names.

That doesn’t mean Gregorius and those other guys won’t the make adjustments though. They haven’t had enough playing time in MLB to show us whether they can. What the Yankees do know about Gregorius is that he consistently hits the ball hard. Subjectively speaking, of course. ESPN stats guru Mark Simon detailed Didi’s tendency to sting the baseball back in December:

Inside Edge, a video-scouting service used by major league teams (including the Yankees) rates every at-bat by a stat known as “hard-hit rate.” The service employs video trackers who chart every batted ball as either hard-hit, medium-hit or soft-hit based on velocity and barrel contact (former Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long used to track this on his own).

Gregorius had a hard-hit rate of 20.4 percent. He was one of 34 players to have at least 250 plate appearances this past season and a 20 percent hard-hit rate.

Gregorius registered 56 hard-hit balls this past season, 30 of which went for base hits, so he hit .536 when hitting the ball hard.

That’s an unusually low number. The average major leaguer hits around .700 on his hard-hit balls. And Gregorius has hit that mark before. In fact, in 2013, he recorded the same number of hard-hit balls. They resulted in 39 base hits.

Inside Edge’s hard-hit ball data is recorded by human stringers, so there will inevitably be some scorer bias, though until HitFX becomes public (which may never happen), this is the best data we have for measuring quality of contact. Three hundred and eleven players had at least 250 plate appearances last season, and Gregorius being one of 34 with a 20%+ hard-hit ball rate means he was in the 90th percentile, give or take. That’s encouraging.

The Yankees have their own internal measure of quality of contact called exit velocity, according to Mark Feinsand. Brian Cashman mentioned the improvement of Chase Headley‘s “hit velo” after the trade last summer and assistant GM Billy Eppler told Feinsand their metric places Aaron Judge in the 90th percentile of MLB hitters when it comes to hitting the ball hard. The Yankees use Inside Edge data and have their own internal exit velocity metric, and I’m certain both were consulted before the Gregorius trade.

Beyond the stats, the Yankees also had a firsthand scouting perspective on Didi from Eric Chavez. Chavez played with Gregorius in Arizona from 2013-14 and now works in New York’s front office as a special assignment scout. “I was really high on him,” said Chavez to Bryan Hoch in December. “His defense is unbelievable, and hitting-wise, he has the potential to be a good hitter — a good .275, .280 hitter, 12 to 15 home runs. His swing plays perfect for Yankee Stadium, he’s kind of got that pull swing. Most of his home runs he hit, where he likes to hit them, I think he’ll be pretty successful there.”

I am generally a scouting report over stats guy when it comes to young players, but in this case I’m more inclined to believe the stats than the scouting report. For starters, I wouldn’t expect Chavez to say anything bad about Gregorius. Even if doesn’t like him all that much, he wouldn’t trash him while talking to the media. Secondly, the Inside Edge data is specifically measuring the quality of Gregorius’ contact, which ostensibly tells us more about his offensive potential going forward than, say, his batting average or wRC+ in 2014. Either way, both the stats and scouting report are positive, but I’m trusting the numbers over Chavez here.

The Yankees didn’t acquire a finished player in Gregorius, which is why he came so relatively cheap. Starting shortstops are really hard to find and the team believes Didi is an MLB caliber defender right now — based on what we’ve seen this spring, uh, yeah, he’s a good fielder — and has the potential to improve at the plate. Players from Curacao are slow-starters in general, and the hard-hit ball data suggests Gregorius got some unfortunate results at the plate in 2014. I am skeptical of Didi’s bat long-term, but there is reason to believe his offense will soon be on the upswing.

March 18th Camp Notes: Ellsbury, Cuts, Rotation, Ryan

The Yankees pummeled the Braves 12-5 on Wednesday night. Masahiro Tanaka made his second start of the spring and was fantastic, allowing two hits in 3.2 scoreless innings, striking out three. He looked as strong as ever. Andrew Bailey made his spring debut — it was his first game action since July 2013 — and allowed an unearned run on two hits in an inning of work. The television gun had him at 92-93, which would be amazing after a torn shoulder capsule if true. His curveball was all over the place though. “Rusty” is the word I would use to describe how Bailey looked.

Didi Gregorius and Brian McCann led the way offensively. Didi went 3-for-3 with a triple and McCann went 2-for-2 with two walks and a two-run homer. Stephen Drew also mashed a two-run tater. Brett Gardner went 1-for-3 with a walk, Chase Headley went 1-for-2 with a walk, both Mark Teixeira and Garrett Jones went 1-for-3 with a double, and Chris Young went 1-for-3. Also, the Braves are going to be bad this year. Very, very bad. Here’s the box score, here are the video highlights, and here are the rest of the day’s notes from Tampa:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury went for an MRI and has been diagnosed with a low grade oblique strain, the Yankees announced. He’ll be shut down for the next seven days. Opening Day is 18 days away now, so there’s still time for Ellsbury to rest, heal up, and get ready for the start of the season. Any sort of setback might force him to start the regular season on the DL, however.
  • The Yankees announced another round of roster cuts following last night’s game. Branden Pinder was optioned to Triple-A Scranton, Gary Sanchez was optioned to Double-A Trenton, and Domingo German was optioned to High-A Tampa. Don’t ready anything into the level assignments, those are just the player’s workout group for the rest of spring. Greg Bird and Kyle Roller was both reassigned to minor league camp as well. I unofficially count 53 players still in big league camp.
  • The upcoming rotation: Esmil Rogers (Thursday), Adam Warren (Friday), Michael Pineda (Saturday), and CC Sabathia (Sunday). I assume Nathan Eovaldi will either throw a simulated game or pitch out of the bullpen one of those days. Also, Joe Girardi said Bryan Mitchell will make at least one more start this spring. One of the split squad games on April 2nd seems like a good guess. [Chad Jennings]
  • Brendan Ryan (mid-back sprain) is on track to return to game action on Friday. Some of the position players who didn’t make the trip for tonight’s game took batting practice back in Tampa, but there were no bullpens or throwing sessions scheduled. [Jennings, Brendan Kuty]
  • Lefty Jose DePaula is heading for an MRI on his shoulder after dealing with continued soreness. He’s had a ton of arm problems over the years, including shoulder tendinitis in 2013. DePaula has only thrown two innings during Grapefruit League play but had been throwing regular bullpen sessions. [Jennings, Kuty]

In case you missed it earlier, tonight’s game against the Braves will be replayed on MLB Network at 11pm ET. Tune in for Tanaka, if nothing else.

Spring Training Game Thread: Tanaka, Take Two

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Another day, another Grapefruit League night game. The Yankees have another one tomorrow too. Spring Training night games are somehow even worse than regular season weekend night games in my opinion. I dunno, just seems like Spring Training baseball and weekend baseball belong under the sun and blue skies. Eh, whatever.

The Yankees are in Orlando to play the Braves tonight and they brought a fair amount of regulars on the trip. Guys are starting to play a little more — three or four at-bats instead of two or three, back-to-back days, that sort of stuff — in preparation for the regular season, which is now two weeks and five days away. But who’s counting?

Tonight’s reason to watch: Masahiro Tanaka is making his second Grapefruit League start this evening. His first went splendid. I tell myself worrying about his elbow accomplishes nothing, though I still find myself thinking about it. Can’t help it. Anyway, Tanaka is probably scheduled for something like three innings or 45 pitches. That’s pretty standard for the second spring outing. Also, Andrew Bailey is scheduled to make his spring debut tonight. He hasn’t pitched in a game since July 2013 due to shoulder surgery. I’m curious to see how he looks tonight. Torn capsules are usually the kiss of death for a veteran pitcher.

Here is the starting lineup for tonight’s game:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. DH Mark Teixeira
  5. 1B Garrett Jones
  6. 2B Stephen Drew
  7. RF Chris Young
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. LF Jose Pirela
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

Available Position Players: C John Ryan Murphy, 1B Francisco Arcia, 2B Rob Refsnyder, SS Cole Figueroa, 3B Jonathan Galvez, LF Ramon Flores, CF Mason Williams, and RF Slade Heathcott will be the second string off the bench. C Kyle Higashioka, C Eddy Rodriguez, IF Nick Noonan, and OF Tyler Austin are the extra players.

Available Pitchers: RHP Jose Ramirez, RHP Andrew Bailey, LHP Jacob Lindgren, RHP Danny Burawa, and RHP Nick Rumbelow are scheduled to pitch after Tanaka. RHP Diego Moreno, LHP James Pazos, and LHP Tyler Webb are the extra arms.

It’s cool and a little cloudy at Disney this evening. For whatever reason tonight’s game starts at 6pm ET, not 7pm ET. You can only watch live on MLB.tv. That’s it. There’s no YES broadcast and no television broadcast in the Atlanta area either. There are no MLB.tv blackouts in either team’s home market and the game will be replayed on MLB Network at 11pm ET. Enjoy the game.

With help from A-Rod, Greg Bird has made himself part of the Yankees’ long-term picture

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Opinions will vary, but I think most would agree first baseman Greg Bird has been the most impressive young hitter in Yankees camp this year. Jose Pirela has better stats but Bird looks the part of a big leaguer at the plate. He knows the strike zone and he hasn’t looked overwhelmed either by pitchers or the environment. Bird just looks like a hitter. I don’t know how else to explain it. Look at how quick his hands are:

It seems like Bird he was born to hit. He went 5-for-14 (.357) with three doubles and a home run during Grapefruit League play before being reassigned to minor league camp yesterday. Aside from being late to lunch, Bird was extremely impressive in Spring Training. Brian Cashman called him “by far the best hitter in the (farm system)” a few weeks go and Alex Rodriguez has sung his praises as well. From John Harper:

“I mean, when you’ve been around for 20 years, you know who can play and who can’t. You see the way the ball comes off his bat. Then you see his work ethic, and how he watches and asks smart questions, and you know he’s got a great makeup. He’s going to be around for a long time.”

This isn’t Jorge Posada or Jason Giambi calling Phil Hughes the next Roger Clemens or something silly like that. It’s just A-Rod praising Bird for being an intelligent player and a good hitter. There’s no hyperbole. A-Rod is just repeating what a lot of other people have already said about Bird, that’s all.

As it turns out, A-Rod had a small hand in Bird’s development as a hitter. The two first met back in 2013, when Alex spent a few days with Low-A Charleston working his way back from his surgery. A-Rod has always been great with young players and Bird credits him for some advice, not just as a hitter but about being a pro baseball player in general. From Andrew Marchand:

“Some of the things that he told us still is some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten as a hitter, just as far as professional baseball went,” Bird, now in his first big-league camp, said the other day.

A-Rod told Bird and the rest of the Single-A Charleston River Dogs that the higher the level you go, the easier the game becomes — the stadiums are nicer, the lights are better, the umpires are more precise, on and on. A-Rod also gave practical advice on hitting, making it simple.

“He is not even worried about (looking for pitches in specific spots),” said Bird, a 22-year-old, 6-foot-3, 215-pound, left-handed first baseman. “You can’t worry about the inner half of the plate because if you do, you give up the outer half. You give up off-speed pitches. Just hearing that out of his mouth that first full season was big. It stuck with me ever since.”

Bird, who turned 22 in November, obviously has a boatload of talent and it all starts there. His talent got him drafted — the Yankees selected Bird in the fifth round of the 2010 draft but paid him first round money ($1.1M bonus) — and is the main reason he’s torn up the minors, but taking advice and using it make the necessary adjustments is often what separates the guys who make it and the guys who don’t. It seems Bird has been able to do that after talking to A-Rod.

The Yankees have made it clear in recent years they have a “type.” They prefer certain kinds of players over others and I’m guessing every organization does as well. The Yankees like pitchers who throw hard but don’t walk everyone in the park — you didn’t think they pulled Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi out of a hat, did you? — and the taller they are, the better. They also like great defensive catchers. And, of course, they like left-handed hitters with power and patience. Guys like Bird. He’s right in their wheelhouse.

This offseason the Yankees shifted gears and focused on getting younger, most notably by trading for Eovaldi and Didi Gregorius. Comments made by Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner this past offseason also make it seem like they will be more willing to give prospects an opportunity going forward, and there’s a clear path to MLB for Bird. Spend this year in Double-A and Triple-A, next year going up and down based on Mark Teixeira‘s health in the final season of his contract, then step into the lineup full-time in 2017. A-Rod helped Bird get here, now Bird has to take the next step and give the Yankees a reason to give him a chance.

Michael Pineda and the Quest for Better Health and More Strikeouts [2015 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Finally. After two years of nothing, the Yankees finally got to see Michael Pineda in action last season. And it was glorious, even if it was only 13 starts. Big Mike pitched to a 1.89 ERA (2.71 FIP) in 76.1 innings across those 13 starts, and, most importantly, he showed his stuff had not been seriously compromised by his shoulder injury. He did lose some velocity — his fastball averaged 95.4 mph in 2011 and 93.3 mph in 2014 — but not a career-sabotaging amount.

Last year was sort of a feeling out period for the Yankees and Pineda. The team had no idea what he could do following two lost seasons and I don’t think Pineda did either. Sure, he was confident (he’s always confident), but the hitters were going to tell him how good he was after the injury. And they told him he was still good. Pineda has yet to hold up over a full season in pinstripes, though we know more about him now than we did at this time last year, and that affects his role on the 2015 Yankees.

Yankees Need: A Full Season

Pineda was great last year but only in flashes. He missed nearly four months with a teres major strain the Yankees officially called a “shoulder” injury in their press release. Pineda pulled a muscle in his back near his shoulder, basically. The injury limited him to those 13 starts, the only 13 he’s made in three years with New York.

The Yankees need Pineda to get over that physical hump now. He’s now three years removed from shoulder surgery and they want to see him out there for 30 starts. It’s time. They need him to do it because other pitchers in the rotation carry injury concerns and because they want him to lead the rotation. Remember, the Yankees acquired Pineda hoping he would have developed into their ace by now. That didn’t happen. The next step now is to be someone who takes the ball every fifth day.

Pineda Can: Just Go Out There And Pitch

Pitchers who have major shoulder surgery tend to continue having problems throughout their careers. Pineda is young and strong, so maybe he has a better chance of staying healthy than a veteran pitcher who undergoes a similar procedure, but we don’t know that for sure. I wouldn’t say I feel confident in Pineda staying healthy this summer, but I do think it’s important to note his injury last year was just a muscle pull. There was nothing wrong with his surgically repaired labrum. That’s encouraging in a lesser of two evils kinda way. Otherwise no one knows if Pineda’s physically capable of making 30 starts after his shoulder surgery. The only thing he can do is pitch as his body allows, that’s all.

Yankees Need: Find Some Strikeouts

Pineda was awesome last year, but he only struck out 59 batters in 76.1 innings. That works out to 6.96 K/9 and 20.3 K%, which is more or less league average for an AL starting pitcher (7.36 K/9 and 19.4 K% in 2014). Pineda struck out 173 batters in 171 innings as rookie in 2011 (9.11 K/9 and 24.9 K%) and his minor league strikeout rates were as good as it gets, so last year’s league average-ish strikeout rate was a big startling. I wouldn’t say alarming, he was pretty damn effective with a reduced strikeout rate, but the Yankees would like to see those strikeouts return in 2015, even with their improved team defense. Strikeouts are the best outs for pitchers.

Pineda Can: Still Get Swings & Misses, Just Not As Many He Once Did

Watching his stuff on television as a dumb fan sitting at home, it looks like Pineda should strike out more batters. He throws hard, he locates exceptionally well for someone who throws that hard, and slider is just filthy. Pineda’s changeup is very much a work in progress though it did flash some nice potential last year, like this one (GIF via IIATMS):

That specific changeup was poorly located — that baby is center cut, thigh high and splitting the plate right down the middle — but it had action and the hitter’s timing was disrupted. Like I said, the changeup is a work in progress but it shows flashes of being a weapon with some more refinement.

The changeup and slider are Pineda’s moneymakers, and his decline in strikeout rate last year comes with a decline in overall swing-and-miss rate. Here are the numbers (via Brooks Baseball):

Four-Seamer Sinker Changeup Slider
2011 10.5% 8.7% 6.4% 19.4%
2014 8.2% 16.7% 15.2% 17.9%
MLB AVG 6.9% 5.4% 14.9% 15.2%

Ignore the sinker and changeup. Pineda threw those two pitches less than 10% of the time combined in both 2011 and 2014. We’re focusing on his four-seam fastball and slider, both of which had an above-average whiff rate last year yet were down considerably from his rookie year in 2011. Swing-and-miss rates are among the first stats to stabilize, within 300 pitches or so, so this isn’t a sample size issue.

As mentioned earlier, Pineda did lose some velocity between 2011 and 2014 thanks mostly to the shoulder surgery. His fastball velocity dropped but his slider velocity stayed the same — the pitch averaged 84.68 mph in 2011 and 84.67 mph in 2014. Pitches are not mutually exclusive. Pineda’s slider plays off his fastball and vice versa. The decline in fastball velocity means the separation between his two main pitches isn’t as great as it once was, giving hitters slightly more time to react. Enough to take that big a bite out of strikeout and whiff rates? I don’t know. Maybe.

Pineda’s stuff is still very good, just not as good as it once was. Shoulder surgery has a way of doing that to a pitcher. That doesn’t mean his strikeout and swing-and-miss rates will never recover, however. This could be an adjustment he has to make, an adjustment he was unable to make last year because a) he only made 13 starts, and b) he was dominating even without the strikeouts.

Weak contact has always been Pineda’s thing — he gets a ton of pop-ups, which are near automatic outs, so his career .250 BABIP in 247.1 innings is not necessarily a fluke — and he still generated a bunch last year. Adding in more strikeouts will help take him to the next level, however. Weak contact is good. Weak contact and missing bats is better.

Yankees Need: More Development

As good as he looked last year, we have to remember Pineda missed two full seasons at ages 23 and 24 due to his shoulder injury. That’s pretty serious. Those are crucial developmental years and he won’t get them back. He just has to try to catch up this season. The Yankees need to Pineda to make up for some of that lost development this year. As a pitcher, as a teammate, as a big leaguer, the whole nine. He’s a guy with nearly four years of service time but only a year and a half of actual MLB experience on the mound. Pineda has a lot of learning to do.

Pineda Can: Learn!

In his first spring as a Yankee, Pineda showed up to camp out of shape and didn’t seem to take his profession all that seriously. I don’t know if that led directly to the shoulder injury, but it certainly didn’t make a good first impression. This year though, Pineda camp to camp in tremendous shape, which he did last year as well. He’s grown as a person and better understands the kind of work this game requires. Learning how to read swings and set hitters up, stuff like that, he can only learn while being on the mound, and hopefully he does a lot of that in 2015.

Supply and demand match up, but Yankees and Mets are imperfect trade partners

Niese. (Presswire)
Niese. (Presswire)

Spring Training has not been so kind to the Mets so far. Earlier this week they lost young right-hander Zack Wheeler to a torn elbow ligament, meaning he will soon have Tommy John surgery. That comes just a few days after the team learned top lefty reliever Josh Edgin also needs his elbow rebuilt. That’s two members of the projected Opening Day pitching staff going down with Tommy John surgery in the span of four or five days. Ouch.

The Mets have an enviable amount of rotation depth — they are probably best equipped to deal with a major pitching injury of any team in MLB right now — and have plenty of options to replace Wheeler. Edgin is a different matter. Their best option to replace him is probably Rule 5 Draft pick Sean Gilmartin, and I imagine a Rule 5 guy is not someone they want to thrust into the primary lefty relief role. GM Sandy Alderson has already said they will explore the market for a lefty reliever.

That’s where the Yankees come in. The Yankees have lefty relievers in spades and are in need of rotation depth, something they needed even before Chris Capuano strained his quad last week. The Mets, as I said, have a ton of rotation options. Enough to fill in for Wheeler, trade someone, and still have enough arms for depth. I mean, seriously. Look at their rotation depth chart without Wheeler:

  1. Matt Harvey — totally awesome
  2. Jacob deGrom — just named NL Rookie of the Year
  3. Jon Niese — boringly effective
  4. Bartolo Colon — Bartday!
  5. Dillon Gee — generic fifth starter who won’t kill his team
  6. Rafael Montero — 3.60 ERA (3.66 FIP) in Triple-A in 2014, named 68th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America prior last year
  7. Noah Syndergaard — ranked as 11th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America this spring
  8. Steve Matz — ranked as 33rd best prospect in baseball by Baseball America this spring

That’s a lot of pitching! Montero and Syndergaard are basically MLB ready while Matz has yet to reach Triple-A and is more of a second half option this coming season. Either way, the Mets are loaded with high-end rotation help, so much so that they spent all winter trying to unload Gee’s $5.3M salary. Given their depth, I don’t think Wheeler’s injury would stop them from trading Gee either.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have a whole lot of left-handed relievers. They made a point of acquiring southpaw relievers this winter similar to how the Mets focused on adding to high-end pitching prospects while trading away veterans in recent years. The Yankees sending a lefty reliever to Flushing for a spare starter makes sense in a vacuum, but in reality it might not be easy to find a match on value. Take a look at Yankees’ lefty bullpen depth chart:

  1. Andrew Miller — not getting traded
  2. Justin Wilson — tradeable
  3. Chasen Shreve — tradeable
  4. Jacob Lindgren — unlikely to be traded, but either way he can only be dealt as a player to be named later until June since he was just drafted last year, meaning he wouldn’t be able to help the Mets come Opening Day
  5. James Pazos — throws hard, zero MLB experience
  6. Tyler Webb — doesn’t throw hard, zero MLB experience

So that’s six lefty relievers but only two are tradeable right now. Maybe the Mets really like Pazos and/or Webb, but if they’re going to go with someone who has no MLB experience, they’d probably stick in house with Gilmartin or Jack Leathersich, who had great minor league numbers (3.16 ERA and 2.46 FIP between Double-A and Triple-A) last year like Pazos and Webb. Wilson and Shreve are the only movable pieces right now.

On the other hand, the Mets sure as hell won’t trade Harvey, deGrom, Syndergaard, or Matz. They might be willing to move Montero in the right deal — there was talk of a Montero for Nick Franklin swap last spring but that didn’t happen even though the Mets desperately need a shortstop — but I’m not sure a lefty reliever is that right deal. Even a dirt cheap lefty reliever under control for multiple years. That leaves Colon, who the Mets would probably give away right now, Gee, and Niese as the tradeable starters.

Shreve. (Presswire)
Shreve. (Presswire)

The Yankees wouldn’t trade Wilson or Shreve for Colon or Gee, who barely move the needle at this point. On the other hand, the Mets wouldn’t trade Niese for Wilson or Shreve. Heck they wouldn’t trade Niese for Wilson and Shreve. Niese is good! And he has a favorable contract too. He’s not someone they’re looking to dump for the sake of shedding salary like Colon or Gee. A straight up spare lefty reliever for spare starter trade isn’t happening between these two clubs, which means the pot would have to be sweetened somehow. (Brendan Ryan doesn’t count.)

The Yankees and Mets haven’t made a trade involving actually big league players (sorry, Gonzalez Germen) since the Mike Stanton-Felix Heredia swap way back in December 2004. I don’t think Alderson or Brian Cashman would hesitate to trade with one another, however. Maybe one (or both) of the ownership groups would be hesitant, but Alderson and Cashman are smart guys looking to improve their teams however they can. If that means trading with a geographical rival, so be it. Finding common ground on a trade like this seems like it would be difficult.

On paper, the Yankees and Mets match up well for a trade. The Yankees need a starter and have a ton of lefty relievers while the Mets need a lefty reliever and have some extra starters. But, when you take a deeper look at who actually is and isn’t available, there isn’t a great match. Maybe the Mets love Webb and the Yankees are willing to take on Colon’s hefty salary, that’s always possible. It just seems unlikely. Perhaps the situation will change in the weeks before Opening Day, but, as of this moment, it’s tough to see how these two clubs can find common ground without substantially expanding the trade.

Knee holds up as Sabathia allows two runs in two innings in spring debut

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time since last May, CC Sabathia pitched in an actual game Tuesday night, making his Grapefruit League debut against the Blue Jays at home in Tampa. He allowed two runs on four hits in two innings of work, striking out two. Twenty-two of his 31 pitches were strikes (71%).

Sabathia retired the side in order in the first (two grounders and a strikeout) before running into some trouble in the second. More importantly, scouts clocked his fastball at 90-92 mph in the first inning and 89-92 mph in the second inning, according to Mark Feinsand. That’s in line with the 90.6 mph he averaged last year and it’s only March 17th.

“I felt pretty good,” said Sabathia during a YES Network interview after his outing. “I was just telling the guys I was really nervous in the bullpen. Just wanted to get out there and be healthy. Felt good throwing the ball — made a couple bad pitches but I still wanted to get out there and get the game feel and get after it, and I did that.”

I thought Sabathia looked pretty good considering it was his first outing a) in ten months, and b) after knee surgery. His location was okay with most misses way off the plate, so hopefully he irons that out as camp progresses. It would have been nice to see him go six up, six down, but whatever. Sabathia didn’t come out with Jamie Moyer velocity and his mechanics seemed fine. That’s good enough for me in mid-March.