Mailbag: Trades, Ellsbury, Beltran, Shreve, O’Brien, Bailey

Got nine questions for you in this week’s mailbag. I’m trying to shorten the mailbag up a bit because the season started and there’s so much other stuff going on, but I’m mostly failing. Anyway, use the For The Mailbag form in the sidebar to send us any questions.

The Yankee Clippard. (Presswire)
The Yankee Clippard. (Presswire)

Chris asks: I hear all the time “Yanks are trading their young guys” and they do … But to be fair, who was the last young player they traded that turned out to be better than the guy they got in the Brian Cashman era? Does the fact they CAN trade for people or buy players change how the Yankees view player development in general and thus didn’t take it as seriously as they should have?

Hmmm, Danny Farquhar? He wasn’t a homegrown guy or particularly young though. The Yankees plucked him off waivers then traded him for Ichiro Suzuki, who helped the team get to the 2012 postseason. Farquhar might not be the best example. Looking through MLBTR’s Transactions Tracker, I think the last trade involving a young player that the Yankees clearly lost was Mark Melancon (and Jimmy Paredes) for Lance Berkman back in 2010. Melancon’s become one of the best relievers in the game and while Berkman’s time in pinstripes was underrated (.359 OBP!), that’s one New York would like to do over. Tyler Clippard for Jonathan Albaladejo is the gold standard for awful Brian Cashman trades. That was a total dud. Young players and prospects don’t work out more often than not. Everyone seems so willing to overlook that. And nah, I wouldn’t change how I feel about the team’s player development in general. They always seem to have just enough trade chips to get what they need but not enough to be in the mix for any big names, like Cole Hamels or David Price.

Rob asks: With the emergence of Ramon Flores, Jake Cave, Tyler Austin and even Mark Payton, do you think the Yankees regret giving Jacoby Ellsbury a long term deal? Do you think at any point his contract becomes tradeable?

Teams come to regret the vast majority of long-term contracts within the first two or three years it seems, even if they won’t admit it. So yes, I think the Yankees either already regret signing Ellsbury or will in a year or two. I’ve been critical of the signing since the start because it was elite dollars for a non-elite player (Ellsbury’s good! just not a $153M player) so if the Yankees can trade him at some point, I absolutely think they should. When a top Scott Boras client signs the week before the Winter Meetings, it means you blew them away with the offer. It’s a bad sign when Boras is that quick to take a deal. Anyway, even if the Yankees do regret signing Ellsbury, I don’t expect them to be able to trade him anyway. He has a full no-trade clause because, you know, the $153M wasn’t enough to get it done.

Johnny asks: If any of the minor leaguers push for a place on the MLB team — example: Tyler Austin continues to rake at AAA — do you see the Yankees benching Carlos Beltran?

I really doubt it. They only kinda sorta benched Alfonso Soriano last year when it was clear he was cooked. They’re still batting Beltran third in the lineup and he’s signed for next year too. Beltran’s leash is going to be really, really long. Best case scenario if he doesn’t start hitting is he gets bumped lower in the order. For someone like Austin or Flores to get a chance, it’ll take a long-term injury to a starting outfielder. Maybe two long-term injuries given Chris Young‘s start to the season. Benching Beltran, Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, or whoever just isn’t something the Yankees have indicated they are willing to do. Their contracts keep their jobs safe.

(Presswire)
Chasin’ Shreve. (Presswire)

Dan asks: How much does it stink for Chasen Shreve that he won the job in Spring Training, and got sent to the minor leagues just because he had a long outing?

It stinks but that’s baseball. My guess is Shreve was happy to get the opportunity — he capitalized on that opportunity too, he showed the Yankees he’s a big leaguer — after spending so much time as an afterthought in the minors. Remember, Shreve was a non-prospect who had to reinvent himself last year to get on the radar. This is life for young relievers. They go up and down a bunch of times early in their careers and wait until they get enough innings to show what they can do. Shreve will be back and fairly soon, I suspect. (His ten days are up Tuesday.)

Tom asks: Obviously, very hypothetical, but say the Yankees made the Nathan Eovaldi trade before acquiring Didi Gregorius, do you think the Tigers would have accepted Eovaldi instead of Shane Greene? Who would you rather have?

I don’t think the Tigers  would have taken Eovaldi over Greene. GM Dave Dombrowski had reportedly been trying to get Greene for a while — Cashman told Chad Jennings that Dombrowski inquired about Greene multiple times — and it seems like he was their guy, not Eovaldi. Dombrowski’s been known to fall in love with certain player and go after them, hence the surprising Doug Fister for Robbie Ray trade. He just really liked Robbie Ray. I’d prefer Greene to Eovaldi mostly because he’s under control an extra three years. Eovaldi’s way ahead of where Greene was at his age though. Like, waaay ahead.

Steve asks: Is Peter O’Brien a successful draft pick? Including everything.

Oh yes, absolutely. The Yankees took O’Brien in the second round of the 2012 draft and used him to get Martin Prado, who they then flipped to the Marlins for Eovaldi & Co. They drafted him with the 94th overall pick and less than three years later they turned him into a young power arm like Eovaldi, who is only five months older than O’Brien. Regardless of what O’Brien does from here on out — he’s in a different organization now with different coaches and everything, the Yankees have no influence — the Yankees turned that pick into a quality young player on their MLB roster in less than three years. It would be nice if more picks in the second round were that productive.

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Conor asks: Does CC Sabathia now have a problem pitching out of the stretch?

It’s too early to say. Believe it or not, Sabathia has actually been more effective with men on base in his two starts this season than with the bases empty. Here are the super duper small sample size numbers from Baseball-Reference:

Split G PA R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip OPS+
2 28 1 8 0 1 1 1 10 .296 .321 .481 .803 .438 138
Men On 2 25 8 7 0 0 0 0 5 .304 .280 .304 .584 .350 61

For what it’s worth, Sabathia was less effective with men on base than with the bases empty back in 2013, his last full and healthy-ish season. Most pitchers are less effective from the stretch — batters hit .245/.303/.379 with the bases empty and .259/.327/.397 with men on base last year — because they’re sacrificing some stuff in order to be quicker to the plate. I’m sure that will be true with Sabathia this year, but it’s too early to know how precisely much less effective he really is from the stretch.

Paul asks: Any news about Andrew Bailey?

Actually, yes. Bailey threw one inning and 13 pitches for High-A Tampa on Tuesday and George King says he followed that by throwing live batting practice Wednesday, so while he hasn’t pitched in back-to-back games yet, he has thrown on back-to-back days. He’s getting there. I think the earliest we’ll see Bailey — if we see him at all, he’s coming back from a major injury remember — is early-to-mid-May. Hopefully he can stay healthy and contribute. Another quality reliever is never a bad thing.

Mike asks: Heard John Kruk and Curt Schilling discussing the idea that rosters should be expanded in April, not September. I’ve never really considered this. What do you think of their idea of a 35-man roster in April and regular 25-man limit in September?

I’m not a fan of expanding rosters in April, I like the extra players in September. Players are most fatigued and in need of rest later in the season, so it’s good to have the extra bodies in September, plus it gives teams an opportunity to reward minor leaguers who had good seasons. Maybe there’s a compromise to be made and rosters can be expanded in both April and September. Keep the September rules as they are, but let teams carry 27-28 players instead of 25 in April, when pitchers are still getting stretched out and stuff. That work? If it’s either/or, give me expanded rosters in September over April, all day every day.

DotF: Judge leads Trenton to win with walk-off homer

Baseball America threw some love RHP Rookie Davis’ way in their Prospect Hot Sheet prequel. “He tops out near 96 mph and sits comfortably in the low 90s, while backing up his heater with a solid mid-70s curveball and ever-improving control … So far, so good for Davis, who has notched a 12-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 11 Florida State League innings in what will be a 40-man decision year for the Yankees,” they wrote.

Also, LHP Ian Clarkin was officially added to the High-A Tampa roster and placed on the 7-day DL, the team announced. I’m not sure if he’s actually hurt though. It might just be a procedural move. If he was really hurt, they’d probably just leave him in Extended Spring Training, right?

Triple-A Scranton (10-2 loss to Syracuse)

  • RF Slade Heathcott: 1-5, 1 RBI, 1 K – 5-for-26 (.192) since his two-hit night on Opening Day
  • CF Ramon Flores: 0-3, 1 BB
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 K, 1 E (throwing) — that’s his fourth error in seven games
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 1-4, 1 K
  • C Austin Romine: 0-4, 1 PB, 1 E (throwing)
  • LHP Eric Wooten: 4 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 2 HB, 3/2 GB/FB — 53 of 81 pitches were strikes (65%)
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 5/0 GB/FB — 40 of 57 pitches were strikes (70%) … been a pretty busy last few days for him with the call-up and send down

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

The Yankees have been pretty terrible running the bases so far this season — three stolen bases, four caught stealings, three pickoffs, two other outs on the bases! — but nothing they’ve done compares to the blunder Robbie Cano made last night. He didn’t forget how many out there were, he forgot how many runners were on base! That’s bad. Watch the video above. Underrated part of the highlight: Nelson Cruz’s reaction at second base. Oh Robbie, that was not good.

Anyway, the Yankees are off tonight, so here’s your open thread. The Mets are playing and MLB Network will show a game as well. Who you see depends on where you live. The (hockey) Rangers kick off round one of the postseason with Game One against the Penguins tonight, and there is some other NHL playoff action as well. Talk about whatever you like here.

Brett Gardner remains day-to-day after MRI confirms bone bruise in wrist

Gardner with his wrist wrapped on Monday.
Gardner with his wrist wrapped on Monday.

Earlier today, the Yankees announced Brett Gardner underwent an MRI in Tampa, which confirmed he has a bone bruise in his right wrist. An x-ray showed the same thing on Monday, so the MRI confirmed the original diagnosis. The team says Gardner remains day-to-day, though he was available to pinch-run and play defense last night.

Gardner, 31, was hit by a pitch Monday night, a few days after taking a pitch to almost the exact same spot. He remained in Monday’s game for two more at-bats — during which he tried to bunt rather than swing — before being removed. Brett’s off to a 6-for-23 (.261) start with a double and a homer this year. He hasn’t stolen a base yet.

Prior to yesterday’s game Gardner told reporters he “feels much better” and expects to play in tomorrow’s series opener against the Rays. If he doesn’t come back until Saturday, fine, whatever. I just hope this doesn’t turn into a situation where it lingers, he never goes on the DL, and the team plays short-handed for ten days.

King: Yankees have interest in Braves infield prospect Jose Peraza

(Stacy Revere/Getty)
(Stacy Revere/Getty)

The Yankees have interest in top Braves infield prospect Jose Peraza, reports George King. King says they’ve already made contact with Atlanta and recently sent scout Dennis Twombley to watch Peraza with Triple-A Gwinnett. The two teams discussed an Andrelton Simmons/Jason Heyward trade over the winter (plus they made the Manny Banuelos trade), so some groundwork has been laid. The Yankees may already know which of their prospects the Braves like the most.

Peraza, who turns 21 two weeks from today, is off to a 6-for-28 (.214) start in Triple-A after hitting .339/.364/.441 (126 wRC+) with 20 doubles, eleven triples, two homers, and 60 steals in 75 attempts between High-A and Double-A last year. He’s a contact machine from the right side, posting a 9.4 K% and a 3.4 BB% in 2014. Peraza is a shortstop playing second base — Atlanta shifted him to the other side of the bag last year because of Simmons. Here is a snippet of MLB.com’s free scouting report:

Scouting Grades: Hit: 60 | Power: 30 | Run: 75 | Arm: 50 | Field: 60 | Overall: 55

Peraza has raced through the Minor Leagues thanks to his feel for the game and his top-of-the-scale speed. As a 20-year-old in 2014, he reached Double-A Mississippi and played in the All-Star Futures Game.

Peraza has a quick, short swing and excellent hand-eye coordination. His swing produces minimal power and he mostly tries to keep the ball on the ground to use his considerable speed to his advantage. He’s a threat to steal whenever he gets on base and has swiped at least 60 bases in each of his first two years of full-season ball.

Baseball America (subs. req’d) says the 6-foot-0, 190 lb. Peraza displayed “steady, soft hands with above-average range and solid arm strength” in the field while noting “scouts questioned Atlanta’s decision to shift Peraza off shortstop to the less-demanding job at second base.” They also say his “modest pop (and) his unwillingness to walk … may set him back as a future leadoff man.”

Peraza is not some random young infielder. He’s a significant prospect. Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America ranked him as the 24th and 54th best prospect in baseball coming into the season, respectively. Coincidentally, Peraza ranked one spot behind Aaron Judge on both lists, which gives you an idea of his status within the industry.

I wouldn’t take the interest in Peraza as some kind of indication the Yankees have little faith in Didi Gregorius and/or Rob Refsnyder going forward. Quality middle infielders are really hard to find and, aside from Refsnyder, the Yankees don’t have any good shortstop or second base prospects above Single-A. Peraza is a very promising young player who potentially fills an organizational need. It fits.

Prospect for prospect trades are rare but the Braves did make one over the winter — president of baseball operations John Hart sent Double-A third baseman Kyle Kubitza to the Angels for rookie ball lefty Ricardo Sanchez. (Fun Fact: The Braves don’t have a GM. Hart and assistant GM/ex-Yankee executive John Coppolella are sharing GM duties.) Hart took over as the decision-maker last late year and it’s not uncommon for a new exec to trade his team’s prospects. Look at GM A.J. Preller with the Padres. They didn’t draft or develop these players. They’re not “their guys,” there’s no connection.

Anyway, King says the Yankees probably wouldn’t give up Luis Severino for Peraza but could deal Gary Sanchez as part of a two-player package. That sounds like speculation more than actual reporting though. Personally, I’d trade any prospect in the system for Peraza, including Judge or Severino. A two-player package featuring Sanchez plus a spare outfielder, say Georgia boy Tyler Austin, would be ideal, but I’m not sure why the Braves would do that. The Yankees have lots of outfielders and catchers, and good middle infielders are rare. Peraza makes a ton of sense if Hart & Co. are willing to move him.

Yankeemetrics: April 13-15 (Orioles)

Stephen Drew, grand slam. Not a joke. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)
Stephen Drew, grand slam. Not a joke. (Photo credit: NY Daily News)

Going streaking
The Yankees started their 10-game road trip with a 6-5 win over Orioles at Camden Yards, fueled by a three-homer outburst that gave them an AL-best 12 longballs through the first seven games. It’s just the seventh time in franchise history they’ve hit at least a dozen homers this early into the season, and the first time since 2011.

Stephen Drew was the unlikely hero for the Yankees, delivering the big blow with a pinch-hit grand slam in the seventh inning to turn a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead. How rare was Drew’s homer? The only other Yankee in the past 75 years with a two-out, go-ahead pinch-hit grand slam was Johnny Blanchard on July 21, 1961 vs. the Red Sox. Prior to Drew, the last Yankee with a pinch-hit slam in the month of April was Bobby Murcer on April 9, 1981 against the Rangers.

Michael Pineda got the win despite a shaky outing in which he was pulled in the seventh inning after giving up five runs on nine hits. It was the first time as a Yankee he had allowed more than two runs in a start on the road. Pineda’s streak of seven consecutive road starts giving up two-or-fewer runs was the longest to begin a Yankee career over the last 100 seasons.

Sabathia’s least favorite road trip
So much for winning streaks. The Yankees lost the middle game of their three-game set vs. the Orioles, 4-3, as CC Sabathia was knocked around for four runs on seven hits in seven innings. This is the first time in his 15-year career that he’s started a season with two losses in his first two outings.

Sabathia, who once dominated the O’s in Baltimore (10-1, 2.73 ERA in first 12 starts at Camden Yards), fell to 0-5 in his last seven road starts against the Orioles. The only Yankee pitcher with a longer road losing streak against the Orioles in Baltimore is Stan Bahnsen, who lost six straight decisions from 1968-71.

Mark Teixeira tried to rally the Yankees with an RBI double in the sixth inning. Prior to that hit, Teixeira was hitless in 14 at-bats against Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez. That was his second-worst 0-fer vs. any pitcher in his career, behind only an 0-for-16 mark against Freddy Garcia. #WeirdBaseball.

Alex Rodriguez had a chance to tie the game when he pinch hit for Drew with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Yankees down 4-3, but grounded out for the final out. That dropped A-Rod‘s career line as a pinch hitter to 1-for-19, including the postseason. The lone hit was a 10th-inning single in a win over the Rays on August 25, 2013.

It’s just one game, right…
The Yankees relief corps entered the rubber game against the Orioles as one of the best bullpens in the AL, ranking second in ERA and third in batting average allowed. But they imploded on Wednesday night and blew a 3-2 lead in spectacular fashion, giving up nearly as many earned runs (5) in the sixth inning alone as they had in the first eight games combined (7). That paved the way for an eventual 7-5 loss, dropping the Yankees to 3-6 on the season, their worst nine-game start since 1991.

A-Rod provided one of the offensive highlights for the Yankees, hitting a deep bomb to left field for his 656th career home run (four away from Willie and potential $6 million bonus!) and 32nd at Camden Yards. That’s 10 more homers at the ballpark in Baltimore than any other visiting player.

The Yankees tagged Orioles pitcher Bud Norris for three runs in five innings but he ended up with a no-decision when the Orioles rallied to take the lead in the sixth inning. Norris remained perfect (4-0) in five career games against the Yankees, becoming just one of five Orioles pitchers (since the team moved to Baltimore in 1954) to go unbeaten in his first five major-league starts against New York. The others are Hoyt Wilhelm, Tom Phoebus, Rudy May, and Bob Milacki.

Thoughts following the series in Baltimore

"Yeah Tex gave all his gluten to me this offseason." (Presswire)
“Yeah, Tex gave all his gluten to me this offseason.” (Presswire)

The Yankees just dropped their third straight series to start the season and I’m not sure what part of the team you could point to as an overwhelming positive in the early going. Well, aside from Alex Rodriguez, that is. Anyway, I have some thoughts not necessarily related to the series in Baltimore.

1. Hands down, the very worst thing about the Masahiro Tanaka situation is that we view everything through his elbow. He’s impossible to look at, think about, and analyze like a normal pitcher. Tanaka can never have just one of those days. Every bad pitch, every bad inning, everything will be viewed as a sign of impending doom. Throw fewer fastballs than normal? It’s the elbow. Hang a few sliders? It’s the elbow. That splitter didn’t get a swing and miss? Elbow. Elbow elbow elbow. I’ve gotten over sitting on the edge of my seat every pitch worrying Tanaka’s elbow will explode right before my eyes, but it’s always there, looming in the back of my mind. Even if he gets over whatever troubled him in his first two starts and begins dominating like he did early last year, the elbow injury means it’s going to be a long time until people look at him as a normal pitcher. Sometimes things happen in baseball and there’s no way to explain them. That’s what makes it fun. But with Tanaka, whenever something happens, it’ll be traced back to the elbow, fairly or unfairly. It feels like he is no longer subject to baseball’s randomness.

2. I was looking at the schedule the other day just to see what’s coming for the Yankees and you know what? There are no easy series anymore. There are more teams in contention now than ever before thanks to revenue sharing and the second wildcard, so the days of piling up, say, seven wins during a nine-game road trip through Minnesota, Cleveland, and Kansas City are over. Every team is good now. There is no soft spot of he schedule anymore. Know what I mean? Just looking at the upcoming schedule, the Yankees don’t play a team that is widely expected to be a non-contender until late-May, when the Rangers come to the Bronx for three games. After that you have to wait until the Phillies visit in late-June. Every series seems to mean something nowadays and don’t get me wrong, it’s fun and I think it’s great for baseball overall, but geez. There are no breaks. The Yankees could use one of those easy series right about now.

3. Thing I would like to see: the Yankees buying a draft pick. That’s basically what the Dodgers did last week. The full trade was reliever Ryan Webb, minor league catcher Brian Ward, and the 74th pick for reliever Ben Rowen and minor league catcher Chris O’Brien. Webb’s hurt and the point of the trade from the Orioles’ point of view was shedding his $2.75M salary. The two teams swapped fringe prospect catchers and the Dodgers also sent a minor league signee reliever to Baltimore. In a nutshell, the trade was “we’ll give you the 74th pick if you take Webb’s contract,” which the Dodgers did. (They released Webb a few days later.) If another club is out there willing to trade a draft pick to shed a small, unwanted contract — history says the O’s wouldn’t have made the deal with New York, for what it’s worth — it’s the type of move a team flush with cash like the Yankees should absolutely make, especially given the way everyone (Brian Cashman, Hal Steinbrenner, etc.) has been talking about the importance of young players lately. The 74th pick isn’t a premium pick or anything, but at the cost of a few million (Webb would have cost the Yankees $4.125M with the luxury tax), a big market club should take advantage, and the Dodgers did.

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

4. The Didi Gregorius/Shane Greene trade has played out to the worst case scenario for the Yankees so far. There’s really no way to argue otherwise at the moment. Out of all the moves they made this past offseason, this was the one they most needed to provide some positive early returns. Instead, Gregorius has been awful in every phase of the game while Greene has been dominant, allowing seven hits and one walk in 16 shutout innings across two starts. I expect Gregorius to be better (how could he be worse?) and Greene to not be as dominant (how could he sustain this?) going forward, but first impressions are damn near impossible to change, and the first impression of this trade is that it’s a disaster. I’m not saying it is a disaster! Just that that’s the impression many folks have right now and it’s hard to shake that. It’s still super early, the season isn’t even two weeks old yet, but geez, on top of all the other things going wrong with the Yankees in general, Greene’s domination isn’t helping matters.

5. One of the great unknowns in recent Yankees history — if not franchise history overall — is how things would have played out had Jennifer Steinbrenner and Steve Swindal not gotten divorced in 2007. Swindal was one of the team’s general partners — just like Hank and Hal Steinbrenner — from 1998-06 and was the heir apparent to George Steinbrenner. (It wasn’t just a rumor, Tyler Kepner reported the plan was to promote Swindal.) Swindal was far more active in the team’s day-to-day operations than either Hank or Hal — he negotiated Joe Torre’s contract in 2004 and represented the team at MLB’s press conference when it was announced Yankee Stadium was getting the 2008 All-Star Game — and by all accounts, he was a super smart guy and a promising future chairman. Instead, he and George’s daughter got divorced, his relationship with the team was dissolved, and the team was handed over to Hal, who showed little interest in running the Yankees before then. Who knows how things would have played out had Swindal taken over the team a few years ago as planned. Maybe it would be better, maybe it would be worse. We’ll never know.