Hot Stove Notes: Beltran, Hammel, Holland, Headley

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

For the first time since 2013, the Yankees have made it to November 17th without making a trade or free agent signing. Last winter they made the John Ryan MurphyAaron Hicks trade on November 11th, and the year before they re-signed Chris Young on November 9th and made the Francisco CervelliJustin Wilson trade on November 12th. So far this year all we have is a Joe Mantiply waiver claim. Lame. Here’s the latest hot stove buzz.

Yankees among teams most interested in Beltran

According to Rob Bradford, the Yankees are among the most interested teams in free agent Carlos Beltran. The Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Astros are also in the mix. There are no shortage of DH bats available this winter. Beltran is part of a group that includes Edwin Encarnacion, Mark Trumbo, Mike Napoli, and others. We could include Jose Bautista here too. Kendrys Morales was in that group before signing a three-year deal with the Blue Jays last week.

Beltran had a very productive season for the Yankees before being traded to the Rangers, where he was just okay. You could do a heck of a lot worse than signing Carlos to be your short-term DH, which is something the Yankees will probably need should Brian McCann get traded away. That said, after seeing Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez go from very productive to toast in an offseason in their late-30s, bringing Beltran back makes me a little nervous.

Yankees have contacted Hammel

As part of their search for “pitching, pitching, pitching,” the Yankees have already reached out to free agent right-hander Jason Hammel, according to George King. Hammel became a free agent last week when the Cubs surprisingly declined his $12M club option. They had to pay him a $2M buyout anyway, so it was a $10M decision. Apparently the Cubs threw Hammel a bone and let him decide whether he wanted to come back, and he instead opted for free agency, because he’s not a moron.

Anyway, the 34-year-old Hammel had a 3.83 ERA (4.48 FIP) in 166.2 innings this past season, and over the last few years he’s worn down and been close to a non-factor in September. He’s more of a 150-inning guy than a 180-inning guy. Hammel has been very homer prone the last few years (1.28 HR/9 since 2013) and I can’t imagine moving into Yankee Stadium will help matters. Still, he’s one of the best free agent starters on the market, so the Yankees are smart to check in. It never hurts to see what a guy wants.

Yankees have shown early interest in D. Holland

The Yankees, along with the Pirates and Padres, have shown early interest in free agent lefty Derek Holland, reports Jeff Wilson. The Rangers tried to trade Holland earlier this offseason, but after finding no takers, they decided to decline his $11.5M option and instead pay him a $1M buyout. It’s entirely possible Holland is the second best left-handed starter in free agency behind Rich Hill. It’s either him or Brett Anderson. Egads.

The lefty Holland. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
The lefty Holland. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Holland had a 4.95 ERA (4.75 FIP) in 107.1 innings last season. He’s been limited to only 203 innings the last three years due to all sorts of injuries, including knee and shoulder trouble. Holland has five pitches (four-seamer, sinker, slider, curveball, changeup) and PitchFX clocked him in the 92-94 mph range this year, so the 30-year-old still may have something to offer. Would he take a one-year contract to rebuild value in Yankee Stadium? Maybe! But the odds (and common sense) are against it.

Yankees have contacted Boras about G. Holland

Now for the other Holland. According to George King, the Yankees have contacted agent Scott Boras about free agent Greg Holland, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery. Holland threw for scouts last week and the Yankees were among the many teams in attendance. “Over 20 teams (have called). Most teams are doing their due diligence,” said Boras.

Holland, 30, had his elbow rebuilt in September 2015, so he’s 14 months out from surgery. Reports indicate he was 91-92 mph during his workout last week, down considerably from his peak, but I don’t think that’s alarming. He’s still rebuilding arm strength. His health is obviously most important, but after that you’re looking at his mechanics and the effort in his delivery. A free and easy 91-92 is much different than max effort 91-92. I can’t help but think Holland is going to wind up with whatever team offers him their closer’s job right away.

Yankees open to moving Headley

In addition to McCann and Brett Gardner, the Yankees are also open to moving Chase Headley, reports Ken Rosenthal. This isn’t surprising. The Yankees reportedly made Headley (and Jacoby Ellsbury) available at the trade deadline. It only makes sense to put him out there again now. The free agent third base market is Justin Turner, Luis Valbuena coming off hamstring surgery, and nothing else. There are few quality hot corner options available.

The Yankees have outfield replacements for Gardner and Ellsbury, and they’ve already replaced McCann behind the plate, but they’d have to go out and add a third baseman should they trade Headley. That’s not insignificant. I love Ronald Torreyes as much as the next guy, but giving him 500+ plate appearances seems like bad news. That isn’t to say the Yankees should hold on to Headley because they lack a third base replacement. By all means, see what the market offers. It just means this is a two-step process. Trade Headley, then find a replacement.

The Spare Part Position Players [2016 Season Review]

Butler. (Presswire)
Butler. (Presswire)

Over the last two years the Yankees have been pretty good about dipping into their farm system whenever a position player need arose. Last year Slade Heathcott and Greg Bird got opportunities, most notably. This year Ben Gamel and Rob Refsnyder were the go-to options before the trade deadline sell off. Whenever possible, the Yankees went young.

It wasn’t always possible, however. Inevitably, the Yankees ran into a few instances in which they didn’t have a young player available to plug a roster hole. That led them to call up a journeyman veteran or pick up someone off the scrap heap. The Yankees did this a few times this past season, and you know what? It worked out pretty darn well in some instances.

Billy Butler

On August 13th, the Yankees released Alex Rodriguez because they had no room on their roster for a right-handed platoon DH. On September 14th, the Yankees signed Billy Butler because they needed a right-handed platoon DH. Baseball, man. I like to think the front office conversation went like this:

Hal: “Brian, get me a butler.”
Cashman: “Done.”
Hal: “Wait no I meant …”

In all seriousness, the Yankees signed Butler because they used Austin Romine at DH against Clayton Kershaw earlier that day. They had no one else to fill that role. The Yankees were trying hard to stay in the wildcard race and Butler was freely available — the Athletics released him a few days earlier — so they picked him up for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum.

Butler’s first few days in pinstripes were rather productive. He went 1-for-3 and drove in two runs in his first game. The next day he smacked a two-run pinch-hit home run. Four days later he ripped a pair of doubles. Butler went 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles and a homer in his first week as a Yankee. Pretty nice for a cost nothing pickup.

For whatever reason Joe Girardi decided to start Butler at first base a few times and that was a predictable disaster. He made two egregious misplays — Butler missed a pickoff throw and booted a grounder — that led directly to runs. Yuck. The man has no business owning a glove.

The Yankees fell out of the rate in late September and Butler’s playing time diminished. Tyler Austin and Refsnyder got those at-bats instead. Butler went 10-for-29 (.345) with those two doubles and one homer in 12 games with New York. He became a free agent after the season — I’ve seen some confusion about this, the fact his A’s contract ran through 2017 means nothing to the Yankees, they’re not on the hook for that — and there’s basically no reason for the Yankees to bring him back.

Chris Parmelee

The Yankees were dealt a pretty significant blow in February, when Bird injured his shoulder working out and needed surgery. His season was over before it even had a chance to begin. The team signed Parmelee to effectively replace Bird as the Triple-A first baseman, but that’s it. He was only going to help the big league team in an emergency.

That emergency came in early June. Mark Teixeira landed the disabled list with a knee problem, so the Yankees were down their top two first baseman. Third string first baseman Dustin Ackley was hurt too. First base duties fell to Parmelee and Refsnyder. On June 8th, in his first start as a Yankee, Parmelee went 3-for-5 with a double and two home runs in the team’s comeback win over the Angels.

The next day Parmelee drove in another run, but because the Yankees can’t have nice things, he hurt his hamstring stretching for a throw at first base a few innings later. He had to be helped off the field. Parmelee was placed on the disabled list, where he remained the next two months. It was one of those years.

Once healthy, the Yankees sent Parmelee back to Triple-A, where he remained the rest of the season. Overall, he went 4-for-8 with a double and two homers with the Yankees while putting up a .248/.335/.449 (124 wRC+) batting line with eleven homers in 64 games with the RailRiders. Parmelee hit a three-run home run in the Triple-A Championship Game to help Scranton to a win.

After the season Parmelee became a minor league free agent. I suppose the Yankees could bring him back to be their Triple-A first baseman again next year, but guys like this tend to be one and done. Parmelee will look for more playing time elsewhere and the Yankees will find someone else to play first for Scranton.

Ike Davis

At one point in June the Yankees were down to their fifth string first baseman. Teixeira (knee), Bird (shoulder), Ackley (shoulder), and Parmelee (hamstring) were all hurt. The job was Refsnyder’s. After Parmelee’s injury, the Yankees scooped up Davis just to provide some veteran depth at first. Ike had opted out of his minor league deal with the Rangers a few days earlier.

Davis appeared in only eight games with the Yankees — four starts and four appearances in relief of Refsnyder — and he went 3-for-14 (.214) with one walk, five strikeouts, and no extra base hits in those eight games. He did actually drive in a run though. In his very first at-bat in pinstripes, no less.

Not the most picturesque swing, but it got the job done there. The Yankees dropped Davis from the roster when Teixeira returned from the disabled list. Ike went to Triple-A, hit .217/.318/.391 (103 wRC+) with five homers in 26 games for the RailRiders, then was released. He was the epitome of short-term help. The Yankees needed a first baseman for a few days in June and Davis filled the role.

Donovan Solano

Infield depth was a big concern coming into Spring Training, so much so that the Yankees signed three veterans to minor league deals: Solano, Pete Kozma, and Jonathan Diaz. All three spent the entire minor league regular season with Triple-A Scranton. Solano was the RailRiders’ best hitter from start to finish, putting up a .319/.349/.436 (124 wRC+) batting line with an International League leading 163 hits.

The Yankees didn’t plan to call the 28-year-old Solano up, but when Starlin Castro felt a tug in his hamstring running out a double in mid-September, their hand had been forced. Solano appeared in nine games with the Yankees, including six starts, and he went 5-for-22 (.227) at the plate. One of the five was a home run.

Solano was in the right place at the right time. He had the best season among the veteran Triple-A infielders and it just so happened Castro hurt his hamstring late in the season. That got Solano back to the big leagues, albeit briefly. The Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster soon after the end of the regular season and he elected free agency. Next year another random Triple-A infielder will hit another random September home run.

Scouting the Trade Market: Atlanta Braves

Newcomb. (Presswire)
Newcomb. (Presswire)

After 20 years and zero World Series wins, the Atlanta Braves are moving out of Turner Field and into brand new SunTrust Park next season. I have some fond memories of Turner Field. There’s the 1999 World Series, Derek Jeter being named All-Star Game MVP in 2000, the Frankie Cervelli home run in 2009, the blowout series in 2015 … it was a good place for the Yankees. They’re 14-2 all-time at Turner Field, you know.

Anyway, Turner Field is closing its doors next season and the Braves are moving into their new ballpark. They lost 93 games in 2016, but the goal is to be as competitive as possible in 2017, which is why they’ve already signed R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon to bolster the rotation. The Braves are said to be in on Chris Sale, Sonny Gray, and Chris Archer too, among others. And we know they were in on Brian McCann during the summer as well.

The McCann trade rumors have picked up again this offseason. He grew up in nearby Athens and still lives in Atlanta in the offseason, plus he played his first nine seasons with the Braves, so it stands to reason McCann would be willing to wave his no trade clause to go back home. The Braves want his power bat and veteran leadership to guide all their young pitchers through the rebuild. It’s easy to understand why any team would want him, really.

Atlanta has a stacked farm system that is especially loaded with pitchers, something the Yankees crave. They reportedly asked for righty Mike Foltynewicz and outfielder Ender Inciarte at the trade deadline, but no dice. Maybe the team’s willingness to eat $17M of the $34M left on McCann’s contract will be enough to change the Braves’ mind. We’ll see. Let’s take a trip through their organization and look at some possible trade targets. All scouting reports come from MLB.com unless otherwise noted.

LHP Kolby Allard

Background: Allard, 19, was the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft. He was arguably the top high school pitching prospect in the draft class, but he fell due to a stress reaction in his back that caused him to miss most of his senior season in high school. Allard had a minor procedure following the 2015 season and has been fine since. He had a 2.62 ERA (2.98 FIP) with 26.3% strikeouts and 7.0% walks in 99.2 innings split between rookie ball and Low-A in 2016. MLB.com currently ranks Allard as the 60th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “He was throwing his fastball in the 90-94 mph range (in 2015). He’s shown the ability to reach back for more in the past. Allard has a plus curve, with some evaluators seeing it as a 70 eventually. He has a feel for a changeup, especially given his age and experience. Allard hides the ball well, with Cliff Lee-like deception, and his fastball has good late life.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Allard has a ton of potential even if he doesn’t have a true ace ceiling. A polished southpaw with an out-pitch curveball and feel for a changeup, especially at such a young age, has a chance to pitch a very long time in the big leagues. And, as always, quality left-handed starters are always welcome in Yankee Stadium.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many pure baseball reasons. The biggest concern with Allard is his back. He had the stress reaction last spring, which lingered long enough to require some kind of surgery last November. Also, as a 19-year-old pitching prospect in the low minors, there’s still plenty of time for things to go wrong.

RHP Aaron Blair

Background: The Diamondbacks made the 24-year-old Blair the 36th overall pick in the 2013 draft, then traded him to the Braves last winter in the ridiculous Shelby Miller deal. Blair made his MLB debut this past season and it was not pretty. He had a 7.59 ERA (6.15 FIP) with 14.2% strikeouts and 10.5% walks in 70 innings. His Triple-A showing was just okay: 4.65 ERA (3.38 FIP) with 22.6% strikeouts and 10.2% walks in 71.2 innings. Blair shuttled up and down all year.

Scouting Report: “The Marshall product has three above-average pitches in his repertoire with a good feel for pitching. His fastball can touch 95 mph and will sit in the low-90s consistently. He throws it with movement and sink, generating a good amount of ground ball outs. He’s always had a very good changeup and his breaking ball has improved to the point where it, too, flashes above average. He works quickly and tends to go right after hitters, typically not hurting himself too much with walks … He has the makings of a workhorse No. 3 type starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Coming into the season Blair was a consensus top 100 prospect — MLB.com ranked him 56th and Baseball America ranked him 60th — so the kid obviously has some talent. He had a tough start to his MLB career, but so what? It happens. Blair has three pitches and pitchability, so there are still reasons to believe he can be a solid long-term starter. The Yankees would be buying low on him right now.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? We can’t completely sweep Blair’s terrible 2016 performance under the rug. It happened and there’s information to be gleaned from it. Was his fastball command not up to snuff? Did hitters lay off his breaking ball? It’s a small sample, sure, but there’s still stuff in there that could be a reason to stay away.

RHP Mike Foltynewicz

Background: Foltynewicz, 25, was the 19th overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Astros. They traded him to Atlanta during the 2014-15 offseason in the Evan Gattis deal. Foltynewicz threw 86.2 ineffective innings for the Braves last year (5.71 ERA and 5.05 FIP), though he was much better in 2016. This season he had a 4.31 ERA (4.24 FIP) with 21.1% strikeouts and 6.7% walks in 123.1 innings around an elbow issue.

Scouting Report (from 2015): “According to Pitchf/x his fastball reached 101 mph in the Major Leagues last season and he routinely throws in the upper-90s as a starter. Like most young flamethrowers, he has had to work on his fastball command and improving the consistency of his offspeed pitches … He has all the tools necessary to start for the Braves if he can harness his powerful fastball. Otherwise, he’ll fit well at the back of the bullpen.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Foltynewicz does throw really hard — he averaged 95.2 mph as a starter in 2016 — and his array of offspeed pitches include a mid-80s slider, mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. It’s the kind of power stuff the Yankees love. Foltynewicz has also made some real strikes with his secondary stuff and overall command the last two or three years, so he’s improving.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? For starters, Foltynewicz missed time with bone spurs at midseason, though he didn’t need surgery. Secondly, his non-fastballs still aren’t great. The curveball had an average swing-and-miss rate in 2016 and the slider was below-average. Foltynewicz doesn’t have a good ground ball pitch, hence his career 36.9% ground ball rate (and 1.50 HR/9). He’s a classic good fastball/so-so everything else pitcher, and the Yankees haven’t had much luck with those.

OF Ender Inciarte

Background: Once upon a time Inciarte was a Rule 5 Draft pick by the Phillies, but they returned him to the D’Backs and opted to keep Delmon Young on the roster instead. D’oh. Inciarte, now 26, has been a regular for close to three full seasons now, and during that time he’s hit .292/.337/.385 (95 wRC+) with 13 homers and 56 steals in just under 1,600 plate appearances. This past season he hit .291/.351/.381 (97 wRC+) with three homers and 16 steals after coming over in the Shelby Miller heist.

Scouting Report (from me): Inciarte is a left-handed hitting contact machine, with a career 11.3% strikeout rate and an 89.2% contract rate. He’s top ten in contact rate since 2014, alongside guys like Michael Brantley and Joe Panik and Daniel Murphy. Inciarte doesn’t have much power, he doesn’t steal a ton of bases, and he doesn’t draw many walks either, so his offensive value depends heavily on his batting average. In the field, he’s an excellent defender capable of playing all three outfield positions.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The Yankees don’t have a hitter like Inciarte, that high-contact lefty who opponents can’t shift against. Jacoby Ellsbury was supposed to be that guy, but it hasn’t worked out. Inciarte is similar to Ellsbury and Brett Gardner as a low power lefty bat, but unlike those two, his best years probably aren’t already behind him. Also, at some point Ellsbury is going to have to move to left field, so the Yankees need a long-term center fielder. Inciarte would fit the bill.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? How many of the same player do the Yankees need? Even if they trade Gardner, they’d still be trotting out two defense first, no power outfielders. The Yankees have outfield depth too, including some very highly touted prospects. Add Inciarte to Ellsbury and there’s one less spot for Aaron Judges and Clint Fraziers of the world.

LHP Sean Newcomb

Background: Newcomb, 23, was the 15th overall pick in the 2014 draft by the Angels. They traded him to the Braves in the Andrelton Simmons deal last offseason. This past summer Newcomb had a 3.86 ERA (3.19 FIP) with 25.6% strikeouts and 11.9% walks in 140 innings, all at Double-A. MLB.com currently ranks him as the 46th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “There were readings of Newcomb’s fastball touching triple digits in 2015 and he’ll sit in the 94-97 mph range. Big and physical, he maintains that velocity and does so without too much effort. Newcomb’s curve has become a plus pitch, one that misses plenty of bats. His changeup gives him a third at least Major League average offering. Newcomb does have to cut down on his walks to reach his ceiling.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Again, quality lefties are always good to have when you call Yankee Stadium home. Newcomb is a physically huge guy — he’s listed at 6-foot-5 and 255 lbs. — and he’s never been hurt, so you’re looking at a workhorse southpaw with three quality pitches and above-average velocity. You can be dealt worse cards.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Newcomb has a lot of problems throwing strikes. Has his entire baseball life. Just last season he walked 13.2% of batters faced at Single-A and Double-A. It’s not a mechanical problem either. Newcomb has a very smooth delivery and he repeats it well. It’s a “throwing strikes is hard” problem. Newcomb has really good size and stuff, but it comes with bad control and basically zero command.

3B Rio Ruiz

Background: The Astros took the 22-year-old Ruiz in the fourth round of the 2012 draft and paid him a huge overslot bonus ($1.85M). He went to the Braves in the Gattis trade with Foltynewicz. Ruiz hit .271/.355/.400 (118 wRC+) with ten homers, 21.8% strikeouts, and 11.4% walks in 133 Triple-A games this year. He made his MLB debut in September and went 2-for-7 (.286) with a triple.

Scouting Report: “With a smooth swing from the left side and excellent plate discipline, Ruiz should hit for average. He also has more power than he’s shown thus far. He goes very well to left-center … While there have been concerns about Ruiz’s ability to stay at third, he improved his agility just enough, adding a touch more range that could help him stay at the hot corner.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Ruiz is not one of Atlanta’s very best prospects, but the Yankees have a long-term opening at third base. I like Miguel Andujar too, but you can never really count on one prospect to be the guy. Ruiz is lefty hitter with plate discipline, two traits synonymous with most successful Yankees teams, plus the presence of Chase Headley means they could send the kid to Triple-A for more seasoning if it’s deemed necessary.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There are questions about Ruiz’s power potential and ability to stay at third. He’s not an atrocious defender by any means, but he’s not going to save a ton of runs either, which means he’ll draw most of his value with his bat. Yankee Stadium would help Ruiz pop a few more dingers, but he’s seen as more of a 10-15 homer guy than a 20+ homer guy long-term. The downside here is a low power first baseman. The upside is an average offensive third baseman with mediocre defense. Meh.

RHP Mike Soroka

Background: The Braves selected the 19-year-old Soroka with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 draft. They jumped him right to Low-A this season, where he had a 3.02 ERA (2.79 FIP) with 21.4% strikeouts and 5.5% walks in 143 innings. That’s quite a performance (and workload) for a kid who was nearly four years younger than the average South Atlantic League player. MLB.com currently ranks Soroka as the 90th best prospect in baseball.

Scouting Report: “The 6-foot-4 right-hander brings an exciting mixture of stuff and feel for pitching to the table … His fastball sits in the low-90s and he commands it well. He can really spin his breaking ball and has a good feel for a changeup. He absolutely pounds the strike zone and could have above-average command when all is said and done. Wise beyond his years, he takes things like nutrition and conditioning seriously.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Pretty obvious, no? Soroka already has good stuff and command — he does have to improve the consistency of his breaking ball and changeup, which is typical 19-year-old pitching prospect stuff — plus he’s a very driven player who works hard to get better.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Not many reasons, really. Soroka is inherently risky as a 19-year-old pitching prospect in Single-A because there’s still so much that can go wrong before he reached the big leagues. That’s about it. The tools and pitchability are already there.

RHP Matt Wisler

Background: The 24-year-old Wisler was a seventh round pick by the Padres in 2011, and he developed into one of the best pitching prospects in baseball. Baseball America ranked him as the 34th best prospect in baseball prior to last season. Wisler was the headliner in the Craig Kimbrel trade last year, and in 265.2 big league innings, all with Atlanta, he has a 4.88 ERA (4.88 FIP). This season it was a 5.00 ERA (4.85 FIP) with 17.1% strikeouts and 7.3% walks in 156.2 innings.

Scouting Report (from 2015): “While Wisler won’t overpower hitters, he does have a pair of plus pitches and throws strikes with four offerings. His main two weapons are a 90-95 mph sinker and a changeup with plenty of deception and fade. Both of his breaking balls are effective, with his low-80s slider featuring some tilt and his mid-70s curveball used more to keep opponents off balance.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? It wasn’t too long ago that Wisler was a top pitching prospect, and since the bloom is off the rose now, his value is down. They’d be buying low. Despite the low strikeout rate, Wisler’s slider has registered an above-average swing-and-miss rate in the big leagues, plus both his four-seamer and sinker sit comfortably in the mid-90s. The Yankees would be acquiring Wisler and hoping to tap into the potential he showed going into last season.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? More than a few reasons. One, that supposedly plus changeup has been a terrible pitch in the big leagues, getting neither whiffs nor ground balls. Also, Wisler has had problems keeping the ball on the ground (career 37.5% grounders) and in the park (1.42 HR/9). At this point we have more than 250 innings of big league hitters telling us Wisler doesn’t fool them.

* * *

Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Braves prospects list. Their tank job has led to a very deep and very good farm system. One of the best in the game. I picked only eight guys for this post, but there are plenty others the Yankees should consider in trade talks. Just don’t expect to get Dansby Swanson, Ozzie Albies, or any of the three big arms the Braves drafted in June (Ian Anderson, Joey Wentz, Kyle Muller).

Unlike Joe Musgrove and the Astros, there’s no one with the Braves who jumps out at me as a must-have in a McCann trade. I like the idea of Newcomb because it could just click one day and he’ll start throwing strikes, but he’s risky. Foltynewicz throws hard and that’s about it. I’ve seen enough Inciartes in my lifetime to know those guys go from WAR All-Stars to barely playable in a hurry. The teenage arms in Single-A are exciting, but they’re teenage arms in Single-A. The Braves could offer New York prospects of all shapes and sizes. It’s just a question of who much risk they’re willing to assume.

Masahiro Tanaka finishes seventh in AL Cy Young voting

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Earlier tonight, the BBWAA announced Red Sox righty Rick Porcello has won the 2016 AL Cy Young award. He won despite receiving fewer first place votes (14-8) than Tigers righty Justin Verlander, who finished second in the voting. Indians righty Corey Kluber finished third. Here are the full voting results.

This was the second closest vote in Cy Young history. Porcello beat out Verlander by a mere five voting points. The closest vote ever? Back in 2012, when Verlander finished four points behind David Price. Womp womp. Porcello won because he had way more second place than Verlander (18-2), and also because two writers left Verlander off their ballot entirely. A Red Sox pitcher second placing his way to the Cy Young is fitting, I’d say.

Anywho, Masahiro Tanaka finished tied for the seventh in the voting with Blue Jays righty Aaron Sanchez. Tanaka received one fourth place vote and four fifth place votes. He finished behind Porcello, Verlander, Kluber, Orioles closer Zach Britton, White Sox lefty Chris Sale, and Blue Jays lefty J.A. Happ. Tanaka received Cy Young votes for the first time this year, and they were well deserved.

Also noteworthy: ex-Yankee Andrew Miller finished ninth in the Cy Young voting. He received one third place vote. Hooray for that. Gary Sanchez finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting and Joe Girardi finished fifth in the Manager of the Year voting. The MVPs will be announced tomorrow.

Wednesday Night Open Thread

The hot stove is decidedly lukewarm right now. Unless you count that big Charlie Morton signing earlier today. Told you the Astros were going to do something big this offseason! I get the feeling the hot stove will be slow until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in place, then all hell will break loose.

This is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks are playing and there’s some college hoops on as well, otherwise you’re on your own for entertainment. You know what to do, so have at it.

Wednesday Notes: Medicals, Strike Zone, Revenue Sharing

The commish has a lot of work to do these next few weeks. (Elsa/Getty)
The commish has a lot of work to do these next few weeks. (Elsa/Getty)

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in 15 days. MLB and the MLBPA are hard at work negotiating a new deal and I’m sure they’ll get it done in time. No one wants a work stoppage. There’s too much money to be lost on both sides. Here are some big picture updates from around the league in the meantime.

MLB to standardize medical info

In the wake of Padres GM A.J. Preller’s suspension, MLB will standardize the medical information teams must disclose during trade talks, reports Kyle Glaser. The Padres essentially hid medical info at the trade deadline. That’s why Colin Rea was returned from the Marlins. He had a preexisting injury. There’s also an issue with Drew Pomeranz’s elbow the Red Sox didn’t know about it. Zoinks.

“We’ve talked about medical records given the issues we had this season, and I think we’re going to focus on trying to do even a better job of standardizing that process when clubs exchange records,” said MLB chief legal officer Dan Halem to Glaser. “We’re going to formalize it a little more and contemplate pushing for guidance in terms of what has to be in and what has to be out. Just make sure everybody has confidence in the system.”

GMs were informed of the new standards during the GM Meetings last week. Halem told Glaser this has been in the works for a while and isn’t a response to Preller’s suspension. Hmmm. Either way, I’m kinda surprised it took this long for this to happen. There have been some other preexisting injury issues over the years — the Gary Majewski trade comes to mind — and this is in the best interest of the league. Better late than never, I suppose.

MLB considering strike zone changes

According to Jon Morosi, MLB is considering formal changes to the strike zone this offseason thanks to PitchFX and Statcast, which help foster more adherence to the rulebook. Jon Roegele’s research has shown the strike zone has gotten bigger since 2009, mostly at the bottom of the zone near the knees. The pitches that are hardest to hit, basically. That’s one of the reasons offense dipped in recent years.

I’m not sure what kind of changes MLB is considering — I guess something that lowers the top of the strike zone since no one calls the high strike anyway? — but I guess we’ll find out. MLB umpires are the best umpires in the world, it’s not like there’s a secret group of elite umpires the league refuses to hire, but they’re not perfect. Far from it. If PitchFX and Statcast and all that help create a more uniform strike zone that more accurately reflects the rulebook, then great.

Players protesting international draft

MLB hopes to implement an international draft in the near future, which would both push the signing age back from 16 to 18, and also cost players money by reducing their negotiating leverage. In response, amateur prospects in the Dominican Republic boycotted the league’s showcase last month, according to Ben Badler. MLB then canceled the two-day showcase and forced the players to take random drug tests. This is fine.

Several current big leaguers who signed as international free agents back in the day have spoken out against an international draft. Gary Sanchez is one of them. Here’s his video. Others like Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Santana, Miguel Sano, and Ivan Nova have posted similar videos too. I’m curious to see how this plays out. The MLBPA usually has no problem negotiating away the rights of amateurs, but with so many big leaguers speaking out, how can they ignore them?

Revenue sharing a key point in CBA talks

As MLB and the MLBPA negotiate the new CBA, a key item is the revenue sharing system, reports Susan Slusser. Specifically, teams that pay into revenue sharing (like the Yankees) want to make sure teams that receive revenue sharing are actually spending it. There’s been concern small market teams are just pocketing a portion of their revenue sharing checks. The Marlins and Athletics have come under scrutiny, specifically.

“There is leeway to justify other expenditures (like scouting),” said an MLBPA official to Slusser. “But if a team shows no progress year after year and most of the revenue sharing spending is on non-Major League salaries, red flags go up. There are clubs that other clubs look at and say, ‘What are they doing? Is this really the best use of our money?'”

The Yankees pump more money into revenue sharing than any other team — they paid over $90M in both 2014 and 2015 — so I’m sure they’re one of the clubs curious to know where their money is going, as they should. Revenue sharing isn’t going away. It’s been around too long and it’s working. The Indians and Royals just went to the World Series. More teams are in contention right now than ever before. But there’s an obvious problem with small market clubs pocketing revenue sharing money. The Yankees and other big market teams have every right to be concerned.

Prospect Profile: Dillon Tate

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Dillon Tate | RHP

Background
Tate, 22, was born and raised in Southern California, and he attended Claremont High School in the Los Angeles suburbs. He earned all sorts of baseball and academic honors, and during the summers he trained at MLB’s Urban Youth Academy in Compton.

Baseball America ranked Tate as the 79th best prospect in California and 391st best prospect overall in the 2012 draft class. Their scouting report said he “could develop into an impact prospect” in college, and noted there were “scouts who regard him as a sleeper worth gambling on inside the top 10 rounds this year.”

Despite that praise, Tate went undrafted out of high school and wound up at UC Santana Barbara. He rarely pitched as a freshman — four games and three innings, that’s it — before pitching for the Urban Youth Academy Barons of the California Collegiate League in the summer. Tate threw another 32.2 innings in the CCL. He told Grace Raynor he vowed to himself that summer to become a first round pick after watching the 2013 draft on television.

As a sophomore in 2014, Tate took over as the Gauchos’ closer and pitched to a 1.45 ERA with 46 strikeouts and 17 walks in 43.1 innings. He was among the finalists for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year award as the nation’s top reliever. Tate pitched for Team USA in the summer and was ranked the fifth best prospect on the team by Jim Callis, one spot ahead of James Kaprielian.

UCSB moved Tate into the rotation his junior year and he took over as the staff ace, throwing 103.1 innings of 2.26 ERA ball. He struck out 111 and walked 28. Because he’d thrown more innings than ever before, Tate started to wear down late in the season and the Gauchos had to lighten his workload. He was named a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball’s best player.

Prior to the 2015 amateur draft, Baseball America ranked Tate as the third best prospect in the draft class behind Brendan Rodgers and Dansby Swanson. MLB.com and Keith Law (subs. req’d) both ranked Tate as the fifth best prospect available. The Rangers selected him with the fourth overall pick — he was the first pitcher selected in 2015 — and signed him to a $4.2M bonus.

The Yankees acquired Tate and two others from the Rangers in the Carlos Beltran deal at the 2016 trade deadline.

Pro Career
Because he threw so many innings at UCSB last spring, the Rangers took it very easy on Tate following the 2015 draft. They assigned him to the short season Northwest League and Low-A South Atlantic League. He appeared in only six games and threw only nine innings after signing, during which he allowed one run on three hits and three walks while striking out eight.

Texas sent Tate back to Low-A to start this season, and after two dominant starts (10.2 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 16 K), he was placed on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain. It sidelined him for nearly three weeks. Tate struggled when he returned and he never really got going. He allowed 19 runs on 23 hits and seven walks in his first five games and 13 innings back. Yikes.

At the time of the trade Tate had a 5.12 ERA (4.37 FIP) with mediocre strikeout (19.0%) and walk (9.3%) rates in 65 innings. The Yankees moved him to the Low-A Charleston bullpen immediately and had minor league pitching coordinator Danny Borrell work on his mechanics. Tate had a 2.95 ERA (3.62 FIP) with 17.9% strikeouts and 8.3% walks in 18.1 relief innings with the RiverDogs after the trade.

The Yankees sent Tate to the Arizona Fall League after the season for more innings. He had a 3.86 ERA (5.21 FIP) in six relief appearances and 9.1 innings with the Scottsdale Scorpions before reaching his innings limit and being shut down, according to Randy Miller. On the bright side, his small sample size strikeout (29.7%) and walk (2.7%) rates were excellent.

Scouting Report
There are essentially two scouting reports on Tate. The good scouting report has him sitting mid-90s and topping out at 98 mph with his fastball, and backing it up with a killer upper-80s slider and a promising changeup. The bad scouting report has his fastball in the upper-80s/low-90s with a sweepy breaking ball and generally inconsistent secondary pitches.

The good version of Tate existed prior to the hamstring injury. The bad version showed up after his early season disabled list stint. Reports indicate Tate’s stuff bounced back by time he got to the Arizona Fall League, which is promising. His velocity was more consistent in a relief role with the Yankees. That’s for sure. The changeup looked good too.

Even when he’s at his best, Tate’s fastball is pretty straight, so there’s some concern he’ll be homer prone against advanced hitters. The Yankees could try teaching him a two-seamer or sinker, though that’s easier than it sounds. Learning how to locate a pitch that moves unlike anything you’ve thrown before takes time.

Tate is listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 lbs., and he’s very athletic with a repeatable delivery, generally speaking. His tempo was out of whack for much of the year however, and that’s what the Yankees worked to fix. And for what it’s worth, Tate’s a really bright kid who did well in school. The good version of him is really, really good. The bad version might not get out of Double-A.

2017 Outlook
Brian Cashman told Randy Miller the Yankees are planning to move Tate back into the rotation next season. “(His velocity) has been good since we got him. We kind of let him go back to some of his mechanical ways before they made changes with him in Texas, and the velocity came back,” said the GM.

My guess is Tate will open next season with High-A Tampa, and if he does well, the Yankees figure to move him up to Double-A fairly quickly. There’s some thought he could reach the show as soon as next season if the team moves him to the bullpen full-time, but I think it’s way too soon to do that. Give him a chance to start with your coaches and instructors first.

My Take
The Yankees were really smart to buy low on Tate in the Beltran trade. He was a top prospect coming into the season — MLB.com (36th), Keith Law (50th), Baseball Prospectus (59th), and Baseball America (69th) all ranked him as a top 100 prospect in the spring — and the Yankees were able to get him (and two others!) for a rental DH. Had he suffered an arm injury in April instead of the hamstring, things might be a little different, but his arm’s healthy.

Now, that said, the Yankees took a pretty big risk here. Tate may not be fixable — the early returns suggests he’s getting back on track, so hooray for that — and even if he does get back to where he was last year, he still may only be a reliever long-term. A really good reliever, but still a reliever. He was definitely a worthwhile pickup though. The Yankees have a ton of depth in the farm system are in position to roll the dice on a talented player like Tate.