Mailbag: Duda, Tanaka, Pineda, Samardzija, Acevedo, Frazier

We’ve got 14 questions in the mailbag this week. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything. We’re getting more questions than ever these days, so apologies in advance if I don’t get to yours.

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

Glen asks: What would it cost the Yanks to get Duda (assuming the Mets would deal across town)? There are a lot of available first basemen and while Duda is having a typically nice year, he’s got a bad injury history. Does Austin and a lower level, high ceiling arm (Abreu?) get it done?

Tyler Austin doesn’t have much trade value at all — see what the Yankees gave up to get Garrett Cooper yesterday? that’s basically Austin’s trade value — and I don’t think the Mets would want him either with Dom Smith waiting to take over at first base next year. Here are two trades involving similar rental sluggers from last year:

  • Jay Bruce: Traded for an up-and-down depth infielder (Dilson Herrera) and one organizational top 20 prospect (Max Wotell). (Bruce’s contract included a club option for another year.)
  • Carlos Beltran: Traded for a preseason top 50-75 global prospect (Dillon Tate) and two non-top 30 organizational prospects (Erik Swanson, Nick Green).

Beltran was in demand whereas the Reds were looking to unload Bruce and his salary, and the different circumstances led to very different trade packages. Duda is closer to Beltran than Bruce in my opinion, so the Mets wouldn’t be wrong to ask for a pretty darn good prospect in return. Albert Abreu is currently on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, which complicates things, though he wouldn’t be an unreasonable request by the Mets.

Duda, 31, is hitting .238/.351/.524 (129 wRC+) with 14 homers in 62 games around an elbow issue, plus he’s had some pretty serious back problems in the past. His big left-handed power would fit very well in Yankee Stadium, and picking him up in the second half would serve as a nice audition for next year. The Yankees will need a designated hitter in 2018, after all. I prefer Yonder Alonso personally, though Duda would be a fine stopgap as well. He probably won’t come cheap though. The Yankees would likely have to give up a pretty nice prospect to make it happen.

John asks: If the Yanks go say 4-12 over their next 16 games and sit at 47-53 and 4 GB (or so) of a WC spot on July 26, do they sell? Should they?

Yes they should sell and yes I think they would sell in that situation, even though they don’t have nearly as much to sell as last year, when they put Beltran and two elite relievers on the market. This year they could trade, uh, Matt Holliday? Michael Pineda? That’s maybe it. They fired their best “seller” bullets last year. Then again, if they go 4-12 over their next 16 games to fall to 11-30 in their last 41 games, they’ll have much bigger problems than not enough players to sell.

Erick asks: How many top ten, top twenty and overall first round draft picks do the Yankees currently have in their system and major leagues?

Fun question! I’ve always been a sucker for how teams are built. For CBS last year I put together posts on the Cubs and Indians roster construction prior to the World Series for that reason. Fun fact: the Cubs drafted and developed only four players on their postseason roster last year. Anyway, here’s the breakdown Erick requested:

I do believe that’s all of them. Holder (David Robertson), Judge (Nick Swisher), Clarkin (Rafael Soriano), Sheffield (Ubaldo Jimenez), and Bichette (Javier Vazquez) were all drafted with compensation picks gained for losing free agents. That’s the supplemental first round. Technically it counts as the first round, but it’s not the true “here’s your pick based on last year’s record” first round.

Not included in that list is Masahiro Tanaka, who was selected by four different teams (Rakuten Golden Eagles, Nippon Ham Fighters, Orix Buffaloes, Yokohoma BayStars) in the first round of the 2006 Nippon Pro Baseball draft. The teams then drew straws and Rakuten won his rights. The NPB draft is weird.

Rob asks: If Tanaka continues to improve and the Yankees fall out of the wild card race, does Tanaka become a trade chip for prospects? Would teams be willing to trade prospects for a rental? Keep in mind that Masahiro can opt out at the end of the season.

Tanaka’s trade value is very complicated because of the opt out, and it was complicated even before his overall poor season. Trade for him and he pitches well, and he’s going to opt out. Trade for him and he pitches poorly, then he’s going to stick around. Limited upside, ton of downside for the team that gets him. If the Yankees do continue to slip in the standings, of course they should listen to offers to Tanaka. My guess is the offers will be pretty underwhelming at this point. Maybe it’s worthwhile to unload Tanaka and his contract for whatever. Probably not, but maybe it is. I have no idea how to value him right now. His performance and the opt-out make him too undesirable.

Al asks: Yulieski Gurriel would look pretty good at first base right now. Think the Yankees regret not outbidding the Astros (5 years at $47.5 M) for him? Even if they were expecting Bird to play first, they could have had him ticketed for DH. Thanks.

Probably not. I wanted the Yankees to sign Gurriel, but taking on the age 32-36 seasons of a guy who projects to be a +1.5 WAR player in his age 33 season isn’t all that great for a team trying to get younger. Not when it comes with a $9.5M hit against the luxury tax. The Yankees would have had to out-bid the Astros too, so his actual luxury tax hit would have been more than $9.5M. Gurriel is hitting .297/.321/.491 (115 wRC+) this year and sure, the Yankees could use him at first base, but this isn’t a short-term question. What about next year and the year after and the year after that? Locking down the decline years of a player whose best position is DH isn’t all that appealing to me.

Ian asks: How about moving Pineda to the bullpen? His stuff might play really well in that role and this way you might get a bit of value before he mercifully leaves via free agency. Obviously you create a hole in the rotation, but there you at least have options. Running Pineda out there every fifth day got old several starts ago. Thoughts?

I guess it depends who replaces him in the rotation, right? If you go out and trade for someone like, say, Jose Quintana Sonny Gray, it’s worthwhile. If you’re just going to replace him with Luis Cessa or Chance Adams, then probably not, and I say that as a Cessa fan. Pineda in the rotation and Adams in the bullpen is the best arrangement in my opinion. Pineda would probably dominate in relief given his strikeouts, especially if he adds a tick or two to the bullpen, but the Yankees aren’t exactly swimming in replacement starters. Serious question: would you trust Pineda on the mound in the late innings of a close game?

Adam asks: Does Jordan Montgomery‘s recent option to Scranton manipulate his service time enough to control him another year? Thanks.

Nope. It doesn’t change anything. Assuming Montgomery comes back the first day he’s eligible, he will be retroactively credited with service time even while in the minors. It’ll be like he was on the MLB roster the entire time. A player has to spend eleven days or more in the minors to lose that service time. I suppose the Yankees could call Montgomery back up after eleven days, which would be enough to delay his service time, though his agent might make a stink about that. I’m normally not one to care about service time with non-elite young players (especially pitchers), but if we’re talking about one extra day here, why not?

Samardzija. (Matthew Stockman/Getty)
Samardzija. (Matthew Stockman/Getty)

Francis asks: Would a Jeff Samardzija for Jacoby Ellsbury trade make sense for the Yankees and Giants in terms of money owed and years left? I know that there are issues with no trade clauses etc but Ellsbury will eventually get squeezed out of a job, SF will likely rebound next year and and California is closer to Oregon than NY. Just seems like a perfect match for two bad contracts as the Yankees need pitching and SF needs OF help!

Hmmm, interesting. Ellsbury is owed $68.4M from 2018-20 while Samardzija is owed $59.4M from 2018-20. The money is close enough that it shouldn’t be an obstacle. The Giants are in desperate need of outfield help — their left fielders have hit .224/.281/.329 (63 OPS+) this year — and Ellsbury would fit well in their ballpark given his defense. They could slide Denard Span, who has lost a step or three, to left field and put Ellsbury in center.

So far this season Samardzija has a 4.58 ERA (3.44 FIP) in 118 innings. That’s after throwing 203.1 innings with a 3.81 ERA (3.85 FIP) last year, and 214 innings with a 4.96 ERA (4.23 FIP) the year before that. The one thing you can count on from Samardzija is innings. He’s thrown at least 200 innings every year since 2013. Samardzija, Quintana, Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, Cole Hamels, Madison Bumgarner. They’re the only six guys to throw 200+ innings every year since 2013, and neither Bumgarner nor Hamels will make it there this year.

If I’m the Yankees, yes, I’m trading Ellsbury for Samardzija. It clears up the outfield logjam and it gives the team a back-end innings guy, if nothing else. They could use one of those. Certainly moreso than another speedy outfielder. Would the Giants do it? Eh, they kinda need pitching too, and there are always plenty of decent outfielders sitting in free agency. My guess is the Giants would pass and keep the pitching, and look for outfield help elsewhere. I don’t see the Yankees being able to move Ellsbury without eating a ton of money.

Conor asks: What are your thoughts on allowing managers to make unlimited substitutions for positions players (not pitchers obviously) during the ASG? It’s always a bummer to see reserves not get in the game.

I am a fan. The All-Star Game doesn’t count for anything anymore. It’s not tied to home field advantage in the World Series. Why not bend the rules? They allowed teams to move players in and out of the DH spot without penalty during the Futures Game, after all. I mentioned this to someone during the All-Star Game: after Yadier Molina drew his leadoff walk in the ninth inning, when the game was tied 1-1, the NL should have been able to pinch-run for him, then reinsert Molina at catcher. I can’t think of a good reason not to do it. I suppose you have to put some kind of limit on it so the AL doesn’t pinch-hit Judge every bat, but that’s workable. That said, many of the players don’t hang around for the whole game. The starters come out of the game, get showered, talk to the media, then leave. No one is going to want to hang around in case they’re needed later in the game.

Brent asks: CC has been one of my favorites, I irrationally get excited when he pitches. He’s been not bad this year for a his age. If hes able to get to 3k SO and 250 W’s and a high 3 Era any chance he gets into the hof? And are there any players in the org or on the roster you think could eventually be HOF’s, hypothetically?

CC Sabathia was on the Hall of Fame track before those three disastrous years from 2013-15. He currently has 230 wins, a 3.70 ERA (117 ERA+), and 2,789 strikeouts to his credit. Getting to 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts is doable, though it’ll take at least one more year beyond this one, probably two more years. Even then, 250 wins and 3,000 strikeouts doesn’t guarantee a Hall of Fame selection.

For what it’s worth, Jay Jaffe’s JAWS system says Sabathia falls comfortably short of the established Hall of Fame standards for starting pitchers in terms of both overall career value and peak value. Sabathia is more Chuck Finley and Orel Hershiser than John Smoltz and Randy Johnson. And that’s fine. Sabathia’s had an amazing career and he’s accomplished a ton. No shame in settling for the Hall of Very Good.

As for other potential Hall of Famers in the organization … I don’t see one. Matt Holliday will fall short and he’s probably the best candidate. Projecting out Judge and Gary Sanchez so far into the future is impossible. I love those guys. But they are a long, long, long, long way from the Hall of Fame conversation. Sabathia is the best shot at a Hall of Famer among the current Yankees with Holliday a distant second. No one else is even close right now. (Because they’re just now starting their careers, which is awesome.)

Zachary asks: If they juiced the balls a year earlier, is A-Rod still playing major league baseball? Is he past 714?

The ball was probably juiced last year too. Last season was the second most home run happy season in baseball history. The top three:

  1. 2017: 1.26 homers per team per game
  2. 2000: 1.17
  3. 2016: 1.16

As much as I love A-Rod, he looked pretty done last year. He struggled to make contact, and even when he did get the bat on the ball, he wasn’t able to drive it much. His bat had slowed noticeably. I don’t think even the juiced ball would have saved Alex Rodriguez.

Jon asks: In his Futures write up, Keith Law said he doesn’t see how Domingo Acevedo could have fringe average command but his walk rate in the minors is very reasonable. What am I missing?

Walk rate is a control stat, not a command stat. There isn’t a reliable way to measure command right now. (Baseball Prospectus tried it.) Control is strike-throwing ability. Getting the ball over the plate. Acevedo and lots of other guys can do that. Command is throwing quality strikes. The ability to paint the corners and dot the knees. Not as many guys can do that. Acevedo has a very good walk rate (5.6% this year), especially for a dude his size. But if you watched the Futures Game, you saw that everything was basically middle-middle. That works in High-A and Double-A when you’re throwing 97-98. It won’t work at the upper levels. I think Acevedo could get by in relief right now as a grip it and rip it guy. His command absolutely needs to improve to remain a starter.

Ryan asks: My gut tells me the Yankees will send down Clint Frazier to make room for Holiday, but should they send Frazier down? I think Clint could aptly fill the original Hicks role as the 4th OF. Gardner, Ellsbury and Holiday could all use extra rest, and Frazier could play 3-4x week and keep the vets fresh. Would it be better for Frazier’s development to play a few times a week until Hicks is healthy or play everyday in the minors?

I thought they would send Frazier down when Holliday returns, but then he started socking dingers last weekend. It’s a little hard to send him down now. Frazier is not your run of the mill prospect. He’s a special talent and when a guy like that has some success at the MLB level, I think you have to let him run with it, and I think the Yankees will. They are committed to this youth movement.

I expect Frazier to stay when Holliday returns — I guess that means Rob Refsnyder goes down? — and the Yankees to reevaluate the outfield situation when Aaron Hicks returns in a few weeks. Maybe Frazier will play himself back to Triple-A by then. Until then, move Frazier around the outfield like Hicks earlier this year. This kid has more than 400 Triple-A plate appearances to his credit and he has a chance to be a core piece going forward. When he comes up and starts mashing taters, you keep him up.

Thomas asks: Any idea why MLB decided to have no games on Thursday after the ASG this year? I would think both teams would prefer to play Thursday instead of playing a doubleheader on Sunday.

Two things. One, the Thursday off-day after the All-Star Game was negotiated into the last Collective Bargaining Agreement. In the past some teams played Thursday. There are no games that day now. And two, I am very sure the players would rather play a doubleheader on Sunday than give up the fourth day of the All-Star break. Off-days are like Christmas to these guys. Back-to-back off-days is a like a week’s vacation. They don’t want to cut short their All-Star break.

DotF: Castro begins rehab assignment in Trenton’s win

Here are the day’s notes:

  • Keith Law (subs. req’d) posted his midseason top 50 prospects list and SS Gleyber Torres ranks second behind Mets SS Amed Rosario. No other Yankees make the list, though OF Clint Frazier is not eligible because he’s in the big leagues. OF Blake Rutherford was ranked 22nd before the season and dropped out of the top 50 entirely. “Two scouts I asked said he’s just not making hard contact at all. That’s shocking given what I saw from him in (high school),” said Law in his chat.
  • Baseball Prospectus posted a fun list of the top 50 prospect busts. Four of the top five are Yankees (!): 3B Drew Henson (No. 1), C Jesus Montero (No. 2), LHP Brien Taylor (No. 4), and OF Ruben Rivera (No. 5). There are also a lot of Red Sox and Mets prospects in the top 50. Maybe that says something about big market prospects getting overrated? Anyway, the list is not behind the paywall, so check it out.
  • The Yankees have signed Cal State Bakersfield 2B Dave Metzgar as an undrafted free agent, reports Matt Eddy. He hit .372/.425/.465 with 24 walks and 14 strikeouts in 55 games this spring. Metzgar hit two (2) home runs in 222 career games with the Roadrunners.

Triple-A Scranton (6-1 win over Buffalo)

  • CF Mason Williams: 3-5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 K — 19-for-53 (.358) during his 13-game hitting streak
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-5
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — two homers in his last three games
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 44 of 68 pitches were strikes (65%) … five runs allowed in his last four starts and 26 innings at this level
  • RHP Brady Lail: 3 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 28 of 43 pitches were strikes (65%)

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

Another night without baseball, Yankees or otherwise. That’s alright. Enjoy it. The second half is going to be pretty grueling and stressful. The Yankees start a four games in three days series at Fenway Park tomorrow night. They’re jumping right back into the fire. At least the trades are starting.

Here is an open thread for the night. There’s a whole bunch of nothing going on tonight, so you’re on your own for entertainment. You folks know how these open threads work by now, so have at it.

2017 Midseason Review: Holliday and the Rest of the Roster

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So far this season the Yankees have used 43 different players — 23 position players and 20 pitchers — which is the seventh most in baseball. The Mariners lead the way with 47 players and both the Indians and Diamondbacks have been lucky enough to use only 35 players. The Yankees used their fair share of shuttle arms in the first half, though position player injuries also forced them to dip into their farm system more than expected.

We’ve already covered most of those 43 players as part of our Midseason Review. Now it’s time to wrap things up and cover whoever has been left behind. Among them is one regular because I am bad at scheduling. Time to finish off the Midseason Review.

Matt Holliday: As Advertised

When the Yankees signed Holliday in November, he came billed as a good clubhouse guy and a professional hitter with some bounceback potential given his exit velocities and things like that. Nothing was guaranteed, of course. Holliday did turn 37 in January and he very easily could have been at the end of the line. The Yankees bet $13M on a rebound and so far he’s been worth every penny.

Holliday, as the team’s regular DH and occasional first baseman, is hitting .262/.366/.511 (132 wRC+) with 15 homers in 68 games so far, and he’s the No. 1 reason the Yankees have the most productive DH spot in the baseball.

  1. Yankees: 137 wRC+
  2. Mariners: 129 wRC+
  3. Indians: 127 wRC+

Oddly enough, Holliday’s strikeouts are way up this year. His 25.7% strikeout rate is on pace to shatter his previous career high (19.6% as a rookie in 2004). I think there’s a chance Holliday is selling out for power, which might partially explain the strikeouts. Holliday has also been pretty streaky. That’s alright though. He’s been productive more often than not, and day-to-day consistency in baseball is a myth anyway.

Beyond the on-field production, Holliday has also been a positive on all the young players the Yankees are incorporating into their lineup. Aaron Judge went out of his way to praise Holliday at the All-Star Game media day Monday. Here’s what Judge told Brendan Kuty about Holliday earlier this month:

“I just pick his brain on what he does,” Judge said he often asks Holliday. “‘What are you doing in a situation, with a certain pitcher? What are you doing with this guy? He’s a sinkerball pitcher, what do you try to do with those guys?’ I’ve picked up a couple little things.”

“He’s just really committed to his plan,” Judge said. “That’s one thing I’ve noticed. I’ll talk to him (in the early afternoon) and I’ll say, ‘Hey, what are you doing this game? What are you trying to do against this guy?’ Every single time I ask him, ‘What are you working on?’ He’ll say he’s trying to stick to his plan and drive the ball to right field. That’s why he’s so successful. He just sticks to it, no matter the situation.”

An illness, which was recently confirmed as Epstein-Barr, has had Holliday on the shelf since June 24th and holy cow did the Yankees miss his bat these last few weeks. He did play a pair of rehab games last weekend and is tentatively scheduled to rejoin the Yankees for the second half opener tomorrow. That’s huge. Holliday has been everything the Yankees could have expected and more.

The Extra Position Players

Among all the random position player call-ups the Yankees have made this year, whether it was an injury fill-in or a one-day audition, the leader in plate appearances is … catcher Kyle Higashioka. He served as the backup catcher in April when an injury forced Gary Sanchez to the 10-day DL and Austin Romine into the starter’s role. Higashioka went 0-for-18 and started only five games. If that changed your opinion of him, you’re thinking too hard.

Another April injury fill-in was veteran Pete Kozma, who served as the backup while Didi Gregorius was hurt and Ronald Torreyes started at shortstop. Kozma went 1-for-9 with the Yankees and had nothing resembling a signature moment. The Yankees lost him to the Rangers on waivers when Gregorius returned and Kozma is still on their bench because Jurickson Profar played his way down to Triple-A.

Last month the Yankees finally got sick of Chris Carter and finally called up Tyler Austin, who missed the start of the season after fracturing his ankle with a foul ball early in Spring Training. Austin mashed with Triple-A Scranton before the call-up, hitting .300/.366/.560 (151 wRC+). He came up, went 2-for-13 with a home run and six strikeouts at the plate, then landed on the 10-day DL with a fairly significant hamstring strain. The Yankees can’t have nice things at first base.

The final two position players both played only one game in the big leagues this year, for very different reasons. After Holliday landed on the disabled list, the Yankees called up third base prospect Miguel Andujar for a day, and he went 3-for-4 with a double in his MLB debut. He became the first player in franchise history to drive in four runs in his big league debut.

The Yankees sent Andujar down to the minors the next day because they didn’t have regular at-bats to give him and there’s no point in making the kid sit on the bench. Andujar is really breaking out in the minors this year — he’s hitting .302/.336/.476 (121 wRC+) between Double-A and Triple-A — but he needs to work on his third base defense, so that’s what he’s doing. I’m glad the Yankees have resisted the temptation to move him to first to plug a short-term hole.

The other one-game position player in the first half was outfielder Dustin Fowler who gave us, hands down, the saddest moment of the season. In the first inning of his first big league game, Fowler crashed into the side wall in foul territory chasing a pop-up, which ruptured his right patella. It was an open rupture, meaning it broke through the skin. Yikes. Fowler had emergency surgery that night and is done for the season.

Fowler came up to replace Andujar after hitting .293/.329/.542 (137 wRC+) down in Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees called him up before Clint Frazier. They like him that much. Fowler’s injury is so sad. I feel terrible for the kid. The good news is he is expected to make a full recovery in time for Spring Training. Plus he’s on the big league disabled list collecting service time and big league pay, so his bank account is doing better. But still, you know Fowler wants to play. What a terrible and sad moment.

The Extra Pitchers

For the first two months or so of the season, the Yankees did away with the bullpen shuttle. The days of calling up a new reliever every day to make sure Joe Girardi had a fresh arm in the bullpen were over. The Yankees stuck with their guys. Then the bullpen melted down and started blowing leads left and right, and the Yankees started shuttling guys in and out regularly. Such is life. The shuttle returned last month.

The one shuttle reliever who made the Opening Day roster is Bryan Mitchell. Back-to-back rough outings (seven runs in 2.2 innings) earned him a demotion to Triple-A at the end of April. He came back up briefly at the end of May and again at the end of June. So far this season Mitchell has a 5.06 ERA (4.02 FIP) in 16 big leagues innings and a 3.60 ERA (2.27 FIP) in 35 Triple-A innings. He’ll be back at some point in the second half, I’m sure of it. Mitchell’s time to carve out a long-term role with the Yankees is running out though.

Luis Cessa, who was in the running for an Opening Day rotation spot, has made three starts and three relief appearances for the Yankees this year. The three starts came when CC Sabathia was on the disabled list and they did not go well (eleven runs in 13.2 innings). The three relief appearances were better (two runs in eleven innings). The end result is a 4.18 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 23.2 innings. I like Cessa — I seem to the be the only one who likes Cessa — and hope we see more of him going forward.

Four shuttle relievers have made their MLB debut this season: Gio Gallegos, Domingo German, Ronald Herrera, and Tyler Webb. They’ve combined for the the following line: 31 IP, 32 H, 20 R, 18 ER, 16 BB, 30 K. Replacement Level ‘R Us. German showed the most potential among those four. By far, I think. He also returned from Tommy John surgery a little more than a year ago and needs to pitch, not sit in the big league bullpen as the eight reliever. He’s in Triple-A where he belongs. Also, Ben Heller spent a day with the Yankees. He faced three batters: grounder, walk, walk-off single off his butt. He does have a 2.68 ERA (3.11 FIP) in 37 Triple-A innings though.

* * *

The Yankees have used 43 players this season and over the last four years they’ve averaged 56 players per season, so recent history suggests we’re going to see several new faces in the second half. New faces from outside the organization or the farm system. Probably a little of both.

Yankees send Tyler Webb to Brewers for Garrett Cooper

(@Brewers)
(@Brewers)

A trade! A small one, but a trade nonetheless. The Yankees have shipped lefty reliever Tyler Webb to the Brewers for Triple-A first baseman Garrett Cooper, both teams have announced. This is very much a spare part for spare part trade. The Yankees need first base help and the Brewers need a lefty reliever, so they got together for a minor deal.

Cooper, 26, is hitting .366/.428/.652 (171 wRC+) with 17 homers in 75 Triple-A games this season, though he’s playing in an extreme hitter’s park in Colorado Springs. So far this year’s hit .442/.503/.829 at home and .300/.359/.500 on the road, in all the other hitter friendly Pacific Coast League ballparks. Consider yourself forewarned: don’t read too much into the overall stat line.

The Yankees are tentatively scheduled to face four left-handed starters in the first give games of the second half, so I think there’s a decent chance the right-handed hitting Cooper will join the Yankees in Boston tomorrow for his MLB debut. They’ve been use Austin Romine as a platoon first baseman in recent weeks and no. Just no. I highly doubt the Yankees are looking at Cooper as a long-term first base solution. He’s a Tyler Austin replacement, basically.

Webb, 27 next week, has allowed three runs in six innings with the Yankees this year. He also has a 3.24 ERA (2.15 FIP) in 33.1 Triple-A innings. This was his fourth year spending time at Triple-A. The Pirates took a look at Webb as a Rule 5 Draft pick in Spring Training, and, when he didn’t stick, he cleared waivers and was returned to the Yankees. Going to the Brewers should be a pretty good opportunity for Webb.

With Webb gone and Tommy Layne recently released, the Yankees are left with Chasen Shreve as their only real lefty reliever option. (Not counting Aroldis Chapman.) There’s Joe Mantiply in Triple-A, and I guess they could give Caleb Smith or Dietrich Enns a try in relief, but that’s about it. The Yankees have been looking for a lefty reliever since the offseason and there’s no reason to think that’ll change.

The Yankees now have an open 40-man roster spot and an open 25-man roster spot, both of which could go to Cooper if he is called up. I suppose the other alternative is playing Matt Holliday, who is tentatively scheduled to come off the disabled list tomorrow, at first base and continuing the four-man outfield rotation. Hmmm. Then again, the Yankees would be playing both Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury against lefties in that scenario. We’ll see.

Scouting the Trade Market: Tommy Joseph

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

If the Yankees are going to be buyers at the deadline, they’re more likely to go for a temporary replacement at first base rather than a long-term solution. Despite comments from an anonymous person in the front office, there’s still belief that Greg Bird can be the first baseman of the future.

Assuming the Yankees go that route, Domenic covered the options pretty well already. However, I’d like to throw out a name of a player that’s under long-term control and could fill the short-term need as well.

Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph is in just his second MLB season and isn’t arbitration eligible until 2020. This isn’t a rental. But with first base prospect Rhys Hoskins knocking on the door of the major leagues, the team has made Joseph available.

Does he fit the Yankees? Let’s take a look:

Current performance

Joseph has been in the major leagues for nearly a year and a half now. He was called up last May. Initially, he was primarily a platoon bat alongside Ryan Howard. However, his early power earned him everyday playing time last summer before Howard surged in the second half.

This year, he has been the starting first baseman all season. He put together an abominable April (.179/.222./.254 in 19 games) before killing the ball in May to the tune of a .300/.373/.600 line with seven home runs. He’s hit well since then. In total, he’s hit .252/.313/.466 (102 wRC+), below the average first baseman’s line. Still, it’s better than anything out of a Yankees’ first baseman this season. For what it’s worth, he’s hitting .273/.339/.529 (125 wRC+) since May 1.

Diving further into his stats, Joseph has one significant tool: Power. 32 of his 74 hits have gone for extra bases, including 15 home runs. He hit 21 home runs in just 347 plate appearances last year. That power has been his calling card at every level. Through 670 MLB PAs, he has 36 home runs and 31 doubles to go with a .233 ISO.

He struggles to command the strike zone. His walk rate is up from 6.3 to 7.7 percent this year, but his strikeout rate also climbed from 21.6 to 23.5. Hoskins, who will likely take his job soon, has drawn plenty of walks in the minors, which Joseph never did.

Joseph, who turns 26 on July 16, was drafted by the Giants as a catcher, but concussions moved him out from behind the plate. He’s a well below-average first baseman. Better than Howard, but not by much. He makes the routine plays better than Chris Carter but his lack of range limits his ability to make any tough plays.

He’s also a negative on the base paths. His 25.7 ft/s sprint speed according to Statcast would make him the slowest player on the Yankees and he’s tied for third in baseball in double plays grounded into with 15, just two behind teammate Maikel Franco and Matt Kemp for first place. He often pulls the ball on the ground, though he hits the ball to all fields in the air. He’s still primarily a pull hitter, as you’ll see below.

(Baseball Savant)
(Baseball Savant)

He’s produced 0.2 bWAR (0.0 fWAR) this year after 0.5 bWAR (0.9fWAR) as part-time player last year. The Phillies have the third worst bWAR at first base, only one spot ahead of Yankees. That’s largely because of Joseph’s fielding and nearly zero production from the Phillies’ backups.

Contract and injury situation

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Joseph is very cheap when it comes to first base options on the market. He won’t be a free agent until 2023 and won’t make above the minimum until 2020. He’s been barely above replacement level thus far, but his contract gives him value, especially for a team that has received below replacement value at first this year. He still has options left as well.

As for injuries, Joseph has had a clean bill of health in the majors. His concussions issues have subsided in the last two years and that led to his resurgence as a prospect and, ultimately, his call-up to the majors. He’s been able to handle first base consistently without breaking down this season.

While he’s under control, the Phillies aren’t in a spot to demand much. Most teams don’t have a need for a no-glove first baseman with some power as most teams already have someone who at least fits that. The Yankees are one of a few teams that have an opening and could make sense.

Teams also know that the Phillies need to dispatch Joseph to give Hoskins an opportunity in the majors. Neither has the range to play the outfield and they’re both RHBs, so one has to go. Acquiring him shouldn’t cost too much more than a secondary or tertiary prospect or so.

Does he make sense for the Yankees?

Joseph would be an immediate improvement for the Yankees at first in the lineup, adding some power towards the end of the lineup. Realistically, he could do what Carter was expected to do. He’d make sense in a platoon with Ji-Man Choi for the time being as Joseph was solid in that role last season.

If you’re going to acquire a first baseman with this much control, you need to be certain that he fits into your long-term plans. And it doesn’t seem like he fits in New York beyond this season. In the case Bird comes back healthy, Joseph becomes a platoon bat at best. Expendable or optionable like he is for the Phillies at worst. If Bird isn’t healthy, the Yankees would likely acquire a veteran free agent to start in his place.

Joseph could be a serviceable placeholder with the requisite power to play first. The 25-year-old is not someone to acquire for significant assets, but he’s a useful depth piece in the short term. If the Yankees are intrigued by Pat Neshek, a package deal could work. Ultimately though, it’s tough to see where Joseph gets playing time beyond 2017 in New York.

First pitcher off the board: Cubs acquire Jose Quintana

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The first major trade domino has fallen. This morning the Cubs and White Sox announced left-hander Jose Quintana is heading to the north side for a package of four prospects, including top prospects Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease. Quintana’s been on the block for a while and the Cubbies desperate need rotation help, both short and long-term, so the two Chicago teams got together for a blockbuster.

My quick take on the trade: it’s fair for both sides. Boring, I know, but it is what it is. Jimenez is very good, one of the top prospects in the sport, and Cease has a ton of upside despite some arm problems. Quintana is excellent and has been for years now. Even after a slow start to this season, he’s settled in nicely the last few weeks and has dragged his numbers down to 4.49 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 104.1 innings. Plus he’s signed affordably through 2020.

The Yankees have been connected to Quintana in recent weeks and months (and years). Baseball America recently ranked Jimenez and Cease as the 5th and 83rd best prospects in baseball, respectively. The other two prospects in the trade, first baseman Matt Rose and infielder Bryant Flete, weren’t among the Cubs’ top 30 prospects. An equivalent Yankees package would have been something like Gleyber Torres, Justus Sheffield, and two others.

For all intents and purposes, the White Sox traded Quintana for the Andrew Miller package. Two top 100 prospects plus two others. The Yankees have been hesitant to trade their top prospects this far and I’m not surprised they declined to get into a bidding war for Quintana, no matter how much he would have helped them now and going forward. The White Sox have prioritized upside in their recent trades and they’re doing a great job restocking the system.

With Quintana off the board, the best available starting pitcher at the trade deadline will be, uh, Sonny Gray? Maybe Gerrit Cole? We have to see how the market develops. I’d take Quintana over either Gray or Cole, and I love Sonny Gray, at least when he’s healthy. Anyway, the trade deadline is now 18 days away and the first domino just fell. The floodgates could open soon.