King: Yankees to scout Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo tomorrow

Via George King: The Yankees will be among the teams to watch Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo at his showcase in Miami (at Alex Rodriguez Park!) tomorrow. “He reminds me of (Dayan) Viciedo, not with the power, but with the way he plays and he has very good speed,” said one scout. “He is not (Yasiel) Puig. Some teams think he is a fourth outfielder but others believe he can be more.”

Castillo, 27, has already been declared a free agent by MLB and is free to sign. He is represented by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. “Castillo has good strength for his relatively short stature and is an athletic player whose best tool is his plus-plus speed … Castillo can sting the ball from the right side of the plate, projecting as a line-drive bat who hits a lot of doubles and triples rather than home runs. He’s an aggressive hitter with good bat speed, though his swing can get long at times and he will expand his strike zone,” wrote Ben Badler recently. Here’s the obligatory highlight video.

Because of his age, Castillo would not count against a team’s international signing pool, not that it matters for the Yankees at this point. They haven’t signed a big name Cuban player since getting burned by Jose Contreras, though they did show serious interest in Aledmys Diaz earlier this year and appear to be ready to get back into the market. I have no idea what kind of contract Castillo will command or if he makes sense for the Yankees, who already have two low-power outfielders signed for big bucks long-terms. Either way, they’ll be on hand to see up close this weekend.

Mailbag: Kemp, Barney, Aiken, Bailey, Lee

Got eight questions for you this week. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Victor Decolongon/Getty)
(Victor Decolongon/Getty)

Many asked: What about Matt Kemp?

Kemp, who is still only 29, is open to being traded to a team that will put him back in center field full-time, according to Ken Rosenthal. That obviously isn’t happening with the Yankees. The Dodgers have been playing Kemp in left field and a tiny little bit in right while guys like Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke play center. They think that little of Kemp’s defense, and, of course, they have veteran outfielders to spare. He seems to be the most movable.

Kemp missed basically half of last season with shoulder, hamstring, and ankle injuries — the shoulder and ankle problems required surgery and he’s had shoulder surgery in each of the last two offseasons — but he’s been healthy this year, hitting a solid .268/ .33/.422 (116 wRC+) overall. That’s much better than last year’s 103 wRC+ mark but far behind his 2011 (168 wRC+) and 2012 (145 wRC+) production. He has always struck out a bunch (25.8%) but makes up for it with walks (9.2%), though his  power (.154 ISO) disappeared following shoulder surgery and he’s not the first guy that’s happened to.

There is approximately $118M left on Kemp’s contract through 2019 and that’s an avoid at all costs deal for me. The structural problems in his shoulder explain the missing power — Adrian Gonzalez had the same surgery a few years ago and his power isn’t close to what it once was — and doesn’t give me much reason to expect it to return. His defense isn’t good and it’s clear he isn’t happy playing a corner spot. This isn’t a “let’s take a flier on him” situation, there’s too much money left on his deal for that. I’d steer clear unless Los Angeles was willing to eat a substantial sum of money and take back only middling prospects in return. Too many red flags.

(For what it’s worth, Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS system projects Kemp for a total of 7.7 WAR from 2005-19. Yikes.)

A few asks: What about Darwin Barney?

This is an easy no for me. Barney flat out can’t hit (58 wRC+ this year and a 67 wRC+ in over 2,000 career plate appearances) and while he’s a very good defender, he isn’t as good as the defensive stats said he was a few years ago because they were not yet accounting for the shift. The Yankees have the exact same player in Brendan Ryan — a better version, in fact, because Ryan can play shortstop. Very easy no for me. If they’re going to replace Brian Roberts, I’d hope they would call up Rob Refsnyder before going with someone like Barney.

Brady Achin'. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Brady Achin’. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

Many asked: What about Brady Aiken? Should the Yankees go after him if MLB declares him a free agent?

The Astros failed to sign Aiken, the first overall pick in this summer’s draft, last week after a pre-signing physical showed his UCL was smaller than usual. It’s not torn, it’s just an abnormality, like Ty Hensley had in his shoulder. The two sides had agreed to a $6.5M bonus, but Houston dropped it down to $5M after seeing his elbow and they couldn’t come to terms. Fifth rounder Jacob Nix agreed to a $1.5M bonus that was based on savings from Aiken’s below-slot bonus, but the Astros went back on that deal too. Nix really got screwed.

Anyway, the MLBPA filed a grievance on Aiken’s (and Nix’s) behalf because of how negotiations were handled. The usually mild-mannered Casey Close represents both and he tore into Houston for how they handled talks. The odds are strongly against MLB making either player a free agent, however, because the team did make both players the minimum required offer according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The league declared Barret Loux a free agent a few years ago because the Diamondbacks never made him an offer after taking him sixth overall and not liking something they saw in his shoulder. But yes, in the unlikely event Aiken (or Nix) is declared a free agent, the Yankees should go after him, clearly. They never got a chance to sign talent like that. Flex those financial muscles.

Daniel asks: Looking to next season, I was wondering if it would be possible if not likely that the Yankees would look to re-sign Chase Headley. I know there is the A-Rod potential issue as always but what kind of a deal would Headley require? If he continued at his pace of below average offense and strong defense, is it possible he’d sign a one year relatively low cost deal to rebuild value? Or is there a team out there other than the Yankees desperate enough to bet on his past production and go all in with a multi year deal?

As with Brandon McCarthy, I think it’s possible the Yankees will re-sign Headley after the season, but how he plays the next two months will play a huge role in that. Remember, when they traded for Lance Berkman a few years, there was immediate talk of re-signing him as a part-time first baseman/DH, but he played his way out of town.

Headley should have a decent market after the season because third basemen are always in demand, so I don’t think a one-year deal will do it. Plus he’s at that age when he’ll look for the biggest payday possible. Brian Cashman made it clear Headley was a rental after the trade, so maybe the team is dead set on playing Alex Rodriguez at third next year and won’t even consider bringing Headley back. But yeah, to answer the question, I think there’s at least a small chance he’ll come back, but it’ll take multiple years. I don’t see a one-year deal doing it in this market.

Steven asks: Any update on Andrew Bailey? Is he in any position to help the team? And is he on a two-year contract so that the real upside of the deal is 2015? I honestly forgot about him.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The last update we got on Bailey came back on June 26th, when VP of Baseball Ops Mark Newman confirmed the right-hander was throwing bullpens in Tampa, but only fastballs and changeups. He had yet to start throwing breaking balls. The Yankees have maintained that if Bailey does pitch this year, it’ll be very late in the season, sometime in September. This signing was always about 2015 (his contract includes a club option). Anything Bailey gives them this year is gravy. It’s pretty amazing how the four injured relievers everyone wanted their team to sign — Bailey, Jesse Crain, Ryan Madson, and Joel Hanrahan — have yet to pitch this season. Hanrahan just suffered a setback and is done for the year, in fact. Arm injuries suck, man.

Dan asks: Assuming the season won’t be lost at that point; why not wait on Cliff Lee to get to waivers and then put in a claim on him and see if you can get him just for his salary? He’s making a lot, but it’s only for one additional year and the Yanks can afford it. Better to save the prospects I think then squabble over Philly eating $5-10M.

The Dodgers actually claimed Lee off trade waivers in August a few years ago, but the Phillies pulled him back. I’m sure they would do the same this year — you don’t let aces go for nothing more than salary relief — unless they have serious concerns about his elbow. Then they might just dump him and walk away, but I think that’s unlikely. From where I sit, it would make sense for the Yankees claim, if for no other reason than to block a team like the Orioles or Mariners or Angels from potentially acquiring him. It is a risky move though because you could wind up with a $25M a year pitcher with a bum elbow. This seems like a “yeah definitely do it” move to us, but there’s a lot of other stuff to consider that we’re just not privy to, like his medicals and the team’s financial situation.

Jeff asks: If you had to chose between a power hitting RF’er or a starting pitcher at the Deadline, and you could only have one or the other, which would it be?

As much as the Yankees need offense, it would have to be another starter. I have much more faith in the team’s ability to fix their lineup internally than I do the rotation. They could call up Zoilo Almonte or Rob Refsnyder, or Brian McCann or Carlos Beltran could get hot, something like that. The rotation though? There’s nothing left in the minors, they’ve used up all of their depth. Chase Whitley gets major props for what he’s done as a recently converted starter, but replacing him is a priority before the deadline. The Yankees need both, a right fielder and a starter, but I’ll take the pitcher if I can only pick one.

Dan asks: True or False: Next year is make or break for Tyler Austin, Mason Williams, and Manny Banuelos as prospects?

I’ll say false, true, and false. Austin (wrist) and Banuelos (elbow) have had injury trouble the last few years and I think they need more time to get over that and show what they can do at 100%. Williams has been healthy these last two years though and he just hasn’t made any progress whatsoever. A third straight year of that would not be the end of his career, but it would be pretty damning. Talent and tools alone don’t buy guys unlimited opportunities, especially when they’ve had attitude and makeup issues like Williams.

Update: Yankees interested in Kennedy, not for Jagielo and Clarkin

11:09pm: Jon Heyman to the rescue! He says the Yankees do have interest in Kennedy but not at the cost of Jagielo and Clarkin. Maybe Bowden meant “discussing” as in “that’s who the Padres asked for.”

11:08pm: Via Jim Bowden: The Yankees and Padres are discussing a trade that would bring Ian Kennedy back to New York in exchange for 2013 first rounders Eric Jagielo and Ian Clarkin. The Yankees had a scout on hand to watch IPK’s start last night, according to multiple reports. That’s an awful lot to give up for Kennedy, who has been merely good and not great the last few years. Here’s my Scouting The Market post on him. This one doesn’t really pass the sniff test, but we’ll see.

DotF: Zoilo swats three homers* in Scranton’s blowout win

In case you missed it earlier today, I posted my Post-Draft Top 30 Prospects List this morning. There’s a new number one!

Triple-A Scranton Game One (12-4 win over Gwinnett) completion of yesterday’s game, which was suspended due to rain with two outs in the top of the third

  • LF Taylor Dugas: 2-5, 1 R, 1 BB
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-5, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 13 homers in 101 games this year after six homers in 130 games last year
  • RF Zoilo Almonte: 4-6, 3 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 2 K — hit two homers yesterday before the rain and the third today (that’s the * in the title)
  • 1B Kyle Roller: 2-5, 1 R, 2 K
  • C Austin Romine: 3-5, 1 R — 12-for-36 (.333) in his last ten games
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 3/1 GB/FB — 13 of 18 pitches were strikes (72%) … pitched before the rain yesterday
  • LHP Nik Turley: 4 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 2 WP, 1 HBP, 4/1 GB/FB — 49 of 88 pitches were strikes (56%)
  • RHP Matt Daley: 3 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 1/3 GB/FB — 26 of 31 pitches were strikes (84%) … 46/7 K/BB in 31.2 innings at this level

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

The AL is such a mess this year, isn’t it? I’ve started scoreboard watching every night — it just sorta happens organically each year, there isn’t a set date when I start paying attention to other teams around the league — and I have no idea who to root for because everyone’s lumped together. The Orioles and Mariners play four games this weekend, for example. I’d like Seattle to sweep so the Yankees can potentially move closer to the top spot in the AL East, but that will hurt them in the wildcard race. Bah, whatever.

Here is your open thread for the night. The Mets are playing plus MLB Network is showing a few games tonight, both at 7pm ET and again at 10pm ET. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, or anything else right here. Have at it.

Yankees acquire Chris Capuano from Rockies

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

The Yankees have acquired left-hander Chris Capuano from the Rockies for cash considerations, the team announced. Brian Cashman has been talking about making incremental upgrades in recent weeks and this move qualifies as an incremental upgrade over the Chris Lerouxes and Jeff Franci of the pitching world.

Capuano, 35, had a 4.55 ERA (4.06 FIP) in 31.2 relief innings for the Red Sox before being released earlier this year. He hooked on with Colorado and had a 2.79 ERA (~3.43 FIP) in four starts and 19.1 minor league innings split between Double-A and Triple-A. Lefties knocked Capuano around pretty well (.384 wOBA) during his time with Boston but he has dominated them in recent years (.260 wOBA from 2012-13).

I’m not sure if Capuano, who is not on the 40-man roster, will report to Triple-A or join the big league team. With eight relievers and Mark Teixeira banged up, some roster shuffling is in order. Leroux and Francis could both be on the way out with Capuano and a position player joining the team. We’ll find out soon enough. The Yankees are incrementally upgrading to glory.

Yanks wrap up series with 4-2 win over Rangers

Make it six wins in seven second half games. The Yankees wrapped up their series against the Rangers with a tidy 4-2 win on Thursday afternoon, giving them three wins in the four-game series. Business, it’s being taken care of.

Love this photo. (Presswire)
Love this photo. (Presswire)

Second Time Around
It took Colby Lewis, he of the 6.37 ERA and .347 opponent’s batting average coming into Thursday, a total of 29 pitches to work through the first three innings. The only base-runner during those three innings was Brendan Ryan, who took a pitch off his elbow with two outs in the third. After watching the Yankees get shut down by the likes of Miles Mikolas and Nick Martinez earlier in the series, it was easy to think the offense was on its way to another no-show.

Then, thankfully, the second (and third) times through the order went much differently. Four of the next seven batters reached base, including a leadoff bloop double by Brett Gardner and a two-out single off the wall by Chase Headley with two outs in the third. That scored Gardner for the team’s first run. A four-pitch Ichiro Suzuki walk and a Frankie Cervelli double into the left field corner leading off the fourth led to the second run. Cervelli eventually came around to score on Gardner’s sacrifice fly later in the inning. A Ryan sac bunt and an unintentional intentional walk to Jacoby Ellsbury was sandwiched in the middle there.

After retiring eight batters to start the game, Lewis put eight of the next 20 Yankees on base, including two on extra-base hits and four without making them take the bat off their shoulders (three walks and a hit batsman). Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann teamed up for a much-appreciated insurance run in the eighth inning — Beltran found a hole with a ground ball single and McCann drove him in with an opposite field double into the left-center field gap. Off a lefty too. The Yankees couldn’t get McCann home from second despite having three chances, but whatever. Getting the one run is a win in my eyes.

No Command, No Problem
In terms of stuff and command, this was the worst of Brandon McCarthy‘s three starts as a Yankee. Seventy-four of his 109 pitches were strikes but six of 23 batters saw a three-ball count and 15 had at-bats of at least four pitches. McCarthy came into Thursday averaging 3.59 pitches per plate appearance, the seventh lowest among 94 qualified starters, so he wasn’t sharp and Texas forced him to work hard.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

And yet, McCarthy gave the Yankees six innings of one run ball. It helped that the Rangers are awful, no doubt about it, but McCarthy also made some pretty big pitches to work out of jams in the third (Alex Rios flew out with runners on the corners) and fifth (Elvis Andrus struck out with runners on second and third) innings. The only run scored after two ground ball singles (Rougned Odor and Shin-Soo Choo) and a bloop (Andrus) that fell between Ellsbury and Brian Roberts in shallow center. It was just out of the reach of Roberts and he kicked it away, letting Choo advance another base. Blah. Considering he did not have his best stuff and certainly not his best location, it was a solid outing for McCarthy.

To The Bullpen
Two-run lead with nine outs to go and a rested-ish bullpen after the rain-shortened game on Wednesday? Joe Girardi had things set up perfectly. Then Adam Warren served up a leadoff homer to J.P. Arencibia to start the seventh, throwing a bit of a wrench into things. Warren retired the next two batters (fly out, foul out) and Matt Thornton got his lefty (pop up) to finish off the seventh. Dellin Betances (strikeout, two fly outs) tossed a perfect eighth and David Robertson pitched around a one-out walk in the ninth (fly out, two strikeouts) for his 25th save in 27 chances. Give that man an extension already.

Leftovers
The only starters without a hit were Ellsbury, Roberts, and Ryan. Ellsbury drew a walk and Ryan got hit by that pitch, so they still managed to reach base. Gardner, McCann, Headley, Ichiro, and Cervelli all had exactly one base hit, though they were of varying importance. Gardner has now reached base in 35 of his last 34 34 of his last 35 games. Pretty awesome.

Odor made an outstanding sliding stop at first base on Ryan’s sac bunt in the third. Adrian Beltre’s throw was low, but Odor slid feet-first into the base to grab the short-hop. It was pretty stellar. Girardi challenged the play — it appeared Odor’s foot might have been off the bag when he caught the ball — but the call was upheld. Really nifty play. A Yankees infielder would have crumbled into dust and a run would have scored if they had tried that.

And finally, the Yankees are now 24-24 at home on the season. I said they needed to play better at home to make a run at the postseason and they’ve done that so far. Getting back to .500 in the Bronx is a nice start to the second half.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, head over to MLB.com. FanGraphs has some additional stats and ESPN has the updated standings. The Orioles and Mariners start a four-game series tonight, so the Yankees will gain ground in either the AL East (Mariners win) or the second wildcard (Orioles win) race. They are 2.5 games back of the top spot in the division and tied with Seattle for the second wildcard spot at the moment.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The homestand will wrap up with a three-game series against the Blue Jays this weekend. That’s kind of a big one, the Yankees and Jays are basically tied in the standings. Hiroki Kuroda and Mark Buehrle will be Friday night’s pitching matchup. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch of this weekend’s games.