Badler: Yankees favored to sign Dominican righty Roancy Contreras

The Yankees' academy in the Dominican Republic. (
The Yankees’ academy in the Dominican Republic. (

Although the Yankees are still dealing with the penalties associated with their 2014-15 international spending spree, the team is still favored to land one of the top pitching prospects in Dominican Republic when the 2016-17 signing period opens on July 2nd. Ben Badler (subs. req’d) reports the Yankees “look like the favorites” to sign highly touted right-hander Roancy Contreras.

Contreras has “a fastball that has reached 92-93 mph, a sharp curveball with tight spin and a delivery that should allow him to be a starter,” writes Badler. He’s a little guy at 5-foot-10 and 180 lbs., so surely the Yankees are hoping Contreras grows a few inches at some point. Remember, we’re talking about a 16-year-old kid. Chances are an awkward growth spurt is coming at some point.

The Yankees can not hand out a bonus larger than $300,000 during the upcoming signing period, though apparently that won’t be a problem. I wonder if the Yankees were on to Contreras early — teams scout 14-year-olds in Latin America, if you can believe that — and locked him into a verbal agreement at some point, then bam, he showed up to the park one day with some extra velocity and improved his prospect stock. Something like that.

The 2016-17 signing period is the last signing period the Yankees will have to deal with the penalties from their 2014-15 spree. Chances are the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement will change the system — we might see an international draft going forward — so we’ll just have to see what happens in 2017-18, when the penalties are lifted. Either way, it sounds as though the Yankees are still going to be able to add a top pitching prospect in the upcoming signing period.

Hal and Cashman say the Yankees are not ready to sell because what else are they supposed to say?

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Even with yesterday’s dramatic win, the Yankees came into today with a 35-36 record and a 12.6% chance to make the postseason, per FanGraphs. They’re six games back in the AL East and 3.5 games back of a wildcard spot. Insurmountable deficits? Of course not. But the Yankees have their work cut out for them. No doubt.

Earlier this week both Hal Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman were asked about the state of the Yankees, and whether the club is leaning towards selling at the trade deadline. Here are their responses. First Hal, via Zach Braziller:

“I believe we’re going to be right smack in the middle of it by the end of July,” he said Monday at Cipriani in Midtown Manhattan at the annual Harlem RBI “Bids for Kids” fundraising dinner. “We’ll have to see at the end of July, like we always do. We’ll take a look at everything.

Steinbrenner said something similar last month, when the Yankees looked way more helpless than they do right now. They’ve at least reached .500 a few times in recent weeks. Now here’s what Cashman had to say, via Chad Jennings:

“Listen, we’re not going to be a seller unless ownership green-lights that,” Cashman said. “So I don’t have any number in my head. I’ll have an honest dialogue with ownership every step of the way as I always do. If we feel at a date in the future that that’s a necessity, then trust me, I’ll recommend it, and they’ll make a decision based on their comfort level … I’m always a brutally honest person. If I see things, I’ll always communicate honestly with ownership to the best of my abilities. Again, we’re in June, so right now it’s not the conversation we’re having.”

Interestingly, Cashman also ducked questions about whether he’s ever recommended selling to ownership in previous years. It has long been rumored the baseball operations folks pushed to trade Robinson Cano once they realized re-signing him after the 2013 season was going to be impossible, but ownership wouldn’t give the thumbs up. Who knows whether that is true. Anyone, I have some things to say about Hal’s and Cashman’s comments.

1. What did you expect them to say? I mean, seriously. Even if the Yankees were 100% committed and ready to sell right now, Hal and Cashman would still tell reporters they’re not planning to sell. I don’t think the Yankees are ready to sell now, but what the hell do I know? Either way, there is nothing to be gaining by declaring yourself a seller. You end up killing your own leverage by making it known you’re ready to move players. The Yankees are going to insist they are not sellers right up until the second they actually sell.

2. Winning helps them as sellers, you know. Selling is a weird concept and frankly, most of us have never experienced it as Yankee fans. If you want the Yankees to sell, you want them to keep losing so they decide to take the plunge and actually sell. At the same time, winning and staying in the race does give the team some extra leverage.

If the Yankees are, say, two games out of a wildcard spot on July 31st, they could at least give off the impression that they’re willing to keep guys like Aroldis Chapman and Carlos Beltran and have it be believable. That won’t happen if they’re something like seven games back and six teams ahead of them. Yes, losing a lot may convince the team to sell. That’s usually how it works. But if the Yankees do decide to move guys like Beltran and Chapman, winning a few games wouldn’t be the end of the world either.

3. It’s possible to both buy and sell. Cashman made an interesting comment the other day about the Yankees possibly being buyers and sellers. Those can be considered conflicting ideas, but they’re really not. At the end of the day the goal is to improve the team, and both buying and selling are steps toward achieving that goal.

It would be possible for the Yankees to move someone like Beltran for prospects at the deadline while also moving some young players for help elsewhere on the roster. Maybe a Triple-A outfielder and a lower level prospect for a young big league pitcher. See what I mean? They’d be selling Beltran and buying a young arm. It doesn’t have to be buy or sell. They can do both.

* * *

The buy or sell question is not going away, not unless the Yankees go on an insane run and find themselves firmly in the postseason picture come the end of July. That’s the only way they could ever become clear cut buyers this season, and let’s be honest, that’s just not going to happen. The Yankees haven’t given us any reason to think they’re capable of going on a run like that.

So Hal and Cashman can expect more questions about selling in the coming weeks and we should expect more of the same answers. We’ll look at everything at the end of July, blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. The Yankees really have perfected the art of saying a lot of words while saying nothing at all. Ultimately, the decision rests with ownership. Cashman can recommend selling and I don’t think he’d have any problem doing so. The question is whether Hal & Co. will bite the bullet and give the okay if the team is still on the fringes of the postseason picture.

Yankeemetrics: Rocky Mtn. High and Low [June 21-22]

(USA TODAY Sports)
(USA TODAY Sports)

From Super-Nova to Black Hole
The Yankees returned to the Bronx for their final homestand before the All-Star break but gave their fans nothing to cheer about on Tuesday night against the Rockies. This was another sloppy performance with multiple baserunning blunders, two errors committed and poor clutch hitting (0-for-10 with runners in scoring position), resulting in an 8-4 loss.

Yankee pitchers flashed dominance with 13 strikeouts, but also were pounded by Colorado’s lineup, allowing 15 hits. It’s just the fourth time in the last 100 years that the Yankees have reached both of those thresholds in a nine-inning game; the most recent was a 12-8 loss to the Red Sox on Sept. 6, 2013.

The game couldn’t have started worse as Ivan Nova allowed a leadoff homer on the third pitch he threw to Charlie Blackmon. He’s now given up at least one homer in 12 straight starts dating back to last season, matching Phil Hughes (2012) for the second-longest streak in franchise history. The only longer one is a 14-start streak by Dennis Rasmussen in 1986.

Nova’s first couple weeks in the starting rotation looked promising, with a 1.65 ERA in his initial three turns. But he’s really struggled over the past month, posting a 6.88 ERA in his last six starts. The biggest culprit during this poor stretch has been an erratic sinker that’s not doing much sinking lately. Batters are slugging .606 against the pitch over his last six starts, compared to .324 in his first three starts.

Blackmon wasn’t the only Rockie who clobbered Nova; Carlos Gonzalez had a couple hits, including a bullet line-drive double to right field in the fifth inning that left his bat at 118 mph, per Statcast. That’s the fourth-highest exit velocity for any batted ball this season, and the highest mark given up by a Yankee pitcher in the last two seasons (since Statcast began recording exit velocity data).


A star is born
Welcome to the True Yankee® club, Mr. Castro. Starlin Castro saved the Yankees from another horrific loss on Wednesday afternoon, belting a no-doubt homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Yankees one of their wildest and most dramatic wins of the season.

It was a game that neither team seemingly wanted to win as both teams managed to blow four-run leads, with the Yankees delivering the final blow thanks to the clutch bat of Castro.

It was the 26-year-old infielder’s first career walk-off homer, as he became the fourth Yankee with a walk-off homer in Interleague play. The others are Russell Martin (2012 vs. Mets), Alex Rodriguez (2006 vs. Braves) and Jason Giambi (2005 vs. Pirates).

In the last 50 years, only one other Yankee second baseman has hit a walk-off shot: Robinson Cano did it on August 28, 2009 against the White Sox. Before that, you have to go all the way back to July 11, 1953 when Billy Martin beat the Senators with a solo homer to lead off the bottom of the 10th.


Chase Headley gave the Yankees a 4-0 lead when he crushed a 97 mph fastball dead-center into Monument Park in the second inning for his first grand slam in pinstripes (fourth in his career), and the first one by a Yankee this year.

The last time the Yankees went this deep into the season (by date) without a bases-loaded homer was 1991, when Matt Nokes hit the team’s only grand slam on September 23 against the Brewers.

CC Sabathia gave that lead right back to the Rockies with his worst performance of the year. He gave up a season-high six runs in 4 1/3 innings, matching the number of runs he allowed in his previous seven starts spanning 44 innings pitched.

Regression came swiftly for Sabathia, but it’s hardly surprising that he faltered against the Rockies. He now has a 6.08 ERA in eight career starts against them, his second-highest ERA versus any team in his career. The highest? A 6.16 ERA in nine starts versus the Yankees.

Despite the win, it is hard to ignore how historically inept the pitching staff was in their four games against the Rockies this year. The 8.74 ERA, .633 slugging percentage and 1.034 OPS allowed were each the highest marks by a Yankee team in a season series against any opponent over the last 100 years.

Thoughts on yet another Yankees’ off-day

Sticky. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Sticky. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The Yankees are off yet again today. This is their third off-day since last Monday. I guess they need the break after playing 40 games in 41 days before this stretch of three off-days in eleven games. I know I appreciate off-days more and more with each passing year. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. If you would have come to me back in March and said that come mid-June, Carlos Beltran would be on pace to hit 40+ homers and CC Sabathia would have a sub-3.00 ERA while taking a regular rotation turn, I would have guessed the Yankees were on pace to win about 93 games. Instead they’re on pace to win 80, and man, things would be a heck of a lot worse without those two. I’m not sure even the most optimistic fans expected Beltran and Sabathia to play this well this season, Sabathia’s clunker yesterday notwithstanding. Those two have been the awesome and the rest of the team is letting their awesomeness go to waste.

2. I don’t really expect the Yankees to go through with it, but if they do trade Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they’re going to be left with the worst bullpen ever. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But it would definitely be one of the worst in the game based on the way the non-big three relievers have pitched. Those guys have a 4.97 ERA in 128.2 innings. Dellin Betances would give the Yankees a top notch closer — unless they trade him too! — but the other six bullpen spots? Yeesh. Unless they trade Chapman and Miller for a bunch of relievers (no thanks), the bullpen the rest of the year is going to be a major eyesore. Then again, if the Yankees do decide to trade away pieces, protecting leads won’t be much of a concern.

3. Rob Refsnyder just started back-to-back games against right-handed pitchers, and that tells me he’s not going down to Triple-A when Mark Teixeira comes back this weekend. Joe Girardi started Ike Davis against righties twice last week, but it seems like he’s already abandoned that plan. Refsnyder has been pretty good so far, good enough to earn more playing time, so I’m curious to see how they get him into the lineup once Teixeira returns. Figure one game at first, the next at second, the next in right, the next at third, then the next on the bench? That sort of thing? It sounds easy, but man, moving a young player around that much can be tough, especially since Refsnyder is new to first and third bases. Still though, he’s giving the Yankees a reason to keep him around, and that was step one. He had to earn playing time and he’s done that. The Yankees owe it to themselves to keep running Refsnyder out there to see if he can be part of the solution going forward, even if he’s only a part-time player long-term.

4. I am pretty encouraged by what Aaron Judge has done in Triple-A the last few weeks. He started the season very well, then slipped into a prolonged slump that culminated with an 0-for-24 skid a few weeks back. Since the end of that 0-for-24, Judge has gone 19-for-59 (.322) with three homers, four steals, 14 walks, and 13 strikeouts in 17 games. His season strikeout rate (23.9%) is much better than it was at Triple-A last season (28.5%), and in fact it’s his lowest strikeout rate at any level since he was in Low-A two years ago (21.2%). Here is Judge’s rolling ten-game average strikeout rate at Triple-A:

Aaron Judge strikeout rate

Judge is definitely trending in the right direction when it comes to his strikeouts, and he has been since last year. I’m not saying the Yankees should call him up and trade Beltran — if they do trade Beltran, I’d play Aaron Hicks and Ben Gamel before Judge — I’m just saying he seems to be getting the hang of Triple-A pitching. Judge was a college draft pick but he was always going to be something of a project because he’s so damn big and has so much strike zone to cover. He seems to be getting the hang of it at the highest level of the minors now. That’s fun.

5. Is it just me, or has Brian McCann‘s defense slipped this year? He’s gone only 8-for-40 (20.0%) throwing out base-stealers this season after going 57-for-156 (36.5%) the last two years combined. It also seems like McCann is letting more balls trickle by for passed balls/wild pitches, though the numbers don’t really bear that out. The pitching staff deserves some blame for McCann’s poor throwing numbers — Betances and Michael Pineda in particular are slow to the plate; opponents are 19-for-22 (86.4%) stealing bases against those two — but not all of it. The Yankees fired bullpen coach Gary Tuck over the winter, reportedly because he disagree with some of the analytics they’re using, and McCann credited Tuck for improving his throwing. McCann is 32 and he’s caught over 11,000 innings in the show, so it would be understandable if he was defense is starting to decline. It just seems to me his defense has slipped noticeably so far this year. It hasn’t been a slight decline.

6. Longtime RAB readers (and I guess Twitter followers) know I’m a pretty big hockey fan. It’s my second favorite sport, and right now, I think I enjoy hockey more than I ever have before. Anyway, yesterday the NHL officially announced they are adding an expansion team in Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season. It was kind of an open secret, but yesterday it was made official. Two things about this. One, there’s going to be an expansion draft, and I think it would be fun as hell to cover an MLB expansion draft. I hope I get a chance to do so at some point. Two, I think the NHL will be a test case for pro sports in Las Vegas. There seems to be concern over the potential for gambling and things like that. If the NHL does well there, I suspect you’re going to see the other major sports show more interest in Sin City. MLB has some logistical issues to sort out before sending a team to Las Vegas — there’s already a Triple-A franchise there, the Dodgers hold broadcast territorial rights, etc. — but it seems possible. Baseball is incredibly healthy financially and I think expansion will happen again within the next 10-15 years. (Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he wants to get the Athletics and Rays new stadiums before okaying expansion.) Las Vegas is an obvious expansion possibility and the NHL is doing everyone else a favor by breaking the ice, pun intended.

DotF: Green dominates; Scranton wins Teixeira’s second rehab game

Got some notes to pass along:

  • The Dodgers have claimed RHP Layne Somsen off waivers from the Yankees, both teams announced. The Yankees designated Somsen for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Ike Davis last week. The 27-year-old threw six scoreless innings with Triple-A Scranton after being claimed off waivers from the Reds a few weeks back.
  • The Yankees have apparently signed Marshall C Aaron Bossi as an undrafted free agent, according to his Twitter feed. He was an infielder at Marshall but the tweet seems to indicate he’ll catch going forward. Bossi hit .333/.380/.484 with six homers in 55 games this spring.
  • OF Aaron Judge earned a place in Baseball America’s daily Prospect Report after hitting two home runs last night, so make sure you check that out. It’s not behind the paywall.

Triple-A Scranton (1-0 win over Toledo in seven innings)

  • CF Ben Gamel & LF Aaron Judge: both 0-4 — Gamel struck out once, Judge twice
  • DH Mark Teixeira: 1-2, 1 BB — second rehab game … he’s scheduled to play nine innings at first base tomorrow
  • C Gary Sanchez & RF Nick Swisher: 0-3 — Swisher struck out once … Sanchez is 8-for-39 (.205) since coming back from the thumb injury
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
  • RHP Chad Green: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 9/1 GB/FB — 62 of 94 pitches were strikes (66%) … 76/18 K/BB in 75.2 Triple-A innings … I’d like to see him get Ivan Nova‘s next start, but I doubt it’ll happen
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — nine of 12 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

All things considered, that was probably the best win of the season this afternoon, right? The Yankees took a big early lead and it felt great, then they blew it and fell behind by four runs, and we hated them all. Then they rallied to tie before walking off with the win. Pretty cool outcome, I’d say. It was nice to salvage this home-and-home series and take at least one from the Rockies.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. Today’s game will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, if you’re interested. MLB Network is airing a bunch of regional games throughout the night and ESPN will show the Dodgers and Nationals later on. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, Derrick Rose getting traded to the Knicks, the NHL expanding, or anything else right here. Have at it.

Castro’s walk-off homer gives Yanks 9-8 win over Rockies

Finally! After three games plus another six innings or so of looking helpless against the Rockies, the Yankees rallied from a four-run deficit late Wednesday afternoon to earn a 9-8 walk-off win. Both clubs erased four-run deficits. It was New York’s second walk-off win of the season.

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

Taking Advantage, For Once
I couldn’t tell you how many times this season I’ve written that the Yankees had a bunch of opportunities to score runs, but failed to take advantage. They’ve gone through some big time slumps with runners in scoring position, such as their 0-for-10 effort Tuesday night. More than anything, the lack of offense has led to the team’s sub-.500 start to the season. They’ve wasted too many chances overall.

The Yankees did take advantage of a prime run-scoring opportunity in the second inning Wednesday, when the Rockies gift-wrapped the bases loaded with no outs. Jon Gray sandwiched walks to Brian McCann and Didi Gregorius (!) around a Starlin Castro single. It was a ground ball single shortstop Trevor Story probably should have stopped even though he had to dive. I thought he was going to reel it in and was surprised when he didn’t.

Chase Headley wasted zero time capitalizing on the bases loaded opportunity. He unloaded on Gray’s first pitch fastball and hit a grand slam — the Yankees’ first grand slam of the season, I should add — into Monument Park in dead center. Swinging at the first pitch immediately after a walk tends to annoy some people, but that first pitch is often the best one to hit because the pitcher wants to get ahead in the count. Headley put a hurting on Gray and gave the Yankees a quick 4-0 lead.

Sabathia’s Bad Day
The Rockies answered back with two runs in the top of the third and it was at least somewhat CC Sabathia‘s fault. Nick Hundley knocked a single to center, then when No. 9 hitter Brandon Barnes laid down a bunt, Sabathia rushed the throw and airmailed first base. Bunting down four runs isn’t the smartest move, but it worked out that time. The bad throw gave Colorado runners on second and third with no outs, and Charlie Blackmon made Sabathia pay for the error by blooping this pitch …

CC Sabathia Charlie Blackmon

… into shallow center for a two-run single. One of the two runs was unearned. What can you do about that? It was a very good two-strike slider down and away, yet Blackmon just threw his bat at the ball and it fell in. So it goes. Baseball can be a jerk like that sometimes. That cut the lead to 4-2.

That 4-2 lead lasted only another half-inning. The Rockies hung a three-spot on Sabathia in the fourth thanks to a walk (Story), a single (Mark Reynolds), and a three-run homer (Hundley). CC missed with a two-strike cutter — he was trying to bust Hundley inside but caught too much of the plate — and paid. It was only the third homer Sabathia has given up this season. That 0.3 HR/9 wasn’t going to last forever, not in Yankee Stadium.

Sabathia finished the afternoon having allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks in 4.1 innings. He had allowed six runs total in his previous seven starts, and this was the first time all year he allowed more than three earned runs in a start. Sabathia was bound to have a bad start at some point. It happens. He’s still sitting on a 2.71 ERA (3.45 FIP) through 12 starts and 69.2 innings.

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

Battle of the Bullpens
The middle of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is shockingly bad. This staff invokes memories of the mid-2000s Yankees, who had a bullpen that was basically Mariano Rivera and a bunch of guys no one ever wanted on the mound. Anthony Swarzak replaced Sabathia in the fifth and immediately allowed a run-scoring double (Story) and a two-run homer (Ryan Raburn) to give the Rockies an 8-4 lead.

Thankfully, the middle of the Rockies bullpen is somehow worse than the middle of the Yankees bullpen, so the Yankees were able to put four runs on the board in the seventh. Carlos Beltran‘s three-run dinger was the biggest blow, but Didi’s two-out, two-strike single tied the game 8-8. Gregorius has been so, so good of late. It was a perfect piece of hitting the other way for the game-tying hit. Perfect. Just perfect.

Rob Refsnyder struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning — it was a pretty crummy at-bat, strike three was a check swing on a pitch at his eyes — and the Yankees wasted an Ellsbury leadoff double the next inning. Brett Gardner popping up a bunt didn’t help matters, but you know, the guy had reached base three times already (and four times Tuesday) and he came into the game hitting .365 in June. Ellsbury’s scoring on any single. Let Gardner swing the bat you nincompoops.

Anyway, Castro took matters into his own hands in the bottom of the ninth, sending Jason Motte’s second pitch of the game out to left field for a leadoff walk-off home run. It was gone off the bat. Had the good sound and everything. Castro hasn’t been great this year, but he’s showing more power than ever before, and we saw it there. The walk-off tater was his tenth home run of the season. He hit eleven last year, 14 the year before, and ten the year before that.


Not to be forgotten moment: Gardner throwing Blackmon out at the plate in the first inning. Blackmon started the game with a single, moved up on D.J. LeMahieu’s bunt, and was waved around on Nolan Arenado’s single to left. It was an aggressive send — it was a hard-hit single that got to Gardner quickly — and Gardner made the throw. Blackmon was out by several feet. Saved a run.

Not to be forgotten scary moment: Sabathia rolled his right ankle delivering a pitch in the fifth inning. He stumbled a bit and the first thought was his knee — how could it not be after his injuries? — but replays showed it was his ankle. Sabathia stayed in the game after talking to trainer Steve Donohue and whatnot. That was scary. Losing Sabathia to an injury would have been no fun. He went for x-rays and they came back negative, by the way.

The trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman tossed three perfect innings and struck out two each. They were going to pitch because they needed the work, but once the Yankees tied things up in the seventh, it made their appearances more meaningful. I know no manager would use Betances in the fifth, but man, Dellin pitching with a four-run deficit in the seventh while Swarzak pitches with a one-run deficit in the fifth makes no sense.

The Yankees put 19 runners on base and drew a season-high tying seven walks. Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit except Refsnyder, and everyone in the starting lineup had a walk except Ellsbury, Alex Rodriguez, and Castro. One day after going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, they went 4-for-11 (.364) in those spots in this game, but one of those four was an infield single that didn’t score a run. Go figure.

And finally, we saw another catcher’s interference, and believe it or not, it was not Ellsbury. Refsnyder did it in the seventh, ahead of Beltran’s three-run homer. There have now been 22 CI in baseball this season. Six Ellsbury, one by Refsnyder, and 15 by the other 29 teams combined.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings while is the place to go for the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload or Announcer Standings pages either. Here’s the wild win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees have yet another off-day Thursday, their third in the last ten days. The homestand resumes Friday night with the first of three against the Twins. Masahiro Tanaka and finesse lefty Tommy Milone are the scheduled starting pitchers. If you want to catch that game or any of the other six games on the homestand live, check out RAB Tickets.