Here is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks are playing and there’s a bunch of college basketball on the schedule, but that’s pretty much it. Talk about those games, the new uniform numbers, or anything else on your mind right here.
Last summer the Yankees sent shockwaves through the industry with their massive international spending spree, which netting the team most of the top amateur talent available in Latin America. New York signed the No. 1, 2, 5, 7, and 9 prospects on the market according to MLB.com, plus several others. All told, the team spent upwards of $30M on international amateurs between bonuses and penalty taxes.
Obviously the Yankees are hoping this influx of high-end talent will result in the core of the next great Yankees dynasty, either by developing into big league players they can stick on the roster or promising prospects they can use in trades. That’s what prospects are for, after all. But, because we’re talking about 16-year-old kids, the Yankees will have to wait several years for these prospects to develop into usable pieces. International free agency is not a place for instant gratification.
MLB-ready and close to MLB-ready prospects have more trade value than a bunch low level minor leaguers for obvious reasons, but over the last year or so we’ve seen more low level prospects included in trades for real live big leaguers. I’m talking about guys down in rookie ball, not even if a full season league yet. Here’s the list of very low level minor leaguers traded for actual MLB players within the last year:
- RHP Marcos Diplan: 64 career innings, all in the Dominican Summer League. Traded from Rangers to Brewers as part of the Yovani Gallardo deal. Diplan hasn’t even pitched in the U.S. yet!
- IF Domingo Leyba: 124 career games, including 30 at Low Class-A and the rest in rookie ball. Leyba went from the Tigers to the D’Backs in the Shane Greene/Didi Gregorius three-team trade.
- RHP Jeferson Mejia: 49 career innings, all in rookie ball. One of two players traded from the Cubs to the Diamondbacks for Miguel Montero.
- LHP Gabe Speier: 33 career innings, all in rookie ball. Traded from the Red Sox to the Tigers as part of the Yoenis Cespedes/Rick Porcello trade.
- RHP Stephen Tarpley: 87 career innings, all in rookie ball and the short season NY-Penn League. Traded from the Orioles to the Pirates for Travis Snider.
That list doesn’t include LHP Ricardo Sanchez, who was traded from the Angels to the Braves for Double-A third base prospect Kyle Kubitza despite having 38.2 pro innings under his belt, all in rookie ball. That was a rare prospect for prospect trade, and the principle piece going from Anaheim to Atlanta was a rookie ball pitcher. It’s also worth noting IF Willy Adames had 158 career games (60 in rookie ball, 98 in Low Class-A) when he was dealt from the Tigers to the Rays for David Price.
Not including Sanchez and Adames, that’s five trades within the last eight months in which one piece was a highly touted prospect in the lowest levels of the minors. In this age when young players are so highly valued, it appears clubs are looking to add talented low level prospects before they have a chance to blossom into top shelf guys. Instead of paying full price to get a top prospect, they’re getting them super young as the second or third piece in a trade and hoping they develop under their watch. It’s a smart move. Super risky because these guys are so far away from MLB and so much can still go wrong, but there’s some serious potential reward.
In his top ten Yankees prospects write-up, Keith Law noted shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo is “so well-regarded in the industry that other teams have already targeted him in trade talks.” Mateo is one of New York’s better prospects but he is still only a 19-year-old kid with 93 pro games under his belt, 15 in the rookie Gulf Coast League and the rest in the Dominican Summer League. He’s a good prospect now and teams are trying to get him before he turns into a great prospect, like the Brewers did with Diplan or the Pirates did with Tarpley.
Thanks to last summer’s spending spree, the Yankees have more of these high upside rookie ball prospects than any other team in baseball. If this recent trend of targeting low minors prospects in trades continues, they’ll have plenty of ammunition to make deals work. These low level prospects are not going to be headliners, but they can be — and have been based on recent transactions — second and third pieces in a trade. The Yankees wouldn’t necessarily have to wait to use some of their new prospects as trade bait. They might be able to get an MLB level return from them as soon as this year.
Tyler Wade | SS
Wade is a Southern California kid from Murrieta, roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. He played baseball at Murrieta Valley High School and was a pop-up guy, meaning he didn’t jump onto the radar as a draft prospect until the spring of his draft year. (Wade hit .524 as a senior after hitting .328 as a sophomore and junior.)
Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked Wade as the 34th best prospect in California and the 169th best prospect overall for the 2013 draft. The Yankees selected him in the fourth round with the 134th overall pick. Wade signed about a week later for $371,300, exactly slot money for his draft spot.
Wade was assigned to one of the team’s two rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliates after signing and he had an excellent pro debut, hitting .309/.429/.370 (146 wRC+) with a 16.2% walk rate, a 21.2% strikeout rate, and 11 steals in 12 attempts in 46 games. He played so well the Yankees bumped him up to Short Season Staten Island for a few games at the end of the GCL season. Wade went 1-for-13 (.077) in four games with Staten Island.
The Yankees aggressively assigned Wade to Low-A Charleston to start the 2014 season, where he was slated to split time at shortstop, second base, and DH with Gosuke Katoh and Abi Avelino. Avelino suffered a quad injury a month into the season and that pushed Wade into regular shortstop duty. He handled the workload well, hitting .272/.350/.349 (100 wRC+) with a 9.9% walk rate, a 20.5% strikeout rate, and 22 steals in 35 attempts during his age 19 season.
Listed at 6-foot-1 and 180 lbs., Wade is a true shortstop with good athleticism, quick feet, and sure hands. His weakest defensive tool is his arm, which is juuust strong enough for short. Wade has a quick and compact left-handed swing that sprays line drives all over the field, and he knows the strike zone well. Here’s some video (there’s more at MiLB.com):
Wade is a pure slash hitter with zero power. He hit one homer total in his last three years of high school and has one homer in 179 games as a pro. Power’s not his game. Even if he packs on some muscle as he matures, Wade is expected to be a single digit home run guy who hits near the bottom of the order with okay batting averages and respectable on-base percentages. His speed is good, but, as going 22-for-35 (63%) in stolen base attempts last year suggests, he needs to improve his base-running instincts and pick his spots better. Wade’s a classic scrappy middle infield type. Prepare for the inevitable David Eckstein comparisons.
After a strong full season debut with the River Dogs, Wade will move up to High-A Tampa for the 2015 season and again serve as the everyday shortstop. He just turned 20 in November and there’s no reason to think he’ll get a midseason promotion to Double-A Trenton, even if he breaks out and has a huge year. Wade’s a one level at a time guy and there’s nothing wrong with that.
I like Wade, he’s been a pleasant surprise despite being a relatively high draft pick. Most pop-up guys never amount to anything — they usually just have the best few weeks of their lives at exactly the right time — but Wade has the athleticism for shortstop and isn’t a zero at the plate. There’s always a chance upper level pitchers will knock the bat right out of his hands, but I think there’s a good chance he’ll get stronger as he fills out and turn into a doubles machine. The Yankees have a surprising amount of quality shortstop prospects in the low minors and Wade is the highest on the minor league ladder.
It’s a new month, and that means it’s time to take our monthly trip back through the MLB Trade Rumors archive. As a reminder, I’m not trying to make fun of Tim or anyone else at MLBTR. Those guys are awesome and do a great job. I just like to look back at everything we talked about years ago to see how silly it looks in hindsight. What good are rumors if you’re only going to read them once, right? This is the gift that keeps on giving.
Last month we covered January 2008, so now it’s time to jump ahead to February 2008. February isn’t the best month for rumors — the Johan Santana race was mercifully over at this point as well — but there was still plenty of interesting stuff going on seven years ago. I was surprised, honestly. By the way, this is a monthly feature now, at least until everyone gets bored of it, and I’m going to try to post it during the first week of each month. (I’m closer this month than I was last month!) Anyway, away we go.
Two teams are showing significant interest. Rosenthal believes the Reds are one, and the Twins or Rays could be another. He rules out the Dodgers, Yankees, Rockies, and Indians. The Reds have had preliminary discussions for Blanton already. How about the Phillies? They came calling in July.
This was back when Joe Blanton was good and a desirable trade target. He had just turned 27, and he’d put up a 3.95 ERA (108 ERA+) with a 3.50 FIP in 230 innings in 2007. Blanton had a career 4.10 ERA (106 ERA+) and a 4.00 FIP at the time and there was reason to believe he was just about entire his peak, especially since his FIP had gone from 4.43 to 4.16 to 3.50 from 2006-08.
The Athletics didn’t trade Blanton that offseason though. He opened the year in Oakland, had a 4.96 ERA (83 ERA+) with a 4.23 FIP in 127 innings before being sent to the Phillies for a three-prospect package headlined by ex-Yankee Josh Outman. Yeah, that one didn’t work out too well for A’s. Blanton, meanwhile, had 4.79 ERA (85 ERA+) with a 4.39 FIP through the end of his career after the trade, so no, he wasn’t about to enter his peak. He’d already had his peak.
Yankees GM Brian Cashman expects an arbitration hearing for Chien-Ming Wang. It would be the team’s first hearing in eight years, even though the two sides are just $600K apart.
The Yankees and Wang did ultimately go to an arbitration hearing and I remember thinking it was pretty dumb on the team’s part to potentially create bad blood with their ace. Arbitration hearings are not pleasant. The Yankees beat Wang in arbitration and paid him $4M in 2008 rather than the $4.6M he was seeking. Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Wang hurt his foot that June and his days as an effective MLB pitcher were over. The Yankees haven’t been to an arbitration hearing since.
Carl Pavano doesn’t seem too popular in the Yankees’ clubhouse.
Pavano was still around back then — he was entering the final year of his contract — and he was working his way back from Tommy John surgery. This isn’t really a rumor but the linked story is pretty funny. Check it out:
To say Pavano is a pariah is an understatement. He asked one of the clubhouse kids for a small box today to store some things he had in his locker. The kid went over to a garbage pail, fished out an orange Nike shoebox, dumped a half-eated sandwich out of it and handed it to Pavano.
That more or less sums up Pavano’s tenure in pinstripes.
Not a rumor, just speculation. Matsui was pretty awesome in 2007, hitting .285/.367/.488 (123 OPS+) with 25 homers in 143 games, but his knees were starting to give out on him and the plan was to use him as the regular DH in 2008 with Johnny Damon in left, Melky Cabrera in center, and Bobby Abreu in right.
I remember thinking the Yankees should look into trading Matsui as well. Damon and Abreu were insanely durable players who never got hurt and Matsui at DH meant Jason Giambi would have to play first base. If they could get something decent for him with two years and $26M left on his contract, why not? The Yankees didn’t trade Matsui though, thankfully, and he hit .294/.370/.424 (108 OPS+) with nine homers in 93 games in 2008 while missing a bunch of time with knee problems.
It sounds completely insane now — trade Matsui, really?!? — but back then it wasn’t crazy at all. Trading a guy in his mid-30s who was in the middle of breaking down physically wasn’t a ridiculous idea.
SI.com’s Jon Heyman says Yankees outfielder Johnny Damon considered retiring a year ago in the spring. He would’ve been walking away from $39MM. He was coming off a fine season, too.
For some reason the link now redirects to Bleacher Report (?), so I can’t see if Heyman explained why Damon was considering retirement. Damon hit .285/.359/.482 (115 OPS+) with a career-high 24 homers in 2006, his first in New York, so there’s no performance reason why he would consider calling it quits. Then he hit .270/.351/.396 (96 OPS+) with 12 homers in 2007 and was banged up all year. Maybe Damon was hurting more than he let on and didn’t want to play through pain anymore? Either way, he didn’t retire. He still hasn’t, really. He’s been looking for a team to give him a chance since last year.
Freddy Garcia‘s agent talks about the Mets, Yankees, and Red Sox for his client. Garcia is targeting a June or July return.
This was right when Garcia was going through all the arm injuries that robbed him of his hellacious mid-90s sinker and turned him into a junkballer. He threw only 58 innings for the Phillies in 2007 and was terrible (78 ERA+ and 5.85 FIP) before having surgery to repair his labrum and rotator cuff, and he remained unsigned until the Tigers took a flier in August 2008. So his agent was out there trying to get Freddy signed but no one bit.
Garcia made three okay starts for Detroit (eight runs in 15 innings), signed with the White Sox after the season, then had a 4.34 ERA (109 ERA+) with Chicago in nine starts while again battling injury. From 2007-09, Sweaty Freddy had a 5.02 ERA (92 ERA+) and 4.55 FIP in 129 total innings. He looked done after the shoulder injury. Garcia has stayed relatively healthy since 2009 though and he did ultimately end up with the Yankees from 2011-12. Here are his ERA+ marks by year from 2010-13:
119 <– Yankees!
Freddy was alright.
Rosenthal notes that the Yankees, in search of a right-handed outfielder, considered Shannon Stewart and Mike Cameron this winter.
The Yankees had been connected to Cameron on and off for years, so that’s not surprising, but Shannon Stewart! Remember when he got traded to the Twins at the deadline in 2003, had that absurd second half (.322/.384/.470 for a 124 OPS+), and finish fourth in the AL MVP voting? What the hell was that about?
Anyway, Stewart had just hit .290/.345/.394 (100 OPS+) with 12 homers in 146 games for the Athletics in 2007 after putting up a weak .279/.329/.383 (87 OPS+) line with Minnesota from 2005-06. The Blue Jays signed him, he hit .240/.325/.303 (71 OPS+) in 52 games and got released in August. Hasn’t played since.
The Yankees, meanwhile, tried Shelley Duncan (43 OPS+), Morgan Ensberg (34 OPS+), and Richie Sexson (101 OPS+) as right-handed platoon bats before picking up Xavier Nady at the trade deadline. Platoon bats, huh? They always sounds like such a great idea until they actually get on the field.
This is your open thread for the evening. The Nets, Rangers, and Islanders are all playing and there’s some college basketball going on as well. Use this thread to talk about whatever you like tonight.
(Yes, I found a video if 18-year-old Hideki Matsui hitting a homer. You’re welcome.)
Last week we heard Alex Rodriguez and the Yankees were planning to meet at some point to clear the air following his 162-game suspension and legal weirdness last year. That meeting happened today, both the Yankees and A-Rod have announced. Here’s their joint statement:
“Today we held a meeting at Yankee Stadium between Hal Steinbrenner, Randy Levine, Brian Cashman, Jean Afterman, Alex Rodriguez and Jim Sharp. Alex initiated the meeting and apologized to the organization for his actions over the past several years.
“There was an honest and frank discussion on all of the issues. As far as the Yankees are concerned, the next step is to play baseball in spring training.”
Sharp is A-Rod’s lawyer, according to release. Alex has now met the team’s brass as well as new commissioner Rob Manfred to clear the air. I’m glad this is out of the way, but something tells me there will plenty more A-Rod related distractions in the coming weeks. They’re inevitable.
This isn’t surprising: assistant GM Billy Eppler has confirmed right-hander Esmil Rogers will report to Spring Training stretched out and prepared to work as a starting pitcher. “I don’t know, I think you just walk into it with an open mind and just see. I think you just let it all play out. You usually don’t have to end up making the call. Situations and the players will make the call for you,” said Eppler to Chad Jennings.
Rogers, 29, worked as a starter in winter ball this offseason, allowing six runs in 11.2 innings (4.63 ERA) while striking out 18 and walking four. He has a 5.50 ERA (4.72 FIP) in 225.2 career innings as a starter at the MLB level, though most of that damage came when he was stuck pitching for the Rockies in Coors Field from 2019-12 (6.24 ERA and 4.87 FIP in 114 innings). Still, his track record as a big league starter isn’t very good.
Rogers did make one fine spot start for the Yankees last season (one run in five innings) and there’s really no reason not to bring him to camp as a starter. New York has a lot of injury risk in their rotation and it’s better to have Rogers stretched out and ready to go just in case. He can always slide back into the bullpen if need be. At best, I think Esmil is the team’s seventh starter behind the regular five and Adam Warren.
Eppler also reiterated Warren is coming to camp as a starter as well. David Phelps was scheduled to come to camp as a starter before he was traded to the Marlins in the Martin Prado/Nathan Eovaldi swap. Minor league righty Bryan Mitchell is another rotation candidate and the Yankees recently signed veteran righties Scott Baker and Kyle Davies to add some extra rotation depth.