Yankees acquire Jeff Francis from Athletics

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

2:11pm: The Yankees have officially announced the trade. They get Francis and cash from the Athletics in exchange for a player to be named later. Jim Miller was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot. Francis still has to report to the team, so Matt Daley was recalled from Triple-A while they wait.

1:43pm: The Yankees have acquired left-hander Jeff Francis from the Athletics, according to Jerry Crasnick. He was designated for assignment following the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade earlier this week. No word on what New York is sending to Oakland, but it’ll likely be a player to named later or cash. Nothing significant.

Francis, 33, has a 5.89 ERA (3.67 FIP) in 18.1 innings for the Athletics and Reds this season. He had a 6.27 ERA (4.54 FIP) in 70.1 innings for the Rockies last summer. Don’t get excited by his FIP being lower than his ERA — Francis has underperformed his peripherals by at least 0.72 runs every year since 2009. He’s Vidal Nuno with less fastball. It’s probably not worth digging any deeper than that.

The Yankees simply need a warm body for the pitching staff at this point. Masahiro Tanaka went on the disabled list earlier this week and even with the Brandon McCarthy pickup, the team still has Shane Greene in the rotation and a TBA listed as Sunday’s starter. Francis can help get them through the weekend in one piece. Times are tough, man.

Update: Cashman says Yankees working to acquire a “small piece”

1:34pm: “We have a small piece that we’re acquiring right now that hasn’t been announced yet, so again going to continue to try to piece things together,” said Cashman during an interview with MLB Network this afternoon. Something’s in the works.

12:30pm: Despite Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury and the Yankees’ apparent inability to play any better than .500 ball, the team will continue to aggressively pursue trades to improve their chances of winning this year, according to Mark Feinsand. “We’ve been aggressive because now we’ve got four starters that we were planning to have in the rotation are out,” said Brian Cashman. “We will continue to be aggressive unless I’m told otherwise.”

I think the Yankees have reached the point where there are simply too many holes to fill at the trade deadline. They could have used another starter before Tanaka got hurt, so now they definitely need one. Add that to a right fielder, a third baseman, and a reliever — at some point the Jim Miller/Matt Daley/Jose Ramirez/etc. revolving door has to stop, right? — and you’re talking about four needs leading up to July 31st. That’s an awful lot these days. This weekend in Baltimore figures to have a big impact on their deadline plans.

Mailbag: Desmond, IFAs, Tanaka, Jeter, Ichiro

Got eight questions for you in this week’s mailbag. The best way to send us anything is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a lot of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t get to yours. Also, I should probably mention that I tend to write these things on Thursday afternoon, so send in your questions before then if you want them answered that week.

(Rob Carr/Getty)
(Rob Carr/Getty)

Adam asks: You will probably hear this a lot this week, but reports say the Nationals are concerned with Desmond balking at a contract extension and that could force them into making a deal for a young shortstop. Is it possible for the Yankees to somehow be a third wheel in a three-team trade this off season for Desmond?

I don’t know if it’s possible but the Yankees should definitely explore it. Desmond will become a free agent after next season and he recently rejected a seven-year extension worth upwards of $98M according to Ken Rosenthal. The 28-year-old is hitting .241/.293/.429 (101 wRC+) with 16 homers and nine steals this year after putting up a .286/.333/.480 (122 wRC+) batting line with 45 homers and 42 steals from 2012-13. He’s also graded out as a very good defensive shortstop. The Nationals are clearly a win now team, so I doubt they’d trade Desmond for prospects. A three-team deal in which the Yankees get Desmond, the Nationals get the young shortstop Rosenthal says they’re seeking, and the third team gets prospects from New York makes sense, especially if the Yankees can convince him to sign an extension. We are talking about a two-way shortstop right smack in the prime of his career, after all.

Many asked: Can the Yankees still trade next year’s international spending pool money? Can they ignore the rules and sign prospects for more than $300k in the next two signing periods? What are the attrition rates for international prospects? Can the Yankees add another minor league team to give these guys a place to play?

(We got a bunch of questions following the team’s international spending spree, so I shortened them all up and lumped them together.)

Yes, the Yankees can still trade their international bonus slots next year despite this year’s spending spree. They will receive a full spending pool next year, they just won’t be able to hand out a bonus more than $300k. They also won’t be able to say screw it and sign a player for more than that amount. The rules are the rules and I assume MLB would void the contract(s) in that case. The Yankees could always work out some under-the-table deals, of course. That happens all the time in Latin America.

The attrition rate question is a good one and I have never seen exact numbers or rates for kids that far down the ladder, but it’s obviously going to be fairly high. The attrition rate only gets higher and higher the further away you get from the MLB level — approximately 25% of high school draft prospects get to MLB in general, not necessarily make an impact — and we’re talking about 16-year-old kids here. The Yankees signed eight of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects. If they hit on two, I’d be pretty happy. Hit on three and I’d be thrilled. If you want to $/WAR it, then remember that by time these kids have an impact in the big leagues, teams will be paying like $9-10M per win. The Yankees spent around $30M on international free agents last week.

As for adding another minor league team, it’s possible but not that easy. Minor league affiliations are a zero-sum game — there are only so many affiliates to go around in each league. The Yankees were able to add a second rookie Gulf Coast League affiliate last summer because the Mets shut down their GCL affiliate in a cost-cutting move (lol) and a spot opened up. Adding another affiliate is a very tough thing to do because you have to wait for another team to drop one of their affiliates, which rarely happens these days. Between the two Dominican Summer League teams and two GCL teams, the Yankees have four low level affiliates to sort these kids out. It’ll get tricky after that, but it’s a good problem to have.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Charlie asks: With all the chatter about Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury being the result of the transition to a five-day rotation, I’m wondering if Dice-K or Yu Darvish had an injury similar to Tanaka’s in their first MLB season?

Darvish has not had any arm problems during his three years in the show. He missed a start with a blister last season and another start with a cut on his thumb this year, but that’s nothing. Those weren’t structural arm injuries. (Darvish has had some back and neck problems over the last year.) Daisuke Matsuzaka missed a month in 2008 (his second MLB season) with a shoulder strain and four months with shoulder issues in 2009. He eventually blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in 2011, his fifth season with the Red Sox. Neither had arm problems in their first MLB season like Tanaka, however.

Gregg asks: Do the Yankees have the option to dip below the luxury tax threshold in the 2015 season? If so, what moves would they need to make to do potentially do so?

The luxury tax threshold for next season is again $189M, and, according to Cot’s, the Yankees currently have approximately $166.8M on the books for the luxury tax next year. That doesn’t include arbitration raises or replacing the guys who could leave as free agents. Unless Alex Rodriguez gets suspended again or the Yankees find a way to unload the Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and/or Carlos Beltran contracts, it’ll be close to impossible to get under the $189M threshold next year. As soon as they went on that spending spree over the winter, it all but eliminated any chance of getting under the luxury tax threshold before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season.

Ghost of Horace Clarke asks: Many of all time Yankee records are mentioned for Derek Jeter. What about double plays, on both sides of the ball?

Jeter is, unsurprisingly, the franchise’s all-time leader in ground ball double plays at 281. Bernie Williams is a distance second with 223. The Cap’n is 15th on the all-time GIDP list, right behind Joe Torre (284) and Albert Pujols (283). Defensively, Jeter ranks first in Yankees history and sixth all-time among shortstops in double plays turned at 1,395. Omar Vizquel (1,734), Ozzie Smith (1,590), Cal Ripken Jr. (1,565), Luis Aparicio (1,553), and Luke Appling (1,424) are the only guys ahead of him.

Luke asks: I was reading Chad Jennings’ blog and he’d mentioned that Jeter was elected to the All-Star Game not only by fans, but by players as well (344 votes to Alexei Ramirez’s 313). I haven’t seen them publicized – are these player vote totals available somewhere for the public? I can’t stand fan voting – every year fans ruin it, this year most notably Orioles and Brewers fans – and I’m wondering simply because I’m interested to see how closely the player votes match the fan votes.

I have not seen the full player votes released anywhere. Jennings mentioned Jeter led at shortstop and Jeff Passan says Tanaka received the most player votes among AL starting pitchers, but that’s all I can find. Dellin Betances was voted in by the players as well, and since there were only four relievers on the initial roster, we know he received no fewer the fourth most player votes among AL relievers. Glen Perkins, Greg Holland, and Sean Doolittle were the other bullpeners on the initial AL roster. Pretty cool that Tanaka and Betances were voted into the game by their peers, no?

Mickey asks: Do you think Ichiro hits a homerun this year? I keep waiting for him to take advantage of the short porch but he seems more BA focused than trying to drive the ball.  

Yeah, I think he’ll hit one out eventually. Just about everyone hits a cheapie over the short porch at some point during the season and I don’t think Ichiro will be any different. If you’re looking for a good laugh, here is Ichiro’s spray chart for the season, courtesy of Texas Leaguers (doesn’t include last night’s game):

Ichiro Suzuki spray chart

There is no reason for outfielders to play anything but shallow against Ichiro.

Danny asks: In hypothetical world because Jeter; Teams don’t shift Brian McCann when runners are on base, wouldn’t Joe Girardi want to bat him second behind a guy like Brett Gardner so he won’t have some singles taken away?

That does make sense. The best possible spot for him seems like it would be behind both Gardner and Ellsbury, the team’s two best on-base threats. The odds would be pretty high that at least one of those two would be on base for McCann, opening up the field a little bit more. Remember, opposing teams will have to guard against the stolen base, so they can’t let the infielders wander too far away from second. McCann has made an effort to go the other way more often this year — he already has 18 opposite field hits in 2014, one fewer than last year and more than both 2011 (14) and 2012 (15) — but it’s clear he is at his best when he pulls the ball.

Bullpen melts down in 9-3 loss to Indians

Well that was ugly. A spectacular bullpen meltdown turned a nice 3-0 lead into an ugly 9-3 deficit in the span of two innings on Thursday night, sending the Yankees to a loss in their series finale against the Indians. The final score was indeed 9-3.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Nine Unanswered Runs
You know, I made the mistake of feeling comfortable with the three-run lead. Yeah, the bullpen was taxed from the 14-inning game on Wednesday, but David Phelps was cruising (more on that in a bit) and I assumed the late-inning trio of Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, and David Robertson were all available. Everything seemed to be going well … until it wasn’t.

Phelps entered the seventh inning having thrown 96 pitches with seemingly plenty left in the tank, but Chris Dickerson and Roberto Perez opened the frame with singles. Just like that, the tying run was on base with no outs. Joe Girardi gave Phelps the hook and went to lefty specialist Matt Thornton, who allowed an infield single to Jason Kipnis to load the bases with no outs. It would have been a regular ol’ single into the outfield had it not deflected off Thornton’s glove going back up the middle.

That’s what the wheels came crashing off the bullpen bus. Thornton was left in to face the switch-hitting Asdrubal Cabrera, who poked a bases-clearing triple into the right field corner. Just like that, in the span of eleven total pitches, the Indians went from down three runs with the bases empty to tying the score and having the go-ahead run at third base with no outs. Michael Brantley’s sacrifice fly brought in Cabrera from third to give the Tribe the lead.

Girardi brought in the seldom-used Jim Miller and things completely fell apart from there. The journeyman righty allowed seven of 12 batters faced to reach base in the seventh and eighth innings, turning that one-run deficit into a five-run deficit. Both Perez and Carlos Santana clubbed two-run homers in the five-run eighth. Five runs on six hits and a walk in 1.2 innings raised Miller’s season ERA to 20.25. I’m pretty sure he will be dumped off the roster in favor of a fresh arm tomorrow (Matt Daley?). At least he completely erased all hope of a comeback. I hate being teased.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Three Runs Ain’t Enough
The Yankees scored their three runs because two guys named Zelous Wheeler and Yangervis Solarte had a two-run homer and a two-out run-scoring single, respectively. Just as we all expected in Spring Training. The Yankees left the bases loaded in the first and fourth innings, and Frankie Cervelli‘s strikeout to end that first inning rally was one of the worst at-bats of the season. He took a fastball for strike one, swung feebly over a slider for strike two, then swung even more feebly over a slider for strike three. At least Jacoby Ellsbury worked a 2-0 count and put a good swing on the ball when he grounded out to end the fourth. Geez, Frankie.

And yet, those three runs looked like they were going to stand up because Phelps was working his magic and pitching out of jams all night. He put two men on base in the first, third, and fourth innings, but escaped each time thanks to well-timed strikeouts and routine fly balls. Phelps put ten men on base (seven hits, three walks) in six innings plus two batters of work, including the leadoff man in the first, third, fifth, and seventh innings. He seems to have a little Andy Pettitte in him with the way he pitches himself into and out of trouble in just about every start. Phelps was charged with two runs on Cabrera’s game-tying double even though he had been in the dugout for two batters by that point.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Leftovers
Cervelli took a pitch to his knee in the fifth inning and he looked to be in a lot of pain. Like get carried off the field and see you in September pain. He got up and was able to walk it off though. The Yankees would have lost the DH if Cervelli had to come out of the game and Brian McCann had to move behind the plate, but thankfully that was not the case.

Speaking of McCann, he went 0-for-4 with a walk and four strikeouts on the night. He’s actually hit pretty well on the road trip, but yeah. That was ugly. Derek Jeter, Ellsbury, and Wheeler all had two hits apiece. McCann and Brendan Ryan were the only starters without hits. Ichiro Suzuki came off the bench to provide a pinch-hit single in the eighth. It was the 2,800th hit of his MLB career.

And finally, Jeter took a ground ball off his left wrist in the eighth inning and seemed to be in quite a bit of pain when he was being looked at in the dugout after the inning. The ball hit the lip of the grass and took a weird hop up into his wrist, above his glove. He is fine, by all accounts.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and video highlights, MLB.com is the place to go. You can see some other stats at FanGraphs and the updated standings at ESPN. The Orioles won, so the Yankees are four games back in the AL East. Depending on what happens with the late game, they will be either be 2.5 (Mariners lose) or 3.5 (Mariners win) games back of the second wildcard spot.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are off to Baltimore for a rather huge three-game weekend series to close out the first half. It’s time to start winning some of these head-to-head, intra-division games. Hiroki Kuroda and Miguel Gonzalez will be Friday’s pitching matchup.

DotF: Scranton walks off with a pair of wins in doubleheader

Some quick notes:

  • RHP Mark Montgomery (shin) has been activated off the Double-A Trenton disabled list, according to Josh Norris. LHP Fred Lewis, meanwhile, is off to see a doctor for something, says Nick Peruffo. Lewis has been dreadful of late. Not surprising he might be hurt.
  • Matt Kardos reports LHP Tyler Webb has been added to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game roster as a replacement for LHP Matt Tracy, who is ineligible to pitch in the game due to the timing of his next scheduled start.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (5-4 win over Rochester in seven innings, walk-off style)

  • 2B Jose Pirela: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 K
  • RF Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI — right field again
  • 1B Austin Romine: 1-3
  • C John Ryan Murphy: 2-4, 1 K
  • DH Kyle Roller: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — walk-off fielder’s choice
  • RHP Bruce Billings: 6.1 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 K, 8/7 GB/FB — 67 of 99 pitches were strikes (68%)
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1/1 GB/FB — eight of 12 pitches were strikes … Clip’d the win (some of you have been around long enough to remember what the means, right?)

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Tanaka has partially torn elbow ligament, rehab recommended

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

After traveling from Cleveland to New York to Seattle within the last 48 hours, Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow was finally examined by team Dr. Ahmad on Thursday night. Brian Cashman confirmed his ace right-hander has been diagnosed with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament by Ahmad and two other doctors. All three recommended rehab — not Tommy John surgery — because the tear is small.

Tanaka, 25, will receive a platelet-rich plasma injection on Monday and eventually begin a throwing program. If all goes well, he could be back on a mound within six weeks, so the best case scenario has him back in pinstripes in late-August. Cashman noted other pitchers in the organization have successfully rehabbed from similar tears without saying who those pitchers were. Surgery can not be completely ruled out until the rehab program is complete. Here is what Cashman said during his conference call, courtesy of Chad Jennings:

“He has seen three physicians, our chief physician, Chris Ahmad, David Altchek and he has seen Neil elAttrache. All three are in agreement with a diagnosis of a new injury; a partially torn ligament in his throwing arm. The recommendation on the treatment is a rehab protocol that would begin with one PRP injection and a throwing program after an exercise routine. The ligament tear in question is considered small and we, the Yankees, have had success with pitchers that have had this.

“It doesn’t rule out the possibility of Tommy John (surgery) in a failed attempt, but all three doctors agree on the diagnosis and the rehab protocol. We are going to follow their recommendation and none of them recommend surgery at this time. They’re all hopeful that in roughly maybe a six-week period that we will have a pitcher back if he responds positively.”

The most notable example of a pitcher who successfully rehabbed a partially torn ligament is Adam Wainwright, who was able to continue pitching for a half-decade before going under the knife. Ervin Santana has pitched with a partially torn ligament the last few years as well. The odds are strongly in favor of Tanaka needing elbow reconstruction at some point in his career — once a ligament tears, it’s usually only a matter of time before it goes completely — but Cashman said all three doctors do not feel surgery is necessary at this point.

I understand the fear that all they’re doing is delaying the inevitable by trying rehab, but given where they are in the season, having the surgery now would likely knock Tanaka out until sometime next August. Three doctors all agree surgery is avoidable and that Tanaka has a chance to return to the mound this season. Surgery is always the last resort — you don’t want to cut into the elbow of a world class pitcher unless you absolutely have to — and if there’s a possibility it can be avoided, they have to try.

Now, obviously the injury hurts the Yankees on the field immensely. Tanaka was by far the club’s best pitcher and they were already without CC Sabathia (knee), Michael Pineda (shoulder), and Ivan Nova (elbow). None of those four is returning anytime soon. Somehow 39-year-old Hiroki Kuroda is the only member of the Opening Day rotation left standing. Tanaka’s partially torn ligament is not the worst case scenario, but losing him for at least six weeks is a devastating blow to a pitching staff already thinned by injury.

Game 91: Before Baltimore

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

The Yankees have a chance to win their second straight four-game series tonight, and I can’t imagine that happens very often. Especially not in back-to-back series. With Masahiro Tanaka‘s final diagnosis looming and a huge three-game series in Baltimore upcoming this weekend, it would be wonderful if the Yankees could bag an easy, bullpen-saving win tonight against the Indians. It’s been a while since we’ve seen one of those. Here is the Indians lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Brian McCann
  6. C Frankie Cervelli
  7. RF Zelous Wheeler
  8. 3B Yangervis Solarte
  9. 2B Brendan Ryan
    RHP David Phelps

It’s nice and sunny in Cleveland and there is no rain in the forecast. The series finale is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: Tanaka will see team doctor Dr. Ahmad tonight in Seattle and the Yankees could announce a final diagnosis within 24 hours. Dr. Neal ElAttrache is at the same conference as Ahmad and could also examine Tanaka. He did his pre-signing physical over the winter, so there is some familiarity there … in case you missed it earlier, Carlos Beltran was placed on the 7-day concussion DL and Solarte was called up.