Swept: Blue Jays rout Yankees 7-0 in series finale

Wow are the Yankees bad. I mean really, really bad. Not like 2013-14 bad. Legitimately bad. They haven’t been this bad since 1992. Maybe 1991. The Blue Jays finished the sweep with a 7-0 rout of the Yankees at Rogers Centre on Wednesday night. The Yankees have lost six of their last eight games — they were one-hit in one of the two wins! — to fall four games under .500. Again.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Tanaka Deserves Better
Masahiro Tanaka was definitely not at his best Wednesday night, but he wasn’t terrible either. Two runs (one earned) on seven hits and one walk in six innings is a winnable game. Even his bad starts are pretty good. Tanaka did not seem to have his splitter working — only two strikeouts and six swings and misses out of 104 total pitches — which led to some deep counts and long innings. So it goes.

Tanaka kept the Blue Jays off the board until the fifth inning, when a fielder’s choice sandwiched between two singles gave Toronto a 1-0 lead. Josh Donaldson drove in Darwin Barney. The Blue Jays scored their second run the next inning thanks in part to a Jacoby Ellsbury error. He straight up dropped a catchable fly ball. Actually, he dropped it, bobbled it, then juggled it for good measure.

Jacoby Ellsbury bobble

The Yankees seem to be good for one or two plays like that a game these days. That fly ball should have been the first out of the inning. Instead it gave the Blue Jays runners on first and second with no outs. Tanaka was able to limit the damage to one run with a double play grounder. A subpar start for sure, but like I said, this wasn’t even that bad. Tanaka’s been pretty awesome.

Stranded Runners
The Yankees struggled offensively, again, and they left a bunch of runners on base, again. Earlier this season I was pointing out that hey, the Yankees were getting guys on base and that’s good. If they keep doing that the runs will come.

Well, they’re still doing it and the runs aren’t coming. Seven hits, two walks, no runs on Wednesday. They went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and of course the one hit didn’t score a run. You can measure this team’s speed with a sundial. Let us recap the blown run scoring opportunities:

  • Second Inning: Chase Headley struck out with runners on second and third and two outs.
  • Third Inning: Brian McCann struck out with runners on the corners and two outs.
  • Fourth Inning: Didi Gregorius and Headley struck out with a runner on second.
  • Fifth Inning: McCann lined out with runners on first and second and two outs.
  • Seventh Inning: Brett Gardner flew out with runners on first and second and one out, then Carlos Beltran flew out to end the inning with runners on the corners.

That’s about it. The Yankees were nice enough to go quietly in the eighth and ninth innings to get this game over quickly. Ellsbury and Beltran each had two hits to pace the offense. They’ve been the team’s two best hitters for a few weeks now. Alex Rodriguez doubled, Gregorius singled, and Ronald Torreyes singled as well. Gardner and McCann drew the walks. Even with nine baserunners, Wednesday’s game was about as uneventful as it gets offensively.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Blown Open Late
Kirby Yates finally has Kirby Yates numbers. He went into the game with a 2.25 ERA (3.17 FIP) and left with a 3.98 ERA (3.36 FIP). He faced five batters in the seventh and retired one. Nick Goody came in and allowed two inherited runners to score plus one run of his own. The offense has been struggling big time but two runs is doable, you know? A bloop and a blast and the game is tied. Yates and Goody then put the game out of reach by allowing five runs on four hits and two walks in that seventh inning. I wasn’t looking forward to another teaser comeback attempt in the ninth anyway.

That … seems like everything, doesn’t it? Richard Bleier tossed a scoreless eighth inning in his second big league appearance. Tanaka made a rare error when he threw away a pickoff attempt, allowing the runner to get all the way to third. He did managed to escape the jam though. Headley, who had a solid month of May, started June with a Golden Sombrero. Did I miss anything else? I think that covers it.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Here are the box score and video highlights, plus the updated standings if you need a good cry. Check out our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the loss probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are going to Detroit for a one-game series with the Tigers. They’re making up that rained out game from earlier this season. Michael Pineda and lefty Matt Boyd will be the pitching matchup. That’s a 7:40pm ET start for whatever reason. Lot of weird start times of late, no?

Game 52: Avoid the Sweep


So here we are. The Yankees have already lost this three-game series to the Blue Jays — they’re 0-3 in series against the Jays this season — and tonight they’re trying to avoid being swept for the third time this season. That’s surprising, isn’t it? Seems like more. They were swept by the A’s at home and the Red Sox at Fenway Park.

Anyway, the Yankees have their best pitcher on the mound this evening, so that’s good. Will the Yankees actually score runs for him? Probably not but you never know. They’re hitting .169/.238/.286 as a team in the last six games. Bad. Bad bad bad. No offense is the worst offense. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. DH Alex Rodriguez
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It has been cold and windy in Toronto today, so I imagine the Rogers Centre roof will be closed. The series finale will begin at 7:07pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Notes: Rob Refsnyder took ground ball at first base this afternoon, so that’s a thing that’s happening. There’s no reason not to try at this point. Dustin Ackley isn’t coming back and it’s a possible way to make Refsnyder more useful.

2016 Draft: Taylor Trammell

Taylor Trammell | OF

Trammell, 18, attends Mount Paran Christian High School not too far outside Atlanta, where he is a two-sport star. He’s hitting .393/.526/.672 with three homers, 14 walks, and eight strikeouts in 20 games so far this spring. Last fall Trammel scored 36 touchdowns and ran for nearly 2,500 yards. He had some college football opportunities, but is committed to George Tech to play baseball only.

Scouting Report
Because he’s split his time between baseball and football, Trammell is still quite raw as a baseball player, but he’s a high-end athlete whose best tool is speed that rates near the top of the scale. He does have good feel for hitting despite his inexperience, and he knows the strike zone and can square pitches up consistently. Trammell is 6-foot-2 and 195 lbs., and the expectation is he will grow into some power as he matures. Defensively, he uses his speed well in center and could be a well-above-average gloveman once he learns how to take better routes. His weakest tool is his arm. It’s below-average and not a weapon in any way. The athleticism and innate feel for hitting give Trammell very high upside despite his relative lack of experience.

Opinions seem to be split on Trammell. Baseball America ranked him as the 13th best prospect in the draft class in their latest rankings. MLB.com had him a little lower at 31st and Keith Law (subs. req’d) had him even lower at 44th. The Yankees pick 18th and, for what it’s worth, they’ve been connected to Trammell in mock drafts recently. The Yankees haven’t had much success developing toolsy high school kids lately and they’ve started focusing on college players in the draft because of that. Trammell would be an against the grain pick based on the last few years.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: June 2011

Big Z. (Brian Kersey/Getty)
Big Z. (Brian Kersey/Getty)

We are now in June and that means it’s time for another edition of our MLBTR Archives series. All we do each month is look back at the rumors we obsessed over five years ago. So many things that sounded silly back then make total sense now, and vice versa. As a reminder, we’re only posting this stuff for fun, not to embarrass the reporters or the MLBTR crew. They’re all cool in my book.

Alright, so back in June 2011 it was starting to become clear the Yankees hit the scrap heap lottery with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. They lost out on Cliff Lee over the winter and everyone was panicked about the rotation, both those two filled in nicely. It helped that Ivan Nova started to come into this own as well. The Yankees went into June with a 30-23 record and a one-game lead in the AL East, but they still had some pitching needs. Let’s dive into MLBTR’s June 2011 archives.

June 3rd, 2011: Yankees To Explore Deals For Starting Pitching

Though it may seem like the Yankees’ rotation is a strength, it has been solid rather than spectacular to this point in the season. The Yankees aren’t assuming Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia can continue pitching this well, so, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, they will be looking for ways to bolster their starting pitching depth this summer.

“Overall, the pitching is going to be the defining thing for us,” GM Brian Cashman told Sherman. “The pitching has excelled, but it is not wise or prudent to sit back and try not to reinforce and improve on it.”

Here is a complete list of starting pitchers traded during the 2011 season: Rodrigo Lopez, Felipe Paulino, Tommy Hunter, Jason Marquis, Erik Bedard, Doug Fister, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Edwin Jackson. Fister had not really come into his own yet while Lopez, Marquis, and Bedard were nearing the end of the line. Hunter was at the point where it was beginning to look like his future lied in the bullpen, and, sure enough, it did.

Jackson and Ubaldo were the two big names at the deadline. Jackson was coming up on free agency and the White Sox were bad, so flipping him made sense. He went to the Cardinals in a three-team trade that sent Colby Rasmus to the Blue Jays. Jimenez pitched like an ace from 2009-10 (3.17 ERA and 3.23 FIP in Coors Field) but struggled in 2011 (4.46 ERA and 3.58 FIP), and no one was really sure which one was the real Ubaldo. Turned out to be the 2011 version. The Yankees were in on him but were unwilling to trade their top prospects, namely Jesus Montero and Manny Banuelos, so to the Indians he went. I remember being open to trading Montero for Jimenez. Zoinks.

June 3rd, 2011: Quick Hits: Orioles, Danks, Athletics, Yankees, Mets

The Mets are open to talking trade with the Yankees, writes David Lennon of Newsday.  Even though there are obvious hurdles, Lennon wonders if the two could be a match in a deal involving Carlos Beltran.

There was no real fit for Beltran on the 2011 Yankees. That team had Brett Gardner, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson in the outfield, and the worst of those players (Gardner) was in his second full season the year after posting a .383 OBP. Jorge Posada was struggling at DH but the Yankees were never going to replace him.

The Mets were in sell mode at the time — they traded Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez that deadline, but did hold onto impending free agent Jose Reyes — and they had a few pieces who might have been able to help the Yankees. I don’t think Brian Cashman or Mets GM Sandy Alderson would have any problem making a crosstown trade if they believe it’s the best thing for their team. I think that’s true today and I think it was true in 2011. The two ownerships might be a little more squeamish. Potentially losing a trade to your crosstown rival is a bad look.

June 6th, 2011: Quick Hits: Zambrano, Stewart, Reds, Hall

Levine and Haugh each cite the Yankees as a potential trade partner, though it’s hard to imagine the Yankees taking on a high-priced pitcher with such baggage.  It’s even harder to imagine New York parting with a significant player like Joba Chamberlain or Brett Gardner in exchange for Zambrano, as Levine suggests.

The Cubs were quite bad in 2011 and Carlos Zambrano’s crazy guy act was starting to wear thin. He was only 30 at the time but he was starting to slip, enough that the Cubbies sent him to the bullpen in 2010. Zambrano had a 4.82 ERA (4.59 FIP) in 145.2 innings in 2011 and he was owed $18M in 2012, so yeah, not many clubs wanted him. The Yankees needed an arm, but not that badly.

The Cubs ended up eating that $18M and sending Zambrano to the Marlins following the season. He had a 4.49 ERA (4.47 FIP) with Miami in 2012 and then made seven minor league starts with the Phillies in 2013. That was it. He hasn’t pitched since. Today is Zambrano’s 35th birthday, you know. Hard to believe he’s still only 35.

June 7th, 2011: Quick Hits: Pettitte, Harper, Gordon

Andy Pettitte said on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN New York 1050 that he is “loving” being home and that he doesn’t expect to play ever again. “If I missed it so much and I felt in my heart like that was the thing I need to do, I would try to start thinking about it and start considering it again,” he said. “But I’m just telling you right now, I don’t think I will ever pitch again.” Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork has the quotes from Pettitte.

Hey guys, remember that time Pettitte retired, said he was “loving” being home and didn’t expect to play again, then came back to pitch two more years? Good times. Don’t get me wrong, Andy coming back was awesome. It was just so absurd. There was the non-stop “will he or won’t he retire” non-updates during the 2010-11 offseason that, frankly, got to be annoying. Then Pettitte sat out a year before coming back and pitching to a 3.49 ERA (3.64 FIP) from 2012-13. Crazy.

June 7th, 2011: Stark On Montero, Athletics, Phillies

Though the Yankees never officially offered Jesus Montero to the Royals for Joakim Soria last year, executives around baseball are convinced GM Brian Cashman would have parted with the top catching prospect to acquire the Royals’ reliever.

This report was basically a bunch of executives guessing Cashman would have traded Montero for Soria, which I don’t buy. It’s a good thing he didn’t either. Michael Pineda hasn’t worked out as hoped, but in 2011 Soria had what was by far the worst year of his career up to that point (4.03 ERA and 3.49 FIP), then he blew out his elbow and needed his second career Tommy John surgery in 2012. He left as a free agent after that season. Montero for Soria in 2010 would have worked out horribly based on everything we know now, even with Montero turning into a dud.

June 8th, 2011: Yankees Claim Jeff Marquez

The Yankees claimed pitcher Jeff Marquez off waivers from the White Sox, MLBTR has learned.  The 26-year-old righty had been designated for assignment by Chicago on Sunday.  The move will require the Yankees to open up a spot on the 40-man roster; Marquez will be in uniform for tonight’s game against the Red Sox.

Jeff Marquez! The random former prospects are easily my favorite part of the MLBTR Archives series. The Yankees selected Marquez with the 41st overall pick in the 2004 draft — that was the compensation pick for losing David Wells to the Padres as a free agent — and he was one of their better prospects for a few years. He eventually went to the White Sox in the Nick Swisher trade.

Marquez made his MLB debut with the 2010 ChiSox, allowing two runs in one inning. The Yankees grabbed him off waivers in 2011 and he ended up appearing in three games with them that summer, allowing a run in four innings. Marquez hurt his shoulder and he spent most of that season on the DL. The Yankees cut him loose after the season. Marquez is still out there slingin’, you know. He was in an independent league last year, and this year he has a 3.08 ERA in ten starts and 52.2 innings for a team in Mexico.

June 10th, 2011: Heyman On Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, D’Backs

Yankees GM Brian Cashman doesn’t expect elite starting pitching to be available this summer. “I just don’t see a No. 1 pitcher you can pinpoint,” Cashman said. 

Ubaldo was the closest thing to a No. 1 pitcher available at the time, and like I mentioned earlier, he did indeed pitch like a true No. 1 from 2009-10. Didn’t last though. Fister ended up being the guy who was moved at the deadline and provided ace-caliber production.

June 10th, 2011: Olney On Yankees, A’s, Moustakas

The Yankees have lost reliever after reliever to the disabled list this year, but that doesn’t mean they’re about to rush top pitching prospects like Manny Banuelos to the Bronx. GM Brian Cashman told ESPN.com’s Buster Olney that he’ll try to strengthen the team’s bullpen in other ways. Here are the rest of Olney’s rumors:

  • Triple-A reliever Kevin Whelan could be an option for the Yankees, who have a depleted bullpen instead of the dominant one they expected after the offseason.

Rafael Soriano (elbow), Pedro Feliciano (shoulder), and Joba Chamberlain (elbow) were all on the DL on the date of this report. Also, Phil Hughes was on the DL with a tired arm, forcing Colon into the rotation. David Robertson emerged as David effin’ Robertson that year and had taken over as the eighth inning guy. Luis Ayala was pitching in the seventh and Boone Logan was in his first year as the primary lefty. The rest of the bullpen was up in the air.

Whelan, who came over in the Gary Sheffield-Humberto Sanchez trade many moons ago, had a 2.75 ERA (3.28 FIP) in 52.1 Triple-A innings in 2011. It was one of those “hey, this guy who never threw strikes is throwing strikes!” situations. Whelan did get called up that summer, and he promptly walked five in 1.2 innings. He spent the 2012-15 seasons bouncing around Triple-A, and he did make it back to MLB briefly with the 2014 Tigers. Whelan’s out of baseball now, as far as I can tell.

June 13th, 2011: Yankees Sign Greg Smith, Cory Wade

The Yankees have signed southpaw Greg Smith and right-hander Cory Wade to minor league contracts, according to the International League’s transactions page.  Both pitchers will report to Triple-A Scranton.

Smith was nothing more than Triple-A roster filler. All those injuries depleted the team’s depth. Wade ended up being pretty damn awesome for the 2011 Yankees. He was called up a few days after signing and he gave the team 39.2 innings with a 2.04 ERA (3.76 FIP) despite an 88 mph fastball. Wade had that Bugs Bunny changeup. He was awful in 2012 though, and wound up getting cut loose after the season. He’s been out of baseball since 2014. We’ll always have the summer of 2011, Cory.

Also, the Yankees signed Wade because oft-injured bullpen prospect Tim Norton blew out his shoulder. Norton had a 1.50 ERA (2.31 FIP) with 46 strikeouts and 30 innings split between Double-A and Triple-A that year, I remember reading the club was preparing to call Norton up before the injury. They had to sign Wade instead. Norton never pitched again after the 2011 injury and he’s been coaching in the farm system the last few years. He is currently High-A Tampa’s pitching coach.

June 14th, 2011: Yankees To Sign Brian Gordon

Brian Gordon has opted out of his contract with the Phillies and will sign with the Yankees, according to to Ken Davidoff of Newsday (via Twitter, courtesy Bob Brookover of The Philadelphia Inquirer). There is a condition in Gordon’s contract that stipulated he be added to an acquiring team’s Major League roster should he opt out, as Davidoff recently reported.

Ah yes, remember Brian Gordon? I remember the outrage when he was called up to make a spot start because the Yankees went with Gordon over a young Triple-A kid with good numbers named David Phelps. Anyway, Gordon made two starts with the Yankees, one of which was not awful. He asked for his release a few weeks later to pursue an opportunity in Asia. Gordon actually returned to the Yankees and spent some time in Triple-A in 2014. He’s been out of the game since.

Phelps, meanwhile, never recovered emotionally from getting passed over for the spot start and now sells homemade wicker baskets roadside in Missouri. Sad.

June 15th, 2011: Quick Hits: Bautista, Brian Gordon, Kuroda

Sherman also discusses Hiroki Kuroda, who he feels could be a target for the Yankees if the Dodgers want to dump his salary and the righty is willing to waive his no-trade clause.

Man I was all over Kuroda at the 2011 trade deadline. I wanted the Yankees to go after him so bad, though I’m pretty sure Kuroda eventually told the Dodgers he wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause, so it was a moot point. Plenty of folks told me I was an idiot because Kuroda was just an NL pitcher. Hah! Who’s wrong now mofos? I’m wrong all the time but I was right about Kuroda, so excuse me while I live it up. Anyway, here’s a much needed #HIROK video.

Miss that guy so much.

June 15th, 2011: Rosenthal On Reds, Nunez, Edwin Rodriguez

The bright side of Derek Jeter‘s injury is that it gives the Yankees a look at Eduardo Nunez, their possible shortstop of the future.  Rosenthal also notes that Nunez could be a potential trade chip.

The “Eduardo Nunez, Shortstop of the Future” era was a weird one. The tools were there. Nunez could make contact with ease and he had a rocket arm, but man, he was so error prone. They were hilarious errors too. There are hilarious errors and sad errors. Nunez made hilarious errors. He hit .265/.313/.385 (87 wRC+) in over 300 plate appearances while filling in for injuries during that 2011 season, which was kinda sorta promising for a 24-year-old middle infielder. Nunez never built on that though and his defense became unplayable. He’s managed to carve out a role with the Twins as utility player. Good for him.

June 16th, 2011: Scott Kazmir Rumors: Thursday

Yankees GM Brian Cashman said he hasn’t looked into the possibility of acquiring Kazmir but will eventually, tweets MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez.  Cashman commented, “I know he’s struggled.”

The Angels flat out released Scott Kazmir about a week before this report, eating his $12M salary. He was hurt and he had a 5.54 ERA (5.12 FIP) in 299 innings from 2009-11. Yikes. I remember some folks wanted the Yankees to sign him because they needed pitching and he was a big name, but no one bit and he went unsigned. Kazmir had to work his way back to the big leagues through the independent leagues. He’s had a very nice second phase to his career as a sinker/changeup pitcher after starting his career as a flame-throwing fastball/slider guy.

June 16th, 2011: Yankees Release Amaury Sanit

The Yankees released righty Amaury Sanit to open a 40-man roster spot for Brian Gordon, tweets Newsday’s Ken Davidoff.  To clear a spot on the 25-man roster, Lance Pendleton was optioned to Triple-A.

Sanit was one of those lower profile Cuban players. The Yankees signed him cheap in 2008 and he spent a few years in their farm system before getting a chance as an up-and-down guy in 2011. He had a bullpen saving long relief appearance in his MLB debut. Sanit made only three big league appearances after that before hurting his elbow and getting released. He’s been pitching in Mexico ever since.

June 17th, 2011: Cubs Rumors: Zambrano, Dempster, Soriano

Some of the Yankees top evaluators have more interest in Ryan Dempster, reports Levine, as you might expect.  They’ll get a look at him Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field.  Dempster has $7.7MM remaining on his contract this year, as well as a $14MM player option for 2012.  He also has full no-trade rights and strong ties to Chicago.

The Cubs never did trade Dempster that season, probably because he had a 4.80 ERA (3.90 FIP) and another year on his contract. Why sell low when the team is going nowhere and you can afford the contract? Those innings aren’t going to pitch themselves. The Cubs ended up sending Dempster to the Rangers for two young players at the 2012 trade deadline, one of whom is righty Kyle Hendricks, who’s been a rock solid fifth starter for Chicago. That worked out for them. The Yankees? I thought they were smart to pass then and still think that now.

June 17th, 2011: Gammons: Yankees, Others Tampered With Miller

The Red Sox announced today that Andrew Miller will make his season debut against the Padres on Monday after calling him up from Triple-A before his opt-out clause became an issue. However, in an appearance on WEEI’s Mut & Merloni Show today, Peter Gammons said that the Yankees and several other teams tried to get Miller to opt-out of his deal. WEEI.com’s Jerry Spar has the transcript.

“I know this,” said Gammons, “There were a lot of teams that tampered and tried to get him to do the opt-out, including the New York Yankees. A lot of teams wanted him to opt out on Wednesday. Because of his trust for the Red Sox and how much they’ve invested in him — not in terms of money but in terms of effort to just get his delivery back and be patient with him, he stayed. In some ways, they’re fortunate. Because I think he could have gotten twice as much money if he had left.”

Huh, I don’t remember hearing about this at all. This probably happens all the time, right? When a guy has an opt-out date coming up, doesn’t his agent send out some feelers and gauge the market? That seems prudent.

June 22nd, 2011: Minor Deals: Lamb, Tiffee, Periard

The Yankees have signed Mike Lamb and Terry Tiffee to minor league deals, reports Donnie Collins of The Scranton Times-Tribune. Both infielders were playing in the independent Atlantic League, Lamb with the Camden River Sharks and Tiffee with the Lancaster Barnstormers. They will head to Triple-A.

Lamb and Tiffee were just Triple-A roster filler, though Lamb is a notable footnote in Yankees history. The Yankees acquired him from the Rangers in the minor trade back in 2004 after Aaron Boone tore his ACL playing basketball, and he was going to be their starting third baseman that season. Then the Yankees went out and acquired American Hero Alex Rodriguez to play the hot corner. New York flipped Lamb to the Astros for a minor leaguer at the end of Spring Training. That 2011 stint with Triple-A Scranton was Lamb’s last hurrah in pro ball.

June 23rd, 2011: Cashman: Reyes To Yankees ‘Not Going To Happen’

GM Brian Cashman told Roger Rubin of the New York Daily News that the Yankees are not going to acquire Jose Reyes any time in the foreseeable future. Cashman said a move for Reyes is “just not going to happen” and explained that he believes in his club’s current shortstops.

There was — and still is, kinda — this weird narrative about the Yankees going after Reyes that I’m not sure would exist if he hadn’t played with the Mets. Every year it was “Derek Jeter’s going to retire soon and Reyes can replace him at short,” which I guess made sense, except Jeter didn’t retire until Reyes had started his decline phase. People were talking about him replacing Jeter in like 2010. That just wasn’t going to happen.

The Mets never did trade Reyes at the deadline that year. They took the two draft picks after the season and used them on catcher Kevin Plawecki and infielder Matt Reynolds. That was all ownership though. The Wilpons didn’t let Alderson trade him because they wanted butts in the seats.

June 24th, 2011: K-Rod Would Consider Trade To Yankees, Rays

6:06PM: Rodriguez described himself as “irritated” about the story describing his interest in a trade to the Yankees, tweets Andy McCullough of the Newark Star-Ledger.  The closer reiterated that he wants to stay with the Mets.

8:13AM: Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez told Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News that he would consider accepting a trade to a contending team like the Yankees, even if it meant setting up rather than closing. Rodriguez says he’d “love to stay” put, but understands that the Mets may approach him about waiving the no-trade protection that allows him to block deals to ten teams.

The Yankees were connected to K-Rod all the time too, though that’s a bit more understandable because teams always have room for another high-end reliever. The Mets did trade him that summer — I remember the trade was announced like ten minutes after the All-Star Game ended — for two prospects who never amounted to much. I have a hard time thinking the Wilpons would have signed off on a trade sending Rodriguez to the Yankees.

June 25th, 2011: Olney’s Latest: Cashman, Rays, K-Rod, Managers

In today’s Insider-only blog post, ESPN’s Buster Olney spoke to executives that believe this will be Brian Cashman’s last season as Yankees GM. His contract expires after the season, and it could just be a simple case of burnout. “I think maybe he’s finally had it,” said one GM. “That’s a job that will take a lot out of you.” Olney cites Cashman’s recent stretch of brutal and uncharacteristic honestly as evidence, but also notes that there have been three other instances in which he’s looked ready to leave, only to end up staying on three-year deals.

That was two three-year contracts ago. Cashman signed a three-year deal following the 2011 season and then another three-year contract following the 2014 season. That’s five straight three-year contracts, I believe. We’ve heard the “he’s burned out” and the “he’s sick of ownership overruling him” stuff many times over the years, yet Cashman is still around. Will he be around after his current deal expires following next season?

June 26th, 2011: Davidoff On Padres, Bell, Yankees, Reyes

The Yankees have called the Padres about Bell, but haven’t been as aggressive as other clubs who would use Bell to close games.

Heath Bell was pretty damn awesome for a few years there, but there were definitely some red flags in his game that 2011 season. I remember wanting the Yankees to stay away at the trade deadline and in free agency. Bell’s homer rate basically doubled in 2011 and his strikeout rate fell from 29.2% from 2009-10 to 19.9% in 2011. The Yankees never got particularly close to acquiring Bell as far as we know. The Padres never traded him, took the two draft picks when he left as a free agent after the season, and Bell immediately became cannon fodder. San Diego used one of the compensation picks to select righty Zach Eflin, who they later traded for Matt Kemp.

June 26th, 2011: AL East Notes: Hughes, Montero, Blue Jays, Rays

Rival evaluators have taken note of Jesus Montero‘s decline in offensive production this year, says ESPN.com’s Buster Olney (Insider only). According to Olney, it’s led to some speculation that the Yankees could push to trade Montero this season “in an effort to recoup some value.”

Ah yes, the “Montero is bored” narrative. I definitely think there was some truth to that, though I didn’t consider it as much of a character flaw as I should have. Character flaw isn’t really the right term. I overlooked the apparent lack of motivation. Anyway, here are some Triple-A numbers:

2010 Montero: .289/.353/.517 (133 wRC+) with 21 homers in 123 games
2011 Montero: .288/.348/.467 (121 wRC+) with 18 homers in 109 games

The numbers aren’t that much worse, but they’re worse, and when a guy spends a full year at a level then repeats it the next year, the numbers should improve. Montero came up in September and mashed some dingers, then the Yankees flipped him for five years of a high upside starter. The idea they had to “recoup some value” was pretty crazy though. That sounds like rival execs trying to push his value down.

June 27th, 2011: New York Notes: Crosstown Trades, Osuna, Reyes

The Yankees, Rangers, Blue Jays, Athletics, and Padres watched Roberto Osuna throw in Mexico on Thursday, reports Roberto Espinoza of Vanguardia (link in Spanish).  The Red Sox are also interested.  The 16-year-old Osuna is one of the top pitchers in the July 2nd class.

That’s the same Roberto Osuna who is currently in Toronto’s bullpen. The Blue Jays gave him a $1.5M bonus back in 2011 and injuries, most notably Tommy John surgery, limited him to 109 minor league innings from 2012-14. Osuna managed to make the Blue Jays out of Spring Training as a 20-year-old last year, and he’s now one of the best relievers in the league. The kid skipped Double-A and Triple-A.

That 2011-12 international signing period was the first year with bonus restrictions. Every team had $2.9M to spend that year, then the next year they starting basing the bonus pools on the reverse order of the standings. The biggest bonus the Yankees handed out that year went to third baseman Miguel Andujar. He got $750,000. The best player and prospect they signed that summer? Luis Severino. The Yankees picked him up for only $225,000.

June 28th, 2011: Sherman On Yankees, Padres, Clippard

Hoping for the Yanks to acquire Jair Jurrjens or Derek Lowe?  We’re not sure if either is available, but Sherman says “the Yankees’ policy has become pretty much to run away from Atlanta pitching after having successful Braves hurlers blow up on them.”

I’m trying to remember which Braves pitchers blew up on the Yankees. Jaret Wright for sure. Chris Hammond too. He had a 2.86 ERA (3.25 FIP) in 63 innings with New York in 2003 but I’m not sure anyone felt comfortable with him on the mound. I guess Steve Karsay fits. He only spent a half-season with the Braves before coming to the Yankees though. Does Denny Neagle count? He had a stint with the Reds between the Braves and Yankees. Javy Vazquez 2.0 didn’t work out too well, and more recently, there’s David Carpenter.

Braves pitchers seem to break down at a higher rate than all other pitchers, and maybe it’s just a fluke. Jurrjens, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy, and the late Tommy Hanson all broke down physically and/or had their performance collapse two or three years into their careers. Alex Wood’s elbow is acting up now too. Even if it is a fluke, that kind of recent track record is going to scare teams away. Say no to Braves pitchers. The long-term track record is awful unless you’re a Hall of Fame talent.

June 29th, 2011: Minor Deals: Kensing, Bautista

The Yankees have signed Logan Kensing to a minor league contract according to his representatives, CAA Baseball, on Twitter. The 28-year-old right-hander did not pitch in affiliated baseball last year and has a 5.81 ERA in 161 big league innings. He pitched for Yankees manager Joe Girardi with the Marlins in 2006.

I could have sworn Kensing spent some time with the Yankees, but apparently not. He only spent a few weeks in Triple-A. Once upon a time Kensing was supposed to be a future closer with the Marlins, though that never quite worked out. He’s still active though. In fact, Kensing made the Tigers’ Opening Day roster this year. He didn’t last long (4.2 innings) before being designated for assignment.

June 29th, 2011: Yankees Acquire Sergio Mitre

Sergio Mitre is heading back to the Bronx. The Yankees acquired the right-hander from the Brewers for cash considerations, according to Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (on Twitter). Milwaukee designated Mitre for assignment Monday and he has since drawn interest from other teams.

That’s 2009 World Series champion Sergio Mitre to you. Mitre spent parts of three seasons with the Yankees. He had a 6.79 ERA (5.30) in 51.2 innings in 2009 and a 3.33 ERA (4.69 FIP) in 54 innings in 2010 before the team traded him to the Brewers for Chris Dickerson in Spring Training 2011. Milwaukee got sick of him and designated him for assignment, so the Yankees brought him back to help their injury depleted bullpen.

Mitre’s second stint with the Yankees lasted 5.1 innings. He allowed nine runs on nine hits and four walks before going down with a shoulder injury. The Yankees released Mitre following the season, he threw 11.1 innings in winter ball in Mexico in 2012, and hasn’t pitched since. Sergio Mitre was Esmil Rogers before Esmil Rogers came along.

Masahiro Tanaka’s latest adjustment: A new position on the pitching rubber

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

The season is nearly one-third of the way complete, and so far Masahiro Tanaka has not just been the Yankees best starter, he’s been one of the best starters in the entire American League. Look over the AL pitching leaderboard and you’ll see Tanaka in the top ten of pretty much every meaningful statistic. In many cases he’s in the top five. He’s been awesome.

Tanaka, as we’ve already discussed, has made some significant changes this year. Most notably, he has basically replaced his straight four-seamer fastball with sinking two-seamers, perhaps in response to last year’s homer issues. Tanaka went from 18.6% four-seamers and 13.6% sinkers last year to 2.7% four-seamers and 37.2% sinkers this year. As a result, his ground ball rate has jumped from 47.0% to 55.1% while his homer rate has dropped from 1.46 HR/9 to 0.83 HR/9.

That’s not the only adjustment Tanaka has made this season and it’s not even the most recent. In his last two starts, Tanaka has changed his position on the mound. He’s now standing on the far first base side of the pitching rubber. Check it out:

Masahiro Tanaka mound position

Those are the dead center field cameras at Fenway Park (April 29th) and Tropicana Field (May 27th), so there’s no camera angle funny business going on. Tanaka is, very clearly, standing much more on the first base side of the rubber. The PitchFX data shows the drastic change in his horizontal release point. From Brooks Baseball:

Masahiro Tanaka horizontal release point

Tanaka’s average horizontal release point has shifted roughly 12 inches towards first base in his last two starts thanks to his new position on the mound. This is not insignificant! It changes everything, really. The pitches come out at different angles now, and standing so far to the first base side means Tanaka has to adjust the way he pitches to both sides of the plate.

Why did Tanaka change his position on the rubber? Brendan Kuty asked pitching coach Larry Rothschild that exact question:

“He came up with it himself to move over, for angles to the fastball more than anything else,” Rothschild said. “We’ll see how we go as it plays. Right now, it seems like a good thing, but it’s a long season and we’ll see. As long as he can throw the split as well from that side, because that’s an important pitch for him.”

Shifting to the first or third base side of the pitching rubber is not rare, but it’s not exactly common either. After getting traded to the Cubs, Jake Arrieta shifted to the third base side and became a super-ace. A few years back Fernando Rodney shifted towards first base and became a dominant closer with the Rays. Others have changed their position on the rubber too. Arrieta and Rodney are two examples of extreme performance improvement.

Tanaka has allowed one run on seven hits and two walks in 14 innings in two starts since moving to the first base side of the rubber, so, at the very least, his new position on the mound isn’t hurting his performance. That’s not much of a sample though and it’s still too early to fully understand what kind of effect standing closer to first base really has. This is a very recent adjustment. Very, very recent.

The biggest concern with Tanaka is health, not performance. He’s never not been good when healthy. Even last year’s home run problems did not stop him from posting a 115 ERA+ and +3.0 WAR in 154 innings. Tanaka started throwing more sinkers to counter that home run problem and by and large it’s worked. He gave up three dingers in a bad start against the Royals on May 10th and he’s given up three homers total in his other nine starts combined.

This new position on the pitching rubber is designed to … do something. I’m not sure what. Rothschild says it’s for “angles to the fastball,” whatever that means. Could it be to change the way the splitter and slider play off the fastball? Or make the sinker look way off the plate away to righties before darting back and catching the corner? I’m really not sure.

Tanaka will make his 11th start of the season tonight and his position on the mound is something worth watching going forward. If Tanaka stays on the first base side of the rubber, then we’ll know it’s working as intended. If he goes back to where he was before — or even to the extreme third base side, I guess — then we’ll know he’s still tinkering.

Two months into 2016, it’s clear the top relievers are most valuable to the Yankees as trade chips

Has he been traded yet? What about now? (Presswire)
Has he been traded yet? What about now? (Presswire)

The Yankees aren’t very good, folks. It’s true. They haven’t been all that good since the middle of last year. They were going to need some things to break their way to contend in 2016, and not only are those things not happening, unexpected things are going wrong. Luis Severino and Michael Pineda have been awful and Mark Teixeira forgot how to hit, for example. Last night’s loss dropped them to 24-27 on the season. Yuck.

Last night’s seventh inning meltdown notwithstanding, pretty much the only thing going right for the Yankees this year is the back-end of their bullpen. The trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman have allowed eleven earned runs in 54.1 innings (1.82 ERA) with 100 strikeouts and eight walks. Most of that is Miller and Betances since Chapman had to serve his suspension. But still, they’ve been collectively awesome.

Those three guys are the reason the Yankees are 23-0 when leading after seven innings and 18-1 when leading after the six innings. The problem is the rest of the team isn’t nearly good enough to hand them leads consistently. The offense is powerless (and average-less) and while the rotation has been much better of late, it’s not going to win many games by itself. The Yankees have three Ferraris in the garage but they can’t figure out how to get the door open.

It’s easy to say Betances, Miller, and Chapman are crucial to the team’s success this year and that they’ll go nowhere without them, and that is 100% true, but they’re not going anywhere with them either. What needs to happen for the Yankees to make a run and contend this year? Like four guys in the lineup need to start putting up huge numbers and both Severino and Pineda need to do a complete 180. Possible? Sure. So very unlikely though.

The Yankees are not a team that is one or two pieces away from contention. They need something pretty close to an overhaul whether they want to admit it or not. Ownership can continue to spout the “you can’t rebuild here” line until they’re blue in the face. It doesn’t change that it needs to happen. How much more obvious could it be? The Yankees have a ton of money coming off the books the next two years but they can’t spend their way back into contention. Baseball doesn’t work like that anymore.

The quickest and easiest way for the Yankees to add some desperately needed young talent is by breaking up that end-game bullpen and trading those relievers. Every single one of them should be on the market. Relievers are too volatile to be counted on as part of a rebuild — serious question: how confident are you Betances will still be an ace reliever when the Yankees are ready to contend again? — even the very best of them. These guys are hot commodities.

The good news is high-end relievers are always in demand. Every contender will want those guys. The Cubs lost last night because Clayton Richard had to face lefties Chase Utley, Corey Seager, and Adrian Gonzalez in the eighth inning of a scoreless game, for example. Don’t you think they’d be willing to pay big for Miller? The need for elite bullpen help always exists. There is lots more demand than supply. We saw the kind of packages Craig Kimbrel and Ken Giles fetched this offseason. They were significant hauls loaded with top prospects.

Believe me, there is nothing I would love more than to watch the Yankees storm into the postseason with Betances, Miller, and Chapman turning every game into a five (four?) inning affair. The bullpen is by far the most exciting and watchable part of the team (Masahiro Tanaka is a distant second). No one wants to see these players traded. They’re fun! That said, in the grand scheme of things, trading a reliever or three is 100% the right baseball move given the state of the franchise.

The Yankees are not ready to win with this group right now. There are too many weaknesses. This isn’t “the season is still young” stuff anymore. Holding on to these relievers only to win, say, 83 games instead of 78 would be a massive mistake, and the Yankees can’t afford any more mistakes. They’re paying for a lot of them right now. The sooner they trade them, the more they get back and less injury risk they assume. The Yankees must be willing to deal Betances, Miller, and Chapman starting today.

Yankees can’t make leads Happ-en in a 4-1 loss to Toronto

Summarizes 2016 Yankees: the offense (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

It’s a bit of a deja vu here. CC Sabathia goes up against J.A. Happ and the Blue Jays, pitches a solid game, but ends up a loser thanks to lack of run support. The good news is that Sabathia’s run of newfound effectiveness is continuing. The bad news? Well, just about everything else. The Yankees have dropped two in a row to the Blue Jays to end their May.

CC Is Still Good

When his career is all said and done, we will probably remember him for his fireballing days of leading Indians, Brewers and Yankees to playoffs. However, at this stage of the career, Sabathia seems to have embraced a soft-tossing lefty role. As a result, as of this moment, he’s been able to induce more soft contact (25.6% coming into tonight, 16.5% last year) and infield pop ups (18.6% this year as opposed to 10.2% career).

After tossing six innings of 2 ER ball, he marked a nice end to his torrid May. Overall, Sabathia allowed only three earned runs in four starts, while logging 26.0 IP. It’s not all luck either. He’s also struck out 25 strikeouts while allowing only five walks during that span. What more could you ask for? Well, you could ask for… more support from the lineup. We’ll get to that later.

Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

On to the negatives – he did allow a homer tonight. In the fourth, Sabathia uncorked a 89 mph sinker that caught just a bit too much plate to Justin Smoak. The Jays first baseman didn’t miss much of it – he drove it just over the left center wall for a game-tying solo homer. It’s just the second dinger that Sabathia has allowed all year, which is pretty incredible if you think about it. It’s May 31!

Speaking of solid pitching performances, the Yankee hitters let another one happen against them tonight. Oops.

Runs Are Not Happ-ening

The Yankees faced the newly-fixed J.A. Happ three times this season. They’ve lost all three of those. In those three starts, Happ has only allowed three earned runs in 19 IP against the Bronx Bombers. That is not a good look for the Yankee lineup.

Happ wasn’t exactly blowing the Yankee hitters away (3 K’s in 6 IP, 7 whiffs in 97 pitches) and he also benefited from a few stellar defensive plays (think: Kevin Pillar) but it wasn’t like the Yankee bats looked domineering as well. New York did score a run off of him – but it wasn’t easy.

In the top of second, the Yankees started the frame with two consecutive hits – a double from Chase Headley and an infield single by Austin Romine. Sounds promising, right? Didi Gregorius followed it up with a shallow fly out that failed to move up the runners. Next up, Aaron Hicks nearly hit into a double play but just beat the throw to first by a beat to earn an RBI ground out. Oh, and the Yankees led 1-0.

They had a lead for about two and a half innings and never had it again.

This ended up being a two-RBI single (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

The Seventh Inning of Doom

With Dellin Betances warming up, Joe Girardi let Sabathia start the bottom of seventh with just under 80 pitches. The leash was obviously super short though – the lefty allowed a leadoff double to Edwin Encarnacion and Joe pulled him out for Betances. Sabathia was obviously not pleased but hey, gotta trust the Betances – Andrew MillerAroldis Chapman sequence, right? Well, it’s not really a foolproof solution.

Betances made first two outs rather stress-free. After walking Devon Travis, Betances allowed a go-ahead single to Kevin Pillar for a 2-1 Jays lead. Toronto wasn’t done. Darwin Barney followed it up with a two-run single that widened the lead to 4-1. The way the offense looked tonight, you might as well as call three-run deficit Mount Himalaya and just like that, the Yankee bats went away quietly the next two innings. Headley’s ninth inning single was the only baserunner they had.


The Yankees had six hits tonight. Chase Headley was the only hitter to have a multi-hit game with two. His avg is up to .236 and OPS, .636. They are both not pretty but, well, it’s an improvement. I’d love to see where both stand by the end of June.

Kirby Yates continued his solid 2016 campaign with a scoreless frame in the eighth. Earlier this season when he made the roster, I thought he could have been this year’s Chris Martin – making the roster from ST and flaming out soon thereafter. However, he has a pretty darn nice 2.25 ERA in 20.0 IP. He’s striking out a good clip (9.90 K/9) while allowing only 13 hits in twenty frames.

Box Score, Highlights, WPA and Standings

Here’s tonight’s box score, video highlights, WPA and updated standings.

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

The Yankees will try to avoid being swept in the series finale Thursday. Masahiro Tanaka and Aaron Sanchez will be the starters.