Game 81: Halfway There

(Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Today is America’s birthday and it marks the halfway point of he 2012 season. The Yankees come into their 81st game with 48 wins on the year but also four losses in their last six games. Thanks to some well-timed AL East mediocrity, both the Red Sox and Orioles gained zero games in the standings while Tampa gained just one during that time. Hooray for that.

It’s too bad the Yankees have to spend the holiday playing indoors in a stupid dome, but that’s life. Blame the schedule-makers. Here’s the lineup as the Bombers look to avoid getting swept at Tropicana Field for the second time this year…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
1B Mark Teixeira
DH Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
LF Andruw Jones
Russell Martin
3B Jayson Nix

RHP David Phelps

This afternoon’s game starts at 3pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Update: Yankees claim Darnell McDonald off waivers from Red Sox

The Yankees have claimed Darnell McDonald off waivers from the Red Sox, who cut him last weekend. McDonald first broke the news on his Twitter feed and the team has since confirmed the move. He’ll will join the Yankees in Fenway Park on Friday and that’s when the team will make the corresponding 25-man roster move. To make room on the 40-man roster, the recently claimed Chris Schwinden was designated for assignment.

McDonald, 33, has hit just .214/.309/.369 in 99 plate appearances for the Red Sox this year but over the last three seasons he’s hit a respectable .252/.323/.413. He does most of his damage against southpaws, owning a .277/.345/.441 batting line against left-handers in his career. McDonald can play all three outfield spots well enough and is out of options, meaning he can’t be sent to the minors without first clearing waivers.

The Yankees can send David Phelps down following today’s start since CC Sabathia is coming back after the All-Star break, which means they’d have a five-man bench for the Red Sox series. It’s worth noting that Boston is scheduled to start three left-handed pitchers — Jon Lester, Franklin Morales, and Felix Doubront — this weekend. Nice and sneaky little move if they picked up McDonald just for that series.

Olney: Yankees have “no intention” in joining bidding for Hamels

Via Buster Olney, the Yankees have “no intention” of getting involved in the bidding for Cole Hamels unless the Phillies’ asking price dropped dramatically. The other day we heard that Philadelphia had begun to gauge trade interest in their homegrown ace left-hander.

We’re going to hear an awful lot of stuff like this in the coming weeks and almost all of it posturing. The Yankees have no reason not to say they won’t get involved unless the price drops and about a million reasons not to say they will get involved. At the end of the day, it’s all about putting yourself in the best possible position to negotiate. Saying you aren’t interested is the best way to do that.

Injury Updates: CC, Feliciano, Nunez, Aardsma

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Two days ago we learned that Joba Chamberlain is expected to begin a minor league rehab assignment within two weeks. Here are some more injury updates courtesy of Chad Jennings and George King

  • CC Sabathia (groin) played catch prior to last night’s game and will throw a bullpen session — his first since going on the DL — on Friday. The team still expects him back right after next week’s All-Star break.
  • Pedro Feliciano (shoulder) threw a bullpen session in front of the braintrust yesterday. He’s currently throwing every three days but the plan is to bump him up to every other day at some point. Joe Girardi said there’s a legitimate chance the southpaw will help the team this season, but I wouldn’t count on it. Anything they get out of him is gravy.
  • Eduardo Nunez (thumb) is on the Triple-A disabled list and has just started taking batting practice. “He hopes to play in a couple of weeks or so,” said Girardi.
  • David Aardsma (elbow) went for various test following his recent setback, but the results aren’t available yet.

The Trade Deadline and Organizational Depth

(Roger Peterson/MiLB.com)

The Yankees’ needs leading up to the trade deadline are pretty clear. The pitching staff needs reinforcements — both the rotation and bullpen — and the bench can use an upgrade, specifically behind the plate and on the infield. There is always room for improvement with the rest of the roster as well, but those two aspects of the team figure to get the most attention prior to July 31st.

Trading is a two-way street though, and you have to give something to get something. For the last two or three years the Yankees had a significant carrot to dangle in Jesus Montero, the type of upper-level impact prospect that gets your foot in the door for any trade negotiation. With Montero in Seattle, Manny Banuelos injured, and Dellin Betances demoted to Double-A, the Yankees are left without that high minors stud to offer. That leaves them at a disadvantage when it comes to pursuing impact players like Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke or whoever else you can come up with.

The cupboard is not bare, however. The Yankees do still have a number of prospects — include top shelf guys — to offer up in trades. I’ve already written about using impending Rule 5 Draft eligible players in deals, but now let’s look at where the the Yankees have the most organizational depth to use as ammunition at the deadline (in no particular order)…

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Triple-A Pitching
Adam Warren‘s disastrous big league debut dimmed his prospect shine a touch but thankfully front offices won’t change their evaluation of a player based on one game (barring injury). He remains the same back-end pitching prospect as always, just now he has two or three days of MLB service time to his credit. D.J. Mitchell is in the same boat as well, though David Phelps has separated himself from those two just a bit because he’s experienced some big league success. Plus we heard back in Spring Training that he was generating buzz with improved velocity.

Those three definitely have trade value, primarily because they’re dirt cheap, offer six years of team control, and have multiple minor league options remaining. At similar points of their careers, guys like Zach Stewart, James McDonald, Clayton Mortenson, and Clayton Richard were included in trades in recent seasons for anything from a rental reliever to multiple years of a star caliber player. Teams value the cost control and flexibility.

Single-A Prospects
New York’s best prospects are all young kids down in the lower levels of the minors, years away from making it to the majors, let along having an impact. It’s tough to build a trade package around those guys, but they do have value. Outfielders Mason Williams and Tyler Austin highlight the group along with catcher Gary Sanchez, and to a lesser extent there is outfielder Slade Heathcott and infielder Angelo Gumbs. Williams, Austin, and Sanchez are the headliners though; they’re the ones we’ll see in all of the top prospect lists this coming winter.

In recent years we’ve seen some big names — Dan Haren, Hunter Pence, Roy Halladay, etc. — dealt for packages built around high-end prospects in the lower minors. The other pieces in those trades were lesser big league ready guys, so it can be done. It’s just a question of finding the right trading partner and a team willing to take the long-term rebuilding route. That’s much easier said than done.

(Mark LoMoglio/MLB.com)

Catching Depth
The Yankees have stocked up on offense-first catchers in recent years and with good reason — quality catching is hard to find. Heck, it’s so hard to find that a team called about Austin Romine‘s availability this spring even though he was on the DL with a somewhat serious back issue. They have J.R. Murphy in Double-A and Sanchez in High-A to go along with the recently drafted Peter O’Brien and recently signed Luis Torrens. Even Frankie Cervelli has trade value because he’s cheap and has a big league track record we can reference. As much attention as those three Triple-A starting pitchers and Single-A high-end prospects get, the catching depth may be the team’s best weapon at the trade deadline.

Infield Depth
Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez aren’t going anywhere, which means if you’re an infielder in this team’s farm system, you have two paths to the big leagues: become a bench player like Eduardo Nunez or get traded. We know that several clubs have expressed interest in Nunez in the past, plus David Adams was supposed to be part of the Cliff Lee trade until he smashed his ankle. The Yankees still have those two to market as well as Corban Joseph, who’s been played very well in Triple-A. I do think Brandon Laird and Ramiro Pena is valueless at this point, however.

* * *

As Brian Cashman likes to say, no one is untouchable but some are more touchable than others. I don’t think they would consider trading Ivan Nova or Phil Hughes unless it was part of a major package with a star caliber player coming back, which seems unlikely at this point. If/when the Yankees swing a deal at the deadline, they won’t have any aces up their sleeve. Their closest to the Majors prospects are back-end pitchers and their highest ceiling prospects will take years to get to the show. Then again, the team’s best asset at the deadline just may be it’s ability to absorb salary.

Yanks give away another one, fall to Rays

And now the losing streak at Tropicana Field is up to the nine games, as the Yankees were once again beaten by the Island of Misfit Hitters who populated the Rays’ lineup on Tuesday. Jeff Keppinger and Sean Rodriguez did the honors this time, as he Bombers compounded the problem by making errors — both physical and mental — and outs on the bases.

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

No, Nova

On the one-year anniversary of the day he was sent to the minors to make room in the rotation for Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova turned in an ugly six-run, six-inning appearance against Tampa. Granted, three of those runs were unearned after Russell Martin didn’t hold onto the ball on a play at the plate, but runs are runs. We can’t blame the hanging slider to Keppinger that resulted in a two-run single one batter later on Martin, that’s all on Nova. One inning later he grooved a 2-1 pitch that Rodriguez hit out of the park for a two-run homer, effectively the game-winner.

I really don’t have to much to add here. Nova didn’t pitch well but it happens, guys aren’t to be on their game each and every time out. It’s just annoying when you get beat by guys like Keppinger and Rodriguez, especially when Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce are on the shelf. You can’t let those two guys beat you, and the Yankees have in the last two games.

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Bad Send

The Yankees scored a pair of first inning runs for the second straight night, then Dewayne Wise tacked on a third run two innings later with a solo homer off one of the catwalks. I dunno what’s gotten into that guy, but they should pass it around the clubhouse. They scored a fourth run — an inning after Tampa tied it at three — when Eric Chavez singled in Raul Ibanez, who chugged around third and scored when Desmond Jennings’ throw to the plate was offline. That was a pretty good send with two outs with Martin on deck, but an accurate throw beats Raul by about 15 feet.

They got lucky with the throw that inning, but not in the sixth. Robinson Cano was thrown out at the plate on Ibanez’s double down the line, which was just an awful send by third base coach Robbie Thomson. The throw beat Cano to the plate by about ten feet and although he made the play closer than it should have been with a creative slide, the fact that the ball beat him to the base by that much shows it was a bad send. With one out, you gotta stop the man at third and take your chances. Thompson admitted his mistake after the game but it was too little, too late. The out at the plate completely took the wind out of the Yankees’ sails and they put just one runner on-base the rest of the game.

Leftovers

(AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Cano forgot how many outs there were in the first, simply putting his head down and running on Nick Swisher‘s fly ball and getting doubled off the base. I say this all the time, but I’m going to have to repeat it again: physical mistakes happen, they’re part of the game. Mental mistakes are far less forgivable. Robbie’s gotta know better than that.

Martin not only went 0-for-4 at the plate, but he committed two errors — one on the play at the plate and another when he threw the ball into center field — and allowed five stolen bases in five chances. I don’t think you can overstate how awful the team’s catchers have been this season, both at the plate and behind it. They’ve been brutal.

Derek Jeter (single and double), Cano (two singles), Ibanez (two doubles), and Wise (homer and single) all had two hits each. Curtis Granderson doubled off Carlos Pena’s glove and Chavez sliced a little run-scoring ground ball single through the left side. The Yankees drew zero walks and went a healthy 3-for-8 (.375) with runners in scoring position. Some more homers would have helped.

Chad Qualls allowed two runs — one his own and one he inherited from Clay Rapada who inherited it from Nova — but was nice enough to throw 36 pitches across 1.2 innings to spare everyone else in the bullpen. He’s now allowed ten (!) of the 16 runners he’s inherited to score this season, an awful 62.5%. Thank goodness he was on the Phillies for just about all of that.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the advanced stats, and ESPN the updated standings.


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next

It’s a Fourth of July matinee for the series finale, with a pair of Davids — Phelps and Price — squaring as the Yankees look to salvage something on this trip to Florida. That one starts at 3pm ET.

Austin injured in High-A debut

In case you missed it late last night, there were a series of promotions involving some of the Yankees’ very best prospects. Meanwhile, here are today’s notes…

  • Apparently the Yankees were planning to call up LHP Justin Thomas from Triple-A to replace RHP Cory Wade before trading for RHP Chad Qualls. Three lefty specialist would have been slight overkill, if you ask me.
  • C Jose Gil (clavicular contusion) has been placed on the DL and RHP Sean Black has been sent back to High-A after one day with Double-A Trenton.
  • C Jackson Valera has been placed on the DL retroactive to Sunday, though it’s unclear what’s wrong with Short Season Staten Island’s backup catcher.
  • LHP Jeremy Bleich (shoulder) and RHP Corey Black have been added to the Staten Island roster. Both were in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League. Black was this year’s fourth rounder.
  • Just in case you’re wondering, George King (subs. req’d) reports that Ronnie Mustelier signed for $50k last summer. I have lots more bonus info at our Amateur Signing Bonuses page.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Lehigh Valley)
CF Chris Dickerson: 2-5, 1 R, 2 K
2B Corban Joseph: 0-3, 1 BB, 1 K
C Frankie Cervelli: 2-4, 1 R, 2 RBI — had been in a 4-for-29 slump (.138)
DH Jack Cust & 3B Brandon Laird: both 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR — Cust drove in two runs … Laird hit a solo shot and struck out
1B Russell Branyan: 1-4, 1 K
LF Colin Curtis & RF Cole Garner: both 0-4 — Garner struck out
SS Ramiro Pena: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
RHP John Maine: 7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 10/5 GB/FB — 60 of 87 pitches were strikes (69%) … he was actually 91-94 with sink earlier before dropping down to 89-91
RHP Manny Delcarmen: 1 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB — eight of 13 pitches were strikes (61.5%)

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