Scouting the Trade Market: Stephen Drew

(Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

They’re going with Ramiro Pena for at least today, but given the current situation we can expect the Yankees to explore the market for a third baseman. Even at the near end of the six-to-eight week projected recovery period, Alex Rodriguez would be ready for a minor league rehab assignment on September 5th. If it takes any longer he could miss the chance at a rehab window, making his return even tougher.

The Yankees do have options at third base, as Mike wrote this morning. In the Outside Help section he mentioned a few interesting names. We’ve already covered Marco Scutaro, and he’s easily an option. But another name really stood out to me: Stephen Drew. Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick spoke ill of Drew recently, so perhaps he’ll be on the move before July 31st.

The Pros

  • Drew has been an average hitter throughout his major league career, producing a 97 OPS+ through 3,156 PA. That’s the exact sOPS+ of AL third basemen this year.
  • He’s a free agent after this year, so there’s no long-term worry of what to do with him once A-Rod returns.
  • While the Diamondbacks might not want to concede a playoff spot, they’ve been playing mediocre ball this year and might want to get anything they can for Drew.
  • The Yankees could use a left-handed bat, since playing Eric Chavez against every righty is risky.

The Cons

  • Drew is coming off a pretty bad ankle injury and has a .556 OPS in 17 games since returning. He didn’t exactly hit well in his rehab assignment, either (power numbers in the PCL don’t really count).
  • While a merely average bat can be valuable, it’s tough to justify trading anyone of importance for said average bat. Especially when that average bat will be gone after the season.
  • The Diamondbacks could be less willing to deal him now that they have dealt Ryan Roberts, says Jack Magruder of FoxSportsArizona.com.
  • Despite Drew’s overall averageness, his poor production this year, and his recent injury, GM Kevin Towers has said that he hasn’t found a deal for Drew “that’s going to make us better.” The Yankees don’t have many, if any, expendable pieces that can help Arizona right now.
  • Transitioning from SS to 3B, especially mid-season, can’t be easy.

As it turns out, the name stood out to me more because of the name value than the actual player value. Given the market conditions right now, the Yanks probably don’t have any interest in Drew. Name value just doesn’t translate.

Yankees will explore third base trade market

With Alex Rodriguez likely to miss several due to a broken bone in his left hand, the Yankees will explore the third base trade market and consider all options according to Joel Sherman and Buster Olney. That includes Chase Headley of the Padres. The Yankees expect to have A-Rod back by mid-September but won’t know for sure until he sees the doctors in New York tomorrow.

As I mentioned this morning, potential stopgap options could include Marco Scutaro, Stephen Drew, Placido Polanco, and Ty Wigginton. I would be pretty surprised if they made a significant move for someone like Headley, who is under team control as an arbitration eligible player through 2014, though I wouldn’t be opposed to it. The Yankees will recall Ramiro Pena to take A-Rod’s spot in the short-term, but I would not be shocked if something comes together quickly and the team finds a more viable replacement during tomorrow’s day off.

Yankees to recall Ramiro Pena

Via Joel Sherman, infielder Ramiro Pena is en route to Seattle to take Alex Rodriguez‘s roster spot. A-Rod was placed on the DL after a pitch broke a bone in his left hand last night. The Yankees wanted some versatility, particularly someone who could play the outfield in a pinch, hence Pena with Eduardo Nunez still on the mend from his thumb injury. Sherman says Nunez is a candidate to rejoin the team soon, however.

The A-Rod Injury & Third Base

(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

At this point of the season, with a seven-game lead and 65 left to play, the Yankees are just looking to maintain their cushion and stay healthy. The latter is sometimes out of their hands though, and last night they lost Alex Rodriguez for an unknown length of time when a pitch broke the fifth metacarpal in his left hand. It’s a non-displaced fracture and although that’s better than a displaced fracture, but it will still require a DL stint. Most estimates put his timetable in the 6-8 week range but we won’t know fore sure until he gets back to New York and sees the doctors on Thursday.

One way or the other, the Yankees just lost their starting third baseman and an important middle of the order bat for a not insignificant period of time. A-Rod is no longer the historically great hitter he once was, but his .356 wOBA and 121 wRC+ will be very tough to replace. The Yankees also have zero right-handed power in their lineup now — it’s basically Andruw Jones on the days he starts and that’s it. Switch-hitters Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher do soften the blow, thankfully. The team has not yet announced the corresponding roster move, but they have some options to plug the third base hole.

Eric Chavez
The Yankees have gotten some fantastic production out of Chavez this year (108 wRC+) and he remains a standout defender at the hot corner, but they would risk injury by running him out there on a full-time basis. It’s not a matter of if he would get hurt, just a question of when. Joe Girardi has done a fine of job of limiting his playing time in a way that both helped the team and kept Chavez off the DL. Doing that with Alex on the shelf will be much more difficult.

Jayson Nix
Nix has been fine as the utility infielder but he is a right-handed bat who does almost all of his damage against left-handers (99 wRC+). He and Chavez make sense as a platoon tandem in the short-term but the Yankees run the risk of exposing Chavez to injury and exposing Nix to opposing pitchers by using it permanently.

Eduardo Nunez & Ramiro Pena
Nunez is still working his way back from a thumb injury in the minors, so he’s probably not an option just yet. The Yankees love him and almost certainly would have used him as A-Rod’s replacement had a) he been healthy, and b) his defense not been so bad in April and May that he had to be sent to Triple-A. We’re all familiar with Pena, the switch-hitting slap hitter with a .249/.302/.316 batting line in Triple-A this season. He can play all over the infield and is excellent with the glove, but he can’t hit. You don’t want him out there on a full-time basis at all. Both Nunez and Pena are on the 40-man roster.

(REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine)

Brandon Laird & Corban Joseph
It’s been two years since Laird broke out with an MVP-winning season in Double-A, but Triple-A has been a much more difficult challenge. He’s hit .253/.294/.406 in just over 1,000 plate appearances at the level but has been hot of late, hitting .313/.367/.613 in July. Laird is a right-handed hacker with some power and he can actually play the position well, so he seems like a potential call-up candidate. CoJo has been mashing at Triple-A since making his debut a few weeks ago — .281/.379/.503 with nearly as many walks (31) as strikeouts (34) in 220 plate appearances — and has 43 games of third base experience to his credit (for his career, not this year), so he has to be considered as well. As a left-handed bat, he would get most of the playing time in a platoon. His ability to play second base would be nice as well. These two are both on the 40-man roster.

Outside Help
Go figure, Ryan Roberts was both designated for assignment by the Diamondbacks and traded to the Rays just a few hours before A-Rod got hurt. He would have been a solid temporary replacement had the timing been right. The Yankees could still explore the third base market with the trade deadline a little less than a week away, but I have to think they’ll wait for an official timetable from the doctors before diving into anything. Chase Headley is the big name now that Hanley Ramirez is off the market, but I have a hard time thinking they’ll do something of that magnitude. Headley wouldn’t just impact 2012, he’d impact 2013 and 2014 as well. A free agent-to-be like Marco Scutaro, Stephen Drew, Ty Wigginton, or Placido Polanco may make more sense.

* * *

Regardless of who the Yankees call-up to fill A-Rod’s spot — I expect it to be Nunez, but that’s nothing more than a guess — we’re probably going to see quite a bit of Chavez (and a little bit of Nix) at third for the next week or so. Chavez is an obvious fill-in but Girardi and the Yankees have to be very careful with him, they must ensure that he’s well-rested unless they want to lose two third baseman to the DL. I don’t have much faith in Laird or really any of the minor league guys at the moment, so swinging a trade before the deadline would be preferable. Either way, the Yankees will not be able to replace Alex and everything he provides, even this aging and declining version.

A-Rod injured in loss to Mariners


Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees lost to Felix Hernandez and the Mariners but that’s not the biggest story of Tuesday night. Alex Rodriguez suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal in his left hand on a hit-by-pitch and is headed to the DL. The team won’t have an exact timetable for his return until he sees the doctors in New York. This is obviously very bad, but injuries are part of the game and the Yankees are just going to have to roll with it. Let’s recap the game…

  • Sweaty One: Freddy Garcia pitched pretty darn well even though he got saddled with a loss. He surrendered a solo homer in the first and two runs in the third on a broken bat bloop and a sacrifice fly, but he settled down in a major way after that. Garcia retired the last 15 men he faced and struck out a season-high eight while walking zero. It’s a shame this effort went to waste, because Freddy was pretty darn good. Frankly he should have been against that lineup in that ballpark.
  • Two Runs: Curtis Granderson gave the Yankees a quick and short-lived lead with a solo homer in the first inning, but it wasn’t until the eighth inning that they scored again on Mark Teixeira‘s sacrifice fly. They may have gotten more had Raul Ibanez not been left in to face rookie southpaw Lucas Luetge with two men and two outs. He predictably struck out to end the inning. The choice was the Ibanez-Luetge matchup or Andruw Jones vs. Brandon League. We’re not splitting atoms here, the preference is clearly Andruw-League. Unfortunately Joe Girardi disagreed.
  • Overmanaged: Girardi would not rest until his fingerprints were all over this game. After the Ibanez fiasco he pulled Garcia with one out in the bottom of the eighth even though he had a manageable pitch count (89) and had retired the last 15 men he faced . That was so he could get the left-on-left matchup against Dustin Ackley, but it snowballed into a four-reliever, 34-pitch, one-run rally. That eighth inning was Girardi at his absolute worst.
  • Leftovers: Robinson Cano has slowly gotten back into “swing at all the pitches!!!” mode in the last few games, which stinks. He went 1-for-4 and clanked into a first inning double play before popping up to third with men on the corners in the fourth … Felix hit three of the last five batters he faced and then Luetge nearly hit Ibanez in the head, so these Mariners guys were dangerously wild late … Granderson’s homer was the first Hernandez had allowed in eight starts … the 5-9 hitters went a combined 1-for-16 (an Ichiro Suzuki double) with two walks (one by Tex, one by Chris Stewart).

MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The Orioles lost but the Rays and Red Sox won, so New York’s lead in the division remains seven games over Baltimore and at least eight games over everyone else. The Yankees will play their final West Coast game of the season on Wednesday afternoon when Ivan Nova gets the ball against Hisashi Iwakuma.

Update: A-Rod has non-displaced fracture in left hand

1:10am: A-Rod suffered a non-displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal in his left hand and is going to the DL. That’s better than a displaced fracture but still sucks. They won’t know the exact timetable for his return until he sees the doctors in New York on Thursday. Fan-friggin’-tastic. At least this happened before the trade deadline.

12:11am: Alex Rodriguez left tonight’s game in the eighth inning after getting hit by a pitch in the left wrist/hand. He was in obvious pain and was taken out of the game immediately. Updates to follow, but obviously losing A-Rod for any length of time would be very bad.

CoJo doubles twice and Williams homers down on the farm

LHP Nik Turley earned the top spot in today’s Minor League Update. “A huge left-hander at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Turley is actually more of a finesse pitcher who pounds the strike zone with three solid average pitches in his 88-92 mph fastball, curve and changeup,” wrote Kevin Goldstein. “It’s not the sexiest package, but it’s led to a 2.69 ERA with 89 strikeouts over 80.1 innings so far in the Florida State League, and if he can do something like that next year at Double-A, he’s suddenly a very real prospect.”

These West Coast games have me dragging in a bad way, so I’m taking the easy way out tonight…

  • Triple-A Empire State (win): 3B Kevin Russo, 2B Corban Joseph (two), and DH Jack Cust all doubled. C Frankie Cervelli had a single and a triple while CF Darnell McDonald, 1B Brandon Laird, LF Kosuke Fukudome, and RF Cole Garner had one single apiece. LHP Justin Thomas threw four scoreless in the spot start while RHP Manny Delcarmen made up for it by allowing four runs in one inning.
  • Double-A Trenton (loss): CF Melky Mesa tripled and 1B Luke Murton doubled to highlight a boring night with the sticks. LHP Shaeffer Hall allowed four runs in 7.2 innings. Definite candidate for the most uninteresting game of the season.
  • High-A Tampa (loss): CF Mason Williams hit a solo homer and walked while LF Slade Heathcott and C Gary Sanchez chipped in doubles. DH Ramon Flores singled as did the rehabbing SS Eduardo Nunez. RHP Joba Chamberlain threw his rehab inning before RHP Jose Ramirez allowed four runs while getting four outs. LHP Rigoberto Arrebato highlighted the relievers with 2.2 scoreless innings.
  • Low-A Charleston (loss): They only had four singles on offense, including two by CF Ben Gamel. C Tyson Blaser and 1B Rey Nunez had the others. RHP Phil Wetherell started for whatever reason and struck out seven in three one-run innings. RHP Will Oliver replaced him and allowed one run across the final six innings.
  • Short Season Staten Island (loss): LF Taylor Dugas had a pair of knocks including a double while 1B Saxon Butler, DH Matt Snyder (two), and 2B Jamiel Orozco had singles. CF Danny Oh tripled as well. RHP Andrew Benak started and allowed three runs in 4.2 innings. RHP Derek Varnadore backed him up by giving up just one unearned run in 3.2 innings.
  • Rookie GCL Yanks (win): C Austin Romine caught a full nine innings for the first time this year, doubling and drawing a pair of walks in his five trips to the plate. RF Tyler Austin played seven innings in the field while drawing a walk and singling in four plate appearances. RHP Zach Nuding allowed two runs (one earned) in 4.2 innings. All three players are rehabbing from injuries. SS Austin Aune continued his hot hitting with a single and a double.