Williams continues hot streak with a homer

Make sure you scroll down for tonight’s game thread. Here are a few notes from the minor league side…

  • OF Dan Brewer has been traded to the Braves. No word on the return but it won’t be anything substantial — maybe a few grand, maybe less. Milwaukee really dropped the ball here, they should have been the first team on the phone.
  • RHP Taylor Morton is done for the season with some kind of shoulder problem. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious and explains the 9/20 K/BB in 23.2 innings this year. Meanwhile, RHP Conor Mullee had some kind of surgery this morning and is also done for the year.
  • RHP Danny Farquhar has been bumped up to Triple-A Empire State, taking the roster spot of the recently released RHP Nelson Figueroa.
  • LHP Josh Romanski has joined Short Season Staten Island as part of his rehab assignment. He hasn’t pitched since mid-April due to a blister(s).
  • Baseball America published a midseason list of the youngest players in each league. The Yankees have the youngest player in the Triple-A International League (LHP Manny Banuelos), High-A Florida State League (C Gary Sanchez), and Rookie Level Gulf Coast League (3B Miguel Andujar). Five of the 17 youngest players in the FSL are Yankees farmhands.

Triple-A Empire State (2-0 win over Charlotte)
CF Chris Dickerson: 2-3, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB — got picked off first
C Frankie Cervelli: 0-3, 1 K, 1 HBP
2B Corban Joseph: 1-2, 1 RBI, 1 BB
DH Brandon Laird: 2-4, 1 RBI, 1 K — eight hits in his last 23 at-bats (.348) with three doubles and a homer
LF Kosuke Fukudome: 1-2, 2 BB — second straight game with a pair of walks, his specialty
RF Cole Garner & SS Ramiro Pena: both 1-4, 1 K
3B Doug Bernier & 1B Matt Antonelli: both 1-3 — Bernier struck out … Antonelli played his second career game at first
LHP Mike O’Connor: 4 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 38 of 54 pitches were strikes (70%) … picked a runner off first
RHP D.J. Mitchell: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 4/4 GB/FB — 42 of 63 pitches were strikes (64%) … he’ll start five days from now

[Read more…]

Game 92: The Left Coast

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Yankees have completely manhandled the Athletics over the last three seasons, taking 25 of 31 games against Oakland including 13 of 15 in the Coliseum. The A’s are streaking though, having won ten of their last 12 overall. Then again, they won’t be facing the Twins, Mariners, and Red Sox anymore. Here’s the starting nine…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
DH Alex Rodriguez
3B Robinson Cano
1B Mark Teixeira
RF Nick Swisher
LF Raul Ibanez
3B Eric Chavez
C  Chris Stewart

RHP Freddy Garcia

Tonight’s game starts a little after 10pm ET and can be seen on YES. Enjoy if you’re awake.

David Phelps Update: Joe Girardi said that he will essentially use Phelps in the Cory Wade role, not strictly long relief. I suppose that means the middle innings between the starter and David Robertson, which will be pretty awesome if he’s willing to let him work two or three innings at a time.

Gardner will have arthroscopic surgery next week

Brett Gardner will have arthroscopic surgery to remove inflamed tissue in his right elbow next week, the Yankees announced. Team doctor Dr. Ahmad will perform the procedure and it will likely end Gardner’s season.

Gardner suffered a bone bruise and an elbow strain on a sliding catch in the team’s 11th game of the season and has since suffered three setbacks during his rehab. He made it as far as minor league games in the first two attempts. The Raul IbanezAndruw Jones platoon has been absurdly productive in left field in the meantime, but the Yankees really lack speed on offense without Gardner. Plus their defense suffered big time. Whether or not they try to plug the hole via trade remains to be seen.

Thursday Night Open Thread

Shouldn’t he be ringing the closing bell? (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The good news is that the Yankees are going to get their second and final West Coast trip of the season out of the way in mid-to-late-July. In fact, after this trip the farthest they’ll have to travel the rest of the year is to Tampa. That’s pretty cool. Unfortunately that means we have to wait a few more hours for tonight’s game and stay up late to catch all nine innings. It could be worse, they could be going to Anaheim.

Here’s an open thread to hold you over until the regular game thread comes along. The only baseball game being played right now is the Red Sox and White Sox (Buchholz vs. Quintana), and you can watch that one on MLB Network. You folks all know how this works by now, so have at it.

Yanks send Darnell McDonald to Triple-A, release Nelson Figueroa

Via Donnie Collins, outfielder Darnell McDonald has cleared waivers and been assigned to Triple-A Empire State. The Yankees designated him for assignment on Tuesday to clear a roster spot for CC Sabathia. McDonald will join Chris Dickerson, Kosuke Fukudome, and Cole Garner as the only healthy outfielders on the Triple-A roster.

In other news, right-hander Nelson Figueroa was released from the Triple-A squad. The 38-year-old pitched to a 3.92 ERA (4.82 FIP) in eight starts and eight relief appearances for Empire State. A few of the older roster fillers figure to be on their way out in the coming weeks as late-season promotions are made. Figueroa was the first casualty.

Lessons from the Lin saga

Reuters Pictures

As a New York native, I was disappointed to hear that the Knicks declined to match Jeremy Lin’s offer sheet, allowing him to sign with the Houston Rockets.  Watching Lin’s emergence out of obscurity to become an impact player (and the phenomenon that was Linsanity) was one of the more exciting things to happen to the Knicks in recent memory for this tepid NBA fan.  I figured it was a no-brainer that he would be re-signed by the Knicks, especially after the arbitrator ruled that Lin (and Steve Novak) would be granted “Bird Rights” that would allow the Knicks to pay them more than what their cap situation should allow.  On top of all the promise Lin showed on the court, his off-court financial impact seemed like sufficient incentive to keep him.  Maintaining fan enthusiasm would seem to be an important priority with the Nets moving to Brooklyn this year, and looking like a possible contender.

The main justification for the decision seems to be the third year in Lin’s contract, which would pay him about $15 million and cost the Knicks a lot of money in luxury tax.  There are certainly a number of angles to this story, such as whether the decision to let Lin go was a financial move, a basketball move, or the result of petty machinations of a petulant owner.  I won’t claim to know enough about the Knicks or the NBA to single out one of these as the decisive cause, but you can consult Moshe if you want a more informed (and impassioned) take.

While there are certainly major differences here, the Lin decision brings to mind some tough choices that the Yankees may have to make in the near future if they are serious about getting their payroll below $189 million in 2014.  The impending free agencies of Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Derek Jeter are interesting parallels.  As has been discussed extensively on this blog and elsewhere, if the Yankees are able to get their 2014 payroll below $189 million, they will be able to save a ton of money.  They will do this by resetting their luxury tax rate and having a portion of their revenue sharing payments refunded, the latter of which is particularly compelling because that money subsidizes their small-market competition. [Read more…]

Scouting The Trade Market: Nate Schierholtz

There’s a decent chance the Yankees will be without Brett Gardner for the rest of the season, but that’s not the only reason they should be keeping an eye on the outfield trade market. Nick Swisher will be a free agent after the season and Curtis Granderson will be after next season, right before the 2014 payroll plan takes effect. Add in Robinson Cano‘s impending free agency (after 2013), and suddenly a cheap outfielder looks like something that should be near the top of the priority list.

On the other end of the baseball world — seriously, NL West baseball is like an alternate universe compared to the AL East — a young and cheap outfielder expressed some displeasure with his reduced role. Nate Schierholtz, 28, of the Giants has been relegated to spot start and pinch-hitting duties this season because the starting trio of Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, and Gregor Blanco have been so good. Manager Bruce Bochy simply can’t take them out of the lineup. As you’d expect, Schierholtz would prefer to be somewhere with more opportunity.

“There’s not one thing I can’t say I love about this place,” he said yesterday, “but I think I’ve come to the realization that maybe I’m not their guy. I’m not in the cards having a future here … I came in with the expectation to play maybe a little bit more than we’ve seen. A week-long slump kept me back on the bench for a couple more months … It’s a tough hole to dig myself out of and leaves me wondering if they don’t have a future for me here.”

Schierholtz has not and contractually can not request a trade, so he’s just voicing his frustrating. The Giants have no obligation to move him and there’s no indication that they’re even open to the idea, but usually when a player goes public about wanting to play somewhere with more opportunity, it’s only a matter of time before he winds up in a different uniform. That’s where the Yankees potentially fit in. Here’s a breakdown of the San Francisco outfielder…

The Pros

  • A left-handed swinger, Schierholtz has tagged right-handers for a .287/.358/.454 batting line (122 wRC+) this year and .268/.330/.434 (107 wRC+) since the start of 2010. His .166 ISO against righties during that time would surely be better if AT&T Park didn’t have one of the biggest right fields in baseball (89 HR Park Factor for LHB per FanGraphs, 82 per StatCorner).
  • Schierholtz puts the ball in play, striking out in a below-average 16.8% of his career plate appearances. Over the last three seasons it’s 15.9% against righties. As you can see from his spray chart, he does quite a bit of damage back up the middle and into the gap the other way.
  • Pick any defensive metric — UZR (+17.2), DRS (+7), Total Zone (+1), FRAA (+1.2), or ADR (+11) — and it’ll say Schierholtz is at least an average defender in the corner outfield if not better. He’s a true right fielder with a strong and very accurate arm, one of the better outfield arms in the game.
  • He’s cheap and still under team control for a while. Schierholtz will earn $1.3M total this season before being arbitration-eligible for the second time this offseason and the third time next offseason. He’ll be eligible for free agency after 2014.

The Cons

  • Schierholtz is a platoon player. His career .292/.326/.408 line (95 wRC+) against southpaws doesn’t look awful, but it’s a .125/.167/.219 line (-4 wRC+) this year and .231/.275/.286 (52 wRC+) since the start of 2010. He did most of his damage against lefties years ago.
  • If he doesn’t get a hit, he’s probably not going to reach base. Schierholtz’s career walk rate is a miniscule 5.9% and he’s swung at 35.8% of the pitches he’s seen out of the strike zone. That’s astronomical. He’s lucky he can make contact well.
  • You’re not getting much speed. He’s only 19-for-33 in stolen base attempts in his big league career, a 58% success rate. Down in the minors it was a 68% success rate in twice the attempts. It’s just not his game.
  • Schierholtz has been on the DL twice in the last four years, the first time for a groin strain in 2009. Last summer he fouled a ball off his right foot and suffered a hairline fracture, missing a month. I have a hard time counting a fluke injury like that against him, however.
  • Schierholtz is out of minor league options, meaning he can’t be sent to Triple-A without first passing through waivers. He also hasn’t played an inning in center field in his professional career. That really limits flexibility.

If the Yankees do let Swisher walk after the season, one of the most cost effective ways to replace him would be with a platoon. I don’t love the idea of using two roster spots to fill one position, but platoons can be very productive as we’ve seen this season in left field following Gardner’s injury. Andruw Jones is an obvious fit for the right-handed half of the Swisher-replacing platoon and a guy like Schierholtz makes an awful lot of sense for the left-handed half. Young-ish, cheap-ish, can hit righties and play strong defense. Lots to like.

At same time, the Yankees are a club that places a lot of value on power and patience. Perhaps the short right field porch would help get Schierholtz over the 20-homer plateau, but he’s not a guy who will work the count and draw walks. It’s just not who he is. He’s going to go up to the plate and swing the bat whether he gets a pitch to hit or not. Robinson Cano is the same way and it works for him, but Schierholtz isn’t that caliber of hitter. The limitations against southpaws and the lack of plate discipline are real knocks against him.

As I said, there is no indication that the Giants are looking to move Schierholtz right now even though he’s unhappy with his role. They’re reportedly looking for a right-handed outfield bat and (like everyone else) bullpen help leading up to the trade deadline, two things the Yankees really don’t have to offer. Since the two clubs don’t match up well in a trade — and the fact that replacing Dewayne Wise with Schierholtz would leave the Yankees without a real backup center fielder — this would probably be a deal best explored in the offseason. I do like him as a player though and think there’s a chance he’ll be surprisingly productive in the friendlier offensive environment.