The Trade Deadline and Organizational Depth

(Roger Peterson/

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/

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.


(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 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%)

[Read more…]

Game 80: Stop the Streak

(J. Meric/Getty Images)

Last night’s loss to the Rays was a bitter pill to swallow, mostly because the Yankees managed to escape a truncated Freddy Garcia with a lead before the bullpen — and a rare Mark Teixeira error — turned it into a deficit. As you know, New York is in the middle of an eight-game losing streak at Tropicana Field, their longest such streak at a road stadium since dropping 15 in a row at The Ballpark in Arlington way back in the late-80s/early-90s. Here’s the starting nine…

SS Derek Jeter
CF Curtis Granderson
3B Alex Rodriguez
2B Robinson Cano
RF Nick Swisher
DH Raul Ibanez
1B Eric Chavez
Russell Martin
LF Dewayne Wise

RHP Ivan Nova

Tonight’s game starts a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy.

Yankees made offer to Ben Sheets

Via Joel Sherman, the Yankees offered right-hander Ben Sheets a minor league contract after watching him throw at his Louisiana home a few weeks ago. Sheets ended up taking a minor league deal from the Braves because they play in a bigger park in the easier league, plus they’re closer to his home.

I can’t imagine Sheets has much to offer a big league team — he hasn’t been an impact pitcher since 2008 due to injury and ineffectiveness — but there’s certainly nothing wrong with a minor league pact. No risk, moderately high reward. They can give those out all day for all I care Maybe the Yankees would have made a harder push for the 33-year-old former had the CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte injuries happened sooner, but what can you do.

Getting used to Alex Rodriguez, non-superstar

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Off the bat it looked like he’d tied it. On the first pitch in the bottom of the eighth, just after the Yankees had relinquished the lead, A-Rod nearly brought them back. Joel Perlta delivered a curveball that fell into the lower half of the strike zone, middle-away. That’s a pitch that Rodriguez has handled well in the past. Using his superhuman opposite field power, Rodriguez put a good swing on it and seemingly caught it on the at part of the bat. It was high, it was far…

But it was not gone. Instead it fell into Ben Zobrist’s glove just before it hit the top of the wall. You weren’t alone if your first thought was, “two years ago that would have been gone.” Despite the clarity of that thought, the reality took some time to sink in. The time of Alex Rodriguez as a premier hitter in the majors has seemingly passed. This is a particularly harrowing idea considering the future commitment the Yankees have made to him.

Heading into the season I retained guarded optimism for Rodriguez’s turnaround. His underperformance in 2011 was largely due to injuries. First the torn meniscus in his knee played a part in his waning power, and then it caused him to miss more than a month. September injuries further sapped his performance and his on-field time. After a winter spent getting platelet-rich plasma injections and working with Mike Clark to restore his bodily balance, there certainly remained the chance that he’d return to at least his 2010 form, if not his 2008-2009 form.

While Rodriguez has been healthy this year, playing in 76 of the Yankees 79 games, his production has shown no signs of improving. In fact, his power numbers are lower than they were last year, while his other numbers are seemingly in line. He has hit just nine doubles this year in his 76 games, down from 21 doubles in 99 games last year. Even at 150 games, A-Rod is on pace for only 17 or 18 doubles this year.

In the last two seasons combined, in which Rodriguez has played 175 games and has amassed 753 plate appearances, he’s hitting just .272/.360/.450. An .810 OPS isn’t all that bad; it ranks fourth among qualified third basemen in the last two seasons. But it’s a far cry from the .888 OPS he produced from 2009 through 2010. That mark ranked second in the majors among full-time third basemen, behind only Ryan Zimmerman. The most striking change from the 2009-2010 to the 2011-2012 period is Rodriguez’s power numbers. He went from a .241 ISO during those seasons to a .178 ISO in the last two.

The good news is that Rodriguez is still relatively productive among his peers. He ranks seventh in the majors in OPS among third basemen, and fourth in the AL. We can take solace in that when Rodriguez hits another single. Yet at his salary, and at his expectation level, the commendation falls a bit flat. The Yankees expected superstardom for a longer span than they realized. Those days, it appears, are in the past.

We’ve seen veteran players turn things around after slow first halves before. Jason Giambi got off to a slow start in 2005 before battering the competition in the second half. Just last year Derek Jeter exploded in the second half after hitting just .270/.330/.353 in the first half. There is hope, then, that Rodriguez can turn things around. But at this point it’s difficult to maintain even guarded optimism. The evidence of the last few years just doesn’t seem to point in that direction.

Scouting The Trade Market: Kole Calhoun

The trade deadline is now officially less than a month away, and the Yankees figure to spend most of their energy upgrading this year’s pitching staff and bench. The 2014 payroll plan looms however, and the impending free agencies of Nick Swisher (after this year) and Curtis Granderson (after next year once his 2013 option is exercised) mean the team is likely to be looking for a young, affordable outfielder in the next 18 months. Domonic Brown of the Phillies has been a popular name as a potential target, mostly due to his status as a former elite prospect, but he’s not the only guy out there.

The Angels are flush with young outfielders, obviously highlighted by the ultra-dynamic Mike Trout. They also have the powerful Mark Trumbo and speedy Peter Bourjos, giving them a very nice core of homegrown outfielders. Those three draw all of the attention and rightfully so, but down in Triple-A they also have the 24-year-old Kole Calhoun, who Baseball America ranked as the team’s 20th best prospect in their Prospect Handbook before the season. John Sickels ranked him as the team’s 11th best prospect this spring.

Calhoun’s minor league numbers are pretty dynamite, a .404 wOBA in 274 Triple-A plate appearances this season. That works out to a 140 wRC+, which is adjusted for ballpark and league. His Rookie League (141 wRC+) and High-A (142 wRC+) numbers are right there as well even though the Halos completely skipped him over Low-A and Double-A. We’re talking about 1,100+ minor league plate appearances that have consistently been ~40% better than league average after the necessary adjustments. That said, stats do not tell the entire story. Let’s look at the ins and outs of the former Arizona State Sun Devil…

The Pros

  • Calhoun, listed at 5-foot-10 and 190 lbs., offers some power and lots of patience. His 39 career minor league homers are inflated by hitter friendly home parks, though he’s also hit for plenty of doubles and has strong road numbers as well. An 11.9% walk rate backs up the patience part, and his strikeout rate isn’t outrageous either (17.2%). “He sees his share of pitches and knows what he can handle, seldom missing a pitch he can drive,” wrote Baseball America in the 2012 Prospect Handbook.
  • A left-handed batter, Calhoun has held his own against southpaws over the last two seasons: .300/.367/.500 with nine homers in 230 plate appearances. Obviously that’s not a huge sample, but it is encouraging. “He’s confident and doesn’t dwell on bad at-bats,” added Baseball America.
  • Defensively, Calhoun has experience in all three outfield spots as well as first base. Baseball America said he offers “at least average range on the outfield corners and at first base, and his plus arm strength is a good match for right field.”
  • Calhoun got a taste of the big leagues earlier this season — eight games and 14 plate appearances — but still offers all six years of team control, the first three as a pre-arbitration-eligible player. “He wins admirers not for his raw tools but for his blue-collar approach, plate discipline and professionalism,” wrote Baseball America.

The Cons

  • Calhoun’s walk (7.8%) and strikeout (19.0%) rates in Triple-A this year have taken a big step back compared to the first two years of his minor league career — 13.3% walks and 16.8% strikeouts. Big league pitchers struck him out four times in those 14 plate appearances (28.6%).
  • Baseball America says he has “fringy bat speed,” which limits his long-term power potential. Yankee Stadium could help to a certain extent since he is a lefty, but anytime you’re talking about a long-term corner outfielder with questionable power you have a potential ‘tweener.
  • Although Calhoun can steal the occasional base, he isn’t terribly efficient — 33-for-47 (70.2%) in his minor league career — and Baseball America says he “he grades out as a below-average runner.”

The Yankees do not have anyone in the upper levels of their farm system who projects as an everyday big leaguer, which is why they’re likely to be stuck scrounging the trade market for a Swisher/Granderson replacement. The Angels have enviable young outfield depth and seem like a logical trade partner*, though they’re reported looking for a rotation upgrade and a left-handed reliever better than Hisanori Takahashi. The Yankees don’t have that to offer, not unless they’re willing to dangle Boone Logan. Can’t say I would recommend that when we’re talking about a kid with zero big league success to his credit. The goal is still to win this year.

Prospect-for-prospect trades are very rare because every team loves their kids more than everyone else’s. Maybe GM Jerry Dipoto likes Adam Warren or D.J. Mitchell enough to do a one-for-one swap, which would be a cool little “you need a pitcher, I need a hitter, let’s trade” kinda deal. Think Jesus Montero-for-Michael Pineda on a smaller, Triple-A scale. That would be neat. Either way, I do like Calhoun quite a bit because he’s well-rounded and has shown signs of being able to hold his own against same-side pitchers, plus he offers the Yankees trademarks of left-handed pop (assuming Yankee Stadium shows him some love) and patience. He’s not a sexy name, but he’s a definite fit.

* Just to be clear: There are no reports or evidence that the Yankees are trying to acquire Calhoun or that he’s even available. This is me just throwing a name out there.