Yanks in on Lilly, asked about Theriot

Despite making two moves already on Friday, the Yankees remain interested in former Yank and current Cub Ted Lilly according to Jayson Stark. They also asked Chicago about infielder Ryan Theriot. While the Yankees could always use another starter to fill in while Andy Pettitte is injured, I’m not sure Lilly is the answer. His already-low velocity has disappeared following offseason shoulder surgery, and his defense independent pitching stats are well into the 4.00’s. Thankfully it looks like he’s heading to the Dodgers.

As for Theriot, while he would represent an upgrade over Ramiro Pena, it wouldn’t be a huge one. His offensive performance has decreased for three straight years, bottoming out at a .292 wOBA this season. He’s also nothing to write home about defensively with negative UZR‘s across the board, and there’s about a million bucks left on his deal for this year. Yes, he’s an upgrade over Pena, but so is just about anyone.

Murphy goes deep as Charleston ekes out a win

Fifth rounder Tommy Kahnle signed for $150,000, about $14,000 over slot. Meanwhile, VP of baseball operations Mark Newman said that Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances will remain in High-A Tampa all season, which is unsurprising.

Andy in Sunny Daytona was at the Rookie GCL Yanks’ game today and took a bunch of photos. Two things: First, you can see some kind of brace on Gary Sanchez‘s right wrist, though he did some catching in the bullpen today. Swinging a bat is more of an issue with a wrist injury than catching, remember. Second, Chris Garcia was chilling in the press box. There’s been talk about the Yanks re-signing him to a minor league deal, and this only adds fuel to that fire.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Norfolk)
Greg Golson, CF: 1 for 4, 1 K
Eric Bruntlett, RF: 0 for 4, 3 K – threw a runner out at first
Eduardo Nunez, SS, Chad Tracy, 3B, Jesus Montero, DH & Reegie Corona, 2B: all 0 for 3 – Nunez missed a catch for an error … Montero scored a run & K’ed … Corona K’ed twice & was injured on the last play of the game when he ran into Bruntlett … no word on the severity yet
Jorge Vazquez, 1B: 1 for 3, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI – all the offense they would need
Chad Huffman, LF: 2 for 3, 1 CS
Chad Moeller, C: 1 for 2, 1 BB – he’s reached base in six of his last ten plate appearances (four hits, two walks)
Ivan Nova: 7.1 IP, 9 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 13-4 GB/FB – 65 of 102 pitches were strikes … picked a runner off first
Royce Ring: 0.2 IP, zeroes, 2 K – seven of his 12 pitches were strikes (58.3%) … very nice
Jon Albaladejo: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 0-2 GB/FB – ten of his 18 pitches were strikes (55.6%)

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Yankees acquire Austin Kearns

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Yankees have acquired Austin Kearns from the Indians for a player to be named later or cash, so says Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman. The identity of the PTBNL is “still undetermined” according to Bob Klapisch. Buster Olney says the Yanks are already hard at work on their next deal, presumably for a utility infielder but don’t rule out bullpen help.

Kearns started in leftfield for the Indians on Friday night, but was lifted for a pinch-runner after singling in the 7th inning. After a big time start (.313/.388/.494 through June 7th), the 30-year-old has cooled off considerably over the last several weeks (.212/.305/.311 since). The Yanks were reportedly looking for an outfield bat that can hit lefties, and Kearns fits the bill (.353 wOBA vs. LHP career, .339 vs. RHP). It’s also worth noting that he’s a stud defensively in rightfield with three-year UZR of +11.4, but he’s a bit below average in left (-2.1) and hasn’t played much center in recent years.

There’s only $278,000 left on his contract this season, and he isn’t close to being any kind of compensation free agent once the winter rolls around. I don’t expect much, but he’s an upgrade over Colin Curtis.

Game 102: The similarities of Hughes and Davis

Yes, it looks like Lance Berkman is headed to New York, with an official announcement to come tomorrow. Yay for that.

But there’s a game at hand, and we’re ready to cover that. Just two games separate the Yanks and the Rays, and it seems like it’s been that way for a month. They’ll face each other three times this weekend, and the series clearly represents big opportunities for both teams.

The opener features a duel between two similar pitchers, Phil Hughes and Wade Davis. They’re both 24, and they both broke camp in the rotation for the first time. They’ve also struggled similarly. Both have had some bad starts, and both have put up some good numbers against the poorer teams in the AL. As R.J. Anderson notes, they also lead the league in percentage of strikes as foul balls. I’m not sure if that’s good or bad, but it could be an indicator of their inabilities to put guys away.

In fact, when talking with R.J. earlier today he said something that stuck out to me. He mentioned that Davis would often get two strikes, but then keep going to the fastball and wasn’t able to put away batters. That sounds a lot like Hughes. Davis has a bit more of a swing and miss offering with his slider, but Hughes has other options, too. He’s been working in the curveball more often, and I’d like to see him bend two dozen or so tonight.

Also make sure to check out our Yanks-Rays series preview. That kinda got lost amid the Berkman hubbub.


1. Derek Jeter, SS
2. Nick Swisher, RF
3. Mark Teixeira, 1B
4. Alex Rodriguez, 3B
5. Robinson Cano, 2B
6. Jorge Posada, C
7. Curtis Granderson, CF
8. Colin Curtis, DH
9. Brett Gardner, LF

And on the mound, number sixty-five, Phil Hughes.

Yankees acquire Lance Berkman

(AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

The Yankees have their new designated hitter. Joel Sherman reports that the team has acquired Lance Berkman from the Astros in exchange for Triple-A reliever Mark Melancon and Low-A infielder Jimmy Paredes. The only thing standing in the way is a Collective Bargaining Agreement mandated 24-hour grace period because of Berkman’s 10-and-5 no-trade rights, though the five-time All Star agreed to the deal earlier today so the wait is nothing more than a technicality. Sherman adds that the Astros will kick in $4M towards the $7M still owed to Berkman. Bob Klapisch says the team might have some other things cooking beyond this deal.

Ken Rosenthal says a condition of the trade is that the Yankees do not pick up Berkman’s $15M option for 2011, which is fine by me. Olney reports that the Steinbrenners pre-approved the addition of a large salary to the payroll, so that $3M the Yanks are taking on is no big deal. Even though Berkman currently projects as a Type-B free agent, there’s no point in talking about compensation draft picks because the Yankees would not offer him arbitration in fear he would accept. It’s worth noting that Andy Pettitte and Berkman are very close friends following the former’s time in Houston, so that may have factored into the latter’s willingness to accept the trade.

Joe laid out the case for acquiring Berkman earlier this morning. He’ll presumably slide right in as the full-time designated hitter, giving the team another potent switch-hitter. Even though his season line sits at just .245/.372/.436, the 34-year-old Berkman has hit .259/.385/.465 since June 1st, and .232/.404/.521 since July 1st. Knee surgery delayed the start of his season, but it’s not a chronic issue. Even so, Fat Elvis is purely a salary dump acquisition and is strictly a rental for the rest of the season.

It appears as though the Yanks lost some faith in Melancon. He hasn’t performed well during his various call-ups to the big leagues, and things haven’t been going so well for him in Triple-A this year either. The 25-year-old righthander figures to get more of an opportunity with the Astros. Paredes, 21, is a speedy infielder with surprising pop, but he is still several years away from the big leagues.

Series Preview: Yanks at Rays

To preview the upcoming series against the Rays we’ve set up a Q&A with R.J. Anderson of The Process Report and FanGraphs. If you’re looking for a take on the Rays’ side of things, definitely give The Process Report a read. R.J. and Jason Collette have been doing this at other places for a while.

Wade Davis had a rough time from late May until late June, either giving up a lot of runs or throwing a ton of pitches in not so many innings. Has he made any adjustments since then? 
Is anything missing from his repertoire that is causing his strikeout and whiff rates to come in so low after being pretty high throughout the minors? Or does his stuff not forecast a high strikeout total in the majors?

Davis’ issues seem married to his usage patterns. He’ll use his fastballs to get ahead – like you’d expect – but instead of letting his plus breaking stuff take over and finish batters, he’ll go into a fastball fury, trying to blow the hitter away and do all the work himself. This leads to lengthier at-bats and some forced location that results in home runs.  The lacking whiff rates seem to be a mixture of predictability right now more so than an inherent flaw in his stuff.
What’s the main difference between the B.J. Upton of three, or even two, years ago and the B.J. Upton of the last two years? What will it take for him to get back on track offensively?
Also, does he figure to play this weekend?

Hard to say with Upton. He’s played better than his raw numbers show and he’s murdering left-handed pitchers. It seems to be a BABIP issue, but the organization is obviously a bit frustrated with his progress nevertheless. The prognosis has been two-to-three days all along. During Wednesday night’s game, he stood in the dugout swinging a bat and Thursday morning he did some running. Joe Maddon remarked that he could be used later in the game if need be, signifying he should be good to go for the series.
One thing I admire about Joe Maddon is that he doesn’t hammer the idea of roles into his players’ heads. Do you think that plays a large part in the bullpen’s success? Or do you think it’s just that they have good pitchers and the Maddon storyline is just an interesting narrative?
Well, it goes beyond the bullpen. Ben Zobrist recently spoke up in defense of Maddon’s shuffling of positions and lineup slots. J.P. Howell has spoken in the past about how it’s their job to be prepared, whether they have to pitch in the sixth or the ninth. I’m not sure how much it really plays into the success because I think – with the exception of Rafael Soriano, who is often in the dugout until right before being called upon – the relievers assembled are good and Maddon places them in good situations.  
Moreover, they still have roles to a degree. If I’m Randy Choate, and I know the it’s the 6th or 7th inning with a lefty coming up soon in a tight game, I’m probably getting mentally prepared to enter. You know? Maybe the mindset plays a marginal role, but it’s hard for me to credit that entirely to Maddon, despite him being very good at his job. 

We’ve seen a considerable spike in James Shields’s strikeout and home run rates this year. Are they connected? His BABIP is way up, too. Do you think this is mostly poor luck, or is he doing something different this year that’s causing such a change in numbers that had been pretty consistent over the past few years?
I think it’s mostly poor luck. Shields has a stubbornness when it comes to walking batters. He’d rather challenge them in the zone than put someone on base. In a way that’s a good thing, but it also comes with the consequence of home runs. It’s worth noting his home run rate is well inflated over his norms between 2006 and 2009. He’s generating about the same number of swinging strikes as he did in years past, so I’m not entirely sure where the extra strikeouts are coming from.
Shields is such a weird case. You’re talking about a guy with maybe the best changeup in the American League who says and does intelligent things all the time; I would not be shocked to see him become a pitching coach down the line because he helps teammates with mechanical issues and philosophical talk. He seems to understand game theory and he’s even said this season that he likes it when team’s ambush him and figure him out. Presumably so he can mix things up. You can see that attitude prevalent in his arsenal too. He could probably just throw the changeup all day and night with good results – ask Nick Swisher – but he goes to a cutter, he goes to a curve, and sometimes maybe he outthinks himself.  Joe Magrane used to say he gave the hitter too much credit by not throwing his change more often and maybe he had a point.
John Jaso: catcher of the next few years?
At least for the near future. The team reached an extension with Kelly Shoppach shortly after he arrived that probably implants him in the lineup against lefties for the next year. Dioner Navarro probably isn’t coming back anytime soon. Jaso’s skill set is interesting, though, and watching how he ages is going to be a mixture of curiosity and concern. He’s a decent baserunner for a catcher – probably the best at advancing on passed balls and wild pitches on the entire team – but he’s mostly a guy who will stand at the dish and take as many pitches as possible before either walking or putting the ball in play. That’s fine, except his power display to date has been limited. Will pitchers eventually just feed him strikes until he proves he can beat them, or can this sustain? I don’t really know the answer. 
After the top, the organization has a dearth in catchers. The top prospects – like, the ones that have a shot at being major league regulars, not the Nevin Ashleys of the world – are Luke Bailey and Justin O’Conner; a pair of high school catchers drafted within the past two seasons.
Will we see any new players in a Rays uniform before the series is over? Anyone who might start the series with the team and end elsewhere?
It’s impossible to say at this point. The team shopped B.J. Upton around while asking for a lot and that seems unlikely to turn into anything at this point. Matt Garza’s no hitter and presence in the rotation probably means he won’t be seriously considered for a trade until the offseason. The most realistic scenario is Dan Johnson joining the team and someone like Gabe Kapler going on the disabled list. They like Kapler quite a bit and want him in the organization even after his playing days are over, so it would be awkward to designate him for assignment. 

Final question: Will we see Jeremy Hellickson this season?

Most likely in a Price circa 2008 role.

Sherman: Yanks ‘definitely in’ on Berkman

In the halcyon days of just this morning, Joe explored why the Yanks should consider Lance Berkman for the DH spot. This afternoon, Joel Sherman confirms the team’s interest. The Yankees, he says, are “definitely in for Lance Berkman” and are “considering him seriously.” Of course, when it comes to July 31, “definitely” has a way of becoming less so, but this is one deal that just might have some legs. Berkman has a no-trde clause but is willing to waive it for the Yanks. No word yet on the Astros’ demands, but keep in mind that Berkman is owed a little less than $7 million this year with a $15 million club option for 2011 or a $2 million buyout.

Because of Berkman’s high salary, Jayson Stark believes the Astros slugger would clear waivers in August. Therefore, if Berkman is not dealt this weekend, he still could be moved within the next few weeks. (For what it’s worth, in the same notebook, Stark mentions Yankee interest in Jake Westbrook. The Indians’ pitcher will probably stay put though.)

Updated (4:15 p.m.): Joel Sherman offers up an elaboration of the Yanks’ position. Basically, the Bombers have been letting clubs know that they’re willing to spend money and will trade to acquire contracts teams want to shed as long as the price isn’t high in terms of prospects. That’s why they’re interested in Berkman but not Dunn and why Sherman expects the club to make some moves today or tomorrow.