Yankees claim Blake Parker off waivers from Mariners

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

The Yankees have claimed right-handed reliever Blake Parker off waivers from the Mariners, the team announced. They say he’ll join the MLB roster once he reports to the team. That’ll probably happen tomorrow or the next day. I believe he has three days to report, officially.

Parker, 31, appeared in one game with the Mariners before being designated for assignment a few days ago. He had a 2.72 ERA (3.26 FIP) with a 37.3% strikeout rate and a 7.3% walk rate in 39.2 Triple-A innings before being called up by Seattle. Parker has a 3.63 ERA (3.63 FIP!) with 26.3% strikeouts and 7.3% walks in 74.1 career big league innings, almost all with the Cubs from 2012-14.

It’s worth noting Parker had elbow problems in 2012 and his velocity dipped big time from 2013-14, but it has rebounded this year and he’s again sitting in the mid-90s. He also throws a nasty curveball …

Blake Parker curveball

… and an occasional splitter. As far as scrap heap arms go, Parker is more interesting than most, but only if the velocity rebound is legit. He’s worth a look down the stretch. It’s not like the Yankees have anything interesting going on in middle relief anyway.

Even after adding Tommy Layne, the Yankees still have two open 40-man roster spots — they’ll get another one following Alex Rodriguez‘s final game Friday — so they won’t have to designate anyone for assignment to clear space for Parker. My guess is either Nick Goody or Chasen Shreve will get sent to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man spot once Parker reports.

8/9 to 8/11 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The final road series of Alex Rodriguez‘s career will take him where he played his first ever MLB game: Fenway Park. (No, the Red Sox are not planning to honor him.) The Yankees are in Boston for a three-game series with the Red Sox this week. If you’re still hoping to see the Yankees make a run at the postseason spot (I am!), this pretty much is a must-win series. New York is 3-6 against the BoSox this season. They were swept in three games in Fenway back in late-April/early-May.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Red Sox just wrapped up a long ten-game West Coast trip, during which they went 5-5. They lost four of the final six games. Overall, Boston is 60-50 with a +86 run differential on the season. That’s the best run differential but only the fifth best record in the AL. They’re 2.5 games back in the AL East and tied with the Tigers for the second wildcard spot. The Yankees are 4.5 games back of Boston.

Offense & Defense

Manager John Farrell oversees the highest scoring offense in baseball, and it’s not all that close either. The Red Sox are averaging 5.44 runs per game in 2016. The Coors Field aided Rockies are second at 5.20. The Indians are the next closest AL team at 4.99. So, yeah, the Red Sox can score. They have a team 114 wRC+, again the best in baseball, and the only regulars they’re missing are OF Chris Young (hamstring), C Ryan Hanigan (ankle), and C/OF Blake Swihart (ankle). And I guess 3B Pablo Sandoval (shoulder) too, but they don’t miss him.

Ortiz. (Elsa/Getty)
Ortiz. (Elsa/Getty)

For the most part Farrell has had a set top of the lineup. RF Mookie Betts (134 wRC+) leads off, 2B Dustin Pedroia (116 wRC+) hits second, SS Xander Bogaerts (123 wRC+) bats third, DH David Ortiz (160 wRC+) cleans up, and 1B Hanley Ramirez (109 wRC+) hits fifth. CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (133 wRC+) tends to hit sixth. Ortiz has had a phenomenal final season but has cooled off quite a bit in the second half (62 wRC+). Will that make me feel any more comfortable when he’s up at the plate this week? No. No it will not.

The Red Sox are platooning IF Travis Shaw (105 wRC+) and IF Aaron Hill (99 wRC+) at third base, and quasi-platooning UTIL Brock Holt (91 wRC+) and OF Andrew Benintendi (107 wRC+ in very limited time) in left. Holt and Benintendi are both lefty hitters, so they’ve been sharing time more than straight platooning. C Sandy Leon (161 wRC+) has taken over as the everyday catcher with C Bryan Holaday (74 wRC+) backing him up. OF Bryce Brentz (81 wRC+) is the other bench player.

Defensively, the Red Sox are a very good club, especially in the outfield. Bradley is great in center and Betts and Benintendi are good in the corners. (Holt isn’t all that good in left.) Pedroia is their best defensive infielder. Hanley and Shaw have their fish out of water moments on the corners, and while Bogaerts is solid, he’s in the lineup for his bat, first and foremost. Leon’s very good behind the plate.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7:10pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Following a pretty disastrous first season in Boston, the still only 27-year-old Porcello has bounced back nicely this year. He has a 3.46 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 22 starts and 143 innings, with a career high strikeout rate (20.5%) and a career low walk rate (4.3%). Both his homer (1.07 HR/9) and grounder (45.2%) rates are closer to average these days after being much better than that earlier in his career. Righties have actually given Porcello a harder time than lefties this season, which the opposite of the rest of his career. He lives off a sinker right around 90 mph, and uses both low-80s changeups and low-70s curveballs regularly. Porcello has seen the Yankees twice this season: seven scoreless innings in April and three runs in seven innings in May.

Wednesday (7:10pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BOS) vs. LHP Drew Pomeranz (vs. NYY)
Pomeranz, 27, came over from the Padres prior to the trade deadline, and while he’s having a strong season overall (3.09 ERA and 3.61 FIP in 122.1 innings), his four starts with the Red Sox have not gone well (6.20 ERA and 6.03 FIP in 20.1 innings). His overall strikeout (27.0%) rate is excellent, and his grounder (47.5%) and homer (0.96 HR/9) numbers are good, but he walks way too many (10.5%). He averages 4.13 pitches per plate appearance, sixth highest in MLB. The southpaw will run his pitch count up quick. Thanks to his big-breaking upper-70s curveball and upper-80s cutter, Pomeranz has a very small platoon split. His straight four-seamer sits in the low-90s and his changeup in the mid-80s. The Yankees faced Pomeranz when he was still with the Padres a few weeks ago. He held them to one run in seven innings.

Pomeranz. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Pomeranz. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Thursday (7:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Steven Wright (vs. NYY)
Blah. Just can’t escape the knuckleball. The 31-year-old Wright has a 3.01 ERA (3.37 FIP) in 22 starts and 146.2 innings, though his home run rate (0.46 HR/9) has been on the rise of late. That was to be expected. Knuckleballers aren’t exactly known for keeping the ball in the park. Wright has average-ish strikeout (20.2%), walk (8.4%), and grounder (44.2%) rates, which is fairly common for knuckleball guys. Righties have had much more success against him that lefties so far this season. Wright’s knuckler floats in around 73 mph, and his get-me-over fastball sits in the low-80s. He throws his heater around 16% of the time, which is a lot by knuckleballer standards. Wright likes to surprise hitters with it in two-strike counts when they’re sitting knuckleball. The Yankees have seen Wright twice this year. He held them to one run in nine innings in May, and three runs in six innings in July.

Bullpen Status

You could make a case the Red Sox are without their second (RHP Carson Smith) and third (RHP Koji Uehara) best relievers right now. Smith is out for the season due to Tommy John surgery while Uehara is out for several weeks with a pectoral issue. Here’s the bullpen Farrell is working with now:

Closer: RHP Craig Kimbrel (3.31 ERA/2.59 FIP)
Setup: RHP Brad Ziegler (2.45/3.36), RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.52/4.15)
Middle: LHP Fernando Abad (2.72/3.79), RHP Matt Barnes (3.00/3.70), LHP Robbie Ross Jr. (3.76/2.91)
Long: RHP Clay Buchholz (5.68/5.62)

Kimbrel just returned a week or two ago from a torn meniscus. Ziegler and Abad came over at the trade deadline, and Buchholz … well he was so bad earlier this season that they had to take him out of the rotation. He’s been more effective in limited time as a reliever (3.32/2.97) than as a starter (6.31/6.33) this season.

The Red Sox had an off-day yesterday as they traveled home from the West Coast, so their bullpen is fresh. The Yankees had an off-day too, though they didn’t have to travel nearly as far. Both relief crews are in good shape going into the series. Makes sure you check out our Bullpen Workload page anyway.

Sherman: Yankees made Ellsbury and Headley available at the trade deadline

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

The Yankees made both Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley available prior to the trade deadline, reports Joel Sherman. Obviously no teams bit; Ellsbury and Headley are still Yankees. It isn’t much of a surprise the Yankees put those two on the market considering they sold at the deadline. I’m sure they made all their veterans available.

Ellsbury, 33 next month, is hitting .274/.335/.374 (92 wRC+) in the third year of his seven-year, $153M contract. The 32-year-old Headley owns a .251/.325/.379 (90 wRC+) batting line following a miserable April. He’s in the second year of his four-year, $52M contract. Will either be a key contributor to the next great Yankees team? That’s up for debate but I lean no. Here are some more thoughts on this.

1. Expect the Yankees to continue to try to move both. The Yankees did sell at the trade deadline and it wouldn’t make sense to stop with those trades. Ellsbury and Headley don’t have nearly as much value as Andrew Miller, Carlos Beltran, and Aroldis Chapman, so they’re not going to bring a big return. Getting rid of them is as much about clearing payroll and a roster spot — especially in Ellsbury’s case given the team’s outfield depth — as it is adding pieces via trade.

The upcoming free agent market is pretty weak and I expect that to lead to a ton of trades over the winter. The pitching market especially, but also position players. The Yankees are making a concerted effort to get younger and dealing Ellsbury and/or Headley helps that cause. Replacing Ellsbury internally would be a piece of cake given all those outfielders with Triple-A Scranton. I expect the Yankees to continue pushing both guys in trades this month and in the offseason.

2. Ellsbury isn’t untradeable. There is no such thing as an untradeable contract these days. Vernon Wells was traded twice. Matt Kemp and Hector Olivera were just traded for each other. Josh Hamilton was traded last year. Ellsbury is not a terrible player. He’s just really overpaid relative to what he provides on the field. If guys like Wells and Kemp and Hamilton can be traded, so can Ellsbury.

Now, will the Yankees like the terms of an Ellsbury trade? Probably not. Chances are they’ll have to eat a bunch of money to facilitate a trade, or at least take another bad contract in return, a la Kemp and Olivera. It could work! A bad contract for bad contract trade that nets the Yankees a pitcher (Scott Kazmir?) while opening an outfield spot for one of the kids is worth pursuing. Ellsbury’s not untradeable. He’s just going to be really hard to trade.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

3. There figures to be a market for Headley over the winter. For all the talk about the golden age of young shortstops, there are a lot of really good third basemen in MLB these days. A few years back that wasn’t the case. There was a definite shortage at the hot corner. All those quality third basemen will make dealing Headley tough, but like Ellsbury, it’s not impossible.

Looking ahead to the offseason, the Dodgers (Justin Turner) and Marlins (Martin Prado) are set to lose their third basemen to free agency. The Giants just traded Matt Duffy and need to figure out what they’re doing at third base after this season. (Eduardo Nunez? Really?) The Angels could deal Yunel Escobar for prospects. Rebuilding clubs like the Braves and Brewers could have interest at the right price too. There will be a market for third base help in the offseason, which bodes well for the Yankees’ efforts to deal Headley.

4. The Yankees don’t have to trade Headley. Here’s the thing about Headley: the Yankees themselves need competency at third base going forward — you know as well as I that they’re going to try to win next season — and they don’t have an in-house third base replacement the way they do in the outfield. It’s clear the team doesn’t want to play Rob Refsnyder over there, leaving Ronald Torreyes as Plan B.

Now, this should not stand in the way of a Headley trade if one presents itself. The Yankees could always sign or trade for a replacement third baseman. This just gives them a little more leverage in trade talks, similar to Miller. Like it or not, they don’t have to trade this guy. Keeping him is perfectly fine given their internal options. Headley’s not someone who should be dumped for the sake of dumping a player, know what I mean?

Yankees sign lefty Tommy Layne to Major League deal

(Maddie Meyer/Getty)
(Maddie Meyer/Getty)

The Yankees have signed lefty reliever Tommy Layne to a Major League contract, the team announced. He’ll be in uniform tonight. The club hasn’t announced a corresponding move yet. The Yankees have three open 40-man roster spots, so they simply have to option someone to Triple-A. No one will be designated for assignment.

Layne, 31, originally broke into the big leagues with the Padres in 2012, and he’s been with the Red Sox since 2014. They released him a few days ago. Layne has a 3.77 ERA (3.41 FIP) in 28.2 innings this year, and a 3.21 ERA (3.40 FIP) in 120.2 career innings. He’s out of options and can’t be sent to the minors without going through waivers first.

So far this year Layne has held left-handed batters to a .255/.355/.333 (.312 wOBA) batting line with a 23.8% strikeout rate, an 11.1% walk rate, and a 56.8% ground ball rate. Just last year lefties hit a weak .144/.248/.170 (.203 wOBA) against him with 26.5% strikeouts, 10.8% walks, and 60.0% grounders. Layne is a classic lefty specialist with a funky delivery, an upper-80s fastball, and a slurvy breaking ball. Here’s a little bit of video:

My guess is the Yankees will send Richard Bleier down to Triple-A Scranton to make room for Layne. There’s really no point in carrying two left-on-left matchup guys. Bleier has thrown 2.2 innings since the All-Star break and has appeared in only eleven of the team’s last 47 games. Yeah.

Brett Gardner’s Disappearing Power

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

Being a sports fan means you’re going to make predictions or statements or give takes; with that comes a lot of being wrong. Most recently, I was most wrong about fellow former UConn Husky and current Detroit Piston Andre Drummond. After he left Storrs following his freshman year, I thought he’d struggle in the NBA thanks to a lack of a refined offensive game. I was wrong and I was very glad to be wrong. Before him, I was (somewhat) wrong about Brett Gardner.

Though I’ve long been a fan of Gardner’s, I wasn’t always sure how he’d fare long-term in Major League Baseball. Despite a good batting eye that helped him get on base just about everywhere he played, I had concerns regarding his general lack of power. I thought that once he got through the league a time or two, pitchers would be able to knock the bat out of his hands by challenging him, thus negating his good eye at the plate and limiting his effectiveness as a hitter. I was wrong; Gardner’s lasted a long time in the league and has been a productive player for most of that time.

Not enough of this. (Elsa/Getty)
Not enough of this. (Elsa/Getty)

Part of that productivity came from a power surge in 2013 that lasted through 2015. From 2013-2015, he had ISOs of .143, .166, and .140 after never having an ISO greater than .110 from 2008-2012. Additionally, 2014 and 2015 saw him hit 17 and 16 homers respectively. This isn’t Barry Bonds level power or anything, but for Gardner, this was groundbreaking stuff. In 2016, though, that power reservoir has seemingly dried up.

This year, his ISO has dropped down to .116, his lowest since a .110 mark in 2011 — not including the partial season in 2012. Per FanGraphs, ZiPS rest-of-season projections forecast Gardner to hit only four more homers this year, bringing his total up to 11. While that would be higher than any non-2014/15 year, it’s still a drop from the last two years, though the ISO drop is the more pronounced of the two. As proof of that, let’s take a look at Gardner’s extra-base hit rate as a percentage of his hits. In 2014, 35.2% of his hits went for extra bases. That rate dropped to 30.4% in 2015 and is down another 5% to 25.3% this year.

He’s dropped back down to relatively normal levels of his power so it’s not horribly alarming, but it’s still disappointing to see since that added dimension of power helped make Gardner an even more valuable player. As such, it’s still worth looking at why these numbers have dropped back down. When Gardner was going right with his homers, he was pulling inside pitches over the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium. Let’s take a look at Gardner’s pull numbers over the last three years, incorporating HR/FB%; Hard Hit%; and ISO (all per FanGraphs):

Year HR/FB% Hard Hit% ISO
2014 29.4 37.3 0.385
2015 62.5 28.2 0.367
2016 37.5 24.5 0.263

While Brett is still hitting for good power to his pull field, it’s down significantly from the previous two years. 2015 was a little fluky with regards to the HR/FB% as Gardner tended not to hit many fly balls last year; the ones he did hit, however, left the park at an insanely high rate. It’s expected that there’s been a drop off this year, but that’s been coupled with a steadily dropping hard hit rate to the pull field. Why might this be? Well, intuitively, when you’re pulling the ball, you’re doing damage on inside pitches. Is that happening for Gardner this year compared to 2014-15? Not so much.

GardnerProfile1415

There’s Gardner’s 2014-2015 zone profile by ISO. By taking a look at the inside pitches in the zone, we see ISOs of .300; .281; and .361. He also did damage on pitches actually inside and out the zone, ISOing .471 on those pitches; he was even able to golf some low/in pitches out of the zone for a .286 ISO. Now let’s look at 2016.

GardnerProfile16

That inside power has seemingly disappeared in 2016. Up and in, in the zone, Gardner’s still doing damage: .546 ISO. Middle-in, in the zone is still solid at .250, but there’s been a drop off from 2014-15. The low-in, in the zone and the two out of zone locations have produced virtually no power.

There’s no quick and easy answers in baseball, but a rough estimate for why Gardner’s power has dropped this year is that he just isn’t doing damage on inside pitches and isn’t pulling the ball with as much authority to his pull field as he did in the previous two seasons. Despite the lack of power, Gardner has still been reasonably productive in 2016. He’s walking at his highest rate since 2011 (again, discounting 2012’s limited scope) and striking out at his lowest rate since 2011. But the lack of power has Gardner’s wRC+ under 100 for the first time since 2011. While the team was nowhere near reliant on Gardner for power coming into 2016, the lack of it — and the general lack of production from Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira — has been a disappointment. Hopefully next year, Gardner can regain his power stroke and increase his productivity.

DotF: Mitchell begins rehab stint in Charleston’s win

Some notes on this Monday:

  • RHP Alex Smith has been released and RHP Kyle Haynes was demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Double-A Trenton to fill the roster spot, reports Matt Kardos. The RailRiders had six starters for five spots after RHP Chad Green was sent down. Smith, 26, was signed as an undrafted free agent back in 2012. Most undrafted signees are gone within a year or two. He stuck around a while.
  • 2B Nick Solak, IF Drew Bridges, and RHP Kolton Mahoney were all named to the NY-Penn League All-Star Game, the league announced. Here are the North and South rosters. The All-Star Game is next Tuesday and will be played in Hudson Valley. The internet tells me the ballpark is in Fishkill, New York, if any of you are nearby and interested in going.
  • I missed this the other day, but Eric Longenhagen posted scouting reports on the three players the Yankees received in the Carlos Beltran trade. He has RHP Dillon Tate with two present 60 pitches on the 20-80 scouting scale (fastball, slider) and a third future 60 pitch (changeup), which is really awesome. RHP Nick Green and RHP Erik Swanson aren’t nobodies either.
  • And finally, LHP Josh Rogers was named the High-A Florida State League Pitcher of the Week, so congrats to him. The Yankees gave Rogers an above-slot $485,000 bonus as their 11th round pick last year.

Triple-A Scranton had a scheduled off-day.

Double-A Trenton (12-6 win over Richmond)

  • CF Dustin Fowler: 2-6, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB — he’s hitting .311/.352/.504 in his last 68 games, so yeah
  • SS Abi Avelino: 1-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 K, 1 SB, 1 E (throwing) — 11-for-32 (.344) in ten games since the promotion
  • RF Billy McKinney: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 BB, 1 K
  • 1B Mike Ford: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Ronald Herrera: 5.1 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 9/2 GB/FB — 63 of 95 pitches were strikes (66%)

[Read more…]

Monday Night Open Thread

Today is an off-day for the Yankees, who head up to Boston next for a three-game set with the Red Sox. Alex Rodriguez played his first MLB game at Fenway Park, back in 1994 when he was only 18, so I guess it’s kinda fitting his last road series will be there as well. Hopefully he gets to play these next few games.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The baseball schedule is light today, but MLB Network will air a regional game tonight. The Olympics are on as well, so talk about that stuff or anything else right here. Just don’t be a jerk.