The Yankees are reportedly interested in Martin Prado and Justin Bour even though neither of them can pitch

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

We’ve officially reached trade rumor season, folks. According to Bob Nightengale, the Yankees recently reached out to the Marlins to let them know they have interest in third baseman Martin Prado and first baseman Justin Bour. The Red Sox are after Prado as well. The Marlins shipped Adeiny Hechavarria to the Rays earlier this week, which is a pretty good indication they are open for business and ready to move veterans.

A nagging hamstring injury has limited Prado, 33, to 22 games this season, during which he’s hit .276/.297/.391 (79 wRC+). He returned to the lineup last Friday. Prado spent the second half of the 2014 season with the Yankees before being sent to Miami for Nathan Eovaldi, as I’m sure you know. The 29-year-old Bour is hitting .289/.364/.564 (140 wRC+) with 18 homers in 66 games this year. Who knew? Anyway, this is our first real trade rumor of the season, so let’s talk it out.

1. Does this rumor pass the sniff test? The always important first question. There are so many rumors out there these days that it’s important to keep things in perspective. In this case, yeah, I think the rumor makes sense. We know the Yankees have been looking for a third baseman. They also need a first baseman given Greg Bird‘s ongoing injury issues. The headline was a weak attempt at humor. The Yankees need bullpen help more than anything right now. That’s no reason not to pursue upgrades elsewhere on the roster though.

2. Prado is pretty darn expensive. Generally speaking, Prado is a solid hitter. Not a great hitter and not a terrible hitter. He was very good during his half-season with the Yankees and that seems to have left a lasting impression on many folks. It happens. That’s not who he is all the time though. Prado is more or less an average offensive producer at this point of his career:


Source: FanGraphsMartin Prado

I don’t dispute that Prado is a better player than Chase Headley, and apparently the Yankees don’t dispute it either, which is why they’ve shown interest in him. The potential hang-up here is Prado’s contract. The Marlins signed him to an extension last September and he’s owed $11.5M this year, $13.5M next year, and $15M the year after that. Paying 35-year-old Martin Prado a $15M salary in 2019 doesn’t sound fun.

The Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax in the near future (i.e. 2018) and acquiring Prado would make that more difficult. I suppose the Marlins could eat some money to facilitate a trade, though that seems unlikely, not with the Red Sox after him as well. Besides, Jeffrey Loria is trying to sell the team, so the less money he has on the books, the better. They’ll want to move Prado’s entire contract, the same way they moved Hechavarria’s entire contract.

Headley is a sunk cost at this point. The Yankees owe him his $13M salary this year and $13M salary next year no matter what. Perhaps they could unload part of it in a salary dump after acquiring Prado, though they almost certainly won’t be able to get out of all of it. Between taking on Prado’s salary and Headley’s existing contract, the Yankees would end up paying something like $25M total for two okay-ish third basemen next year. Eh.

3. Bour is a really great fit. Bour, on the other, would really fit the Yankees both now and in the future. He’s a left-handed hitter with big pull power, and that always plays well in Yankee Stadium. Bour also draws plenty of walks (10.3%) and won’t strike out a ton (22.5%). That’s more or less what the Yankee were hoping to get from Bird this season, right? A .289/.364/.564 (140 wRC+) line with 18 homers at the almost halfway point and solid strikeout and walk numbers? I’d say so.

There are, however, two big drawbacks with Bour. For starters, he probably could use a platoon partner. His numbers against lefties this season are pretty good, actually (.340/.421/.740, 198 wRC+), but that’s a sample size issue. Bour’s career numbers against lefties (.261/.323/.438, 104 wRC+) tell a different story. And two, he’s very shiftable. Here is his spray chart, via Baseball Savant:

justin-bour-spray-chart

Bour has power to all fields, yeah, but when he doesn’t hit the ball over the fence, chances are he’s going to hit it to the right side of the field. Opponents will load up their defense on the first base side of second base. Bour is among the most shifted hitters in the big leagues and that spray chart tells you why. He’s a dead pull lefty.

The Yankees used to have several players like that in their lineup. It was a problem. Now they have none with Bird on the disabled list. Acquiring Bour and carrying one pull happy lefty is no big deal. It’s okay to have one guy like that in the lineup. Putting three or four guys like that in the lineup day after day can be an issue though. The Yankees aren’t there.

As I said a few weeks ago, the Yankees should consider acquiring a new first baseman and treating this almost as a rehab year for Bird. Let him rest as much as he needs and then give him a ton of Triple-A at-bats to get his timing back. Picking up a first baseman will eliminate any sense of urgency to get Bird back to the big leagues as quickly as possible. Remember, he’s coming off shoulder surgery too. It’s not just the ankle.

Bour could step in at first base for Bird this year, provide that left-handed thump, then stick around to serve as the designated hitter (and Bird insurance) going forward. He’s under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2020. This isn’t a rental. The Yankee are pretty short on left-handed power going forward. It’s Bird and Didi Gregorius, and that’s pretty much it. Most of their top prospects are right-handed hitters. Bour would help balance the lineup.

4. Are we heading for a Yankees-Red Sox bidding war? I suppose it’s possible for Prado. The Red Sox are desperate for third base help, and Dave Dombrowski is not one to take half-measures. He’s going to go get a third baseman and Prado is as good a candidate as anyone. The Red Sox don’t need a first baseman or a designated hitter, so a bidding war for Bour ain’t happening.

That all said, I can’t help but feel the Marlins may be using the Yankees to jack up the price for the Red Sox. Yeah, Prado would make the Yankee better, so there’s a fit, but his contract situation complicates things. The Marlins just need it to seem plausible though. Get the Yankees involved and try to get the Red Sox to pay move. And you know what? I bet Brian Cashman would happily go along with it.

The opposite could be true too, you know. The Marlins could be using the Red Sox to drive up the price for the Yankees. That isn’t quite as believable though. Boston is all-in right now. They’re a win-now team and it stands to reason they’d more aggressively pursue Prado given their third base hole. The Yankees are still focused on their youth movement and reluctant to trade prospects. Eh, whatever.

* * *

I like the idea of the Yankees picking up Bour given the first base situation, though I don’t love adding Prado. The Yankees would be adding another okay veteran third baseman on top of the okay veteran third baseman they already have, except this one is owed more money and under contract an extra year. There’s no harm in kicking the tires because hey, the Marlins could always decide to give Prado away, but that doesn’t seem likely. Bour’s a really good fit in my opinion. I don’t consider Prado enough of an upgrade to take on that contract.

Youngsters thrive in a 12-3 blowout win against the White Sox

What is one way to make sure the bullpen doesn’t ruin the game? An offensive outburst! The Yankees took game three of the four-game series with the White Sox thanks to youngsters driving in tons of runs and Masahiro Tanaka coming up solid. This was a very, very stress-free game especially considering how things have gone lately for the Yankees. 10/10, would watch again.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

#TANAK

The narrative so far has been that Masahiro Tanaka has been in a serious funk this season. However, he’s shown signs of coming out of that slump lately. Including tonight’s start, Tanaka has marked a 2.92 ERA in the past four GS (8 ER in 24.2 IP), striking out 32 and walking 7. That’s more like it. Four games wouldn’t really qualify as the stretch that turned the season around, but for now, it is an encouraging sign.

Looking at Brooks Baseball, Tanaka got 15 whiffs total, with 12 coming from his slider, sinker and splitter. He also brought some extra juice tonight, topping out at 97.3 mph with his four-seam fastball and averaging 94.9 mph. Whoa. His splitter also hit 90 mph multiple times in the YES gun, for what it’s worth. Good conditions? Amped up?

The only major trouble came in the bottom of the fifth. With the Yankees carrying a 3-0 lead, Tanaka allowed the first four hitters to reach base. Omar Narvaez singled to lead it off and Adam Engel hit a double to put two runners in RISP with no outs. Yolmer Sanchez walked to load the bases and Melky Cabrera hit a 2-RBI single to center to make it a 3-2 game.

Fortunately for the Yankees, that was all the damage Tanaka allowed in the frame. Jose Abreu grounded into a double play to give Yankees two quick outs and Tanaka got Todd Frazier to force out to second to end the inning. When it was all said and done, it was a solid 2 ER, 6 IP outing for Tanaka. His season ERA dropped from 5.74 to 5.56 and he earned the 6th victory of the year. It would be very ideal for the Yankees for that ERA to keep decreasing.

(Jonathan Daniels/Getty Images)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Runs! 

The Yankees scored the first runs of the game thanks to some sloppiness from the White Sox. Carlos Rodon, making his first start of the year after missing the first few months suffering biceps injury, was clearly rusty. Brett Gardner walked to lead off the game. In a span of three hitters, Gardner reached to second and third respectively with two wild pitches from Rodon. He scored when Didi Gregorius hit a grounder that looked like an out at first glance, but SS Tim Anderson’s high throw pulled the first baseman off the bag as Didi reached safe. 1-0 Yankees.

Rodon’s command continued to struggle as Chase Headley and Austin Romine worked a back-to-back walk to load the bases. Miguel Andujar, a 22-year-old making his ML debut, hit a grounder up the middle to drive in two. 3-0 Yankees. Not a bad way to make an impression, eh?

As noted, Tanaka got into a bit of a pickle in the bottom of the fifth and allowed two runs. Holding a slim 3-2 lead, the Yankees needed to extend it to make it a stress-free ending after a whirlwind of bullpen nights they had lately. Thankfully, that’s exactly what they did. In the top of the sixth, the kids and Aaron Judge dropped a five-burger on the ChiSox pitching.

With one out, Romine doubled to right to get on base. Andujar grounded softly to put the runner at third and Tyler Wade followed it up with his first ML base hit, an RBI double drilled to left field. Ronald Torreyes continued the doubles parade by hitting one to the right field and scoring Wade. Gardner hit an RBI single to center that drove Toe in. Aaron Judge, being Aaron Judge, then hit a 115 mph screamer of a home run to make it 8-2 Yankees. An all-around enjoyable inning right there.

The Yankees tacked on four more in the top of the ninth. Against the tall RHP Michael Ynoa, Judge started it off with a swift, 5-pitch walk. After Gary Sanchez struck out swinging, Gregorius brought two runs in with a home run just above the right field fence. 10-2 Yankees. They were not done there. Headley and Romine worked back-to-back walks and Andujar doubled to drive both of them in to make it 12-2 Yankees.

(Jonathan Daniels/Getty Images)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Leftovers

Boy, how about Miguel Andujar’s night? He put himself in elite company with tonight’s 3-for-4, 4 RBI performance … a company of only himself. Per Katie Sharp, he’s the only Yankee to have 3 hits and 3 RBI’s in an ML debut. Not bad for a guy who was behind Gleyber Torres in the system’s 3B depth chart. Wade did not have as an awesome night but he did have a double and a stolen base. Pretty fun stuff when the team calls up talented youngsters and they contribute right away.

Aaron Judge, as mentioned, hit another HR tonight and had a solid 1-for-3, 2 BB game. He became the first player this season to crack the 5.0 fWAR mark. By my calculation, he’s on pace for a ~10 fWAR season, which is Trout-esque. His line for this season? .333/.449/.704.

The Yankees brought in Tyler Webb to close the game out and he allowed a HR to Adam Engel, who was one of the very few bright spots for the Sox tonight (2-for-3 and a great catch to rob Torreyes of an extra base hit). Besides that, Webb finished the inning and the game for a 12-3 Yankees victory.

Box score, standings and WPA graph

Here’s tonight’s box score, updated standings and WPA graph.


Source: FanGraphs


The Yankees will look for a series win tomorrow at the Guaranteed Rate Field. Luis Cessa will be on the hill seeking for his first win of the season while the White Sox will start James Shields.

DotF: Olivares, Sensley, Garcia, Torres homer in Pulaski’s win

Here are some notes to start the day:

  • In case you missed it earlier, 3B Miguel Andujar was called up to the Yankees and 1B Chris Carter accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A Scranton. He hasn’t reported to the RailRiders yet, but will in the coming days.
  • Four Yankees farmhands were selected to the Double-A Eastern League All-Star Game: SS Thairo Estrada, 1B Mike Ford, RHP Yefry Ramirez, and LHP Justus Sheffield. Congrats to them. Here are the Eastern Division and Western Division rosters (PDF links).
  • SS Kyle Holder was placed on the High-A Tampa 7-day disabled list, the team announced. I’m not sure what’s wrong with him. IF Daniel Barrios was brought up from the rookie Gulf Coast League to fill the roster spot. Calling up a GCL kid suggests a short-term injury.
  • Make sure you check out Andrew Marchand’s article on OF Clint Frazier, who spoke about everything he’s learned since joining the Yankees. “I’m not going to shy away from letting people know I’m confident in my ability,” he said.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (7-6 win over Syracuse) completion of yesterday’s game, which was suspended due to rain with one out in the top of the first

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — first homer of the season
  • RF Dustin Fowler: 1-1, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — homered before the rain yesterday, though he didn’t play in either game today … he is still with the RailRiders (photo evidence), so maybe the Yankees were holding him back in case they needed to call him up (to replace Tyler Austin, maybe?) … either way, that’s his 13th homer of the season and a new career high … he had 12 all of last year
  • PH-RF Mark Payton: 2-3, 1 2B, 1 BB — threw a runner out at the plate
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 1-1, 1 R, 1 2B — I’m pretty sure he’s the first player to play in a big league game and appear in DotF on the same day … he played the start of the game yesterday, before the rain (duh)
  • PH-3B Abi Avelino: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K
  • LF Clint Frazier: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 CS — had been in a 3-for-22 (.136) slump
  • RHP Chance Adams: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 1/2 GB/FB — 14 of 24 pitches were strikes (58%) … he started the game yesterday
  • LHP Caleb Smith: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 8 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 63 of 100 pitches were strikes … only the second time in 15 starts that he allowed as may as four runs
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 2 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 27 of 46 pitches were strikes (59%)

[Read more…]

Game 76: Save Us, Masahiro

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Five days ago Masahiro Tanaka chucked his second best start of the season. He struck out nine Rangers in eight scoreless innings, and looked like the Masahiro Tanaka we saw most of last season. It was awesome. We haven’t seen enough of that guy this year. The Yankees are going to need him tonight, because the lineup is short and the bullpen is taxed (again). The Yankees are capital-R Reeling. Here is the White Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. RF Aaron Judge
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. 1B Austin Romine
  7. DH Miguel Andujar
  8. LF Tyler Wade
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

It is cloudy in Chicago and there’s a bunch of rain in the forecast too. The rain is supposed to start right about now, and continue for a little while. We might be looking at a delay or two here. That’s not good. Hopefully the forecast is wrong. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 8pm ET. You’ll be able to watch on YES. Try to enjoy.

Injury Updates: Matt Holliday was placed on the 10-day disabled list with what the Yankees are calling a viral infection. He’s going back to New York for tests. The move is retroactive to Sunday, so Holliday can return as soon as next Tuesday … CC Sabathia (hamstring) will throw a simulated game tomorrow. If it goes well, I wonder whether he’ll be activated right away, or throw one more simulated game … Adam Warren (shoulder) threw 20 pitches in the bullpen. He’ll do that again in the coming days, and it’s possible he could be activated without going on a minor league rehab assignment … Tyler Austin (hamstring) could be headed to the disabled list … Greg Bird (ankle) worked out with Triple-A Scranton today, though he still has soreness and swelling. Joe Girardi acknowledged there is concern Bird may not make it back this year.

Roster Move: As expected, Andujar was called up. Duh. He’s in the lineup. He replaced Holliday on the roster. Told you this would happenChris Carter cleared waivers and accepted his outright assignment to Triple-A, the Yankees announced. So he’s still in the organization as a non-40-man roster player.

Scouting the Trade Market: Pat Neshek

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

At the moment, the single biggest issue facing the 2017 Yankees is their bullpen, specifically the middle relief. Adam Warren is currently on the disabled list, and both Tyler Clippard and Jonathan Holder have been ineffective the last few weeks. Chad Green is the third option in the bullpen right now, and while I like Chad Green, the Yankees clearly need more help. The bullpen as is won’t cut it.

If the Yankees do decide to go outside the organization for bullpen help — they could also call up some of their starting pitching prospects and use them in relief — one veteran reliever who will undoubtedly be available at the trade deadline is Phillies setup man Pat Neshek. The Phillies are terrible and Neshek is an impending free agent. He’s getting traded at some point. No doubt about it. He’s not the sexiest name, no, but let’s see if he’s a fit for the Yankees.

Current Performance

Neshek is no spring chicken. He’ll be 37 in September and this is his 11th MLB season. He’s a known quantity. Here are his numbers the last three seasons.

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9
2015 54.2 3.62 3.94 22.9% 5.4% 32.0% 1.32
2016 47 3.06 3.68 23.2% 6.0% 33.3% 1.15
2017 30.2 0.59 2.07 26.4% 3.6% 37.0% 0.29

Neshek was rock solid with the Astros from 2015-16, and he’s been out of this world with the Phillies this season. It’s pretty obvious what’s going on though, right? He’s stopped giving up home runs this season without getting significantly more ground balls. Hmm. Neshek went from 10.9% HR/FB rate from 2015-16 to a 3.0% HR/FB this year. HMMM.

This isn’t a new man. This is the same ol’ Pat Neshek who just so happens to be on a run of good fortune when it comes to keeping the ball in the park. There’s no reason to expect that to continue though. Not with the way balls are flying over the fence this season. The Phillies might want to consider trading him before the home run correction comes and sinks his trade value.

I think any team looking at Neshek as a trade target has to go into it expecting to get the 1.0+ HR/9 guy because that’s who he’s been his entire career. And if you get the 0.3 HR/9 and sub-1.00 ERA guy, great! Another Neshek issue is his platoon split. He’s got a funky low arm slot and lefties see the ball out of his hand rather well. Since the start of the 2015 season:

AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA K% BB% GB% HR/9
vs. RHB .197/.235/.322 .237 24.2% 4.2% 36.1% 0.93
vs. LHB .230/.295/.443 .306 22.9% 6.9% 28.8% 1.19

Neshek isn’t awful against lefties, though he is clearly better against righties, which isn’t surprising considering his arm slot. That .213 ISO allowed to lefties is scary, especially since he would be moving into Yankee Stadium should the Yankees pick him up. The Yankees would almost have his treat him as a true right-on-right matchup guy, not a full one-inning reliever.

One thing that’s worth noting is Neshek’s usage restrictions. Apparently he only likes to work one inning at a time, and would prefer not to enter in the middle of an inning, then warm back up for a second inning. Both Neshek and Phillies manager Pete Mackanin downplayed those usage restrictions, but as Corey Seidman wrote, they’re starting to become a bit of a headache. Huh.

Current Stuff

From that low arm slot come two pitches:  a low-90s two-seam fastball and a low-80s slider. Neshek also has a soft, almost cartoonish upper-60s changeup, but he rarely throws it. Everything this year looks like it has the last few years. Velocity, movement, whiff and ground ball rates, the works. Neshek’s stuff is he same as it ever was. Here’s the best recent compilation video I could dig up:

That funky delivery combined with two good pitches makes Neshek effective. It’s easy to see why he’s been death on right-handed batters too. It can’t be fun seeing the ball come out of that arm slot.

Injury History

Neshek had Tommy John surgery way back in 2008, plus he had a finger issue in May 2010. Otherwise he’s been completely healthy in his career. Kinda amazing a dude at that age and with that delivery can pitch for so long without any serious arm problems since Tommy John surgery nearly a decade ago.

Contract Status

Three years ago the Astros signed Neshek to a two-year deal worth $12.5M. This is the club option year of that contract. He’ll earn $6.5M total this season before becoming a free agent this winter. Not that he would receive one anyway, but Neshek wouldn’t be eligible for the qualifying offer after the season. Only players who remain with their team all season can receive the qualifying offer. This section was unnecessarily long.

What Will It Take?

The Phillies did well to pick Neshek up in a salary dump trade over the winter. They’re now poised to flip him for a prospect(s) even though veteran non-elite relievers due to become free agents usually don’t fetch much in a trade. Three recent deals stand out as benchmarks for a potential Neshek trade:

  • Joe Smith: Traded for a fringe top 30 organizational prospect (Jesus Castillo).
  • Joakim Soria: Traded for a top 15 organizational prospect (JaCoby Jones).
  • Brad Ziegler: Traded for two fringe top 30 organizational prospects (Jose Almonte and Luis Alejandro Basabe).

The Ziegler trade seems most relevant to me, and not only because he and Neshek use funky arm slots. Both Smith and Soria had some nagging injury issues the year they were traded, plus there were signs of decline in their game. Ziegler had no such issues. He was perfectly healthy and pitching as well as ever. The same applies to Neshek now.

Even after graduating several players to the big leagues the last few weeks, the Yankees have a deep farm system, and trading two fringy top 30 prospects for an immediate bullpen upgrade seems like a no-brainer. An equivalent package to the Ziegler deal would be something like, say, Trey Amburgey and Stephen Tarpley, or Abi Avelino and Erik Swanson. The Yankees have a ton of those dudes to peddle.

Will the Phillies get a better offer? Ken Rosenthal recently reported the Nationals have interest in Neshek, and they’re a World Series contender with major bullpen problems. Their desperation could get them to up the ante. Jim Salisbury says the Phillies have a standing offer for Neshek from an unknown team. We don’t know what that offer is, but the fact the Phillies haven’t accepted it yet tells us they think they can do better.

In a vacuum, it seems the cost to acquire Neshek should be pretty low. In the real world, other teams will be competing for him, including several World Series hopefuls who figure to put their best foot forward. That doesn’t mean it’ll eventually take a top prospect to acquire Neshek (or maybe it does). It could mean getting him for two lower level lottery tickets is a pipe dream, however.

So Is He A Fit?

Yes, definitely. Even with the platoon concerns and his apparent disinterest in going multiple innings. The Yankees don’t need Neshek to be a late-inning guy or a high-leverage guy. They need him to be better than Holder and Clippard are right now, and based on his track record, Neshek can do that. I have no illusions of him maintaining his current performance all year. The 2016 version of Neshek would be an upgrade for the Yankees.

Because the Phillies are so bad, this seems like something that could get done soon. Make a good offer and Philadelphia will probably take it rather than wait a few weeks and hope Neshek somehow ups his value. They could try to start a bidding war, and they might succeed, but how much more would they realistically get anyway? Neshek is no savior. He’s an affordable and useful piece for the middle innings, and the Yankees need all the bullpen help they can get at the moment. That’s it.

Miguel Andujar is reportedly coming to the big leagues, which could mean any of a number of things

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night, another one of the Yankees best young prospects made his MLB debut. Tyler Wade, who came up as an injury replacement for Starlin Castro, made his debut as a pinch-hitter and worked a walk that helped spark a go-ahead rally. It was a fun and exciting moment the bullpen quickly ruined with another meltdown. Sigh.

Wade is already the seventh player to make his MLB debut with the Yankees this year, joining Gio Gallegos, Domingo German, Ronald Herrera, Kyle Higashioka, Jordan Montgomery, and Tyler Webb. Number eight may be arriving tonight. Miguel Andujar is getting called up to the Yankees. Both Matt Kardos and the Dominican Prospect League are reporting it.

Andujar, 22, is hitting .312/.346/.491 (128 wRC+) with eight home runs in 74 total games this season. He was promoted to Triple-A Scranton last week, in the wake of the Gleyber Torres injury, and since then he’s gone 8-for-26 (.308) with a double and a homer in six games. I ranked him as the sixth best prospect in the system a few weeks ago. Andujar is pretty darn talented. And a third baseman too! The Yankees need one of those long-term.

So what, exactly, does today’s apparent call-up mean? It could mean any one of a number of things. Here is a list of potential explanations, from most likely to least likely:

  1. Matt Holliday is going on the disabled list with his mystery illness and Andujar is one of only three healthy position players on the 40-man roster and not in MLB (Jorge Mateo and Mason Williams are the others), making him the easy call-up option.
  2. Tyler Austin, not Holliday, is going on the disabled list. He’s been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury the last few days. Austin did play last night, however. He was the designated hitter.
  3. Chase Headley, not Holliday nor Austin, is going on the disabled list. He missed time with a back problem last week, which was bad enough to require an epidural. Headley has played third base the last three days though.
  4. Rob Refsnyder is being sent down because he doesn’t really bring anything to the table other than the ability to stand in different positions and make everyone hope the ball doesn’t get hit to him.
  5. The Yankees are sending down the eighth reliever (German?) to get back to a normal four-man bench, and Andujar’s righty bat will help against tonight’s opposing starter (lefty Carlos Rodon).
  6. The Yankees feel the team needs a shake up, so they’re calling up Andujar with the intention of playing him at third base. Headley either goes to the bench or first base.

The most boring answer is often the correct answer. Holliday has been out of the lineup the last three days, and even after going for tests yesterday, the Yankees said they still don’t know what’s wrong with him. Kinda scary! Joe Girardi said putting Holliday on the disabled list and sending him back to New York was a strong consideration. How much longer can you play with a three-man bench when one of the three can’t actually play?

So, with Holliday going down, Andujar is the easy call-up candidate since he’s already on the 40-man roster. The Yankees don’t want to shuffle the 40-man around for what might only be a short-term call-up. Holliday could be back as soon as next week. Andujar’s third base defense is still a little rough around the edges, meaning he could wind up at designated hitter most of the time, and maybe give Headley a breather at the hot corner once in a while.

Sound good? That’s what I think is happening. The Yankees have not yet announced the Andujar call-up, though we can follow the trail of breadcrumbs. Holliday is sick with who knows what, the Yankees need another bat for the time being, and Andujar is the best available without making a 40-man roster move. Simple explanation. I enjoy a good conspiracy theory as much as anyone, though this seems a little too straightforward.

The bullpen is far and away the Yankees’ biggest problem right now, and while calling up Andujar doesn’t fix the bullpen at all, it does get the Yankees closer to whole on the position player side. I don’t think this is anything more than a short-term injury fill-in. Once the Yankees get some players back, Andujar will return to Triple-A to continue his development. This is likely a band-aid move, not a potential long-term sitaution.

A calm, rational discussion about the Yankees’ dumpster fire of a bullpen

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

In a season full of ugly bullpen meltdowns, the Yankees hit a new low last night. Three relievers combined to walk six of 13 batters faced, and another was hit by a pitch. Dellin Betances, working for the third straight day, couldn’t protected a one-run lead against the bottom of the lineup. Why was he working for the third straight day? Because he had to bail out Jonathan Holder with a five-run lead (!) Monday night.

Holder was sent down prior to yesterday’s game, though by then the damage had been done. Betances had to pitch Monday night and Holder himself has helped blow a few games these last few weeks. He’s not the only problem though. Hardly. He’s part of the problem. Not the problem. Here is the bullpen in June:

4.56 ERA
4.55 FIP
25.2 K%
12.3 BB%
1.29 HR/9

Can’t win like that. Can’t be done. Not with starters throwing fewer and fewer innings each passing season. Bullpens are far too important to get that performance for a month and come out unscathed. The Yankees were four games up in the AL East as recently as 16 days ago and now they’re one game back, and they’re lucky they’re still that close. June has been a terrible month for the Yankees overall and especially the relief crew.

So what do the Yankees do now? It’s easy to say they should designated this guy for assignment, send down that other guy, and call up those two prospects I really like. I wish it were that easy. Joe Girardi and Brian Cashman surely wish it was as well. Want to get this bullpen on track? Here are some possibly fixes.

1. Eight is too many. The Yankees have been carrying eight relievers for weeks now and I think it’s that’s too many. Even with a seven-man bullpen, that last guy gets used maybe once a week. Domingo German was brought into the eighth inning of a two-run game last night after pitching once in the previous nine days. How could you expect a kid who has never been a reliever before to be sharp after that layoff?

Removing an arm from the bullpen seems counterintuitive when no one can protect a damn lead, but less is often more. Shorten the staff to your seven best arms and make sure they each get enough work to stay sharp and ready to go. There’s a fine line between regular work and overwork, but Girardi is generally pretty good at toeing that line. Pick your seven best arms and let them carry the load. Eighth relievers only get used in blowouts, and in situations they’re unqualified to pitch, like German last night.

2. Get Betances to go back to the fastball. En route to blowing that game last night, Betances threw 21 pitches, and 13 of them were curveballs. Only six of the 13 were strikes too. Dellin has a great curveball! He’s also been leaning on it way too much lately. From Brooks Baseball:

dellin-betances-pitch-selection

This is something that goes back to last year. It’s not necessarily new. Throwing all those curveballs is fine when Betances can drop it in for strikes, but lately throwing it for strikes has been a problem, and he’s not adjusting. He’s been trying to force it in there anyway. Not good!

“I have to be able to rely on my fastball more. Probably got too breaking ball happy,” said Betances to Erik Boland following last night’s game, so he’s aware that all these curveballs can be a problem. Dellin has a great fastball. He was working for a third straight night last night and the pitch still averaged 97.5 mph and topped out at 98.2 mph.

Betances doesn’t have to shelve the curveball entirely. That would be silly. But I think he needs to start using his fastball more often — he’s at his best when he has close to a 50-50 mix a la 2014 and 2015 — because a) his heater is so good he’ll get swings and misses with it, and b) it’ll help keep hitters off the breaking ball.

3. Give Webb a shot. The Yankees have been trying to dig up a reliable left-handed middle reliever since last season and, for a while, Tommy Layne did the job. Chasen Shreve has been the guy last few weeks and he’s had his moments. He hasn’t been able to get back to where he was in the first half of 2014 and chances are he never will, though he has been better this season. Good, not great.

Webb is by no means a budding shutdown reliever — or maybe he is! — though the tools are there for him to contribute, and as something more than a left-on-left matchup guy too. He’s low-90s with the fastball and he throws both a slider and changeup regularly. It’s a starter’s repertoire in the bullpen. Webb throws strikes — he has a 34.1% strikeout rate and a 2.2% walk rate in Triple-A this year — and what more could you ask? Girardi would have killed for a reliever who could throw strikes last night.

Layne fizzled out and Shreve isn’t good enough to keep a middle relief spot uncontested. Webb did everything he had to do at Triple-A over the last four years, and the Pirates saw enough to give him a look in Spring Training as a Rule 5 Draft pick. Given the bullpen issues, the time to give the 26-year-old a chance is now. If it works, wonderful. If not, then you move on to the next guy. The Yankees have been there, done that with Layne and Shreve.

4. Consider Adams. I’m ready for the Yankees to stick Chance Adams, their top Triple-A pitching prospect, in the big league bullpen. I made this argument last week. Adams was a reliever in college and in his first partial season of pro ball, so he’s familiar with the role. He misses bats and he’s said to be a tough as nails competitor, and that’s never a bad thing. Adams has had success at Triple-A and there are plenty of reasons to believe he’s ready to help in some capacity.

Adams. (Presswire)
Adams. (Presswire)

I get that people are squeamish about putting a top starting pitcher prospect in the bullpen, but it’s really not that big a deal. Teams have been breaking in their young arms as relievers for decades. I know the Yankees seemed to botch things with Joba Chamberlain, but Luis Severino was in the bullpen last year, and look at him now. Severino doesn’t become the pitcher he is today without that stint in the bullpen last season. I absolutely believe that.

Putting Adams in the bullpen allows him to get his feet wet at the MLB level and learn how to get big leaguers out. That’s valuable experience! That will help a) the Yankees win games right now, and b) Adams succeed as a starter going forward. The Yankees could break him in as a reliever this year and consider him a rotation candidate next season. That is a perfectly reasonable development plan.

5. Be patient. Okay, this won’t be easy, but the Yankees have to remain patient and not completely tear things down because of a bad month. Overreacting is never good. The bullpen isn’t actually this bad. At least I don’t think it is. The relievers are in a collective funk right now. It happens. They can make some changes (Webb, Adams, etc.) though overall, they still need Betances and Aroldis Chapman to be their rocks, and Tyler Clippard to be not awful.

Adam Warren is expected back from the disabled list next week and he’ll going to help as long as his shoulder stays healthy. That’s tricky, but Warren has never not been solid for the Yankees. Also, Chad Green seems to be coming into his own as a reliever, so within a few weeks he could really find his footing and take off as a dominant bullpen arm. Making tweaks at this point makes sense. There’s also something to be said for trusting the guys in the bullpen to sort things out soon. We know these guys can be reliable because they were just a few weeks ago.

* * *

The Yankees are 11-14 overall in June — they’ve outscored their opponents by 39 runs this month, underscoring the general stupidity of baseball — and the bullpen is a big reason why. It’s not the only reason. Definitely not. But it is the reason that is most smacking us in the face. The offense has vanished for long stretches of time and the starters haven’t been great either. Don’t get me started on the baserunning either. Goodness. Those outs on the bases added up.

The bullpen situation, however, is not getting better. It’s getting worse. Just when you think they can’t sink to a new low, they go out and do what they did last night. The Yankees aren’t going anywhere with the bullpen performing like this. Changing some personnel, changing some roles, and changing some pitch selection could go a long way to getting things straightened out. And, if it doesn’t, the Yankees will have no choice but to really shake things up and go outside the organization for help.