Pineda, Angels mistakes help Yankees to 6-3 win

Alright alright alright. Two straight wins! Feels good. The Yankees could have been on a four-game winning streak right now if not for that rain delayed blown lead Sunday. Whatever. Tuesday’s final score was 6-3. The Yankees took advantage of some silly mistakes by the Angels, which is the kind of thing good teams do. What is going on here?

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Putting The Fun In Fundamentals
Mike Scioscia’s teams are known for being fundamentally sound and that is generally true. It definitely was not the case Tuesday night though. The bottom of the first inning started with a Brett Gardner infield single that deflected off David Huff‘s glove. It was a chopper just to the right of the mound, and it looked as though Huff had it squared up, but he didn’t make the catch and Gardner reached. Two batters later, Carlos Beltran gave the Yankees a quick 2-0 lead with a two-run homer to left.

Singles by Alex Rodriguez and Starlin Castro followed, then the Angels made their second mistake of the inning. This one was a huge mental mistake. Chase Headley hit a hard ground ball right to Yunel Escobar at third, who stepped on the bag for the force out. And that was it. He thought there were two outs and never threw over to first to complete what should have been an inning ending double play. Austin Romine made Escobar and the Angels pay with a single to drive in A-Rod as the next batter. That made it 3-0 good guys.

The mistakes continued in the second. Aaron Hicks started the inning with a double into the left corner, and he moved to third when Duff made a throwing error on another Gardner chopper. Hicks scored on Rob Refsnyder‘s sac fly and, to be fair, he would have moved to third on the play even if Huff made an accurate throw on Gardner’s chopper. The error still gave the Yankees an extra baserunner. Four runs by the Yankees, three mistakes by the Angels.

A New Pineda?
The first inning was Michael Pineda‘s best inning of the season. He needed eight pitches — four of which generated swings and misses — to get two strikeouts and a pop-up. That was domination. Then, of course, Pineda came out and fell behind every single hitter in the second inning. The first three batters saw 3-1 counts. Argh. Pineda allowed just a walk that inning, but still, he was annoyingly behind everyone after his offense staked him to a 3-0 lead.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Angels were able to do some damage with a three-run fifth inning that included a Kole Calhoun two-run homer into the short porch. The Yankees stretched their lead to 5-0 on a Starlin Castro solo homer in the third inning, so that three-run fifth cut the lead to 5-3. Things got interesting quick. To Pineda’s credit, he settled down and retired seven straight following the Calhoun homer to end his night. The final line: 7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.

PitchFX says the Angels swung at 18 of Pineda’s 34 sliders, and missed ten times (55.6%). That is absurd. After the game Pineda told Bryan Hoch pitching coach Larry Rothschild tweaked his arm angle two starts ago, giving him more action on his slider, and it showed in this game. It had vicious break down in the zone. It was the best the pitch has looked since his 16-strikeout game last year. Hopefully it continues.

Another Run, Another Win
The Yankees tacked on an insurance run in the seventh thanks to yet another Angels misplay. Gardner was on first and he took off on the 3-2 count to Beltran. Beltran struck out, and the throw to second beat Gardner by a mile, but Gregorio Petit didn’t make the catch and Brett was safe. He came around to score on Alex Rodriguez’s single to right to stretch the lead to 6-3.

With Aroldis Chapman unavailable due to his recent workload, Joe Girardi went to the old formula of Dellin Betances in the eighth and Andrew Miller in the ninth. Betances struck out two in a perfect inning and Miller pitched around a one-out double for his seventh save. Nice and easy. It was sort of weird to see the back-end relievers blow to some games to the Orioles over the weekend. Things went back to normal Tuesday.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Leftovers
The Yankees had ten hits as a team, including two each by A-Rod, Castro, and Hicks. Gardner had a single and a walk. Refsnyder drew a walk and a had a sacrifice fly. Headley went 0-for-4 and was the only starter who failed to reach base. The Yankees have now scored at least five runs in five of their last six games. How about that?

Beltran’s first inning homer was the 1,000th extra-base hit of his career. He joins Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, and Chipper Jones as the only switch-hitters to do that. (Mickey Mantle had 952.) Carlos is the 38th hitter overall with 1,000 extra-base hits. Also, A-Rod is only five hits away from 3,100 for his career.

And finally, Tuesday’s HOPE Week event involved Cleaning for a Reason, a group that provides free house cleaning for women battling cancer. Several players went to the Bronx to help clean homes, and that’s pretty cool. Good work, Yankees.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has both the box score and updated standings while MLB.com has the video highlights. Make sure you don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings page either. Here is the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Angels continue this four-game series Wednesday night. Nathan Eovaldi and Jered Weaver, who are polar opposites in terms of pitching style, will start that game. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or any of the other four games on the homestand live at the ballpark.

DotF: Judge, Austin, Higashioka have big games in AAA win

Some notes:

  • LHP Phil Coke has been placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL, according to Shane Hennigan. He hurt his ankle during Sunday’s start. RHP Mark Montgomery has been moved up from Double-A Trenton to fill the roster spot.
  • C Gary Sanchez, who is still out with a fractured thumb, took ground balls at first base today, according to Hennigan. There’s no reason not to have him work out there since Mark Teixeira will be out a while. Sanchez has some first base experience in winter ball.
  • Brendan Kuty recently spoke to minor league hitting coordinator James Rowson about SS Kyle Holder. “He’s learned to be approach-oriented, so he doesn’t live and die with every at-bat. He understands that it’s a process,” said Rowson.
  • RHP Cody Carroll, RHP Andrew Schwaab, and RHP Daris Vargas have been named to the Low-A South Atlanta League All-Star Game, so congrats to them. Here are the North and South rosters. The game will be played on Tuesday, June 21st. That’s two weeks from today.
  • And finally, OF Jeff Hendrix has been named the Low-A South Atlantic League Offensive Player of the Week. Congrats to him.

Triple-A Scranton (11-10 win over Charlotte, walk-off style)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K — that’s four multi-hit games in his last six games overall
  • RF Aaron Judge: 3-5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 BB — 9-for-19 (.474) since the ugly 0-for-24 slump
  • LF Jake Cave: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB — drew the walk-off walk
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 3-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 6-for-14 (.429) with two doubles and a homer in four games since the promotion
  • DH Nick Swisher: 2-3, 2 RBI, 2 BB
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 4-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — 12-for-31 (.387) with two doubles and three homers in eight games since the promotion … Sanchez is going to come back and their offense is going to get worse!
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 5 K, 5/2 GB/FB — 53 of 85 pitches were strikes (62%) … third straight outing of four innings or more … he’d never done it before this little streak
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 13 of 21 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • RHP Mark Montgomery:

[Read more…]

2016 Draft: Matt Thaiss

Matt Thaiss | C

Background
Thaiss, 21, is a somewhat local kid from Jackson, New Jersey. He’s been one of the best hitters in college baseball the last two years, and this spring he put up a .375/.473/.578 batting line with ten homers, 39 walks, and 16 strikeouts in 60 games for Virginia. Thaiss was a 32nd round draft pick out of high school in 2013 (Red Sox).

Scouting Report
Thaiss is a bat first prospect with very good bat speed who projects to hit for both average and power from the left side. He has excellent strike zone knowledge and knows how to work the count and when to be aggressive early in an at-bat. The question with Thaiss is his defense. He’s listed at 5-foot-11 and 197 lbs. and he’s not a bad athlete, but his receiving is rough and his arm is below-average for the position. There’s better than a 50/50 chance he’ll wind up at another position down the road, either left field or first base. Whichever team drafts Thaiss is buying the bat and hoping he can catch.

Miscellany
Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Thaiss as the 21st best prospect in the draft class in his most recent rankings. Baseball America and MLB.com have him outside the first round at 28th and 35th, respectively. The Yankees pick 18th, and for what it’s worth, they’ve been connected to college bats in several mock drafts in recent weeks. Thaiss is arguably the best college hitter expected to actually be available when the Yankees pick.

Game 58: Beat the Halos

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

You know, the Yankees are one bullpen meltdown away from having won three straight games and four of their last five. They’ve also scored at least five runs in four of those last five games too. I’m not sure that will make anyone feel much better about the current state of affairs, but it’s true. Could the Yankees be turning things around?!? Eh, probably not, but what else are we supposed to root for? Here is the Angels’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. 1B Rob Refsnyder
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. CF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Michael Pineda

It has been a very pleasant day in New York. A little cloudy but it’s on the cool side. Pretty sweet weather. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on WPIX. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: The Yankees have called up Anthony Swarzak and sent down Luis Cessa, the team announced. Cessa hasn’t pitched much at all these last three weeks and that can’t continue. He needs innings. That’s all that move is about. Tyler Olson was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man spot for Swarzak.

Injury Updates: Mark Teixeira (knee) will attempt to rehab his injury. He’s going to need surgery eventually, but he wants to try to put it off. The hope is Teixeira will be able to return to game action in three weeks … Chasen Shreve (shoulder) threw 20 fastballs off a mound today and felt fine. He’ll throw again in two days, and if that goes well, Shreve could begin a rehab assignment shortly thereafter.

All-Star Voting Update: The second update of the fan voting for the All-Star Game starters was released today. Brian McCann is third among catchers behind Sal Perez and Matt Wieters — he was second last week, but dropped behind Wieters — and Beltran 11th among outfielders. Here’s the full update and here’s the ballot if you wish to vote.

2016 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v5.0

The draft is only two days away now, so the crew at Baseball America published their fifth mock draft of the season earlier today. They have the Phillies taking California HS OF Mickey Moniak with the first pick at the moment. Seems like no one will really know who Philadelphia picks until they actually call the kid’s name Thursday night.

As for the Yankees, Baseball America has them selecting Vanderbilt OF Bryan Reynolds with their first round pick, the 18th overall selection. We haven’t heard him connected to New York at all this draft season. Here’s a piece of his free MLB.com scouting report:

Reynolds doesn’t have a standout tool, but his offensive potential and his solid speed and defensive skills make him one of the more well-rounded college position players in the 2016 Draft class. A switch-hitter, he has a smooth swing and feel for the barrel from both sides, though scouts do have some concerns about swing-and-miss issues. He has driven the ball much more consistently this spring while continuing his penchant for drawing walks.

While Reynolds isn’t a burner, he shows aptitude for stealing bases, and he uses good jumps and routes to cover plenty of ground in center field. If he has to move to an outfield corner, his below-average arm likely will relegate him to left field.

Reynolds is a switch-hitter and he’s one of those classic “does a little of everything but nothing exceptionally well” players who has performed everywhere he’s played, including in the Cape Cod League last summer. The Yankees value success on the Cape because it’s a wood bat league featuring the best college players in the country.

The Baseball America write-up says the Yankees continue “to be tied to college bats.” Along with Reynolds, Virginia C Matt Thaiss and Wake Forest 3B Will Craig are mentioned as possibilities. Here’s my write-up on Craig. We’ll see. Over the last few years we’ve had a pretty good idea which way the Yankees were leaning. Not this year. Seems like they’ve cast a very wide net.

Five Years Later: The 2011 Draft

Bichette and Bird. (Presswire)
Bichette and Bird. (Presswire)

The old saying is you need five years to truly evaluate a draft class, though I don’t really buy that. I think three years is enough time to give you a pretty good idea of what you have. By then the prospects have separated themselves from the suspects, and anyone who emerges afterward tends to fall into “late-bloomer” territory. Five years is the standard though, which means it’s time to look back at the Yankees’ 2011 draft class.

The Yankees both lost and gained a draft pick as a result of free agent compensation during the 2010-11 offseason, back when the old Type-A/B system was still in place. They surrendered their first round pick (31st overall) to the Rays for signing Rafael Soriano, and they picked up a supplemental first rounder (51st overall) as a result of losing Javy Vazquez. Vazquez, a Type-B free agent, agreed beforehand to decline arbitration, so the Yankees got a pick when he signed with the Marlins after the 2010 season.

Right now the 2011 draft class looks like the worst in Damon Oppenheimer’s ten drafts as scouting director. The Yankees drafted 50 players and signed 23, and of those 23, only three have reached the big leagues. There isn’t a single 2011 signee on the team’s active roster at the moment, though there are two on the Major League DL. (Two unsigned players are currently in the show, for what it’s worth.) Here are our five-year look-backs at the 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 drafts. Let’s dive into 2011.

Bichette. (Presswire)
Bichette. (Presswire)

The Top Pick

The compensation pick for Vazquez was New York’s top pick in the 2011 draft, and they used it on Florida high school third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. Joe Girardi and Dante Sr. are close friends from their time as players with the Rockies, so instantly it became a thing that the Yankees took Dante Jr. as a favor to Girardi. That, of course, is totally ridiculous. Teams do that that stuff in the 30th round. Not with their top pick.

Prior to the draft Baseball America ranked Bichette as the 108th best prospect in the draft class. He did not make Keith Law’s top 100 prospects list. One year after reaching big time to select Cito Culver, it appeared the Yankees had done it again. Then Bichette went out and hit .342/.446/.505 (172 wRC+) with three homers and a 12.5% walk rate in 52 rookie ball games after signing for a slightly above slot $750,000 bonus, shutting everyone up for a while. He was named MVP of the Rookie Gulf Coast League in 2011.

The success did not last, however. Bichette jumped to Low Class-A in 2012 and hit .248/.322/.331 (84 wRC+) with three homers in 122 games. Questions about the big hitch in his swing and his long-term position persisted. Dante Jr. returned to Low-A in 2013 and actually performed worse: .214/.292/.331 (82 wRC+) in 114 games. Since his monster GCL showing, Bichette has hit .237/.311/.338 (88 wRC+) with 30 homers, a 9.0% walk rate, and a 22.0% strikeout rate in a little more than 2,200 minor league plate appearances.

Bichette, now 23, is currently a fill-in corner infielder with Double-A Trenton, where he’s hitting .194/.321/.295 (83 wRC+) in 46 games. He’ll be pushed to first base and DH full-time once Miguel Andujar is promoted in the coming weeks. The Yankees did not have a first round pick in 2011, though spending pools were not yet a thing that year, so they were free to spend big on a top talent who fell to that 51st pick. (Daniel Norris was the big name at the time.) Instead, they bought into Bichette’s long-term offensive potential, which he’s failed to fulfill.

Bird. (Presswire)
Bird. (Presswire)

The Top Prospect

As it turns out, the Yankees did get a big corner infield bat in that 2011 draft class. It wasn’t Bichette though. It was their fifth round pick, Colorado high school catcher Greg Bird. The Yankees gave Bird a $1.1M bonus, the largest bonus they handed out that year. They believed in the bat that much. Nagging back trouble forced Bird to move from catcher to first base pretty much instantly — he caught only three games in the minors — but that was fine. He was a bat first prospect either way.

Over the last few seasons Bird has mashed his way up the minor league ladder, and he reached the big leagues in the second half of last season. He was supposed to be a part-time first baseman and DH, but Mark Teixeira‘s injury thrust him into a full-time role, and Bird responded by hitting .261/.343/.529 (137 wRC+) with eleven homers in 46 games. Holy crap, the Yankees had themselves a young homegrown offensive cornerstone. It had been too long. Way too long.

So, naturally, Bird hurt his shoulder over the winter and needed surgery, ending his 2016 season before it even had a chance to begin. The Yankees aren’t allowed to have nice things, apparently. Bird is by far the best player and prospect the Yankees drafted in 2011, and he is clearly their first baseman of the future. The shoulder surgery has cast some doubt on that future now, but hopefully he comes back strong next year and picks up where he left off.

Unsigned Second Rounder

The Yankees did not sign their second round pick in 2011, Texas lefty Sam Stafford. The team reportedly agreed to sign Stafford to an above slot $400,000 bonus shortly after the draft, but they found something scary in his shoulder during his pre-signing physical, so they reduced their offer to $200,000. That was roughly half his slot value. Stafford rejected the offer and returned to school.

The next spring, Stafford blew out his shoulder and did not pitch at all for the Longhorns as a senior. The Rangers rolled the dice and gave him a small bonus as a 13th round pick in 2012, and Stafford threw 94.1 ineffective innings in their system from 2013-14 before getting hurt again. He hasn’t pitched since. Sucks. The Yankees did get a compensation pick (89th overall) in the 2012 draft for failing to sign Stafford. They used that pick on Texas high schooler Austin Aune.

Gray. (Presswire)
Gray. (Presswire)

The One Who Got Away

No team signs all of their draft picks. That’s just the way it is. Some kids decide to go to college and others decide to return to college for their senior season for whatever reason. And, inevitably, a few of those unsigned players develop well and improve their stock, so they re-enter the draft down the road as much better prospects. That’s exactly what happened with righty Jon Gray, who the Yankees picked in the tenth round in 2011.

At the time, Gray was a chubby junior college kid who would occasionally touch the mid-90s and flash a good slider. The Yankees liked him enough to offer him $500,000 or so, but Gray passed and followed through on his transfer to Oklahoma. While with the Sooners, Gray improved his conditioning and mechanics, and suddenly he started throwing in the upper-90s regularly. He topped 100 mph several times as a junior in 2013. His slider and changeup became big time weapons soon.

The Yankees never did get a chance to draft Gray again. The Rockies made him the third overall pick in the 2013 draft and paid him a $4.8M bonus. He reached the big leagues in the second half of last season. Gray is falling victim to Coors Field at the moment (5.42 ERA in 98 innings), but his strikeout (25.1%) and walk (7.7%) rates as well as his FIP (3.52) are very promising. It’s impossible to know how Gray would have developed had he signed with the Yankees in 2011. His entire career path would have changed. That doesn’t make losing out on him any easier to swallow.

Prep Misses

The Yankees went very heavy on high school players throughout the 2011 draft. In fact, Stafford was the only college player they selected in the first seven rounds. Righty Jordan Cote (third round), third baseman Matt Duran (fourth), and first baseman Bubba Jones (seventh) all failed to make it out of Low Class-A and have since been released. Cote’s stuff never did tick up as he filled out his 6-foot-5 frame while Duran and Jones simply didn’t hit.

After Bird, the next best player to come out of the top seven rounds of the 2011 draft is outfielder Jake Cave, who the Yankees selected out of a Virginia high school in the sixth round. They gave him a big $825,000 bonus too. Cave broke his knee cap in a home plate collision in his first pro game and did not return to the field until 2013. He’s since blossomed into a solid outfield prospect who got a look with the Reds as a Rule 5 Draft pick this spring. Cave did not stick with Cincinnati and he is currently back with Triple-A Scranton.

Beyond the top seven rounds, the Yankees also rolled the dice on several high school arms later in the draft. Righty Hayden Sharp (18th round) never made it out of rookie ball before being released. Lefty Dan Camarena (20th) has been solid over the years and is currently a Double-A depth arm. Lefty Chaz Hebert (27th) finally broke out last season before needing Tommy John surgery this year. Righty Joey Maher (38th) is still kicking around in the system as a depth arm.

The Yankees went big on projectable prep players in the 2011 draft, and now, five years later, they have one stud in Bird and one solid prospect in Cave to show for it. Hebert looked like he might be a guy too before blowing out his elbow this spring. The Yankees have emphasized college players in recent drafts because they’ve had a hard time developing raw prep players, partly because of this draft class.

Trade Bait

Davis. (Presswire)
Davis. (Presswire)

The second best prospect the Yankees drafted in 2011 has already been traded away. They gave North Carolina high school righty Rookie Davis a $550,000 bonus as their 14th round pick, and he developed into one of their top pitching prospects from 2012-15. Last season Davis had 3.86 ERA (2.47 FIP) with a 23.5% strikeout rate and a 4.7% walk rate in 130.2 innings split between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.

This past offseason the Yankees included Davis as the headliner in their trade package for Aroldis Chapman. The 23-year-old currently has a 1.66 ERA (4.49 FIP) in 38 Double-A innings with Cincinnati this year, though he’s weirdly been unable to miss bats (12.3 K%). Then again, his strikeout rate dropped from 25.9% in High-A to 16.7% in Double-A following his promotion last season, so maybe it shouldn’t be much of a surprise.

The Yankees did use another one of their 2011 draftees in a trade, though it was a minor deal. Memphis righty Ben Paullus (19th rounder) had a 4.34 ERA in 149.1 relief innings from 2011-13 before being traded to the Padres for Dean Anna in November 2013. Paullus has thrown only 37.2 innings since the trade due to injury. He missed the entire 2015 season with … something. I can’t find what.

The Other Notable Unsigned Players

The Yankees failed to sign three 2011 draft picks only to re-draft them a few years later. Florida junior college righty Nick Goody (22nd round) turned New York down for a season at LSU. The Yankees drafted him in the sixth round the next year and were able to sign him that time. Goody is now in the MLB bullpen. The team drafted righty Jordan Foley (26th) out of a Texas high school in 2011. They drafted him again out of Central Michigan in 2014, that time in the fifth round. Texas high school shortstop Kevin Cornelius (42nd) was New York’s 31st rounder out of a junior college in 2013.

Here are the other notable unsigned players from the 2011 draft: righty Garrett Nuss (32nd), who went to junior college and signed with the Angels as a seventh rounder in 2013; lefty Taylor Guilbeau (39th), who turned the Yankees down in 2011 and was a tenth round pick by the Nationals last year; righty Adam Ravenelle (44th), who spent three years at Vanderbilt before signing with the Tigers as a 2014 fourth round pick; lefty Wes Benjamin (48th), who was a fifth round pick by the Rangers in 2014. Ravenelle is the best prospect of the bunch right now. MLB.com ranks him as Detroit’s No. 23 prospect.

At the time of the draft, the biggest name the Yankees failed to sign was Rice outfielder Jeremy Rathjen (41st). He was projected to go in the top five rounds coming into the spring, but a torn ACL caused him to slip all the way down to the 41st round. Rathjen opted to return to school for his senior year and it seemed like a big miss for the Yankees. The Dodgers took Rathjen in the 11th round in 2012 and he struggled with injuries and swing-and-miss issues before being released in January.

Pinder. (Presswire)
Pinder. (Presswire)

The Best of the Rest

Not counting Goody, who is technically a 2012 draftee, the Yankees have had two 2011 draft picks reach MLB in addition to Bird: righty Branden Pinder (16th) and lefty Matt Tracy (24th). Pinder has been up-and-down with the Yankees a bunch of times the since the start of last season and is currently on the Major League DL rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. Tracy was called up for one day last season. He was released last week.

The only other notable 2011 draft pick still kicking around in the farm system is right-hander Mark Montgomery (11th). He quickly developed into one of the Yankees top relief prospects before a shoulder injury robbed him of stuff and prospect status. I count eight 2011 draft signees who are still in the organization: Bichette, Bird, Cave, Montgomery, Pinder, Camarena, Hebert, and Maher. Davis and Paullus proved useful as trade chips.

* * *

The 2011 draft class is going to come down to Bird, plain and simple. Pinder and Davis have been useful in different ways and maybe Cave turns into something nice at some point. Bird’s the only player from the draft class with the potential to be a true impact player though, and true be told his ceiling may be limited by struggles against lefties and shaky defense. Bichette hasn’t worked out and Stafford, while a fine pick as a hard-throwing lefty, blew up unexpectedly. Bird is New York’s only real chance to get something more than a spare part player out of the 2011 draft.

Ladson: Nationals hoping Yanks make Miller and Chapman available at trade deadline

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

According to Bill Ladson, the Nationals have made bullpen help their “top priority” prior to the trade deadline, and they’re hoping the Yankees make lefties Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman available. I don’t necessarily think that means Washington wants Miller and Chapman. I think they’re just hoping the Yankees make at least one of those guys available.

The Nationals came into today 34-23 and two games up on the Mets in the NL East. Despite the disappointment of last season, Washington has a strong roster and they looked poised to hang around in the race all the season. The bullpen is not much of a weakness — Nats relievers are fourth in both ERA (2.97) and FIP (3.26) — but it’s certainly an area than can be improved. No team would not benefit from adding Miller or Chapman. I have some quick thoughts on this, so let’s dive in.

1. Push Chapman in trade talks, not Miller. The Yankees should be open to moving anyone and everyone — for what it’s worth, Jon Heyman reported yesterday the brain trust talked Sunday and decided not to sell just yet — and that obviously includes Miller and Chapman. Even Dellin Betances too. Make them all available. You don’t build plan a rebuild around relievers no matter how good they are.

There should be different degrees of urgency here. The Yankees don’t have to trade Miller because he’s under control another two years. Chapman is a different matter. He’s a free agent after the season and while the Yankees figure to recoup a draft pick at worst, Aroldis can bring a greater return in a trade. That draft pick is going to be a supplemental first rounder around 30th overall. A valuable pick, sure, but not super duper valuable.

The Yankees made the mistake of not trading David Robertson two years ago and instead settled for a draft pick that was worth a fraction of what they likely could have gotten in a trade. They can’t make the same mistake with Chapman, who’s better than Robertson and worth even more in a trade. Teams are going to come to the Yankees for both Chapman and Miller, but Chapman’s impending free agency means they should push him in trade talks. They can afford to be a little more patient with Miller.

2. So what do the Nats have to offer? The million dollar question. Baseball America ranked Washington’s farm system fifth best in all of baseball before the season, so they have young talent to offer. I would be surprised if the Nats put righty Lucas Giolito or shortstop Trea Turner on the table, even for someone like Chapman or Miller, but there’s plenty of depth behind them. Here is the MLB.com’s top 30 Nats prospects list. Triple-A righty Austin Voth seems like an obvious target to me.

The Nationals have pitching, middle infielders, outfielders, catchers, you name it. Washington has done a real nice job accumulating talent in trades and internationally. I wonder whether the Yankees would prefer one excellent prospect or a package of three or four good prospects for Chapman, but, either way, they’re not going to rule anything out. Hey, how about Chapman and Miller for Giolito? My trade proposal sucks, I know. Point is, the Nationals have prospects to offer.

3. Washington might be desperate. Last season was very embarrassing for the Nationals. They were the best team in baseball on paper and we were talking about them possibly having one of the best rotations ever. Heck, if you would have told me last March that Bryce Harper would have the season he had, I would have guessed the Nationals would win about 110 games. They looked that good.

Instead, Washington went 83-79 and finished seven games out of the playoff spot. You know they’re desperate to not only erase that memory, but also the memories of their 2012 NLDS Game Five collapse and 2014 NLDS loss. Also, the clock is ticking with Harper. He’s going to be a free agent after 2018, so their window to win is right now. The Nationals have a lot reasons to want to win immediately and that could work to the Yankees’ advantage. Hey, maybe Chapman and Miller for Giolito isn’t so far-fetched after all.

* * *

We all know the Yankees are going to have no shortage of suitors for Chapman and Miller (and Betances). Every contending team is going to be in on those guys. The Nationals will be one of many. Even if the Yankees make a miraculous run and climb back into the postseason race these next few weeks, I still think it would be smart to trade Chapman. The team has too many long-term needs to not use a trade chip that good.