Tyson Ross headlines non-tendered players who could be of interest to the Yankees

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

Last Friday was the deadline for teams to tender their pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players contracts for the 2017 season. They didn’t have to sign them, just offer a contract. Those who didn’t receive an offer became free agents. A total of 35 players were non-tendered Friday.

The Yankees non-tendered one player, lefty Jacob Lindgren, who almost immediately signed with the Braves. New York hoped to bring Lindgren, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, back on a minor league deal, but no luck. “Unfortunately we don’t have every roster spot we can find. We were hoping to get him back on a minor league deal, but it didn’t work out,” said Brian Cashman to Joel Sherman.

Among the 34 other non-tenders are some players who could be of interest to the Yankees. Chris Carter, who led the NL with 41 home runs in 2016, was a possible DH candidate prior to the Matt Holliday signing, for example. Three other non-tendered players caught my eye after being let go Friday. Do any make sense for the Yankees? Well, let’s see.

RHP Matt Carasiti

Right off the bat, someone you’ve probably never heard of. Carasiti, 25, is a local kid who grew up in Connecticut and went to St. John’s. He was a sixth round pick by the Rockies in 2012, and over the last few years he gradually climbed the minor league ladder before making his MLB debut in 2016. It wasn’t pretty. Carasiti allowed 17 runs on 25 hits and eleven walks in 15.2 innings. He struck out 17. That’s a 9.19 ERA (4.49 FIP).

Those numbers are not what makes Carasiti kinda interesting. (I’m not going to knock the kid for pitching poorly in his first taste of MLB when Coors Field is his home park.) He’s now a pure reliever with a history of missing bats and limiting walks in the minors (27.4 K% and 5.1 BB% in 2016) thanks to a fastball/cutter/forkball combo. Carasiti’s four-seamer averaged 95.6 mph and topped out at 97.5 mph with the Rockies, and the forkball had a healthy 24.6% swing-and-miss rate. (Masahiro Tanaka‘s splitter had a 17.6% whiff rate in 2016.)

Carasiti is a not a future closer or anything like that. He has the tools to miss bats though, plus he has all three minor league options remaining, which makes him a shuttle reliever candidate. There’s a pretty decent chance whichever teams signs Carasiti this offseason will be able to do so on a minor league contract.

With Lindgren and the recently released Nick Rumbelow gone, plus Branden Pinder still on the mend following Tommy John surgery, adding another shuttle candidate wouldn’t be a bad idea. There’s no such thing as too many potential bullpen options these days. Chances are the Yankees are going to end up signing (or claiming) someone exactly like this at some point this winter.

RHP Tyson Ross

Ross is the biggest name among the non-tendered players. From 2013-15, he was legitimately one of the best pitchers in baseball, putting up a 3.07 ERA (3.13 FIP) in 516.2 innings. More than 60% of the batters he faced those years (61.5%, to be exact) either struck out or hit a ground ball. Only Dallas Keuchel (63.7%) and Felix Hernandez (62.1%) had better rates among the 132 pitches to throw at least 300 innings from 2013-15. The great Clayton Kershaw (61.1%) was right behind Ross.

Of course, Ross is not healthy right now, and even when he was healthy, he had a thing for walks. His 9.4% walk rate was tenth highest among the 132 pitches from 2013-15. This past season Ross started on Opening Day, got rocked (eight runs in 5.1 innings), then spent the entire rest of the season on the disabled list. His string of injuries went like so:

  • April 9th: Placed on 15-day DL with shoulder inflammation.
  • July 7th: Twisted his ankle in his hotel room and had to be shut down from throwing.
  • August 25th: Left his first rehab start after two-thirds of an inning with shoulder discomfort.
  • October 13th: Underwent surgery to treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.

So there you go. A bunch of shoulder issues with a twisted ankle mixed in for good measure. The optimistic outlook has Ross returning from TOS surgery in April or May. Midseason seems like a safer bet, but we’ll see. Either way, TOS is very serious and it can be career-threatening if not caught quickly enough. By all accounts, doctors caught Ross’ issue early, which improves his prognosis. Still, it’s scary stuff.

This is my general feeling on the situation: Ross is the guy everyone is excited about when he gets non-tendered, the team that signs him will be universally praised, then he’ll put up like a 5.60 ERA in 43 innings next year. I feel like this is heading in that direction. That doesn’t mean you stay away from him, because if he’s healthy, Ross can be really good. It just means there’s a lot of risk here. TOS is no joke.

The Yankees should pursue the 29-year-old Ross as a lottery ticket. Don’t count on him for anything. Give him a look in the rotation when he’s healthy and see what happens. That’s it. Don’t pencil him in as the No. 5 starter or anything. Whatever you gives you is all gravy. The hard part will be convincing Ross to take what I imagine will be a short-term contract to pitch in Yankee Stadium and the AL East. That’s not a good place to rebuild value. My guess is he winds up closer to home on the West Coast.

RHP Chris Withrow

Withrow. (Stacy Revere/Getty)
Withrow. (Stacy Revere/Getty)

I was surprised the Braves non-tendered Withrow. I can understand the Padres cutting Ross loose — he was projected to make roughly $10M through arbitration in 2016, which is a lot for an injured pitcher on a small market team — but Withrow was projected for a mere $1.2M salary. For a team as desperate for pitching as the Braves, I would have thought keeping him was a no-brainer. Shows what I know.

Anyway, Withrow returned from Tommy John surgery this season and threw 37.2 innings with a 3.58 ERA (4.90 FIP) in 37.2 innings. His strikeout (17.7%) and walk (10.8%) rates were the kind of stuff you tend to see from a guy just returning from elbow reconstruction. Obviously any team that signs the 27-year-old fastball/slider/curveball pitcher would be hoping for better going forward.

Before his elbow gave out, Withrow spent part of the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Dodgers, with whom he pitched to a 2.73 ERA (3.65 FIP) with a 31.7% strikeout rate in 56 innings. Walks were an issue overall (13.8%), though much of that stems from the few outings before his elbow injury, when he completely lost the zone. That isn’t to say Withrow has great control when healthy. Just that it isn’t quite that bad.

Like Carasiti, Withrow is a potential bullpen shuttle candidate. Unlike Carasiti, Withrow doesn’t have any options left, which creates a problem. He can come up, but he can’t go back down, at least not without passing through waivers. That shouldn’t be a deal-breaker though. Withrow is the type of pitcher who can be had on a minor league deal and stashed in Triple-A. If he pitches well, great! If not, well then he gets released and no big deal.

* * *

There are a few bigger name players who were non-tendered as well last week, including Rubby De La Rosa. Rubby has a huge arm, but he hasn’t been very good when healthy, and right now he’s rehabbing his elbow in an effort to avoid his second Tommy John surgery. He’ll get billed as a low risk, high reward player. I see him as more of a high risk, low reward player given his track record and current elbow concerns.

Others like Vance Worley (nope), Jose Pirela (eh), Jeff Locke (yuck), and Jeff Manship (meh) were all non-tendered last week as well, and you could talk yourself into thinking each of them makes some sense for the Yankees. Ross is clearly the prize of the non-tender class and he comes with a ton of risk. I’d like to see the Yankees roll the dice on Carasiti and/or Withrow for bullpen depth, but generally speaking, this crop of non-tenders is lacking impact. They’re all hurt or spare part players.

Scouting the Trade Market: Jose Quintana

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

Yesterday afternoon, after days and weeks of rumors, the White Sox finally traded staff ace Chris Sale. He did not go to the Nationals, as long rumored. He instead went to the Red Sox for a four-prospect package that included infielder Yoan Moncada, arguably the best prospect in baseball. Pitchers of Sale’s caliber do not get traded very often. That deal was the definition of a blockbuster.

With Sale gone, it stands to reason the White Sox will continue tearing things down and start a full blown rebuild. It would be completely silly to trade Sale for four non-MLB pieces only to keep everyone else. The ChiSox fire sale has just begun, I assume, which means left-hander Jose Quintana should be on the trade block as well. The former Yankees’ farmhand may not be as good as Sale, but he’s really good overall, and he’s signed cheap too. The Yankees should have interest in Quintana and here’s why.


Might as well start here. Yes, Quintana was once in the Yankees’ farm system. Before that he was actually in the Mets’ farm system. The other New York team signed Quintana out of Colombia back in 2006. He spent a few seasons in their farm system, failed a performance-enhancing drug test, then got released. The Yankees scooped him up and he spent 2008-11 in their system. The 2011 season was his breakout year: 2.91 ERA (3.15 FIP) in 102 innings with High-A Tampa.

Quintana was eligible for minor league free agency following that breakout 2011 season. The Yankees opted not to add him to their 40-man roster, and a few weeks later the White Sox signed him to a guaranteed Major League contract. Can’t blame Quintana for jumping at the 40-man roster spot. “We liked him. We didn’t love him. He was a performer, but not someone with ceiling,” said Brian Cashman to Mike Fitzpatrick this summer. D’oh!

“A very poised young man. Professional. He knew how to pitch and work both sides of the plate. Just a good-looking kid,” said Joe Siers, the White Sox scout who recommended Quintana, to Scott Merkin two years ago. “To be honest, I didn’t know he would be a No. 2 starter. I thought he had a chance to be a back-end, a fourth starter. I knew he was a guy who could get some innings. He commanded the ball and could pitch deep into games.”

Recent Performance

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

Quintana, 28 in January, has been one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball since joining the White Sox. Over the last four seasons he has a 3.35 ERA (3.34 FIP) — his worst full season is a 3.51 ERA (3.82 FIP) back in 2013 — while throwing no fewer than 200 innings in any given year. According to both bWAR and fWAR, Quintana has been the seventh most valuable pitcher in baseball since 2013. Yeah.

Unlike Sale, Quintana is not going to blow hitters away and rack up big strikeout numbers. He’s not that type of pitcher. Quintana did have nice strikeout (21.6%) and walk (6.0%) numbers this summer — neither his ground ball (40.4%) nor home run (0.95 HR/9) rates were great — and he excels at keeping hitters off balance and generating weak contact. His average exit velocity on balls hit in the air these last two years is 89.6 mph, 11th lowest in baseball. So while Quintana’s ground ball rate isn’t stellar, he’s not giving up loud contact in the air either.

We have over 800 innings of data telling us Quintana is a very good Major League pitcher, one who has had success in a hitter friendly home ballpark in the DH league. He’s also done it despite having some shaky pitch-framers behind the plate. (Basically every catcher the White Sox have employed other than Tyler Flowers since 2013.) As long as he stays healthy, there is every reason to believe Quintana will be effective for the foreseeable future. Nothing is trending the wrong way.

Present Stuff

When Quintana first got to Chicago, longtime White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper helped him get to the next level by teaching him a cutter. Cooper has been teaching that cutter for decades now. Interestingly enough, Quintana has phased out the cut fastball and replaced it with a sinker over the last three seasons. He operates with a four-seamer, sinker, curveball, and changeup these days. From Brooks Baseball:


That’s a really nice mix. Quintana uses three pitches each more than 20% of the time, and his changeup rate hangs around 10% as well. He’s not a guy who leans on, say, his sinker and curveball, and uses the straight four-seamer and changeup as show-me pitches. Quintana is a true four-pitch pitcher, and he still has the cutter in his back pocket as well. Here’s some gory math (MLB averages for left-handed pitchers in parenthesis):

Average Velocity Swing-and-Miss Rate Ground Ball Rate
Four-seamer 92.6 (92.3) 8.3% (6.9%) 32.0% (37.9%)
Sinker 92.5 (91.0) 6.1% (5.4%) 50.0% (49.5%)
Curveball 78.0 (77.5) 11.7% (11.1%) 38.8% (48.7%)
Changeup 86.7 (83.3) 7.3% (14.9%) 47.2% (47.8%)

Those are 2016 numbers, the most recent season and the best indicator of who Quintana is right now. Again, nothing jumps out at you. The velocity is basically average to a tick above, there’s no dominant swing-and-miss pitch, and there’s no dominant ground ball pitch either. And yet, it works. Quintana’s command is a huge part of his success. So is his deception. Check out his release points from this past season, via Brooks Baseball:

jose-quintana-release-pointEverything is nice and tight together. It all overlaps. A lot of times you’ll see the pitcher has a different release point for his breaking ball — usually slightly higher than the fastball for a curveball, and slightly lower for a slider — but not with Quintana. All five pitches come out from the same spot. By time the hitter can tell the pitches apart as they approach the plate, it’s already too late. He’s had to start his swing. Quintana’s command and deception make up for his lack of overwhelming velocity and a dominant pitch. He makes it work.

Let’s look at some video. Reading about pitches and staring at a pitch selection chart only does so much. Let’s see Quintana in action. Here’s a 2016 highlight video — reminder: everyone looks like an ace in a highlight video — in which we get to see all five pitches in action:

Beautiful. Nice fluid delivery, fastballs to both sides of the plate, a willingness to pitch inside, a curveball that looks like a strike until it drops out of the zone … it’s easy to understand why Quintana is so successful. To quote my favorite cliche: he’s a pitcher, not a thrower.

The Yankees seem to have a type. They like pitchers with big fastballs and wipeout breaking balls, and hey, that stuff is cool. Their most successful pitchers this past season, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, are quite the opposite though. They succeeded with command and pitchability, which happen to be Quintana’s two best traits. I would really like to see the Yankees get away from the huge stuff/bad command profile a bit, and Quintana would be a step in that direction.

Injury History

Easy: none. Quintana has never been on the disabled list or had any kind of noteworthy injury, Majors or minors. He had a start pushed back four days after taking a comebacker to the shin during Spring Training in 2013. That is the entirety of Quintana’s injury history.

Contract Status

The White Sox smartly inked Quintana to a five-year contract extension three seasons ago. The deal guaranteed him a mere $21M, which is a pittance compared to what he could have made through arbitration given his success. Can’t blame him for taking the guaranteed payday though. Anyway, here is the remainder of Quintana’s contract:

  • 2017: $6M
  • 2018: $8.35M
  • 2019: $10.5M club option ($1M buyout)
  • 2020: $10.5M club option ($1M buyout)

Assuming the options are picked up — unless Quintana suffers a catastrophic injury or develops the yips, they will be exercised, for sure — Quintana is owed $35.35M over the next four seasons. These days No. 1 starters are getting north of $30M per season. Quintana is a borderline ace and he’s owed roughly that through 2020. Pretty great contract, eh? Very luxury tax friendly given his production.

Trade Benchmarks

These are always tough to come up with but they are important. Our trade proposals suck, they really do, so it’s good to provide some context. You’re not going to get Quintana for the team’s best prospect you don’t like plus threes randos off the bottom of the 40-man roster, you know? Here are some pitchers recently traded when they were three or four years away from free agency, like Quintana.

  • Gio Gonzalez: One top 50-100 prospect (Derek Norris) and three top 15 org prospects (A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone).
  • Wade Miley: Two young arms with five years of control (Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster) and one top 30 org prospect (Raymel Flores).
  • Shelby Miller (four years of control): One year of an above-average big leaguer (Jason Heyward).
  • Shelby Miller (three years of control): One top 20 prospect (Dansby Swanson), one top 75 prospect (Aaron Blair), and five years of an average or better big leaguer (Ender Inciarte).
  • Chris Sale: One top five prospect (Yoan Moncada), one top 50 prospect (Michael Kopech), a top ten org prospect (Luis Basabe), and a top 30 org prospect (Victor Diaz).

I almost didn’t include the second Shelby Miller trade because it was so ridiculous, but you know what? It happened and it changed the market. All of a sudden every team with a good young pitcher raised their asking price. I know I would have done the same.

Of the four pitchers (five trades) listed above, I think the one closest to Quintana would be Sale. I really do. It’s four years of control vs. three years of control, but Quintana has been consistently above-average for four years running now. Gonzalez and Miley each had two good years at the time of their trades. Miller had two good years the second time he was traded. The difference in track record is pretty substantial.

Also, supply and demand, yo. The demand for pitching is high, as always, but the supply is very short. There are no good free agent starters left, and realistically, how many pitchers as good as Quintana are available in trades? There’s Chris Archer and Sonny Gray, and that’s about it. We could use the Gio trade or the Shelby trade as a benchmark, but ultimately, the marketplace is different. Quintana won’t come cheap. I know that much.

So What About The Yankees?

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

I don’t think it will happen, but it needs to be said anyway: the Yankees can’t let their history with Quintana get in the way of a potential deal. They screwed up five years ago. No doubt about it. They can’t let their pride get in the way of a deal. The Yankees would get mocked for trading top prospects for a guy they gave away a few years ago, but whatever. Own it, move on, and improve the team.

Okay, so anyway the Yankees have both a need for a long-term rotation help and the prospect wherewithal to swing a trade for a pitcher like Quintana. He has yet to turn 28 and he comes with four years of contractual control, so when all those shiny prospects are ready to start winning big league games, Quintana figures to still be in the prime of his career. That’s pretty cool. An over-30 star wouldn’t jibe with this roster. But a 27-year-old? Oh sure.

Whether the Yankees should dip into that farm system to get Quintana is a valid question. He won’t come cheap. The White Sox got two top 50 caliber prospects for Sale and I’m guessing they’ll want the same — or something close to it — for Quintana, plus other stuff. The Yankees would be starting a package with, say, Clint Frazier and Jorge Mateo. Or Aaron Judge and James Kaprielian. Ouch.

Jon Heyman hears “nobody’s sacred” with the White Sox, meaning they’re ready to trade everyone following the Sale deal. Quintana really does make a lot of sense for the Yankees — I mean, pitchers this good make sense for every team — and that fourth year of control is huge. If the Yankees aren’t a bonafide contender by year four, something has gone terribly wrong. Ideally you’re semi-contending by year two, you know?

I don’t have any problem with the Yankees trading good prospects for above-average big leaguers in their 20s with long-term control. It helps speed up the rebuilding transitioning process, at least in theory, and it allows them recoup value from prospects. Hanging on to every last prospect equals a lot of wasted opportunity. Some are most valuable as trade chips. Depending on the price, Quintana is maybe the best pitching target available to the Yankees this year, and I think they should pursue him pretty aggressively. Put that dynamite farm system to work.

Tuesday Night Open Thread

The 2016 Winter Meetings are roughly halfway complete. Day Two came and went with no action for the Yankees, though Brian Cashman did confirm the team has made contract offers to Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, so that’s fun. What happens if they both accept at the same time? Is that allowed? That’d be interesting. Maybe the Yankees would trade Chapman for prospects again.

Anyway, this is tonight’s open thread. The Knicks and all three hockey locals are in action, plus there’s some college hoops on the schedule as well. Talk about those games, the day at the Winter Meetings, and anything else right here.

2016 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Tuesday

(Jamie Squire/Getty)
(Jamie Squire/Getty)

The first day of the 2016 Winter Meetings came and went without a move for the Yankees. Two of their reported free agent targets, Rich Hill and Mark Melancon, signed with other teams. Now that Matt Holliday is on board as the DH, pitching is the top priority, and Brian Cashman is being open-minded. “From my perspective, I’m open-minded to anything. I think it’s in your best interest to always be that way,” said Cashman to Bryan Hoch.

On Monday we learned the Yankees are still pursuing both Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, though they won’t go all out to sign them. Chapman, by the way, wants a six-year deal. The Yankees are also in the hunt for Luis Valbuena and a left-handed middle reliever. We’re again going to keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back throughout the day for updates. All time stamps are Eastern Time.

  • 9:30am: Despite their needs, it’s entirely possible the Yankees will not acquire a starting pitcher this offseason. “I think it’s less likely that we wind up with a starter. It’s a tough market to be finding one,” said Cashman. [Pete Caldera]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees have checked in on Royals closer Wade Davis and been in contact with former Royals closer Greg Holland. They’re in on many free agent relievers aside from Chapman and Jansen. [Jon Heyman, Brendan Kuty]
  • 9:30am: Cashman ruled out a run at Edwin Encarnacion, which should not be a surprise in any way. “Right now there’s not a fit because of our current setup,” said the GM. [Erik Boland]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees have fielded a “number of different concepts” involving Brett Gardner, though Cashman said none were compelling enough to complete a trade. [Hoch]
  • 10:26am: Among the other relievers the Yankees have reached out to this offseason are Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara, and Mike Dunn. Dunn is a former Yankees prospect. [George King, Joel Sherman]
  • 10:28am: The Yankees are “intent” on avoiding huge contracts for players over 30. No surprise there. They’ve been operating that way for two offseasons now. [Heyman]
  • 11:32am: The Yankees “prepared to give” Chapman a five-year deal worth $80M. Chapman is their primary target (duh) and Jansen is the backup plan. [Heyman]
  • 12:13pm: Take this one with a grain of salt: the Yankees are reportedly “close to a deal” to acquire Gio Gonzalez for two prospects and possibly a third piece, according to Rich Mancuso. The deal is contingent on the Nationals getting Chris Sale, a la the Starlin Castro trade and Ben Zobrist last year. The Yankees have had interest in Gio in the past. This rumor does pass the sniff test, though I’d like to see some familiar names corroborate the report before fully buying in.
  • 12:41pm: For what it’s worth, Mark Feinsand says there’s no truth to the Gio rumor. Jayson Stark says the Nationals would make him available following a Sale trade, however.
  • 12:54pm: Jack Curry shot down the Gio rumor as well. Carry on.
  • 1:14pm: Chris Sale has been traded to the … Red Sox. Not the Nationals. Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and two others are going to Chicago’s south side. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 4:58pm: The Yankees have made contract offers to both Chapman and Jansen. “It’d be nice if somebody picks us at some point. If not, we’ll adjust,” said Cashman. [Hoch, Caldera]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Thoughts following the Chris Sale blockbuster trade

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

Earlier today, the White Sox agreed to trade ace lefty Chris Sale not to the Nationals, but to the Red Sox. Boston is giving up four prospects: infielder Yoan Moncada, outfielder Luis Basabe, and right-handers Michael Kopech and Victor Diaz. Moncada and Kopech are the headliners. That is quite the blockbuster. I have some thoughts on the trade and its indirect impact on the Yankees.

1. First things first: I though the Red Sox were the clear AL East favorites before adding Sale and the trade only reinforces that belief. They added a bonafide ace, one of the five best pitchers in baseball, and gave up nothing off their projected Major League roster to do it. That’s pretty awesome for them. The Yankees are in the middle of this transition phase and the Sale trade doesn’t change their short-term outlook much. They’ll have to face him a few more times a year going forward and things like that, but it’s not like their 2017 postseason chances just took a big hit. Meh.

2. Don’t expect the Yankees to go out and make some kind of knee-jerk reactionary move. They haven’t operated that way — meaning make a move to counter a move by a rival — in a very long time. It would be kinda pointless too. The Yankees and Red Sox are playing for two very different things right now, like it or not. The Yankees have a clearly defined goal. They want to develop a new young core while getting under the luxury tax threshold in the near future to create payroll flexibility, so when those young players are ready to win, they’ll be able to spend and spend big. Not everyone likes it or agrees with it, but that’s the plan. Going out and doing what, spending big on Edwin Encarnacion?, would be counterproductive. It’d do more harm than good.

3. I never really bought the “this isn’t a good time for the Yankees to get Sale because they’re not legitimate World Series contenders” logic. Brian Cashman said something to that effect at his end-of-season press conference. There is never a bad time to get a guy like Sale, a 27-year-old legitimate No. 1 starter signed for another three seasons at a very affordable rate. You go get him and figure out the rest. He’d be the centerpiece of this transition and speed the process up. Whether the Yankees had the pieces to get a deal done (they certainly do) and would have been willing to go that high is another matter. Point is, acquiring a player of this caliber should never be ruled out just because you may not be a World Series contender right now. The logic is faulty.

4. The Red Sox swooped in and pulled the rug right out from under the Nationals, who were reportedly ready to send top prospects Victor Robles and Lucas Giolito (and others) to the ChiSox for Sale. Washington reportedly came up short with Mark Melancon this offseason and Yoenis Cespedes last offseason too. Ouch. Clearly they want to improve their rotation, so would it make sense for the Yankees to offer up Masahiro Tanaka? Tanaka isn’t as valuable as Sale for a few reasons (opt-out clause, more expensive, injury history), but he’s really freaking good, and the Nationals just might be desperate enough to bundle top prospects to get him at this point. It would be foolish for the Yankees to not check in, at least. You never know what the other team might say. Now that Sale is off the board, New York should put Tanaka on the table and gauge the trade market, especially if they’re expecting him to opt-out next year. It never hurts to listen to offers.

Quintana. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Quintana. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

5. I assume the White Sox are open for business now. Trading Sale for prospects and keeping everyone else would be pointless. How could the Yankees take advantage? The first name that jumps to mind is Jose Quintana. He’s not Chris Sale, but he’s really good himself, and he’s signed affordably for another four years (owed $37.85M total). The Yankees have a clear need for long-term rotation help and southpaws in Yankee Stadium are always appreciated. Quintana is a long-term buy who makes so much sense for the Yankees. Todd Frazier could be of interest too, though he’ll be a free agent next winter. Relievers Nate Jones and David Robertson would be lower cost alternatives to Aroldis Chapman. I suppose the Yankees could go after Jose Abreu for first base, but they already have a new DH and need to keep at-bats open for Greg Bird and/or Tyler Austin. Abreu would have made more sense before the Matt Holliday signing. Quintana’s the prize here. He’s the player the Yankees should target if (and when?) the White Sox continue their fire sale. You can’t keep all the prospects, you know. Some are more valuable as trade chips.

6. So I guess it’s good the Yankees have all these young right-handed bats, huh? Gary Sanchez is the obvious centerpiece of the offense, but Austin and Aaron Judge arrived this past season as well, and both Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres aren’t too far away either. (Frazier is closer than Torres.) The Red Sox have four left-handed starters under control for the foreseeable future (Sale, David Price, Eduardo Rodriguez, Drew Pomeranz) and both the Blue Jays (J.A. Happ, Francisco Liriano) and Rays (Blake Snell, Drew Smyly) have some southpaws too. Who knows whether the timetables will match up and those southpaws will still be in the AL East when the bats are all ready in a year or two, but I do know watching Sanchez take Sale deep over the Green Monster will be fun as hell next summer.

Scouting the Trade Market: Brandon McCarthy

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
(Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Now that they have a new DH, the Yankees figure to focus on “pitching, pitching, pitching” this offseason. The free agent class really stinks though, especially with Rich Hill now off the board. Hal Steinbrenner recently said the Yankees could go into Spring Training with competition for two rotation spots, but I know I’m not alone when I say I’d like to see the Yankees add some pitching depth. Starters and relievers, ideally.

Because the free agent class is so thin, the Yankees and every other team figure to turn to the trade market. A young pitcher with considerable upside would be ideal given the club’s long-term outlook. Unfortunately every other team is looking for the exact same player, which complicates things. Acquiring a pitcher like that is going to cost you. The Yankees might have to get creative to address their rotation this winter, both short and long-term.

The Dodgers are among the few teams with excess pitching depth, so much so that Buster Olney reports they are shopping some veteran starters, including Brandon McCarthy. This isn’t the first time the Dodgers have shopped McCarthy — reports at the trade deadline indicated he was part of a proposed Yasiel Puig-for-Ryan Braun trade as a way to offseason salary — so he’s very available. Does a reunion make sense? Let’s look.

Recent Performance

The Dodgers gave the 33-year-old McCarthy a four-year deal worth $48M two offseasons ago, and in the first two years of the contract, he threw only 63 total innings due to Tommy John surgery. He had a 5.29 ERA (4.62 FIP) in those 63 total innings, including a 4.95 ERA (3.70 FIP) in 40 innings this past season. McCarthy’s strikeout rate (25.7%) was good. The walk (15.2%) and ground ball (34.7%) rates … not so much.

McCarthy returned from Tommy John surgery as a starter this past July, and after five good starts back, the wheels came off. He completely lost the zone in August and walked exactly five in three consecutive starts. McCarthy is usually an extreme strike thrower — he hadn’t walked as many as four in a start since 2009 — and he admitted to developing a case of the yips.

“Coming back from Tommy John, you’re not worried your career is over. The yips was a whole different thing,” said McCarthy to Eric Stephen in September. “(You’re thinking) ‘I don’t ever know if I can throw a baseball in a competitive Major League Baseball game.'”

McCarthy bounced back with a strong start in September — he walked one in 5.2 innings — before being shifted to the bullpen as part of a postseason roster audition. He made one relief appearance, faced six batters, and retired none of them. Five hits, one walk, six runs, zero outs. Ouch. That disaster outing raised McCarthy’s overall season numbers from a 3.60 ERA (3.62 FIP) to that 4.95 ERA (3.70 FIP).

Back in 2014, his last healthy season, McCarthy authored a 4.05 ERA (3.55 FIP) in exactly 200 innings. That includes a 2.89 ERA (3.22 FIP) with 22.2% strikeouts, 3.5% walks, and 49.1% grounders in 14 starts and 90.1 innings with the Yankees after coming over from the Diamondbacks. That’s the McCarthy whatever team acquires him will be hoping to get.

Current Stuff

When the Yankees had McCarthy for those few months in 2014, he operated with three low-to-mid-90s fastballs (four-seam, sinker, cutter) and a hard low-80s slurve. The Yankees famously allowed him to start throwing the cutter again after Arizona had him put him on the shelf for whatever reason. “I feel like myself again … I feel like I need that pitch to be successful,” he said after the trade.

That was two years and one elbow ligament ago. Things change. In his nine starts back following Tommy John surgery this year, McCarthy averaged right around 92 mph with his three fastballs — he did hump the four-seamer up as high as 95.5 mph — and 80 mph with the breaking ball. That’s down a tick from his time in New York. Here’s some video from his first start back from elbow reconstruction this year:

Let’s quickly compare the effectiveness of McCarthy’s individual pitches this year to his time with the Yankees, just to see how far away he is from being that guy.

  • Four-seamer: 11.9% whiffs/25.0% grounders in 2016 vs. 12.3%/40.4% in 2014
  • Sinker: 5.4%/54.5% in 2016 vs. 10.6%/54.1% in 2014
  • Cutter: 8.9%/30.0% in 2016 vs. 7.9%/44.4% in 2014
  • Slurve: 5.6%/34.2% in 2016 vs. 12.5%/61.7% in 2014

A decline pretty much across the board, which isn’t the most surprising thing in the world considering it was his first few starts back from major elbow reconstruction. Also, keep in mind we’re dealing with small sample sizes here. We have no choice, really. McCarthy didn’t spend much time with the Yankees and he hasn’t thrown much since returning from Tommy John surgery.

There are two pieces of good news, I’d say. One, McCarthy retained most of his velocity. He didn’t come back throwing in the upper-80s or anything like that. And two, he still has all his pitches. He’s regained feel for everything. Acquiring McCarthy means hoping he looks more and more like the 2014 version of himself as he gets further away from elbow reconstruction. Reasonable? Sure. Not guaranteed to happen though.

Injury History

This is where it gets really ugly. McCarthy has been on the disabled list every season but one since 2007. That was his 2014 season with the D-Backs and Yankees, conveniently his contract year. Good timing, I’d say. McCarthy’s list of injuries is scary. He’s not a guy who missed some time here and there with a pulled hamstring and things like that. Check it out:

  • 2007: Missed more than two months with a blister and a stress fracture in his shoulder.
  • 2008: Missed almost the entire season with a finger tendon strain and forearm soreness.
  • 2009: Missed more than three months with a stress fracture in his shoulder.
  • 2010: Missed almost the entire season with a stress fracture in his shoulder.
  • 2011: Missed seven weeks with a stress fracture in his shoulder.
  • 2012: Missed three months with a shoulder strain. Also took a line drive to the head in September that required emergency surgery to treat a skull fracture and epidural hemorrhage. Eek.
  • 2013: Missed two months with shoulder soreness.
  • 2014: Healthy!
  • 2015: Missed almost the entire season with Tommy John surgery.
  • 2016: Missed the first three months of the season with Tommy John surgery. Also missed six weeks late in the season with a hip issue.

Goodness. Guys get blisters and the line drive to the head was nothing more than a tragic fluke. But fractured shoulders and torn elbow ligaments? That’s scary. The stress fractures are recurring too. If it happens once, you kinda hope that’s the end of it. When it happens year after year, you have to be concerned going forward. How could you not be?

It’s important to note McCarthy changed up his workout program during the 2013-14 offseason in an effort to keep his shoulder healthy. It wasn’t just offseason workouts either. He does more intense work during the season as well. Nick Piecoro wrote about it a few years ago. The new workouts and elbow ligament could bode well for the future. Given his history though, it’s hard to count on McCarthy to be a 30-start guy going forward.

Contract Status

(Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)

The Yankees tried to re-sign McCarthy two years ago, but they weren’t going to come anywhere close to guaranteeing him four years given his injury history. I wanted McCarthy back too, and I was hoping two years would get it done. Three years made me really nervous. Four years? Forget it. It was perfectly reasonable to walk away at that point.

Los Angeles gave McCarthy that four-year deal worth $48M, and guess what? It was front-loaded. He received a $6M signing bonus and $11M in salary in both 2015 and 2016. He’s owed $10M in both 2016 and 2017. What kind of pitcher can you buy for $10M annually in this free agent class? Not a very good one. Ivan Nova might get $13M a season this winter. Maybe more. Ivan Nova!

Now, $10M a season is not nothing. In the world of starting pitchers though, paying $20M across two years would be a relative bargain if McCarthy gives you, say, 300 league average innings. The pitching market is getting out of hand. The Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax threshold at some point soon, and taking on a $10M luxury tax hit for a starter who is no lock to a) stay healthy, or b) be effective, is a bit dicey.

What About The Yankees?

The key to a potential McCarthy trade would be the intentions of the Dodgers. Are they looking to salary dump him? The Dodgers are reportedly working to lower payroll, partly because they have to meet MLB’s mandated debt limit within two years. Trading McCarthy and freeing up $10M this year and next would certainly help do that.

Or do the Dodgers see him as a legitimate trade piece and expect something of substance in return? That’s my guess. The free agent pitching market stinks and I’m sure more than a few teams would be willing to roll the dice with McCarthy on what is essentially a two-year deal worth $20M. His trade value isn’t high given the injuries, but chances are you won’t get him for a player to be named later or cash either.

The Yankees know McCarthy, and the fact they tried to re-sign him two years ago is an indication they like something about him. Maybe the Tommy John surgery and case of the yips — to be fair, McCarthy seemed to get over that, he walked only two of the 26 batters he faced after those three straight starts with five walks — has changed their mind. It’s certainly possible. Lots can change in two years.

McCarthy wouldn’t solve New York’s need for long-term rotation help, but he would give the team some depth behind Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda. They wouldn’t have to reply on youngsters like Luis Cessa and Luis Severino quite as much right out of the gate next year. Taking pressure off the kids would be pretty cool, I think. McCarthy’s contract is not a burden and it might not cost much to get him in a trade. If that’s the case, I think the Yankees should definitely be interested.

Yankees will retire Derek Jeter’s No. 2 on May 14th

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

The Captain is officially heading to Monument Park.

On May 14th, the Yankees will retire Derek Jeter‘s No. 2 and honor him with a plaque on Monument Park, the team announced. That’s a Sunday game against the Astros, which means former teammates Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann will be there. Pretty cool.

This, of course, comes as no surprise. It was a matter of when the Yankees would retire No. 2, not if. Jeter is the franchise’s all-time leader in hits (3,465) and games played (2,747), among other things, plus he helped the team to five World Series championships. He’s on the very short list of the greatest shortstops in baseball history.

Now that No. 2 will officially be retired, the Yankees are out of single-digit numbers. Every single one is retired:

  1. Billy Martin
  2. Derek Jeter
  3. Babe Ruth
  4. Lou Gehrig
  5. Joe DiMaggio
  6. Joe Torre
  7. Mickey Mantle
  8. Yogi Berra and Bill Dickey
  9. Roger Maris

No. 10 (Phil Rizzuto), 15 (Thurman Munson), 16 (Whitey Ford), 20 (Jorge Posada), 23 (Don Mattingly), 32 (Elston Howard), 37 (Casey Stengel), 42 (Jackie Robinson and Mariano Rivera), 44 (Reggie Jackson), 46 (Andy Pettitte), 49 (Ron Guidry), and 51 (Bernie Williams) have all been retired as well. Twenty-one retired numbers in all.

Single-game tickets do not go on sale for a few weeks. Needless to say, tickets for May 14th are going to go fast.