Anyway, here is an open thread for the evening. Broncos vs. Colts is the Thursday NFL game, every local hockey and basketball team except the Rangers is playing, and there is one (1) college hoops game on well. Talk about those games or the mostly lame Winter Meetings right here.
The Yankees have been linked to the Diamondbacks and Patrick Corbin several times over the last couple of days, and it has become clear that adding a starting pitcher is their top priority. Mike wrote about a bit about Corbin as a potential trade target last off-season, but another season of data post-Tommy John Surgery has shifted the calculus a bit.
Corbin was viewed as something of a buy low candidate this time last year, as his first full season removed from elbow surgery had less than inspiring results, and the Diamondbacks appeared to be going nowhere fast. And now, twelve months later, Corbin had a healthy, above-average season, and the Diamondbacks made it to the NLDS. There’s no indication that he isn’t available, though. Let’s take a look as these last two years:
Keeping in mind that Chase Field is a big-time hitter’s park, Corbin’s 2017 was impressive on several levels. His 4.03 ERA translated into a 119 ERA+, which was tied for the 10th best in the National League, and in the top-30 in all of baseball. Corbin improved across the board in 2017, with only his groundball rate taking a step back – and, even then, it ranked 8th among all qualified starting pitchers. His strikeout and walk rates were above-average, as well. When you put that all together, he was basically the same pitcher that he was before 2016’s ugly campaign.
There were plenty of improvements that don’t show-up in traditional stats, too. His hard contact rate dropped from 38.5% to 31.6%, and his exit velocity went from 89.3 MPH to 87.3 MPH. While there are still some questions about the usability of this data regarding performance, it boils down to both rates going from comfortably below-average to right around league-average.
So, in short, Corbin became harder to hit in 2017, and, when he was hit, it was with far less authority. That’s a good precursor for success.
Corbin is a four-pitch pitcher, working with a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, a low-to-mid 80s change-up, and a low-80s slider. Take a look:
There is something of a warning sign within this graphic, and that’s the noticeable dip in velocity over the coure of 2017. Corbin’s velocity ticked up throughout 2016, and he started 2017 in the same range; by the time the season was over, though, he had lost about 2.5 MPH from his heater. That’s not ideal, and it did appear to have an impact on his success. Corbin ran a 9.00 ERA in May, which stands out more than most anything – but he posted his worst walk rate (by far) in September, alongside big drops in strikeouts (7.0 K/9) and grounders (47.1%).
Could that have been a result of Corbin tiring? Absolutely. He underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, missing the entire season, tossed 102 IP between rehab and the majors in 2015, and then 155.2 IP in 2016. The 189.2 IP he threw this year represented a big increase in workload, and it was the most innings that he had thrown since 2013 – so may’ve been straight-up gassed. It’s nevertheless something that any interested team will be thinking about.
Corbin throws all four of his pitches to both righties and lefties, with his slider being his primary weapon against right-handed hitters. He threw it about a third of the time last year, an increase of nearly 11 percentage points against 2016 – and righties hit just .179 with a .309 SLG against it. They basically tee-off against all of his other pitches, though, and that has been an issue throughout his career.
As I said above, Corbin had Tommy John surgery in 2014, which kept him out for all of that season and much of 2015. And that’s something that you can’t ignore. However, he has otherwise been healthy throughout his professional career, which dates back to 2009.
Corbin is entering his final year of arbitration, which makes him a rental. MLB Trade Rumors projects an $8.3 MM salary for 2018.
What Would it Take?
The most comparable case of a deal for a starting pitcher with one year of arbitration eligibility remaining is probably Jeff Samardzija. He was coming off an All-Star appearance in his age-29 season, having posted a 2.99 ERA (125 ERA+) in 219.2 IP. The then-30-year-old was dealt by the A’s (alongside Michael Ynoa) to the White Sox for Marcus Semien, Josh Phegley, Chris Bassitt, and middling prospect Rangel Ravelo prior to the 2015 season.
Semien was the prize of the deal, as a former top-100 prospect (ranked 91 by BA heading into 2014) that had scuffled a bit in his first extended look in the majors. Phegley was viewed as a back-up catcher, Bassitt a back of the rotation starter or reliever, and Ravelo as a potential platoon player. It was viewed as a solid but unspectacular return, for what it’s worth.
The buzz around Samardzija then was almost certainly more than it is for Corbin now, but the difference in their production wasn’t all that different. A similar package from the Yankees is hard to cobble together, but it might start with a couple of guys in the back half of their top-10 (Thairo Estrada and Miguel Andujar?) and Luis Cessa. My trade proposal sucks.
Does He Make Sense for the Yankees?
Maybe. He will undoubtedly cost less than Michael Fulmer, Gerrit Cole, and Chris Archer, given his impending free agency, but he was as good or better than all three my some measures last year. If the Yankees are looking to bolster their odds of winning this year without dipping into their top-level prospects, Corbin may be the best of the bunch. And I am not too concerned about the drop in velocity (particularly when you see the warts on the other players they’ve expressed interest in).
That being said, if the Yankees are playing for the short and medium term – which they seem to be – then Corbin doesn’t make much sense, unless they’re holding their bullets for another move…
For the very first time, I went into this offseason believing the Yankees would make a serious effort to move Jacoby Ellsbury. They’re going to have to eat money to do it, but that money is a sunk cost anyway. Either the Yankees pay Ellsbury and keep him on the roster, or they pay him to play elsewhere so they can put the roster spot to better use. Any savings are a bonus.
Aaron Hicks started in center field in the postseason and Brian Cashman made it clear a few weeks ago the Yankees plan to keep Hicks in center field next year. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge aren’t going to be unseated in the corners, plus Clint Frazier is knocking on the door. Then the Yankees went out and traded for Giancarlo Stanton over the weekend, knocking Ellsbury further down the depth chart. Here is that outfield depth chart, which I think is better explained through tiers than a straight 1-6 ranking.
- Tier One: Judge and Stanton
- Tier Two: Gardner and Hicks
- Tier Three: Ellsbury and Frazier
Ellsbury is at best fifth on the outfield depth chart and I am very willing to hear arguments that he’s really sixth behind Frazier. Point is, Ellsbury is getting pushed out, so it’s no surprise reports from the Winter Meetings indicate the Yankees are willing to eat half the $68M left on his contract to trade him. Will that be enough? Would Ellsbury get three years and $34M as a free agent? Probably not, but start by saying you’ll eat half, then go from there.
Ken Rosenthal floated the idea of the Yankees attaching prospects to Ellsbury in a trade, which I hate. Giving up prospects to rid yourself of a bad contract when you’re the richest team in the sport doesn’t sit well with me. This all started because the Yankees a) gave Ellsbury that ridiculous contract in the first place, and b) are adhering to the luxury tax threshold, thus voluntarily throwing away the financial advantage that comes with playing in New York.
Anyway, attached prospects or not, moving Ellsbury will not be easy given his production and contract, plus the whole no-trade clause thing. His market is very limited. How limited? Let’s look. Here are the teams that most stand out as potential Ellsbury suitors. (Given the way these things usually go, this means Ellsbury will be traded to a team not listed in this post at all.)
Current Outfield: A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Yasmany Tomas
The D’Backs are likely to lose J.D. Martinez to free agency, and the new front office doesn’t seem particularly fond of Tomas, which is why I traded Ellsbury to Arizona in my offseason plan. I thought maybe there would be a fit, especially since Ellsbury and D’Backs manager Torey Lovullo were together on the 2013 Red Sox. (Lovullo was bench coach that year.) There’s a connection to Lovullo, an open outfield spot, and the D’Backs are good enough to contend, which might be enough to convince Ellsbury to waive his no-trade clause.
Current Outfield: Jason Heyward, Albert Almora, Ben Zobrist, Kyle Schwarber
Zobrist has declined — he hit .232/.318/.375 (82 wRC+) in 2017, you know — Almora is a platoon player, Heyward is a younger version of Ellsbury, and Schwarber runs around the outfield like he has a full diaper. There’s also the connection to Theo Epstein and the rest of his front office crew, who drafted and developed Ellsbury back in the day. The Cubs are likely to lose Jon Jay, a left-handed hitting center fielder, to free agency. If the Yankees eat enough money — or kick in a pitching prospect, which the Cubs desperately need — would the Cubbies be interested in Ellsbury? I don’t think it would take much convincing to get him to waive his no-trade clause to join Chicago.
Current Outfield: Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer, Brandon Guyer (Jason Kipnis?)
There’s a decent chance Brantley will spend more time at DH than in the outfield going forward given his injury problems the last two years, meaning Edwin Encarnacion will have to play first base. The Indians showed they’re willing to play Kipnis in the outfield despite his inexperience, so they could end up with Kipnis-Zimmer/Guyer platoon-Chisenhall in the outfield and Brantley at DH. Adding another outfielder isn’t an absolute necessity, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. And, obviously, there’s the Ellsbury-Terry Francona connection from Boston. As always, the question with Cleveland is money. They don’t have much of it, so how much would the Yankee have to eat to make it happen?
Current Outfield: George Springer, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick
A long shot, for sure. Springer and Reddick are locked into two of the three outfield spots and Gonzalez was too good last season to bump out of the lineup for Ellsbury. Marisnick is younger, cheaper, and better defensively than Ellsbury as well, so Ellsbury wouldn’t even fit as a reserve player. I have to think Ellsbury would okay a trade to the defending World Series champions, but the Astros don’t need him.
New York Mets
Current Outfield: Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto (rehabbing from shoulder surgery)
Could you imagine the reaction if the Mets took on Ellsbury — essentially the Yankees’ scraps — after the Yankees traded for Stanton? It would be ugly, and for that reason I don’t think it would happen. Even the shameless Wilpons would consider the optics terrible, even though adding another center field capable outfielder wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Would Ellsbury waive his no-trade clause to stay in New York? Something tells me he won’t even have to think about it.
San Francisco Giants
Current Outfield: Denard Span, Hunter Pence, Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson
This past season Giants outfielders hit .253/.311/.374 (79 OPS+) with 38 home runs in a little over 2,000 plate appearances, if you can believe that. It’s no wonder why they were in on Stanton. Ellsbury’s defense would fit well in spacious AT&T Park, though I get the sense the Giants, who ranked dead last in MLB with 128 home runs in 2017, want a bigger bat. Maybe they’d take on Ellsbury on a secondary piece? Sign Jay Bruce or someone like that first, then trade for Ellsbury and a small piece of his contract for depth? An Ellsbury-for-Jeff Samardzija bad contract swap doesn’t make any sense for San Francisco since they need pitching too. Also, the Giants did lose 98 games this year. I’m not sure Ellsbury would waive his no-trade clause to join a team that far away from contention, despite their recent World Series titles. Stanton sure didn’t.
Current Outfield: Nomar Mazara, Delino DeShields Jr., Shin-Soo Choo, Willie Calhoun
That is a sneaky bad outfield. Choo and Calhoun would both be a full-time DH if they were on separate teams, but since they’re on the same team, one has to play the outfield, and that’s not good. Both DeShields and Mazara are young enough and talented enough to stay in the outfield full-time going forward. A Choo-for-Ellsbury bad contract swap makes sense for Texas — they’d be able to put Calhoun at DH and upgrade their outfield defense — but doesn’t help the Yankees at all. They’re looking to clear the roster spot for a younger player and save money, not rearrange the furniture with another bad contract. I don’t see much of a fit here, even before considering whether Ellsbury would waive his no-trade clause to join the Rangers.
Toronto Blue Jays
Current Outfield: Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, Teoscar Hernandez, Ezequiel Carrera
Goodness. That outfield. The whole intra-division thing complicates a potential trade, though I don’t think the Yankees would be afraid to dump Ellsbury on an AL East rival. I think they’d do it if that’s their best option. Would the Blue Jays take on Ellsbury in a salary dump? Would Ellsbury sign off on a trade to that sinking ship in Toronto? Despite the desperate need for outfield help north of the border, I don’t see the Blue Jays as a realistic fit for Ellsbury.
Current Outfield: Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin
Jayson Werth’s contract just expired, but the Nationals don’t really need an outfielder to replace him because the guys who replaced Werth when he was on the disabled list this year (Taylor and Goodwin) were way better than him. The Nationals dried up as a potential Ellsbury landing spot as soon as they acquired Eaton last year. I think Ellsbury would okay a trade to Washington should a deal be worked out, plus the Nationals are a haven for unwanted Scott Boras clients, so I can’t completely rule them out as a possibility. I just think it’s unlikely.
* * *
Rebuilding teams like the Athletics, Padres, Phillies, Reds, Royals, Tigers, and White Sox would very likely be interested in trading for Ellsbury as long as a good prospect(s) is attached. Take on, say, $5M a season and get a prospect(s)? Why not. What caliber of prospect? Well, that’s up for debate. The Twins ate $4M or so to trade Jaime Garcia to the Yankees and they ended up with Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns, but that was $4M. We’re talking about eating $5M or so with Ellsbury each year for the next three years, so $15M total.
The bigger issue with that sort of trade is why in the world would Ellsbury agree to go to a rebuilding team? The solution could be releasing him. As a condition of accepting the trade, Ellsbury could ask his new team to release him, allowing him to sign anywhere for the prorated portion of the league minimum. The Yankees clear a roster spot and part of Ellsbury’s contract, the rebuilding team gets a prospect(s) for taking on some cash, and Ellsbury gets to pick his next team and offer his services at a dirt cheap price. A win-win-win? Not sure I’d go that far. But it could work.
Like I said, I don’t love the idea of attaching prospects to Ellsbury to unload the contract, but that may be the Yankees’ only choice, unless one of those clubs listed above decides Ellsbury is worth a couple million bucks and trading a non-prospect or two. I do think the Yankees are very motivated to move him right now though, especially after the Stanton trade. Perhaps they believe they have a deep enough farm system that trading a prospect or two to free up cash at the MLB level is worthwhile.
The Winter Meetings came to a close this morning with the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, baseball’s mechanism for helping players stuck in the minors get a chance at the big leagues. As expected, the Yankees lost several players in the Rule 5 Draft. That’s usually what happens when you have a deep farm system. There aren’t enough 40-man roster spots for everyone.
Here are the full Rule 5 Draft results. Here are the players the Yankees lost in the Major League phase:
- Braves: RHP Anyelo Gomez
- Mariners: 1B Mike Ford
- Orioles: LHP Nestor Cortes and RHP Jose Mesa Jr.
I’m surprised Ford was picked, despite his strong minor league numbers. The 25-year-old hit .270/.404/.471 (144 wRC+) with 20 homers and way more walks (94) than strikeouts (72) this season, mostly at Double-A. Ford is only the fourth full-time first baseman picked in the Rule 5 Draft over the last two decades. I guess the Mariners will see whether he and Ryon Healy can be a productive first base platoon going forward.
The three pitchers getting selected was not a surprise. Gomez is the most notable and best prospect of the bunch. The soon-to-be 25-year-old has an upper-90s fastball and a very good changeup, and this past season he broke out with a 1.92 ERA (2.19 FIP) and 31.0% strikeouts in 71 innings at four levels. Cortes has always posted great minor league numbers, though he’s a finesse southpaw who rarely cracks 90 mph with his heater. Joe Table II has okay stuff and started to put it together this year. RHP J.P. Feyereisen and RHP Cale Coshow were among those Rule 5 Draft eligible but not selected.
As a reminder, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must spend the entire 2018 season on their new team’s active 25-man roster, or be placed on waivers and offered back to their old team. Most Rule 5 Draft players are offered back, usually before the end of Spring Training. I think Gomez has by far the best chance of sticking among the four players the Yankees lost today. The O’s do have a history of riding it out with Rule 5 Draft players no matter how poorly they perform, however, so perhaps Cortes and/or Mesa will stick.
In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees lost depth C Sharif Othman (Marlins) and converted infielder RHP Yancarlos Baez (Twins). The Yankees selected OF Junior Soto from the Indians as well. The 20-year-old hit .172/.208/.408 (67 wRC+) in 52 Low-A games last season. Soto was a big deal as an international free agent years ago — he signed for $600,000 in 2013 — but things haven’t worked out. The Yankees are taking a flier because why not?
The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. Players lost in the minor league phase do not have to be offered back and there are no roster rules. They’re just gone. So, after all that, the Yankees lost six players (Ford, Gomez, Cortes, Mesa, Baez, Othman) and added one (Soto). The four Major League phase guys could all end up coming back at some point. Pretty much business as usual at the Rule 5 Draft.
The Winter Meetings come to an end today and, really, they’ll be over before lunchtime. The Rule 5 Draft is this morning and everyone heads home after that. The Yankees will undoubtedly lose some players in the Rule 5 Draft. That tends to happen when you have a strong farm system. There’s a good chance Nestor Cortes, Anyelo Gomez, and J.P. Feyereisen will hear their names called today. Bryan Hoch says the Yankees won’t make a Rule 5 Draft pick themselves. They’re focused on adding pitching.
“We are accessing all opportunities and see if we can land a plane,” said Brian Cashman to Andrew Marchand yesterday. “Right now, we are circling the airport. We are waiting for clearance on the runway. That is not from ownership. That means that we’ve got the signal that it is a safe landing spot, that we are comfortable with it, excited by that. We have enough gas in that tank that we can keep circling for awhile.”
The Yankees were connected to basically every young controllable starting pitcher Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. That includes Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, Danny Duffy, Patrick Corbin, you name it. Starting pitching is clearly the priority right now, even over an infielder. We’ll again keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors here, though I can’t promise much activity today. Keep check back for updates anyway. All timestamps are ET.
- 3:14pm: The price of starting pitching is too damn high, according to the Yankees. Seems like general offseason machinations to me. We want this guy but price is too high, rinse and repeat. [Heyman]
- 10:10am: The Yankees have checked in on Machado but have no expectation of Orioles owner Peter Angelos approving a trade. Angelos hates the Yankees. I think he’s sooner keep Machado and lose him as a free agent than trade him to the Yankees. [Jon Heyman]
- 9:41am: Contract talks with CC Sabathia have moved at a slow pace. The Yankees are focused right now on adding a younger pitcher and are talking with multiple teams. [Jack Curry]
- 9:00am: The Orioles are “moving aggressively” in Manny Machado trade talks and the Yankees are among the teams to make an offer. O’s GM Dan Duquette said the club is open to trading Machado to the Yankees, though I’m going to have to see it to believe it. The White Sox have emerged as the frontrunner for the time being. Would they trade for Machado then flip him to the Yankees?. [Bob Nightengale, Ken Rosenthal, Rich Dubroff]
- 9:00am: The Pirates are “gathering names” of young Yankees players who could be included in a trade for Cole. In addition to Cole and Fulmer, the Yankees are also looking at Chris Archer. An intra-division trade would be tough. [Bill Brink]
(Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.)
Here is tonight’s open thread. The (hockey) Rangers and Islanders are both playing tonight, and there are a few college basketball games on as well. Talk about those games, the Winter Meetings, or anything else here as long as it is not religion or politics.
The first two days of the Winter Meetings have been pretty eventful for the Yankees. On Monday they introduced Giancarlo Stanton with a press conference in Orlando. Then yesterday they salary dumped Chase Headley (and Bryan Mitchell) on the Padres. What will today bring? I’m not sure. All I know is the Yankees have been popped up in an awful lot rumors this week.
“We all know we have a stated desire to upgrade our starting pitching,” said Brian Cashman to George King yesterday. “We have more flexibility today than prior to (the Headley trade). We did it with knowledge that we have some hungry, talented, and inexperienced kids ready to prove they can take that next step. But at the same time there might be some opportunities that might exist via free agency or trade.”
On Monday and Tuesday the Yankees were connected to basically every possibly available starting pitcher, including Gerrit Cole, Danny Duffy, and Michael Fulmer. Also, we learned they touched base with Todd Frazier after the Headley trade. We’ll again keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back often for updated. All timestamps are ET.
- 2:08pm: The Yankees are “possibly” in the mix for Eduardo Nunez. I figured this was coming at some point. They need help at second and third bases and Nunez can play either. Not well, but he can stand there. [Heyman]
- 2:02pm: Right now the Yankees are focused on adding a starting pitcher and Todd Frazier is on the back-burner. He could be someone they pursue more aggressively if they shed more money. [Sherman]
- 1:57pm: The Yankees are one of ten teams on Ian Kinsler’s no-trade list. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’d reject a deal to New York, of course. Would he want something (i.e. an extension) in exchange for waiving the no-trade clause though? [Sherman]
- 1:47pm: Jabari Blash, who came over in the Headley trade, may wind up with a team in Japan. I get the sense he is not long for the 40-man roster either way. [David Waldstein]
- 10:50am: In addition to Patrick Corbin, the Yankees have also talked to the Diamondbacks about infielder Brandon Drury. The 25-year-old hit .267/.317/.447 (92 wRC+) this season while playing second, third, and left field. [Sherman]
- 9:43am: Hoping for a Michael Pineda reunion? Well, don’t. He’s inked a two-year deal worth $10M with the Twins, the team announced. They’ll rehab him in 2018 and hope he can help in 2019.
- 9:00am: The Yankees are among the teams interested in Manny Machado, who is available. Those involved say a trade is unlikely, however. I can’t imagine Orioles owner Peter Angelos would okay a trade sending Machado to the Yankees. [Buster Olney, Joel Sherman]
- 9:00am: The Yankees are still talking to CC Sabathia about he a reunion. He did meet with the Blue Jays yesterday though, a few days after meeting with the Angels. Hmmm. [Jon Heyman, George King]
(Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.)