Mailbag: Eovaldi, Tanaka, Cashner, Pirela, 40-Man, Braun

Got a dozen questions and eleven answers in this week’s mailbag. You can send us questions at any time by emailing RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. Did you know you can copy and paste the email address into Gmail as is, and it’ll automatically convert the (at) and (dot) into the appropriate symbols for you? True fact.

(Steven Ryan/Getty)
(Steven Ryan/Getty)

Wyatt asks: Whats your take on Nathan Eovaldi in the pen in the playoffs? The trio of Eovaldi-Betances-Miller has the potential to be nasty at the back end of the bullpen.

Paul asks: Let’s say Eovaldi comes back in best-case-scenario fashion. I’m assuming he would still be legitimately considered (and likely a favorite) for a postseason rotation spot? There wouldn’t be concerns about building up his pitch count after such a short period away, right?

Going to lump these two together. The best case scenario for Eovaldi is still not pitching at all during the regular season. The plan was two weeks of rest plus a two-week throwing program, which puts him on target for a return right at the start of the ALDS, basically. I can’t imagine the Yankees would plug Eovaldi into their postseason rotation fresh off his throwing program, with no tune-up appearances. Like half the rotation would have to get hurt for that to happen.

For that reason, I think Eovaldi’s destined for the bullpen in the postseason, should the Yankees get beyond the wildcard game. He might only be a one-inning reliever after missing a month too. Eovaldi out of the bullpen could be really crazy. The guy averaged 99.01 mph with his fastball in August. As a starter. What’s he going throw in relief? 105? In all seriousness, Eovaldi airing out in one-inning bursts could be a major lift in the middle innings, assuming there is no lingering impact from his elbow issue, which is always a big if. It’s hard to see how the Yankees could work him back into the rotation given his current timetable.

Matt asks: With the whole Yankee rotation under contract for next season, what would you think about the Yankees signing a big free agent like David Price and having Masahiro Tanaka opt for surgery this off season? It will eliminate his ticking time-bomb of an elbow and give them a substantial replacement. Then when Tanaka comes back the rotation will be thinned out. I’d rather see Tanaka get the surgery in the off season then need it in the middle of a playoff race.

No! No surgery until the doctors say Tanaka needs the surgery! The doctors all said Tanaka’s elbow was sound and healthy enough to pitch late last year, he’s pitched with it all season and done really well, so why fix what isn’t broken? Sure, the elbow might give out at some point, perhaps in the middle of a postseason race, but that’s true of every pitcher ever. If the plan is to sign someone like Price, wouldn’t you want Price and Tanaka in the rotation at the same time? Besides, the Yankees can’t make Tanaka have the surgery. It’s his call. Same way your employer can’t force you to have surgery. General rule of thumb: say no unnecessary surgery. Josh Johnson is a pretty great Tommy John surgery cautionary tale.

Noah asks: Keep up the great work with the site! My question is simply why do you often only say the standings in terms of the losses rather than just overall games behind. I also hear announcers often put more emphasis on the loss column than the win column. Why is that?

During the season, the loss column does the best job explaining the gap between two teams in the standings because you can’t take away losses. You can always add wins, but losses are there to stay. The win column and loss column all mean the same thing after Game 162, but during the season the loss column tells you exactly how many games you need to make up. Overall games behind is fine too, but it adds half-games and those are annoying. I prefer the straight up loss column. Tells you exactly far behind you really are. The Yankees are three behind the Blue Jays in the loss column. That means Toronto has to lose at least four more games than New York the rest of the way for the Yankees to win the division outright. See how easy that is?

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Matt asks: As much as I’d love for the Yankees to go after David Price in the offseason, something tells me they won’t spend the money. One alternative could be Andrew Cashner after all the rumors about moving him this summer. What kind of package would it take to get him?

Cashner will be a free agent after next season and to me is very similar to Jeff Samardzija in that he’s more stuff and hype than results. People keep waiting for the inner-ace to emerge but it hasn’t happened, and at this point it’s unlikely to happen. That doesn’t mean Cashner is bad though. He’s a fine big leaguer. One year of Samardzija netted a package of four okay players last winter, but a) A’s GM Billy Beane has made some weird trades lately, and b) Samardzija has been way way waaay more durable than Cashner in his career, so the price should for Cashner should be lower. Three decent to good prospects seems like a fair asking price. That’s what the Rangers gave up Yovani Gallardo, for example. One of the lefty hitting outfielders, one of the Triple-A relievers, and a mid-range prospect like Rookie Davis or Bryan Mitchell for one season of Cashner? That seem in the ballpark?

Luke asks: I know he can’t stay healthy, but how about Slade Heathcott as the 4th OF next year? Chris Young has been excellent but you have to think he finds a 2-3 year deal elsewhere next year. If not Heathcott, what are the odds they stay in-house with their OF depth for that 4th spot?

In a vacuum, Heathcott or Mason Williams would be a fine fourth outfielder next season. I wouldn’t have a problem with the Yankees going that route. That said, this isn’t a vacuum, and the Yankees kinda need a right-handed hitting fourth outfielder because both Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are lefties, and Carlos Beltran is a switch-hitter with much better numbers against righties. The team needs to add some balance to the roster and a righty hitting fourth outfielder is one way to do that. Heathcott, Williams, and Ben Gamel are all at a disadvantage because they’re lefties. A righty hitter makes a lot more sense for the roster.

Greg asks: Assuming that the Yankees actually do add a left fielder (Jason Heyward, Heathcott etc.) and try to flip Gardner for an answer at second base, is there anyone out there that is a equal 1 for 1 swap? A second baseman that is both somewhat young (around 30) and under team control for the next few years?

Not really. Gardner is signed for three more years and there are a lot more outfielders like him than there are quality second baseman signed for two or three more seasons. Brandon Phillips would be one, but hell no. We’ve discussed him ad nauseam. Danny Espinosa is under team control through 2017 and a Gardner-Espinosa swap might actually be fair given the difference in salaries. That assumes Espinosa really is back to where he was from 2011-12, before all his injuries, however. Logan Forsythe is also under control through 2017, but I don’t see why the Rays would trade him for Gardner. There’s really no good fit. Quality second baseman are very hard to find. The Yankees could easily be stuck cycling through stopgaps for another few years before a long-term answer comes along.

Justin asks: Can Jose Pirela be the heir to the Chris Young righty bat off the bench?

It’s possible, sure. I think the Yankees are more likely to bring in a veteran righty bench bat though. That seems to be their thing. I also think they’re more likely to look for the next Chris Young than bring back the actual Chris Young at an inflated price. Pirela has nice numbers against southpaws in his MLB career but his swing suggests he should never face righties — the kid takes an off-balance hack at everything, it seems — plus he’s not good in the field regardless of position. Versatility is nice, but only if the player can actually play solid defense. Pirela would have to crush lefties to have any value to the Yankees. I think he’s going to end up going up and down as an extra utility man next season. Handing him a bench job in camp or even letting him compete for the fourth outfielder’s job seems like something the Yankees wouldn’t do.

Eric asks: Would missing the playoffs change the Yankees offseason plan? Yes, many players under contract for next year complicates the roster but certainty 3 straight years of no playoff revenue may change the front offices mind?

I’m sure it would. How could it not? Three straight years with no postseason is a very big deal around these parts. Hal Steinbrenner is a very rational guy, he’s not like his father when it comes to baseball, so I don’t think missing the postseason would mean radical changes. Maybe they’re more aggressive signing a free agent or trading prospects, but would they really do some thing drastic? It seems unlikely. I think both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi are safe at this point, and I expect the Yankees to stick with their current plan, whatever it may be.

Joe asks: What about the upcoming 40-man roster crunch? (Sorry Joe, had to shorten the question.)

Moreno. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Moreno. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

The Yankees currently have 46 players on the 40-man roster when you include the 60-day DL guys (Mason Williams, Chase Whitley, Sergio Santos, Diego Moreno, Jacob Lindgren, Domingo German), and they only have three players due to become free agents after the season (Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew, Chris Young). That assumes Brendan Ryan exercises his $1M player option. So yeah, the 40-man is pretty full.

Looking at the roster, I’d say the following players are most at risk of losing their 40-man spot in the offseason: Andrew Bailey, Chris Martin, Austin Romine, Rico Noel, Santos, Moreno, and Ryan. (The Yankees could drop Ryan even if he picks up his option, but they’d still owe him the money and would need a new shortstop-capable backup infielder to replace him.) Remember, there is no DL in the offseason, so those 60-day DL players will have to be activated right after the end of the World Series.

The Yankees have some quality prospects set to be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter — Ben Gamel, Jake Cave, Rookie Davis, Tony Renda, and Johnny Barbato are the most notable now that Greg Bird and James Pazos were already added to the 40-man — so most of those open 40-man roster spot will be filled soon. I wonder if the Yankees will try to clear space with a reverse Manny Banuelos trade, meaning deal two young relievers for one prospect, or something like that. Space on the 40-man figures to be tight this winter. Then again, that always seems to be the case.

Craig asks: Rookie Davis. What are your thoughts on him? Any chance we see him in 2016?

I think it’s possible we’ll see him next season. Like I said, Davis is Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, so he’s going to be on the 40-man roster, plus he’ll start next season with Double-A Trenton. Whenever a guy is that close, you have to think of him as a big league option later in the season. Davis looks like he rolled off the pitching prospect assembly line — 6-foot-5, 245 lbs., low-to-mid-90s heater, hammer curve, decent changeup … a scout’s dream — and he made some huge strides with his command this season. There’s a little Shane Greene in him, in that he was a big stuff/bad command guy who just figured it out one year. If we do see Davis in 2016, it’ll be in the second half, and I’d be surprised if he had a Severino-esque impact right away. His real coming party is likely scheduled for 2017.

Matt asks: If the Brewers really do want to trade Ryan Braun, how interesting would a Ellsbury-Braun swap be? Braun could play left while Gardner slides back to center. It would be especially interesting if we could get Wily Peralta included in there as well, eh?

Braun has had a great bounceback year — he went into last night’s game hitting .291/.361/.509 (133 wRC+) with 25 homers — now that his hand is finally healthy, but he’s basically a DH at this point, and another DH is the last thing the Yankees need. The money is a wash — Braun has five years and $105M left on his contract after this season, Ellsbury five years and $110M — so this would be a pure baseball swap.

Are the Yankees better off with Braun and his baggage or Ellsbury? I think you could argue both sides very strongly. (I don’t see why the Brewers would kick in Peralta though.) Even with his performance-enhancing drug issues, Braun is still crazy popular in Milwaukee and helps the Brewers push their brand. That has real value to the team. Ellsbury wouldn’t offer that at all. There’s no connection to him. I think the Yankees have way to many DH candidates already on the roster and in the upper levels of the minors (Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, even Greg Bird) to make that swap. If the Yankees can trade Ellsbury this winter, I think they should, but I’m not sure a bad contract for bad contract swap for Braun is the best way to go about it.

Thursday Night Open Thread

The Yankees have an off-day today, their last of the regular season. They play their final 17 games in 17 days starting tomorrow. In the meantime, make sure you check out this Billy Witz article on designated pinch-runner Rico Noel. Noel discussed his family life and upbringing through baseball, from his days in college to his time with the Padres. He asked San Diego for his release earlier this year, and when the Yankees called, it was Noel who broached the idea of being used as a pinch-runner in September. Pretty great read. Check it out.

Here is tonight’s open thread. Pretty light baseball schedule tonight, only seven games, and MLB Network will show one of them later. Also, the Broncos and Chiefs are this week’s Thursday NFL Game. Talk about of those games or anything else right here. Enjoy the final off-night of the season.

TiqIQ: Chase For 28 Package Gives Fans Opportunity To Save Big on Yankees Playoff Tickets

Despite dropping three of four to the first-place Toronto Blue Jays over the weekend, the New York Yankees are still in prime position to qualify for the 2015 postseason as the top Wild Card team in the American League. Toronto’s lead over the Yankees sits at three games with a three-game set later this month that may very well decide the division. In any case, the postseason is still very much within grasp for the Bronx Bombers, and their fans will be able to enjoy the rest of the journey getting there, while also having a chance to book a seat for the future.

Due to the buzz surrounding the Yanks being on track of returning to the playoffs for the first time since the 2012 season, tickets are averaging $100.67 the rest of the way on the secondary market. Looking a bit deeper into the playoff picture, higher prices emerge. The average ticket price to the AL Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium is $247.44 with a get-in price of $75. For the American League Division Series, the three Yankees home games have an average price of $296.15 on the secondary market for the three games, with the most expensive game coming in at an average of $319.67 and a get-in price of $89.

One way fans can save on playoff tickets compared to the secondary market is by buying directly from the team, where postseason prices start at just $21. So compared to the secondary market, fans who buy tickets directly from the team can save at least $50 per game or more depending on the section. But those tickets can be hard to come by during the postseason, as demand skyrockets. Season ticket holders get preferred access to those tickets before the general public, which is a fact that the Yankees are using as an incentive to spur 2016 season tickets. The Yankees have released the Chase For 28 package, giving fans who submit their 2016 season ticket deposit access to postseason tickets directly from the box office, and flex pack pricing on remaining 2015 games.

No matter how the rest of this season unfolds, it seems like there’s no question the Yankees will be right back in the playoff mix in 2016, making this is tremendous deal for any fan of the team. Clearly, the future is very bright, as New York boasts a roster that not only leans on talented veterans, but productive youngsters as well that will be impactful players for the club over the next several years.

Of course, the success the Yankees are enjoying this season has been brought upon by a few familiar faces and a couple of new ones. Alex Rodriguez, who returned from his one-year suspension, has reminded everyone why he was always long considered one of the best players in the game.

Meanwhile, Mark Teixeira also enjoyed a renaissance season before going down with injury, and Brett Gardner earned his first All-Star berth with his own solid play this year. As for new faces, Luis Severino and Greg Bird have come up from the minor leagues, giving Yankee fans a glimpse of what’s in store for the future. The club’s biggest strength, arguably, has been at the back-end of the bullpen, where Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances reside as the best 1-2 punch in baseball closing out ballgames.

If the season were to end today with the Yankees in the top Wild Card spot, they’d be getting prepared to host the Houston Astros in the AL Wild Card Game, with the winner moving on to the Divisional Series round. At the same time, there’s still a few weeks left for the Yankees to catch up to Toronto at the top of the AL East, potentially making the rest of the campaign even more fun. With the Chase for 28 package, Yankee fans can take in a majority of the exciting action live, while getting set for what is sure to be another wild year in 2016.

Update: Eppler interviews for Angels and Mariners GM positions

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

September 17th: Eppler met with Mariners brass in Chicago last night, reports George King. Seattle supposedly prefers a GM with experience, though they have a long list of candidates and are covering all their bases.

September 15th: Eppler was scheduled to meet with Angels owner Arte Moreno and team president John Carpino in New York last night, reports George King. Eppler interviewed with the Angels a few years ago, so it seems like the two sides were getting reacquainted more than anything. He is supposedly very high on their wish list.

September 9th: According to Ken Rosenthal, assistant GM Billy Eppler will interview with both the Angels and Mariners for their GM openings. The Yankees granted both teams permission to speak to Eppler, which isn’t surprising. Clubs usually won’t block a chance at an upward move.

Eppler, 39, interviewed with the Angels back in 2011 and was reportedly the runner up to Jerry Dipoto. Dipoto resigned earlier this year after losing a power struggle with manager Mike Scioscia. A few days ago we heard Eppler was considered the front-runner for the Halos GM gig. He’s a Southern California native and could jump at the chance to return home.

The Mariners fired GM Jack Zduriencik a few weeks ago and are in the process of picking a replacement. The Seattle job seems like a pretty good one — great city, great ballpark, and something of a clean slate. The new GM will presumably be able to bring his own people. Scouts, assistants, coaches, etc. With the Angels, the new GM will be stuck with Scioscia. Owner Arte Moreno made that clear when he picked Scioscia over Dipoto earlier this summer.

Eppler has been with the Yankees since 2005. He started as a scout and worked his way up the ladder, getting promoted to assistant GM back in 2012. Eppler has interviewed for several GM openings over the years, including with his hometown Padres this past offseason, and eventually he’ll snag one. I thought he would one day take over for Brian Cashman, but that seems more and more unlikely.

2015 Minor League Awards

The Staten Island Yankees won their division in 2015. (Robert Pimpsner)
The Staten Island Yankees won their division in 2015. (Robert Pimpsner)

Moreso than at any other point in the last, I dunno, 10-15 years or so, the Yankees dipped into their farm system for help this summer. Whether it was the bullpen shuttle, injury replacements, or late-season call-ups, the Yankees showed faith in the young players and have largely been rewarded at the Major League level. That alone qualifies 2015 as a good season for the farm system.

The Yankees welcomed yet another affiliate to the organization this year in the rookie level Pulaski Yankees. The team’s eight (!) domestic full season affiliates went a combined 422-403 (.512) this summer, giving them back-to-back winning seasons in the minors. (The system had an overall losing record in 2013 for the first time in at least 30 years.) None of the affiliates won a championship but Pulaski, Short Season Staten Island, and Triple-A Scranton all qualified for the postseason. Staten Island advanced to the Championship Series.

Now that the postseason is over, it’s time to hand out some awards for the minor league season. As always, these awards are totally subjective and completely meaningless. I have no authority whatsoever. This is just my look back at the season with recognition for those who played well. This isn’t any sort of top prospects list. It’s a best performers list regardless of prospect status. That make sense? Good.

Here are my 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 awards posts. Hard to believe I’ve been doing this nine years already. Time flies, man.

Minor League Player of the Year: OF Ben Gamel
After spending the last two seasons as a light-hitting, somewhat interesting outfield prospect at High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, the 23-year-old Gamel broke out in 2015 and was the best player in the farm system from start to finish. He hit .300/.358/.472 (138 wRC+) in 129 games with Triple-A Scranton and led the system in both hits (150) and extra-base hits (52). Gamel ranked third in doubles (28), first in triples (14), eighth in homers (ten), and second in plate appearances (592). His defense reportedly improved as well, so much so he took regular turns in center field down the stretch for the RailRiders. If there was voting for this award, I think it would be unanimous. Gamel was that much better than everyone else in the system in 2015.

Minor League Pitcher of the Year: RHP Luis Severino
Severino is in the big league rotation right now, but he spent the majority of the season in the minors and finished the year with the 19th most innings in the system (99.1) despite getting called up in early-August. The 21-year-old had a 2.45 ERA (2.45 FIP!) with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this summer, striking out 24.8% of batters faced while walking only 6.8%. Among the 25 pitchers who threw at least 80 innings in the system this summer, Severino ranked fourth in strikeout rate and third in K/BB ratio (3.63). The guys ahead of him are all older, pitched at a lower level, or both. Even in an abbreviated minor league season (abbreviated for a good reason, of course), Severino was the best pitcher in the organization this year. Honorable Mention: RHP Brady Lail and LHP Jordan Montgomery

Minor League Hitter of the Year: C Gary Sanchez
By self-imposed rule, the winner of my Minor League Player of the Year award is not eligible for the Hitter or Pitcher of the Year award, because that would be boring. Gamel would win this too. Sanchez, 22, gets the hitter honors instead after hitting .271/.329/.476 (131 wRC+) with 23 doubles and 18 home runs in 96 games split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. Even though it feels like he has been around forever, Sanchez was still two and a half years younger than the average Eastern League player this year. He was eighth in doubles and second in homers in the system — his 18 homers were fourth most among catchers in the minors, the leader had 20, and the three guys ahead of Sanchez all played at least 12 more games — despite, you know, being a catcher. Catching is hard. Honorable Mention: OF Aaron Judge and 1B Greg Bird

Breakout Player of the Year: RHP Rookie Davis
A 3.86 ERA in 130.2 innings doesn’t jump out at you, but the 22-year-old Davis broke out this summer thanks to his greatly improved command and control. He went from middling strikeout (19.1%) and walk (7.6%) numbers with Low-A Charleston in 2014 to a very good strikeout rate (23.5%) and an excellent walk rate (4.7%) with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton in 2015. That 3.86 ERA comes with a 2.47 FIP, 11th lowest among the 569 pitchers to throw at least 100 innings in the minors this year. Simply put, Davis improved his prospect stock more than any other player in the system this summer, and that’s why he gets the award. Honorable Mention: RHP Domingo Acevedo and RHP Cale Coshow

Best Pro Debut: OF Trey Amburgey
This was not an easy call. Several 2015 draftees and international free agent signees has big debuts in their first taste of pro ball, but Amburgey, New York’s 13th round pick this summer, was better than all of them. The 20-year-old from Florida’s east coast hit .335/.388/.502 (161 wRC+) with 12 doubles, six triples, five homers, and 21 steals in 25 attempts (84%) in 62 games for the Rookie GCL Yankees and Short Season Staten Island. Amburgey also had a solid 15.5% strikeout rate in his first summer as a professional. What a beast. Honorable Mention: OF Carlos Vidal and SS Wilkerman Garcia

Comeback Player of the Year: LHP Dietrich Enns
Enns, 24, blew out his elbow last May, had Tommy John surgery, and returned to the mound this June. In 58.2 carefully monitored innings across 12 starts and one relief appearance, Enns posted a 0.61 ERA (2.39 FIP) with a very good strikeout rate (23.7%) and an acceptable walk rate (8.6%) considering location is usually the last thing to come back following elbow reconstruction. Almost 1,900 pitchers threw at least 50 innings in the minors this year (1,393 to be exact). None had a lower ERA than Enns. Honorable Mention: OF Slade Heathcott and OF Mason Williams

Bounceback Player of the Year (started slow, finished strong): 2B Gosuke Katoh
Last season was very rough for Katoh, who followed up his brilliant pro debut with the Rookie GCL Yankees in 2013 with a .222/.345/.326 (96 wRC+) batting line with Low-A Charleston in 2014. Katoh, 20, returned to the River Dogs this year, and hit a weak .161/.264/.202 (42 wRC+) in 39 games before the Yankees pulled the plug. They sent him back to Extended Spring Training for a few weeks before assigning him to the new Rookie Pulaski affiliate. With Pulaski, Katoh hit .287/.426/.416 (143 wRC+) with nine doubles, five homers, 49 walks (!), and 61 strikeouts in 59 games. The end result is a .240/.365/.331 (104 wRC+) batting line on the season. Considering how he started with Charleston, that’s pretty incredible. Honorable Mention: 3B Miguel Andujar and LHP Caleb Smith

Most Disappointing Player of the Year: OF Tyler Austin
This was supposed to be The Year. The year Austin was finally healthy, finally able to prove himself at Triple-A, and maybe even get called up to the show. Instead, he was dropped from the 40-man roster earlier this month to make room for a September call-up, and sailed through waivers unclaimed. Ouch. Austin, 24, hit .235/.309/.311 (82 wRC+) in 73 games with the RailRiders before being demoted to Double-A Trenton, where he hit .260/.337/.455 (128 wRC+) in 21 games. That all works out to a .240/.315/.343 (92 wRC+) batting line with only 21 extra-base hits in 94 games. Yeesh.

All-Minor League Teams

First Team Second Team Third Team
Catcher Gary Sanchez Austin Romine Kyle Higashioka
First Base Greg Bird Chris Gittens Kane Sweeney
Second Base Jose Pirela Rob Refsnyder Thairo Estrada
Shortstop Jorge Mateo Tyler Wade Wilkerman Garcia
Third Base Eric Jagielo Cole Figueroa Donny Sands
Outfield Ben Gamel Trey Amburgey Austin Aune
Outfield Aaron Judge Jake Cave Dustin Fowler
Outfield Carlos Vidal Nathan Mikolas Jhalan Jackson
Starting Pitcher Luis Severino Rookie Davis Jonathan Holder
Starting Pitcher Brady Lail Chaz Hebert Cale Coshow
Starting Pitcher Jordan Montgomery Joey Maher Eric Ruth
Relief Pitcher Nick Goody Caleb Cotham Conor Mullee
Relief Pitcher Evan Rutckyj Alex Smith Johnny Barbato

Lifetime Achievement Award: C Austin Romine
Believe it or not, the 26-year-old Romine is the fifth longest tenured homegrown player in the Yankees organization. Only Ivan Nova (signed in 2004), Brett Gardner (drafted in 2005), Dellin Betances (drafted in 2006), and Jose Pirela (signed in 2006) have been with the Yankees longer than Romine, who was New York’s second round pick in the 2007 amateur draft out of a California high school.

Romine was a significant prospect at one time — he made Baseball America’s annual top 100 prospects list in both 2010 (No. 86) and 2011 (No. 98) — who has instead become a solid depth catcher who spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues. That includes the 2013 season, when he got an extended look as Chris Stewart’s backup (!). The Yankees removed Romine from the 40-man roster at the end of Spring Training this year and he then hit a solid .260/.311/.379 (99 wRC+) with seven homers in 92 games for Triple-A Scranton.

In parts of nine minor league seasons with the Yankees, Romine hit .270/.326/.396 (102 wRC+) with 58 home runs in 689 games and 2,832 plate appearances. His best full season was his first, when he put up an impressive .300/.344/.437 (120 wRC+) batting line with 10 homers in 104 games as the everyday catcher for Low-A Charleston. Romine did that as a 19-year-old catcher in his first full pro season. He was big time back then.

Things never did work out for Romine and the Yankees, though he became a solid organizational catcher who saw time in the big leagues and deserves credit for working with the young pitchers in the farm system. Guys like this are too often overlooked for their roles in the minors.

Yankeemetrics: Stayin’ Alive in Tampa (Sept. 14-16)

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Summer of Slade
No-hit through seven innings by a pitcher with a 6.20 ERA in his previous four starts and down to their last out in the ninth inning, the Yankees somehow rallied for a stunning win over the Rays on Monday night.

This most improbable comeback happened only because a guy with more than 3,000 hits did something he’d never before done in his 21 major-league seasons (more on that later), and a rookie who hadn’t gotten a major-league at-bat since May 27 sent the first pitch he saw into the seats for the game-winning homer.

Erasmo Ramirez completely shut down the Yankees bats, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning before a leadoff single by Carlos Beltran ruined his chance at history. He left after giving up that one hit in 7 2/3 innings, the longest outing with one or fewer hits allowed in a game against the Yankees by a Rays pitcher.

A-Rod then saved the Yankees from a potential season-crushing loss with his two-out game-tying double in the top of the ninth inning. It was his 3,060th career hit — but the very first one that tied a game with two outs in the ninth inning. #ClutchRod

Two batters later, No. 72 delivered a first-pitch fastball into the left field seats to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead and the Most Important Win of The Season. How rare (and clutch) was that blast?

Slade Heathcott is the first Yankee with an two-out, tie-breaking home run in the ninth inning of a September game during a pennant race since … Graig Nettles on Sept. 23, 1977 against the Blue Jays. The Yankees had a slim 1.5-game division lead heading into that contest with less than two weeks left on the schedule. Let’s hope this 2015 season has a happy ending just like the 1977 version.

No relief
The Yankees came crashing back down to earth in Tuesday’s 6-3 loss, as their rally fell just short in the ninth inning despite bringing the tying run to the plate.

They held a one-run advantage heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, and things were looking good, but the bullpen imploded and the Rays held on for the win. Before this game, the Yankees were 52-7 (.881) when taking a lead into the sixth inning. That’s actually pretty darn good, considering the league average win percentage in those situations is .829.

Greg Bird would have been the hero if not for the bullpen deciding to give up runs. His two-run homer in the fourth inning turned a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead. That was his sixth homer of the season — and five of those six gave the Yankees the lead.

Sevvy’s back
The Yankees won the rubber game on Wednesday night thanks to another solid performance from Luis Severino and just enough offense to produce a 3-1 victory. They ended up going 12-6 against the Rays in 2015, their best season record vs. Tampa Bay since 2006.

Severino bounced back from the worst outing of his short major-league career by holding the Rays to just one run in 5 2/3 innings. He now has five starts allowing one earned run or fewer within his first eight major-league games. The last Yankee to begin a career like that was Tiny Bonham, who debuted in August 1940 and went 9-3 with a 1.90 ERA in 12 starts down the stretch. (He threw 10 complete games, including three shutouts, and somehow even got a down-ballot MVP vote.)

Jacoby Ellsbury snapped his massive hitting slump with a first-inning single off Chris Archer. Before that hit, he was in an 0-for-25 rut that included five straight games without a hit. Ellsbury is the only Yankee center fielder in the last 100 seasons with five consecutive games going 0-for-4 or worse at the plate.

Only a handful of Yankees had ever put together a streak like that, regardless of position, and the last two were Ichiro in 2013 and Derek Jeter in 2004 — two guys that combined for more than 6,000 major-league hits.

The fact that Ellsbury was able to end that streak against Archer wasn’t surprising. He is now 16-for-24 (.667) in his career against the Rays’ ace, easily his best batting average vs. any pitcher he’s faced at least 20 times, and the highest average against Archer by any batter that has faced him more than 10 times.

Thoughts on Thursday’s off-day


Today is the Yankees’ final off-day of the 2015 season. The close the regular season with 17 games in 17 days starting tomorrow. This season really flew by, didn’t it? The race for a postseason spot should be a pretty good one. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts.

1. If you had told me back in Spring Training the Yankees would be three games back in the AL East and 3.5 games up for the first wildcard spot with 17 games to play, I would have taken it in a heartbeat. There were plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Yankees chances coming into the season. At the same time, if you would have told me that on, say, July 25th, I would have been kinda annoyed. The Yankees are exceeding expectations this season in the big picture, but expectations re-calibrate, and when they had that seven-game lead halfway through the season, my focus shifted to the AL East title. Yes, I’m glad the Yankees are in postseason position right now. I’ve greatly missed October baseball. It’s also pretty annoying their seven-game lead has turned into a three-game deficit. That sucks.

2. At this point, I think it’s clear the Yankees made the right move keeping their top prospects at the trade deadline. That has nothing to do with how Luis Severino and Greg Bird have performed since being called up either. Once they had that seven-game lead, I was all-in on 2015 and hoping the Yankees would be open to trading a top prospect or two for a legitimate difference-maker to improve their chances. They had obvious needs (pitching, second base, etc.) and there were some potentially huge upgrades out there. Now though, I’m not sure David Price or Ben Zobrist or Craig Kimbrel or whoever would have been enough to prevent them from falling out of first place. (Price might have since he wound up with the Blue Jays, but I don’t think we can say that with any certainty.) The offense has slowed, the bullpen has hit a wall, the rotation is shaky … there’s too much going wrong for me to believe one or two trades would have been enough to stay in first place. Keeping Severino and Bird and whoever else was the right move, in hindsight.

3. Moving Ivan Nova to the bullpen had to happen. The Yankees are in a postseason race and he’s been way too ineffective to keep running him out there this late in the season. I wouldn’t waste any time trying to figure out what the move means for Nova and the Yankees going forward either. This looks very much like a short-term move designed to improve the team’s chances right now, in late-September 2015. That’s all. Next year and beyond is another matter the two sides will deal with at a later time. With any luck, Nova will emerge as a reliable reliever to help improve a bullpen that has become quite shaky of late. That would be really cool. He couldn’t stay in the rotation though. Guys who allow 29 runs in a 35-inning span like Nova has his last seven starts don’t get to stay in the rotation in a postseason race. Smart move that improves the Yankees’ chances of playing in October. That’s all there is to it.

Pinder. (Presswire)
Pinder. (Presswire)

4. The downside to the bullpen shuttle is that it didn’t give any of the young relievers a chance to emerge as a potential high-leverage option. Every time someone threw a few innings, the Yankees swapped them out for a fresh arm. Not every pitcher comes up and dominates right away. Most don’t, in fact. David Robertson debuted in 2008 and didn’t became all-world reliever David frickin’ Robertson until 2011, remember. It’s too late now, but next year the Yankees should try to keep one or two of these young relievers in the big leagues to see what they have to offer over an extended period of time. How else can they evaluate them? I don’t know if any of these relievers will be any good — my guess is Nick Goody will have a pretty nice impact at some point, and both James Pazos and Branden Pinder end up banking like $30M as part of their 15-year careers as boringly effective middle relievers — but the bullpen shuttle system didn’t give them much of a chance to show anything. Now they’re all being pressed into important situations and no one knows anything about them.

5. Assistant GM Billy Eppler appears to be the front-runner for the Angels GM job — he’s also going to interview for the Mariners GM job, reportedly — and it seems the Yankees are likely to lose him to another team now more than ever. If Eppler does get the Anaheim job, I’m curious to see what happens next. New GMs tend to poach some front office talent from their former organizations — Padres GM A.J. Preller hired a bunch of people away from the Rangers, for example — and I have no reason to think it would be different with Eppler. I don’t know nearly enough about the team’s front office hierarchy to guess who Eppler might try to poach or what the Yankees might do to replace him. That’s why I’m so interested to see what happens. Of course, I’d rather they not lose Eppler at all. By all accounts he’s a really smart guy and the pro scouting department cranked out low-cost producers like Luis Ayala, Bartolo Colon, and Eric Chavez under his watch a few years ago. We’ll see. The front office dynamics may change quite a bit this offseason. Or maybe they won’t change much at all.