Game 27: Win it for CC

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees lost CC Sabathia to a left groin strain, two days after he tossed seven shutout innings against the Orioles. It was his best start in about three years. At this point the best thing for the Yankees is probably to keep losing, but how about winning this one for CC? He’s been pretty awesome for a long time around here. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. 1B Mark Teixeira
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Carlos Beltran
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. RF Aaron Hicks
  8. SS Didi Gregorius
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Michael Pineda

There is no rain in the forecast tonight even though it has been raining on and off pretty much all day in New York. It is cold and cloudy though, so it’s not exactly a great night to sit up in the stands. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Alex Rodriguez (hamstring) has something that is slightly more severe than a Grade I strain. The hope is he will only miss the minimum 15 days, but it will probably be longer.

Chapman Update: Aroldis Chapman struck out all three batters he faced in an Extended Spring Training today, says Erik Boland. It was his final tune-up appearance before joining the Yankees Monday. A scout told Boland Chapman looks big league ready.

2016 Draft: Baseball America’s Mock Draft v2.0

Earlier today the crew at Baseball America posted their second mock draft of the season. They have the Phillies taking Florida LHP A.J. Puk with the first pick in what could be a draft pool saving selection. The Phils could take Puk, sign him quickly and below slot, then redirect the savings towards other picks. The Astros did that a few times in recent years.

The Yankees hold the 18th overall selection and Baseball America currently has them taking New York HS RHP Ian Anderson. He’s from Shenendehowa up near Albany. MLB.com ranked Anderson as the No. 11 prospect in the draft class. Here’s the nuts and bolts of their free scouting report:

Tall and projectable with the ability to add strength, Anderson throws his fastball in the 91-95 mph range with good downhill angle. His breaking ball can be plus at times, getting swings and misses. It has slurve action at this point, but could tighten up and become a true slider in time. Anderson has good feel for an average changeup as well. He’s generally around the strike zone and attacks hitters.

It’s worth noting Anderson is committed to Vanderbilt, which has a history of getting its recruits to put off pro ball and come to school. It typically takes an above-slot bonus to keep kids away from Vandy. That’s how Dellin Betances landed a $1M bonus as an eighth rounder back in 2006. He was ticketed for Vanderbilt.

The Yankees haven’t had a lot of success developing projectable high school arms like Anderson in recent years, which is why they’ve started to skew towards college players. That isn’t to say they definitely would not draft Anderson this June, just that it would be going against the grain. We’ll see.

Baseball America had the Yankees taking California HS RHP Kevin Gowdy in their first mock draft last month. Gowdy seems much more up New York’s alley. Here’s my write-up on him. The mock draft is not behind the paywall, so make sure you check it out. Good way to keep tabs on each player’s stock.

5/6 to 5/8 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time this season, the Yankees are playing a team for the second time. The Red Sox will be in the Bronx for a three-game series this weekend. As I’m sure you know, the BoSox swept the Yankees in Boston last weekend. I figured I would remind you of that just in case you wiped it from your memory.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Red Sox just took two of three from the White Sox in Chicago, dropping the first game then winning the last two. They’ve won nine of their last eleven games overall. Boston is currently 17-11 with a +26 run differential on the season. They’re a half-game up on the O’s for first place in the AL East.

Offense & Defense

So far this season the Red Sox are averaging 5.25 runs per game with a team 123 wRC+, so yeah, they’re quite good offensively. Their only injured position player is 3B Pablo Sandoval, who had shoulder surgery earlier this week and is done for the season. Something tells me the BoSox are not too upset about that.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Hanley. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

DH David Ortiz (189 wRC+) remains the centerpiece in manager John Farrell’s lineup. The supporting cast includes RF Mookie Betts (94 wRC+), 2B Dustin Pedroia (140 wRC+), and SS Xander Bogaerts (125 wRC+). Those four hit in the top four spots of the lineup game after game. 1B Hanley Ramirez (103 wRC+) and 3B Travis Shaw (142 wRC+) hit fifth and sixth.

At the bottom of the lineup the Red Sox typically run LF Brock Holt (111 wRC+), C Christian Vazquez (66 wRC+), and CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (126 wRC+) out there. Ex-Yankee OF Chris Young (55 wRC+) will start against southpaws, but since CC Sabathia is not scheduled to start this series, we probably won’t see him this weekend. C Ryan Hanigan (45 wRC+) and IF Josh Rutledge (126 wRC+) are the two other bench players in addition to Young. The Sawx are only carrying three reserves.

Since these two teams played just last weekend, I’m going to copy and past what I wrote about Boston’s defense in the previous series preview:

On defense, the BoSox have above-average defenders up the middle in Vazquez, Pedroia, and Bradley. Bradley and Vazquez are truly elite defenders. Bogaerts has improved over the last year or so but is still closer to average than great. Betts has looked lost at times in right — he’s made some great catches thanks to pure athleticism — and Holt’s been adequate in left. Shaw and Hanley are no bueno on the infield corners.

So yeah, nothing has changed. The Red Sox haven’t made any call-ups on the position player side over the last week.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (vs. NYY)
Porcello, 27, is off to a nice start this season after his first year with the BoSox did not go so well. He owns a 2.76 ERA (3.59 FIP) in five starts and 32.2 innings with career best strikeout (28.1%) and walk (4.7%) rates. His 49.4% ground ball is also above-average, yet he has been dinger prone early on (1.38 HR/9). Porcello has historically been more effective against righties than lefties. He lives off a sinker right around 90 mph, and so far this season he’s preferred his low-80s changeup to his low-70s curveball. He’ll also throw some mid-80s cutters/sliders. Last weekend Porcello held the Yankees scoreless over seven innings.

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. BOS) vs. LHP David Price (vs. NYY)
Depending on your point of view, Price has either been really bad (6.14 ERA) or really good (2.88 FIP) in his first six starts and 36.2 innings with the Red Sox. Peripheral stats are nice, but, at the end of the day, the name of the game is keeping runs off the board. Price has has great strikeout (30.6%) and walk (5.6%) numbers, though he doesn’t get many grounders (40.0%) and you can take him yard (0.98 HR/9). His platoon split has generally been pretty small. Price, 30, is sitting around 93 mph with his four-seamer and sinker these days, and about 89 mph with his cutter. A low-80s changeup is his main secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in a few low-70s curveballs per start. The Yankees tagged Price for six runs in seven innings last week, though Alex Rodriguez did a lot of that damage, and he’s currently on the DL. Life is pain.

(Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Price. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Sunday (8pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Steven Wright (vs. NYY)
The 31-year-old Wright is in the rotation because Joe Kelly (shoulder) and Eduardo Rodriguez (knee) are both currently on the DL. He has a 1.67 ERA (3.22 FIP) in five starts and 32.1 innings this year. Early on he’s gotten a lot of strikeouts (23.0%) and a decent amount of grounders (43.5%), though his homer rate is way low (0.28 HR/9) and his walk rate (11.1%) is way high. Expect that homer rate to climb in the coming weeks. Knuckleballers are historically homer prone. Wright throws his floater about 80% of the time and it clocks in at the mid-70s. His get-me-over fastball sits around 83 mph, and he’ll flip a few upper-60s curveballs per start just to mess around with the hitters. I am not looking forward to hearing how facing a knuckleballer can screw up your swing for a few days. Gimme a break.

Bullpen Status

For whatever reason the Red Sox are carrying eight relievers at the moment. I guess they’re concerned about not getting length from some of their starters, specifically lefty Henry Owens, who lasted only three innings yesterday. Here is Farrell’s bullpen:

RHP Matt Barnes: 14.2 IP, 14 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 7 BB, 14 K, 1 HR (19 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Heath Hembree: 10.1 IP, 10 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K, 0 HR (43 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Craig Kimbrel: 13 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 22 K, 2 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 12 pitches Weds.)
LHP Tommy Layne: 5 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 1 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
LHP Robbie Ross Jr.: 13 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 13 K, 1 HR (34 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Carson Smith: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Junichi Tazawa: 10 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 1 HR (19 pitches Thurs., 0 pitches Weds.)
RHP Koji Uehara: 13.1 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 15 K, 0 HR (0 pitches Thurs., 11 pitches Weds.)

Smith, who was one of the best relievers in baseball last season, was activated off the DL the other day. He was not active for the series in Boston last weekend. Smith suffered a flexor muscle strain in Spring Training. Same thing Andrew Miller had last year.

Farrell likes to give his relievers set innings, and right now Tazawa is his seventh inning guy and Uehara is his eighth inning guy behind Kimbrel in the ninth. They’re easing Smith back into things for now, but he is expected to take over as the fireman once he gets the thumbs up. Layne is a true lefty specialist, not someone who will throw a full inning.

You can see the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. Everyone is pretty well rested. This is also the last series the Yankees will play without Aroldis Chapman. His suspension is up Monday.

Yankees place CC Sabathia on 15-day DL with groin strain, call up Phil Coke

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

3:54pm: Joe Girardi told reporters this afternoon Sabathia hurt himself in the fourth inning of Wednesday’s game. He didn’t say anything until after the game, however. Nova will indeed move into the rotation and start in Sabathia’s place. The timetable for Sabathia is about three weeks, says Girardi.

2:24pm: Earlier this week CC Sabathia had his best start in about three years, so, naturally, he was placed on the 15-day DL with a left groin strain today, the Yankees announced. We’re not allowed to have nice things. Phil Coke has been called up to fill the roster spot. Definitely never expected to write that sentence again.

Sabathia threw seven shutout innings against the Orioles two nights ago. I have no idea when he got hurt, but Sabathia has been known to pitch through pain, so it could have happened during that start. He’s pitched with a bone spur in his elbow, a hamstring strain, and all sorts of knee problems over the years.

In all likelihood Ivan Nova will step into the rotation to replace Sabathia. Luis Cessa and Chad Green, both of whom came over in the Justin Wilson trade, are pitching well in Triple-A and are rotation candidates as well. It’s unclear how long Sabathia will be sidelined. Hopefully it’s only two weeks and not any longer.

My guess is Coke is a stopgap. The Yankees signed him out of an independent league last week where he had been working as a starter, so he’s stretched out to 70 pitches or so. Coke will replace Nova as the long man. Aroldis Chapman is due to return Monday and that may be the end of Coke’s second stint in pinstripes.

Sabathia, 35, has a 3.81 ERA (3.51 FIP) in five starts and 28.1 innings this season. He’s been the Yankees’ second best starter overall. Sabathia’s vesting option for 2017 is based on the health of his shoulder, not his groin, so this injury doesn’t change anything.

Yankeemetrics: Finding new ways to lose [May 3-5]

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Leads are overrated
The Yankee bats went back into a deep freeze in the series opener, losing 4-1, as they dropped to 8-16 on the season with a whopping negative-34 run differential. That’s their third-worst run differential through 24 games in franchise history; the only worse marks came in 1984 (-40) and 1911 (-36).

The Yankees used to own Camden Yards, compiling the best win percentage (.646) among American League teams at the ballpark during its first 21 years of existence, from 1992-2012. Since then, the script was flipped and the Yankees had the worst record there among AL squads, falling to 8-21 (.276) following the series-opening loss.

The frustration level with this team grows even deeper when you consider that the Yankees – who took a 1-0 lead in the second inning – had actually scored first in more games (14) than their opponents (10). Once again on Tuesday they failed to pad that early lead and left little margin for error in the middle-to-late innings. After the game, the Yankees ranked a respectable fifth in the league in scoring in the first three innings, but were dead last – by a good margin – in runs scored from innings four through nine.

Another telling stat that pretty much sums up the team’s feeble offense in this first month? At the conclusion of Tuesday’s slate, the three players with the fewest runs scored among batting title qualifiers were all Yankees: Chase Headley (two), Didi Gregorius (four) and Starlin Castro (five). The trio had come to the plate a combined 251 times, and scored a mere 11 runs.

Luis Severino looked nothing like a future ace, giving up four runs in six innings as he fell to 0-4 with an unsightly 6.31 ERA. The only other Yankee pitcher in the last 35 years to be 0-4 or worse in their first five starts of the season and have an ERA above 6.00 was Chien-Ming Wang in 2009.

What is this thing you call home plate? (AP Photo)
What is this thing you call home plate? (AP Photo)

#ClutchCC
It was finally time to celebrate on Wednesday night after the Yankees put an end to a bevy of miserable streaks in beating the Orioles, 7-0. Entering the game, they had:

  • lost six straight and 14 of their last 18 games overall, their worst 18-game stretch since the end of the 2000 campaign
  • lost six straight road games, their longest road losing streak within a single season since 2007
  • lost six straight games against the Orioles, their longest losing streak versus the team since an eight-gamer spanning the 1996-97 seasons

CC Sabathia, who pitched his best game in more than three years, also joined the streak-busting party by throwing seven scoreless innings to get his first win in Baltimore since May 19, 2011. He was 0-5 with a 5.65 ERA in his past eight starts at Camden Yards before Wednesday’s gem. His streak of eight straight winless starts there was the second-longest by any visiting pitcher, and his five consecutive losses was the longest losing streak by a visiting pitcher in the history of the ballpark.

Sabathia delivered a vintage, turn-back-the-clock performance, reminding folks of the days when he was the team’s bona fide ace and the guy you wanted on the mound to stop a lengthy losing streak. This was the fourth time in his nine seasons in pinstripes that Sabathia had pitched in a game with the Yankees on a losing streak of four games or more; he’s snapped that streak in each of those four starts, going 4-0 with a 0.86 ERA – that’s three earned runs allowed in 31 1/3 innings.

His relied heavily on his changeup to combat the Orioles’ right-heavy lineup and it was a true difference-maker for him. He threw 21 changeups, nearly double the amount he’d thrown in any of his previous four starts this season. The Orioles were 0-for-8 in at-bats ending in a changeup, including four strikeouts, and whiffed on eight of their 13 swings.

Those numbers are even more staggering considering how ineffective his changeup was this season prior to Wednesday. In his first four starts, he had just five total whiffs on the 36 changeups he threw, and opposing batters hit a whopping .556 and slugged .667 against the pitch.

When you come to a fork in the road …
A win streak was too much to ask for from the baseball gods as the Yankees dropped the final game of their nine-game road trip in heart-breaking — and historic — fashion, losing 1-0 on a sac fly in the 10th inning. This was about as rare (and depressing) a loss you can find:

  • It was the first time in franchise history the Yankees lost a 1-0 walk-off game against the Orioles in Baltimore.
  • The Yankees hadn’t been shut out in an extra-inning loss to this franchise since July 21, 1943, when they were the St. Louis Browns.
  • With just four hits and a walk, it was the Yankees fewest baserunners in an extra-inning shutout loss since August 20, 1941 vs. the Tigers.
  • The last time the Yankees lost on a walk-off sac fly in extra innings versus any team was May 24, 2002 in Boston.

And before Thursday night, the Yankees had never lost 1-0 via a walk-off sac fly (since the stat became official in 1954).

On a more positive note … Masahiro Tanaka dominated the Orioles lineup, scattering five singles over eight scoreless innings while striking out seven. He now has at least four strikeouts and allowed no more than two earned runs in each of his six starts this season. That matches the longest such streak to start a season in Yankees history, a mark set by Whitey Ford in 1956.

Tanaka also reached a nice and round milestone in this game, making his 50th career start as a major-leaguer. Three other pitchers who made their debuts in the last 100 years compiled as many strikeouts (315) and wins (26) in their first 50 career games as Tanaka: Roger Clemens, Dwight Gooden and Yu Darvish.

Mailbag: Cashman, Mateo, Chapman, Pineda, Sanchez

We’ve got 14 questions in the mailbag this week. Remember to use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us any questions or comments.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Mark asks (short version): Should the Yankees fire Brian Cashman?

I am on the fence about this and right now I lean towards no. Cashman has been the best big market GM in baseball over the last two decades — teams like the Phillies, Angels, and Red Sox have shown it takes a lot more than a big payroll to be successful — and he’s spent most of his time operating under the “World Series or bust” mandate. That’s tough.

Cashman has his flaws like everyone else. The Jacoby Ellsbury and Chase Headley contracts are disasters, though every big market team has bad contracts on the books. You can’t run a payroll over $170M+ without spending big on free agents, and sometimes those deals go wrong. That’s baseball. The bigger issue is the team’s lack of success with their high draft picks, particularly the first rounders.

The Yankees have mitigated those problems by having success in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, hitting on other free agent signings (Andrew Miller, Brian McCann, etc.), and almost never making a trade they regret. The last trade that is a clear loss for the Yankees is what, Tyler Clippard for Jonathan Albaladejo? I guess Mark Melancon (and Jimmy Paredes) for Lance Berkman is more recent. Cashman’s trade track record speaks for itself.

That said, the Yankees stink, and ultimately the blame falls on the shoulders of the GM. Cashman said so himself the other day. He’s been at this a long time and eventually you get to the point where a new set of eyes with a fresh set of ideas becomes necessary. I am a proponent of total overhauls. If you’re going to fire the GM, fire everyone and start over with a new regime. After all, the GM is only a manager. The people who work under him do the leg work.

Cashman has been a very success big market GM and the Yankees have a ton of money coming off the books in the near future, and you can see the next core beginning to take shape in Starlin Castro, Luis Severino, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, and Gary Sanchez. There are a lot of questions there, sure. There are going to be questions with every rebuild though. Those guys are all either at Triple-A or in the show, so they’re close to having an impact and there’s less guesswork involved.

The 2003 Tigers were the worst team I’ve seen, and yet, three years later, the 2006 Tigers won the pennant. It’s possible to rebuild quickly and I do think Cashman can do that. I understand wanting a new GM, I totally get it. I guess I just have no idea who would be better. And I’m worried ownership will bring in a figurehead GM they can push around and effectively take over the baseball decisions.

David asks: Any chance Gene Michael can get involved to turn things around? Letting CANO go, instead signing Ellsbury, not trying for Scherzer or Zimmerman. Hard to believe Girardi’s really that optimistic-this is a bad team. Do the Steinbrenners want to win or just get under $200 million?

Gene Michael is involved. He’s one of Cashman’s special advisors. It was reportedly Michael who pushed to acquire Didi Gregorius, for example. I’m also pretty sure he was the main front office voice pushing to trade Phil Hughes for Johan Santana back in the day. Michael is 77 years old and it’s been more than 20 years since he’s been a GM. He’s not going to step in and fix everything just because he led the rebuild while George Steinbrenner was suspended in the early-1990s.

Arjun asks: Assuming the shift works as intended and BABIP has remained steady as you pointed out, are strikeouts the main reason that offense has declined? If the shift wasn’t around, do you think we would see mid-00 level offense today given the BABIP would probably increase?

I don’t think it’s one specific reason. Strikeouts are a part of it for sure. Ten years ago the league average strikeout rate was 17.1%. This year it’s 21.3% in the early going. There are roughly 76 plate appearances per game these days, so right now we’re seeing roughly 3.2 more strikeouts per game than we were ten years ago. That’s a lot, isn’t it? Fewer balls in play overall means less runs are scoring, absolutely.

There are other factors though. Shifts are one of them, as are improved scouting reports, more specialized relievers, and harder throwing pitchers. Throwing hard doesn’t automatically mean blowing it by someone. The extra velocity could mean weak contact instead of a pitch being squared up. The league average soft contact rate right now is 19.1%. Ten years ago it was 18.2%. I also think teams may be calling up position players before they’re fully ready too. That has always happened, but it may be happening more often nowadays. I have nothing to prove that. Just a guess.

I think it’s only a matter of time until MLB lowers the mound again. I have no idea how much they would lower it or how long they’ll wait to lower it, but it seems inevitable. Expansion does not seem imminent — historically there is an offensive spike in expansion years — so lowering the mound figures to happen before more teams are added to the league. Eliminating the shift would increase offense to some degree. That’s not the only reason scoring is down though.

Mateo. (Jerry Coli)
Mateo. (Jerry Coli)

Nicholas asks: Without checking the stats (which is easy enough to do, I know), it sure appears like Mateo is both running less and running with less success (more pickoffs and CSs) than last year. Any chance all the notoriety has led to opponents better understanding his tendencies, etc. and it’s unlikely we’ll see the overwhelming base stealing success we saw last year (perhaps itself an unfair expectation)?

He is running less. Mateo is 8-for-16 in stolen base attempts through 25 games this year after going 82-for-99 (83%) last year, including 21-for-26 (81%) in his first 25 games. I never really expected the 82 steals thing to happen again — that’s a huge number and no one does it annually anymore — but I didn’t expect Mateo to scale back this much. It could be the result of the other teams focusing on him more, though minor rosters and coaching staffs change so much year-to-year that I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.

It’s possible the Yankees told Mateo to relax a bit and not steal each time he reaches base as a way of keeping him healthy and fresh in the second half. Stealing bases can wear players down and it’s dangerous too. It’s real easy to jam fingers and wrists and get stepped on and all that. This is just a theory. I’m not sure if this is actually what happened. I’m not too worried about it though. As long as he still has the 80 raw speed and is now adding power to his game, I’m happy.

Matt asks: Let’s add another ugly contract to the list to swap Ellsbury for, how about Justin Verlander? He’s owed a ton of money, and Gose/Maybin isn’t exactly inspiring out there in Detroit. Gotta think Detroit wants out of that one, no?

I expected Verlander to have a big rebound season this year, and, well, he has a 6.49 ERA (4.92 FIP) in 34.2 innings. So much for that. The future Mr. Kate Upton is owed $112M through 2019, so he’s owed basically the same money as Ellsbury, only with one fewer year on the contract. The Tigers could use a center fielder and leadoff hitter, and the Yankees could use pitching in the way every team could use pitching.

The problem with an Ellsbury-for-Verlander trade is Verlander’s status as a legacy Detroit Tiger. They’re going to retire his number and stick his name up on a wall somewhere when it’s all said and done. That has value to the Tigers in terms of ticket sales and marketing and merchandise and all that. Ellsbury offers none of that. I do expect Ellsbury to perform better than Verlander going forward, but I can’t imagine the Tigers would trade away one of their biggest stars and most marketable players in a bad contract for bad contract deal.

Andrew asks: If Pineda continues to pitch this poorly is there any chance the Yankees do not offer him arbitration at the end of the year and let him walk as a free agent? I apologize for the wording I used. I’m not 100% on how this situation works out while a player is under team control.

Nah. I can’t imagine the Yankees would non-tender Michael Pineda after the season, not unless he suffers a major injury that would sideline him for all of 2017. There’s no sense keeping him in that case because he would qualify for free agency after 2017 anyway, so you’d be paying him a year to sit out, basically. Pineda is only making $4.3M this season, so his salary next year will be in the $7M range, and that’s nothing. That’s broken down Doug Fister money. If anything, the Yankees would offer Pineda arbitration and trade him rather than non-tender him and let him walk as a free agent.

Bruce asks: Do the Yankees have any recourse to keep Chapman inactive past the 30 day deadline, killing his free agency? Similar to what the Cubs did with Bryant to gain the extra year of control and with the Yankees playing so bad, I imagine his trade value would skyrocket even more if they had the power to hold him down just a little longer.

Nope. He has to be activated as soon as the suspension is over, and because Aroldis Chapman has more than five years of service time, he can refuse an assignment to the minors. There’s nothing the Yankees can do to delay his free agency. The only way Chapman’s free agency can be delayed now is with another suspension, and that’s another problem entirely. The extra year of team control would definitely increase his trade value. The Yankees knew coming in this was a one-year thing though.

Pounder asks: Is it time to take another peek at acquiring Mark Reynolds? What would the Rockies want in return, perhaps a change of scenery would be beneficial for Headley.

Reynolds is the very definition of a replacement level player these days. He hits the occasional home run and can stand at first base and maybe third base, and that’s about it. No way would I a) give up something of value to get him, or b) stick him at third base full-time even with Headley struggling so much. Reynolds strikes me as the type of player you pick up for cash or a player to be forgotten later in the season, once the Rockies decide to sell. Go with Rob Refsnyder at third before Reynolds.

Chris asks: Lets say the losing goes on for another month or so. Do you think the fans could handle a Fire sale? If so could we start a petition?

Casual fans still dominate the market, and most casual fans hate the idea of a fire sale and being bad on purpose even if it is in the team’s best interests. They usually complain about losing seasons and think the solution is signing the best free agents. It’s not just Yankees fans, it’s fans of every team in every sport. I think the RAB community would handle a fire sale just fine, but we’re in the minority among fans.

Chris asks: How likely is the complete black hole we call the Yankees offense attributable to the loss of Kevin Long? The Mets were 8th in HRs last year and are 4th this year.

I’m one of those folks who doesn’t think the hitting coach has nearly as much impact as many seem to think. Are they important? Sure. Is firing one and hiring another the cure for the offense? Nope. It never is. Long has a history of getting players to tap into their power potential — he did it with Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson, most notably — and he’s done exactly that in Flushing with guys like Michael Conforto and Daniel Murphy. Murphy’s power was up big time late last year and it’s carried over to this year. Conforto’s hitting for more power than expected too.

I would be a lot more excited about the long-term offensive outlook of some of the Yankees’ young players (Castro, Judge, Sanchez, Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, etc.) if they had kept Long around, but I don’t think the offense stinks because he’s gone. I think it stinks because the veteran regulars are up there in age and are seeing their production slip. It happens. I didn’t think Long should have been fired two years ago, but the Yankees needed a scapegoat, and when the offense stalls out, the hitting coach usually gets the axe.

McCann. (Presswire)
McCann. (Presswire)

George asks: Is McCann’s contract tradeable? Do you think the Yankees would even look to trade him?

I think McCann as a player is very valuable, even with his flaws as a hitter. He still has power and will draw walks, and his defense behind the plate remains solid. He’d be an upgrade behind the plate for what, 25 teams in the league? How many teams can afford a $17M a year catcher though? That’s a sticking point. The Rangers seems like an obvious fit, and maybe the Tigers and Nationals too. I don’t think the Yankees would be opposed to trading McCann at all. I think they’d set the price fairly high though, perhaps too high given his salary. Quality catching is very hard to find these days.

Jordan asks: When is it time to call up Gary Sanchez? He’s been hitting at AAA and any sort of offensive boost would be welcome right about now. If Sanchez hits, it would allow McCann to take a day off (or, with A-Rod out, a half-day off) without the offense taking too much of a hit.

Assuming I counted right, Sanchez’s 35th day in the minors will be Sunday, meaning the Yankees could call him up Monday and have his free agency pushed back a year. He’s having a typical Gary Sanchez offensive year in Triple-A (.271/.326/.506, 144 wRC+) and I’m pretty sure he’d out-hit Austin Romine in the big leagues right now. The Alex Rodriguez injury also opens some DH at-bats too.

McCann slumped hard for a few weeks after taking that foul pitch to the toe, though he’s come on of late, and he’s going to get most of the playing time behind the plate. Is it better to let Sanchez play two or three times a week in the show or everyday in Triple-A? I think you can make an argument both ways. Now, if the Yankees do continue to fall out of the race, they should absolutely call Sanchez up and play him regularly in the second half. Let him split time with McCann behind the plate and grab a few DH starts too. They’re not at that point yet though.

Ruby asks: The rotation is exasperating, the bullpen doesn’t (really) need another stud reliever, Chapman has 3 plus plus pitches and has the physique of a workhorse starter. Why not put Chapman in the rotation? The Yankees are in last place and have nothing to lose. His fastball velocity would drop to what? 98? It could be electric and fill those empty seats at the Stadium.

Some Reds fans I know are still upset the Reds never gave Chapman a chance to start in the big leagues. He did start in the minors, though he came down with a shoulder issue and that more or less put an end to that. Chapman is never going to start a game but I do think he has the stuff to do it if given the chance. My only concern is the walks. The guy has a career 12.2% walk rate out of the bullpen. Between the strikeouts and walks, his pitch count will get up there in a hurry, so he might be a five and fly pitcher. I think Chapman could do it though. It’s just never going to happen. Not in New York and not anywhere else. The suspension would have been the perfect time to stretch him out, right?

Marc asks: You had mentioned Big Papi as a pick for the HOF, yet Sheffield is getting no love. Careers are remarkably similar. What is the deal?

Let’s start with a side-by-side comparison of their stats:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR RBI fWAR bWAR
Ortiz 9,569 .285/.378/.548 139 509 1,663 47.2 51.6
Sheffield 10,947 .292/.393/.514 141 509 1,676 62.1 60.3

At his peak, Gary Sheffield was more a devastating hitter than David Ortiz. Sheffield’s seven-year peak was a 160 wRC+ from 1995-2001. Ortiz’s is a 144 wRC+ from 2005-11. Sheffield did give a lot of value back defensive, it should be noted. Ortiz doesn’t have that problem.

The difference between the two comes down to Ortiz’s clutch reputation and his persona. People love him. Also, he had a hand in breaking the Red Sox’s curse and won some other World Series titles too. Sheffield was a bit of a grump who was a jerk to many of the Hall of Fame voters, and that will work against him.

If you sat down with someone who knew nothing about baseball and told them the history of the game, you could skip right over Sheffield. You can’s skip over Ortiz. They might be statistically similar, but the reputation and general likeability of Ortiz is going to get him into the Hall of Fame.