The Yanks are reportedly looking for a third baseman because Chase Headley isn’t giving them much of a choice

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

At some point soon, perhaps tomorrow, the Yankees will get some help at first base. Their first basemen have hit a combined .162/.275/.288 (32 OPS+) so far this season, which is easily the worst production from the position in baseball. Thankfully both Tyler Austin and Greg Bird are on minor league rehab assignments, and Austin could be activated very soon. Bird shouldn’t be too far behind.

Third base is another matter. Everyone is healthy and the Yankees have still received a .223/.292/.330 (68 OPS+) batting line from the position. And that’s with Chase Headley‘s amazing April. He’s crashed hard these last six or seven weeks. It’s actually pretty amazing the Yankees are in first place with the second best run differential in the league despite getting so little from the corner infield positions.

Anyway, according to Nick Cafardo, the Yankees are in the market for a new third baseman. “The Yankees are shopping for a third baseman, according to major league sources,” says Cafardo’s one-sentence report. We’ve already heard the Yankees are grooming Gleyber Torres to take over at the hot corner this year, and now we’re hearing they’re looking for outside help. Let’s talk about this.

1. Does this pass the sniff test? The important question with every rumor. Yes, this one passes the sniff test. Headley has been terrible and it’s only logical that the Yankees would look for an upgrade, especially since they’re in contention. Maybe if they were having the down rebuilding year many expected, they wouldn’t worry about it too much and ride things out with Headley until Torres or whoever was ready. That isn’t the case though. Third base is a major weakness for a first place team, and that first place team is looking for help.

2. What are the conditions? Now, that all said, I don’t think the Yankees are going to go all out for third base help. They’re still identifying themselves as a team in transition with a focus on getting younger. Also, the plan to get under the luxury tax threshold soon (i.e. 2018) is still very much in place. That means these two statements are very likely true:

  1. The Yankees are not going to take on a sizeable multi-year contract.
  2. The Yankees aren’t going to trade any of their top prospects.

There are always exceptions — I don’t think they’d run away if, say, the Mariners made Kyle Seager available — though for the most part, I think those two statements are true. The Yankees are not going to trade their best prospects and they’re not going to jeopardize the plan to get under the luxury tax threshold. Other considerations like handedness (a lefty would help balance the lineup) and hitting style (high strikeout vs. high contact, etc.) are secondary.

3. So who’s available? Alright, let’s get down to business. The Yankees reportedly want a new third baseman, so would could be available? The best place to start is always with the last place teams since they’re most likely to sell, though I get the sense the Blue Jays won’t be open to trading Josh Donaldson to the Yankees. Here is a preliminary list of third base trade candidates, listed alphabetically:

  • Todd Frazier, White Sox: A solid defender and he’ll be a free agent after the season, which fits the luxury tax plan, but he’s also hitting .195/.306/.396 (88 wRC+). Name value > actual production.
  • David Freese, Pirates: Hitting .258/.361/.411 (109 wRC+) this year with his usual okay-ish defense. Freese is owed a reasonable $4.25M next year with a $6M option for 2019.
  • Jed Lowrie, Athletics: Lowrie, a switch-hitter, was a regular third baseman as recently as 2015, and he’s hitting .293/.360/.483 (132 wRC+). His contract includes a $6M option for 2018. Hmmm.
  • Mike Moustakas, Royals: Almost certainly the best third baseman likely to be available. He’s a rental, he’s hitting .255/.295/.510 (109 wRC+), and he can play the hell out of the hot corner.
  • Martin Prado, Marlins: Currently on the DL with a nagging hamstring issue that has limited him to only 17 games this year. Prado is owed $28.5M from 2018-19, which is a bit of a problem.
  • Trevor Plouffe, Athletics: Meh. Another rental, so that’s good, but Plouffe is hitting .216/.278/.351 (71 wRC+) and has been trending downward for a while now. Plus he’s a crummy defender.
  • Yangervis Solarte, Padres: Never Nervous Yangervis is hitting .250/.329/.353 (86 wRC+) while primarily playing second base this year. He’s due $4.125M next year with club options for 2019 ($5.5M) and 2020 ($8M).

So that’s the list for now. Things can and will change in the coming weeks as teams fall out of the race/get back into it, players get hurt, rookies emerge, that sort of thing. I’d say Freese and Prado are the least likely players on that list to be traded before the deadline.

The way I see it, Frazier is the big name, Moustakas is the best player, and Lowrie is the most sensible target. The Yankees might be able to pry Lowrie loose without trading one of their top ten prospects, and he wouldn’t threaten the luxury tax plan since this is the final guaranteed year on his contract. Both Ken Rosenthal and Susan Slusser say the A’s are likely to trade him. Hmmm indeed.

Moose tacos. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Moose tacos. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

4. Whither Headley? Okay, so the Yankees go out and get a new third baseman. What do they do with their old third baseman? Pretty much the only thing they can do. Turn him into a bench player. Headley would be a backup at first and third bases, and maybe a defensive replacement at the hot corner in the late innings, depending who the Yankees acquire. (Plouffe would need a defensive caddy, for example.)

Last season the Yankees showed they are willing to reduce a pricey veteran’s playing time when a better option emerges. Brian McCann lost playing time to Gary Sanchez. Mark Teixeira lost playing time to Tyler Austin. That said, pushing aside a veteran for an up-and-coming kid is different than pushing aside a veteran for another veteran picked up in a trade. I don’t think the Yankees will have any trouble doing that though. The Yankees are out there looking for third base help because Headley is forcing them to.

5. Whither Gleyber? I can see it now. The Yankees trade for a third baseman and everyone wonders why they didn’t just call up Torres. “The Yankees hate young players!” will be said by someone, somewhere, as Sanchez and Aaron Judge hit balls to the moon and Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery start two out of every five days. It’s inevitable. If the Yankees add a veteran, many folks will wonder why they blocked Torres. Take it to the bank.

In reality though, Torres is a 20-year-old who has played only 43 games above Single-A ball. He’s a very good 20-year-old! But he’s still a 20-year-old. And his first two weeks in Triple-A have produced an .194/.356/.222 (80 wRC+) batting line and four errors in eleven games. Trading for a veteran third baseman and keeping Torres in Triple-A would be a completely reasonable move that would in no way indicate the Yankees have soured on Gleyber or anything like that. The Yankees are reportedly grooming Torres to take over at third base, but only if he forces the issue. Right now, he’s not.

* * *

The longer the Yankees stay in the race and the longer Headley continues to do this, the louder the cries with be for a new third baseman, whether it’s Torres or a trade target or whoever. Now that we’re into June, trade discussions figure to heat up as the rebuilders resign themselves to, well, another year of rebuilding. My guess is the Yankees would prefer to go with Torres at third base later this year, so I think they’ll be patient, see how Gleyber adjusts to Triple-A, and let the third base trade market come to them over the next few weeks.

Yankeemetrics: Power up, Pineda down (June 1-4)

(Getty)
(Getty)

El Gary dropping bombs
Fresh off a depressing series loss in Baltimore, the Yankees headed to Toronto on Thursday and bounced back in style as they routed the Blue Jays, 12-2. It was their first double-digit win at the Rogers Center in 13 years – since Aug. 28, 2004, a game that featured Tony Clark’s three-homer outburst and a nine-run ninth inning en route to a 18-6 victory.

The offensive fireworks were fueled by Gary Sanchez and Aaron Hicks, who combined to drive in nine of the team’s 12 runs. Sanchez crushed two mammoth homers into the second deck in left field: the first one traveled 440 feet and had an exit velocity of 113 mph; the second one measured at 434 feet and left the bat at 112 mph.

Only two other players in the last three seasons have hit two homers in the same game that went at least 430 feet with an exit velo of 110-mph or more: Giancarlo Stanton (May 7 this year and July 6, 2016) and Mark Trumbo (June 2, 2016).

Remarkably, each of Sanchez’s six longballs this season have gone at least 425 feet. That gave him an early first-place ranking on the average home run distance leaderboard (434 feet) among players with at least five dingers this season.

And here’s an even more impressive feat: this was Sanchez’s fourth big-league game with two homers, making him the first player in major-league history to have four multi-homer games as a catcher this early into a career (82nd game).

Sanchez, though, had to share the spotlight with the scorching-hot Aaron Hicks, who went 4-for-5 and drove in a career-best six runs. He became the third Yankee centerfielder with at least four hits and six RBIs in any game, joining two legends – Bernie Williams (June 17, 2000) and Joe DiMaggio (five times!).

(AP)
(AP)

Small Mike
The Comeback Kings were denied another improbable win as the Yankees late inning rally fell short in their 7-5 loss on Friday night at the Rogers Centre.

Michael Pineda went from #BigMike to #BigMess with a season-high five runs allowed that snapped his nine-start streak of giving up three earned runs or fewer. That streak was one start shy of the longest by any pitcher in the majors this season.

Pineda’s early-game troubles re-surfaced as the Blue Jays belted two homers in first inning, the fifth and sixth he’s given up in the opening frame. His six first-inning homers allowed were tied for the most in MLB entering the weekend and opponents are slugging .674 against him in the first inning. So he basically turns every batter into Aaron Judge (.691 slugging through Friday) in the first inning. Not good, Mike.

Aaron Judge did Aaron Judge things in the sixth inning with a towering two-run blast into the rightfield seats, showing off his incredible all-fields power. That was his fifth opposite-field home run – tied for the most in the majors – and upped his opposite-field slugging percentage to an MLB-best 1.259(!).

(Getty)
(Getty)

Chicks dig the longball
The Yankees once again flexed their muscles in a 7-0 rout of the Blue Jays on Saturday afternoon for their largest shutout win at the Rogers Centre/SkyDome in nearly 20 years (8-0 win on July 5, 1997).

Their first four hits were doubles and their final four hits were homers, making this first game in Yankees history that they had at least eight hits and none of them were singles. In fact, only three other teams in major-league history have done that: Cardinals with eight in 2002, Tigers with eight in 2010, and Braves with nine in 1998. #FunFact

Those four longballs all came in the eighth inning, courtesy of Brett Gardner, Matt Holliday, Starlin Castro and Didi Gregorius.

It was the fourth time in franchise history that the Bronx Bombers hit four homers in a single inning. The first time it happened was June 30, 1977 … also in the eighth inning … against the Blue Jays … in Toronto (at Exhibition Stadium). The other two times were on June 21, 2005 against the Devil Rays and October 1, 2012 against the Red Sox, both of them at Yankee Stadium.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the eighth frame was that Aaron Judge was left out of the homer party. He did contribute a booming RBI double to center in the third inning, a bullet line drive that left his bat at 116 mph. It was his fifth hit with exit velocity of at least 116 mph; the other 1,000-plus MLB players this season had combined for seven such hits (through Saturday).

Overshadowed by the offensive fireworks was Jordan Montgomery‘s brilliant performance. He fired six scoreless innings and surrendered just three hits, the fourth time in 10 career starts that he’s given up no more than three hits.

That impressive outing earned the rookie southpaw a place in the franchise record books: Montgomery is the first pitcher in Yankees history to compile four starts of three-or-fewer hits allowed within his first 10 career games.

(AP)
(AP)

Two is not enough
Sunday’s disappointing loss dropped the Yankees to 3-4 halfway through their current 13-game stretch against AL East teams as they headed back to the Bronx to face the second-place Red Sox.

Taking a 2-0 lead into the sixth inning, the Yankees seemed primed to finish off their road trip on a high note. Entering Sunday they were 17-1 when leading by multiple runs at the end of the fifth inning, including a perfect 9-0 mark on the road.

Luis Severino was dominating the Blue Jays through five innings until Justin Smoak smoked (sorry!) an 85-mph slider 429 feet into the centerfield seats that tied the game at 2-2 in the sixth. The location of the pitch was obviously bad …

smoak-hr

… but that was a rare mistake with his signature breaking pitch this season. Severino had allowed an isolated power — that’s extra bases per at-bat — of just .061 on his slider entering Sunday, the fifth-lowest mark among starters (min. 200 pitches).

Aside from that blip, Severino was excellent, throwing seven innings of two-run ball while striking out seven. It was his seventh start this season with no more than two runs allowed and at least six strikeouts, putting him in some very impressive company: the only other pitchers this season with seven such starts are Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.

Fan Confidence Poll: June 5th, 2017

Record Last Week: 3-4 (40 RS, 28 RA)
Season Record: 32-22 (294 RS, 224 RA, 34-20 pythag. record)
Opponents This Week: Mon. OFF, vs. Red Sox (three games, Tues. to Thurs.), vs. Orioles (three games, Fri. at Sun.)

Top stories from last week:

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DotF: Bird continues rehab assignment in Tampa’s blowout win

Two quick roster notes:

  • At long last, RHP Ernesto Frieri is finally a free agent. The Yankees declined to call him up, Triple-A Scranton announced, which allows him to become a free agent. They had two days to add Frieri to the big league roster after he triggered his opt-out, and today was the deadline to do so.
  • In case you missed it earlier, the Yankees have traded IF Ruben Tejada to the Orioles for cash considerations. Chances Tejada gets a big hit against the Yankees at some point later this season? Annoyingly high.

Triple-A Scranton was rained out. The game has been canceled and will not be made up. I wonder what that means for 1B Tyler Austin‘s rehab. Will they keep him down an extra game to make sure he gets however many at-bats? We’ll see.

Double-A Trenton (5-4 loss to Richmond in 12 innings, walk-off style)

  • SS Thairo Estrada: 0-5, 1 HBP, 1 K, 1 CS
  • LF Jake Cave: 0-6, 1 K
  • 1B Mike Ford: 2-5, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Billy McKinney: 3-5, 1 2B, 1 BB — had been in a 2-for-17 (.117) rut
  • CF Rashad Crawford: 2-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 K, 1 SB — 15-for-51 (.294) in his last 16 games
  • 2B Abi Avelino: 1-4, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Domingo Acevedo: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 6/4 GB/FB — 60 of 83 pitches were strikes (72%) … he’s allowed five runs total in four starts and 25.1 innings since the promotion … 78/11 K/BB in 67.2 innings overall this season

[Read more…]

Yankees trade Ruben Tejada to Orioles for cash

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

The Yankees have traded infielder Ruben Tejada to the Orioles for cash considerations, the team announced. That likely means Tejada exercised an opt-out clause in his minor league contract, and rather than lose him for nothing, the Yankees found a team willing to add him to their roster, so they got some cash out of it.

Tejada, 27, hit .269/.345/.462 (125 wRC+) with six home runs in 37 games for Triple-A Scranton this season. The Yankees gave him a look for the utility infielder’s role following the Didi Gregorius injury in Spring Training, but that went to Pete Kozma, who was lost on waivers a few weeks ago. Now Tejada is gone too. He was not on the 40-man roster, by the way.

The recent Gleyber Torres promotion gave the RailRiders a few too many infielders, so the Tejada trade helps clear up that logjam. The Yankees still have Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder in MLB, Donovan Solano as veteran depth in Triple-A, and youngsters Tyler Wade and Torres in Triple-A as well.

Yankees let winnable game slip away, drop series finale 3-2 to Blue Jays

A pretty terrible loss, that was. Luis Severino gave the Yankees another marvelous outing, though a battle of the bullpens was lost as New York’s best reliever sat and watched. The Blue Jays won Sunday’s series finale 3-2. The Yankees went 3-4 on the seven-game road trip through Baltimore and Toronto.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Dominant Sevy
Sunday’s game promised to be a pitcher’s duel, and both starters delivered. Severino came out pumping 98 mph fastballs and 93 mph sliders (!), and it wasn’t until the third inning that the Blue Jays managed to hit the ball out of the infield. He pitched around a leadoff walk in the first, a two-out single in the third, a one-out double in the fourth, and a leadoff single in the fifth. Toronto had some baserunners, no doubt, but Severino escaped nearly every jam.

The one jam he did not escape came in the sixth inning. Severino got two quick ground outs from Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista before Kendrys Morales lined a single to left field. Morales had three lines drives against Severino. I’m pretty sure the rest of the Blue Jays had three line drives combined. With Morales at first and two outs, Severino hung a first pitch slider to Justin Smoak …

justin-smoak-luis-severino

… who promptly deposited it into the center field seats for a game-tying two-run home run. Smoak being good now is incredibly annoying. It’s bad enough he cost the Yankees Cliff Lee back in 2010, you know? Now he’s hitting game-tying dingers in 2017 after being awful from 2010-16? The nerve of that guy, man.

Anyway, Severino made an awful pitch, easily his worst of the game, and Smoak made him pay. He was able to pitch around a leadoff hit batsmen and a sac bunt in the seventh inning to finish his start with just those two runs allowed on six hits and one walk. Sevy struck out seven and got eleven ground ball outs compared to only three in the air. Smoak home run aside, Severino pitched very well again. He’s down to a 2.90 ERA (3.13 FIP) in eleven starts and 68.1 innings this year.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Manufacture Two Runs
Unfortunately Marcus Stroman held up his end of the pitcher’s duel bargain too. He retired ten of the first eleven batters he faced before the Yankees were able to build a run in the fourth. It was almost all Aaron Judge too. He stroked a single to right, stole second, then went to third when catcher Luke Maile’s throw sailed into center field. I could you could say he air-Maile-d it. (Sorry. So sorry.)

With Judge on third and one out, all Matt Holliday had to do to get the run in was lift a ball into the outfield. He did that and then some, hammering a double over Kevin Pillar’s head and off the wall in center field. Can you call it manufacturing a run when it involved crushing a ball off the wall? Sure, why not. Holliday doubled in Judge and the Yankees took a nice little 1-0 lead in the fourth inning.

It was in the sixth that they scored an insurance run, an insurance run that ultimately wasn’t enough. A Brett Gardner single and a Gary Sanchez walk put runners on first and second with no outs against a tiring Stroman. Judge’s fly ball to center was deep enough to allow Gardner to get to third, which was pretty huge. Holliday followed with what looked like a tailor-made 5-4-3 double play ball, though he was able to beat out the return throw to first, allowing Gardner to score. Holliday gave it all he had. He busted it down the line.

After the Sanchez walk, only one of the final dozen batters the Yankees sent to the plate reached base safely. That was Aaron Hicks, who filleted a leadoff single in the eighth. He was immediately erased on a Didi Gregorius double play ball. The final five Yankees to bat struck out. There would be no Fighting Spirit in this one. At least not from the road team.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Blown By The Bullpen
Joe Girardi‘s paint by numbers bullpen management meant that, in a tie game, eighth inning guy Tyler Clippard faced Donaldson, Bautista, and Morales in the eighth inning. I imagine most folks can take a step back, look at that situation, and determine you should use your best reliever. Right? A tie game in the eighth with the other club’s three best hitters due up is a more dire situation than having a lead of no more than three runs in the ninth.

Alas, Dellin Betances remained in the bullpen and ultimately did not pitch, because extreme fly ball pitcher Tyler Clippard allowed a fly ball to extreme power hitter Josh Donaldson. What are the odds? Clippard tried to sneak a 92 mph fastball by the former MVP upstairs and the former MVP did what former MVPs do to pitches like that. I dunno, man. If there was ever a time to reverse roles and let Betances face the meat of the order in the eighth and let Clippard potentially protect a lead (against the bottom of the lineup) in the ninth, that was it.

And who knows, maybe Betances blows it. But don’t you have to get your best relievers into the game in the most important situations? Dellin has pitched once in the last week (Saturday) and there’s an off-day Monday. Really, really annoying. It’s 2017. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that a manager be more flexible with his bullpen than “you’re the ninth inning guy, you’re the eighth inning guy,” and so on. The Yankees had a 2-0 lead with seven outs to go, and they lost without one of the best relievers in the world even warming up. Shrugs.

Leftovers
The Yankees only had six hits on the afternoon. The double by Holliday and singles by Gardner, Judge, Hicks, Gregorius, and Chase Headley. Sanchez drew the only walk. The Yankees were pretty aggressive on the bases too. Judge and Headley stole bases, and Gregorius was thrown out. They tried to make some things happen. Only the two runs though.

And finally … that’s it? Not much more to add to this game. Did I mention the Yankees were up 2-0 with seven outs to go and lost without Dellin Betances even warming up? Because the Yankees were up 2-0 with seven outs to go and lost without Dellin Betances even warming up.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Go to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, then back to ESPN for the updated standings. We have a Bullpen Workload page, so check that out too. Here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees are heading back to New York for a six-game homestand against the Red Sox and Orioles. More AL East rivals. But first, an off-day. There’s no game Monday. Masahiro Tanaka and Drew Pomeranz are the scheduled starters for Tuesday night’s series opener against the BoSox. RAB Tickets can get you into the ballpark for any of the six games on the homestand.

Sunday Open Thread

Here is an open thread for the rest of the weekend. The Cubs and Cardinals are the ESPN Sunday Night Game, and Game Two of the NBA Finals will be on later as well. You folks know how these open threads work by now, so have at it.