Here is tonight’s open thread. MLB Network is showing some regional games tonight, otherwise you’re on your own for entertainment. Me? I plan to finish season three of Bojack Horseman. Talk about whatever you want right here. Just no religion or politics.
According to Buster Olney, the qualifying offer for the upcoming offseason is estimated at $16.7M. That’s up from $15.8M last season and $15.3M the offseason before. The QO is a one-year deal set at the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball, and the deadline to make the offer is five days after the end of the World Series. Players then have seven days to accept or reject.
The Yankees only have one serious QO candidate: Carlos Beltran. He’s hitting .305/.347/.548 (134 wRC+) with 21 homers in 95 games this season, though his defense leaves much to be desired. I don’t think the Yankees should make Beltran the QO because he’ll probably accept it — who is giving a soon-to-be 40-year-old free agent $16.7M, even across two years? — and I don’t see that as a good thing for the reasons I outlined yesterday.
Mark Teixeira and Ivan Nova are New York’s only two other impending free agents, and based on what we heard earlier today, Nova will be traded prior to Monday’s deadline. Teixeira has been beyond awful this season, hitting .190/.270/.325 (59 wRC+) with nine homers in 71 games around a knee problem. A year ago at this time he looked like a QO candidate. Now? Now he can’t get off the team fast enough.
It’s also possible for CC Sabathia to become a free agent after the season, though that would require him to suffer a shoulder injury that would void his $25M vesting option for 2017. A healthy Sabathia is not a QO candidate at this point of his career. Sabathia with a shoulder injury? No chance. With Aroldis Chapman gone, Beltran is the Yankees’ only QO candidate. We’ll see what happens with him.
The QO offer entitles the team to a supplemental first round draft pick should the player reject the offer and sign elsewhere as a free agent. Signing a QO free agent means forfeiting your highest unprotected draft pick. It’s worth noting players who accept the QO can not be traded until June 1st of the following season, so if your plan is to make Beltran the offer and trade him if he accepts, it won’t fly. At least not immediately.
It’s worth noting the new upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement could change the QO system and I think that’ll happen, but chances are it’ll be minor tweaks rather than an overhaul. If MLB and the MLBPA reach an agreement before the end of the World Series, then the new system will presumably take effect. If not, the current QO system stays in place until the two sides announce any changes. The current CBA expires December 1st.
Even with last night’s disappointing loss, the Yankees are now 11-6 in their last 17 games, all of which have been played against good teams. They’ve have won series against the Astros, Giants, Orioles, and Indians in recent weeks. Three first place teams and arguably the hottest team in baseball. Who saw this coming? No one.
The recent hot streak has seemingly thrown a wrench into the team’s trade deadline plans. Rather than an all-out sell job, there’s now at least some justification for keeping the band together and going for it. The Yankees are only four games out of a wildcard spot, after all. They have ten games left with both the Red Sox and Blue Jays, the two teams sitting in the wildcard spots at the moment.
The Aroldis Chapman trade was a special circumstance. I always thought he was going to be moved no matter what. His trade value was far too great to let him walk for nothing more than a draft pick after the season. The trade showed that. The Yankees bought super low and sold high. It was a perfect baseball move. Ivan Nova figures to go before the deadline, but that’ll be a fairly insignificant move.
Other key players, most notably Carlos Beltran and Andrew Miller, seem more likely to stay put now thanks to this recent winning streak. Do I still think the Yankees should sell? Yeah, I do. I’m not saying give guys away, but accept the postseason probably isn’t happening — FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 9.0% as of this writing — and buy for the future by trading away veterans. It’s what smart teams do.
If the Yankees don’t continue selling, then I think they should look to buy at the deadline, albeit in a conservative way. I’m not saying they should go out and trade top prospects for big name players just because they’re big name players. If there’s a trade to be made for, say, a young starting pitcher under control long-term, then yeah, it’s worth looking into even if it costs top prospects. That’s always the case though, not just at the trade deadline.
Anyway, the 2011 Pirates are the perfect example of the type of buying I’m talking about. The Pirates were 54-51 on the morning of the 2011 trade deadline and 3.5 games back of a postseason spot, so they were in a similar situation as the Yankees right now. Pittsburgh had a young team and was in the process of trying to build something sustainable, which the Yankees are trying to do right now as they wait for their big contracts to expire.
Rather than spend big at the deadline, the Pirates took small bites and added Ryan Ludwick and Derrek Lee in minor trades. They got Ludwick from the Padres in a cash deal and Lee from the Orioles for a non-top 30 prospect. Both guys were veteran players in the final years of their contracts who filled clear needs for Pittsburgh. They bought, but in a smart way that didn’t compromise what they were trying to build. Ultimately, the 2011 Pirates faded out of the race, which is something the Yankees could very well do in August and September.
That’s that kind of buying I’d like to see the Yankees do if they don’t continue to sell before the deadline, and let’s face it, it’s looking less and less likely they’ll sell the longer this hot streak continues. (They’ll play three against the last place Rays this weekend too. That’s not good for #TeamSell.) The Yankees clearly need another bat — they need like three bats, but one thing at a time — and another pitcher wouldn’t hurt, either starter or reliever.
How can they fill those needs on the cheap, a la the 2010 Pirates? That’s the hard part. Here’s the list of upcoming free agents. Any super cheap veterans look appealing? The Mariners would probably give Adam Lind (87 wRC+) away at this point so they could get Dan Vogelbach in the lineup, and Lind would potentially give the Yankees a DH alternative to Alex Rodriguez. Lind always seemed to rake in Yankee Stadium when he was with the Blue Jays.
I’ve mentioned Danny Valencia before and he’s another possibility. He’s having a productive year (126 wRC+) but the Athletics are cutting back on his playing time so they can get a look at some younger players. Susan Slusser recently reported there’s so little trade interest in Valencia — supposedly he’s a bit of a clubhouse cancer, but who knows — that he might get designated for assignment. He’s not a rental, but he is non-tender-able after the season. That all makes Valencia a potential cheap upgrade at first base or DH.
The pitching market is a little tougher to decipher because there’s so little available that even replacement level arms like Lucas Harrell are fetching a top 15-ish org prospect. Luke Hochevar probably won’t come cheap. Same with Joe Smith. What about Carlos Torres? The Yankees had interest in him before the season and the rubber-armed reliever has a 2.90 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 49.2 innings with the Brewers. Does Torres satisfy the “better than Swarzak” criteria? Maybe!
The names of specific targets aren’t all that important. The plan of attack is what really matters. If the Yankees don’t sell any more, then fine. I won’t like it but there’s nothing I can do about it. In that case they should look to bring in some help to improve their chances, and do it in a way that doesn’t hurt the future. The Pirates showed it can be done back in 2011. I’m not saying it’ll be easy, but it can be done.
I think the worst thing the Yankees could do at the deadline is nothing. Not selling and not buying, even conservatively. No improvements for the future, no improvements for the present. Yuck. Standing still would be a big letdown. I think the Yankees should look to move guys like Beltran and Miller and whoever else before Monday, but if the recent hot streak has ownership wanting to contend, then it’s up to the front office to bring in reinforcements that don’t hurt the future of the club.
No Chapman, no problem
Despite making their first significant “sell” trade-deadline move in more than two and a half decades, the Yankees continued to remain on the fringes of the playoff race with a 2-1 win over the Astros on Monday.
With the win, the Yankees moved to three games above .500 for the first time this season. This is the deepest into the season they’ve gone without reaching that mark since 1991, when they never got more than a game above .500 the entire season. They finished that forgettable campaign with a 71-91 record, their fifth-worth winning percentage in franchise history.
A victory did not look promising less than a minute after Michael Pineda took the mound in the bottom of the first inning; George Springer deposited the first pitch into the right-field seats for a quick 1-0 Astros lead.
It was the first time a Yankee allowed a first-pitch homer to the first batter of the game since the Jose Reyes took Hiroki Kuroda deep in Toronto on June 25, 2014, and just the 11th occurrence since pitch data became available in 1988. Of the 10 other instances, the only other Yankee pitcher who allowed no other runs besides that leadoff homer — like Pineda — was Jack McDowell on July 13, 1995 versus the Twins.
Austin Romine played the unlikely role of hero with a tie-breaking RBI double in the eighth inning. That was the first career go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later for the backup catcher, who is hitting a robust .375 (12-for-32) with runners in scoring position this season, the best mark on the team through Monday.
Milestone alerts! Carlos Beltran’s double leading off the seventh inning was the 524th of his career, passing one Hall-of-Famer (Willie Mays) and moving into a tie for 44th place with another Hall-of-Famer (Ken Griffey Jr.). Up next is Ted Williams with 525 doubles.
Chase Headley’s game-tying single in the fifth inning was his 1,147th career hit, breaking the major-league record for most hits by a Colorado-born player. He surpassed Roy Hartzell, a Golden, CO native who played 11 seasons with the St. Louis Browns (1906-10) and the Yankees (1911-16). According to a 1914 New York Times article, Hartzell was the “handiest utility man the Yankees ever had…he has played every position on the club except battery positions.”
All aboard the win train
The Yankees sure are making it tough for Prince Hal to push the SELL! button. For a team that’s defined inconsistency, they’ve somehow caught an incredible wave of positive momentum at the most critical juncture of the season, beating the Astros again on Tuesday night. It was another comeback win fueled by dominant starting pitching, some timely hitting and a shutdown back-of-the-bullpen performance.
CC Sabathia posted his best start in more than a month, giving up two runs on four hits while pitching into the seventh inning. He snapped a six-game winless streak during which he allowed at least four runs in each outing. That matched the longest such streak of his career, which he also did in 2002.
Although Sabathia had posted an ugly 7.46 ERA in his previous six turns, it wasn’t like he was getting crushed every night. He still entered Tuesday’s game with the lowest average exit velocity allowed (85.8 mph) among pitchers with at least 200 batted balls in play, and then nearly matched that number against the Astros (86.8).
Dellin Betances pulled off another crazy Houdini act, getting out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning to help seal the win. Hitters are just 2-for-27 (.074) with ducks on the pond against Betances in his career, the second-lowest batting average allowed in that situation among active pitchers (min. 25 at-bats), behind only Pirates lefty Tony Watson (.069).
The Yankees desperate playoff push hit a speed bump on Wednesday night as the Yankees squandered a golden opportunity to move within three games of the second Wild Card spot after losing to the Astros, 4-1.
Still, even with the disappointing defeat, the Yankees are 11-5 (.688) all-time at Minute Maid Park, their third-highest winning percentage at any ballpark, behind only Atlanta’s Turner Field (.857, 12-2) and Minnesota’s Target Field (.760, 19-6).
Rotation ace Masahiro Tanaka — who entered the game with a league-leading 1.50 ERA in nine road starts — allowed four runs in five innings and lost for just the third time in 21 starts this season.
The loss also snapped a streak of seven straight Yankee wins in games started by Tanaka, the team’s longest such streak since winning 12 games in a row with Ivan Nova (!) on the mound in 2011. Tanaka has now been tagged for 10 runs and 14 hits in 10 career innings at Minute Maid Park.
Prior to Tanaka’s sub-par performance, Yankee pitchers had allowed just 17 runs in their previous 10 games, their best 10-game stretch of run prevention since July 1998.
Brian McCann drove in the lone Yankee run in the fourth inning with his 15th home run. This is the 11th time in his career he’s hit than many homers in a season, a feat matched by only seven other catchers in MLB history: Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Lance Parrish, Yogi Berra, Jorge Posada and Gary Carter.
Earlier this week the Yankees swung a blockbuster trade with the Cubs, sending Aroldis Chapman to Chicago for Adam Warren and three prospects. There were an awful lot of rumors and buildup to that trade — that’s a Theo Epstein hallmark — but things have been fairly quiet since. That’s not unusual for the Yankees. Their moves tend to come out of nowhere. The Chapman trade was the exception.
Of course, the Yankees are also said to be on the fence about selling, and their recent 11-6 hot streak hasn’t exactly helped matters. It’s making me a little nervous. The Yankees are going to make some important decisions these next four days, decisions that really impact the future of the franchise. Anyway, here are Wednesday’s rumors, and once again, we’ll keep track of the day’s trade rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. All time stamps are ET.
- 9:30pm: The Yankees will move Ivan Nova no matter what before the deadline. The team is not planning to make him the qualifying offer after the season, so they want to get something for him at the deadline rather than nothing after the season. The pitching market is so bleak right now that I think Nova might actually fetch something halfway decent. [Joel Sherman]
- 11:25am: The Yankees have called the White Sox about Chris Sale multiple times. Chicago wants five top prospects for their ace lefty, and thanks to the haul from the Aroldis Chapman trade, the Yankees just might have the pieces to get it done. [Jon Heyman]
- 12:04pm: One Yankees-connected person said there is “no chance” they trade Andrew Miller. The team is listening to offers, but their asking price is “prohibitive.” Given what they received for Chapman, I can’t even imagine what it would take to get Miller. [Heyman]
- 2:09pm: The Yankees asked the Nationals for a four-player package built around young pitching for Chapman. First they asked for Lucas Giolito, and when Washington said no, they asked for Joe Ross. The Nationals said no again. [Heyman]
Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.
Well that was a letdown. The Yankees had a chance to complete a sweep of the red hot Astros on Wednesday, but the offense fell flat (surprise!) and the pitching wasn’t good enough to compensate. The result was a 4-1 loss and a missed opportunity to gain ground on the Red Sox and Blue Jays, the two wildcard teams.
The McCullers Curve
The Yankees have a pretty miserable offense. We’ve had to sit through all season. They’ve made more than a few crummy pitchers look great along the way and it’s mighty annoying. This was not one of those games. Lance McCullers Jr. was totally dominant in his six innings, during which he allowed a run on five hits and two walks. He joined Rich Hill as the only pitchers to strike out 10+ Yankees in a start this season.
As he tends to do, McCullers threw more curveballs than fastballs in this one. PitchFX says he threw that hellacious mid-80s bender 44 times compared to only 30 fastballs. I can’t imagine throwing more curveballs than fastballs is a good thing for the ol’ elbow long-term, but that’s not my problem. McCullers got 14 swings and misses out of 82 total pitches, including 12 whiffs on 22 swings against the curveball. It’s a nasty, nasty pitch. The Yankees had no chance against him. Tip of the cap to Mr. McCullers for this one.
Time to dust off those “Tanaka can’t pitch on normal rest!” columns that didn’t get printed last time out. Masahiro Tanaka struggled with pretty much everything Wednesday night. Location, getting his splitter to bite, driving his fastball to the corners, everything. The end result was four runs in five innings, though the first came on two walks and a ground ball single. Blah. Whatever.
The second, third, and fourth runs were much different. Marwin Gonzalez led off the third with a single to center, moved to second on a ground ball, then moved to third on a wild pitch. Carlos Correa drove him in with a single through the left side of the infield. Tanaka fell behind in the count 2-1 to Colby Rasmus, then hung the everloving crap out of a splitter …
… that Rasmus promptly deposited in the left field seats for a two-run homer. Golly was that a bad pitch. Rasmus gave the Astros a 4-0 lead, and with the way McCullers was pitching, that was pretty much the ballgame. Tanaka allowed the four runs on seven hits and two walks in those five innings. He fanned four. This was his second shortest start of the season, behind that 4.2-inning disaster in Cleveland before the All-Star break.
The Two Returns
Welcome back, Adam Warren and Luis Severino. Those two made their first appearances back with the Yankees. Warren came over from the Cubs in the Aroldis Chapman trade and Severino returned following a stint in the minors. Warren allowed a double on a ground ball just inside the third base bag in an otherwise uneventful sixth inning. Severino struck out three in scoreless and hitless seventh and eighth innings.
Warren looked like Warren. Same as he ever was. Severino did a much better job keeping his slider down than he did earlier this season, though this was a limited look. His fastball was still crackling, and yeah, he missed his spots by a large margin a few times. The command is still not all the way where it needs to be, I’d say. This was a little tune-up appearance — Severino hadn’t pitched since last Wednesday — and my guess is his next appearance is a start after Ivan Nova gets traded wherever at the deadline.
The Yankees scored their one token run on Brian McCann‘s fourth inning solo homer, which hit the tippy top the wall in center field and hopped over. The offense put two runners in scoring position all night. Brett Gardner reached on an infield single in the third and moved to second on a passed ball. Didi Gregorius singled in the fourth inning and moved up on a wild pitch. That’s all.
Gregorius had two hits while Gardner, McCann, and Mark Teixeira had one hit each. Jacoby Ellsbury and Starlin Castro drew the two walks, of all people. The Yankees struck out 15 times, a new season high. It was only their 12th game with double-digit strikeouts overall, second fewest in baseball. The Angels have nine.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score, MLB.com has the video highlights, and ESPN has the updated standings. RAB has Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the win probability graph:
This three-game series in Houston is over and the Yankees are heading to Tampa next. But first: an off-day. I could use one of those. Nova and Jake Odorizzi are the scheduled starters for Friday night’s series opener at Tropicana Field. Will that be Ivan’s final game in pinstripes? My guess is yes.
Got some notes to pass along:
- The Yankees posted a photo of a bunch of rehabbing players visiting a children’s hospital in Tampa, and the good news is RHP James Kaprielian‘s arm was not in a sling or anything. He went for a second opinion on his elbow a week or two ago and it was easy to assume the worst. The fact he’s not wearing anything on his elbow tells us he didn’t have Tommy John surgery. (That doesn’t mean he won’t at some point, unfortunately.)
- The Yankees reportedly picked SS Gleyber Torres over OF Eloy Jimenez as part of the Aroldis Chapman trade, and J.J. Cooper wrote about that decision. “They were faced with a fascinating choice,” he wrote. “(What) gives Torres the edge is his increased defensive value, and a slightly better hit tool, but it was surely a difficult decision for the Yankees.”
- Cooper also put together an updated list of the youngest players in each pro league. I’ll let you skim through yourself, but I do want to point out Torres is the second youngest player in the High-A Florida State League. Also, four of the ten youngest players in the rookie Appalachian League are Yankees.
- Randy Miller spoke to a scout with an NL team about several of the Yankees’ top prospects, so check that out. The scout sure does love him some RHP Chance Adams. “He’s the best-kept secret in baseball,” the scout said. “I see a guy who can be a No. 2 starter in the big leagues.”
- RHP Conor Mullee (hand) is with Triple-A Scranton and he threw a bullpen session today, according to Shane Hennigan. He’s expected to make a rehab appearance in the coming days. Mullee is on the big league DL with some sort of nerve issue at the moment.
- Thanks to their notable Tuesdays, both Gleyber (debut with Yankees) and RHP Luis Cessa (shutout in Triple-A) landed in today’s Prospect Report, so make sure you give that a click.
Triple-A Scranton (6-0 win over Buffalo)
- CF Mason Williams: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
- RF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 K — 5-for-20 (.250) during his five-game exactly one hit streak
- C Gary Sanchez: 0-4 — he took a foul tip to the thumb but remained in the game, according to Shane Hennigan … apparently it was his left thumb, his glove thumb, not the thumb he fractured on a foul tip earlier this year
- 1B Ike Davis: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
- DH Tyler Austin: 3-4, 2 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI — that’s his 16th homer of the season … he hit six last year, nine the year before, and six the year before that
- LF Jake Cave: 1-3, 1 HBP
- RHP Brady Lail: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 6/2 GB/FB — 53 of 72 pitches were strikes (74%) … that is pretty easily the best of Lady Brail’s 17 career Triple-A starts
- RHP Johnny Barbato: 1 IP, zeroes, 2/1 GB/FB — five pitches, four strikes
- RHP Kirby Yates: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 0 K, 2/0 GB/FB — nine of 16 pitches were strikes