Hicks’ and Frazier’s injuries show the Yankees can’t have too many outfielders

Hicks and Frazier (Elsa/Getty Images)
Hicks and Frazier (Elsa/Getty Images)

For a few weeks this summer, it seemed like the Yankees had a great problem on their hands: Too many outfielders.

Clint Frazier was lining extra-base hit after extra-base hit, Aaron Judge was, well, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner was hitting home runs and Aaron Hicks was on his way back to the majors. That’s four guys for three spots, not to mention the presence of Jacoby Ellsbury, but with Ellsbury and Matt Holliday‘s respective struggles, playing time wouldn’t have been an issue.

With Frazier’s oblique injury, the Yankees’ outfield was cemented for the time being with Hicks, Gardner and Judge and a few too many Ellsbury starts. Oblique injuries take a while to heal, as evidenced by Hicks’ time away from the team, so the outfield overload is an issue the team can deal with when it actually comes to pass.

But the oblique injuries to Hicks and Frazier should be a warning to the front office not to deplete its outfield depth going into 2018.

It seems logical for the Yankees to pursue a trade for Ellsbury, who will have three years and about $68.5 million left on his deal after this season. The team would have to absorb some of that money and/or take back a bad contract, but it’d leave the Yankees with four outfielders for three spots. In theory, that can be an issue. But that’s only at the surface.

Yes, the team would have four men for three spots, but that’s assuming perfect health. Hicks has missed time with injuries each of the last two years. Frazier’s out now. Judge lost time in 2016 with a knee and oblique injury, respectively. While Gardner has placed at least 145 games each year since 2013, he’s been banged up plenty and the ability to give him days off in his age-34 season is important.

Performance-wise, there are concerns with each. Hicks and Judge each look like entirely different hitters from last season and how they can sustain their improvements will help define the 2018 OF. Gardner is getting older and has been off and on all season. Frazier is only 22 and didn’t exactly light the world on fire with a 92 wRC+ in 117 PAs.

That right there is enough of a reason to keep all four guys with concerns across the board, but the team will also have the ability to start all four plenty with the open DH role. Holliday is a free agent after this season and hasn’t hit his weight while dealing with injuries. He’ll be 38 come spring training next year and it looks unlikely he’ll be back in pinstripes.

The Yankees will surely seek out another veteran either via free agency or trade (Carlos Santana please!) that can take DH bats or act as Greg Bird/Gleyber Torres insurance. However, the team is also trying to get under the $197 million luxury tax threshold next season so they can be even more competitive in the 2018-19 offseason. Adding a high priced veteran shouldn’t be in the cards, even if it means taking a chance on a cheaper option like Chris Carter was this year.

The counterargument to giving DH ABs to the four-man outfield (and Gary Sanchez, among others) would be the ability to flip one of the OFs at their peak value for another piece to the roster puzzle, whether a starter or infielder or otherwise. Only Gardner is close to free agency, but his one year of value is likely more valuable to the 2018 Yankees than the players he could get in return.

With Judge staying in place, that leaves Hicks and Frazier as potential trade chips. Maybe if the Yankees still had Dustin Fowler set to return for 2018 it would make sense to deal from this position of strength this winter. But the Yankees OF depth close to the majors is down to Jake Cave and Billy McKinney, neither of whom you can count on for significant contributions as rookies next year.

And if you want to win a championship, you need both depth and talent. Keeping the outfield together minus Ellsbury for 2018 is the best way to go about building a contender. If they need to acquire controllable starters via trade, they have plenty of prospects still in the minors to deal. But the current outfield is worth keeping together for another season.

Thoughts in the middle of the 2017 Subway Series

Make the entire team out of Aarons. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Make the entire team out of Aarons. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees won the first game of the 2017 Subway Series last night, and the two teams will play the second game tonight before the series shifts to Citi Field. I don’t like this home-and-home setup. I’d rather two three-game series. Give me a definite winner and bragging rights. Anyway, I have some thoughts, so let’s get to ’em.

1. How great is it to have Aaron Hicks back? I was planning to write that even before he hit the game-winning home run last night. Hicks is up to .284/.389/.518 (142 wRC+) with 12 homers in 65 games this season. It’s too bad he missed so much time with the oblique strain, but he’s back now, and he’s having an impact. On both sides of the ball. He shut the Red Sox down with arm Friday night, then made some real nice catches in center field Sunday night. Between that and the two clutch homers he’s hit the last few days, it’s safe to say Hicks has come back and not missed a beat. I’m all-in here. I think the first half version of Hicks is here to stay. He’s always had talent, the tools were so obvious last year even when he struggled, and now he’s putting it all together. It’s very exciting. He’s given the Yankees a nice little shot in the arm since returning from the disabled list last week. Welcome back, Hicksie.

2. Gary Sanchez has gone from being saddled with unrealistic expectations following last season to being underrated this year. He’s currently hitting .273/.350/.511 (128 wRC+) with 20 home runs in 84 games this season. Here is the full list of catchers who’ve posted a 120 OPS+ or better with 25+ home runs in a season at age 24 or younger: Johnny Bench (three times!), Gary Carter, Matt Nokes, Mike Piazza, and Rudy York. That’s it. Sanchez might not finish with either number, the 120 OPS+ or 25+ homers, but he’s certainly within striking distance, and those guys are the kind of company he’s keeping with this performance. Does Sanchez need to improve his defense, specifically blocking balls in the dirt? Absolutely. But he is a special hitter, especially relative to his position, and it seems an awful lot of people aren’t appreciating that. Sanchez has been getting vilified way way way too much lately, and the passed ball related benching sure hasn’t helped matters. Gary is a franchise catcher and he has the talent to hit in the middle of the order for a World Series contending team, and he’s established himself as exactly that with roughly one full year in the big leagues. Sanchez received gobs of attention and praise last year, and rightfully so. This year he’s not getting nearly enough.

3. I like Ronald Torreyes. When the Yankees acquired him, I said I was excited about his potential to be a high-energy utility infielder who excelled at getting the bat on the ball, and that is pretty much exactly what he’s become. At the same time, Torreyes has played in 83 of 117 games this season — he’s started 67 of those 117 games — and that is entirely too many. I understand Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro have missed long stretches of time with injuries, though Torreyes is still playing too much. I firmly believe Tyler Wade should have, at the very least, been starting at second base against righties these last few weeks. I know he’s looked terrible when he has played, but Wade is quite talented, and he was given no chance to settle in and get comfortable. Torreyes has gone 15-for-56 (.268) with no power and no walks (and no steals) since Wade had that disaster game against the Rays a few weeks back, when the big spot kept finding him. Torreyes isn’t good enough on either side of the ball to get as much playing time as he has. Hopefully when Castro returns, Joe Girardi goes back to using Torreyes as a once or twice a week utility infielder, though I’m not getting my hopes up. He seems to like getting him into the lineup fairly regularly.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

4. As soon as it was reported Derek Jeter would be part of the group purchasing the Marlins — the first time he was going to buy the team, not the most recent time — I couldn’t help but wonder what it would mean for his relationship with the Yankees. It would be kinda weird to mingle with one franchise when you own another, right? Then I realized absolutely nothing is going to change because Jeter is never around the Yankees. I don’t mean for that be a knock against him. He just isn’t around much. Jeter has come back for some ceremonies over the years (1996 reunion, jersey retirements, etc.) and that’s it. This is the third season since Jeter retired and we’re still waiting for our first random “and look who’s here, that’s Derek Jeter at the game today” sighting. The Yankees-Jeter relationship is a two-way street. They both benefit. Even with Jeter now involved with the Marlins, I can’t see him cutting ties with the Yankees. There’s too much to lose by doing that.

5. That all said, there is one aspect of the Jeter-Marlins business that could impact the Yankees. Jeter could look to poach front office talent. Maybe he’ll take Randy Levine and/or Lonn Trost, but I’m not getting my hopes up. I’m talking about all the baseball people inside the organization he’s known for years. Two names immediately jump to mind: Gary Denbo and Rob Thomson. Denbo and Jeter have a very good relationship dating back to Derek’s minor league days, when Denbo was a coach in the farm system, so there’s trust there. He could be someone Jeter tries to lure to Miami. Denbo is the Yankees’ vice president of player development and he basically runs the farm system, a farm system that has produced some really exciting talent lately. Thomson, Girardi’s bench coach, has known Jeter forever and he’s worn all sorts of different hats with the Yankees over the years, including director of player development and vice president of minor league development. Usually when someone comes in and takes over a baseball operations department like Jeter reportedly will do with the Marlins, they bring in people they know and trust, and both Denbo and Thomson fit the bill. (So does Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield.) I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jeter try to nab some of the Yankees front office talent by offering higher profile positions with the Marlins once the sale goes final.

Aaron and Aaron lead Yanks to 4-2 comeback win over Mets

Good game. Needed a win like that. The Yankees rebounded from Sunday night’s brutal loss to the Red Sox with a come-from-behind win over the Mets on Monday. The final score was 4-2 in favor of the New York team that is actually in contention.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Return of the Aarons
For the first half of the season, the Yankees were carried by Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks. They had help from others like Starlin Castro and Matt Holliday, sure, but the Aarons were the stars of the show. Then Hicks landed on the disabled list and Judge slipped into his second half slump, and, not coincidentally, the Yankees stopped scoring runs consistently.

Monday night the A-A-Rons returned, for at least one night. Judge tied the game in the sixth inning with his AL leading 36th home run of the season, an opposite field shot that he definitely did not completely square up. It was one of those “he missed it a bit but it still landed eight rows deep” homers we saw a lot in the first half. Going the other way is a good sign too. I choose to believe that.

The score remained tied 2-2 into the eighth inning, and that’s when the other Aaron got in on the act. Hicks absolutely demolished a middle-middle fastball from Hansel Robles …

aaron-hicks-hansel-robles

… into the right field bleachers for a go-ahead solo home run. Gone right off the bat. There was no doubt about it. Hicks dropped his bat, watched the ball land in the bleachers, then started his jog. The Yankees definitely do not have enough guys who will pimp a homer. Glad Hicks did it on that one. It was a bomb and it gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead. Gary Sanchez added a solo homer later in the inning for an always appreciated insurance run.

Won The Trade
Great start for Justin Wilson. He held the Mets to two runs on five hits and two walks in seven innings, and struck out nine. Can’t ask for much more than that. Of course, the role of Justin Wilson was played by Luis Cessa and Chad Green on Monday, the two guys he was traded for. Cessa started and Green replaced him out of the bullpen. Wilson is pretty awesome! But turning him into two big league arms, including one as good as Green, is a nifty little move.

Anyway, Cessa started Monday night and he held the Mets to solo homers by Curtis Granderson (of course) and Yoenis Cespedes before being forced to exit with an injury after 4.1 innings. Granderson has crushed the Yankees since signing with the Mets. As for Cessa, he has something up with his back and will go for an MRI on Tuesday, according to Joe Girardi. It’s not believed to be serious, so that’s good. Cessa was flexing his arm in that fifth inning and that’s always scary.

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Also, holy cow, Cessa was pumping some serious heat in the first inning. Statcast says he ran his fastball up to 100.3 mph in the game. Who knew Cessa had that in him? He’s always had easy mid-90s velocity, but 100 mph? I didn’t see that coming. Aside from the two homers, which are an obvious problem, Cessa looked pretty strong Monday night. The Mets took 17 swings against his slider and missed seven times.

As for Green, he looked like himself, which means dominant. He fanned four and walked one in 2.2 innings. No hits or runs. Green now has a 1.95 ERA (2.13 FIP) with a 39.8% strikeout rate this season. He got seven misses on 17 swings against his fastball, same as Cessa’s slider. Nice night for the Justin Wilson trade.

Leftovers
With Aroldis Chapman apparently unavailable following his lengthy outing Sunday, David Robertson handled the eighth and Dellin Betances got the ninth. Robertson pitched around a walk and Betances pitched around an infield single. That’s my closer. The three relievers: 4.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K.

The Yankees scored their first run on a Sanchez sac fly in the fourth inning. That was one of those innings. The Yankees loaded the bases with one out and managed only one run in the least exciting way possible, and it felt like a miracle. I mean, scoring two runs in six innings against Rafael Montero is pretty bad. On par with getting shut down by Jordan Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez.

Two hits for Hicks and Sanchez, and one each for Judge, Brett Gardner, Todd Frazier, and Ronald Torreyes. Judge and Didi Gregorius drew the only walks. The Yankees went 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position. That’s good, right? Solo homers are better. Long live dingers.

And finally, here’s a weird one: Judge, Hicks, and Sanchez all hit their 40th career home runs in this game. Huh. Quickest to 40 homers in MLB history: Mark McGwire (110 games), Rudy York (129 games), Sanchez (139 games), and Judge (140 games). Yup.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. Make sure you check out our Bullpen Workload page too. Here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
Game two of the Subway Series home-and-home. Pretty fun pitching matchup Tuesday night: Sonny Gray vs. Jacob deGrom. If you want to catch that game, or either of the two games at Citi Field, RAB Tickets can get you in the door.

DotF: Keller pitches well again in Tampa’s win

Some notes before we get to one of the slower days in the minors since the short season leagues started up in late June:

  • Eric Longenhagen posted his updated top ten Yankees prospects list. All the usual names are at the top, and up-and-comer RHP Jorge Guzman makes an appearance too. “Guzman is sitting 96-100 with relative ease and showing slider feel,” says the write-up.
  • RHP Juan De Paula was named the Short Season NY-Penn League Pitcher of the Week. He struck out five in six no-hit innings during his start over the weekend. De Paula, who the Yankees picked up in the Ben Gamel trade, has a 3.60 ERA (3.45 FIP) in 40 innings this year.
  • Short Season Staten Island will have an All-Star this year after all. IF Jose Polonia was added to the roster, the NY-Penn League announced. Polonia, 21, it hitting .269/.361/.269 (97 wRC+) in 18 games and 61 plate appearances with Staten Island. Yeah.
  • And finally, make sure you check out Josh Norris’ feature on RHP Matt Sauer, this year’s second round pick. Sauer said he and the Yankees will get together in Instruction League to determine whether he should move forward with his slider or curveball, or both.

Triple-A Scranton and Double-A Trenton both had scheduled off-days.

High-A Tampa (4-2 win over Florida)

  • SS Hoy Jun Park: 2-5, 1 R, 1 3B, 1 RBI — 9-for-31 (.290) in his last seven games … took him a few games to find his bearings after the promotion, but now he’s locked in
  • LF Trey Amburgey: 0-5, 1 K
  • CF Estevan Florial: 1-4, 2 K — he’s hit safely in eleven of 12 games with Tampa
  • 3B Angel Aguilar: 0-4, 1 K, 2 E (throwing, fielding)
  • RHP Brian Keller: 6 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 6/3 GB/FB — 66 of 96 pitches were strikes (69%), plus he picked a runner off first … 34/3 K/BB in his last four starts and 26 innings

[Read more…]

Game 117: The Subway Series

(Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Cessa. (Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The roles have reversed from last year’s Subway Series, when the Yankees had just waved the white flag and the Mets were still chasing the playoffs. Both teams are reeling right now, though, and tonight’s pitching match-up represents something close to the bottom of the barrel for both teams. Nevertheless, this series represents an opportunity for the Yankees to get back on-track against a subpar team, with the added (and somewhat artificial) drama of an inter-borough rivalry.

Here’s the lineup that Luis Cessa will face tonight; and here’s the group that will square-off against Rafael Montero:

  1. Brett Gardner, LF
  2. Aaron Hicks, CF
  3. Aaron Judge, RF
  4. Didi Gregorius, DH
  5. Gary Sanchez, C
  6. Chase Headley, 1B
  7. Todd Frazier, 3B
  8. Ronald Torreyes, 2B
  9. Tyler Wade, SS

The first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM EST, and will be broadcast on both YES and ESPN (for those out of market fans).

Injury Updates: CC Sabathia (knee) threw a bullpen session today and was “very encouraged.” He’s expected to throw one more bullpen session, then come off the 10-day DL as soon as he’s eligible (Saturday) … Starlin Castro (hamstring) ran the bases today and is on track to begin a minor league rehab assignment Friday … Greg Bird (ankle) and Matt Holliday (back) both took batting practice again. Bird will begin a rehab assignment Wednesday.

Roster Move: To get Cessa on the roster, the Yankees sent down Caleb Smith.

8/14 to 8/17 Series Preview: New York Mets

Conforto. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Conforto. (Hunter Martin/Getty Images)

This may technically be two separate series, as it is a home-and-home affair. The Yankees will host the Mets tonight and tomorrow, and then travel to Queens on Wednesday and Thursday. I want to say something about facing a reeling/selling team like the Mets being just what the Yankees need – but the Mets have actually been slightly better this month, with one more win (5-7 to 4-8) and eleven more runs scored. Ugh.

The Last Time They Met

The Subway Series was a similar arrangement last year, as the Yankees visited Citi Field on August 1 and August 2, then played host to the Mets on August 3 and 4. They split each two-game set, and the series as a whole. Some notes:

  • This was the Yankees first series after last year’s trade deadline, with the first game occurring hours after they dealt Carlos Beltran and Ivan Nova to complete the sell-off. They dealt Andrew Miller the day before, and Aroldis Chapman a week prior.
  • The Yankees starters were hit hard in all four games, surrendering 22 runs (21 ER), 38 base-runners, and 7 homers  in 22.2 IP. The bullpen, however, was quite good, holding the Mets to just 2 runs (1 ER) in 13.1 IP.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, Starlin Castro, and Didi Gregorius all reached base safely in all four games.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more fun fact.

Injury Report

I wanted to put a snarky joke here about everyone being hurt, but that’s too easy (and hits too close to home, to boot).

Jeurys Familia, Matt Harvey, T.J. Rivera, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, and David Wright are all on the disabled list, with no return date as of yet. I wouldn’t be shocked if all six were shut down at some point, given that the Mets are basically just playing out the string at this point. Robert Gsellman is close to returning, having made four rehab starts already, but he won’t be back this series. And Jacob deGrom left his last start early with a triceps bruise after getting hit by a line drive, but he’s slated to start tomorrow.

Their Story So Far

The Mets are 53-62 with a -54 run differential, and they have been selling off assets since late July. Lucas Duda and Addison Reed were sent packing just before the deadline, and Jay Bruce and Neil Walker were dealt over the last week. Of course, Yankees fans are well-aware of these moves, as the Mets seemingly refused to deal with the Yankees, even if it meant a much better return.

As has been the case for what seems like forever, the Mets hopes have been torpedoed by injuries this year. Yoenis Cespedes missed more than 40 games, Syndergaard hasn’t pitched since April, Familia hasn’t pitched since May, and three other starting pitchers have spent at least a month on the disabled list. And that ignores the nagging injuries that have kept several other players out for a few weeks at a time.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager Terry Collins has a reputation for being stubbornly adherent to old school lineup configurations and overly loyal to veterans, but he has been flexible with his lineup construction for the majority of the season. One could argue that his hand has been forced by injuries and non-performance, but Mets fans are pleased to see Michael Conforto hitting at or near the top of the order, and top prospects Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith getting playing time. Here’s the lineup that we’ll probably see in the Bronx:

  1. Curtis Granderson, RF/DH
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, DH/LF
  4. Michael Conforto, CF
  5. Wilmer Flores, 3B
  6. Dominic Smith, 1B
  7. Travis d’Arnaud, C
  8. Brandon Nimmo, LF/RF
  9. Amed Rosario, SS

And here’s what we should see in Queens:

  1. Curtis Granderson, RF
  2. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  4. Michael Conforto, CF
  5. Wilmer Flores, 3B
  6. Dominic Smith, 1B
  7. Travis d’Arnaud, C
  8. Amed Rosario, SS
  9. [pitcher]

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Cessa vs. RHP Rafael Montero

Four years ago, Montero was a consensus top-100 prospect as a 23-year-old on the verge of reaching the majors. And four days ago, when asked about Montero’s future in the rotation, Collins said “We don’t have a lot of options right now. And if we can’t come up with an option, he’s going to go back out.” Such is life when you’re sitting on a career 5.58 ERA (71 ERA+) and 12.3 BB%.

Montero throws four pitches – a mid-90s four-seamer, a low-80s sinker, an upper-80s change-up, and a mid-80s slider. His stuff is quite good when taken at face value, but he struggles to locate his offerings, and is often hit hard when he nibbles with his fastball.

Last Outing (vs. TEX on 8/9) – 3.0 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray vs. RHP Jacob deGrom

The 29-year-old deGrom came out of nowhere to win Rookie of the Year in 2014, when he pitched to the following line – 140.1 IP, 117 H, 43 BB, 144 K, 2.69 ERA (128 ERA+), 2.67 FIP. Many expected him to drop-off the following season, due to his lack of prospect hype and suddenly and almost inexplicably improved stuff, but he has gotten even better since then. deGrom is currently fourth in the NL in IP, fifth in bWAR, and 10th in ERA+. At this point, the argument isn’t about regression; it’s whether or not he’s an ace.

deGrom is a true five-pitch pitcher. He throws a mid-90s four-seamer, a mid-80s sinker, an upper-80s slider, an upper-80s change-up, and a low-80s curve, and he can throw all five for strikes.

Last Outing (vs. PHI on 8/10) – 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K

Wednesday (7:10 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Seth Lugo

There is a good chance that you know of Seth Lugo solely because of Statcast’s infatuation with his curveball. For those of you who aren’t aware, Lugo’s curveball has the highest spin rate in the game, and it is a heck of a pitch to see live. It would be a more impressive feat if he was better, though; Lugo currently has a 4.85 ERA (88 ERA+), and his 17.4 K% is well below the league-average of 21.6%. Having a scale-breaking pitch is cool, but it hasn’t led to success just yet.

In addition to that big-breaking mid-70s curveball, Lugo also throws a low-90s fastball, a mid-80s change-up, and a mid-80s slider.

Last Outing (vs. PHI on 8/11) – 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 4 BB, 8 K

Thursday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. LHP Steven Matz

Matz has had an arduous journey since being drafted, to say the least. He was drafted in 2009, but did not make his professional debut until 2012 due to Tommy John surgery and several complications therefrom. He was relatively healthy for the next four years, but he missed time with shoulder soreness last year, and needed surgery to remove bone spurs from that same elbow in the off-season. Matz has missed ten starts this season due to elbow and shoulder soreness, and has not looked good (5.54 ERA, 4.91 FIP) when healthy.

Matz is basically a three-pitch pitcher, utilizing a low-to-mid 90s sinker, a low-to-mid 80s change-up, and an upper-70s curve. He’ll also throw a mid-80s slider, but he has shelved that of late (perhaps due to the injuries).

Last Outing (vs. PHI on 8/12) – 5.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K

The Bullpen

The Mets have one of the worst bullpens in baseball by some measures, including park-adjusted ERA (28th in the majors), WPA (26th), and walk rate (28th). And those numbers include Reed, who was the team’s best reliever by a significant margin, and now pitches for the Red Sox.

A.J. Ramos (recently acquired from the Marlins) is the team’s closer for the time being, and he has a track record of success in that role. Jerry Blevins is a quality LOOGY (lefties are batting .181/.230/.191 against him this year), but he’s extremely limited against righties. Paul Sewald, a 27-year-old rookie, handles the set-up duties (3.99 ERA, 3.20 FIP, 28.0 K%, 7.3 BB%), and he has been decent in that role. Erik Goeddel and Josh Smoker handle the middle innings.

Blevins, Sewald, and Ramos all tossed an inning apiece last night, so their availability tonight may be questionable.

Yankees Connection

Granderson played for the Yankees from 2010 through 2013, batting .245/.335/.495 (122 wRC+) with 115 HR and 55 SB in 512 games (2148 PA). The Yankees essentially let him walk in favor of Jacoby Ellsbury in the 2013-14 off-season, and that hasn’t worked out too well.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I’m most excited for the Gray vs. deGrom match-up on Tuesday, as I’m a sucker for a pitchers’ duel. Of course, I’d rather not see deGrom shut the Yankees offense down – but this has the makings of a terrific match-up.

Shortstop Amed Rosario and first baseman Dominic Smith bear watching, as well. Both have been top-100 prospects for three years running (with Rosario cracking the top-10 this year), and both are getting an opportunity to secure a starting gig at the highest level. And, even with the injury to Gleyber Torres, “Rosario or Torres” will likely be a New York baseball fan debate for the next half-decade or so.

The Yankees have a poorly constructed bench, but there’s not much they can do it about it right now

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Last night the Yankees dropped a heartbreaker of a game to the Red Sox, mostly because Aroldis Chapman blew his fourth save in 19 chances this season. The Yankees turned a one-run lead over to their closer and he couldn’t make it stand up. Rafael Devers hit an insanely impressive home run to tie it, but still, this is a results business, and Chapman didn’t get the results.

The Yankees had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and geez, it was a mess of an inning, both in terms of execution and decision-making. For both teams, not just the Yankees. Red Sox manager John Farrell tried to make an illegal mound visit to change pitchers and had to be told to go back to the dugout. Can’t say I’ve ever seen that before.

A quick recap of the inning: Chase Headley walked, Ronald Torreyes bunted him over to second, pinch-hitter Jacoby Ellsbury grounded out, Brett Gardner struck out. Why didn’t Tyler Wade pinch-run for Headley? Who knows. Why didn’t Craig Kimbrel start the inning instead of coming in after the mess was made? Who cares. Why did the Yankees not have a better pinch-hitting option than Ellsbury? That’s the real question.

Right now the Yankees are carrying eight relievers and three bench players. Those three bench players for last night’s game: Wade, Ellsbury, Garrett Cooper. Wade never plays, Ellsbury has played so poorly this year he had to be demoted into the fourth outfielder’s role, and Cooper is a right-handed platoon first baseman who apparently doesn’t even start against left-handers anymore. (He didn’t start against lefties Saturday or Sunday.)

Usually Austin Romine is on the bench in place of Ellsbury or Cooper, though he was in the starting lineup for the fifth time in the last ten games last night (!), so Gary Sanchez was the DH. After Ellsbury pinch-hit for Romine in that ninth inning, the Yankees had to forfeit the DH to move Sanchez behind the plate. It didn’t matter — the pitcher’s spot never came up again — but still. Second time in three games the Yankees did that.

As it stands, the Yankees don’t have a whole lot of utility on the bench. Wade can pinch-run and play just about anywhere in a pinch, but clearly Girardi doesn’t trust him, so he never plays. Wade has played twice in the last eleven days, both times playing defense for a half-inning at the end of a blowout. The Yankees are fighting for a postseason spot and Girardi is going to stick with Torreyes at second, and he’s been fine. Great at times, bad at others, fine overall.

Wade doesn’t play. Cooper provides zero flexibility as a first base only guy. Ellsbury? Meh. He’s had his moments the last eight days or so, but generally speaking, he’s on the bench more often than not these days for a reason. The bench right now is not very good, and the worst part? There’s really nothing the Yankees can do about. There are three reasons for that.

  1. Injuries. Starlin Castro, Greg Bird, and Matt Holliday (and Clint Frazier) are all on the disabled list. Those guys, when healthy, would push Cooper, Wade, and the eighth reliever to Triple-A, and Torreyes and Romine to the bench more often than not. (At least in theory.)
  2. The pitching staff. The Yankees are without Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, and lately, getting length from the starter has been a tall order. Seven times in the last 17 games the starter failed to complete five innings. The Yankees need that eighth reliever given the state of the rotation.
  3. Lack of options. The Yankees have two healthy position players on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues: Miguel Andujar and Tyler Austin. Austin is essentially a Cooper clone. Swap the two and nothing changes. The Yankees have clearly deemed Andujar not big league ready, and besides, he can only play third. Non-40-man options in Triple-A include, uh, Donovan Solano? Jake Cave? Billy McKinney? Not much there.

The Yankees could go out and make a waiver trade to bolster the bench — Neil Walker would’ve helped and I’m sure Jed Lowrie could be had — and I’m sure the Yankees are exploring every option. That said, it really feels like the Yankees are just trying to hang on and get by until the injured dudes return. Aaron Hicks came back late last week and both Castro and Bird are due to begin minor league rehab assignments this week. Holliday took batting practice yesterday. They’re coming.

For now, the Yankees can’t do much more than bide their time until the regulars get healthy or a sensible trade option becomes available. I’d bet on the former happening before the latter. Forfeiting the DH to pinch-hit for the backup catcher who starts way too often with less than ideal pinch-hitter options isn’t something that can last forever. The Yankees need to improve their bench, and the best way to do that is to get the regulars healthy.