Guest Post: Designated For Assignment: Inside the Turbulent Season of Chris Capuano

The following is a guest post from Steven Simineri, whose work can be found at Double G Sports, among other places.

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

In baseball, being designated for assignment is essentially a sort of ‘limbo’ a player goes when he’s temporarily not on any roster. The term is sometimes abbreviated as DFA or DFA’ed. When a player is DFA’ed, he is immediately removed from the 40-man roster. The team then has ten days to trade him, release him, or convince him to stay with the organization in the minors. Most players will not accept a minor-league spot, so they usually end up moving on.

However, for veteran lefty Chris Capuano such transactions became a part of daily routine this season with the New York Yankees. He was designated for assignment four times in less than a month’s time and returned to the big leagues all four times. Once, he had checked into his Scranton-area hotel for less than an hour before general manager Brian Cashman called to summon him back to the big club.

“I didn’t waste a lot of time,” said Capuano, who is now plenty familiar with the two-hour drive on Interstate 80 between New York and Class AAA Scranton (Pa.). “I know you technically have a couple of days to actually report, but I’m someone who likes to not just sit around, I like to be proactive and get right to work. So when that’s happened I generally reported that next day down to Triple-A and not wasted anytime just try to stay in a routine.”

Pitchers are considered creatures of habit, but this wacky season provided the 37-year old southpaw with little routine. To keep his command sharp and his arm strength up, Capuano took to throwing a good deal of live bullpens with reserve hitters standing in the box.

“Well my arm hasn’t had enough work to really have a tired arm or sore arm, it’s more keeping the feel,” Capuano told me in the Yankees clubhouse. “And obviously, I haven’t done the best job at that, given that I’d have one good outing and one really bad one. It’s been tough, I haven’t been able to kind of master given that kind of inconsistent schedule being as consistent as I’d like on the mound.”

Capuano’s trying 2015 campaign started when he pulled a leg muscle covering first base during a spring training game. He was a good soldier, who tried to use his time in Scranton to iron out any mechanical flaws and get into a rhythm. In six starts for the RailRiders, Capuano posted a 1.27 ERA across 28 1/3 innings.

“Every time I’ve been able to go back down to Triple-A and get in the starting rotation for whether it’s been five or ten days, this last time I went down and made two starts and that’s really helped me I feel like to get that feel back and rhythm back,” said Capuano, who grew up in Massachusetts as a Red Sox fan.

Capuano, a career starter, began last season with his hometown team and pitched in 28 games out of the bullpen to a tune of a 4.55 ERA. But he was designated for assignment in late June. After a quick detour through the Rockies’ organization, Capuano was traded to the Yankees where he went on to make 12 decent starts, going 2-3 with a 4.25 ERA. He went at least six innings in eight of those starts and showed enough to earn a one-year, $5 million deal in the winter from the team.

Despite being a free agent, Capuano pitched for the MLB All-Star team in the 2014 MLB Japan All Star Series. Wearing a Yankee uniform, he started two games for the MLB All Stars, allowing just one earned run and striking out seven batters. There were reports that he had interest in possibly signing with a Japanese team. He eventually stood stateside, but Japan could offer more money and a more prominent role sometime in the future.

“I’d never rule it out just because I love the culture, I love the people,” said Capuano, who also pitched for Arizona, Milwaukee, the Mets and Dodgers from 2003 to 2013. “It’s a beautiful country and they’re very passionate about baseball over there. So I would never rule it out. My wife and I don’t have any children. I love to travel so I wouldn’t rule anything out.”

While this season was a trying one for the Springfield, Mass., native, Capuano is no stranger to hardships. From 05/13/07 — 06/03/10, the soft-tossing southpaw appeared in 26 games for the Milwaukee Brewers (19 GS) and the Brewers lost all 26. He has also endured despite two Tommy John surgeries on his left elbow, the second of which cost him two full seasons in the big leagues, 2008 and 2009.

“After I had the first one it was really eleven months and I was back but the second one I missed two years and that’s a lot of time to miss – kind of similar to the situation Andrew Bailey is in for us now,” said Capuano, who is the only two-time Tommy John patient to make more than 10 major-league starts after his second procedure. “But when you do make it back, I think it gives you a healthier perspective having gone through that. You appreciate the game, you appreciate being around your teammates and the ballpark that much more.”

His ERA this past season sat at an unsightly 7.97, but he definitely helped spike the IQ of the pitching staff. He was valedictorian of his high school class at Cathedral High. He had the academic numbers to get into Dartmouth or Yale, even signing a letter of intent to enroll at Yale. But then he saw the Duke campus during a camp and changed his mind. When he graduated in 2000 with an economics degree, he did so Phi Beta Kappa with a 3.86 G.P.A., an impressive number he would probably prefer as his earned run average.

At age 37, Capuano is fully aware that his big league career may soon be coming to an end. He has been approached by one television network about a career in broadcasting, but he is leaning towards going for his MBA degree full-time. Capuano knows that a baseball career is a fleeting livelihood, and he wanted to complete his economics degree so he could follow his father, Frank, a financial planner, into the business world after his baseball career ended.

“My father is a financial planner and I’ve done a lot of work with him over the years too and I’ve stayed active in our union and our pension committee,” said Capuano, who has also made an All-Star team in 2006 and earned a silver medal while playing on Team USA in the 2001 World Cup of Baseball. “There’s a whole world out there after baseball is done, but while I’m playing I’m going to enjoy it and have fun.”

Revisiting the 2005-2006 Offseason (Part I)

Bradley. (Juan Ocampo/Dodgers)
Bradley. (Juan Ocampo/Dodgers)

Let’s take a time machine back to ten years ago. Why ten years? Well, I don’t need to try hard to answer that. Ten is a pretty neat round number and it was also around the time that I started to become a fanatic MLB watcher – a lot of the things that happened back then made huge impressions on me.

The Yankees were coming off a 95-win season but were stopped in the postseason by the Angels in ALDS. They had a very fine offense – Alex Rodriguez came off an MVP season with a 173 OPS+ and guys like Jason Giambi, Hideki Matsui, Gary Sheffield, Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada also positively contributed to offense. Oh, and they had a rookie second baseman named Robinson Cano perform well enough to be voted 2nd in the AL Rookie of the Year race. However, the team wasn’t without question marks. The center field position was a big question mark. Bernie Williams had the worst season of his career and Yankees clearly needed an upgrade there.

Pitching was also a concern. Two of the big 2004-05 free agent acquisitions – Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright – suffered arm injuries and majorly underachieved when healthy. Randy Johnson had a bounceback second half but his age, of course, was always a concern. Mike Mussina had a 4.41 ERA, which is just below league average (96 ERA+) and it wasn’t clear if the breakout performances by Shawn Chacon (149 ERA+ with Yankees) and Aaron Small (133 ERA+) were for real. They did have a promising rookie starter named Chien-Ming Wang but, at least at the time, he wasn’t considered a secure rotation anchor. While New York did not end up making a major SP move, their bullpen clearly needed some help. Tom Gordon was going to be a free agent and he was one of the two only reliable relievers in the staff (the other being Mariano Rivera). Besides them, no regular reliever had an ERA+ over 100 so yea, upgrade was needed.

Anyways, it would be a super long post to summarize all the newsworthy 2005-06 offseason stuff in one so I’m going to do this in parts. Enjoy!

Nov. 4, 2005 – Yankees discuss center field options

The center field position was a big focus back then. Again, Bernie Williams had posted worst offensive numbers of his career (.249/.321/.367 with 12 HR’s) and his defense was, well, not great. FanGraphs defense metrics gave him a -30.2 rating, which is plain abysmal. Yankee fans were asking themselves – who is the next great Yankee center fielder? With Bernie’s contract coming off the books, it was almost inevitable that Yankees were going to make a move or two.

George King III wrote that the Yankees discussed multiple names that they could trade for: Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Mike Cameron and Milton Bradley. If not a trade, they were to explore signing Johnny Damon to a multi-year contract worth $10-12 million per year. Which, may not seem like much in 2015 but a hefty amount in 2005.

Now here’s a curious one. King wrote that Yankees definitely discussed Milton Bradley.

That brings us to the Dodgers’ Bradley, a talented 27-year-old switch-hitter with power and above average defensive tools that are packed in a suitcase with a lot of emotional baggage.

The Yankees have internally discussed acquiring Bradley, but every time his name is brought up, his problems usually scare Yankee brass in a different direction.

His temper got him traded from Cleveland to L.A., where he had a major problem with teammate Jeff Kent. And he missed time this past season with a knuckle injury and had left knee surgery in August.

Still, throughout the Joe Torre era, problem players have come to The Bronx and turned into solid citizens. The Yankees were so convinced Torre could handle problems they were on the verge of signing Albert Belle in 1998.

As a player, Bradley was a fine one. From his age 25-27 seasons (2003-05), Bradley was one of the most promising potential perennial All-Star outfielders. In those three seasons, he hit for a .290/.379/.463 line, good for 123 OPS+. But that temper problem raised an issue and, boy, it turned out to be a major problem throughout his career. Bradley’s knack for violence led to multiple fracas and some definitely unforgivable, despicable and irreparable moments.

Later in the offseason, the Dodgers traded Bradley to the Athletics for a package headlined by then-prospect Andre Ethier. Bradley would bounce around among four teams for rest of his ML career, which is marred by violence and a disastrous three-year, $30 million contract with the Cubs.

Nov. 6, 2005 – Yankees interested in Brian Giles

Giles. (Mangin Photography)
Giles. (Mangin Photography)

From 1999 to 2005, Giles was one of the most consistent and solid outfielders in the majors. In that period, the El Cajon, CA native hit for a .303/.418/.554 line, good for a 151 OPS+ in a span of seven seasons. Furthermore, in 2005, he led the league with 119 walks. How could he not have been an attractive option? Brian Cashman realized that and kept in touch with Giles’s agent, Joe Bick, wrote Anthony McCarron of Daily News.

It’s not clear from the article whether the Yankees were interested in Giles as a center fielder. McCarron wrote that, if the Yankees were to re-sign Matsui and get Giles, the team could “shift Matsui to center and use Giles in left” which is just a weird thing to think about. Matsui did play center in Japan and for 77 games in his ML career. He’s definitely not remembered for his glove though.

Nov. 8, 2005 – Yankees decline Tino Martinez’s team option for the 2006 season

In the previous offseason, Yankees gave a homecoming contract to Tino Martinez as a backup 1B to Jason Giambi. Martinez had a .241/.328/.439 line that season with 17 home runs, good for a 103 wRC+ – not bad numbers for backup 1B. He also had a scorching hot May in which he hit for a 1.065 OPS with ten (!!) home runs (all in a span of 12 games nonetheless). After that month, the first baseman went on to hit for only .660 OPS in 188 PA for the rest of the season. Besides, Yankees had another backup 1B candidate in Andy Phillips.

Martinez didn’t seem too fazed about Yankees not bringing him back. “I know the team has to get younger,” he said in an interview with Mark Feinsand, “I totally agree with that.”

The 2005 season ended up becoming Martinez’s final ML ride. Andy Phillips, who hit .300 with 22 HR’s in with the then-AAA affiliate Columbus Clippers, ended up not hitting all that much in 2006 (.240/.281/.394 with 7 HR’s) so that’s that.

Nov. 9, 2005 – Team’s priorities: Matsui, CF, bullpen

In Mark Feinsand’s article, he talked about what the Yankees had in sight for their team in the 2005-06 offseason. First and foremost: Hideki Matsui’s first Yankee contract, a 3-year $21 million deal, expired in the end of the 2005 season and he did provide a lot of offensive production in the duration. The Japanese slugger hit for a 125 OPS+ in those three seasons, mashing 70 HR’s on the way. Even more remarkably, he did not miss a single game to that date. Who says no to a power lefty batter who has proven himself to be very durable? Probably no one.

In the article, Feinsand mentioned Johnny Damon and Preston Wilson as the two prominent CF names in the FA market. He also brought up Juan Pierre as one of the possible trade targets. I do remember Yankees getting into talks with Juan Pierre and they tried to acquire him but nothing came of it. The Marlins proposed Juan Pierre + Luis Castillo for Robinson Cano + Chien-Ming Wang. Boy am I glad that New York didn’t pull the trigger on that one. MLBTR has a tidbit about Yankees possibly looking at Hunter but again, nothing came out of it. You guys all know how New York took care of this CF matter.

For the bullpen, I pointed out this before: besides Mo and Gordon, it wasn’t great. Oh yeah, also Flash was going to be a free agent and really wanted to close for whoever was going to sign him – as you know, that wasn’t going to be the Yankees.  Needless to say, New York was interested in big bullpen names at the time like B.J. Ryan, Kyle Farnsworth, Scott Eyre, Julian Tavarez, etc. to bolster their ‘pen.

Nov. 15, 2005 – Yankees and Matsui agree to a new deal

Matsui wanted to stay with the Yankees but wanted to be “paid to his worth” – and he got it. Back when four-year, $52 million contracts weren’t given out to closers, it was for All-Star caliber/above-average everyday ML’ers. I can’t think of any scenario back then that Yankee fans would’ve wanted anyone but Matsui as their starting left fielder. The deal pretty much made everyone happy – the Yankee front office, Matsui and his agent and the fans.

For his 2006-2009 contract, Matsui performed as expected. He hit for 120 OPS+ with .851 OPS in 429 games – not bad at all. Unlike his first three years though, Matsui was limited by injuries, missing 219 out of 648 regular season games. But, of course, we will all remember his beast-like MVP performance in the 2009 World Series, a pinnacle and an ending to his memorable Yankee career. Yankees let him go after that season. He had one more season with 100+ OPS+ season (2010 with the Angels: 126 OPS+) and was out of the majors after the 2012 campaign.

Sturtze. (
Sturtze. (

Nov. 15, 2005 – Yankees pick up 2006 option on Tanyon Sturtze

Before Scott Proctor came out of the bullpen 83 times and pitched 102.1 IP for the 2006 Yankees, there was the 2005 Tanyon Sturtze. Aside from Mo and Gordon, Sturtze was basically the team’s best reliever and Torre didn’t really have much reliable options to get the game securely to eighth inning. I mean, look at the list of relievers the Yankees had that weren’t Rivera, Gordon or Sturtze:

  • Paul Quantrill (released after pitching to a 6.75 ERA in 22 games)
  • Mike Stanton (same fate after 7.07 ERA in 28 games)
  • Alan Embree (got him after he was released by the Red Sox mid-season. Had a 7.53 ERA in 24 games in Bronx)
  • Felix Rodriguez (had a solid career up to that season. Faded away into obscurity after pitching for a 5.01 ERA in 34 games)
  • Wayne Franklin (Believe it or not, Torre saw him as a potential go-to LOOGY, despite having a 5.47 ERA in 302.2 IP prior to that season. Predictably, he didn’t work out – had 6.39 ERA in 13 games before getting released)
  • Scott Proctor (not yet a reliable reliever. Had 6.04 ERA in 29 games)
  • Buddy Groom/Steve Karsay/Ramiro Mendoza/Jorge DePaula/Jason Anderson/etc. (Yeah, no)

Sturtze had a pretty nice season up to June 27, when his ERA sat at 3.43 in 42 IP. From the beginning of July till the end of season however, he had a 6.25 ERA in 36 IP. It was clear that he was getting gassed by Torre’s frequent usage. Sturtze’s 2006 ended prematurely with a shoulder injury that shelved him for the remainder of the year. He would pitch 3 games for the 2008 Dodgers (managed by none other than Torre!) and never pitch in the bigs again.

Nov. 18, 2005 – Bullpen options shrinking for the Yankees

By then, it became clear the few relievers Cashman and Torre eyed weren’t going to be feasible targets. In the Feinsand article, Joe Torre apparently had a conversation with LHP Scott Eyre. Eyre had a career-best 2005 season, leading the National League with 86 appearances while pitching for a 2.68 ERA and somehow getting an MVP vote. However, the 33-year old signed with the Chicago Cubs for a two-year deal with an option for third. Eyre did not replicate his solid season during the contract but he did alright – 3.81 ERA in 139.1 IP with 159 K’s.

Feinsand also noted that B.J. Ryan would also be an unlikely target because the lefty preferred to sign with a team that would grant him the closing spot. New York, of course, had Mariano Rivera. Ryan definitely had a credential to be closing for any ML team. From 2003~05, Ryan struck out 285 hitters in 207.2 IP and had a 172 ERA+ for the Orioles. He later signed with the Toronto Blue Jays for a five-year, $47 million contract, huge money for relievers at the time. Ryan had a sublime 2006 season (1.37 ERA, 38 saves, 335 ERA+, yeesh) but needed Tommy John surgery in 2007. He turned in a solid 2008 campaign (2.95 ERA, 32 saves, 144 ERA+) but was released during the 2009 season after walking 7.4 batters per nine innings and striking out only 13 batters in 20.2 IP. I’d say New York dodged a bullet here.

Also, as mentioned, Tom Gordon wanted to sign with a team that would give him the closing spot and a three-year contract. Yankees offered him a two-year contract and, of course, a set-up role. Needless to say, that didn’t really get it done. The 38-year old later signed with the Philadelphia Phillies for a three-year, $18 million contract and a closer spot. After a decent 2006 campaign, Gordon wasn’t really closer-caliber for the last two years of the deal, being replaced by Brett Myers during the 2007 season. As a Yankee, Gordon had a 2.38 ERA in 170.1 IP and as a Phillie, 4.19 ERA in 129 IP.

That’s it for part one. Gotta say, it’s pretty fun digging up news from ten years ago and see how things have changed or could have been different. Stay tuned for part two soon.

Carpenter & Bailey: Veteran righties who didn’t provide depth [2015 Season Review]

Last offseason the Yankees remade almost their entire bullpen. In fact, the only reliever who was in both the 2014 and 2015 Opening Day bullpens was Dellin Betances. Everyone else had been replaced. (Adam Warren was another bullpen holdover, but he moved into the rotation.) Bullpen turnover is not uncommon and the Yankees went through a lot of it last winter.

One of the new bullpen additions was right-hander David Carpenter, who came over from the Braves with Chasen Shreve in the Manny Banuelos trade. Carpenter had been one of Craig Kimbrel’s primary setup men in recent years and was expected to fill a similar role in 2015. Fellow righty Andrew Bailey also re-upped with the Yankees last winter as he continued to rehab from shoulder surgery. Neither player contributed much this season.

Carpenter. (Presswire)
Carpenter. (Presswire)

When Good Relievers Go Bad

From 2013-14, Carpenter pitched to a 2.63 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 126.2 innings for Atlanta. He missed bats (27.4 K%), he limited walks (7.0 BB%), and he threw hard (95.3 mph). Carpenter was pretty much everything the Yankees look for in a reliever. That he came with three years of team control as an arbitration-eligible player was icing on the cake.

Carpenter never did come close to repeating that success with the Yankees. After starting the year with four mostly low-leverage appearances — because the Yankees lost a lot the first week of the season — Carpenter was asked to protect a one-run lead in the sixth inning against the Orioles on April 15th. He gave up a game-tying home run on his second pitch and was ultimately charged with three runs in one-third of an inning.

Just like that, Carpenter fell out of the Circle of Trust™. Joe Girardi had Andrew Miller and Betances in the late innings, and both Shreve and Justin Wilson were pitching well, so Carpenter was relegated to very low-leverage work. Here are the game situations when he entered his next ten appearances following the meltdown in Baltimore:

eighth inning, Yankees up nine
eighth inning up nine
seventh inning up two
seventh inning tied
eighth inning up three
nine inning up six
sixth inning down four
eighth inning up five
sixth inning up five
sixth inning down three

Not many important innings in there. Even in that third appearance, when he entered with the Yankees up two in the seventh, Carpenter was only asked to get one out. Carpenter allowed eight runs (seven earned) on ten hits and three walks in 6.2 innings spanning seven appearances in mid-May, at which point he had really fallen out of favor.

The Yankees didn’t want to cut Carpenter loose so early in the season — after all, he was pretty good from 2013-14 and they controlled him through 2017 — so they stuck with him. Girardi gave Carpenter plenty of work too. He appeared in nine of 17 games at one point in late-May/early-June. The Yankees kept running him out there hoping something would click.

The final straw came on June 2nd, when Carpenter was brought into the sixth inning of a tie game against the Mariners. Seattle had runners at the corners with two outs, and all Carpenter had to do was retire Austin Jackson, who ultimately hit .259/.299/.358 (83 wRC+) against righties in 2015. Carpenter got ahead in the count 1-2 but couldn’t put Jackson away, eventually allowing a go-ahead double.

The Yankees designated Carpenter for assignment the next day, opting to keep Jacob Lindgren on the roster when Masahiro Tanaka came off the DL. Carpenter finished his stint in pinstripes with a 4.82 ERA (5.33 FIP) in 18.2 innings. He also allowed four of nine inherited runners to score. His strikeout rate (13.4%) was way down even though his velocity was mostly fine. Rather than factor into the end-game equation, Carpenter was a big liability for the 2015 Yankees.

A few days later the Yankees flipped Carpenter to the Nationals for infield prospect Tony Renda. Carpenter allowed one run in six innings across eight appearances for Washington before landing on the DL with a sore shoulder. He didn’t pitch again the rest of the season and the Nats outrighted him off the 40-man roster a few weeks ago. Carpenter elected free agency and recently signed a minor league deal with the Braves. Relievers, man.

The Return of Bailey

Over the last few years the Yankees have rolled the dice on injured relievers, rehabbing them to health while hoping they’d contribute down the line. They did this with Matt Daley and David Aardsma, though neither paid dividends. They tried it again with former All-Star Andrew Bailey.

Bailey. (Presswire)
Bailey. (Presswire)

The Yankees first signed Bailey to a minor league contract last offseason that included a club option for 2015 worth $2M or so. He never did pitch last year as he rehabbed from shoulder capsule surgery — Bailey suffered a few setbacks — so the Yankees declined the option and signed Bailey to a new minor league contract. This one included a $2.5M club option for 2016.

Bailey’s rehab progressed nicely, enough that he was able to pitch in Spring Training. He allowed four runs in 5.2 innings, but while the results stunk, the important thing is Bailey was healthy and actually pitching. It was progress. The Yankees had Bailey stay behind in Tampa to continue working his way back after Grapefruit League play ended. He made six appearances with High-A Tampa in April before suffering another setback.

It wasn’t until late-June that Bailey was healthy enough to pitch again. The Yankees took it very slow with him and let him climb the minor league ladder gradually. After some tune-up appearances in Tampa, Bailey spent a month with Double-A Trenton then another month with Triple-A Scranton. He finished the season with a 1.80 ERA (2.87 FIP) in 35 minor league innings.

The Yankees put Bailey through the grinder immediately before calling him up. They had him work back-to-back days, multiple innings, enter in the middle of an inning … the works. They really tested him with the RailRiders before bringing him up when rosters expanded. Bailey passed every test and joined the team in September. He made his first MLB appearance since 2013 on September 2nd, allowing a run on a hit and two walks in one-third of an inning against the Red Sox.

Bailey threw 12 strikes with his 22 pitches that afternoon and looked pretty amped up. I can’t say I blame him. Girardi continued to pick his spots with Bailey — remember, the Yankees were trying desperately to stay in the AL East race and later clinch a wildcard spot — which is why he entered eight of his ten appearances with the Yankees trailing. The other two where his first game (Yankees up by nine) and his ninth game (11th inning of a tie game).

With the bullpen taxed and the Yankees barely hanging on in the AL East race, Girardi turned to Bailey with the Yankees trailing by one in the seventh inning against the Blue Jays on September 23rd. It was a game they basically had to win to stay in the division race. Instead of keeping it close, Bailey served up a three-run home run to Russell Martin that all but crushed New York’s AL East hopes.

Bailey’s month in pinstripes featured a 5.19 ERA (6.48 FIP) in ten appearances and 8.2 innings. He also allowed three unearned runs (so eight runs total in 8.2 innings) and two of six inherited runners to score. Bailey had nearly as many walks (five) as strikeouts (six) despite a healthy 12.0% swing-and-miss rate. The Yankees really could have used another reliable bullpener down the stretch and Bailey had the pedigree, but it didn’t happen.

As expected, the Yankees declined Bailey’s $2.5M option after the season. They could have held on to him as an arbitration-eligible player, but instead outrighted him off the 40-man roster because space is tight. Bailey elected free agency rather than accept the assignment, and he is currently a free agent. Like Daley and Aardsma, the Yankees didn’t invest much in Bailey, but they didn’t get much of a return either.

Scouting the Trade Market: Hard-throwing strike-throwers who fit Yankees’ mold

Salazar, Carrasco, and Anderson could all be trade targets. (Presswire)
Salazar, Carrasco, and Anderson could all be trade targets. (Presswire)

According to pretty much every report we’ve seen this offseason, the Yankees are looking for pitching in any trade. They’re said to at least be listening to offers for Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller, if not shopping them. Payroll isn’t going up next season and the Yankees didn’t have much money come off the books, so trades are the only real avenue for significant improvement.

The current rotation is again full of question marks — Masahiro Tanaka just had elbow surgery, Nathan Eovaldi had an elbow injury at the end of the year, CC Sabathia‘s knee is an ongoing issue, etc. — and the future rotation is pretty wide open. Tanaka (opt-out), Eovaldi, Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova can all become free agents within the next two years, leaving Luis Severino and Adam Warren for the 2018 rotation.

Obviously that is a long way away — the 2013 Yankees got 103 starts from Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes, and David Phelps, for example, so things change in a hurry — but that doesn’t mean the Yankees are wrong to worry about it now. If they’re going to deal Gardner and/or Miller, getting young controllable pitching in return makes all the sense in the world.

Over the last few years the Yankees have made it clear they have a “type,” when it comes to pitching. They love hard-throwers with very low walk rates, and the taller they are, the better. They didn’t just pick Pineda and Eovaldi out of a hat, you know. Both came to New York with huge fastballs and a low walk rate. Eovaldi (6-foot-2) isn’t as big as Pineda (6-foot-7), but he also throws 100, so yeah.

So, using all of this information, we can dig up some potential pitching trade targets for the Yankees. This isn’t to say the Yankees are (or should) pursuing these guys — or that they’re even available — but they fit what has been established as their preferred type of pitcher. Obviously some of these guys are more attainable than others, though it is interesting several are on teams who appear to match up with the Yankees for a potential trade. To the alphabetically ordered list.

RHP Cody Anderson, Indians
2015 Average Fastball Velocity: 92.1 mph (96.9 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 6.6%
Height: 6-foot-4
Years of Control: Six (three pre-arbitration and three arbitration years)

The Indians have a ton of starting pitchers, so much so that they’ve discussed trading one to address their outfield needs. They’ve spoken to the Yankees about an outfielder-for-starter trade, for example. Anderson, 24, had a 3.05 ERA (4.27 FIP) in 15 starts and 91.1 innings around an oblique injury this past season. He has above-average velocity and a history of limiting walks, though his strikeout rate (12.1%) was way below-average this year. For what it’s worth, his minor league strikeout rate (18.5%) wasn’t great either.

RHP Carlos Carrasco, Indians
2015 Average Velocity: 94.5 mph (98.8 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 5.9%
Height: 6-foot-3
Years of Control: Three (owed $19M through 2018 plus club options for 2019 and 2020)

We’ve discussed Carrasco here before, albeit briefly. Assuming Corey Kluber is off limits, the 28-year-old Carrasco is the best available Indians starter. He moved from the bullpen back into the rotation late last season, and this year he pitched to 3.63 ERA (2.84 FIP) with an elite strikeout (29.6%) rate and an excellent ground ball (51.2%) rate in 30 starts and 183.2 innings. The high-ish ERA has more to do with Cleveland’s poor team defense than anything Carrasco did. Carrasco is not super young (he turns 29 in March) but he’s signed to a dirt cheap contract and has pitched at an ace level in 40 starts since returning to the rotation. If he is actually available, it’ll cost a ton to get him.

LHP Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks
2015 Average Velocity: 92.1 mph (96.2 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 4.8%
Height: 6-foot-2
Years of Control: Three (all arbitration years)

Tommy John surgery limited Corbin, a native New Yorker, to 16 starts and 85.1 innings in 2015. His performance (3.60 ERA and 3.35 FIP) was on par with his breakout 2013 season (3.41 ERA and 3.43 FIP) before the elbow caused him to miss 2014. His strikeout (21.9%) and grounder (46.9%) rates were right in line with 2013 as well (20.7% and 46.7%). Recent Tommy John surgery is always a red flag, though it’s good to see the results and PitchFX data show Corbin was basically the same pitcher in 2015 as he was before elbow reconstruction. The D’Backs have some rotation depth and they have checked in with the Yankees about Miller, so maybe there is a Corbin for Miller plus stuff deal to be made. Remember though, Corbin is Arizona’s ace, so they may consider him untouchable, especially with three years of control remaining.

RHP Jose Fernandez, Marlins
2015 Average Velocity: 95.9 mph (99.5 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 5.3%
Height: 6-foot-2
Years of Control: Three (all arbitration years)

Depending who you want to believe, either the Marlins are open to moving the 23-year-old Fernandez because he’s a headache, or he’s completely untouchable. Reports supporting both scenarios have popped up in recent days. Either way, Fernandez is as good as it gets, pitching to a 2.92 ERA (2.24 FIP) in eleven starts and 64.1 innings this year after returning from Tommy John surgery. I wrote more about Fernandez in last week’s mailbag. The question isn’t so much is Fernandez available, but do the Yankees even have what it takes to outbid other clubs if he is? I’m leaning towards no on that one.

RHP Kevin Gausman, Orioles
2015 Average Velocity: 95.9 mph (100.3 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 6.2%
Height: 6-foot-4
Years of Control: Five (one pre-arbitration and four arbitration years as a Super Two)

Various reports indicate Gausman was a popular target at the trade deadline — the Tigers wanted him for Yoenis Cespedes, the Padres wanted him for Justin Upton, and the Rockies wanted him for Carlos Gonzalez. Baltimore said no each time, obviously. The O’s have a terrible track record of developing pitchers, and the 24-year-old Gausman followed his strong 2014 season (3.57 ERA and 3.41 FIP) with an okay at best 2015 (4.25 ERA and 4.10 FIP) while being moved back and forth between the bullpen and rotation. Gausman seems like an ideal change of scenery guy, but I have a really hard time seeing him as a realistic target. Orioles owner Peter Angelos hates the Yankees and wouldn’t risk trading Gausman only to watch him develop into a stud in pinstripes. So yeah, Gausman fits the mold as a hard-throwing strike-thrower, but this ain’t happening.

RHP Jonathan Gray, Rockies
2015 Average Velocity: 94.3 mph (98.2 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 7.6%
Height: 6-foot-4
Years of Control: Six (three pre-arbitration plus three arbitration years)

Gray, 24, came into the season as the No. 24 prospect in baseball according to Baseball America, then came up late in the season and got Coors Fielded (5.53 ERA and 3.63 FIP in 40.2 innings). He did miss bats (21.6%) but didn’t get a ton of grounders (43.2%) in his limited action. The Yankees do have some history with Gray, selecting him in the tenth round of the 2011 draft, but he turned down a ton of money to go to college.

The Rockies haven’t been able to develop pitching in forever, and while trading someone like Gray seems silly, GM Jeff Bridich recently told Patrick Saunders he is “open to anything, I mean it” to improve the team, including trading young pitching. Gardner and Miller don’t appear to be matches for the Rockies — why would they want a 32-year-old outfielder or an expensive closer? — but maybe other pieces like Gary Sanchez and Jorge Mateo could entice Colorado.

LHP Andrew Heaney, Angels
2015 Average Velocity: 91.5 mph (94.9 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 6.4%
Height: 6-foot-2
Years of Control: Six (two pre-arbitration plus four arbitration years as a Super Two)

Heaney, 24, was traded twice last offseason — first for Dee Gordon then for Howie Kendrick a few hours later — and now the Angels have a new GM, and new GMs tend to trade away incumbent players because they aren’t attached to them. That said, Heaney had a really good year (3.49 ERA and 3.73 FIP in 105.2 innings) and the Halos just traded their top two pitching prospects for Andrelton Simmons, so dealing another young starter seems unlikely. Then again, the Halos do desperately need a left fielder and leadoff hitter, and perhaps GM Billy Eppler is particularly fond of Gardner after all his years with the Yankees. My guess is he values the young lefty more, but you never know.

RHP Wily Peralta, Brewers
2015 Average Velocity: 94.1 mph (97.6 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 7.7%
Height: 6-foot-1
Years of Control: Three (all arbitration years)

The Brewers are in full blown tear it down and rebuild mode, and the 26-year-old Peralta is one of the few players left on the roster with actual trade value. Unfortunately, he battled shoulder tendinitis this summer and had a miserable year, pitching to a 4.72 ERA (4.84 FIP) in 20 starts and 108.2 innings. Also, Peralta’s strikeout rate fell from 18.4% in 2014 to a well-below-average 12.6% in 2015, and gosh, that’s scary. He has gradually lowered his walk rate over the years and he’s always gotten grounders (51.6% in 2015), though the combination of a shoulder problem and a huge strikeout drop is a major red flag. Besides, the Brewers have no use for Gardner or Miller, so we’re talking a prospect package.

RHP Danny Salazar, Indians
2015 Average Velocity: 94.9 mph (98.7 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 7.0%
Height: 6-foot-0
Years of Control: Five (two pre-arbitration and three arbitration years)

Yet another Indians starter. They’ve got a lot of them. Salazar, 25, presumably lies somewhere between Carrasco and Anderson in trade value, but closer to Carrasco. He’s always had a history of limiting walks and this summer he had a great strikeout rate (25.8%) and an average-ish grounder rate (43.9%) in 185 innings, his first full season as a big leaguer (3.45 ERA and 3.62 FIP). Cleveland seems open to trading a starter for the right return, though it’s unclear if the Yankees can offer that return, regardless of whether it includes Gardner.

RHP Taijuan Walker, Mariners
2015 Average Velocity: 94.1 mph (98.2 mph max)
2015 Walk Rate: 5.7%
Height: 6-foot-4
Years of Control: Five (two pre-arbitration and three arbitration years)

The Yankees and Mariners discussed Gardner a few weeks ago, and last week George King reported the Yankees asked for Walker, which apparently ended talks. (Why do we always hear talks ended because the first ask was high? Aren’t you supposed to, you know, negotiate?) The 23-year-old Walker had an okay year this season (4.56 ERA and 4.07 FIP in 169.2 innings) but was extremely homer prone (1.33 HR/9) despite playing his home games in Safeco Field. But still, he’s a former top prospect with quality stuff, so the appeal is obvious. The Mariners refused to trade Walker for David Price a few years ago, though that was under ex-GM Jack Zduriencik. New GM Jerry Dipoto may be more open to moving Walker. Also, even though Seattle just acquired Leonys Martin, they still have a need for outfielders, so Gardner still makes some sense, though obviously Gardner-for-Walker ain’t happening. It would have to be Gardner plus stuff for the young righty.

* * *

By no means is this list intended to be comprehensive. Plenty of starters either throw hard or limit walks, but surprisingly few do both, and even fewer might actually be available this offseason. (Something tells me others like Clayton Kershaw and Noah Syndergaard are staying put, you guys.) Guys like Robbie Ray and Jimmy Nelson throw hard but walk too many hitters. Others like Josh Tomlin and Chase Anderson limit walks but work with average velocity or less.

Through their various pickups the last few years the Yankees have made it clear they like hard-throwers with low walk rates. Even small additions like Chris Martin fit the bill. The Yankees are said to be looking for starters this offseason for obvious reasons, and unless they unexpectedly shift gears, they figure to again target high-velocity, low-walk pitchers. It’s an exclusive club and those guys tend to cost quite a bit to acquire, but they aren’t off-limits either.

Monday Night Open Thread

As I’m sure you’ve heard, there’s a report going around saying Robinson Cano is not happy with the Mariners and would like to return to New York somehow. Too bad it won’t happen. Even if the two sides could work out a trade — Cano for Jacoby Ellsbury? pretty please? — there are egos involved and I just can’t see it happening. I mean, maybe it’ll happen, but the chances are like 0.00001% or something like that, right? For shame.

Here is your open thread for the evening. The Bills and Patriots are the Monday Night Football game, plus the (hockey) Rangers and Fightin’ Porzingises (Porzingi?) are playing, and there’s a bunch of college hoops on as well. Talk about those games or anything else here.

Cashman says Warren is “going to come in as a starter” next season

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

As expected, Brian Cashman confirmed Adam Warren will come to camp next season as a starting pitcher, reports Erik Boland. “(He is) going to come in as a starter. That would be the plan,” said the GM. There is no reason not to bring Warren or Bryan Mitchell or whoever to Spring Training stretched out as a starter next year. No-brainer.

Warren, 28, has come to Spring Training as a starter for a few years now, so this is nothing new. The difference now is Warren actually received an opportunity to start this past season — he was in the Opening Day rotation thanks to Chris Capuano‘s quad injury — and showed he can do it.

In 17 starts this summer, Warren had a 3.66 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 96 innings. That includes his rough April, when he struggled to complete five innings and walked almost as many batters as he struck out. Warren really settled in after that first month and went on a nice run for a few weeks before moving back into the bullpen.

“I want to be a starter,” said Warren to Jack Curry recently. “I really wasn’t sure going into last season whether I wanted to be a starter or a reliever, and obviously I got the opportunity to start and I really fell in love with it. Fell in love with getting to see hitters three or four times and thinking through at-bats and what pitches you want to throw.”

At the moment, I’d say the 2016 rotation will include Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia in whatever order. That’s assuming everyone is healthy and there’s no big offseason trade, stuff like that. Warren and Ivan Nova are the depth starters.

When it comes to the sixth starter, Warren might be at a disadvantage because he’s shown he can excel in a short relief role. Nova hasn’t pitched in relief a whole lot in his career and has never worked as a true one-inning guy. That might put him ahead of Warren on the rotation depth chart. We’ll see.

“I feel like (starting) suits my game better. I really enjoy doing that,” added Warren. “Getting the opportunity to at least compete as a starter is really something I’m really working hard for this offseason and really focusing on to come in to Spring Training to really impress.”

Stark: Astros have inquired about Andrew Miller

(Cindy Ord/Getty)
(Cindy Ord/Getty)

Due to limited payroll space and a reluctance to trade top prospects, the Yankees are said to be “shopping everyone” on their big league roster, including Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller. They’re pretty much the only two veterans on the team making decent money with actual trade value. Trading Gardner and/or Miller is the best way to clear salary (WTF?!) and add talent.

Several teams, including the Diamondbacks and Tigers, have already checked in on Miller. We can add the Astros to that list. Jayson Stark reports Houston is “hell-bent” on adding a top closer and have asked about Miller, Aroldis Chapman, Ken Giles, Brad Boxberger, and various free agents. Luke Gregerson did a fine job closing for the Astros last year but I guess they want an upgrade.

Last offseason the Astros aggressively pursued Miller and actually made him the best offer — Ken Rosenthal says they offered him four years and $44M. Miller ultimately took $2M less per year from the Yankees. “Money wasn’t everything. The teams that negotiated with us were fully aware of that as well. In the total package, the Yankees had the best offer for me personally,” he said at the time.

The Craig Kimbrel trade gives us an idea of what an elite reliever with three years of control is worth in a trade, though getting four prospects — well, three prospects and a utility guy — for Miller is probably the best case scenario. The Yankees reportedly want controllable pitching in any trade and are said to be seeking three young players for Miller, which is a perfectly reasonable first ask to me.

The Astros have a deep farm system though it is no longer the best in the game due to recent graduations and trades. Here are their top 30 prospects per It’s hard to not see righty Mark Appel as a possible centerpiece. Appel was the first overall pick in the 2013 draft, but he is more pedigree than results (4.87 ERA and 4.06 FIP in 294 career minor league innings!) at this point. After all, he was expected to be in the big leagues by now.

While asking for a former first overall pick in return for a reliever sounds silly, Appel’s stock is down and he’s not an elite prospect. has him as the 43rd best prospect in baseball. The Padres received the No. 25 and 76 prospects for Kimbrel. Who knows. Maybe Appel plus some secondary stuff for Miller works for both sides. Just thinking out loud here. That’s the sort of package the Yankees should be seeking.

Anyway, the Yankees have a lot of leverage in Miller trade talks because the only other available reliever who matches his effectiveness and favorable contract situation is Giles. Chapman and Mark Melancon will be free agents next winter and the best reliever in free agency is Darren O’Day, who is three years older than Miller. If the Yankees can get multiple young players they really like, great. If not, they’ll keep one of the game’s best relievers and his affordable contract.