Carlos Beltran started a new throwing program yesterday, Joe Girardi told Chad Jennings. Once he is able to throw without discomfort due to the bone spur in his elbow, the Yankees can resume playing him in right field rather than at DH everyday.
Beltran, 37, started a throwing program a few weeks ago but had to be shut down after a few days because of soreness. He admitted to still feeling some lingering discomfort three weeks ago. Beltran is not good defensively by any stretch of the imagination, but being relegated to DH really limits Girardi’s flexibility with the lineup. Being able to stick him out in right even two or three times a week opens up some more lineup possibilities. · (58) ·
Yesterday we looked at the pitchers the Phillies could offer at the trade deadline, and they have two gems in Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Now let’s look at the position players. Philadelphia doesn’t have any impact position players to trade — Chase Utley has already said he would use his no-trade clause to remain with the team — but they do have a few usable pieces. Here are the potential fits for the Yankees.
OF Marlon Byrd
The Yankees have zero right-handed power right now. Their righty hitters have managed 16 homeruns in 99 games this year, six of which were hit by the departed Alfonso Soriano. Unless switch-hitters Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, and Chase Headley are facing a southpaw, the team’s best power threat from the right side is Zelous Wheeler. That’s not good and adding some right-handed firepower to the lineup is a clear need leading up to the trade deadline.
Byrd, 36, is currently hitting .266/.319/.480 (120 wRC+) with 19 homers this season, one year after resurfacing with the Mets (and Pirates) and going deep 24 times. He was very nearly out of baseball in 2012 — Byrd had a 27 wRC+ in 153 plate appearances that year before being suspended for a failed performance-enhancing drug trade — but he reinvented himself as an all-or-nothing slugger following that season. Byrd basically swings from his heels all the time now, and the result is a lot of power (.214 ISO this year, .220 last year, .151 career) and a lot of strikeouts (28.7% this year, 24.9% last year, 18.9% career).
There is a tangible reason for Byrd’s transformation as a hitter (both Jason Collette and Jeff Sullivan have written about it more in depth) and his performance this year is right in line with last year. He is hitting a few more fly balls in general but his 16.7 HR/FB% is the same as last year (16.6% in 2013, to be exact). His plate discipline stats are roughly the same and his .337 BABIP is actually lower than last season’s .353 mark. After nearly 1,000 plate appearances, I think it’s safe to say Byrd’s swing hard all the time style is conducive to a high BABIP. If you’re willing to live with the strikeouts — the Yankees as a team have the fifth lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 18.4% — he’ll give you plenty of right-handed thump.
The Phillies signed Byrd to a very reasonable two-year contract worth $16M over the winter (there’s also a vesting option for 2016 based on plate appearances) and he is in demand at the trade deadline. The MLBTR archives show the Royals, Mariners, and Reds are among those interested in acquiring him. The Yankees are not included in Byrd’s four-team no-trade list according to Jim Salisbury, and he would fit nicely as the team’s everyday right fielder/number six or seven hitter. The Mets traded a half-season of Byrd for a Triple-A reliever (Vic Black) and a good but not great Single-A prospect (Dilson Herrera) last year, though I suspect the price will be a big higher this summer because he’s shown his resurgence isn’t a fluke.
1B/OF John Mayberry Jr.
Don’t want to pay the price for Byrd? Fine, the 30-year-old Mayberry is a cheaper alternative. He is currently hitting .213/.304/.418 (104 wRC+) with six homers in 138 plate appearances overall, including .255/.339/.582 (155 wRC+) against lefties. Over the last three seasons he’s managed a .259/.314/.498 (120 wRC+) line against southpaws and only a .220/.286/.341 (73 wRC+) line against righties, so Mayberry is strictly a platoon option. Considering what the Yankees have gotten out of right field this year, playing him everyday might still be an upgrade.
A few weeks ago we heard the Bombers were scouting Mayberry and that makes sense. He’s cheap ($1.59M salary this year) and under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016, plus he can play both corner outfield spots and first base in a pinch. A real live backup first baseman. Imagine that. We aren’t talking about a difference maker, just a nice role player. Mayberry would instantly become the team’s best right-handed power hitter and he should come relatively cheap — similar players like Scott Hairston and Justin Ruggiano cost nothing more than fringe prospects over the last calendar year. The Phillies placed Mayberry on the 15-day DL with wrist inflammation just yesterday, so a trade would either have to come in August or while he’s injured.
OF Domonic Brown
Remember all those Brown for Dellin Betances rumors? Those were fun. Last year the Yankees looked dumb for not making the trade (not that is was ever on the table, as far as we know) and this year they would be morons to doing it. Brown has been one of the very worst position players in baseball this year, hitting a weak .227/.279/.327 (66 wRC+) with six homers while playing awful defense in left field. That 66 wRC+ ranks 157th out of 161 qualified hitters. The raw production is slightly better than what Soriano (60 wRC+) gave the Yankees this year.
Of course, the 26-year-old Brown hit .272/.324/.494 (124 wRC+) with 24 homers and was an All-Star last season, when it looked like he was finally starting to turn his talent into results. Eighteen of those 24 homers came in the months of May and June though (12 in May alone), so over the last calendar year he has hit a soft .236/.292/.337 (74 wRC+) with only nine homers in 136 games. Brown is not a high-strikeout hitter (18.1% this year and 18.4% career) but he does struggle against lefties and is beating the ball into the ground this year. He’s a project. No doubt about it.
Buying super low on Brown as a reclamation project seems like a great idea, except he’s out of options and can’t go to the minors to work on things. At least not without clearing waivers, which would never happen no matter how poorly he hits. Someone would take a chance on him. Can the Yankees afford to stick him in right field everyday and hope hitting coach Kevin Long can fix whatever needs to be fixed? I’m not sure. The Phillies have been shopping Brown since the offseason and I don’t think acquiring him would be all that tough. I’m just not sure what the Yankees would do with him other than stick him in right and cross their fingers.
* * *
As I mentioned earlier, Utley has all but said he wants to remain with Philadelphia and would block any trade. Jimmy Rollins has indicated the opposite — he would be open to accepting a trade to a contender. I don’t think Rollins, who has played one-third of an inning at a non-shortstop position in his entire professional career, is a fit for the Yankees right now, but I fully expect a winter of Rollins-to-New York rumors after Derek Jeter retires. Get ready for it. It’s coming.
Catcher Carlos Ruiz makes no sense for the Yankees and don’t even bring up Ryan Howard. Did you realize he’s hitting .222/.302/.378 (88 wRC+) this year? Forget him. Just a name at this point. Left-handed hitting third baseman Cody Asche is hitting .256/.308/.401 (96 wRC+) with poor defense but is only 24, so that makes him kinda interesting. He wouldn’t help the 2014 Yankees all that much — they wouldn’t need him to with Headley now on board — but he might be useful in the future. Byrd and to a lesser extent Mayberry are good fits for a Yankees team in need of right-handed power. Both are available and both would make a lot of sense.
12:37am: Johnson felt something in his groin and is heading for an MRI. That’s never good. Sounds like he’ll be out a few days at the very least.
10:20pm: Kelly Johnson exited tonight’s game with some sort of injury. He took the field in the top of the 11th before Joe Girardi and the trainer came out to check on him. He tried to run before leaving the game. Replays showed Johnson pulling up lame running out a ground ball in the previous half-inning. Hopefully it’s just a cramp. We’ll find out soon enough. · (27) ·
Just when I thought these Yankees couldn’t get any worse, they go and do something like this … AND TOTALLY REDEEM THEMSELVES! Seriously, that was the worst best game of the year. I loved it and hated it at the same time. The Yankees won but really, we all still lost in a way. The final score was 2-1 in 14 innings.
The New Guy
Just as we all expected when we woke up Tuesday morning, Chase Headley delivered a walk-off single to give the Yankees the win over the Rangers in the second game of their four-game series. New York acquired their new third baseman from the Padres in the afternoon, he joined the team after flying in from Chicago, arrived at Yankee Stadium in the second inning, pinch-hit in the eighth, and still managed to get four at-bats. Pretty hectic day, I imagine.
Before Headley could earn his True Yankee status, his new teammates had to rally to tie the game in the bottom of the 13th. Catcher turned first baseman J.P. Arencibia took David Huff deep for a solo homer in the top half of the inning, and it really did feel like the end of the game. The Yankees looked so inept for 17 innings dating back to Monday that scoring a run felt like impossible. Naturally, after struggling against no names all night, they pushed across the tying run against Joakim Soria, the best available pitcher on the Rangers’ staff.
Brett Gardner led off the 13th inning with a pure hustle double to right, using his speed to barely beat out Shin-Soo Choo’s throw. The play was really close. Derek Jeter bunted Gardner up to third and, for whatever reason, Texas elected to pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury with first base open. He singled to right to knot the game up. Ellsbury’s come up with a ton of huge hits this season so far. At least it feels that way. He advanced to third on Carlos Beltran‘s single but was stranded when Brian McCann banged into an odd 3-6-3 double play. It appeared Arencibia let the ball drop in rather than catch it for one out.
Anyway, the 14th inning rally started with another double, this one a one-out ground-rule job by Brian Roberts. I’m not sure if he would have gotten to second base on the play without the ball going over the wall. Thankfully it did. Frankie Cervelli followed with a ground ball single to right, though it was hit hard enough that Roberts had to hold at third. Headley followed up with the walk-off single, a nice little piece of hitting the other way on a sinker on the outer half. This game felt like it was never going to end. Pretty awesome that the new guy got to show off some #hitvelo and contribute directly to the win.
Nick, Not Pedro
One day after getting shut down by someone named Miles Mikolas, the Yankees managed three singles and one walk in 5.1 innings against rookie Nick Martinez. He retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced and took the ball into the sixth inning despite being on a 65-ish pitch count in his first start off the disabled list. I imagine Headley was probably sitting in the dugout hoping he could go back to the Padres to play with a team that could score runs. (I kid, I kid.)
The Yankees didn’t get their first base-runner to second base (!) until Derek Jeter doubled to left with one out in the ninth. He was stranded after Ellsbury was intentional walked and Beltran hit into a 6-4-3 double play. Two two-out walks (Gardner and Jeter) were wasted in the 11th when Ellsbury grounded out. Two singles (Beltran and McCann) and an intentional walk (Roberts) loaded the bases with one out in the 12th, but the Rangers escaped the jam when Cervelli lined out to Adrian Beltre at third and Headley grounded out. It was remarkable. They were finding new and interesting ways to not score each inning.
Before Soria blew the save, the Yankees managed only six hits and five walks in 12 innings against a parade of mostly replacement level arms. Between Martinez and some relievers, 23 of 25 Yankees made outs from the first through ninth innings. That’s unbelievable. There was some hard contact against Martinez in the first two innings but nothing after that. The Yankees rolled over on a lot of weak grounders or popped up hittable pitches until Jeter doubled in the ninth. This offense, man. It makes you want to pull your hair out sometimes.
The Return of Ace Whitley
The pitching line is fantastic — 6 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K 8/2 GB/FB — and Chase Whitley was far better than he had been in his previous four starts, but the Rangers definitely bailed him out with some shoddy base-running. Whitley put the leadoff man on base in the first, second, third, fourth, and seventh innings, though Texas had a man thrown out at third trying to advance on a ball in the dirt in the third, then had another runner thrown out at home in the fifth. It was a soft ground ball back up the middle that Roberts fielded but was unable to throw to first for the out, yet for whatever reason Robinson Chirinos chugged on home after rounding third. He was out at home by a mile.
Whitley was a little shaky but ultimately he kept runs off the board and that’s all that matters. Given all the injuries, there are no style points for the team’s rotation. Get outs however you can. Six relievers held the Rangers hitless for six innings (only one walk) after Whitley until Arencibia homered leading off the 13th. Adam Warren (two outs), Dellin Betances (three outs), David Robertson (six outs), and Shawn Kelley (three outs) were all pretty awesome. Jeff Francis, who I had totally forgotten was on the roster, pitched a scoreless 14th for the win. I have to think the Yankees will bring up a fresh arm tomorrow. I’m just not sure who.
Jeter’s double was the 535th of his career, passing Lou Gehrig for the most two-baggers in Yankees history. He went 1-for-4 with a walk on the night. Gardner (two hits, two walks), Ellsbury (two hits, one walk), Beltran (two hits), and Roberts (two hits, one walk) all reached base multiple times. Kelly Johnson went 0-for-4 before leaving the game with a groin injury.
McCann had a weird night at the plate. He went 1-for-6 but there’s a story behind it. McCann hit a ball to the wall in his first at-bat that Leonys Martin caught and re-caught on the way down after it plopped out of his glove mid-jump. Next time up he smashed a line drive that Arencibia robbed with a leaping catch. Later in the game, he lifted a jam shot bloop into the triangle in left field that fell in because three Rangers defenders had communication issues. McCann hit two balls on the screws and got nothing. Then he got jammed and got a hit on a weak bloop. Baseball, man.
And finally, I was disappointed to see Questlove leave the game after the 13th inning, though I can’t say I blame him. It looked like he was going to hang around all night. The B-list celebrity who turned the season around?
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com is the place to go for the box score and video highlights. FanGraphs has some other stats and the updated standings are at ESPN. The Orioles won and the Mariners lost, so the Yankees remain four games back of the top spot in the AL East and climbed to within 1.5 games of the second wildcard spot.
The Yankees and Rangers will continue this four-game series on Wednesday night, when David Phelps squares off against Yu Darvish. That should be fun. (I’m not sure if that’s the right word.) Head over to RAB Tickets if you watch to catch that game or any of the other four games left on the homestand.
Two quick notes:
- IF Scott Sizemore has been transferred from the temporary inactive list to the Triple-A Scranton disabled list, reports Donnie Collins. I’m not sure what’s going on there, but the temporary inactive list usually means the player had to attend to some personal stuff.
- The Yankees have signed West Virginia 2B Billy Fleming as an undrafted free agent, according to Grant Dovey. He hit .357/.459/.420 with seven doubles, 20 walks, and 16 strikeouts in 30 games for the Bourne Braves of the Cape Cod League this summer. Yankees obviously saw something they liked and scooper him up.
Triple-A Scranton (7-0 win over Gwinnett)
- SS Jose Pirela: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 CS — second game at short this year (zero from 2012-13)
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 3-5, 1 2B, 1 K — had three hits in his last 19 at-bats combined (.158)
- LF Zoilo Almonte: 1-5, 3 K
- RF Adonis Garcia: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 3 K
- DH Kyle Roller: 0-2, 2 R, 3 BB, 1 K
- C John Ryan Murphy: 1-2, 2 R, 3 BB — 9-for-27 (.333) in his last eight games
- 1B Austin Romine: 1-5, 1 R, 2 RBI — 11-for-34 (.324) in his last ten games
- 3B Rob Segedin: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 1 BB — grand slam in his second game at Triple-A
- RHP Bryan Mitchell: 5 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 49 of 81 pitches were strikes (60%)
- LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0/2 GB/FB — 21 of 33 pitches were strikes (64%)
- RHP Danny Burawa: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1/1 GB/FB — eight of 14 pitches were strikes (57%)
The Yankees threw the ball all over the field and looked generally helpless at the plate last night, so they responded today by swinging a trade for third baseman Chase Headley. He might not hit, there’s a chance he just stinks now, but at the very least he will be a huge upgrade at the hot corner defensively. I’m sure the pitching staff will appreciate that part of his game, if nothing else.
Headley is listed on the lineup card and is on the active roster for tonight’s game, but he is not in the starting lineup. The trade went down in the early afternoon and even though the Padres are in Chicago and not San Diego, getting to the Bronx in time for the game just didn’t happen. Joe Girardi told reporters Headley is expected to arrive at Yankee Stadium around 7:30pm ET and be available off the bench in the late innings. He also said he’ll be the team’s everyday third baseman going forward, because duh. Here’s the Rangers lineup and here’s the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Carlos Beltran
- 1B Brian McCann
- RF Kelly Johnson — lots of experience in left but this is his first career game in right
- 2B Brian Roberts
- C Frankie Cervelli
- 3B Zelous Wheeler
RHP Chase Whitley
It’s a lovely day in New York. No clouds, warm but not hot, breezy but not windy. No rain in the forecast either. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and can be seen on My9. Enjoy.
Michael Pineda has started facing hitters in live batting practice, Joe Girardi told Jorge Castillo over the weekend. The right-hander has already thrown one batting practice session and is expected to throw one more before advancing to simulated games and eventually minor league rehab games.
Pineda, 25, has been out since late-April with a muscle problem in his back/shoulder. He suffered a setback during a throwing session in May and has slowly been working his way back since. The Yankees can’t count on Pineda to bolster the rotation at this point, not with his recent injury history, but man it would be some kind of boost if he returned sometime next month. · (41) ·
Finally, some help for the infield. The Yankees have acquired third baseman Chase Headley and cash from the Padres for utility man Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitching prospect Rafael DePaula, both teams announced. Jack Curry and Jon Heyman first reported the news and Chad Jennings says the Yankees hope he will be in town in time for tonight’s game. (The Padres are in Chicago.)
Headley, 30, is owed approximately $4.2M through the end of the season, and Heyman says the Yankees will receive about $1M from San Diego. Headley is due to become a free agent after the winter and because he was acquired at midseason, the team will not be able to make him a qualifying offer to recoup a draft pick in the offseason. This is a pure rental, obviously, though things could always go so well that they re-sign him.
Through 77 games and 307 plate appearances this year, the switch-hitting Headley is hitting .229/.296/.355 (88 wRC+) with seven homers and 12 doubles. He was dealing with some back issues a few weeks ago and has hit .298/.330/.405 (110 wRC+) in 21 games since receiving an epidural. As with all Padres’ position players, the hope is Headley will perform better away from spacious Petco Park. Here’s what I wrote in our recent Scouting The Market Post:
Petco Park is a notorious pitcher’s park, even after the walls were brought in last season. Headley is a career .286/.360/.444 (118 wRC+) hitter on the road (.243/.331/.371 (107 wRC+) at home), including a 154 wRC+ away from Petco Park in 2012 (97 wRC+ on the road from 2013-14). If the Yankees were to acquire Headley, he would be moving from one of the worst hitting parks in the game to one of the best. It would be damn near impossible for his numbers not to improve.
Headley’s offensive numbers might not improve, he might just stink as a hitter now, but there is no doubt he will improve New York’s dreadful infield defense. He has consistently graded out as above-average defender at third base and will be the team’s best hot corner gloveman since peak Alex Rodriguez. It would be awesome if Headley hits like he did in 2012 (145 wRC+), but being nothing more than a league-average bat with his defense would be a gigantic upgrade for the Yankees.
In exchange for Headley, the Yankees gave up a spare part in Solarte and a secondary pitching prospect. The team signed Solarte as a minor league free agent over the winter and he was awesome for the first two months of the season, but his production slipped in recent weeks and he was eventually shipped to the minors. The 27-year-old has hit .254/.337/.381 (100 wRC+) in 289 plate appearances this year. Hopefully he gets a chance to play everyday in San Diego. The Solarte Partay was a blast while it lasted.
DePaula, 23, has a 4.15 ERA (3.34 FIP) in 89 innings for High-A Tampa this season. I ranked him as the team’s 20th best prospect before the draft, mostly because of his high-end fastball velocity and promising slider. There are still questions about whether he is anything more than a reliever long-term. The Yankee signed DePaula for $500k out of Dominican Republic in 2010 but he did not make his pro debut until 2012 due to visa issues. He was suspended one year before signing for falsifying his identity.
It’s worth noting the Blue Jays were said to be pursuing Headley as well, so the Yankees essentially took him away from a division rival and direct competitor for a postseason spot. The Bombers have now added two rentals in Headley and Brandon McCarthy, and all they’ve given up is a good but not great pitching prospect and two players signed off the scrap heap. I mean, they turned Solarte and Vidal Nuno into half-seasons of Headley and McCarthy. That’s pretty awesome. DePaula, like most Single-A pitching prospects, was as tradeable as it gets. These moves might be not enough to put the Yankees over the top — they still need rotation help and a right fielder — but they were upgrades at minimal cost.
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have called the White Sox about left-hander John Danks. The two sides are not close to a deal and Heyman says talks may only be in the preliminary stages. The rebuilding ChiSox are, unsurprisingly, looking for young players and prospects in return.
Danks, 29, was a popular trade topic around these parts a few years ago, when he had a 3.77 ERA (3.89 FIP) and averaged 194.2 innings a year from 2008-11. Then he tore his shoulder capsule in 2012 and has pitched to a 4.56 ERA (4.89 FIP) since surgery, including a 4.35 ERA (4.70 FIP) in 124 innings this year. PitchFX shows his velocity (all pitches) has not returned since the shoulder injury.
Danks is owed roughly $35M through the 2016 season and torn capsules are usually the kiss of death. No one has returned from one to pitch to their pre-injury levels. It effectively ended the careers of Johan Santana, Rich Harden, Mark Prior, and Chien-Ming Wang, among others. Danks has been serviceable since the injury, but given the money left on his contract, I would hope he comes cheap in terms of prospects. · (94) ·
With four-fifths of the Opening Day rotation on the disabled list and not due back anytime soon, the Yankees are facing a pitching crisis. It’s not as bad as it could be thanks to the Brandon McCarthy pickup and the emergence of Shane Greene, but the team is pretty desperate for some quality arms. It’s tough to expect Masahiro Tanaka and/or Michael Pineda to return in the second half given the nature of their injuries.
The trade deadline is next Thursday and at this point it’s tough to see the Phillies not selling. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. recently told Jim Salisbury nothing more than “we’re going to try to do what we can to improve our club,” which makes sense. It’s not often a team will come out and announce they’re in sell mode. It pushes fans away. The Phillies do have baseball’s sixth worst record at 43-56 though, and the rumors of a fire sale are louder than ever. If and when they do pull the plug, they have several players who would interest the Yankees. Here are the pitchers, later today we’ll cover the position players.
LHP Cliff Lee
Lee, 35, returned to the mound last night after spending two months on the disabled list with a flexor pronator strain. That’s a muscle in your forearm, though forearm issues are usually symptoms of an elbow problem. Either way, Lee returned last night and was terrible, allowing six runs on a career high-tying 12 hits in 5.2 innings. I watched the game and he just looked rusty. PitchFX confirms his velocity was fine and he threw all of his pitches, but his location was terrible. He looked like a guy who threw only 10.2 rehab innings after missing two months.
Anyway, prior to last night, Lee had a 3.18 ERA (2.70 FIP) in ten starts and 68 innings, numbers that are right in line with his stellar 2008-2013 performance (2.89 ERA and 2.85 FIP). His strikeout rate (8.07 K/9 and 21.1 K%) was down a touch from recent years but still very good while his walk rate (1.19 BB/9 and 3.1 BB%) was outstanding as usual and his ground ball rate (49.1%) was a career high. Cliff Lee was pitching exactly like Cliff Lee before the injury. Here is his pitch breakdown:
Even during these last seven years, when he was one of the three or four best pitchers in baseball, Lee never had blow you away stuff. It’s good stuff but not great stuff that plays up (a lot) because he locates everything so well. Lee is essentially a sinker/cutter/changeup pitcher who will mix in a few four-seamers, curveballs, and sliders per start, with the changeup being the only pitch that is above-average at getting both swings and misses and grounders. (Whiff+ and GB+ are like ERA+, but for swing-and-miss and ground ball rates for the individual pitches.)
Lee’s contract is pricey but it’s not an albatross given how well he was pitching before getting hurt — he is owed roughly $10M through the end of this season plus another $25M last year. His $27.5M option for 2016 comes with a $12.5M buyout and vests if he throws 200 innings next year or 400 innings combined from 2014-15. The injury will hurt his chances of meeting the latter. Lee has thrown at least 210 innings every year since 2008, so he’s been very durable in recent years. He’s guaranteed $47.5M or so through the end of next year and at most $62.5M through 2016. I don’t see that as a deal-breaker for a pitcher of this caliber.
The Yankees are included in Lee’s 20-team no-trade list according to Jon Morosi, but that doesn’t appear to be much of an obstacle. In a perfect world New York would just absorb Lee’s contract and give up little in the way of prospects. The Phillies are a financial powerhouse though and shedding salary is not a priority at the deadline. In fact, Ken Rosenthal says they’re willing to eat money to get the best possible prospect package in return. Jim Bowden (subs. req’d) suggested Aaron Judge and Luis Severino for Lee, which is ludicrous, but he isn’t going to come cheap either. Giving up two very good but not truly elite prospects for a legitimate difference maker like Lee seems pretty reasonable in a vacuum, actually.
Of course, the health of Lee’s forearm/elbow is a critical and any team that trades for him will have to have to feel confident in the medicals. Lee is scheduled to start again Saturday, his last scheduled start before the deadline (he is scheduled to start again on the 31st). Teams are only going to get two looks at him before the deadline and the first look last night stunk. Saturday’s outing could be enough to convince a pitching needy club to pull the trigger, or Lee’s post-injury audition could stretch a little longer and make him an August waiver trade candidate. The Yankees are enamored with him and they are desperate for pitching. The stars are aligned.
LHP Cole Hamels
Want an elite left-hander who is younger than Lee and doesn’t have the same immediate injury concerns? The Phillies can also offer up the 30-year-old Hamels, who is once again pitching brilliantly (2.83 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 17 starts and 114.1 innings) after opening the season on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. It clearly has not had any lingering effect — his strikeout rate (9.05 K/9 and 24.7 K%) is excellent and both his walk (2.99 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%) and ground ball (48.5%) rates are strong. His fastball velocity is also identical to last year and 2010-13 in general.
Let’s dive in to his pitch breakdown:
The changeup has always been Hamels’ bread and butter. It’s an elite offspeed pitch he can and will throw in any count to batters on both sides of the plate. He picked up the cutter during the 2010 season and it has helped him go from very good to excellent. Hamels throws five different pitches at least 10% of the time each (give or take) and has a go-to out pitch in his changeup. That kind of repertoire makes him one of the best (and most underappreciated?) pitchers in the game.
The Phillies signed Hamels to a massive six-year extension worth $144M two years ago, and at this point he is still owed approximately $99M through the 2018 season. That’s broken down into $9M for the rest of this year plus $22.5M annually over the next four years. The deal also includes a $20M team option/$24M vesting option for 2019. The option vests based on innings and shoulder-related time on the disabled list. Hamels wouldn’t be a short-term commitment like Lee, you’d be getting this guy from age 30-34 and possibly his age 35 season as well.
Both Jon Heyman and Nick Cafardo hear the Phillies are not inclined to move Hamels unless they’re blown away. They see him as someone who can anchor the rotation going forward and be part of the next winning team in Philadelphia. In fact, Cafardo says they’d need three top prospects and a team to absorb his full contract to move him. That seems unlikely to happen. (For what it’s worth, Buster Olney says the Phillies are telling teams Hamels is not available at all.) Like Lee, Hamels is an elite left-hander who has been a workhorse, has experience in a big market, and shown he can dominate in the postseason. Either guy would fit wonderfully in the Yankees’ rotation.
RHP Kyle Kendrick and RHP Roberto Hernandez
Regardless of whether you think the Yankees should be buying or selling — this is a very binary thing, of course, nothing in the middle is allowed — I think we can all agree they need to add another starter to eat up some innings at the very least. Hanging Chase Whitley out to dry in the second half is a recipe for disaster. Another McCarthy-esque pickup feels like the absolutely minimum for New York before the deadline.
The 29-year-old Kendrick has thrown at least 150 innings three times in the last four years and is at 20 starts and 125.2 innings this season. The problem? He’s been terrible, with a 4.87 ERA (4.57 FIP) this year and 5.38 ERA (4.51 FIP) over the last calendar year. Hernandez, 33, has also thrown 150+ innings in three of the last four years and is poised to do so again this year (17 starts, three relief appearances, 100.1 innings). He has a 4.22 ERA (4.78 FIP) this season and a 4.41 ERA (4.78 FIP) over the last calendar year. Both guys would likely come cheap and chew up some innings, but that’s it. They won’t have an impact.
RHP Jonathan Papelbon and various relievers
Papelbon, who is now 33, recently told Matt Gelb he would welcome a trade to a contender, assuming someone is willing to take on the $18M he is owed through next season (plus a $13M vesting option for 2016). He has been excellent in 2014 (1.17 ERA and 2.36 FIP) even though his strikeout rate (7.75 K/9 and 22.5 K%) has fallen for the third straight year. The Yankees could use another reliever, every team could, but this seems like overkill. If they’re willing to invest that kind of money in a reliever, I’d so much rather see them give it to the younger and better David Robertson.
The rest of Philadelphia’s bullpen includes 28-year-old lefty Antonio Bastardo, who has a 3.38 ERA (3.19 FIP) in 42.2 innings this year. He has been effective against right-handed hitters over the years and is not just a specialist. Veteran righty Mike Adams is once again on the disabled list with a shoulder problem and is likely done for the year. He’s a non-option. Others like lefty Jake Diekman (4.43 ERA and 3.01 FIP) and righty Justin De Fratus (3.07 ERA and 3.86 FIP) are fresh off the generic middle reliever farm. There’s a reason the Phillies have been looking for quality bullpen help for about two years now. There’s not much to see here.
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The Yankees are said to have no interest in a reunion with A.J. Burnett — the Orioles are reportedly trying to acquire him, by the way (imagine having Burnett and Ubaldo Jimenez in the same rotation, yikes) — which isn’t surprising. I doubt we’ll see any reunions with failed Yankees starters for a little while after the Javy Vazquez fiasco. They’ve shown they’ll let things like that scare them away from repeats for a little while.
Lee and Hamels are obviously the big pitching names with the Phillies and I get the sense both are more available now than ever before. Lee seems more easily attainable, not that it won’t sting to get him. You have to give something to get an impact pitcher like that, assuming his arm is sound following the injury. Kendrick, Hernandez, and the miscellaneous bullpen arms are not needle-movers, just warm bodies to give innings in the second half. The Yankees could use use some of those types of pitchers too.