March 2nd Camp Notes: Sabathia, Tanaka, Betances, Deglan

We play today, we win today, das it. The Yankees won again tonight, improving their Grapefruit League record to 7-1. Greg Bird and Billy McKinney hit long home runs — Bird’s left the damn stadium — while a host of others had doubles (McKinney, Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez, Kyle Higashioka). Matt Holliday also hit an opposite field dinger. And heck, it’s entirely possible the hardest hit ball of the night was Clint Frazier‘s line out to third in the sixth.

Eleven up, nine down for Adam Warren in his second spring start. He allowed a solo homer and not much else. That homer was the only hit the Orioles had until a bloop with two outs in the ninth. Aroldis Chapman made his first spring appearance and fanned two in a perfect frame. Tyler Clippard, Tommy Layne, and Dietrich Enns were all mighty impressive. Here are the box score and video highlights, and here’s the rest of the day’s news from Tampa:

  • Bryan Hoch has the day’s pitching assignments and hitting/fielding groups for everyone who didn’t play in tonight’s game. Jon Niese threw a simulated game. Have to figure he’ll get into a spring game fairly soon.
  • CC Sabathia threw another two-inning simulated game today and everything with his surgically repaired knee is going well. He’s expected to make his first Grapefruit League start Tuesday. [Meredith Marakovits]
  • Masahiro Tanaka, meanwhile, will make his next start Sunday. No extra day of rest after the quick two-inning outing Tuesday. Dellin Betances will pitch Saturday, then leave for the World Baseball Classic. [Hoch, Erik Boland]
  • Team Canada announced Kellin Deglan has been replaced on their WBC roster due to injury. No idea what’s wrong with him. Deglan last played Tuesday and figures to start the season with Double-A Trenton. (Update: Hoch says Deglan has a sore shoulder.)

Luis Severino is scheduled to make his second start of the spring tomorrow afternoon. The Yankees will be on the road playing the Blue Jays. There is no YES broadcast for that game, but it will be available live on MLB Network in the New York market. And on MLB.tv too.

Spring Training Game Thread: Chapman’s Spring Debut

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

So far, so good for the Yankees in Spring Training. The only significant injury was a fluke (Tyler Austin‘s foot) and the kids all look pretty good. The Yankees are 6-1 this spring and they’ve outscored their opponents 47-29. They lead all teams in runs and homers (12) this spring. I have no idea whether the offense will last, but it has made this first week of Grapefruit League play awful fun.

This evening Aroldis Chapman will make his spring debut. Unlike Dellin Betances, Chapman is not going to the World Baseball Classic. He can work at his own pace this spring. Top relievers usually only throw seven or eight innings in camp. This will be inning No. 1 for Chapman. Also, Clint Frazier is starting in center field tonight. That’s sorta interesting. Here is the split squad lineup the Orioles sent up from Sarasota, and here are the players the Yankees will use:

  1. RF Aaron Hicks
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. 1B Greg Bird
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. LF Rob Refsnyder
  8. CF Clint Frazier
  9. SS Gleyber Torres
    RHP Adam Warren

Available Pitchers: LHP Aroldis Chapman, RHP Tyler Clippard, LHP Tommy Layne, and LHP Dietrich Enns are all scheduled to pitch tonight. RHP Gio Gallegos, LHP Jason Gurka, HP Kyle Haynes, RHP Matt Marsh, and LHP Evan Rutckyj are also available if needed. Haynes and Marsh are up from minor league camp for the day.

Available Position Players: C Kyle Higashioka, 1B Wilkin Castillo, 2B Jorge Mateo, SS Ruben Tejada, 3B Miguel Andujar, LF Ronald Torreyes, CF Tyler Wade, RHP Billy McKinney, and DH Ji-Man Choi will be the second string off the bench. C Jorge Saez, C Francisco Diaz, IF Pete Kozma, IF Donovan Solano, and OF Dustin Fowler are the extras.

It is cloudy and cool in Tampa, and there was some on-and-off rain throughout the afternoon. There’s no wet stuff in the forecast tonight though. Tonight’s game will begin at 6:35pm ET. You can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. There’s also MLB.tv and the FOX Sports Go app. Enjoy.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: March 2012

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Is it really March already? Geez. I feel like New Years was last week. Anyway, now that we’re in a new month, it’s again time to go back through the MLB Trade Rumors archives. We’re now in March 2012, and March is traditionally one of the slowest months for free agent and trade rumors. The offseason is over and teams usually wait a few weeks into the regular season before getting serious about acquiring upgrades.

The Yankees wrapped up their 2011-12 offseason business in February, when they traded A.J. Burnett following the Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda pickups. They also filled out their bench with low cost veterans like Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez. The rotation looked great and an offense that ranked second in baseball with 5.35 runs per game in 2011 was mostly intact. There were plenty of reasons to be excited in March 2012. Let’s dive into the rumors.

March 1st, 2012: Quick Hits: Burnett, Sizemore, Posey, Yankees

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner confirmed to reporters, including Marc Carig of the Star-Ledger, that he is intent on lowering payroll below $189MM by 2014 for luxury tax purposes (Twitter link).

The first reports of the austerity plan arrived a few weeks before this nugget. It started out as a little thing, then it continued to gain steam over the next year or two. The Yankees still haven’t gotten under the luxury tax, as you know, mostly because they reacted to their yucky 2013 season by committing $438M total to Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Carlos Beltran. (That doesn’t include the $20M release fee for Tanaka.)

Given what we know now, those four signings have worked out fairly well overall. The Ellsbury deal is pretty bad and will only look worse over time. Both McCann and Beltran were productive during their time in pinstripes though, and they were traded for some pretty good prospects. Tanaka has been pretty damn awesome when healthy, which has been most of the time. At the same time, the Yankees have played one postseason game since handing out those contracts, and you know the team’s ultimate goal is playing in October. Either way, the austerity play went bye bye in 2014. The Yankees are poised to try again in 2018.

March 7th, 2012: Mariano Rivera May Announce Decision Before All-Star Break

“I think maybe it will be before the All-Star break,” legendary Yankees closer Mariano Rivera told Kevin Kernan of the New York Post regarding an announcement of whether he will pitch in 2013.  Rivera wants to be certain of his decision, which he seems to have already made privately.  Rivera said that when he does retire, “It would be nice that you tell the fans, so every stadium you go to, the fans will be there to show their appreciation and you appreciate the fans.”

Mo never did get a chance to announce his decision that year. He blew out his knee on the Kauffman Stadium warning track on May 3rd, ending his season. Rivera later said he was planning to retire following the 2012 season, and the injury changed his mind. He didn’t want to go out like that. Thank goodness. Had Rivera not changed his mind, this never would have happened …

… and that would have sucked.

March 10th, 2012: Levine: Yankees Plan To Keep Cano And Granderson

With the Yankees planning to get under the $189MM luxury tax threshold by 2014, many have wondered if the club will be able to retain both Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson after their contracts expire following the 2013 season.  Today, team president Randy Levine flatly stated that the team has a plan in place to retain both stars, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

I literally lol’d when I saw this headline. I guess the plan was a) never make Granderson a competitive offer, and b) hope Cano is willing to take a discount. Swing and a miss, that was.

In all seriousness, this is a nice reminder plans can and do change. Levine made these comments 20 months before Granderson and Cano actually became free agents, and I’m sure the Yankees had every intention of retaining both at the time. Then Granderson missed a ton of time with hit-by-pitch related injuries in 2013 and Cano continued to raise his earning potential with his performance. Something something best laid plans.

March 11th, 2012: Cafardo On Phillies, Blanton, Lannan, Ramirez

With several teams in the market for a center fielder, Cafardo asked a National League scout if the Yankees would entertain a deal for Brett Gardner.  Gardner is currently slated to start in left field for the Yanks but a National League scout said that at some point the club might seek out a more traditional left field option.

Does the scout make those comments if the Yankees were playing Granderson (41 homers in 2011) in left and Gardner (49 steals in 2011) in center instead of vice versa? Granderson’s production certainly qualified him as a “traditional left field option,” and hey, Gardner in center and Granderson in left would have been a better defensive alignment too. Each position has a traditional offensive and defensive profile, but it’s okay to break from the norm once in a while.

March 15th, 2012: AL East Notes: Ibanez, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Orioles

Raul Ibanez doesn’t have emotional, historical or financial ties keeping him on the Yankees’ roster, so Joel Sherman of the New York Post wonders how long the club will stick with Ibanez if his struggles continue. But as Sherman point out, it’s still just March 15th.

Ibanez was so, so bad in Spring Training 2012. He hit .150/.190/.333 in 63 plate appearances, and it wasn’t until the final week of camp that he finally hit a ball out of the park. Ibanez wasn’t particularly great in the first half either, hitting .240/.298/.457 (98 wRC+) before the All-Star break. For a bat only dude, that ain’t good. Gardner hurt his elbow making a sliding catch in April though, leaving the Yankees short an outfielder the rest of the season. I wonder if they would have moved on from Ibanez at some point had Gardner been healthy. Fortunately for the Yankees, they kept Ibanez and he got molten hot at exactly the right time in September (and October).

March 16th, 2012: Yankees Notes: Pineda, Ibanez, Willis

The Yankees offered Dontrelle Willis a minor league deal this offseason, Sherman tweets. The Yankees might look into signing Willis, who was released by the Phillies this morning.

Dontrelle Willis! I don’t remember the Yankees being on him on at all. Willis was pretty far gone by this point too. His last good season was 2006, and from 2008-11, he had a 6.15 ERA (5.46 FIP) in 199 total innings. I assume the Yankees were looking at the then 30-year-old Willis as a reliever — he held left-handed batters to a .123/.169/.200 (.168 wOBA) batting line with 33.3% strikeouts, 3.3% walks, and 58.3% grounders in 2011, albeit in a limited sample. D-Train continued pitching in the minors and independent ball until 2014. He never pitched in the big leagues after 2011 though. It went so bad, so fast with him.

March 16th, 2012: Yankees Sign Andy Pettitte

A year after retiring, Andy Pettitte is back in pinstripes. The Yankees announced that they signed the 39-year-old left-hander to a minor league contract. Pettitte, a Hendricks Sports client, can potentially earn $2.5MM on the deal, which doesn’t include incentives. 

I’ll never forget the moment we learned Pettitte was coming out of retirement. Joe and I were in the middle of recording the RAB Podcast (RIP) when Jack Curry broke the news on Twitter. We were both just kinda speechless, so we scrapped that podcast and started writing about the signing instead. It was a pretty crazy afternoon. Pettitte’s un-retirement came out of nowhere. There were no rumbling at all. If anything, there was the opposite. Pettitte was in camp as a guest instructor that year and he told everyone he had no interest in playing again. Funny how that works.

Andy’s return — he threw another 260.2 innings with a 3.49 ERA (3.64 FIP) after coming back — was pretty awesome. I was kinda worried he’d come back and get knocked around, and it would all look like one giant mistake, but nope. He was great.

March 17th, 2012: Yankees Links: Pettitte, Garcia, Posada, Wise, A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that he’d like to own a baseball team one day (Twitter link). According to the game’s bylaws, A-Rod will have to wait until he’s no longer under contract with one of the 30 clubs to do so.

I too would like to own a baseball team one day. My chances aren’t as good as A-Rod’s though. Being an owner is pretty good work if you can get it. The national television contracts and revenue sharing system make it basically impossible to lose money. I feel like it’s only a matter of time until A-Rod gets involved with an ownership group and purchases a team. Same with Derek Jeter. A-Rod stays in Miami and buys the Marlins while Jeter stays in Tampa and buys the Rays. Sounds good to me.

March 20th, 2012: Yankees Notes: Pettitte, Hughes, Nova, Damon

There was a split between upper management and the field staff over whether to sign Johnny Damon or Raul Ibanez, Tom Verducci of SI.com writes. Damon told the Yankees he would play for whatever they were offering Ibanez, but it wasn’t enough.

Interesting! I don’t remember hearing this. I assume the front office wanted Ibanez since, you know, he’s the guy they actually signed. Plus it makes sense that Joe Girardi and the other members of his staff would prefer Damon since they had him for a few years, and won a title with him. Ibanez went on to hit .240/.308/.453 (102 wRC+) with 19 homers in 2012, plus he had all the postseason heroics. Damon hit .222/.281/.329 (70 wRC+) with four homers for the Indians that year and was released in August. Score one for the front office nerds.

March 21st, 2012: Spanish Links: Vazquez, Wandy, Jorge Vazquez

Slugging Yankee prospect Jorge Vazquez is growing impatient with the minor leagues and would like to try Japan or Korea if there’s not a place for him in the major leagues, according to the president of the Mexican League’s Tigres de Quintana Roo, where Vazquez played in 2007 and 2008. “If they don’t give him an opportunity this year, he wants them to trade him, or to go to [play] baseball in the east,” Cuauhtémoc “Chito” Rodríguez told Fernando Ballesteros at Puro Béisbol. “He doesn’t want to continue on in Triple A anymore, not just with the Yankees, but with any other organization as well.” Vazquez made a case for being MLB-ready in 2011, putting up a .262/.314/.516 line with 32 homers at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

That .262/.314/.516 (121 wRC+) line in 2011 also came with a 33.2% strikeout rate and a 6.0% walk rate. He was repeating the level too. Remember how much everyone freaked out about Aaron Judge‘s strikeouts in Triple-A in the second half of the 2015 season? He had a 28.5% strikeout rate and an 11.2% walk rate. Vazquez was an extreme free swinger. The Yankees ended up releasing him at the end of Spring Training in 2012 and he’s been playing in Mexico ever since. He hit .319/.403/.513 (146 wRC+) with six homers in 33 games last year, and, as far as I can tell, he’s under contract to play again this year too.

March 22nd 2012: DePaula Obtains Visa; Yankees Deal Still In Place

Rafael DePaula is finally on the verge of beginning his professional baseball career. The pitching prospect agreed to sign with the Yankees for $500K in November, 2010, but hasn’t had a visa until now, so the deal hasn’t been completed. Agent Charisse Espinosa-Dash told MLBTR today that DePaula has his visa and that the original deal is expected to go through once the Dominican right-hander passes a physical.

The DePaula signing came with a lot of headache and very little reward. It took about 18 months for the contract to be finalized due to visa issues — DePaula had been previously suspended for lying about his age, which tends to gum up the works — and once he was able to play, his top prospect status didn’t last long. The Yankees traded DePaula as the second piece in the Chase Headley trade a few years back. DePaula, 26 next month, had a 2.66 ERA (2.17 FIP) with 32.8% strikeouts and 8.3% walks in 64.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A last year. It was his first season as a full-time reliever. DePaula was not selected in December’s Rule 5 Draft for the second straight year. Lot of hype, little payoff. Such is life.

March 23rd, 2012: Quick Hits: Nationals, Blue Jays, Soria, Carpenter

Joba Chamberlain dislocated his right ankle and lost a life-threatening amount of blood yesterday, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News reports. The injury will end Chamberlain’s season and could threaten his career.

Ugh, the Joba ankle injury. That was brutal. Joba was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery at the time of the trampoline accident, so the ankle injury didn’t delay his return all that much. He returned on August 1st and had a 4.35 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 20.2 innings the rest of the season. Chamberlain had a 3.70 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 382 innings before the Tommy John surgery and ankle injury, and he has a 4.05 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 173.1 innings since. He’s in camp as a non-roster players with the Brewers this spring. Prospects will break your heart, yo.

March 24th, 2012: Quick Hits: Phillies, Garcia, Abreu, Beras, Mets

Word is that the Yankees offered Freddy Garcia to the Marlins but Miami wasn’t interested, tweets Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.  Garcia, who is a trade candidate following the club’s signing of Andy Pettitte, is signed to a one-year deal worth $4MM plus incentives.

In 2011, the Yankees had so little pitching they were signing guys like Garcia and Bartolo Colon out of near retirement. In 2012, they had so many arms they were able to trade Burnett and shop Garcia. Sweaty Freddy never did go anywhere though. He had a 5.20 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 107.1 innings spread across 17 starts and 13 relief appearances for the Yankees year. Yuck. In hindsight, letting Colon go and keeping Garcia was a huge mistake. You’re lying if you said you knew Colon would still be pitching in 2017 (!) though.

March 25th, 2012: Phillies Have Interest In Yankees’ Ramiro Pena

With second baseman Chase Utley sidelined with no timetable to return, the Phillies plan to start Freddy Galvis and are hoping to bolster their infield depth behind him.  With that in mind, General Manager Ruben Amaro & Co. have some interest in Yankees utilityman Ramiro Pena, according to George A. King III of the New York Post.

That’s 2009 World Series Champion Ramiro Pena to you. He had his moments as an up-and-down utility man from 2009-11. Pena spent just about the entire 2012 season in Triple-A, where he hit .258/.325/.328 (85 wRC+) in 101 games. The Yankees dropped him from the 40-man roster after the season and Pena went on his way. Rakin’ Ramiro did play in the big leagues last year, you know. With the Giants. He hit .299/.330/.425 (103 wRC+) with a homer in 30 games while they were dealing with some infield injuries. Pena signed with the Hiroshima Carp, Kuroda’s former team, over the winter.

March 28th, 2012: Yankees Sign Jack Cust

The Yankees have signed Jack Cust to a minor league contract, reports Sweeny Murti of WFAN (on Twitter). Last night we heard that the TWC Sports client was likely to sign with an NL team, but the Yankees apparently swooped in.

I completely forgot the Yankees had Cust for a while. He never did play for them in the big leagues, but he did hit .249/.400/.475 (147 wRC+) with 20 homers in 98 games with Triple-A Scranton before being released. My lasting memory of Cust will be his baserunning gaffes against the Yankees back in 2003:

The Yankees led the game 5-4 in the 12th inning at the time. Had Cust not fallen down (twice!), he would have scored the game tying run. I miss the days when the O’s were a punching bag. Don’t you?

March 28th, 2012: Yankees Claim Craig Tatum Off Waivers

The Yankees have claimed catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from the Diamondbacks, the team announced. The 29-year-old backstop has been claimed off waivers three times in the last few months, first by the Astros, then by the D’Backs, and now by the Yankees. Their 40-man roster is now full.

I am an embarrassingly huge baseball nerd, so it’s not often a transaction involves a player I’ve never heard of, especially if said player once played for the Yankees. I have zero recollection of Tatum though. None at all. Apparently the Yankees claimed him from the Diamondbacks, outrighted him off the 40-man roster a few days later, and he played eight games with Triple-A Scranton that summer. Been out of baseball since. I remember most things and I have no memory of this happening. Now I wonder what else I’ve forgotten.

March 28th, 2012: AL East Notes: Maxwell, Moore, Red Sox

The Astros and Orioles have some interest in Yankees outfielder Justin Maxwell, but haven’t discussed a possible deal with GM Brian Cashman, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Maxwell is out of options and could be available in trades before Opening Day.

“The stupid Yankees shoulda kept Maxwell and dumped Andruw Jones” was a thing for a while in 2012. Andruw was terrible that year, hitting .197/.294/.408 (89 wRC+) overall and .202/.294/.411 (88 wRC+) against lefties. The Yankees had no room on the roster for Maxwell, who was claimed by the Astros after New York put him on waivers at the end of camp. He went on to hit .229/.304/.460 (106 wRC+) overall that year, and .272/.387/.505 (143 wRC+) against lefties. Maxwell has bounced around since then, and he currently plays for the Lotte Giants in the Korea Baseball Organization.

March 29th, 2012: Minor Moves: Bard, Sullivan, Pearce, Michaels

The Yankees have signed Steve Pearce to a minor league contract, reports Josh Norris of the Trentonian (Twitter link).  Pearce, a former well-regarded prospect with the Pirates, signed a minor league deal with the Twins in December but was released on Tuesday.

At the time Pearce was a busted former top-ish prospect. He’d hit .232/.302/.366 (78 wRC+) in 521 total plate appearances with the Pirates as an up-and-down guy from 2007-11. Pittsburgh then cut him loose after the 2011 season. Here is how Pearce’s 2012 season played out:

  • March 27th: Released by Twins (signed a minor league deal over the winter).
  • March 29th: Signs minor league deal with Yankees.
  • June 2nd: Traded to the Orioles for cash.
  • July 28th: Claimed on waivers by the Astros from the O’s.
  • August 27th: Claimed on waivers by the Yankees from the Astros.
  • September 29th: Claimed on waivers by the Orioles from the Yankees.

Pearce didn’t play for the big league Yankees the first time. He hit .318/.419/.568 (173 wRC+) with eleven homers in 73 games with Triple-A Scranton before exercising an opt-out clause in his contract. The Yankees could either trade him to the O’s for some cash, or let him complete the opt-out and go there as a free agent. They took the cash.

After coming back to New York in August, Pearce went 4-for-25 (.160) with a homer in 30 plate appearances for the Yankees. He was essentially an extra bench bat once rosters expanded in September. It wasn’t until 2013 that Pearce really established himself as a big league caliber hitter. I was hoping the Yankees would sign him this winter — for the Chris Carter role, essentially, except Pearce can also play the outfield — but alas. He’s with the Blue Jays now.

Recent reliever trades show the Yankees hit the jackpot with the Chapman and Miller deals

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

In the early days of Spring Training, we’ve gotten a nice little peek at some of the best young players the Yankees have in their much ballyhooed farm system. Aaron Judge socked what will probably go down as the longest home run of the spring, Gleyber Torres doubled to left and right fields the next day, and Clint Frazier has been wearing out the opposite field with extra-base hits. It’s been fun!

Judge was one of New York’s three first round picks back in 2013, and, as you know, Torres and Frazier both came over at last year’s trade deadline. So did outfielder Billy McKinney, who hit a home run Sunday, as well as Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen. We didn’t get to see Justus Sheffield make his spring debut Tuesday because the game wasn’t televised, but he was another trade deadline pickup as well.

Last summer the Yankees were uniquely positioned heading into the trade deadline and Brian Cashman & Co. took advantage in a big way. They turned Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, two relievers (great relievers, but relievers nonetheless), into three top 100 prospects, plus several others. The reliever trade market had really taken off in previous months and both the Cubs and Indians were pretty desperate despite sitting in first place. They had baseball’s two longest World Series droughts and wanted to get over the hump. Sure enough, the trades helped both get to the World Series.

Whenever we see trades, especially blockbuster trades that go beyond anything we expected, our first inclination is to think the market has changed. The Yankees got massive hauls for Chapman and Miller, which means every great reliever is going to require a massive Torres/Frazier caliber package going forward. It hasn’t worked out that way. Two other great relievers have been traded since those deals:

  • Pirates trade Mark Melancon to the Nationals for reliever Felipe Rivera and minor leaguer Taylor Hearn, whom Baseball America ranked as the 14th best prospect in Pittsburgh’s system in their 2017 Prospect Handbook.
  • Royals trade Wade Davis to the Cubs for Jorge Soler, a 25-year-old former top prospect who is still trying to find his way at the big league level. He came with four years of team control.

The Melancon trade was made one week after the Chapman trade and one day after the Miller trade. The Davis trade went down over the winter. Melancon was a rental like Chapman, and while he’s not as good as Chapman, he’s not that much worse either. And yet, the Pirates turned him into a good reliever and an okay prospect. The Yankees turned rental Chapman into arguably the best prospect in baseball in Torres, plus three others.

The Davis trade really drives home how well the Yankees did with the Miller and Chapman trades. From 2014-15, Davis was the best reliever on the planet, throwing 139.1 innings with a 0.97 ERA (1.72 FIP). He also excelled in the postseason (one earned run in 25 innings), closed out a World Series, and has an affordable contract ($10M in 2017). Somehow the Yankees got more for rental Chapman than the Royals did for a full year of Davis.

We can go back even further to show how much the Chapman and Miller trade look like outliers. Last offseason the Padres acquired four prospects for Craig Kimbrel, including two who landed on Baseball America’s top 100 prospect list soon after the trade: Javier Guerra (No. 52) and Manuel Margot (No. 56). Kimbrel had three seasons left on his contract at the time of the trade. Well, two seasons and a club option. There’s an escape there in case things go wrong.

When the Yankees traded Miller, he had two and a half years remaining on his contract. They traded him for four prospects, including two who appeared on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 list a few weeks earlier: Frazier (No. 21) and Sheffield (No. 69). Would you rather have the Nos. 21 and 69 prospects, or the No. 52 and 56 prospects? I’d take Nos. 21 and 69. Prospect rankings are not linear. There’s not a significant difference between Nos. 52, 56, and 69. The difference between Nos. 21 and 52 is pretty huge though.

(For what it’s worth, the prospect valuations at Point of Pittsburgh indicate Frazier and Sheffield were worth a combined $78.5M in surplus value at the time of the trade. Guerra and Margot combined for $44.8M. Top 20-ish position player prospects like Frazier are insanely valuable.)

The Phillies didn’t got a single top 100 prospect in the Ken Giles trade, and he came with five years of team control. They just got a bunch of players with performance and/or health issues. Two years of Jake McGee was traded for a designated hitter (Corey Dickerson) who hasn’t hit outside Coors Field. Three years of Justin Wilson fetched two okay but not great pitching prospects. Four and a half years of Sam Dyson was given away for two non-prospects. Giles, McGee, Wilson, and Dyson have all been among the game’s top relievers the last few seasons, and look at those trades packages.

Point is, compared to some other top reliever trades, specifically the Melancon and Davis deals, the Chapman and Miller hauls look like a minor miracle. It was a perfect storm for the Yankees. They had an elite reliever on a contract that wasn’t burdensome, and the team that wanted him was not only very desperate to get over the hump and win their first World Series in a lifetime, they also had the tippy top prospects to trade. And then it all happened again.

I don’t want to call the Miller and Chapman trades once in a lifetime events, that’s a wee bit over the top, but given everything that happened leading up to and since the deals, it sure looks like everything came together at exactly the right time for the Yankees. They had the right players to offer very motivated buyers. And maybe it won’t work out and all the prospects will bust. Baseball can be a jerk like that. Right now, at this very moment, the Miller and Chapman deals look like franchise-altering trades. You dream of your favorite team making trades like this.

Didi Gregorius and his critical 2017 season

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

2017 may be a transitional season for the New York Yankees, but it is also critical for Didi Gregorius.

No, Sir Mariekson Julius Gregorius is not a free agent after the season. He’s not going to be replaced immediately if he goes through an early season slump that stretches into May. Yet there is plenty of meaning for Gregorius going into his third season with the Yankees as he tries to establish himself as the Bombers’ shortstop of the future.

It all has to do with the Yankees’ tremendous depth at Didi’s position. It’s absurd how deep the team is at short. At the big league level, Gregorius’ double play partner, Starlin Castro, is literally a three-time All-Star at shortstop. Think about it: Didi could get hurt tomorrow and the Yankees would have a more than capable shortstop ready to take his place two days from now.

Gleyber Torres, the team’s undisputed top prospect, has played all but one game of his minor league career at short. It’s not just Torres, too. Tyler Wade and Jorge Mateo will likely see time in high minors, even if they may see time away from short. The lower minors have even more real prospects in the middle infield.

Outside of maybe Kyle Holder, the one thing Gregorius has on everyone in the Yankees’ system is his defensive abilities. The eye test bears that; For two years, we’ve seen his superior arm, his solid reads and his ability to make some spectacular plays that other shortstops, including his predecessor, can only dream about pursuing. He’s already flashed the leather this spring.

Defensive metrics are a little more mixed on the subject. As Mike wrote in his 2016 Season Review, the metrics that were universally positive for Didi in previous years were nearly across the board negative on him last season. We could chalk it up to a glitch in a defensive statistics, but it’s worth seeing whether his defense really took a slip. It’ll be tough to tell this spring since he’ll be playing in the WBC and changing positions for the Netherlands’ squad.

Regardless, his defense is viewed as a positive and something that entrenches him at the position. For what it’s worth he did start some games at second (7) and third (1) in 2014 with the Diamondbacks, so he has some versatility and could potentially move around the infield.

But the real question is his hitting. I mean, are we really supposed to believe that a player with 22 career home runs would all of a sudden become a 20-homer-a-year batter? Well, maybe. As I wrote earlier this week, he may not be the 20-homer slugger that he was in 2016 moving forward, but he genuinely improved as a hitter last year, which bears out in his increase in exit velocity on pitches all around the strike zone.

And where he really made a difference was against lefties. He hit for significantly less power against LHP (14 extra-base hits and a .149 ISO) than vs. righties (38 XB hits and a .179 ISO), but he still hit .320 vs. lefties. That’s all the more impressive considering he was borderline unplayable against southpaws in 2015 with a .247/.311/.315 line. This improvement came in part by doing a better job of hitting balls where they were thrown to him (e.g. hitting balls outside the other way). He doesn’t sport power the other way – all 20 of his home runs were pulled to right – yet his ability to hit the ball the other way can keep opposing defenses honest and avoid significant shifts. Maybe the left fielder shades him in a little bit, but nothing abnormal.

The importance of 2017 is whether Gregorius can maintain all that and maybe even add to his offensive game. He still doesn’t draw many walks and hasn’t yet produced an above average wRC+ season (98 last year). If he somehow got even better at the plate and proved the 2016 defensive stats were just a blip, we could conclude that he’s a keeper, someone worth keeping in pinstripes for a long time.

The Yankees will only come to that decision with a strong 2017. There are about 10-15 teams right now, give or take, that I’d take their everyday shortstop over Gregorius for the next three years (Yankees were middle of the pack in fWAR and bWAR for shortstop last season), but there’s also a strong crop of shortstop prospects this season beyond the Yankees, namely Amed Rosario, Willy Adames, Ozzie Albies and J.P. Crawford, among others. It’s a really great time for shortstops and having one who’s only so-so would put a team with elite aspirations

It’s important to note Gregorius is under team control for just these next three years. By 2019, Torres and others will likely be in the majors. Guys who can handle short like Manny Machado will hit the free agent market.

And the Yankees haven’t signed Gregorius to an extension. Maybe there are negotiations between the two sides right now, but it could be possible that the Yankees see Gregorius as merely a bridge to Torres or Mateo. Admit it: You had thoughts like that in 2015, if not now. If Didi wants to be a long-term Yankee, this year’s performance will be essential.

March 1st Camp Notes: Green, Severino, Kaprielian, Shortstop

The Yankees improved to 6-1 this spring with a win over the Braves earlier tonight. Jacoby Ellsbury had a big game, going 2-for-2 with a homer, a double, and a hit-by-pitch. (He’s fine.) Starlin Castro and Austin Romine each had two hits while Matt Holliday and Aaron Judge each had one. Holliday laced an opposite field double. It was, as announcers say, a nice piece of hitting.

Bryan Mitchell made his second start of the spring and tossed three scoreless innings, striking out two. He walked a batter and didn’t allow a hit. Mitchell has looked pretty good in the super early going. Dellin Betances made his spring debut and looked, well, like Dellin Betances. J.P. Feyereisen allowed two homers in the seventh inning. Not a great night for him. Here’s the box score and here are the video highlights. Now for the rest of the day’s news from Tampa:

The Yankees have another night game tomorrow. It’s a 6:35pm ET start against the Orioles. Adam Warren is going to start and Aroldis Chapman is scheduled to come out of the bullpen for his first appearance of the spring. That game will be on YES and MLB Network.

Spring Training Game Thread: Dellin’s Spring Debut

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time this year, the Yankees are playing a game under the lights. Tonight is their first night game of Grapefruit League play — they have another night game tomorrow — though at least they didn’t have to travel anywhere. This is a home game in Tampa against the Braves.

Dellin Betances, who is due to leave for the World Baseball Classic in the coming days, will make his spring debut tonight. He said the plan is two or three (likely two) appearances with the Yankees before heading to Miami to meet up with the Dominican Republic team. Here’s the lineup the Braves sent down from Disney, and here are the players the Yankees will use tonight:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. 2B Starlin Castro
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. 1B Chris Carter
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Bryan Mitchell

Available Pitchers: RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Jordan Montgomery, RHP J.P. Feyereisen, LHP Nestor Cortes, and RHP Travis Hissong are all scheduled to pitch after Mitchell. LHP Daniel Camarena, LHP Dietrich Enns, RHP J.R. Graham, LHP Joe Mantiply, RHP Eric Ruth, and LHP Evan Rutckyj are also available, if needed. Cortes, Hissong, and Ruth are up from minor league camp for the day.

Available Position Players: C Jorge Saez, 1B Ji-Man Choi, 2B Pete Kozma, SS Gleyber Torres, 3B Donovan Solano, LF Tyler Wade, CF Dustin Fowler, RF Billy McKinney, and DH Francisco Diaz will be the second string off the bench. C Kellin Deglan, C Kyle Higashioka, SS Jorge Mateo, 3B Miguel Andujar, OF Clint Frazier, and UTIL Wilkin Castillo have to hang around for the game even though they’re not scheduled to play.

The internet tells me there is no rain in the forecast for Tampa tonight, so that’s good. It’s supposed to be hot and sticky though. Yuck. Hate humidity, you guys. Tonight’s game will begin at 6:35pm ET and you can watch live on YES locally and MLB.tv nationally. There’s also the FOX Sports Go app. Enjoy.