Friday: Girardi acknowledged that Sabathia may need microfracture surgery on his knee, which would really bad and knock him out for an extended period of time. “Whenever you have degenerative issues that cause surgery, there’s always a little question (about whether he will pitch again), yeah,” said the skipper.
Thursday, 11:00pm: The MRI showed only swelling in Sabathia’s knee, Girardi said following tonight’s game. CC will go see Dr. James Andrews for another look since he performed the stem cell treatment.
5:19pm: During a radio interview this afternoon (via David Lennon), Joe Girardi said CC Sabathia woke up with fluid in his knee today and will probably go for an MRI. He threw 3.2 innings and 55 pitches during a minor league rehab start with Double-A Trenton last night. Girardi said it’s unclear what the next step will be.
Sabathia, 33, has been out since mid-May due to a right knee injury. He has a degenerative condition and received a stem cell treatment a few weeks ago. Obviously the fluid in his knee is a setback, even if it’s only a minor one. With Michael Pineda just starting to play catch and Sabathia’s knee still not right, the Yankees are in desperate need for rotation help. They can’t count on either guy coming back to help this summer. · (93) ·
Only six questions this week, but some of the answers are kinda long. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything through the week.
Several people asked: What happens with Brian Cashman when his contract expires after the season?
A bunch of people sent in some variation of this question. Some nice (is it time for a change?), some not so nice (fire that idiot!). Needless to say, when you commit over $500M to free agents in an offseason only to get worse and potentially to miss the postseason for the second straight year, it’s only natural to wonder if a change in leadership is needed.
I’ve been a Cashman supporter over the years but I do think it’s time for the Yankees to make a change. He’s been the GM for 16 years now. That’s an eternity in GM years. The Yankees are still trying to win by almost exclusively signing free agents and that’s not just going to work in the game these days. The best players are not hitting the open market until their post-prime years. Baseball has changed but the Yankees have not. They’re still trying to build a team the same way they did 10-15 years ago and it’s not working.
I feel the Yankees have reached the point where bringing in a new GM with a different voice would really benefit the club. I think the same applies to managers and coaches too — eventually they get stale and it’s time for a new voice to shake things up. That’s human nature. It happens. The club’s way of doing business needs an overhaul, not one or two minor tweaks. I mean, given their payroll, other teams rely on the Yankees to make mistakes to contend, and there have been a lot of mistakes in recent years.
Who should replace Cashman? That’s a hard part. Assistant GM Billy Eppler is the obvious in-house candidate but he is being given serious consideration for the Padres GM job (he interviewed for the position yesterday, the team announced). He might not be a long-term option. Hiring someone from outside the organization is tricky because the New York market is so unique. Money doesn’t guarantee success and the expectations are through the roof. Experience in this kind of market is not required but it would preferred.
If Eppler gets the Padres job, I have no idea who the Yankees could replace Cashman with. Ex-Cubs GM Jim Hendry is in the front office as an advisor but no thanks. Advisor and ex-GM Gene Michael has made it pretty clear he’s out of the GM game at age 76. Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer? Eh, maybe. Hiring Billy Beane or Andrew Friedman away from their teams is totally unrealistic. There figures to be a few GM openings this winter (Phillies? Diamondbacks?), so the Yankees would have competition for the top candidates.
I do think it’s time for the Yankees to bring in a new GM — I’ve been saying they could move Cashman to a high-level advisor role when the time comes for years now, similar to Kenny Williams and Mark Shapiro, and I still think that. He’s worth keeping around, especially if they bring in a GM from outside the organization — because there needs to be some change. The team-building strategies are too outdated to continue. Going from Point A (Cashman) to Point B (new GM) will be very difficult and my biggest fear is Hal Steinbrenner and Randy Levine hiring some figurehead GM they can walk all over.
Joe asks: Why don’t the Yankees switch Gardner and Ellsbury in the lineup? Why bat Ellsbury third when Gardner has shown more power this year?
I agree completely. (I said this earlier this week.) Jacoby Ellsbury‘s batting third because he’s the big name and he’s the guy with the huge contract, but he is totally miscast in that lineup spot in my opinion. Brett Gardner would be as well, don’t get me wrong, but when you look at their skills, I think Ellsbury makes more sense in the leadoff spot and Gardner third. To wit:
- Their batting averages (.288 vs. .284) and on-base percentages (.358 vs. .352) are essentially identical. It’s not like one guy has a big 25 or 40-point advantage or something.
- Ellsbury is quicker to steal than Gardner. I don’t have any stats to back that up (I don’t even know if that stuff is available) but I think we can all agree that’s the case.
- Gardner has shown more usable power this year (.144 ISO vs .106 ISO, 8 HR vs. 4 HR) and does a better job of taking advantage of the short porch. Every Ellsbury hit looks exactly the same — line drive to center or left-center. Hard to hit for power and clear the bases like that.
Since they get on base at almost the exact same rate, the Yankees would be better off using Gardner’s slight edge in power — remember, he has more power than Ellsbury but is still no better than an average power hitter overall — a little lower in the lineup, with potentially more men on base. It wouldn’t make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re struggling to score runs like the Yankees have been, I see very little downside to making the swap.
Daniel asks: Why is it that when you’re showing the rankings of different international prospects and you give MLB.com and BA’s, the rankings are so vastly different? It doesn’t seem like it’s quite as stark a difference with US prospects. Why the big gaps, and who do you trust more anyway?
I listed each player’s ranking in our massive International Free Agency Open Thread the other day — the unofficial final tally was 22 players and $26.8M in bonuses plus penalties, by the way, and there are still some more signings to come — and in some cases the rankings are very different. Venezuelan OF Jonathan Amundaray was ranked seventh by MLB.com and 22nd by Baseball America, for example. Dominican OF Antonio Arias was ninth by MLB.com and 28th by Baseball America. A two or three spot difference is nothing, but 15-20?
I think this stems from the general lack of reliable information about international prospects. MLB.com and Baseball America do a really awesome job of digging up info on these kids, but it’s still tough to find a consensus. Remember, these are 16-year-old kids who have a lot of development left. They are even more unpredictable than high schoolers, so the opinions very wildly. It comes down to the difference in sources, I guess. I trust Baseball America (Ben Balder) the most because he’s been on the international free agent beat for a while now and always seems to have the most information and the best projections (about who is signing where, etc.). I think it’s important to consider all possible sources through. The more info, the better.
Joe asks: Hiroki Kuroda gets terrible run support, it seems. What Yankees starter has gotten the worst?
Kuroda has never gotten run support in the big leagues. The Dodgers never scored for him back in the day and even in 2012, when the Yankees had a good offense, they still never scored for him. Here is the where the team’s starters rank among the 157 starting pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings this season (only Kuroda and Masahiro Tanaka have qualified for the batting title):
- CC Sabathia: 5.25 (14th)
- Vidal Nuno: 4.29 (69th)
- Chase Whitley: 4.22 (73rd)
- Tanaka: 4.06 (84th)
- David Phelps: 3.91 (95th)
- Kuroda: 3.65 (114th)
Juan Nicasio of the Rockies has received the most run support this year (6.79 runs per game) by almost a full run (Jesse Chavez and Matt Shoemaker are tied for second at 5.88). Andrew Cashner has received the least run support at 2.17 runs per game. Yikes. How in the world can someone pitch like that, knowing that if they give up two runs, they’ll probably lose? The Padres, man.
Dustin asks: Chris Capuano is now a free agent. Should the Yanks give him a minor league deal? Same for Jerome Williams and Justin Maxwell if they clear waivers. And would Nolan Reimold even be worth claiming on waivers and giving up something of minor value?
I’d take all four of those guys a minor league contract at this point, especially Maxwell, who might be a better option for the right-handed half of the right field platoon than Alfonso Soriano. He stunk this year (11 wRC+ in limited time), but Maxwell has hit .230/.344/.407 (105 wRC+) against lefties in his career. It’s not like the Triple-A Scranton outfield is full either. Reimold is hurt all the time (56 games from 2012-14) but has kinda shown he can hit southpaws (career 98 wRC+). Capuano has a knack for underperforming his peripherals and I consider both him and Williams as replacement level arms at this point of their careers. The Red Sox were nice enough to audition Capuano in the AL East for the Yankees. Of these four guys, Maxwell seems most likely to be useful.
TomH asks: RAB and others have recently noted a kind of creeping mediocrity among MLB teams, probably resulting from the Bud Selig era leveling moves. How do you think this pretty obvious general mediocrity will affect baseball’s popularity?
It’s probably a net win for the game. More teams are in the race and that means more fans are excited and paying attention (and going to games and buying merchandise). I joke all the time that the Yankees are unwatchable these days, but I watch a ton of non-Yankees baseball too, and I think the level of play around the league is very low right now. Most of MLB is Yankees-esque unwatchable. Is that because of Selig’s competitive balance? I’m sure that’s part of it. I think it’s good for the game overall to have more teams in the race and more fans interested, but I do think baseball is at its absolute best when there are two or three superpowers fans can hate. Maybe I’m just biased as a Yankees fan.
A win! Those are always fun. Two rookies (technically!) helped the Yankees snap their five-game losing streak with a 7-4 win over the Twins on Thursday night. The Bombers are now 14-3 all-time at Target Field and 42-42 on the season.
Zelous Makes Everyone Jealous With Strong Debut
It’s amazing. The Yankees dropped an unproductive player from their roster and replaced him with someone who was hitting very well in Triple-A, and it improved the offense for at least one night. Zelous Wheeler‘s first day as a big leaguer went very well thanks mostly to a fifth inning solo homer off Phil Hughes. It’s always neat when a guy hits a homer in his first MLB game. Wheeler singled in the seventh inning to help set up another run as well.
The solo homer was not the big blow of the night. Far from it. The Yankees fell behind 2-0 early on but broke out for four runs in the fifth, three on Carlos Beltran‘s three-run homerun. It’s fun being on the other end of Phil’s #obligatoryhomer, isn’t it? Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann both singled to right to set up Beltran’s homer. Nothing fancy, Hughes just left a pitch out over the plate and it went a long way. This game had a very “here we go again” vibe early after the Twins scored, but the four-run fifth inning was just what the team needed. Hooray dingers. Hooray runs.
By almost any measure, this was Masahiro Tanaka‘s worst start as a big leaguer. He allowed a career-high four earned runs on a career-high nine hits while striking out a career-low three batters. Three of the nine hits were doubles to the wall. It was his first non-quality start of the season. Tanaka only threw 85 pitches in his seven innings of work, so there was plenty left in the tank, but he wasn’t sharp and he’s going to close out the first half with three straight starts on normal rest. Not at all a bad move by Joe Girardi to get his ace out of there with a comfortable lead.
The four-run fifth inning was great but it was not going to be enough. The Yankees rallied for three more runs in the seventh thanks to a walk (Ichiro Suzuki), a single (Wheeler), a one-run double (Brendan Ryan), a one-run single (Brett Gardner), and a one-run fielder’s choice (Derek Jeter). Four straight batters reached base to end Hughes’ night. He allowed a season-high seven runs.
With the big-ish lead and Tanaka not sharp, Joe Girardi handed the ball to the rested Dellin Betances and David Robertson for the final six outs. Betances struck out two in a perfect eighth and Robertson struck out the side while walking one in the ninth. Betances now has a 14.33 K/9 (42.6 K%) while Robertson is at 16.01 K/9 (44.3 K%). Those two are some kind of weapon at the end of games. They don’t even let the other team put the ball in play. It’s so awesome.
The Yankees managed to record a 9-4-2-5-7 putout in the first inning. Chris Parmelee doubled to right and, long story short, he was caught in a rundown trying to advance to third on the play. It ended with Gardner tagging him out near the shortstop position. Not every day you see an outfielder apply a tag for an out near second base.
Teixeira, Ichiro, and Wheeler all had two hits while Gardner, McCann, Beltran, and Ryan had one apiece. Ichiro drew the only walk — the Yankees have drawn no more than two walks in six of their last seven games — and the only players who failed to safely reach base at least once were Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury. Ryan’s double was his first extra-base hit of the year. I know he was hurt for a while and is a rarely used backup infielder, but geez.
Scary moment in the fifth inning, when McCann came up limping on his single to right. There didn’t appear to be any kind of misstep or anything like that, he just reached for his left foot/ankle after getting to first. He remained in the game and afterwards Joe Girardi said McCann was sore and would likely sit on Friday. It’s a day game after a night game anyway.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and standings, FanGraphs some additional stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Blue Jays lost and the Orioles won, so they are now tied atop the AL East. The Yankees are 3.5 games back of both the division lead and the second wildcard spot.
It’s a Fourth of July matinee. These two teams will play the second game of this four-game set on Friday afternoon, when Chase Whitley gets the ball against Kyle Gibson.
Two quick notes:
- RHP Alfredo Aceves has been suspended 50 games after testing positive for a drug of abuse, MLB announced. It was his second offense and the suspension begins immediately. I was just thinking Triple-A Scranton had more bodies than rotation spots, but this clears it up. Aceves wasn’t coming back to the MLB team unless things went way wrong, so this doesn’t hurt the Yankees’ depth all that much.
- Mark Simon wrote about 2B Rob Refsnyder and his big jump this year, from starting the season in Double-A to being on the cusp of MLB in early-July. “He was thinking too much,” said Trenton hitting coach Marcus Thames when asked about Refsnyder’s early season struggles. “Anytime you start doing that, your mechanics are going to break down. I told him to just relax.”
Triple-A Scranton (4-1 win over Buffalo)
- LF Jose Pirela: 3-5, 1 R, 1 K
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 0-3, 2 BB, 1 K — 19 walks and 19 strikeouts in 24 games at this level
- DH Zoilo Almonte: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI, 2 BB
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 1-4, 1 2B, 2 RBI, 1 E (fielding)
- RHP Chris Leroux: 6 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 1 Balk, 8/3 GB/FB — 59 of 94 pitches were strikes (63%)
- RHP Diego Moreno: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/2 GB/FB — 17 of 23 pitches were strikes (74%) … 29/11 K/BB in 29.1 innings this season … the Yankees got him from the Pirates in the A.J. Burnett trade a few years ago
Tonight, for one night only, there is a reason to watch the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka will be on the mound to open the team’s four-game series against the Twins, meaning the five-game winning streak might actually come to an end. If it doesn’t … well this sucker just might keep going until Tanaka’s next start. The Yankees are playing that poorly right now. Here is the Twins lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- DH Carlos Beltran
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 3B Zelous Wheeler — officially called up earlier today
- 2B Brendan Ryan
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It’s a little cool with clear skies in Minneapolis. Real pleasant night for baseball. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin at 8:10pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and, depending on where you live, MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.
Thursday: The Yankees not strongly pursuing Headley at the moment, according to Jon Heyman. That’s the kind of thing that can change in an instant though. A few more losses and they might go knock down San Diego’s door.
Tuesday: Via Jon Morosi: The Yankees are “regularly” scouting Padres third baseman Chase Headley. The switch-hitting 30-year-old has hit only .201/.289/.322 (79 wRC+) with six homers in 62 games while dealing with a herniated disc in his back this year. The Padres are awful and they just fired GM Josh Byrnes, so a fire sale seems imminent.
Headley will become a free agent after the season and at this point it seems unlikely San Diego will even make him a qualifying offer. He had a monster 2012 season (145 wRC+) and was still pretty good last year (113 wRC+), but this season has been a nightmare. The Yankees have gotten very little production from their non-first base infielders and acquiring Headley would be a (very) buy low move with the hope that getting him out of toxic (for hitters) Petco Park will kick start his offense. A good but not great prospect plus salary relief is fine with me. · (103) ·
The homestand from hell is finally over and the Yankees are heading to a place that has been very kind to them over the years. The Bombers are 73-24 against the Twins during the Ron Gardenhire era, including 13-3 all-time at Target Field, where they will play their next four games. The Twins did take two of three in Yankee Stadium about a month ago.
What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Ron Gardenhire’s team just lost two of three to the Royals and they’ve dropped seven of their last nine and 23 of their last 38 games overall. At 38-45 with a -30 run differential, they’ve settled into last place in the AL Central.
The Twins average 4.17 runs per game despite a team 94 wRC+, so they’re below-average at the plate but about average in scoring runs. Timing is everything, I guess. The Yankees will not see 1B Joe Mauer (94 wRC+) this weekend — he was placed on the disabled list with an oblique strain yesterday. He’s having a disappointing year anyway. UTIL Danny Santana (129 wRC+) is out with a knee injury and isn’t expected to return this series.
With Mauer hurt, Gardenhire’s lineup revolves around 2B Brian Dozier (116 wRC+), OF Josh Willingham (137 wRC+), and 1B/DH Kendrys Morales (55 wRC+ in limited time). Morales, like Stephen Drew, has not yet gotten it going at the plate after sitting out the first two and a half months of the season. 3B Trevor Plouffe (100 wRC+) has been fine and C Kurt Suzuki (113 wRC+) has been good overall but not as good since taking over as the everyday catcher when C Josmil Pinto was sent down.
UTIL Eduardo Nunez (124 wRC+ in limited time) has been leading off lately. Get ready for a lot of “shoulda kept him!” talk, because we all know everyone felt the Yankees should have kept him and given him another chance back in Spring Training. OF Oswaldo Arcia (83 wRC+) put on an outfield arm clinic in Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago. 1B/OF Chris Colabello (82 wRC+), IF Eduardo Escobar (99 wRC+), OF Sam Fuld (69 wRC+), 1B/OF Chris Parmelee (111 wRC+ in limited time), and former Yankees farmhand C Eric Fryer (-9 wRC+ in very limited time) round out the active roster.
Thursday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Phil Hughes (vs. NYY)
Hughes, 28, is going to be an All-Star in two weeks and not as the token Twin. He deserves to be there. Hughes has a 3.58 ERA (2.60 FIP) in 16 starts and 103 innings, mostly because he’s cut his homer rate all the way down to 0.61 HR/9 (5.5 HR/FB%). It’s not just the ballpark either — Hughes has actually allowed more dingers in Target Field (0.76 HR/9 and 6.3 HR/FB%) than on the road (0.49 HR/9 and 4.6 HR/FB%) this year. His strikeout (7.69 K/9 and 21.0 K%) and ground ball (36.9%) rates are a bit below-average, but he doesn’t walk anyone (0.87 BB/9 and 2.4 BB%). Hughes always threw a lot of strikes, but now he’s taken it to the extreme. Righties (.347 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.245 wOBA) for whatever reason in 2014. Hughes brought back his upper-80s cutter this year, replacing that awful low-80s slider. He’ll throw a few mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start, but for the most part it’s straight heat, low-90s fastballs in the zone. Phil held the Yankees to two runs in eight inning at Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago.
Friday: RHP Chase Whitley (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Kyle Gibson (vs. NYY)
I can’t believe it’s been five years since the 26-year-old Gibson was drafted (22nd overall). I remember absolutely loving him at the time of the 2009 draft and hoping he’d fall to the Yankees, but alas. Gibson has a 3.77 ERA (3.77 FIP!) in 93 innings across 16 starts this season, though his strikeout rate (4.84 K/9 and 13.0 K%) is terrible. He does it by limiting walks (2.61 BB/9 and 7.0 BB%), getting grounders (55.5%), and keeping the ball in the park (0.58 HR/9 and 7.0 HR/FB%). Classic Twins pitcher, really. Lefties (.303 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.264 wOBA) and he’s been much better at home in Target Field (.240 wOBA) than on the road (.320 wOBA). Gibson works in the low-90s with his two and four-seam fastballs and in the mid-80s with his slider and changeup. He’ll throw one or two upper-70s curveballs per start. The slider is his go-to secondary pitch. The Yankees did not face Gibson in New York earlier this season.
Saturday: RHP David Phelps (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Yohan Pino (No vs. NYY)
Pino is a 30-year-old rookie who will be making his fourth career start this weekend. He has allowed eleven runs on 19 hits and three walks in 15.2 innings in his first three games, striking out a dozen with a 26.9% ground ball rate. That all works out to a 6.32 ERA and a 2.97 FIP. Hooray for small sample sizes. Lefties (.399 wOBA) have clobbered him in his very limited time as a big leaguer (.293 wOBA by righties). Pino has exactly the kind of repertoire you’d expect from a 30-year-old rookie: upper-80s fastball, mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, mid-70s curveball. He knows how to pitch, he served his time in the minors, he’s been waiting his entire life for this this, blah blah blah, cliche cliche cliche. Obviously Pino has never faced the Yankees before.
Sunday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. MIN) vs. RHP Ricky Nolasco (vs. NYY)
A few weeks ago the 31-year-old Nolasco came into Yankee Stadium with the second highest ERA in baseball and held the Yankees to one run in six innings. His 5.49 ERA (4.40 FIP) is currently the highest in baseball among qualified pitchers, so he’ll probably throw a no-hitter this weekend. Nolasco’s strikeout (6.37 K/9 and 16.1 K%), walk (2.39 BB/9 and 6.1 BB%), and ground ball (42.0%) numbers aren’t all that different from the last few seasons, but he has become incredibly homer prone (1.33 HR/9 and 12.0 HR/FB%). Both lefties (.400 wOBA) and righties (.367 wOBA) have hit him hard, but lefties slightly harder. Nolasco has also been much better at Target Field (.321 wOBA) than on the road (.430 wOBA). He’s a kitchen sink guy, throwing upper-80s/low-90s two and four-seam fastballs, an upper-80s cutter, low-80s changeups and sliders, an upper-70s splitter, and a mid-70s curveball. Seven different pitches and he uses five of them regularly (the cutter and changeup are show-me pitches).
Gardenhire’s bullpen is relatively fresh coming into the series. No one has pitched in back-to-back days or three out of four, anything like that. Closer LHP Glen Perkins (1.88 FIP) is one of the five or six best relievers in baseball regardless of handedness. RHP Casey Fien (3.62 FIP) and LHP Caleb Thielbar (3.44 FIP) handle most of the setup work. Thielbar was pitching in an independent league not too long ago.
The rest of the Minnesota bullpen includes RHP Matt Guerrier (3.29 FIP), RHP Jared Burton (4.87 FIP), RHP Anthony Swarzak (3.59 FIP), and long man RHP Samuel Deduno (4.30 FIP). Not exactly the most intimidating group but they are generally effective. Check out the status of the Yankees bullpen with our Bullpen Workload page, then check out Twinkie Town for everything you need to know about the Bombers’ opponent through the end of the weekend.
Thursday: The Yankees have called up Wheeler and optioned Solarte to Triple-A, the team announced. Dean Anna was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot. The 27-year-old made the Opening Day roster but was send down a few weeks ago. Anna was hitting .192/.283/.292 (60 wRC+) in 36 Triple-A games.
Wednesday: The Yankees will call up utility man Zelous Wheeler prior to Thursday’s series opener against the Twins, report Chad Jennings and Donnie Collins. No word on the corresponding roster move just yet, but they will need to clear both a 25-man and 40-man roster spot. The ice cold Yangervis Solarte seems like the obvious candidate to be sent down.
Wheeler, 27, has hit .300/.368/.469 (135 wRC+) with 20 doubles and seven homers in 65 games with Triple-A Scranton this year. That includes a .348/.400/.522 line against lefties. Wheeler has spent a bunch of time at short and third in addition to both corner outfield spots, so he’ll give the team some versatility. This is his first MLB call-up. The Yankees have been getting nothing from too many lineup spots these last few weeks, and Wheeler gave them a reason to bring him up with his performance. · (134) ·
Despite their recent stretch of poor play (putting it nicely), the Yankees remain in the postseason hunt because every other team stinks too. The AL East is especially bad. The Yankees have lost nine of their last eleven games yet they remain 4.5 games back of the division lead with 79 games to play. They’re five games back of the second wildcard spot. Those deficits are far from insurmountable at this point of the summer, but they will need help to get back into the race and fast.
Because so many teams are within striking distance of a playoff berth, there aren’t many sellers out there this time of the year. One club that has at least acknowledged the likelihood of selling is the Diamondbacks, who come into today with the worst record in baseball at 35-41. “Based on the last couple of years of being a .500 club and this year with the injuries we have and our record, we have to look at being more open-minded of moving some contracts and some veteran players for younger players,” said GM Kevin Towers to Nick Piecoro recently.
Towers spent a year in the Yankees front office and he is reportedly very close friends with Brian Cashman, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be easier to make a trade. They’ve gotten together for eleven trades over the years and most are very minor, Bernie Castro for Kevin Reese stuff. Their most recent sweep was Juan Miranda for Scottie Allen in November 2010, their most notable swap probably D’Angelo Jimenez for Jay Witasick in June 2011. Let’s see what pitchers Arizona can offer the Yankees in the coming weeks.
Tomorrow Next week we’ll tackle the position players.
RHP Brandon McCarthy
The 30-year-old McCarthy is a sabermetrics darling, and you really need to be open-minded to look beyond his 2-10 record and 5.11 ERA. He also owns a 7-21 record with a 4.78 ERA since signing with the D’Backs prior to last year. High school Mike Axisa would have said no way to McCarthy based on that.
Behind the record and ERA are some promising core pitching skills, however. McCarthy has a 3.81 FIP during his two years in the desert and this season it’s a 3.88 FIP with his best strikeout (7.53 K/9 and 19.7 K%) and ground ball (55.6%) rates in years. He also never walks anyone (1.56 BB/9 and 4.1 BB%). During his resurgent “hey this guy is a good pitcher now” years with the Athletics from 2011-12, McCarthy had a 3.22 FIP, a 6.26 K/9 (16.9 K%), a 1.57 BB/9 (4.2 BB%), and a 44.3% ground ball rate.
The biggest difference between Oakland McCarthy and Arizona McCarthy is the long ball — he had a 0.69 HR/9 (7.1 HR/FB%) with the A’s and has a 1.05 HR/9 (14.4 HR/FB%) with the D’Backs. A lot of that is the difference in ballparks. The O.co Coliseum is a tough place to hit homers and Chase Field is not. It’s pretty simple. McCarthy has compensated for the less friendly home park by throwing more sinking fastballs and staying away from his cutter. Here is the breakdown of his arsenal:
The changeup is just a show-me pitch and because McCarthy throws so few four-seam fastballs, I wouldn’t get too excited about that astronomical swing-and-miss rate. (Whiff+ and GB+ are like ERA+, but with swing-and-miss and ground ball rates for individual pitches.) The sinker is clearly his bread-and-butter and it’s an above-average pitch both in terms of getting whiffs and ground balls. Is a guy who relies so heavily on his sinker a good fit for the Yankees’ infield defense?
The biggest concern with McCarthy, by far, is his injury history. He has stayed healthy this season but has otherwise visited the disabled list with a shoulder problem at least once every year from 2007-13. Only once since 2006 has McCarthy thrown more 135 innings in a season (180.2 in in 2011) and this year he is already at 104 innings. Maybe he’ll stay healthy, but, given his history, you have to think a disabled list stint is coming at some point.
McCarthy is owed approximately $5.1M through the end of the season and will become a free agent this winter, so he’s a pure rental. The fact that he limits walks, keeps the ball on the ground, and is familiar with pitching in a hitter’s park are pluses. The below league average strikeout rate (remember, he’s facing pitchers too) and scary injury history are negatives. McCarthy is an upgrade over Vidal Nuno (and Chase Whitley) and would probably come cheaper than Jason Hammel, another mid-rotation guy with injury issues.
LHP Wade Miley
Unlike McCarthy, Miley would not be a rental pickup. The 27-year-old is in his third pre-arbitration year and will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2017. Usually rebuilding clubs don’t trade a guy like that, but Buster Olney (subs. req’d) recently mentioned many teams are looking to land Doug Fister types — unheralded but effective pitchers with years of control remaining. (The Tigers stole Fister from the Mariners when he was in his second pre-arbitration year.) Miley may fit that bill.
Through 18 starts and 113.1 innings this season, Miley has a 4.61 ERA (4.13 FIP). He posted a 3.33 ERA (3.15 FIP) during his first full season in 2012 and followed it up with a 3.55 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 2013, so he is trending in the wrong direction. Miley’s strikeout rate (8.42 K/9 and 22.5 K%) is a career best and both his walk (2.70 BB/9 and 7.2 BB%) and ground ball rates (48.0%) are right at his career norms, so the problem has been the homerun. He went from 0.65 HR/9 (6.9 HR/FB%) in 2012 to 0.93 HR/9 (12.5 HR/FB%) in 2013 to 1.35 HR/9 (16.8 HR/FB%) this year. When he misses his spot, it tends to get hit a long way.
Miley has been very durable throughout his career, throwing 190+ innings in each of the last two seasons and at least 150 innings every year since 2010, when he was just a kid in A-ball. He has all but shelved his curveball this year — it was his top secondary pitch during his excellent rookie campaign two years ago — and is now more of a slider guy. Here is his pitch breakdown:
The curveball is a non-factor but otherwise Miley uses two fastballs interchangeably and has a well-above-average slider in terms of getting both swings and misses and ground balls. That pitch is why he’s in the big leagues and why left-handed batters have mustered only a 2.88 wOBA against him in his career. Like Fister, there’s nothing flashy about Miley’s pitch mix, no huge fastball or anything like that, but he has four distinct pitches and can make the ball move. Add in his durability and left-handedness and you’ve got a guy who figures to spend a very long time in the league.
The original Fister trade is not the perfect deal to reference because he had one extra year of team control, but it can give us something of an idea of what it would take to land Miley. The Tigers sent four players to Seattle for Fister (and replacement level reliever David Pauley):
- Third baseman Francisco Martinez, who was in Double-A at the time and considered the fourth best prospect in Detroit’s system by Baseball America.
- Left-hander Charlie Furbush, who had made his MLB debut earlier that season and been ranked as the team’s 26th best prospect in Baseball America.
- Right-hander Chance Ruffin, who was Detroit’s supplemental first round pick the previous year. He actually zoomed to the big leagues and made his debut with the Tigers right before the trade.
- Platoon outfielder Casper Wells, who had about a year in MLB at the time.
In hindsight, the Tigers gave up very little. Furbush has settled in as quality left-handed reliever but Martinez, Wells, and Ruffin all flamed out. At the time though? Wowza. Detroit traded one of their top prospects, their supplemental first round pick from the year before, plus two cheap and potentially useful MLB pieces. Imagine if the Yankees were to trade, say, Greg Bird, Ian Clarkin, Jose Ramirez, and Zoilo Almonte for someone like Miley. Fans would probably riot. That’s not an unreasonable package though.
Miley’s increasing propensity to give up the long ball is a definite concern, but there is plenty to like here. He’s young, he’s under team control for three more years, he’s never been hurt, he’s left-handed, and he has a true starter’s repertoire. Miley is essentially a finished product — yes, I know every player is always looking to improve, but it’s not like they have to teach him a changeup or something — the Yankees could just plug into the rotation and let him go. Even if you think the Yankees have no business being buyers at the deadline, this is someone they should consider acquiring anyway because he’ll also be able to help in the coming years.
Every team can use another reliever, including the Yankees. They’ve had to ride Dellin Betances and Adam Warren pretty hard in recent weeks, partly because Shawn Kelley has been shaky as hell since coming off the disabled list. Closer Addison Reed (4.15 ERA And 4.57 FIP) has been amazingly homer prone (2.08 HR/9 and 18.2 HR/FB%), which is not exactly a good quality for a late-inning reliever. Brad Ziegler (2.34 ERA and 3.52 FIP) is a sinker and ground ball machine (67.2%) who needs a good infield defense to be not awful. Both Oliver Perez (.302 wOBA) and Joe Thatcher (.285 wOBA) are serviceable matchup lefties.
Ziegler ($5M) and Perez ($2.5M) are both already under contract for next season while Reed is in his final pre-arbitration year. His arbitration raises figure to be significant because he’ll finish the year with 100+ career saves, significant enough that he might be a non-tender candidate as soon as this winter. Thatcher will be a free agent after the season. Meh. Not really much to see here.
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The rest of Arizona’s pitching staff is pretty unappealing. Bronson Arroyo is currently on the disabled list with an elbow injury and others like Josh Collmenter, Mike Bolsinger, and Chase Anderson barely move the needle. Trevor Cahill was so bad that he’s currently pitching (not particularly well, either) in the minors. If the D’Backs had more good pitchers, they’d be winning more games.
I think McCarthy is a lock to be traded before the deadline for pretty obvious reasons. He makes good money and he’ll be a free agent after the season. That’s exactly the type of player a bad team moves at the deadline. Miley is a different situation though — the D’Backs won’t have any trouble holding onto him if they don’t get an offer they like. The Yankees or any other team would have to pry him loose. Both he and McCarthy make some sense for New York if they’re serious about adding help before the deadline and making a run at a postseason berth.
Here are some notes to start the night:
- Here is our post keeping track of the Yankees’ intentional free agent signings on the first day of the 2014-15 signing period. The reports about their intentions to go on a huge spending spree have proven to be very correct.
- UTIL Jose Pirela was been named to the Triple-A International League All-Star Team. He is the only Yankees farmhand who was elected to the game.
- The Yankees have signed RHP Edgmer Escalona to a minor league contract, according to Rich Dubroff. The 27-year-old had a 6.10 ERA (6.37 FIP) in 20.2 Triple-A innings with the Orioles before being released. He replaces RHP Robert Coello, who opted out of his contract.
- The Yankees have signed Mount Olive RHP Deshorn Lake as an undrafted free agent, according to the Daily Press. The Red Sox selected him in the 12th round pick of the 2011 draft, but he opted not to sign.
Triple-A Scranton Game One (1-0 loss to Buffalo in eight innings, walk-off style) this was a regularly scheduled doubleheader, each affiliate has one or two each season
- 2B Jose Pirela: 3-4, 1 2B
- DH Rob Refsnyder & LF Zoilo Almonte: both 1-4, 1 K
- 3B Zelous Wheeler: 0-1, 1 K – was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the fourth inning because he’s on his way to MLB
- C John Ryan Murphy: 0-4, 1 K
- RHP Shane Greene: 6 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 4/5 GB/FB — 63 of 99 pitches were strikes (64%), though one of the walks was intentional
- RHP Matt Daley: 1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 3/0 GB/FB – 15 of 22 pitches were strikes (68%) … served up the walk-off homer to former RailRiders teammate Dan Johnson