Sanchez: 2014-15 international signing period now closed

Martinez. (MLB.com)
Martinez. (MLB.com)

According to Jesse Sanchez, the 2014-15 international signing period closed at midnight last night. It was reported weeks ago that the signing period closed on June 25th, but, like most things with the international market, that report was off slightly. Anyway, the Yankees can no longer sign an international prospect and have the bonus applied to the 2014-15 signing period.

Sanchez says the Yankees “made a run” at free agent Cuban outfielder Eddy Julio Martinez, who was cleared to sign a few weeks ago, prior to the end of the signing period last night. Martinez, 20, has been described as an “impact talent” and the Yankees were interested in signing him following his recent workouts. He’ll now wait until the 2015-16 signing period opens July 2nd to sign.

As far as we know the Yankees did not sign any last minute free agents prior to the end of the signing period, though there weren’t many available either. The big names in addition to Martinez are Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez and Bahamian SS Lucius Fox. That’s about it. Cuban righty Yadier Alvarez was not eligible to sign during the 2014-15 signing period.

Because the Yankees blew their bonus pool out of the water during the 2014-15 signing period — we don’t have an exact number, but the bonuses and penalties are around $30M total — the Yankees will be unable to sign any player to a bonus in excess of $300,000 during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing period. They won’t be able to make a serious play for any big name prospects.

The Yankees will, however, still be able to sign older Cuban free agents should any come stateside these next two years. And by older I mean age 23+ per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Yeah, younger guys are more desirable, but Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu, Yasmany Tomas, and Rusney Castillo were among the big name “older” Cuban free agents in recent years. The Yankees won’t be completely shut out of the top of the international market the next two signing periods.

Yankees facing tough but welcome roster decisions this month

(Scranton Times Tribune)
(Scranton Times Tribune)

At some point very soon — likely next week — the Yankees will welcome Ivan Nova back to the rotation. He allowed one run in six innings in his second Triple-A rehab start over the weekend, but apparently he had issues with his command and wasn’t as sharp as he had been in previous rehab starts. Joe Girardi confirmed yesterday Nova will make one more minor league rehab start later this week.

“We just feel we want to make sure that he’s finished off,” said the skipper to Chad Jennings. “It’s not something that’s easy to make an adjustment if you say, we wish we would have had one more start, so we talked about it for a couple days and we just think it’s better that we know that he’s ready to go and ready to handle the rigors of throwing every fifth day and all that … We waited a long time and to give him one more start and to make sure that he’s ready is probably the best thing to do.”

Once Nova is deemed ready to rejoin the Yankees, the team will have to figure out a way to squeeze him back into the rotation, unless of course they decide to use a six-man rotation. Sunday’s subpar start by Adam Warren seems like the excuse the Yankees have been waiting for to plug him back into the bullpen after his recent run of strong starts. Girardi’s somewhat quick hook was telling.

Soon after Nova returns, Jacoby Ellsbury is expected back from his knee problem. Cashman told Erik Boland the team expects Ellsbury back before the All-Star break (which is less than a month away now) and that he could return later this month. Once he does return Ellsbury will slide right back into his usual center field/leadoff hitter slot and the rookie outfielder du jour (Mason Williams, currently) will be send down.

Last week the Yankees had to send Jose Pirela to Triple-A to make room for Brendan Ryan even though Pirela has gone 14-for-27 (.519) against lefties in his very brief MLB career. Jacob Lindgren was dropped in favor of Sergio Santos partly because the Yankees wanted another righty reliever and partly because Lindgren gave up three dingers in his seven innings. Ramon Flores was swapped out for Williams despite his solid showing.

Pirela. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Pirela. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

In this recent stretch of games the Yankees have had to make some tough roster decisions and they have some more tough decisions on the way. Keeping Pirela, Flores, and Lindgren around would have easily been justifiable. Warren may move to the bullpen but chances are the Yankees wish they could keep him in the rotation to see what happens. His last six starts as a whole has been very impressive, even including Sunday.

The Yankees suddenly have depth and extra players who belong on the roster. Too many times in the last two seasons the club was left scrambling for players, whether it was shortstops like Luis Cruz and Reid Brignac in 2013 or pitchers like Alfredo Aceves and Matt Daley in 2014, there was always someone on the roster that needed to be replaced. Obviously injuries played a part in that, but the Yankees have had injuries this year too. This season’s crop of replacements has been much more productive.

Right now, Santos is probably the only guy on the roster the Yankees would drop in a heartbeat if a better option presents itself. If Ryan or another outfielder gets hurt, Pirela and Flores are capable replacements. Those internal replacements rarely existed from 2013-14 and Hal Steinbrenner made it clear he viewed that as a problem in the last two offseasons. I know we’re all looking for stars from the farm system, but getting capable fill-ins like Pirela and Flores is very important too. It prevents the Brignacs and Daleys from even being needed.

When the time comes to activate Nova and Ellsbury, the Yankees will have tough decisions to make and that’s a good thing. Having more quality players than roster spots is a plus. The lack of depth and general lack of production from the farm system helped sink the Yankees the last two seasons. Now they have multiple young outfielders and a young infielder waiting in Triple-A, and will probably move a capable starter in Warren to the bullpen to make room for Nova. Figuring out who has to go isn’t so easy anymore. That’s a good thing.

King: Yankees scouting Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake

Hair would have to go, Johnny. (Drew Hallowell/Getty)
Hair would have to go, Johnny. (Drew Hallowell/Getty)

According to George King, the Yankees sent scout Jeff Datz to watch right-handers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake pitch this weekend. The Reds are already well out of the postseason race and are stuck in a really tough NL Central division. They haven’t yet said they will sell at the trade deadline, but all signs point to Cincinnati dealing away their two impending free agent starters come July 31st.

Cueto, 29, allowed four runs in seven innings against the Cubs on Friday, striking out nine and walking none. He has a stellar 2.85 ERA (3.15 FIP) in 12 starts and 85.1 innings this season, right in line with the 2.48 ERA (3.37 FIP) he put up from 2011-14. Cueto has truly been one of the game’s best pitchers over the last half-decade or so. Remarkably consistent.

The biggest concern with Cueto is his elbow — he missed two starts last month with elbow inflammation, and tests did confirm his ulnar collateral ligament is intact, says Mark Sheldon. He’s been excellent since coming back from the elbow issue, allowing six runs total with 22 strikeouts and two walks in 20 innings across three starts, but still. The guy’s elbow was barking not too long ago. Red flag!

Leake, on the other hand, has crashed back to Earth after a great start. The 27-year-old gave up three runs in five innings against Chicago on Saturday and has a 4.35 ERA (4.86 FIP) in 13 starts and 82.2 innings this year. It’s his worst season since 2012 despite a monster start that featured a 2.36 ERA (4.27 FIP) in his first seven outings. The crash has been quick and hard.

Both Leake and Cueto are impending free agents — the Tigers, Red Sox, and Giants were also scouting Cueto this weekend according to Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal — and Cueto is definitely a qualifying offer candidate. Easy call there. The Reds have no reason to take anything less than a first round caliber prospect for their ace, and ultimately it’ll wind up taking a lot more to get him because multiple teams figure to be involved in the bidding. There have only been three rental ace trades in the last seven years:

  • Jon Lester for one and a half years of Yoenis Cespedes and rental Jonny Gomes.
  • Zack Greinke for big league ready Jean Segura and prospects Johnny Hollweg and Ariel Pena.
  • CC Sabathia for prospects Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, and Rob Bryson.

The Lester trade was unique because both teams planned to contend — the Athletics right away and the Red Sox the following season, which is why all big leaguers were involved. The Greinke and Sabathia trades are examples of bad teams trading their ace before losing him to free agency, which applies to Cueto and the Reds. Both trades involved at least three prospects with one big time headliner (Segura and LaPorta). (Brantley was the player to be named later in the Sabathia trade. He was the fourth piece!)

Leake. (Joe Robbins/Getty)
Leake. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Leake is a mid-rotation starter with a long track record and those guys get traded all the time. Brandon McCarthy, Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Justin Masterson, Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, Francisco Liriano … those dudes were all traded a few months prior to free agency for anything from one okay prospect (McCarthy and Masterson) to four good prospects (Garza). Dempster and Liriano were traded for two prospects and my feeling is Leake falls into that category. Two good but not great prospects may be enough.

Now, here’s the thing: the Yankees might not need to trade for a starter at the deadline. Cueto is an impact pitcher who would improve any rotation, he’s the kind of guy you get no matter who is in your starting five as long as his elbow is healthy, but Leake is a band-aid type who probably doesn’t move the needle much for New York unless they get hit with a sudden barrage of injuries, which is always possible. The Yankees have a long way to go before getting to October, but man, imagine a rotation of Cueto, Masahiro Tanaka, and Michael Pineda with Sabathia as the number four and Nathan Eovaldi throwing about 130 mph out of the bullpen in the short postseason series. Gosh.

Anyway, the Yankees are scouting Cueto and Leake because teams scout players all the time. They’re just covering their bases in case they do wind up needing rotation help or decide to make the big play for Cueto to separate themselves in the AL East. King’s report doesn’t mean the Yankees are looking to make a deal now and it certainly doesn’t mean anything is close — might be though! never know — it just means they’re doing their due diligence prior to the deadline. Expect a few similar reports involving other players in the coming weeks.

Report: FBI investigating Cardinals for hacking Astros database

Well this is something. According to Michael Schmidt, the FBI and Justice Department are investigating the Cardinals for hacking into the Astros’ proprietary database to steal information about their player evaluation and statistical analysis methods. You may remember that last year some trade information was leaked from Houston’s database.

Here’s more on the Cardinals story from Schmidt:

Investigators have uncovered evidence that Cardinals officials broke into a network of the Houston Astros that housed special databases the team had built, according to law enforcement officials. Internal discussions about trades, proprietary statistics and scouting reports were compromised, the officials said.

The officials did not say which employees were the focus of the investigation or whether the team’s highest-ranking officials were aware of the hacking or authorized it. The investigation is being led by the F.B.I.’s Houston field office and has progressed to the point that subpoenas have been served on the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for electronic correspondence.

Investigators believe Cardinals officials, concerned that Mr. Luhnow had taken their idea and proprietary baseball information to the Astros, examined a master list of passwords used by Mr. Luhnow and the other officials who had joined the Astros when they worked for the Cardinals. The Cardinals officials are believed to have used those passwords to gain access to the Astros’ network, law enforcement officials said.

Obviously this is very bad for the Cardinals, who have been a model organization (on the field, anyway) for about two decades now. Schmidt says this is the first known case of corporate espionage involving sports teams, though rival companies hacking into each other’s databases is hardly uncommon. It’s usually done through a third party in a foreign country, however. Schmidt makes it sound like a bunch of Cardinals folks just tried a bunch of Luhnow’s old passwords from home.

Luhnow was a very successful yet polarizing scouting executive with the Cardinals before taking over as the Astros GM a few years ago. MLB has not yet handed down any discipline but it is surely coming. Firings, suspensions, heavy fines … I imagine everything is in play at this point, not to mention legal ramifications. No, this doesn’t involve the Yankees, but gosh, what a story.

Young outfielders doing well during their auditions so far this season

(Getty)
Williams. (Getty)

I’m not going to lie. If you had told me back before the start of Spring Training that both Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams would make their MLB debuts before the All-Star break this season, I would have assumed the starting outfield had been decimated by injuries. Not just the starters, but the backups too. Heathcott (injuries) and Williams (poor performance) were not on my big league radar at all coming into 2015.

Instead of fading into prospect obscurity this year, both Heathcott and Williams had strong showings in Spring Training that carried over into the regular season. Slade was simply fully healthy for the first time in basically his entire career. Williams had the proverbial light bulb turn on and finally got serious about his career. It took injuries for them to get to the show — Jacoby Ellsbury (knee) for Heathcott, then Heathcott (quad) for Williams — but both Heathcott and Williams put themselves in position for the call-up and they deserve credit for that.

Ramon Flores also made his MLB debut earlier this year — he actually came up when Heathcott got hurt then went down for Williams — so that’s three young outfielders the Yankees have called up already this season. All three had some immediate success too. Heathcott went 6-for-17 (.353) in his cameo, Flores had some hits against top notch pitching (Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez) and played great defense, and Williams walloped a no-doubt two-run home run in his second at-bat in pinstripes. As far as first impressions go, all three did well.

As is the case with any young player, especially those not considered tippy top prospects at the time of their call-up, these three guys are auditioning for big league jobs. Heathcott, Flores, and Williams want to show the Yankees they can play everyday. On the other side of the coin, the Yankees want those three outfielders to show other teams they can play everyday to boost their trade value. I don’t think it’s a coincidence the team called Williams up last week instead of recalling Flores — the Yankees want to show off as many of these guys as possible.

This is a simple numbers game. Brett Gardner and Ellsbury are locked into long-term contracts and Carlos Beltran is signed through next year with Chris Young and Garrett Jones on the bench as reserves through the end of 2015. With Alex Rodriguez hitting so well at DH, Beltran is stuck in the outfield. Not only are Heathcott, Flores, and Williams waiting in Triple-A, the Yankees also have Ben Gamel and Tyler Austin at that level as well, plus Aaron Judge and Jake Cave are sitting in Double-A. The Yankees have a lot of outfielders and something has to give. They can’t keep everyone. There’s not enough roster spots to do that.

Flores. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Flores. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

The Yankees have enough Triple-A and Double-A outfield depth to trade at least one of their young outfielders this summer to plug another roster hole. Since Heathcott is on the DL, that leaves Flores and Williams as trade bait. Flores is the more predictable player while Williams has the greater upside. Whom you want to see the Yankees keep is a matter of preference. There’s no right answer. The team shouldn’t label either untouchable though — other clubs will value Flores and Williams differently and the Yankees should be willing to act on either player.

Looking ahead, the Yankees can use one of these guys as the fourth outfielder next season, though the problem is Heathcott, Flores, and Williams are all left-handed hitters. The Yankees would prefer a righty fourth outfielder to balance out the roster. The best fit for the roster among young outfielders might actually be Austin, a righty hitter who can play the corner outfield as well as first base. He’s had a down year though (76 wRC+) and isn’t in the big league conversation right now.

Judge is hopefully the long-term answer in right field once Beltran’s contract is up. I imagine that’s the plan but this is baseball, and things rarely go according to plan, especially with prospects. That’s why the outfield depth is a good thing. Maybe Williams ends up the long-term right fielder. Or Flores. Or Austin. Or maybe Gardner turns into trade bait and Flores and Judge are flanking Ellsbury in two years. Who knows? The depth gives the Yankees lots of options, and one of them absolutely should be trading prospects. That’s why you have ’em.

So far this season things have worked out to almost the best case scenario for these young outfielders. Heathcott and Williams rebuilt some value early in the season and those two plus Flores made strong first impressions in their brief MLB cameos. Judge, Gamel, and Cave are also having nice years in the minors. Austin’s been the only negative. This depth allows the Yankees to trade one of their young outfielders at the deadline this year to improve their roster elsewhere. A few months ago, dealing some of these guys would have been the definition of selling low.

Yankees lose a pitchers’ duel in Miami 2-1 as the offense can’t support Tanaka

For the third consecutive starts after coming off the DL, Masahiro Tanaka pitched pretty well. He had another seven-inning outing, limiting the Marlins to two runs despite not having his best command. But the New York offense went quiet against Tom Koehler and their bullpen – the Yankees fell tonight 2-1  and lost for the third time in last four games. Oh well. This one does hurt.

Eyes on target (Source: Getty)

Tanak Tanak Tun

Tanaka has been very, very good since coming off the DL. Tonight, while he did allow nine hits in seven innings, you can’t complain too much about the way he pitched – he didn’t allow any walks (again) and struck out six.

In the second inning, Tanaka allowed a one-out double to Derek Dietrich and Adeiny Hechavarria followed it up with an RBI-single on a hanging splitter.

In the third, Masahiro allowed two consecutive singles to Ichiro Suzuki and Christian Yelich. Luckily, Giancarlo Stanton hit a hard grounder right at Did Gregorius for a 6-4-3 double play. Boy, that was a break, especially against a guy like Stanton.

In the seventh, after retiring eleven consecutive batters, Tanaka allowed a homer to right to Dietrich. It was a fastball right down the middle and yeah, it was a goner off the bat. In a 1-1 game like this, especially after being on such a roll, that hurt quite much. For shame. The score remained 2-1 for rest of the game and Tanaka took a hard loss.

Despite the loss, his numbers are still quite elite. In seven starts, Tanaka has a 2.49 ERA and 2.71 FIP – doing it well on both conventional and sabermetric numbers. By the way, if you don’t “get” the title of the section, check this out.

The sole offensive triumph (Source: Getty)

Quiet bats

Tom Koehler is from New York City and grew up a big Yankee fan. Tonight, he earned a win against the team he rooted for.

Now, Koehler is not a bad pitcher. Before tonight, the righty had a 4.13 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) with a 4-4 record, which is not that shabby. But then again, if you put him in a matchup against Masahiro Tanaka, who would have a better chance to be victorious? Probably Tanaka. Didn’t really work out that way for New York tonight.

Leading off the second inning, Mark Teixeira hit a big solo fly to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. That was his 18th of the year and the gluten-free triumph continued! After that, Yankees didn’t get too much going on. I blame the Marlins infield for robbing at least three hard hits though – Hechavarria robbed Chase Headley twice (two at-bats in a row actually) and Dee Gordon robbed Brett Gardner of one. And, of course, Koehler reached first base safe because Mark Teixeira botched picking up a slow roller down the first base line. BABIP gods weren’t that great for New York tonight.

The head-scratcher

Joe Girardi put in Jose Ramirez to relieve Tanaka to begin the eighth. Now, Ramirez is no Chasen Shreve – the righty has a decent minor league track record but he’s yet to show a sustainable ML success. In fact, he has close to none – 5.40 ERA in 10 IP last year and 36.00 ERA in 1 IP in 2015 prior to tonight’s game. It came to no surprise when he got the bases loaded pretty quickly without getting an out. He just looked really, really bad out there not being able to throw strikes.

Now, the Yankees were trailing 2-1 in the bottom of eighth. The goal there is to keep it a 2-1 game and hope for a rally in the ninth. To increase the chance of keeping the same score, Girardi would have probably put a better pitcher – or at least a reliever with better track record – in.

Fortunately for the Yankees, Sergio Santos managed to get out of that situation unscathed. That was another head-scratching decision but it worked out in the end. The end does not always justify the means but I’m glad (or I was at the time) that the righty got out of it somehow.

Leftover

Yankees faced Ichiro for the first time he signed with the Marlins in the offseason. The Japanese veteran went 2-for-4 with a strikeout tonight, getting closer to the 3,000th hit. The 41-year old is doing eh this season – he does have a .288 batting average but that’s just about the only positive. He has a 89 wRC+ and a -0.3 fWAR. I do admire that he’s still out there and grinding in the Major Leagues though. (Also happens to be one of my idols since he started to play for the Mariners in 2001)

If you watched the ninth inning, you saw that Alex Rodriguez got a standing ovation on a road game. That was a weird yet pretty cool moment. Al from Miami got some love there. Also there were a lot of Yankee fans in the game – the “Let’s go Yankees” chants tonight were one of the loudest I’ve heard in Yankee road games, if not the loudest.

Box Score, standings, highlights, WPA

Here is the box score, updated standings, video highlights and WPA. Rays have already won tonight so Yankees are no longer in the first place of division anymore. Oh well. I have a feeling that it won’t stay that way for too long though.


Source: FanGraphs


How about the matchup for tomorrow – David Phelps vs. Nathan Eovaldi! Will it determine who #wonthetrade? We’ll see.

DotF: Breen and Aune have huge games in Charleston’s win

I missed this last week, but UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (1st round) had the best future projection among this year’s first round pitchers according to Chris Mitchell’s KATOH system. Also, Oregon State OF Jeff Hendrix (4th) was among the best projected hitters taken on Day Two of the draft, so says KATOH.

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

High-A Tampa (3-2 loss to Bradenton)

  • 2B Abi Avelino: 0-2 — left the game in the fourth for an unknown reason
  • SS Tyler Wade: 0-4
  • DH Miguel Andujar: 0-4, 1 K
  • RF Mark Payton: 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K
  • LF Ericson Leonora: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K — that’s his tenth homer of the season and fourth in his last three games
  • CF Michael O’Neill: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • RHP Gabe Encinas: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 3/5 GB/FB — 64 of 97 pitches were strikes (66%)

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