Finally, some help for the infield. The Yankees have acquired third baseman Chase Headley and cash from the Padres for utility man Yangervis Solarte and minor league pitching prospect Rafael DePaula, both teams announced. Jack Curry and Jon Heyman first reported the news and Chad Jennings says the Yankees hope he will be in town in time for tonight’s game. (The Padres are in Chicago.)
Headley, 30, is owed approximately $4.2M through the end of the season, and Heyman says the Yankees will receive about $1M from San Diego. Headley is due to become a free agent after the winter and because he was acquired at midseason, the team will not be able to make him a qualifying offer to recoup a draft pick in the offseason. This is a pure rental, obviously, though things could always go so well that they re-sign him.
Through 77 games and 307 plate appearances this year, the switch-hitting Headley is hitting .229/.296/.355 (88 wRC+) with seven homers and 12 doubles. He was dealing with some back issues a few weeks ago and has hit .298/.330/.405 (110 wRC+) in 21 games since receiving an epidural. As with all Padres’ position players, the hope is Headley will perform better away from spacious Petco Park. Here’s what I wrote in our recent Scouting The Market Post:
Petco Park is a notorious pitcher’s park, even after the walls were brought in last season. Headley is a career .286/.360/.444 (118 wRC+) hitter on the road (.243/.331/.371 (107 wRC+) at home), including a 154 wRC+ away from Petco Park in 2012 (97 wRC+ on the road from 2013-14). If the Yankees were to acquire Headley, he would be moving from one of the worst hitting parks in the game to one of the best. It would be damn near impossible for his numbers not to improve.
Headley’s offensive numbers might not improve, he might just stink as a hitter now, but there is no doubt he will improve New York’s dreadful infield defense. He has consistently graded out as above-average defender at third base and will be the team’s best hot corner gloveman since peak Alex Rodriguez. It would be awesome if Headley hits like he did in 2012 (145 wRC+), but being nothing more than a league-average bat with his defense would be a gigantic upgrade for the Yankees.
In exchange for Headley, the Yankees gave up a spare part in Solarte and a secondary pitching prospect. The team signed Solarte as a minor league free agent over the winter and he was awesome for the first two months of the season, but his production slipped in recent weeks and he was eventually shipped to the minors. The 27-year-old has hit .254/.337/.381 (100 wRC+) in 289 plate appearances this year. Hopefully he gets a chance to play everyday in San Diego. The Solarte Partay was a blast while it lasted.
DePaula, 23, has a 4.15 ERA (3.34 FIP) in 89 innings for High-A Tampa this season. I ranked him as the team’s 20th best prospect before the draft, mostly because of his high-end fastball velocity and promising slider. There are still questions about whether he is anything more than a reliever long-term. The Yankee signed DePaula for $500k out of Dominican Republic in 2010 but he did not make his pro debut until 2012 due to visa issues. He was suspended one year before signing for falsifying his identity.
It’s worth noting the Blue Jays were said to be pursuing Headley as well, so the Yankees essentially took him away from a division rival and direct competitor for a postseason spot. The Bombers have now added two rentals in Headley and Brandon McCarthy, and all they’ve given up is a good but not great pitching prospect and two players signed off the scrap heap. I mean, they turned Solarte and Vidal Nuno into half-seasons of Headley and McCarthy. That’s pretty awesome. DePaula, like most Single-A pitching prospects, was as tradeable as it gets. These moves might be not enough to put the Yankees over the top — they still need rotation help and a right fielder — but they were upgrades at minimal cost.
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have called the White Sox about left-hander John Danks. The two sides are not close to a deal and Heyman says talks may only be in the preliminary stages. The rebuilding ChiSox are, unsurprisingly, looking for young players and prospects in return.
Danks, 29, was a popular trade topic around these parts a few years ago, when he had a 3.77 ERA (3.89 FIP) and averaged 194.2 innings a year from 2008-11. Then he tore his shoulder capsule in 2012 and has pitched to a 4.56 ERA (4.89 FIP) since surgery, including a 4.35 ERA (4.70 FIP) in 124 innings this year. PitchFX shows his velocity (all pitches) has not returned since the shoulder injury.
Danks is owed roughly $35M through the 2016 season and torn capsules are usually the kiss of death. No one has returned from one to pitch to their pre-injury levels. It effectively ended the careers of Johan Santana, Rich Harden, Mark Prior, and Chien-Ming Wang, among others. Danks has been serviceable since the injury, but given the money left on his contract, I would hope he comes cheap in terms of prospects. · (94) ·
With four-fifths of the Opening Day rotation on the disabled list and not due back anytime soon, the Yankees are facing a pitching crisis. It’s not as bad as it could be thanks to the Brandon McCarthy pickup and the emergence of Shane Greene, but the team is pretty desperate for some quality arms. It’s tough to expect Masahiro Tanaka and/or Michael Pineda to return in the second half given the nature of their injuries.
The trade deadline is next Thursday and at this point it’s tough to see the Phillies not selling. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. recently told Jim Salisbury nothing more than “we’re going to try to do what we can to improve our club,” which makes sense. It’s not often a team will come out and announce they’re in sell mode. It pushes fans away. The Phillies do have baseball’s sixth worst record at 43-56 though, and the rumors of a fire sale are louder than ever. If and when they do pull the plug, they have several players who would interest the Yankees. Here are the pitchers, later today we’ll cover the position players.
LHP Cliff Lee
Lee, 35, returned to the mound last night after spending two months on the disabled list with a flexor pronator strain. That’s a muscle in your forearm, though forearm issues are usually symptoms of an elbow problem. Either way, Lee returned last night and was terrible, allowing six runs on a career high-tying 12 hits in 5.2 innings. I watched the game and he just looked rusty. PitchFX confirms his velocity was fine and he threw all of his pitches, but his location was terrible. He looked like a guy who threw only 10.2 rehab innings after missing two months.
Anyway, prior to last night, Lee had a 3.18 ERA (2.70 FIP) in ten starts and 68 innings, numbers that are right in line with his stellar 2008-2013 performance (2.89 ERA and 2.85 FIP). His strikeout rate (8.07 K/9 and 21.1 K%) was down a touch from recent years but still very good while his walk rate (1.19 BB/9 and 3.1 BB%) was outstanding as usual and his ground ball rate (49.1%) was a career high. Cliff Lee was pitching exactly like Cliff Lee before the injury. Here is his pitch breakdown:
Even during these last seven years, when he was one of the three or four best pitchers in baseball, Lee never had blow you away stuff. It’s good stuff but not great stuff that plays up (a lot) because he locates everything so well. Lee is essentially a sinker/cutter/changeup pitcher who will mix in a few four-seamers, curveballs, and sliders per start, with the changeup being the only pitch that is above-average at getting both swings and misses and grounders. (Whiff+ and GB+ are like ERA+, but for swing-and-miss and ground ball rates for the individual pitches.)
Lee’s contract is pricey but it’s not an albatross given how well he was pitching before getting hurt — he is owed roughly $10M through the end of this season plus another $25M last year. His $27.5M option for 2016 comes with a $12.5M buyout and vests if he throws 200 innings next year or 400 innings combined from 2014-15. The injury will hurt his chances of meeting the latter. Lee has thrown at least 210 innings every year since 2008, so he’s been very durable in recent years. He’s guaranteed $47.5M or so through the end of next year and at most $62.5M through 2016. I don’t see that as a deal-breaker for a pitcher of this caliber.
The Yankees are included in Lee’s 20-team no-trade list according to Jon Morosi, but that doesn’t appear to be much of an obstacle. In a perfect world New York would just absorb Lee’s contract and give up little in the way of prospects. The Phillies are a financial powerhouse though and shedding salary is not a priority at the deadline. In fact, Ken Rosenthal says they’re willing to eat money to get the best possible prospect package in return. Jim Bowden (subs. req’d) suggested Aaron Judge and Luis Severino for Lee, which is ludicrous, but he isn’t going to come cheap either. Giving up two very good but not truly elite prospects for a legitimate difference maker like Lee seems pretty reasonable in a vacuum, actually.
Of course, the health of Lee’s forearm/elbow is a critical and any team that trades for him will have to have to feel confident in the medicals. Lee is scheduled to start again Saturday, his last scheduled start before the deadline (he is scheduled to start again on the 31st). Teams are only going to get two looks at him before the deadline and the first look last night stunk. Saturday’s outing could be enough to convince a pitching needy club to pull the trigger, or Lee’s post-injury audition could stretch a little longer and make him an August waiver trade candidate. The Yankees are enamored with him and they are desperate for pitching. The stars are aligned.
LHP Cole Hamels
Want an elite left-hander who is younger than Lee and doesn’t have the same immediate injury concerns? The Phillies can also offer up the 30-year-old Hamels, who is once again pitching brilliantly (2.83 ERA and 3.14 FIP in 17 starts and 114.1 innings) after opening the season on the disabled list with shoulder tendinitis. It clearly has not had any lingering effect — his strikeout rate (9.05 K/9 and 24.7 K%) is excellent and both his walk (2.99 BB/9 and 8.2 BB%) and ground ball (48.5%) rates are strong. His fastball velocity is also identical to last year and 2010-13 in general.
Let’s dive in to his pitch breakdown:
The changeup has always been Hamels’ bread and butter. It’s an elite offspeed pitch he can and will throw in any count to batters on both sides of the plate. He picked up the cutter during the 2010 season and it has helped him go from very good to excellent. Hamels throws five different pitches at least 10% of the time each (give or take) and has a go-to out pitch in his changeup. That kind of repertoire makes him one of the best (and most underappreciated?) pitchers in the game.
The Phillies signed Hamels to a massive six-year extension worth $144M two years ago, and at this point he is still owed approximately $99M through the 2018 season. That’s broken down into $9M for the rest of this year plus $22.5M annually over the next four years. The deal also includes a $20M team option/$24M vesting option for 2019. The option vests based on innings and shoulder-related time on the disabled list. Hamels wouldn’t be a short-term commitment like Lee, you’d be getting this guy from age 30-34 and possibly his age 35 season as well.
Both Jon Heyman and Nick Cafardo hear the Phillies are not inclined to move Hamels unless they’re blown away. They see him as someone who can anchor the rotation going forward and be part of the next winning team in Philadelphia. In fact, Cafardo says they’d need three top prospects and a team to absorb his full contract to move him. That seems unlikely to happen. (For what it’s worth, Buster Olney says the Phillies are telling teams Hamels is not available at all.) Like Lee, Hamels is an elite left-hander who has been a workhorse, has experience in a big market, and shown he can dominate in the postseason. Either guy would fit wonderfully in the Yankees’ rotation.
RHP Kyle Kendrick and RHP Roberto Hernandez
Regardless of whether you think the Yankees should be buying or selling — this is a very binary thing, of course, nothing in the middle is allowed — I think we can all agree they need to add another starter to eat up some innings at the very least. Hanging Chase Whitley out to dry in the second half is a recipe for disaster. Another McCarthy-esque pickup feels like the absolutely minimum for New York before the deadline.
The 29-year-old Kendrick has thrown at least 150 innings three times in the last four years and is at 20 starts and 125.2 innings this season. The problem? He’s been terrible, with a 4.87 ERA (4.57 FIP) this year and 5.38 ERA (4.51 FIP) over the last calendar year. Hernandez, 33, has also thrown 150+ innings in three of the last four years and is poised to do so again this year (17 starts, three relief appearances, 100.1 innings). He has a 4.22 ERA (4.78 FIP) this season and a 4.41 ERA (4.78 FIP) over the last calendar year. Both guys would likely come cheap and chew up some innings, but that’s it. They won’t have an impact.
RHP Jonathan Papelbon and various relievers
Papelbon, who is now 33, recently told Matt Gelb he would welcome a trade to a contender, assuming someone is willing to take on the $18M he is owed through next season (plus a $13M vesting option for 2016). He has been excellent in 2014 (1.17 ERA and 2.36 FIP) even though his strikeout rate (7.75 K/9 and 22.5 K%) has fallen for the third straight year. The Yankees could use another reliever, every team could, but this seems like overkill. If they’re willing to invest that kind of money in a reliever, I’d so much rather see them give it to the younger and better David Robertson.
The rest of Philadelphia’s bullpen includes 28-year-old lefty Antonio Bastardo, who has a 3.38 ERA (3.19 FIP) in 42.2 innings this year. He has been effective against right-handed hitters over the years and is not just a specialist. Veteran righty Mike Adams is once again on the disabled list with a shoulder problem and is likely done for the year. He’s a non-option. Others like lefty Jake Diekman (4.43 ERA and 3.01 FIP) and righty Justin De Fratus (3.07 ERA and 3.86 FIP) are fresh off the generic middle reliever farm. There’s a reason the Phillies have been looking for quality bullpen help for about two years now. There’s not much to see here.
* * *
The Yankees are said to have no interest in a reunion with A.J. Burnett — the Orioles are reportedly trying to acquire him, by the way (imagine having Burnett and Ubaldo Jimenez in the same rotation, yikes) — which isn’t surprising. I doubt we’ll see any reunions with failed Yankees starters for a little while after the Javy Vazquez fiasco. They’ve shown they’ll let things like that scare them away from repeats for a little while.
Lee and Hamels are obviously the big pitching names with the Phillies and I get the sense both are more available now than ever before. Lee seems more easily attainable, not that it won’t sting to get him. You have to give something to get an impact pitcher like that, assuming his arm is sound following the injury. Kendrick, Hernandez, and the miscellaneous bullpen arms are not needle-movers, just warm bodies to give innings in the second half. The Yankees could use use some of those types of pitchers too.
Barf. What an awful game. The Yankees managed to look terrible in every phase of the game in their come-from-ahead 4-2 loss to the Rangers in Monday night’s series opener. This is one I look forward to forgetting.
Right-hander Miles Mikolas, a career reliever up until about two months ago, came into Monday’s game with a 10.05 ERA and a 1.88 WHIP. He promptly held the Yankees to two runs on three singles, two walks, and a solo homer in 7.1 (7.1!) innings. They scored their first run on a Carlos Beltran sacrifice fly in the first — Derek Jeter walked, moved to second on a balk, then moved to third on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s infield single — and their second on Ellsbury’s solo homer in fourth. Thus ends the run scoring portion of the recap.
Mikolas retired eight in a row between Beltran’s sac fly and Ellsbury’s homer, then he retired the final eight batters he faced as well. The Yankees had a golden opportunity to break things open in the fifth, when they loaded with bases with one out on two singles (Frankie Cervelli and Zelous Wheeler) and one walk (Brett Gardner). Jeter wiped out the rally by banging into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play on the second pitch. Predictable, unfortunately.
The Yankees teased in the ninth thanks to a Kelly Johnson single and a Brian McCann pinch-hit-by-pitch, but that didn’t go anywhere. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to a pitcher for throwing a great game. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and blame yourself for not rocking a guy like Miles Mikolas. Gross.
The Third Out
The sixth inning unraveled for Shane Greene and the Yankees in the blink of an eye. The young right-hander had the worst of his three career starts both in terms of results and stuff/command, as he struggled to locate just about all night. And yet, he held Texas to one infield defense-aided run in the first five innings (more on that in a bit). Then the sixth inning happened.
Greene started the inning with two quick outs before someone name Jake Smolinski singled on a ground ball back up the middle. Someone named Jim Adduci followed that with a walk, then Geovany Soto (I’ve heard of him!) slapped a broken bat single just over Wheeler and into left field for a game-tying single. Joe Girardi went to lefty specialist Matt Thornton at that point, and Thornton allowed run-scoring ground ball singles to (lefty) Rougned Odor and (lefty) Shin-Soo Choo. Lefty specialist: getting lefties out not required.
Adam Warren came out of the bullpen to record that elusive final out of the inning, but by then the damage had been done. The Yankees were up 2-1 and the bases were empty with two outs in the sixth, but the next five batters reached and suddenly that 2-1 lead was a 4-2 deficit. In hindsight, Girardi should have went straight to Warren after Smolinksi reached base. If you’re willing to use him down two runs in the sixth you might as well use him up one run instead.
The Yankees were charged with four errors … in the first four innings. It should have been five too. The official scorer was generous. Greene was responsible for three of those errors, one when he dropped a flip from Johnson at first and two when he threw the ball away. The first was a little flip on a comebacker, the second was a tough play on a weak grounder near the third base line. Both throws wound up in the stands, though Greene pitched around his errors all three times.
The fourth error — and what should have been the fifth error — was the one that burned him. The third inning rally started with a legitimate one-out Choo double to right-center, then he advanced to third when Brian Roberts muffed a hard-hit grounder and failed to get the out at first. They called it a hit even though Roberts was square to the ball and it hit him in the glove. Choo scored when Adrian Beltre hit what looked like a potential 6-4-3 double play, though Roberts failed to catch the flip from Jeter. It wasn’t a perfect flip, but again, it hit him in the glove. That was the error.
And, just for good measure, the Yankees committed their fifth error of the night in the seventh inning, when Jeter threw the ball away on the most routine of routine grounders. He didn’t even have to move. It was hit right too him and his throw (barely) pulled Johnson off the bag at first. They initially called it an out but the Rangers challenged and it was overturned. Somehow only one of the five errors led directly to a run, though Greene’s three misplays certainly upped his pitch count and could have led to fatigue in that sixth inning.
David Huff was the team’s third and final reliever of the night. He allowed a single to Beltre — the best case scenario, really — and an intentional walk to Chris Gimenez in two otherwise uneventful innings. He and Warren were fine. Thornton really ruined things by failing to retire either of the two lefties he was asked to face. He has one swing and miss in his last five appearances (35 total pitches), by the way.
Ellsbury had two hits while Cervelli, Johnson, and Wheeler had one each. That’s all. Five hits and five errors on the night. Gardner drew two walks and Jeter had one. The 4-5-6-7 hitters went a combined 1-for-14 with Johnson’s single, Beltran’s sac fly, and McCann’s hit-by-pitch. One day the Yankees will upgrade their offense. One day. (I don’t mean guys like Wheeler either. Real upgrades.)
The Yankees had five errors in a game for the first time since July 2007. Greene also became the first Yankees pitcher to make three errors in a game since Tommy John back in 1988. He heard some loud half-derisive/half-supportive cheers whenever he cleanly fielded a ball after that.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to MLB.com for the box scores and video highlights. There are some other stats at FanGraphs and the updated standings are at ESPN. Depending on the outcomes of the late games, the Yankees will be either three games (Orioles lose) or four games (Orioles win) back of the top spot in the AL East and either 1.5 games (Mariners lose) or 2.5 games (Mariners win) back of the second wildcard spot.
These same two teams will play the second game of this four-game series on Tuesday night, when rookie right-handers Chase Whitley and Nick Martinez get the ball. Something tells me we might be in for a whole lotta bullpen. Check out RAB Tickets if you want to catch that game or any of the other five games left on the homestand.
- Baseball America (no subs. req’d) covered 2B Rob Refsnyder as part of their What To Expect series today. You get a scouting report and a general overview of why he is not in the big leagues right now.
- 3B Rob Segedin has (finally) been promoted to Triple-A Scranton, according to Chad Jennings. LHP Jeremy Bleich has been placed on the Triple-A DL for an unknown reason in a corresponding move. He’s had a lot of arm issues over the years.
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Gwinnett)
- 2B-1B Jose Pirela, RF-2B Rob Refsnyder & CF-RF Zoilo Almonte: all 1-4, 1 K — Refsnyder doubled in a run
- C John Ryan Murphy: 2-3, 1 K
- 3B Rob Segedin: 0-3, 1 RBI, 1 K — Triple-A debut
- LF Taylor Dugas: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 SB
- RHP Bruce Billings: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 7/1 GB/FB — 65 of 91 pitches were strikes (71%)
- RHP Edgmer Escalona: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 5/0 GB/FB — 19 of 23 pitches were strikes (83%)
The scheduling gods have smiled down upon the Yankees. The last place and injury decimated Rangers are in the Bronx for four games this week, and next week these two teams will play another three games in Texas. Seven of New York’s next ten games will be played against the worst team in baseball.
While that is going on, the Orioles will be playing six games against the high-powered Angels and four games against the Mariners, two teams in postseason contention. Forget about the wildcard for a minute. The Yankees come into today three games back of Baltimore in the AL East and these next ten days (really eleven since the O’s have an off-day next week) are a golden opportunity to make a move up the standings. Here is the Rangers lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Carlos Beltran
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- 2B Brian Roberts
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- C Frankie Cervelli
- 3B Zelous Wheeler
RHP Shane Greene
It’s hot and humid in New York, though there is no rain in the forecast. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and you’ll be able to watch on YES locally and ESPN nationally. Enjoy.
From our friends at TiqIQ:
The Yankees have one of the worst run differentials in the league at -29 and have barely hovered around a .500 record for most the season despite a huge offseason spending spree. That, however, doesn’t come close to the awful season the Rangers have put together, who are every bit as bad as their division-rival Oakland Athletics have been good. The Rangers are the only team without 40 wins, currently at a 39-59 record, and have the league’s worst run differential at -110. Both teams have a reasonable excuse, with injuries mounting for both sides. Each team has seen their rotation crumble up to this point in the season. The Yankees schedule just got a lot less interesting with presumed AL Rookie of the Year Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list. It’s no wonder Yankees tickets for the series are down 46 percent for a $73.08 average.
7/21 – TEX Miles Mikolas vs. NYY Shane Greene | Avg. Price: $62.02 | Get-in Price: $17
The first game of the series is the cheapest with a $62.02 average, but the get-in price is the most expensive at $17. There’s also a fan giveaway, with Derek Jeter figurines going to those attending the game. Shane Greene makes the start for the Yankees, and if you just said “who,” you’re not alone. Greene is a rookie 25-year-old who was on no one’s radar. Not even ranked in the top 20 for Yankees prospects, Greene has come up and been one of the team’s best starters. While it’s been just two starts, he has given up only two runs in 13.1 innings, and has a superb 11-2 K/BB ratio, while allowing less than a base runner per inning, while inducing ground balls at an elite rate. He’s definitely gotten lucky, but even without luck he would be an above average starter for the Yankees.
7/22 – TEX Nick Martinez vs. NYY Chase Whitley | Avg. Price: $80.39 | Get-in Price: $10
The next night is Cap Night, with fans receiving a free Yankees cap upon entering the ballpark, and prices climb way up. The average price of Yankees vs Rangers tickets for the game is $80.39 and the get-in price is $10. Chase Whitley takes the mound, and he is another example of an unheralded young pitcher, who had a strong start to his major league career with the Yankees. He’s also a cautionary tale for those getting excited about Greene. Despite a great start, Whitely now has a 5.30 ERA.
7/23 – TEX Yu Darvish vs. NYY David Phelps | Avg. Price: $76.84 | Get-in Price: $9
When you have as many injuries to the rotation as the Yankees, you’re going to need to get creative to find starters. David Phelps started the season in the bullpen, but has performed well since his move to the rotation. Phelps has good strikeout numbers, a solid 3.87 ERA, and is third on the team in WAR, meaning he has at least been reliable for the Yankees this season.
7/24 – TEX Colby Lewis vs. NYY Brandon McCarthy | Avg. Price: $83.16 | Get-in Price: $10
The final game of the series is the most expensive with an $83.16 average and a $10 get-in price. Brandon McCarthy makes his third start since his trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the change of scenery has done wonders for him. He’s given up just one earned run in both his starts, while pitching at least six innings both times. He’s also walked just one batter compared to 12 strikeouts.
4:08pm: Teixeira told Mark Feinsand and Erik Boland he’s been dealing with back spasms since the team’s series in Oakland last month and “the pain really ratcheted up” the last days. He’ll receive a platelet-rich plasma injection today.
3:57pm: Mark Teixeira will sit out the next three or four games with a mild lower lat strain, Joe Girardi told reporters. He had an MRI and is day-to-day. The disabled list is not being considered at this time. Teixeira missed time with a hamstring strain in April and has needed days off here and there to rest his surgically repaired wrist, but this is the first time he’s had any kind of lat issue. Hopefully a few days on the bench knocks it out and it’s a non-issue moving forward. · (66) ·
The Yankees have taken care of business so far in the second half. They swept the Reds over the weekend and now welcome the last place Rangers to the Bronx for a four-game series. It is their first meeting of the season. These two teams will play seven games in the next ten days, so the scheduling gods have been kind to the Bronx Bombers.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Rangers dropped two of three to the Blue Jays in Toronto over the weekend, and, immediately before the All-Star break, they lost eight straight and 22 of 25 (!). These aren’t the same Rangers that won back-to-back AL pennants a few years ago, that’s for sure. Texas is 39-59 overall with a -110 run differential, both of which are the worst marks in baseball.
With a team 89 wRC+ and an average of 4.14 runs per game, the Rangers have had a below-average offense overall this season. Their lineup has been decimated by injuries though, so this isn’t the same lineup manager Ron Washington was trotting out there earlier in the year. Texas has 14 players (!) on the disabled list right now, including six position players. Among the notables are 1B Prince Fielder (neck), 2B Jurickson Profar (shoulder), 1B Mitch Moreland (ankle), and 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff (back). All four are done for the year. Here is the full list of injuries, if you’re interested.
Among those still left standing, Washington does have one top notch hitter in 3B Adrian Beltre (145 wRC+). His defense isn’t as good as it once was — that means it is merely very good instead of elite — but he can still rake. OF Alex Rios (103 wRC+) is day-to-day with an ankle issue but is expected to avoid the disabled list and return to the lineup sometime this week. OF Shin-Soo Choo (100 wRC+) has been very disappointing in his first year with Texas. OF Leonys Martin (92 wRC+) has been okay and OF Jake Smolinksi (142 wRC+) is their only other above-average hitter, and he has all of 36 plate appearances.
SS Elvis Andrus (77 wRC+) has regressed at the plate these last two seasons and his eight-year, $120M extension doesn’t even kick in until next year. Sure, he’s great defensively, but yikes. 2B Rougned Odor (90 wRC+) has shown flashes of why he was considered a top prospect coming into the season. Journeymen IF Adam Rosales (71 wRC+ in limited time) and OF Daniel Robertson (65 wRC+ in limited time) are helping cover for the injuries. Texas is carrying four (!) catchers at the moment: C J.P. Arencibia (23 wRC+), C Chris Gimenez (90 wRC+), C Robinson Chirinos (84 wRC+), and C Geovany Soto (just off the DL). Arencibia has been playing first base and Soto’s been spending time at DH after knee surgery. Can’t say this is the scariest lineup the Yankees will see this year.
Monday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. TEX) vs. RHP Miles Mikolas (vs. NYY)
Injuries have hit the Rangers’ rotation hard as well, which is why Mikolas, a career reliever, is now in the rotation. The 25-year-old will be making his fourth start with Texas tonight — it is his tenth start of the season and 21st of his six-year career overall, so he is their Chase Whitley — and he’s pitched to a 10.05 ERA (4.11 FIP) in the first three. Mikolas has a dozen strikeouts and three walks in 14.1 innings so far, also allowing two homers. His numbers in six Triple-A starts before being called up were alright: 3.58 ERA (3.36 FIP) with a 7.99 K/9 (20.4 K%), 0.83 BB/9 (2.1 BB%), and 0.83 HR/9. Mikolas heavily uses his low-90s two and four-seamers, throwing them roughly 85% of the time combined, while mixing in a handful of low-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs.
Tuesday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. TEX) vs. RHP Nick Martinez (No vs. NYY)
Martinez, 23, jumped straight from Double-A to the Opening Day roster thanks to the various injuries on the staff. He has a 5.10 ERA (5.99 FIP) in 67 innings across eleven starts and five relief appearances while issuing more walks (4.16 BB/9 and 10.2 BB%) than strikeouts (3.90 K/9 and 9.5 K%) and not getting any ground balls (31.5%). Martinez is also pretty homer prone (1.61 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%) and lefties (.415 wOBA) hit him hard, though righties (.350 wOBA) don’t have much trouble either. A low-90s four-seamer is his primary fastball, though he will also throw a few low-90s two-seamers and upper-80s cutters per start. Martinez’s two secondary pitches are a slider and a changeup, both in the mid-80s.
Wednesday: RHP David Phelps (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Yu Darvish (vs. NYY)
It’s a four-game series, so the odds were against the Yankees missing Darvish. The 27-year-old is in the middle of his best MLB season with a 2.88 ERA (2.75 FIP) in 18 starts and 122 innings, and of course he has piled up a ton of strikeouts (11.36 K/9 and 30.5 K%). His walk rate (3.10 BB/9 and 8.3 BB%) is his lowest in three years with Texas and so is his ground ball rate (33.9%). Darvish’s homerun rate (0.74 HR/9 and 7.8 HR/FB%) is probably lower than it should be given his grounder rate and home ballpark. Lefties (.323 wOBA) have been much more successful against him than righties (.239 wOBA). Darvish throws six different pitches and uses his mid-80s splitter and slow upper-60s curveball the least, just a little more than 9% of the time combined. He throws his low-90s four-seamer, low-90s two-seamer, upper-80s cutter, and upper-70s slider regularly. The slider is devastating. That’s his moneymaker. Darvish will be a handful on Wednesday.
Thursday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (vs. NYY)
Lewis, 34, is having an awful season (6.37 ERA and 4.10 FIP in 17 starts and 89 innings) for an awful team and the frustration is starting to boil over — he ripped Colby Rasmus for bunting to beat the shift in the fifth inning of a two-run game following his last start. That’s as silly as it gets. Lewis’ strikeout (7.89 K/9 and 18.5 K%) and walk (2.93 BB/9 and 6.9 BB%) rates are fine, his homer (1.11 HR/9 and 8.5 HR/FB%) and ground ball (33.1%) rates aren’t. Same goes for his platoon splits: lefties have tagged him for a .443 wOBA while righties have a comparatively better .352 wOBA. At this point of his career, Lewis works with an upper-80s four-seamer and a low-80s slider as his two main pitches. He’ll also throw a few low-to-mid-80s changeups and mid-70s curveballs per start.
Like I said, the Yankees and Rangers will play seven times in the next ten days, and there’s a decent chance Texas will trade closer RHP Joakim Soria (0.84 FIP) and LHP Neal Cotts (2.63 FIP) at some point during that stretch. They already traded away RHP Jason Frasor (to the Royals) and those two are said to be on the block. RHP Neftali Feliz (6.48 FIP in limited time) was recalled from Triple-A not too long again and figures to retake the closer’s job once Soria is traded.
The rest of Washington’s bullpen includes RHP Scott Baker (4.69 FIP), LHP Ryan Feierabend (2.80 FIP in very limited time), RHP Roman Mendez (2.99 FIP in limited time), RHP Shawn Tolleson (4.94 FIP), and RHP Matt West (2.39 FIP in limited time). Baker is the swingman and has four relief appearances of at least five innings this year. He’s the first pitcher to do that since Tom Bolton had five such relief appearances for the 1993 Tigers. Tolleson, Feliz, and West all pitched yesterday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ relievers, then check out Lone Star Ball for everything you need to know about the Rangers.
When the Yankees swung what was essentially a minor trade to add Brandon McCarthy two weeks ago, it was easy to scoff at the deal. The big right-hander had a 5.01 ERA and a 1.23 HR/9 at the time of the trade, numbers that weren’t any better than the 4.89 ERA and 1.59 HR/9 Nuno put up in his 14 starts, especially considering the difference in leagues. The Yankees desperately needed pitching and it appeared they acquired a band-aid, not a difference maker.
The 31-year-old McCarthy came with a track record though, something Nuno lacked. He pitched to a 3.29 ERA (3.22 FIP) with the Athletics from 2011-12, and while some of that is certainly related to pitching in the spacious O.co Coliseum, McCarthy also famously reinvented himself as a sinker-cutter pitcher after delving into sabermetrics. “I didn’t want to suck anymore,” he told Eddie Matz last April, so his focus shifted to limiting walks and keeping the ball on the ground. The cutter and sinker better allowed him to do that.
McCarthy signed a two-year contract worth $18M with the Diamondbacks during the 2012-13 offseason and, for whatever reason, Arizona asked him to shelve the cutter. This isn’t completely unheard of, there are a few cutter averse teams out there (the Orioles took it away from top prospect Dylan Bundy even though it is his best pitch), but it is weird. “It wasn’t something I totally agreed with,” McCarthy told Josh Thomson over the weekend, but I guess if the employer tells the employee to do something, he does it. Here is his pitch selection over the last few years:
|Cutter||Sinker||Curve||Four-Seam + Changeup|
|2011-12 with Athletics||41.3%||36.1%||18.9%||3.7%|
|2013-14 with D’Backs||23.6%||49.2%||20.1%||7.1%|
|2014 with Yankees||18.5%||52.5%||15.0%||14.0%|
There was a definite change in pitch selection when McCarthy joined the Diamondbacks. He had almost a 50/50 split between the cutter and sinker while in Oakland but was throwing roughly twice as many sinkers as cutters in Arizona. Obviously his sample size with the Yankees is two starts and that’s nothing, but it’s worth noting he threw more cutters in those two starts (37 total) than he did in his final eight starts with the D’Backs combined (36). The pitch was nonexistent during the end of his tenure with Arizona.
“I feel like myself again. [The D'Backs] didn’t want me throwing it any more. They wanted more sinkers away, but I feel like I need that pitch to be successful,” said McCarthy to John Harper over the weekend. “The Yankees came to me right away and said, ‘We need to bring the cutter back into play.’ They obviously looked back and saw, ‘when he’s good he was throwing cutters. When he’s not, he wasn’t.’ I was glad to hear it because I was going to tell them that anyway. It’s been frustrating because I felt like I’ve been throwing better this season than any other year.”
The Yankees had some insight into McCarthy before the trade even though he’s never played with anyone on the current roster or under someone on the coaching staff. Minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson held the same role with the Athletics while McCarthy was there, and in fact he once told Susan Slusser that McCarthy’s cutter grip was unlike anything he’d seen before. Patterson works with the team’s pitching prospects but I’m sure he was consulted before the trade given their existing relationship. It’d be foolish not to ask his opinion.
McCarthy does not need the cutter to be a put-away pitch or any kind of dominant offering, it just has to be another option. Something to bust lefties inside and something to keep hitters off the sinker. A different look, basically. McCarthy does need the pitch to be more than an average at best pitcher though. He clearly believes that, if nothing else. The cutter gives him another weapon and it’s hard to believe the D’Backs took it away from him in the first place. The Yankees are very smart to let McCarthy use his cut fastball and reintroducing that pitch might have landed them an above-average pitcher at a journeyman price.