Now that the season is roughly 40% complete and we’ve had more than two months to evaluate the Yankees, their needs are obvious. They need another starter and another bat, in simplest terms. You can argue they need two starters and two bats, really. Specifically, they need a veteran innings eater and either an infielder (either second or third base works) or right fielder. Alfonso Soriano looks toast and Carlos Beltran‘s bone spur means he’s stuck at DH for the foreseeable future.
Digging up trade candidates these days is not easy because of the second wildcard spot, which keeps most teams in contention until August or even September. Even if they’re not really in it, they can still sell the idea that they are in it, like the Yankees did last year. All you need to do is stay close enough to keep fans excited. Selling off veteran players may be the best baseball move, but driving fans away has a very real and negative impact. Ask the Astros.
As of today, the division rival Tampa Bay Rays have the worst record in baseball. By a lot. They currently have the worst record (25-42) and second worst run differential (-52) in baseball, three games worse than the Cubs. The next worst AL team is the Red Sox at 29-36. Tampa was recently shutout in 31 straight innings and they’ve been a disaster this season. I thought they’d be good because the Rays have been annoyingly good since 2008, but the magic finally wore off. The pitching well dried up too.
Because they’re so bad, there are already rumblings the Rays could look to trade some veterans and restock the young player cupboard. David Price is the big name for obvious reasons. He’s making huge money ($14M) and will be a free agent after next season, and there’s no way Tampa will a) let him walk for just a draft pick, or b) be able to afford to sign him long-term. Expect a ton of Price rumors in the coming weeks. Others like Matt Joyce, David DeJesus, Jeremy Hellickson (once healthy), and Joel Peralta could be shopped as well.
Then there’s Ben Zobrist, the versatile switch-hitter who seems to play a different position every other game. He is the team’s third highest paid player at $7M and his contract includes a very affordable $7.5M club option for 2015 that will surely be picked up. Like Price, the Rays probably won’t let him walk for nothing more than a draft and probably won’t be able to sign him long-term. Even if they could, he’s already 33, and they might not want to re-sign him after next year.
Zobrist, as I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, is that “perfect fit” I referred to in the post title. He can play both second base and right field, two positions of need in the Bronx, and he’s a switch-hitter with some power and a lot of patience. His walk rate has always been strong (10.6% this year, 12.1% from 2011-13) and while his power production has dipped to a .121 ISO this year (.176 from 2011-13), it may be partially explained by the dislocated thumb he suffered sliding into a base earlier this season. We’ve seen Zobrist play against New York for a long time, we know he’s a quality player.
The appeal for the Yankees is obvious. Zobrist can not only play second and right, but he plays them both well and can shuttle between the two positions on a near daily basis without suffering at the plate. I don’t think everyone understands just how hard that is. He’s also a true switch-hitter without a platoon split historically, he walks, he has some pop, he steals some bases, he’s familiar playing the shift, and he’s very familiar with the AL East and those grueling late-season battles for postseason position. And the contract is more than reasonable. It’s a bargain, really.
I don’t need to spend any more time explaining why Zobrist would be perfect for the Yankees, right? The real question is whether the Rays would be open to trading him within the division, and, if they are, what they would want in return. The last time Tampa made a notable intra-division trade was … well, never, really. The three-team Joe Kennedy/Mark Hendrickson/Justin Speier deal with the Blue Jays and Rockies in 2003 is the biggest by far. The only trade they’ve made with the Yankees came in 2006, when Tampa sent Nick Green to New York for cash. That was before Andrew Friedman became GM.
The Blue Jays have made it clear they are unwilling to trade impact players within the division but the Rays have not really done that. They seem like the type of front office that would be open to trading a player anywhere as long as they received the greatest possible return, but who really knows? Zobrist figures to be in high demand (Mariners? Tigers? Dodgers? Giants? Blue Jays? Braves? Athletics?) so they shouldn’t have a problem digging up high-end offers. They’ll be able to get full value and deal him out of the division, so it’s the best of both worlds.
The Rays have shown a tendency to seek big trade packages with a lot of throw-ins — five players for Matt Garza, four players for Jason Bartlett, five players for Alex Torres (plus a prospect) — and I assume the same would be true with Zobrist. Victor Martinez, another solidly above-average player who was traded a year and a half prior to free agency, was dealt from the Indians to the Red Sox for a young MLB ready player (Justin Masterson) plus a top ten (Nick Hagadone) and top 20 (Bryan Price) prospect in the system. That seems like an okay framework for Zobrist.
What could the Yankees give the Rays along those lines? Geez, I don’t know. John Ryan Murphy, Manny Banuelos, Jose Ramirez, plus two throw-ins? Add another playing coming to the Yankees as needed? It won’t be Austin Romine and Vidal Nuno, that’s for sure. Figuring out an acceptable trade package is something for the front offices to determine. Talking about them is part of the fun of being a fan but ultimately we have no idea how these teams value these players. Based on everything I’ve seen in my years watching baseball, how we view players and how teams value them is often very different.
If the Rays do decide to sell — given their place in the standings and generally pro-active approach, it seems very likely they will sell — the Yankees should make a call about Zobrist because he’d be a great addition to the roster and help address several needs at once (offense, defense, second base/right field) both this year and next year. Several other teams will do the same and that will probably put the Yankees at a negotiating disadvantage with their division rival. Zobrist would be a perfect fit for the Yankees and chances are they have little shot of actually getting him.
Now this was a game that made staying up late worth it. The Yankees very nearly shut the Mariners out on Wednesday before Robinson Cano hit a two-run homer in the ninth (his first in Seattle as a Mariner!), so they had to settle for a 4-2 win instead. I’ll take it. Let’s recap the team’s second straight win:
- Cy Tanaka: We’ve seen Masahiro Tanaka be very good this season, but I think this was his best outing of the year. My favorite part was when the Mariners were sitting on the splitter the second and third through the order, so Tanaka started painting the corners with fastballs for called strikes. It was awesome. The Cano homer ruined the shutout, but otherwise Tanaka still held Seattle to six scattered hits in his second complete game of the season, striking out eleven and walking one. The Mariners had one batter reach third base before the dinger, and that was in the eighth inning. Ain’t even mad about the homer. This guy is amazing. Just a brilliant performance.
- Three Runs, One Swing: Jacoby Ellsbury singled in the Yankees’ first run in the third inning, but the big blow came in the fifth, when Mark Teixeira went down and golfed a pitch out to right-center for a three-run homer. The three runs felt like 30 with a) the way Tanaka was pitching, and b) the way things have been going for the offense lately. Brian Roberts (single) and Brett Gardner (walk) set up the first rally, Gardner (single) and Ellsbury (single) the second.
- Leftovers: Gardner, Derek Jeter, and Ellsbury had two hits apiece. The top four hitters in the lineup went a combined 6-for-16 (.375) while the rest went 4-for-20 (.200) … Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to 15 games … Jeter stole two bases for the first time since September 2009 and only the second time since August 2006 … for exactly one batter in the ninth inning, Tanaka led all of baseball in ERA. That was before the homer. He still has an excellent 2.02 ERA. That’ll do just fine.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs some other stats, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees will look to wrap up their first sweep of a three-game series this season when Chase Whitley and Roenis Elias square off on Thursday night. Their only sweep this year was a two-gamer over the Cubs at Yankee Stadium back in April.
According to Andrew Marden, Fresno State head coach Mike Batesole says OF Aaron Judge will be promoted to High-A Tampa after the Low-A South Atlantic League All-Star Game next week. Judge played for Batesole in college, but still, take that with a grain of salt. It passes the sniff test though.
Double-A Trenton (10-4 loss to Richmond)
- CF Mason Williams: 2-5, 1 R, 1 K — his bat is starting to come around a bit
- 1B Frankie Cervelli: 0-2, 1 R, 2 BB — played seven innings at first as the Yankees try to improve his versatility before he comes off the DL next week
- LF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
- C Peter O’Brien: 0-3, 1 BB– C Gary Sanchez was supposed to start behind the plate, but he was a late scratch for disciplinary reasons according to Nick Peruffo
- RF Tyler Austin: 0-4, 3 K
- LHP Tyler Webb: 2 IP, zeroes, 5 K, 1 WP, 1/0 GB/FB — 23 of 36 pitches were strikes (64%) … 47/11 K/BB in 32.1 innings
It’s the best day of the week. Masahiro Tanaka is on the mound for the Yankees tonight, in the middle game of their three-game series against the Mariners. The Yankees won last night, and when you’re trying to start a winning streak, there is no one better to give the ball to than your ace. Assuming he is a real ace, of course. Two runs might actually be enough when Tanaka is on the mound, though I hope the offense gives him a bigger cushion. Here is the Mariners lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 2B Brian Roberts
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It is, surprise surprise, cloudy and cool in Seattle. There is no rain in the forecast and, even if there was, Safeco Field has a retractable roof. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.
Notes: Carlos Beltran (elbow) played light catch for the first time since the bone spur in his elbow started acting up, as expected … Shawn Kelley (back) has been activated off the disabled list and Matt Daley was sent down to Triple-A … David Huff was acquired from the Giants for cash and Wade LeBlanc was designated for assignment. Huff is available tonight.
The Yankees are still out on the West Coast for another few days, so the regular game thread will be along in a couple hours. Use this as your open thread in the meantime. The Mets are playing, ESPN is airing the Red Sox and Orioles, and the (hockey) Rangers will try to avoid being swept in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Finals. Talk about those games or anything else right here.
Another day, another new long man. The Yankees have re-acquired David Huff from the Giants and designated Wade LeBlanc for assignment. They swapped the French David Huff for the real David Huff. Go figure. They traded Huff to the Giants for cash over the winter. He will be in uniform tonight.
Huff, 29, had a 6.30 ERA (4.33 FIP) in 20 innings for San Francisco this year. They designated him for assignment the other day, so I’m guessing this was either a straight waiver claim or cash trade. Huff had a 4.67 ERA (4.95 FIP) in 34.2 innings for New York late last season, as I’m sure you remember. This move is about trying to get some better production out of the long man spot, that’s all. · (25) ·
As expected, the Yankees have activated righty Shawn Kelley off the 15-day DL, the team announced. He missed about a month with a back problem. Fellow righty Matt Daley was optioned to Triple-A Scranton to clear a roster spot. Jose Ramirez remains with the team and figures to get a long look in a middle relief role in the coming weeks. · (4) ·
In case you missed it yesterday, Mississippi State LHP Jacob Lindgren (second round) is traveling to Tampa to take his physical tomorrow, which is a pretty strong indication the Yankees have a deal worked out with their top pick in last week’s draft. The team has also reportedly agreed to a contract with Connecticut HS RHP Austin DeCarr (third round) for double slot money, or roughly $1.17M. He is also on his way to Tampa for a physical.
The signing deadline is Friday, July 18th. You can see all of New York’s draft picks at Baseball America and keep tabs on the draft pool situation with our 2014 Draft Pool Tracker. It is available at all times under the Resources tab, underneath the street sign in the banner. Here is another batch of signing notes (draft round in parentheses):
- South Carolina LHP Jordan Montgomery (4) has agreed to sign and is on his way to Tampa to take a physical, according to Patrick Ebert. He’ll then head to Short Season Staten Island. Slot money for the 122nd overall pick is $424,000.
- Scouting director Damon Oppenheimer confirmed to Josh Norris the team has agreements in place with James Madison 2B Ty McFarland (10), Washington State C Clay Slaybaugh (26), Jacksonville State OF Griffin Gordon (27), and Houston-Victoria RHP Andre Del Bosque (38). Slot for McFarland is $137,600.
- Pittsburgh RHP Joe Harvey (19) has signed for $60k, reports Chris Cotillo. Any money over $100k given to a player taken after the tenth rounds counts against the pool, but there are no savings for signing a player below that amount.
- The Yankees have agreed to sign Liberty RHP Matt Marsh as an undrafted free agent, according to Norris. He had a 1.53 ERA with a 34/2 K/BB in 29.1 relief innings over the last two years.
As a reminder, Texas OF Mark Payton (7), UC Irvine 1B Conner Spencer (8), and Vanderbilt SS Vince Conde (9) are all playing in the College World Series and can’t sign just yet. Otherwise the Yankees reportedly have agreements in place with each of their picks in the top ten rounds.
In the span of three weeks from late-April through mid-May, the Yankees lost three-fifths of their Opening Day rotation to serious injury. Ivan Nova is done for the year following Tommy John surgery, CC Sabathia is out for at least another few weeks with a degenerative knee condition, and Michael Pineda has already suffered a setback while battling a muscle problem in his shoulder. The Yankees will be lucky to get either Sabathia or Pineda back before the All-Star break at this point.
The injuries have forced the team to dip deep into their pitching reserves. With Adam Warren entrenched as a late-inning setup man, the Yankees pulled both Vidal Nuno and David Phelps out of the bullpen and called up converted reliever Chase Whitley. Those three plus Masahiro Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda have made up the Yankees’ rotation for about a month now. Needless to say, Nuno being third on the team in innings pitched (58) through 63 games was not part of the plan.
And yet, despite some ugly bumps in the road, the three replacement starters have actually done a pretty good job for the Yankees. At least on a rate basis. Here’s how the three have fared since moving into the rotation:
|Starts||Innings||IP per Start||ERA||FIP||K%||BB%||Opp. OPS|
Phelps has taken a pounding his last three starts (18 runs in 17.2 innings), but, even with that, the three replacement starters have a 4.13 ERA and 3.56 FIP in 119.2 innings. That’s pretty good. The average AL starter has a 4.08 ERA and 3.92 FIP this season, so these guys are in the neighborhood of league average. League average is good! Especially when taking about a team’s sixth, seventh, and eighth starters.
The issue isn’t necessarily their performance on a rate basis. The problem is the third column in the table, their innings per start. (I guess that’s technically the fourth column. Whatever.) These three are barely averaging 5.1 innings per start, which is a total drain on the bullpen. In their 22 combined starts, they’ve failed complete six innings 14 times. They’ve failed to complete five innings six innings. On average, Joe Girardi has had to ask his bullpen to get 11 outs whenever these guys pitch. That’s too much. We’re talking about three rotation spots here.
The Yankees have gotten 343 innings out of their starters this season, ninth most out of 15 AL teams. Their relievers have thrown the fifth most innings at 191.2, primarily because these three are not taking the ball deep into the game. Part of that is simple ineffectiveness, part of it is getting stretched out (Nuno and Phelps had to build up their pitch count when they first moving into the rotation), and part of it is Girardi’s reluctance to let them face the opposing lineup a third time. It’s all understandable, but it doesn’t lessen the demand on the bullpen.
I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating: with three five-and-fly starters in the rotation, the Yankees need a veteran long man Girardi can abuse. Someone he can use for 40 pitches one night, 25 the next, and 55 two nights after that. Alfredo Aceves was that guy for a little while, but he stunk and now it’s Wade LeBlanc. I love Jose Ramirez and want to see him get a chance as much as the next guy, but not under those circumstances. Let someone who doesn’t have a future in the organization deal with that workload. It sounds cruel, but that’s baseball. Aceves and LeBlanc aren’t stupid, they know this might be their last chance to stay in MLB, so they’ll take the ball whenever asked.
The Yankees have gotten generally solid work from Whitley, Phelps, and Nuno, and, more than anything, the best way the team can help them is by scoring more runs. Score some more runs and Girardi will probably be more open to letting them face the lineup a third time, sparing the bullpen a bit. (Remember, the team handled Pineda careful early in the season, so he won’t exactly soak up innings whenever he gets healthy.) It would be nice if these three guys could start recording another two or three outs per start, but, considering the circumstances, they’ve been solid. The rotation situation could have really spun out of control following the injuries. These guys didn’t let it.
Via Marly Rivera: Carlos Beltran will start a throwing program today as he begins to work towards returning to the outfield. He’ll be wearing a brace to prevent him from overextending on throws. “It’s there. I still feel a little pain,” said Beltran to Brendan Kuty. “But it’s something I have to deal with it. So, right now, I’m not really thinking about it.”
Beltran, 37, is 3-for-18 (.167) since coming off the disabled list after missing close to a month with a bone spur in his right (throwing) elbow. The Yankees have limited him to DH duty because they don’t want to risk re-aggravating the bone spur, but ideally that wouldn’t go on forever. Getting Beltran back into the outfield, even on a part-time basis, gives Joe Girardi more flexibility with the lineup, something the Yankees could really use. · (25) ·