Thoughts on yet another Yankees’ off-day

Sticky. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Sticky. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

The Yankees are off yet again today. This is their third off-day since last Monday. I guess they need the break after playing 40 games in 41 days before this stretch of three off-days in eleven games. I know I appreciate off-days more and more with each passing year. Anyway, I have some thoughts.

1. If you would have come to me back in March and said that come mid-June, Carlos Beltran would be on pace to hit 40+ homers and CC Sabathia would have a sub-3.00 ERA while taking a regular rotation turn, I would have guessed the Yankees were on pace to win about 93 games. Instead they’re on pace to win 80, and man, things would be a heck of a lot worse without those two. I’m not sure even the most optimistic fans expected Beltran and Sabathia to play this well this season, Sabathia’s clunker yesterday notwithstanding. Those two have been the awesome and the rest of the team is letting their awesomeness go to waste.

2. I don’t really expect the Yankees to go through with it, but if they do trade Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, they’re going to be left with the worst bullpen ever. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. But it would definitely be one of the worst in the game based on the way the non-big three relievers have pitched. Those guys have a 4.97 ERA in 128.2 innings. Dellin Betances would give the Yankees a top notch closer — unless they trade him too! — but the other six bullpen spots? Yeesh. Unless they trade Chapman and Miller for a bunch of relievers (no thanks), the bullpen the rest of the year is going to be a major eyesore. Then again, if the Yankees do decide to trade away pieces, protecting leads won’t be much of a concern.

3. Rob Refsnyder just started back-to-back games against right-handed pitchers, and that tells me he’s not going down to Triple-A when Mark Teixeira comes back this weekend. Joe Girardi started Ike Davis against righties twice last week, but it seems like he’s already abandoned that plan. Refsnyder has been pretty good so far, good enough to earn more playing time, so I’m curious to see how they get him into the lineup once Teixeira returns. Figure one game at first, the next at second, the next in right, the next at third, then the next on the bench? That sort of thing? It sounds easy, but man, moving a young player around that much can be tough, especially since Refsnyder is new to first and third bases. Still though, he’s giving the Yankees a reason to keep him around, and that was step one. He had to earn playing time and he’s done that. The Yankees owe it to themselves to keep running Refsnyder out there to see if he can be part of the solution going forward, even if he’s only a part-time player long-term.

4. I am pretty encouraged by what Aaron Judge has done in Triple-A the last few weeks. He started the season very well, then slipped into a prolonged slump that culminated with an 0-for-24 skid a few weeks back. Since the end of that 0-for-24, Judge has gone 19-for-59 (.322) with three homers, four steals, 14 walks, and 13 strikeouts in 17 games. His season strikeout rate (23.9%) is much better than it was at Triple-A last season (28.5%), and in fact it’s his lowest strikeout rate at any level since he was in Low-A two years ago (21.2%). Here is Judge’s rolling ten-game average strikeout rate at Triple-A:

Aaron Judge strikeout rate

Judge is definitely trending in the right direction when it comes to his strikeouts, and he has been since last year. I’m not saying the Yankees should call him up and trade Beltran — if they do trade Beltran, I’d play Aaron Hicks and Ben Gamel before Judge — I’m just saying he seems to be getting the hang of Triple-A pitching. Judge was a college draft pick but he was always going to be something of a project because he’s so damn big and has so much strike zone to cover. He seems to be getting the hang of it at the highest level of the minors now. That’s fun.

5. Is it just me, or has Brian McCann‘s defense slipped this year? He’s gone only 8-for-40 (20.0%) throwing out base-stealers this season after going 57-for-156 (36.5%) the last two years combined. It also seems like McCann is letting more balls trickle by for passed balls/wild pitches, though the numbers don’t really bear that out. The pitching staff deserves some blame for McCann’s poor throwing numbers — Betances and Michael Pineda in particular are slow to the plate; opponents are 19-for-22 (86.4%) stealing bases against those two — but not all of it. The Yankees fired bullpen coach Gary Tuck over the winter, reportedly because he disagree with some of the analytics they’re using, and McCann credited Tuck for improving his throwing. McCann is 32 and he’s caught over 11,000 innings in the show, so it would be understandable if he was defense is starting to decline. It just seems to me his defense has slipped noticeably so far this year. It hasn’t been a slight decline.

6. Longtime RAB readers (and I guess Twitter followers) know I’m a pretty big hockey fan. It’s my second favorite sport, and right now, I think I enjoy hockey more than I ever have before. Anyway, yesterday the NHL officially announced they are adding an expansion team in Las Vegas for the 2017-18 season. It was kind of an open secret, but yesterday it was made official. Two things about this. One, there’s going to be an expansion draft, and I think it would be fun as hell to cover an MLB expansion draft. I hope I get a chance to do so at some point. Two, I think the NHL will be a test case for pro sports in Las Vegas. There seems to be concern over the potential for gambling and things like that. If the NHL does well there, I suspect you’re going to see the other major sports show more interest in Sin City. MLB has some logistical issues to sort out before sending a team to Las Vegas — there’s already a Triple-A franchise there, the Dodgers hold broadcast territorial rights, etc. — but it seems possible. Baseball is incredibly healthy financially and I think expansion will happen again within the next 10-15 years. (Commissioner Rob Manfred has said he wants to get the Athletics and Rays new stadiums before okaying expansion.) Las Vegas is an obvious expansion possibility and the NHL is doing everyone else a favor by breaking the ice, pun intended.

DotF: Green dominates; Scranton wins Teixeira’s second rehab game

Got some notes to pass along:

  • The Dodgers have claimed RHP Layne Somsen off waivers from the Yankees, both teams announced. The Yankees designated Somsen for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Ike Davis last week. The 27-year-old threw six scoreless innings with Triple-A Scranton after being claimed off waivers from the Reds a few weeks back.
  • The Yankees have apparently signed Marshall C Aaron Bossi as an undrafted free agent, according to his Twitter feed. He was an infielder at Marshall but the tweet seems to indicate he’ll catch going forward. Bossi hit .333/.380/.484 with six homers in 55 games this spring.
  • OF Aaron Judge earned a place in Baseball America’s daily Prospect Report after hitting two home runs last night, so make sure you check that out. It’s not behind the paywall.

Triple-A Scranton (1-0 win over Toledo in seven innings)

  • CF Ben Gamel & LF Aaron Judge: both 0-4 — Gamel struck out once, Judge twice
  • DH Mark Teixeira: 1-2, 1 BB — second rehab game … he’s scheduled to play nine innings at first base tomorrow
  • C Gary Sanchez & RF Nick Swisher: 0-3 — Swisher struck out once … Sanchez is 8-for-39 (.205) since coming back from the thumb injury
  • 1B Tyler Austin: 1-3, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI
  • RHP Chad Green: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 9/1 GB/FB — 62 of 94 pitches were strikes (66%) … 76/18 K/BB in 75.2 Triple-A innings … I’d like to see him get Ivan Nova‘s next start, but I doubt it’ll happen
  • RHP Conor Mullee: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — nine of 12 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

All things considered, that was probably the best win of the season this afternoon, right? The Yankees took a big early lead and it felt great, then they blew it and fell behind by four runs, and we hated them all. Then they rallied to tie before walking off with the win. Pretty cool outcome, I’d say. It was nice to salvage this home-and-home series and take at least one from the Rockies.

Anyway, here is tonight’s open thread. Today’s game will be replayed on YES at 7pm ET, if you’re interested. MLB Network is airing a bunch of regional games throughout the night and ESPN will show the Dodgers and Nationals later on. Talk about those games, this afternoon’s win, Derrick Rose getting traded to the Knicks, the NHL expanding, or anything else right here. Have at it.

Castro’s walk-off homer gives Yanks 9-8 win over Rockies

Finally! After three games plus another six innings or so of looking helpless against the Rockies, the Yankees rallied from a four-run deficit late Wednesday afternoon to earn a 9-8 walk-off win. Both clubs erased four-run deficits. It was New York’s second walk-off win of the season.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Taking Advantage, For Once
I couldn’t tell you how many times this season I’ve written that the Yankees had a bunch of opportunities to score runs, but failed to take advantage. They’ve gone through some big time slumps with runners in scoring position, such as their 0-for-10 effort Tuesday night. More than anything, the lack of offense has led to the team’s sub-.500 start to the season. They’ve wasted too many chances overall.

The Yankees did take advantage of a prime run-scoring opportunity in the second inning Wednesday, when the Rockies gift-wrapped the bases loaded with no outs. Jon Gray sandwiched walks to Brian McCann and Didi Gregorius (!) around a Starlin Castro single. It was a ground ball single shortstop Trevor Story probably should have stopped even though he had to dive. I thought he was going to reel it in and was surprised when he didn’t.

Chase Headley wasted zero time capitalizing on the bases loaded opportunity. He unloaded on Gray’s first pitch fastball and hit a grand slam — the Yankees’ first grand slam of the season, I should add — into Monument Park in dead center. Swinging at the first pitch immediately after a walk tends to annoy some people, but that first pitch is often the best one to hit because the pitcher wants to get ahead in the count. Headley put a hurting on Gray and gave the Yankees a quick 4-0 lead.

Sabathia’s Bad Day
The Rockies answered back with two runs in the top of the third and it was at least somewhat CC Sabathia‘s fault. Nick Hundley knocked a single to center, then when No. 9 hitter Brandon Barnes laid down a bunt, Sabathia rushed the throw and airmailed first base. Bunting down four runs isn’t the smartest move, but it worked out that time. The bad throw gave Colorado runners on second and third with no outs, and Charlie Blackmon made Sabathia pay for the error by blooping this pitch …

CC Sabathia Charlie Blackmon

… into shallow center for a two-run single. One of the two runs was unearned. What can you do about that? It was a very good two-strike slider down and away, yet Blackmon just threw his bat at the ball and it fell in. So it goes. Baseball can be a jerk like that sometimes. That cut the lead to 4-2.

That 4-2 lead lasted only another half-inning. The Rockies hung a three-spot on Sabathia in the fourth thanks to a walk (Story), a single (Mark Reynolds), and a three-run homer (Hundley). CC missed with a two-strike cutter — he was trying to bust Hundley inside but caught too much of the plate — and paid. It was only the third homer Sabathia has given up this season. That 0.3 HR/9 wasn’t going to last forever, not in Yankee Stadium.

Sabathia finished the afternoon having allowed six runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks in 4.1 innings. He had allowed six runs total in his previous seven starts, and this was the first time all year he allowed more than three earned runs in a start. Sabathia was bound to have a bad start at some point. It happens. He’s still sitting on a 2.71 ERA (3.45 FIP) through 12 starts and 69.2 innings.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Battle of the Bullpens
The middle of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is shockingly bad. This staff invokes memories of the mid-2000s Yankees, who had a bullpen that was basically Mariano Rivera and a bunch of guys no one ever wanted on the mound. Anthony Swarzak replaced Sabathia in the fifth and immediately allowed a run-scoring double (Story) and a two-run homer (Ryan Raburn) to give the Rockies an 8-4 lead.

Thankfully, the middle of the Rockies bullpen is somehow worse than the middle of the Yankees bullpen, so the Yankees were able to put four runs on the board in the seventh. Carlos Beltran‘s three-run dinger was the biggest blow, but Didi’s two-out, two-strike single tied the game 8-8. Gregorius has been so, so good of late. It was a perfect piece of hitting the other way for the game-tying hit. Perfect. Just perfect.

Rob Refsnyder struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning — it was a pretty crummy at-bat, strike three was a check swing on a pitch at his eyes — and the Yankees wasted an Ellsbury leadoff double the next inning. Brett Gardner popping up a bunt didn’t help matters, but you know, the guy had reached base three times already (and four times Tuesday) and he came into the game hitting .365 in June. Ellsbury’s scoring on any single. Let Gardner swing the bat you nincompoops.

Anyway, Castro took matters into his own hands in the bottom of the ninth, sending Jason Motte’s second pitch of the game out to left field for a leadoff walk-off home run. It was gone off the bat. Had the good sound and everything. Castro hasn’t been great this year, but he’s showing more power than ever before, and we saw it there. The walk-off tater was his tenth home run of the season. He hit eleven last year, 14 the year before, and ten the year before that.


Not to be forgotten moment: Gardner throwing Blackmon out at the plate in the first inning. Blackmon started the game with a single, moved up on D.J. LeMahieu’s bunt, and was waved around on Nolan Arenado’s single to left. It was an aggressive send — it was a hard-hit single that got to Gardner quickly — and Gardner made the throw. Blackmon was out by several feet. Saved a run.

Not to be forgotten scary moment: Sabathia rolled his right ankle delivering a pitch in the fifth inning. He stumbled a bit and the first thought was his knee — how could it not be after his injuries? — but replays showed it was his ankle. Sabathia stayed in the game after talking to trainer Steve Donohue and whatnot. That was scary. Losing Sabathia to an injury would have been no fun. He went for x-rays and they came back negative, by the way.

The trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman tossed three perfect innings and struck out two each. They were going to pitch because they needed the work, but once the Yankees tied things up in the seventh, it made their appearances more meaningful. I know no manager would use Betances in the fifth, but man, Dellin pitching with a four-run deficit in the seventh while Swarzak pitches with a one-run deficit in the fifth makes no sense.

The Yankees put 19 runners on base and drew a season-high tying seven walks. Everyone in the starting lineup had a hit except Refsnyder, and everyone in the starting lineup had a walk except Ellsbury, Alex Rodriguez, and Castro. One day after going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, they went 4-for-11 (.364) in those spots in this game, but one of those four was an infield single that didn’t score a run. Go figure.

And finally, we saw another catcher’s interference, and believe it or not, it was not Ellsbury. Refsnyder did it in the seventh, ahead of Beltran’s three-run homer. There have now been 22 CI in baseball this season. Six Ellsbury, one by Refsnyder, and 15 by the other 29 teams combined.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN has the box score and updated standings while is the place to go for the video highlights. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload or Announcer Standings pages either. Here’s the wild win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees have yet another off-day Thursday, their third in the last ten days. The homestand resumes Friday night with the first of three against the Twins. Masahiro Tanaka and finesse lefty Tommy Milone are the scheduled starting pitchers. If you want to catch that game or any of the other six games on the homestand live, check out RAB Tickets.

Clearing a roster spot for Teixeira may not be as much of a no-brainer as it seems

2009 Yankees reunion in Scranton yesterday. (NY Daily News)
2009 Yankees reunion in Scranton yesterday. (NY Daily News)

Last night Mark Teixeira played his first minor league rehab game with Triple-A Scranton, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout and a sac fly. The results don’t really matter. Teixeira hasn’t faced live pitching in a few weeks and he is just trying to get his bearings at the plate. As long as the knee held up, it was a productive rehab game.

“You want to get as many at-bats as possible down here,” said Teixeira to Shane Hennigan. “Like I said, you’re going to make adjustments two-and-a-half weeks from the long layoff and my first three at-bats, I was definitely out front. So getting that fourth at-bat and having a really good swing was important.”

The plan is for Teixeira to DH today and then play a full nine innings at first base tomorrow. (He played six innings yesterday.) Assuming that goes well, he’ll take Friday off and rejoin the Yankees on Saturday. Considering there was talk about season-ending surgery not too long ago, coming back that quickly would be pretty impressive.

The Yankees will have to clear a roster spot for Teixeira whenever it returns, be it Saturday or next week or next month. All the discussion the last few days has involved Rob Refsnyder or Ike Davis for pretty obvious reasons. They’ve been playing first base while Teixeira is on the shelf and one figures to go when he returns.

Picking between Refsnyder and Davis is a no-brainer. The Yankees should keep Refsnyder and continue to find ways to get him into the lineup. Davis was brought in only because the team lost their top four first base options to injury. Refsnyder has played fairly well and might actually have a future with the Yankees. We already know Davis won’t.

There is a third way to clear a roster spot for Teixeira that hasn’t been discussed: sending out Ronald Torreyes. I wouldn’t blame you if you had forgotten he’s on the roster. He’s appeared in one of the team’s last eleven games and only three of their last 18 games. Two of those three appearances were one-inning stints in the field at the end of blowouts.

Torreyes has been a perfectly cromulent backup infielder this season even though he has cooled down since that insane start. He hasn’t played much lately because Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley have been two of the team’s better hitters over the last month or so, so it’s tough to take them out of the lineup. Refsnyder has filled in at second whenever Starlin Castro has sat too.

The Yankees recently used Castro at shortstop when they wanted to give Gregorius a day off, so clearly they’re willing to play him there. Refsnyder would back up second and third bases when Torreyes goes down, and Castro would fill-in at short. An ideal situation? No, but might be the best roster setup at this point in time. Sending Torreyes down accomplishes three things:

  1. Keep Refsnyder around. Refsnyder has played well in his limited time and he’s done the job at first base well enough, even though his inexperience has cost the Yankees at times. I’ve said this a million times already, but it’s time to find out what he can at the MLB level. Sending Refsnyder down to Triple-A is a waste of time.
  2. Keep Davis around. I know keeping Davis sounds silly, but the Yankees are short on healthy first basemen at the moment. There’s no guarantee Teixeira will stay healthy once he returns, so it would be nice to keep Davis around as depth is possible. Sending Torreyes down buys the team time before cutting loose a first base option.
  3. Let Torreyes play. It’s damn near impossible for any player to remain productive given as little playing time as Torreyes has received recently, not that anyone is expecting him to provide a big offensive boost off the bench. Sending him to Triple-A gives him a chance to get some at-bats and get back into game shape, so to speak.

The Yankees have an off-day tomorrow and then play 17 games in 17 days leading up to the All-Star break, meaning Refsnyder will probably have to make a start at third base at some point, something he’s yet to do at the big league level. Carrying two true first basemen like Teixeira and Davis is not great, but the Yankees could ride it out until the All-Star break, then cut ties with Davis should Teixeira show he’s healthy.

Remember, Chris Parmelee is on his way back. He’s due to begin baseball activities soon — “If I was guessing, the end of the week or the beginning of next week,” he said to George King — and once he returns, Parmelee should replace Davis on the roster. He’d give the Yankees a little more flexibility because he can play the outfield if needed in addition to backing up first base.

Ike. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)
Ike. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

If the Yankees decide to drop Davis when Teixeira returns Saturday, so be it. No one is going to lose sleep. I just think with Teixeira’s knee such an unknown — he has torn cartilage and is going to try to play through the pain, it’s not like the cartilage will heal — the Yankees may want to hold onto Davis a wee bit longer just to make sure they’re covered. At least until Parmelee returns.

Davis does have minor league options remaining, but he also has more than five years of service time, so he can refuse a trip to the minors. Maybe the Yankees could convince him to accept a Triple-A assignment and make this easy. The sell job would be something like “Teixeira’s knee is still a mess so there’s a chance we’re going to need you, and if you don’t accept the assignment, we’re going to have to release you, and no other team is looking for a first baseman right now.” Convincing? Maybe!

If Davis won’t accept a trip to Triple-A, which is his right, the Yankees might be best off sending Torreyes out until Parmelee returns just to make sure they have enough first base depth in case Teixeira’s knee gives out again. No one will miss Davis when he does go, but the Yankees still need to think big picture here. They need to make sure they’re covered at first after losing so many players to injury, and that complicates the roster decision a bit.

Game 71: Sabathia to the rescue

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

The Yankees have been beat up pretty good in their three games against the Rockies, but this afternoon they have CC Sabathia on the mound, and these days that means they have a pretty good chance to win. Sabathia’s been excellent all season after looking close to done the last few years. The Yankees mostly stink, but Sabathia is kicking butt, and that is pretty awesome. Here is the Rockies’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. DH Alex Rodriguez
  5. C Brian McCann
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    LHP CC Sabathia

It’s a nice day in New York today. Sunny and warm and not humid. Nice afternoon to spend at the ballpark, I’d say. This afternoon’s game is set to begin at 1:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Chris Parmelee (hamstring) is expected to resume baseball activities either later this week or early next week.

Scouting The Trade Market: Javier Baez

(Dylan Buell/Getty)
(Dylan Buell/Getty)

Now that the draft is over, teams are starting to shift gears and focus on the trade deadline. We’ve already seen Chris Coghlan, James Shields, and Kelly Johnson get traded in recent weeks, among others. The deadline is five weeks and five days away, and not many clubs are eager to throw in the towel and start trading away pieces just yet. We’re seeing that now with the Yankees.

Among the teams certain to be buyers at the deadline are the Cubs, who have baseball’s best record (47-22) and run differential (+169). The Cubs figure to have interest in several Yankees at the deadline, most notably their high-end relievers, so expect to see the two clubs connected these next few weeks. One player the Yankees could seek in return: infielder Javier Baez, one of Chicago’s many fine young sluggers. Let’s take a look at the 23-year-old.

The Offense

Baez is not a bat first player, but make no mistake, his bat is what makes him so highly touted. Back in 2014, the last time he was prospect eligible, Baseball America (subs. req’d) wrote Baez has “special bat speed and produces top-of-the-scale power,” while adding he “has tremendous plate coverage and really has no true holes in his swing, which takes a direct and violent path to the ball.” The offensive potential is special.

The results have not yet matched the offensive potential, however. Baez has left zero doubt that he’s mastered the Triple-A level (.287/.347/.516 in 762 plate appearances), though in parts of three big league seasons, he’s yet to really find his way. Here are his numbers in the show:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+ HR SB K% BB% O-Swing% Contact%
2014 229 .169/.227/.324 53 9 5 41.5% 6.6% 39.2% 59.2%
2015 80 .289/.325/.408 98 1 1 30.0% 5.0% 40.0% 67.7%
2016 158 .268/.314/.443 102 6 4 20.9% 4.4% 43.3% 73.5%

The positives: Baez has upped his overall production (in terms of wRC+) each year while cutting down on his strikeout rate and improving his contract rate. The negatives: Baez is walking less while swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone (O-Swing%). Then again, we’re talking about relatively small samples here. Those 80 plate appearances last year? I’d pretty much ignore them. They don’t tell us much.

Baez’s natural talent is pretty obvious when you watch him play. So are his flaws. He’s ultra-aggressive at the plate — he has a career 27.6% strikeout rate in Triple-A, higher than OMG he strikes out too much Aaron Judge (25.9%) — and advanced pitchers have used that aggressiveness against him. It appears Baez is making some progress in the discipline department this year, but we can’t say that for sure just yet. Now, that said, when a guy can turn on 96 mph inside heaters like this …

… you take notice. Not many players can get the bat around that quickly on an above-average fastball, let alone drive it well out of the park. Baez has true 30+ homer potential, possibly 40+ at his peak. The bat speed is that electric. It’s Sheffieldian. You just have to hope Baez develops enough plate discipline to tap into that power regularly.

The Defense

The Cubs originally drafted Baez as a shortstop and he’s always been a very good defender at the position. Baseball America (subs. req’d) said he has “solid range to go with solid actions and a 70-grade arm” prior to the 2014 season. Chicago has moved Baez around a bit — they move everyone around it seems, that’s Joe Maddon’s thing — so he’s also spent a bunch of time at second and third bases. He’s even played some left field too.

You’d hate to waste a 70 arm at second base, so Baez would look best long-term on the left side of the infield. He has the tools for either shortstop or third base, though obviously he would be more valuable at short. Every player would. Point is, Baez offers some flexibility. He can play all over the infield and you could even stick him in the outfield in an emergency. The defense statistics don’t help us much given the small samples, but based on the eye test and the scouting reports, Baez is an asset in the field. He adds value with his glove.

Injury History

Baez has been on the DL twice in his career, both times with kinda dumb fluky injuries. He broke his ring finger sliding into second base on a steal attempt in Triple-A last year, which sidelined him about six weeks. Then, in Spring Training this year, Baez suffered a thumb contusion on a headfirst slide. The Cubs were able to backdate the DL stint, so he returned only a week into the regular season. That’s it as far as injuries go. Just two fluky injuries from sliding into bases. Could happen to anyone.

Contract Status

Assuming he never goes back to the minors, Baez will have five years of team control remaining after this season. He’ll make something close to the league minimum in 2016 and 2017 before being arbitration-eligible from 2018-2020. It doesn’t look like Baez will have enough service time to be a Super Two down the road. Then again, the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement may change things.

As best I can tell, Baez still has two minor league option years remaining. He was called up and added to the 40-man roster back in 2014, and never went down again that season. Baez burned an option last year and has been with the Cubs all of this season, so yeah, he has two options left. You don’t want to use those though, right? Any team that acquires Baez wouldn’t be doing so with designs of sending him down at some point.

Why Would The Cubs Move Him?

For what it’s worth, Ken Rosenthal said earlier this week it would be “nearly impossible” for the Cubs to trade Baez, though that reads more like his speculation than rumor reporting. Either way, this is the time of the year when every young player is untouchable. No one wants to deal their youngsters and they would have to be blown away to do so and blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda. Same story every deadline.

(Joe Sargent/Getty)
(Joe Sargent/Getty)

Here are the facts. One, the Cubs have a lot of infield depth. They have Coghlan and Tommy La Stella at the MLB level, plus Ben Zobrist can play anywhere. Utility man Munenori Kawasaki and third baseman Jeimer Candelario are waiting in Triple-A too. Not even counting Baez, they’re three deep at second, short, and third bases thanks to Zobrist’s flexibility.

Two, the Cubbies were reportedly willing to trade Baez over the winter. Scroll through the MLBTR archives and you’ll see he was involved in Shelby Miller talks with the Braves and various trade talks with the Rays, mostly involving Alex Cobb and/or Jake McGee. In fact, Gordon Wittenmyer even reported the Cubs were close to sending Baez to Atlanta as part of a package for Miller before the Diamondbacks came in with their massive offer.

Do the Cubs want to trade Baez? Of course not. Every team wants to keep all their young players and make trades using guys they don’t consider potential cornerstones. It doesn’t work like that though. The Cubs were reportedly willing to trade Baez over the winter, and given their current infield situation, they’re in position to discuss him again at the deadline. It sounds harsh to say he’s expendable, but he kinda is.

Wrapping Up

We know the Cubs are scouting the Yankees’ top relievers and it makes total sense. Chicago lacks a shutdown left-handed reliever — with all due respect, Travis Wood is not someone you send out there against guys like Bryce Harper or Brandon Belt in the late innings of a close postseason game, you know? — and the Yankees have two to offer in Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. Assuming the Yankees sell, the Cubs are an obvious fit.

My guess is the Cubs would push for Miller over Chapman for a few reasons. One, the two extra years of team control. Two, Miller and Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein have a relationship dating back to their time with the Red Sox. And three, Miller is straight up better than Chapman, at least so far this year. That wasn’t the case from 2012-15 but it is certainly the case in 2016. Miller’s been the best of the club’s big three relievers by a not small margin, I think.

The Cubbies are going to want Miller (or Chapman) and the Yankees have every right to ask for someone like Baez in return. And the Cubs have every right to say no. The Yankees are in the driver’s seat here. They’re going to get a ton of offers for Miller (and Chapman) and can pick the best. If the Cubs don’t get Miller or Chapman, who will they add to be that shutdown lefty reliever? Boone Logan? Xavier Cedeno? Fernando Abad? Sean Doolittle? Pretty big drop in quality there, eh?

For a one-time elite prospect, Baez has very high bust potential because he’s so undisciplined at the plate. The Yankees would be taking on the greater risk in, say, a Miller-for-Baez swap. Miller is the proven elite big league performer in that scenario. (No, he’s not “just” a reliever. Kirby Yates is just a reliever. Miller’s a game-changer.) Baez may have big time bust potential, but the upside is enormous, and the Yankees lack players with star caliber tools.

Despite the obvious risk, I think the Yankees should push for Baez in any trade talks with the Cubs. Where would he play? I’m not sure. Worry about importing the high-end talent first, then sort it all out later. The Yankees have too many complementary players and not enough centerpieces. Baez has the ability to be a cornerstone type player, and those are the players each and every team should target in a trade.