Heyman: Yankees agree to sign Billy Butler

(Don Feria/Getty)
(Don Feria/Getty)

Looks like the Yankees have a new DH option. The team has agreed to sign the recently released Billy Butler, reports Jon Heyman. The Athletics cut Butler loose earlier this week and are responsible for his $10M salary. New York will only owe him the pro-rated portion of the league minimum. I’m guessing Butler will be with the team tomorrow.

The Yankees signed Butler for one reason: to DH against left-handed pitchers. The Aaron Judge injury took away a righty bat, and Austin Romine had to DH against Clayton Kershaw this afternoon, so yeah. There’s room on the roster for Butler. Being able to slide Judge or Nathan Eovaldi to the 60-day DL means no one has to lose their roster spot either. It’s an easy add.

Not coincidentally, the Yankees are scheduled to face three left-handed pitchers against the Red Sox this weekend (Eduardo Rodriguez, David Price, Drew Pomeranz), so Butler’s going to be in the lineup an awful lot right away. The Yankees are tentatively scheduled to face seven southpaws on this upcoming seven-game road trip as well: Rodriguez, Price, Pomeranz, Drew Smyly, Blake Snell, Francisco Liriano, and J.A. Happ.

Butler, 30, hit .276/.331/.403 (100 wRC+) with four homers in 242 plate appearances with the A’s before being released, including .262/.316/.369 (84 wRC+) against lefties. He’s a career .299/.381/.491 (133 wRC+) hitter against southpaws and surely that’s the Butler the Yankees are hoping they get these next few weeks. Hopefully Butler can be a chunkier version of 2014 Chris Young and unexpectedly rake.

Because he’s signing after August 31st, Butler is not eligible for the postseason roster should the Yankees actually qualify for the postseason. There are no loopholes, no 60-day DL tricks, nothing. He’s not eligible, period. That’s fine though. The Yankees are just trying to get to the playoffs right now. They’ll be happy if they have to figure out the postseason roster without Butler.

DotF: RailRiders walk-off with Game Two win

OF Mark Payton has been moved up to Triple-A Scranton and OF Trey Amburgey has been moved up to Double-A Trenton, reports Matt Kardos. Those moves are essentially a chain reaction to OF Mason Williams being called up to the big league team.

Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Gwinnett, walk-off style) the best-of-five International League Championship Series is tied at one game apiece

  • LF Mark Payton: 0-4, 2 K
  • RF Clint Frazier: 0-4, 1 K, 1 E (throwing)
  • 3B Donovan Solano: 0-1, 1 R, 3 BB
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 0-3, 1 BB — he was robbed of a two-run home run, according to Shane Hennigan
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 0-2, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HBP
  • CF Jake Cave: 0-2, 1 RBI, 2 BB — drew the bases loaded walk to tie the game in the ninth inning
  • SS Pete Kozma: 0-2, 1 RBI, 2 BB — drew the walk-off walk … their ninth inning rally went walk, walk, hit-by-pitch, walk, walk … what a spectacular meltdown by Gwinnett’s bullpen
  • PH-2B Cito Culver: 1-1, 1 2B — he pinch-hit for Jonathan Diaz in the eighth inning, and his double was their only hit of the ballgame
  • LHP Phil Coke: 7.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 8/4 GB/FB — 68 of 93 pitches were strikes (73%) … heck of a job … he did his part in Game Two
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1.2 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/1 GB/FB — ten of 14 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Wednesday Night Open Thread

Here’s an open thread for the rest of the evening. The Red Sox and Orioles are on ESPN and that game is very relevant to the Yankees’ postseason chances. Also, if hockey is your thing, there will some 2016 World Cup of Hockey exhibition games on ESPN2 and ESPN3 tonight. Talk about those games or anything else right here.

Game 145: Beat the Best

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Today the Yankees will play their final game of the season against a non-AL East team. They’re also going to face the best pitcher in the world. I suppose the good news is Clayton Kershaw is not at full strength right now. This is his second start back from a two-and-a-half month DL stint due to a back injury.

Kershaw threw only three innings and 66 pitches last time out, and he looked pretty rusty as well. The expectation for today is something like five innings and 80 pitches, apparently. That’s better than facing Kershaw at full strength, but Kershaw at like 75% is still better than about 90% of pitchers out there. Gonna be tough. Here is the Dodgers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. 2B Starlin Castro
  5. 3B Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. RF Rob Refsnyder
  8. DH Austin Romine
  9. 1B Tyler Austin
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s a little cloudy in New York today and there’s actually a tiny little bit of rain in the forecast later this evening too. It doesn’t look like it’ll be anything too heavy though. Maybe just a quick shower. This afternoon’s series finale is scheduled to begin at 4:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Injury Update: Brian Cashman said Aaron Judge (oblique) will very likely miss the rest of the season. They don’t have the results of today’s MRI yet, but it sure sounds like they’re not counting on him coming back. Sucks … in case you missed it earlier, Mason Williams was called up to effectively replace Judge on the roster.

2017 Schedule Announced: Yankees open in Tampa Bay

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today MLB officially announced the 2017 regular season schedule. The Yankees will open the season on the road for the first time since 2014 next year. Opening Day is Sunday, April 2nd, in Tampa Bay in one of the ESPN games. The Rays and Diamondbacks get the two Sunday games next year because they’ll be celebrating their 20th anniversaries. Can you believe they’ve been around 20 years already? Geez.

Anyway, the Yankees opened the 2012 season in Tropicana Field as well. That was the “intentionally walk Sean Rodriguez so Carlos Pena can hit a grand slam” game, not that it still irks me or anything. Not sure why there’s an off-day Monday — no chance of a rainout in a dome! — but there is one. Lame. The season starts with three games in Tampa, then after another off-day Thursday, the Yankees go to Baltimore for a three-game series before coming home for the first time. Next year’s home opener is Monday, April 10th, also against the Rays. Here’s the full 2017 schedule. Here are some highlights.

Interleague Play

As expected, the Yankees will play NL Central clubs during interleague play next year. It rotates divisions each year and the NL Central is due up. The Cardinals (April 14th to 16th), Brewers (July 7th to 9th), and Reds (July 25th and 26th) and are coming to visit Yankee Stadium while the Yankees will go out on the road for series against the Pirates (April 21st to 23rd), Cubs (May 5th to 7th), and Reds (May 8th and 9th).

Going to Wrigley Field will be fun. The Yankees were last there in 2014. I remember that because Dellin Betances struck out Anthony Rizzo with two breaking balls that hit him.

I’m guessing the 2017 Cubs will be a tad more formidable than the 89-loss Cubs team the Yankees faced in 2014. Too bad the Cubbies aren’t making a trip to Yankee Stadium next year. That would be really fun.

Subway Series

Yet again, the 2017 Subway Series will be a four-game home-and-home series. I hate that. I and I think most folks would prefer two three-game series. That way there will be a legitimate series winner — the Yankees and Mets split the four games this season, remember — and bragging rights will actually be on the line. Who doesn’t love that? Anyway, the Yankees will host the Mets at Yankee Stadium on August 14th and 15th before going to Citi Field on the 16th and 17th. That’s a Monday to Thursday.

West Coast Trips

All things considered, the Yankees have a really easy West Coast travel schedule next season. They’re only make two West Coast trips in 2017: a seven-gamer through Anaheim and Oakland from June 12th through the 18th, then a four-gamer in Seattle from July 20th to 23rd. The Yankees will go from Minnesota to Seattle for that series, so they won’t even have to sit through a long cross country flight. Nice work, schedule makers.

Final Homestand

For the second straight year and only the third time since 2006, the Yankees will close out the 2017 regular season at home in the Bronx. The final series of the season is a three-gamer against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Who knows what will be on the line that series. AL East title? Wildcard spot? Nothing? That’s a quick three-game homestand. The Yankees play their second-to-last series of the season in Tampa. All but six of their 28 September games are against AL East opponents. Three-game sets with the Rangers and Twins are the only exceptions. Lots and lots of intradivision games in September. Makes the races fun.

Update: Yankees call up Mason Williams

(Getty)
(Getty)

1:15pm: The Yankees have indeed called Williams up, the team announced. They haven’t announced an update on Judge, however. Rosters are expanded and Williams is already on the 40-man roster, so no other move is required.

11:30am: According to Sweeny Murti, the Yankees are calling up outfielder Mason Williams from Triple-A Scranton. I figured that would happen. Williams will replace Aaron Judge, who strained his oblique taking a swing last night. The Yankees have not yet announced the results of his MRI, but it’s not a stretch to assume Judge’s season is over.

Williams, 25, missed the first half of the season following shoulder surgery. He hurt himself diving back into first base on a pickoff play last year, you may remember. Williams hit .317/.335/.410 (112 wRC+) in 46 regular season minor league games after returning, most with the RailRiders, and he’s continued his hot hitting in the Triple-A postseason.

Last season Williams played eight games with the Yankees before hurting his shoulder — he replaced the injured Slade Heathcott, who replaced the injured Jacoby Ellsbury — and went 6-for-21 (.286) with one homer and three doubles. He went deep in his very first big league game, which was really cool.

Joe Girardi said last night he expects to use Rob Refsnyder as the everyday right fielder with Judge sidelined. Aaron Hicks could return from his hamstring injury as soon as next week as well. For now Williams seems like the fourth outfielder who will spot start and replace Refsnyder for defense in the late innings.

The call-up means Triple-A Scranton is pretty screwed — they’re currently in the International League Championship Series and Williams was their everyday center fielder and leadoff hitter — but the big league team is the priority, and they couldn’t play with a short bench. Not when they’re still in the mix for a postseason spot. Calling up Williams was a no-brainer. It had to be done to ensure the Yankees are as close to full strength as possible.

Refsnyder and Williams are the Yankees’ best options in the wake of the Judge injury

(Ed Zurga/Getty)
(Ed Zurga/Getty)

Last night the Yankees won the second game of their three-game series with the Dodgers, but they also lost an everyday player to injury. Right fielder Aaron Judge tweaked his right oblique taking a swing, and although he stayed in to finish the at-bat, he was pulled from the game after the inning was over. Judge will go for an MRI today to determine the severity of the injury.

“It’s possible (he’s done for the season),” said Joe Girardi following last night’s game. “It’s his right rib cage. He’ll have an MRI. We won’t see him for a while … I just told him, ‘You’re out.’ I called him over and he didn’t really argue. We’ve got to get this checked out and see where you’re at.”

Judge’s first month or so in the big leagues has been a mixed bag. He’s hitting .179/.263/.345 (61 wRC+) overall with a 44.2% strikeout rate, so for the most part his at-bats have been unproductive. At the same time, every once in a while Judge will do this …

… and remind you exactly why he’s been so highly touted the last few seasons. That’s not even the longest home run Judge has hit in his short time as a big leaguer. He hit one over the windows of the restaurant in center field last month. Between the power and the strikeouts, it’s amazing Judge ever sees a fastball. It really is.

Anyway, the injury means the Yankees are down not only their starting right fielder in Judge, but also their backup right fielder. Aaron Hicks is still out of action with a Grade II hamstring, remember. At the moment the Yankees have only three healthy true outfielders on the active roster: Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Eric Young Jr. That’s it. (I won’t blame you if you forgot about EYJ. I did too.)

Even if the MRI today reveals good news, chances are the Yankees will be without Judge for at least a few days. Oblique strains usually don’t heal overnight. Also, they’re very easy to reaggravate, and Judge isn’t a nobody. The Yankees are going to play it very safe with him. The last thing they want is him to suffer a setback that throws his offseason workouts out of whack. Here are the team’s options with Judge sidelined.

Short-Term Fix

Girardi all but confirmed Rob Refsnyder will step in as the every right fielder for the time being. They really have no other choice. “That’s what I’ll go with now and obviously I’ve got to talk to (Brian Cashman) to see if we’re going to make a move here,” said the manager last night. The only other option is Tyler Austin, who is the most-of-the-time first baseman, so Refsnyder it is.

In sporadic playing time this year Refsnyder has a .268/.342/.333 (81 wRC+) batting line in 159 plate appearances. That’s … unique. He’s drawing walks (10.1%) and making contact (13.2% strikeouts), but he’s also hit for zero power. Refsnyder’s yet to hit a home run and he has only nine doubles too. He works a quality at-bat almost every time up and that’s great. Some extra-base pop would be cool though.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Hopefully the doubles and homers come now that Refsnyder will get a chance to play everyday. His defense is not great in right field — maybe this will press Young into defensive replacement duty in tight games? — but again, the Yankees are pretty much out of options. Based on the guys they have on the active roster, Refsnyder is the best right field solution.

Returning Soon?

Grade II hamstring strains can be pretty serious and they tend to lead to prolonged absences, but Hicks is already back performing baseball activities. He got hurt on August 31st and he’s already started running in the outfield and taking batting practice. Hicks is going to Tampa later today to ramp up his rehab, and it sounds as though the goal is to activate him off the DL when the Yankees arrive for their series with the Rays next week.

As crappy a year as he’s had, getting Hicks back as soon as next week would be pretty huge. At the very least, he could replace Refsnyder for defense in the late innings. Best case scenario is Hicks picks up where he left off in August — he hit .280/.330/.439 (106 wRC+) in fairly regular playing time last month — and takes over right field everyday. A little friendly competition between Refsnyder and Hicks would be good for both, I think. Either way, there’s a chance Hicks will return as soon as next week. That would be pretty awesome.

The Call-Up Candidate

The Yankees have one outfielder on the 40-man roster who is not in the big leagues right now: Mason Williams. Williams returned from shoulder surgery at midseason and hit .317/.335/.410 (112 wRC+) in 46 regular season minor league games, almost all at Triple-A. Typical Mason Williams, basically. At least when he’s going good. Williams has carried that performance over into the postseason with the RailRiders too.

Girardi acknowledged a Williams call-up was possible last night — “It’s going to be really difficult (with a short bench) … There’s outfielders down there that we’re going to have to talk about because we’re short,” he said — and given where the Yankees are in the postseason race, everything has to be on the table at this point. They surely want Williams to get as many at-bats as possible following shoulder surgery, but playing with a short bench in a postseason race makes no sense.

(Scranton Times-Tribune)
(Scranton Times-Tribune)

Remember, the Yankees originally planned to give Bryan Mitchell one more Triple-A start to iron things out earlier this month, but as soon as Chad Green got hurt, they called Mitchell up because he was the best option. The same applies to Williams. Would they like him to get more at-bats with the RailRiders? Surely. Judge’s injury has forced their hand though, and with a playoff spot within reach, having the best team possible has to be the priority.

Scranton’s season will end no later than Saturday — it can end as soon as tomorrow — and I’m guessing Williams won’t make it that far. He’ll be up before then, perhaps later today. The RailRiders would be pretty screwed during the International League Championship Series, but the big league team is the always the priority. Chances are we’ll see Mason very soon.

The Long Shots

The three other outfielders with Triple-A Scranton are not on the 40-man roster: Clint Frazier, Cesar Puello, and Jake Cave. I can’t see them calling Frazier up a year before he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible. That would be a big time panic move. Puello and Cave are a different story because cutting them loose in the offseason wouldn’t be a big deal. If the Yankees do decide to give Williams more at-bats in Triple-A following surgery, Puello or Cave could get the call instead. This section is called “The Long Shots” for a reason though. I don’t see this happening. Puello, Cave, and Frazier are all options available to the Yankees. They’re not that desperate yet though.

* * *

The Judge injury isn’t devastating — he wasn’t hitting much outside the occasional dinger — but it further thins out the Yankees’ outfield. Refsnyder is a short-term solution and Hicks might be back next week, which would be cool. My guess is we’ll see Williams sooner rather than later too. There’s a clear need and he can be useful, even if he’s only a defensive replacement for the time being. The Yankees may not want to use Refsnyder in right or call up Williams before the end of the Triple-A season, but they’re short on outfielders at the moment, and those two are their best immediate options with Judge and Hicks out.