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Via Jim Callis: The Yankees have signed ninth round pick Vanderbilt SS Vince Conde for $155,000. Slot money for the 272nd overall pick is $146,500. Conde actually played for Short Season Staten Island last night, going 2-for-4 with a walk in his pro debut. He signed so late because Vanderbilt was playing in the College World Series.
Conde, 21, hit .284/.397/.379 with four homers, 15 steals, 41 walks, and 42 strikeouts in 72 games for the Commodores this spring. He’s a no-doubt shortstop long-term with a very good glove, but he doesn’t project to be much of a hitter in pro ball. As you can see at our 2014 Draft Pool Tracker, Conde’s over-slot bonus pushes the Yankees over their spending pool by roughly $120,000. They’ll have to pay approximately $90,000 in tax, assuming no more over-slot signings. The signing deadline is this coming Friday and it doesn’t appear the team will sign Florida HS RHP Garrett Cave (17th round) or Connecticut HS 3B Will Toffey (23rd round), their two late round signability fliers. · (9) ·
That was not the best way to start the most important series of the season (to date!). The Yankees and Orioles needed extra innings to determine Friday’s series opener, which ended with New York’s sixth walk-off loss of the season. They had seven such losses last year. The O’s won 3-2 in ten innings. Let’s recap the loss:
- Two Homers: In what was a pretty cool moment, Brian Roberts hit a solo homer on the very first pitch he saw as a visiting player in Camden Yards. The home crowd was mostly indifferent. Just a few cheers and not what I expected for a guy like Roberts. Anyway, that was New York’s first run. Kelly Johnson plated the second one inning later with a solo homer of his own. It was his sixth of the year and first away from Yankee Stadium. Thus concludes the run-scoring portion of the recap.
- Wild Kuroda: On the surface, two runs on three singles and no walks in seven innings seems pretty damn awesome. Hiroki Kuroda was very wild though — the lack of walks had more to do with Baltimore’s general impatience than his strike-throwing — hitting two batters and uncorking three (very) wild pitches. The Orioles scored those two runs on one hit in fourth inning. Two wild pitches and two hit batters contributed to the rally. Kuroda really had to battle himself but ultimately gave the team a quality outing.
- Offense Asleep: Ichiro Suzuki hit a ground-run double with one out in the fourth inning, putting men at second and third with one out. Yangervis Solarte popped out and Johnson flew out to end the threat, and the Yankees did not pick up another hit until Brian McCann singled leading off the ninth. A botched bunt contributed to that failed rally. Twenty of the final 23 batters the Yankees sent to the plate made outs. Orioles pitchers threw 14 total pitches in the eighth and tenth innings. Click this.
- Leftovers: The top four hitters in the lineup went a combined 1-for-19 (.053) with five strikeouts while the bottom five hitters went 6-for-18 (.333) … Ichiro went 2-for-4 with two doubles, his sixth and seventh extra-base hits of the season … Dellin Betances struck out three and hit a batter in two scoreless innings … Adam Warren served up the walk-off loss on a Manny Machado double/Nick Hundley single combination … the Yankees drew one walk in ten innings and have a measly 5.5% walk rate in the last 15 games … with the loss, the Yankees are 17-19 against the AL East and 46-46 overall this season.
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs has some other stats, and ESPN has the updated standings. The Yankees are now five games back of the Orioles for first place in the AL East and, depending on the outcome of the late game, they will be either 2.5 (Mariners lose) or 3.5 (Mariners win) games back of the second wildcard spot. Shane Greene will be asked to stop the bleeding on Saturday afternoon, when he’ll be opposed by Chris Tillman. A win would be cool.
Some notes, starting with injury updates from Josh Norris:
- LHP Ian Clarkin is on the Low-A Charleston DL with a sprained ankle and SS Jorge Mateo is out with a sore hand. He is not on the disabled list, however. As long as Clarkin’s arm is fine, whatever. SS Abi Avelino (quad) will return to game action tomorrow and 3B Eric Jagielo (oblique) could return next week. I guess he had a setback.
- C Luis Torrens was sixth on this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. The 18-year-old came in Friday hitting .409/.447/.659 (217 wRC+) with four doubles, two triples, and one homer in eleven games with Short Season Staten Island.
Triple-A Scranton (5-1 win over Rochester)
- RF Jose Pirela: 3-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — so what do you think, he gets the All-Star break to get comfortable in right then gets the call?
- 2B Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 RBI
- DH Kyle Roller: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
- 1B Austin Romine: 3-4, 1 R, 2 RBI, 1 K — 11-for-23 (.478) in his last six games
- C John Ryan Murphy: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
- RHP Jairo Heredia: 5 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 K, 3/7 GB/FB — 52 of 79 pitches were strikes (66%)
- SwP Pat Venditte: 2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1/1 GB/FB — 26 of 42 pitches were strikes (62%)
Considering all the injuries and their extended stretch of mediocre play — 42-42 in their last 84 games! — this could be a season-defining series for the Yankees. I don’t think that’s hyperbole either. If the Yankees sweep, they’ll be a game back of the Orioles and right in the thick of the AL East race. If the Yankees get swept, forget it. They’ll be seven games back and buried. They would have to seriously consider selling at the trade deadline.
This is the epitome of a one game at a time weekend. The All-Star break is coming up, so Joe Girardi can lean a heavily on his late-inning relievers if necessary. In fact, I encourage it. This is the most important series of the season (to date), after all. Win at all costs, then enjoy the four-day mini-vacation next week. Here is the Orioles lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- 2B Brian Roberts
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- DH Kelly Johnson
RHP Hiroki Kuroda
It’s a little cloudy but hot and uncomfortably humid in Baltimore, which is pretty standard down there. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.
Updates: CC Sabathia (knee) has postponed his appointment with Dr. Andrews on Monday. He will first get opinions from Dr. ElAttrache and Dr. Maister … in case you missed it earlier, the Yankees acquired lefty Jeff Francis in a minor trade with the Athletics. Jim Miller was designated for assignment and Matt Daley was called up.
Yesterday we learned Masahiro Tanaka would be sidelined for at least several weeks due to partially torn ligament in his elbow. He is going to attempt to rehab the injury on the recommendation of three doctors rather than undergo Tommy John surgery. On Friday, Tanaka issued a statement apologizing for the injury:
“As recently announced from the team, I will be going through some treatment and rehab on my injured elbow over the next several weeks. I give everything I have every time I take the ball. With that, I also know that there will always be a risk of injury when playing this game that I love. Right now I feel that the most important thing for me is to keep my head up, remain focused on the task at hand and devote all my energy into healing the injury in order to come back strong.
“I want to apologize to the Yankees organization, my teammates and our fans for not being able to help during this time. I accept this injury as a challenge, but I promise to do everything I can to overcome this setback and return to the mound as soon as possible.”
Shades of Hideki Matsui apologizing for his broken wrist back in 2006.
The final series before the All-Star break is the biggest series of the season, at least to date. The Yankees are in Baltimore for three games against the Orioles, the team they are chasing in the AL East. Needless to say, winning these head-to-head games is extremely important if they want to make a run at the division. The Yankees lost two of three to the O’s in each of their previous two series this season, though this is the first time they will play in Camden Yards.
What Have They Done Lately?
Manager Buck Showalter’s club just took two of three (with a rainout mixed in) from the Nationals and has won eight of its last ten games overall. They currently hold the top spot in the AL East at 50-41 with a +26 run differential, four games better than the Yankees. Best case scenario is New York ending the first half one game back. Worst case scenario is heading into the break seven games back.
At 4.38 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, the O’s have a roughly league average offense despite hitting 113 homers, the second most in baseball. They simply don’t get enough guys on base (team .320 OBP) in front of the power hitters. The Orioles’ only injured position player is C Matt Wieters (129 wRC+), who is done for the year following Tommy John surgery. They’re completely healthy otherwise.
Showalter’s lineup is built around three legitimate 30+ homer bats: OF Nelson Cruz (153 wRC+), OF Adam Jones (123 wRC+), and 1B Chris Davis (91 wRC+). Davis is having a down season but Cruz currently leads baseball with 28 homers. OF Nick Markakis (109 wRC+) sets the table from the leadoff spot and former Yankee 1B/OF Steve Pearce (165 wRC+) is having an unbelievable year as the number two hitter. What in the world is that about? Steve Pearce? Really?
SS J.J. Hardy (85 wRC+) and 3B Manny Machado (101 wRC+) are the household names near the bottom of the lineup. IF Jonathan Schoop (57 wRC+) has been playing second base just about everyday lately while C Nick Hundley (80 wRC+) and C Caleb Joseph (55 wRC+ in limited time) split catching duties. Caleb is the brother of Yankees farmhand Corban Joseph. OF Delmon Young (109 wRC+), OF David Lough (60 wRC+), and IF Ryan Flaherty (82 wRC+) fill out Baltimore’s bench.
Friday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (vs. NYY)
Gonzalez, 30, has a 4.22 ERA (5.19 FIP) in 81 innings across 14 starts and one relief appearance this season, so the magic of his excellent 2012 rookie season has all but worn off at this point. His strikeout rate (7.11 K/9 and 17.8 K%) is okay, but he walks too many (3.56 BB/9 and 8.9 BB%), doesn’t get enough ground balls (40.2%), and can’t keep the ball in the park (1.56 HR/9 and 13.5 HR/FB%). Both lefties (.374 wOBA) and righties (.364 wOBA) have hit him pretty hard, but hey, at least he doesn’t have much of a platoon split. Gonzalez’s money-maker is a split-changeup hybrid that sits in the low-80s. He sets it up with low-90s fastballs and also throws a low-80s slider and mid-70s curveball. That split-change keeps him in MLB. The Yankees scored three runs in six innings against Gonzalez back in April.
Saturday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. BAL) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. NYY)
The Orioles toyed with the idea of skipping Ubaldo’s final start before the All-Star break, but they opted to remain on turn and throw him this weekend. The 30-year-old has a 4.52 ERA (4.68 FIP) in 18 starts and 99.2 innings this summer, so it’s safe to say his strong second half last year was just a mirage. Jimenez has fine strikeout (7.95 K/9 and 20.1 K%), homer (0.99 HR/9 and 12.2 HR/FB%), and ground ball (45.7%) rates, but he walks far too many (5.42 BB/9 and 13.7 BB%). That’s a career-high walk rate by nearly one full walk per nine innings, which is really saying something given his career. Lefties (.363 wOBA) have been much harder on him than righties (.308 wOBA). Ubaldo is a five-pitch pitcher with a low-90s fastball setting up his mid-80s splitter, low-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and upper-70s curveball. He has faced the Yankees twice this season, allowing four runs in six innings back in April and one run in 5.2 innings last month. I honestly would not be surprised if Jimenez dominated or got knocked out in the second inning. Dude is as unpredictable as it gets.
Sunday: TBA vs. RHP Chris Tillman (vs. NYY)
I think one of the reasons the Orioles have not been able to run away the division this year is Tillman’s inability to take that next step forward and go from interesting young pitcher to someone who belongs near the front of the rotation. He was solid the last two years, but this season the 26-year-old has a 4.11 ERA (4.55 FIP) in 19 starts and 111.2 innings. Meh. Tillman has curbed his long ball problem (0.97 HR/9 and 8.5 HR/FB%) but otherwise has yucky strikeout (5.64 K/9 and 14.3 K%), walk (3.63 BB/9 and 9.2 BB%), and ground ball (39.9%) numbers. Lefties (.336 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.305 wOBA) and it’s worth noting Tillman has pitched much better at home (.289 wOBA) than on the road (.347 wOBA). Low-90s four-seamers and cutters set up his mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, and rainbow mid-70s curveball. He’s lost about one mile an hour off his fastball for the second straight year, perhaps explaining why he’s been able to take that step forward. Tillman threw seven shutout innings against the Yankees last month.
Showalter used three of his key late-inning relievers last night, but I don’t think that will change much this weekend with the All-Star break coming up. He can work his guys a little harder knowing the four-day rest is coming. LHP Zach Britton (2.99 FIP) has taken over as closer with the trio of RHP Darren O’Day (2.88 FIP), RHP Tommy Hunter (3.75 FIP), and LHP Brian Matusz (5.23 FIP) handling setup duties. Britton, O’Day, and Hunter all pitched yesterday but none threw more than 23 pitches.
The Orioles took advantage of the All-Star break by sending down starter Bud Norris, who wasn’t scheduled to pitch this weekend, and calling up an extra reliever. They’re carrying RHP Brad Brach (3.97 FIP), LHP T.J. McFarland (3.75 FIP), RHP Preston Guilmet (4.19 FIP in limited time), and RHP Ryan Webb (2.54 FIP) in the bullpen in addition to Showalter’s four main end of the game guys. McFarland is more of a multi-inning reliever than a lefty specialist. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen, then check out Camden Chat for the latest on the Orioles.
Update: The Orioles placed Jimenez on the 15-day disabled list with an ankle injury this afternoon. Righty Kevin Gausman has been called up and will start in his place this weekend.
2:11pm: The Yankees have officially announced the trade. They get Francis and cash from the Athletics in exchange for a player to be named later. Jim Miller was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot. Francis still has to report to the team, so Matt Daley was recalled from Triple-A while they wait.
1:43pm: The Yankees have acquired left-hander Jeff Francis from the Athletics, according to Jerry Crasnick. He was designated for assignment following the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade earlier this week. No word on what New York is sending to Oakland, but it’ll likely be a player to named later or cash. Nothing significant.
Francis, 33, has a 5.89 ERA (3.67 FIP) in 18.1 innings for the Athletics and Reds this season. He had a 6.27 ERA (4.54 FIP) in 70.1 innings for the Rockies last summer. Don’t get excited by his FIP being lower than his ERA — Francis has underperformed his peripherals by at least 0.72 runs every year since 2009. He’s Vidal Nuno with less fastball. It’s probably not worth digging any deeper than that.
The Yankees simply need a warm body for the pitching staff at this point. Masahiro Tanaka went on the disabled list earlier this week and even with the Brandon McCarthy pickup, the team still has Shane Greene in the rotation and a TBA listed as Sunday’s starter. Francis can help get them through the weekend in one piece. Times are tough, man.
1:34pm: “We have a small piece that we’re acquiring right now that hasn’t been announced yet, so again going to continue to try to piece things together,” said Cashman during an interview with MLB Network this afternoon. Something’s in the works.
12:30pm: Despite Masahiro Tanaka’s injury and the Yankees’ apparent inability to play any better than .500 ball, the team will continue to aggressively pursue trades to improve their chances of winning this year, according to Mark Feinsand. “We’ve been aggressive because now we’ve got four starters that we were planning to have in the rotation are out,” said Brian Cashman. “We will continue to be aggressive unless I’m told otherwise.”
I think the Yankees have reached the point where there are simply too many holes to fill at the trade deadline. They could have used another starter before Tanaka got hurt, so now they definitely need one. Add that to a right fielder, a third baseman, and a reliever — at some point the Jim Miller/Matt Daley/Jose Ramirez/etc. revolving door has to stop, right? — and you’re talking about four needs leading up to July 31st. That’s an awful lot these days. This weekend in Baltimore figures to have a big impact on their deadline plans. · (114) ·
Got eight questions for you in this week’s mailbag. The best way to send us anything is through the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a lot of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t get to yours. Also, I should probably mention that I tend to write these things on Thursday afternoon, so send in your questions before then if you want them answered that week.
Adam asks: You will probably hear this a lot this week, but reports say the Nationals are concerned with Desmond balking at a contract extension and that could force them into making a deal for a young shortstop. Is it possible for the Yankees to somehow be a third wheel in a three-team trade this off season for Desmond?
I don’t know if it’s possible but the Yankees should definitely explore it. Desmond will become a free agent after next season and he recently rejected a seven-year extension worth upwards of $98M according to Ken Rosenthal. The 28-year-old is hitting .241/.293/.429 (101 wRC+) with 16 homers and nine steals this year after putting up a .286/.333/.480 (122 wRC+) batting line with 45 homers and 42 steals from 2012-13. He’s also graded out as a very good defensive shortstop. The Nationals are clearly a win now team, so I doubt they’d trade Desmond for prospects. A three-team deal in which the Yankees get Desmond, the Nationals get the young shortstop Rosenthal says they’re seeking, and the third team gets prospects from New York makes sense, especially if the Yankees can convince him to sign an extension. We are talking about a two-way shortstop right smack in the prime of his career, after all.
Many asked: Can the Yankees still trade next year’s international spending pool money? Can they ignore the rules and sign prospects for more than $300k in the next two signing periods? What are the attrition rates for international prospects? Can the Yankees add another minor league team to give these guys a place to play?
(We got a bunch of questions following the team’s international spending spree, so I shortened them all up and lumped them together.)
Yes, the Yankees can still trade their international bonus slots next year despite this year’s spending spree. They will receive a full spending pool next year, they just won’t be able to hand out a bonus more than $300k. They also won’t be able to say screw it and sign a player for more than that amount. The rules are the rules and I assume MLB would void the contract(s) in that case. The Yankees could always work out some under-the-table deals, of course. That happens all the time in Latin America.
The attrition rate question is a good one and I have never seen exact numbers or rates for kids that far down the ladder, but it’s obviously going to be fairly high. The attrition rate only gets higher and higher the further away you get from the MLB level — approximately 25% of high school draft prospects get to MLB in general, not necessarily make an impact — and we’re talking about 16-year-old kids here. The Yankees signed eight of Baseball America’s top 20 international prospects. If they hit on two, I’d be pretty happy. Hit on three and I’d be thrilled. If you want to $/WAR it, then remember that by time these kids have an impact in the big leagues, teams will be paying like $9-10M per win. The Yankees spent around $30M on international free agents last week.
As for adding another minor league team, it’s possible but not that easy. Minor league affiliations are a zero-sum game — there are only so many affiliates to go around in each league. The Yankees were able to add a second rookie Gulf Coast League affiliate last summer because the Mets shut down their GCL affiliate in a cost-cutting move (lol) and a spot opened up. Adding another affiliate is a very tough thing to do because you have to wait for another team to drop one of their affiliates, which rarely happens these days. Between the two Dominican Summer League teams and two GCL teams, the Yankees have four low level affiliates to sort these kids out. It’ll get tricky after that, but it’s a good problem to have.
Charlie asks: With all the chatter about Masahiro Tanaka‘s injury being the result of the transition to a five-day rotation, I’m wondering if Dice-K or Yu Darvish had an injury similar to Tanaka’s in their first MLB season?
Darvish has not had any arm problems during his three years in the show. He missed a start with a blister last season and another start with a cut on his thumb this year, but that’s nothing. Those weren’t structural arm injuries. (Darvish has had some back and neck problems over the last year.) Daisuke Matsuzaka missed a month in 2008 (his second MLB season) with a shoulder strain and four months with shoulder issues in 2009. He eventually blew out his elbow and had Tommy John surgery in 2011, his fifth season with the Red Sox. Neither had arm problems in their first MLB season like Tanaka, however.
Gregg asks: Do the Yankees have the option to dip below the luxury tax threshold in the 2015 season? If so, what moves would they need to make to do potentially do so?
The luxury tax threshold for next season is again $189M, and, according to Cot’s, the Yankees currently have approximately $166.8M on the books for the luxury tax next year. That doesn’t include arbitration raises or replacing the guys who could leave as free agents. Unless Alex Rodriguez gets suspended again or the Yankees find a way to unload the Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and/or Carlos Beltran contracts, it’ll be close to impossible to get under the $189M threshold next year. As soon as they went on that spending spree over the winter, it all but eliminated any chance of getting under the luxury tax threshold before the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2016 season.
Ghost of Horace Clarke asks: Many of all time Yankee records are mentioned for Derek Jeter. What about double plays, on both sides of the ball?
Jeter is, unsurprisingly, the franchise’s all-time leader in ground ball double plays at 281. Bernie Williams is a distance second with 223. The Cap’n is 15th on the all-time GIDP list, right behind Joe Torre (284) and Albert Pujols (283). Defensively, Jeter ranks first in Yankees history and sixth all-time among shortstops in double plays turned at 1,395. Omar Vizquel (1,734), Ozzie Smith (1,590), Cal Ripken Jr. (1,565), Luis Aparicio (1,553), and Luke Appling (1,424) are the only guys ahead of him.
Luke asks: I was reading Chad Jennings’ blog and he’d mentioned that Jeter was elected to the All-Star Game not only by fans, but by players as well (344 votes to Alexei Ramirez’s 313). I haven’t seen them publicized – are these player vote totals available somewhere for the public? I can’t stand fan voting – every year fans ruin it, this year most notably Orioles and Brewers fans – and I’m wondering simply because I’m interested to see how closely the player votes match the fan votes.
I have not seen the full player votes released anywhere. Jennings mentioned Jeter led at shortstop and Jeff Passan says Tanaka received the most player votes among AL starting pitchers, but that’s all I can find. Dellin Betances was voted in by the players as well, and since there were only four relievers on the initial roster, we know he received no fewer the fourth most player votes among AL relievers. Glen Perkins, Greg Holland, and Sean Doolittle were the other bullpeners on the initial AL roster. Pretty cool that Tanaka and Betances were voted into the game by their peers, no?
Mickey asks: Do you think Ichiro hits a homerun this year? I keep waiting for him to take advantage of the short porch but he seems more BA focused than trying to drive the ball.
Yeah, I think he’ll hit one out eventually. Just about everyone hits a cheapie over the short porch at some point during the season and I don’t think Ichiro will be any different. If you’re looking for a good laugh, here is Ichiro’s spray chart for the season, courtesy of Texas Leaguers (doesn’t include last night’s game):
There is no reason for outfielders to play anything but shallow against Ichiro.
Danny asks: In hypothetical world because Jeter; Teams don’t shift Brian McCann when runners are on base, wouldn’t Joe Girardi want to bat him second behind a guy like Brett Gardner so he won’t have some singles taken away?
That does make sense. The best possible spot for him seems like it would be behind both Gardner and Ellsbury, the team’s two best on-base threats. The odds would be pretty high that at least one of those two would be on base for McCann, opening up the field a little bit more. Remember, opposing teams will have to guard against the stolen base, so they can’t let the infielders wander too far away from second. McCann has made an effort to go the other way more often this year — he already has 18 opposite field hits in 2014, one fewer than last year and more than both 2011 (14) and 2012 (15) — but it’s clear he is at his best when he pulls the ball.