Mailbag: Heathcott, Betances, A-Rod, Herrera, Rotation

I have 14 questions and 13 answers in the mailbag this week. As always, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you want to send any questions or comments throughout the week.

Sladerunner. (Presswire)
Sladerunner. (Presswire)

T.J. asks: I might have missed this over the course of Spring Training, but while I was perusing the Yankees 40-Man Roster, there was no Slade Heathcott to be found. That led me to the Scranton roster, where Heathcott is listed, but states that he is not on the 40-Man. Was he outrighted during the spring or is this some kind of conspiracy?

I have no idea what is going on with this. Heathcott has not been listed on the 40-man roster on the official site since being sent out in Spring Training, yet the Yankees have not made an official announcement about him removed from the 40-man, and teams announce every transaction. They send out little one sentence press releases like “so and so has been outrighted to Triple-A.”

That never happened with Heathcott, which leads me to believe he is still on the 40-man. Furthermore, when the Yankees sent Slade to minor league camp, the announced he has been optioned to Triple-A, and you can only option 40-man players. Non-40-man guys are “reassigned,” not “optioned.” Mistakes have happened before — a year or two ago Tyler Austin was not listed on the 40-man for a few days — but this has been going on three weeks already. You’d think it would be fixed by now.

There’s also this: why would the Yankees remove Heathcott from the 40-man? They didn’t need a spot at any time. Everyone who made the Opening Day roster was already on the 40-man. Furthermore, Aroldis Chapman‘s suspension cleared a 40-man spot, so the Yankees have been at 39 players since the end of camp. And even if they needed a spot, Greg Bird and Bryan Mitchell are 60-day DL candidates. This has to some kind of clerical error. Heathcott should still be on the 40-man.

Chris asks: Would the Yankees Entertain trading Betances because he’ll be getting a huge raise after this year through arbitration? And what do you think they can get for him?? I know it’s crazy talk but I was just curious.

Damian asks: If everything but the bullpen goes wrong in the next four months, is there any chance the Yankees actively shop Betances or Miller? Seems like they could get a nice haul back from a playoff team and still have a pretty deep (though not as dominant) BP for the future. Was the Giles trade a benchmark?

Might as well lump these two together. I do think the Yankees would consider moving Dellin Betances in a trade as long as they are getting a big return. In fact, Joel Sherman reported a few days ago the Yankees listened to offers for both Betances and Chapman over the winter. That’s in addition to Andrew Miller, who was on the block all offseason.

As good as he is, there are valid reasons to trade Betances. He’s about to get expensive through arbitration, he has a history of arm injuries and a history of control problems, and relievers in general are just so damn volatile. Go back to 2013 and guys like Greg Holland, Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain, Danny Farquhar, and Neal Cotts were among the top 15 relievers in WAR. It can go quick and without warning.

The Ken Giles trade does establish a benchmark, though there are some key differences. Most notably, the Phillies traded five years of Giles. The Yankees would only be trading three years of Betances this offseason. Betances is better than Giles, but those two extra years of control are huge. A cheap young starter the Yankees could plug right into their rotation plus prospects seems like an appropriate return for Dellin.

I’m not sure the Yankees should actively shop Betances (or Miller) after the season, but they should absolutely be willing to listen to offers. And there’s no reason to think they won’t. Dellin’s soon to be escalating salary should not be a driving factor. He’s still going to very underpaid relative to his performance, and besides, the Yankees have money. Any trade should be about the talent coming back to the Yankees.


IJ asks: Saw in today’s weekly notes that Dellin Betances turned down a modest raise and the Yankees renewed his contract at league minimum, why would Dellin turn down a modest raise? Does that effect arbitration hearings or something else in the long term that it would make sense to do that? Couldn’t the Yankees have just said, “Hell with it give him the bump whether he wants it or not?”

Betances turned it down on principle, basically. He rejected the team’s offered raise because he felt it was too small, and he did not want to accept a low offer and set a precedent. I know, it sounds silly, but that’s what happened. I guess Dellin and his agent wanted to send a message. Declining the raise won’t have a huge impact on his salary next year as a first time arbitration player, and it might not have any impact whatsoever. I’m certain he and his agent considered that. Betances figures to smash arbitration records for a non-closer reliever. A few extra grand this year won’t change that.

Jeff asks: Why is A-Rod listed negatively defensively on Fangraphs when he hasn’t played in the field at all so far this year?

FanGraphs has Alex Rodriguez at -1.3 runs defensively on the season so far, and that’s the positional adjustment for DH. Positional adjustments are explained here. Long story short, some positions are more valuable than others, so players who play important positions (shortstop, etc.) get a boost while players at less important positions (left field, etc.) get docked. The positional adjustment for DH is -17.5 runs per 1,458 innings (162 nine-inning games), indicating a DH is -17.5 runs less valuable than an average defender. Those -1.3 runs charged to A-Rod are the pro-rated positional adjustment.

Jackson asks: There was some prospect buzz over the winter about guys who haven’t played any games yet, college guys like Will Carter and Brandon Wagner. In addition, it seems Katoh and Jose Mesa, Jr., who already have 2 plus years under their belt in the system have gone MIA. Any reason why the Yankees can’t give them more development/playing time? They’re not injured, correct?

Carter started the season with Low-A Charleston, made one start, then was placed on the DL for an unknown reason. Wagner, Mesa, and Gosuke Katoh are presumably in Extended Spring Training right now, ditto others like Drew Finley, Jeff Degano, and Kolton Mahoney. Mesa is the only one that really surprises me because he’s a reliever, he’s 22, he dominated last year (2.23 ERA and 2.28 FIP), and he finished the season in Charleston. He might be hurt. Otherwise I have to think he would be in High-A Tampa.

Wagner and especially Katoh seem like victims of the numbers crunch. The Yankees have a lot of infield prospects at the lower levels, so much so that guys like Thairo Estrada, Hoy Jun Park, Kyle Holder, and Abi Avelino are bouncing around the infield. Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar are playing short and third, their respective natural positions, full-time because they’re among the team’s best prospects. Everyone else is bouncing around. There’s no room for Wagner or Katoh anywhere. Finley and Degano are presumably fine-tuning in ExST and not hurt. And even if they were hurt, good luck getting that information.

Geoffrey asks: In the DotF this morning, you mentioned that Ronald Herrera is 20 and on the RailRiders, which seems rather notable. I don’t remember reading much about him besides getting him for Jose Pirela, what’s his story? Is he a potential big league call up?

The call-up to Triple-A was only temporary. Herrera made a spot start there because Tyler Olson and Luis Cessa were getting moved around at the MLB level. Still though, Herrera is only 20 and he’s in Double-A, and that’s impressive. He’s almost four years younger than the average Double-A Eastern League player. Here is Baseball America’s scouting report on Herrera from their free trade write-up:

Herrera’s not particularly physical, standing only 5-foot-10, and does not have much projection left, but he’s very athletic with an easy-to-repeat delivery. With the fastball, he shows above-average command to both sides of the plate and touched 94 mph while sitting 90-93. Herrera also throws a cutter and a big, soft curveball. But the change this season came when Herrera began to trust the fastball more, setting up the cutter and curve, instead of trying to trick hitters, as one evaluator said.

The Padres got Herrera from the Athletics in the Kyle Blanks trade two years ago, then San Diego sent him to the Yankees in the Pirela trade over the winter. He’s always limited walks (career 5.7 BB%) and his strikeout rate did jump from 14.5% in 2014 to 16.8% in 2015, so that’s interesting. Herrera’s not a top prospect by any means, but he has a chance to be a useful big league arm for sure. Next year seems more realistic than this year.


Mark asks: Curious to see your prediction for what the opening day starting staff will be next year as well as in 2018. With Kaprelian on the fast track along with CC’s vesting, Tanaka’s opt out and both Pineda’s and Eovaldi’s arbitration all coming up, do you think we’ll see as many as 4 new names in the rotation by 2018?

I would not be surprised if the Yankees looked to trade Michael Pineda and/or Nathan Eovaldi this coming offseason. They’re both due to become free agents following next year and the qualifying offer is no guarantee — will the qualifying offer even exist then? — so they could move both rather than lose them for nothing. Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino aren’t going anywhere, but CC Sabathia could pitch his way into the bullpen, I suppose. How does this sound:

2017 Opening Day Rotation 2018 Opening Day Rotation
SP1 Tanaka Severino
SP2 Severino Trade Pickup No. 1
SP3 Pineda or Eovaldi Trade Pickup No. 2
SP4 Trade Pickup No. 1 James Kaprielian
SP5 Sabathia Mitchell or Cessa
SP6 Mitchell or Cessa Mitchell or Cessa

I’m going to guess — and this is nothing more than a guess — either Pineda or Eovaldi is traded after this season. Not necessarily for another starter — Trade Pickup No. 1 could come from a completely separate deal — but traded. Tanaka is going to opt-out of his contract following 2017 as long as he’s healthy, and both Sabathia and Pineda/Eovaldi will become free agents as well. Trade Pickup No. 2 comes in a separate trade, maybe something involving Didi Gregorius with Mateo taking over at short.

Point is, I don’t see the Yankees spending on a free agent starter following this season or next season. Stephen Strasburg is by far the best pitcher scheduled to hit free agency those two winters, and the Yankees are unlikely to hand out a $200M+ pitching contract at this point. They’re waiting for the big contracts to expire. They’re not looking to add any. Perhaps that changes with the 2018-19 epiphany free agent class.

Rob asks: During one of the games this last week one of the YES broadcasters (O’Neil I think) said young players may struggle with the shift when they first come up because they don’t shift, or at least don’t shift very much, in the minors. Is that true?

I don’t know about other teams, but the Yankees absolutely shift in the minors. From what I understand they use increasingly more shifts as you get closer to MLB, so they don’t shift much in Low-A but do shift a lot in Triple-A. That makes sense, right? You have to give players a chance to learn their position gradually. They had Mateo working out at second base in Instructional League last fall to help him get used to the right side of the infield in preparation for the shift, for example.

Teams are not aligning their defense the “old fashioned way” in the minors and then telling their young players to go out and execute the shift at the MLB level with no training. That’s silly. Young players struggle with the shift when they first come up for the same reason they struggle with anything: baseball is hard. The game is faster at the big league level and they’re playing against the very best players in the world. I can’t imagine there’s a team out there not using the shift to some degree in the minors. If such a team exists, they’re behind the times.

Brian asks: I feel like the Yankees starters are throwing a lot of pitches per plate appearance and it’s one of the reasons they aren’t lasting more than 5 innings (Tanaka aside). Where do they rank in terms of the rest of the league in this?

Believe it or not, the Yankees’ rotation is averaging 3.86 pitches per plate appearances so far this year, tied for 11th lowest among the 15 AL teams with the Astros and Indians. That surprised me. The league average is 3.97 pitches per plate appearance and only the Twins (3.81) and Blue Jays (3.74) are lower than the Yankees. Here are the individual starter averages:

Severino: 3.96
: 3.94
Eovaldi: 3.91
Pineda: 3.85
Tanaka: 3.83

Adam Wainwright is baseball’s most efficient pitcher (3.29) so far and Derek Holland is the least efficient pitcher (4.45). The Yankees have had some very long innings and high pitch counts because they’ve allowed a lot of base-runners. The rotation’s 1.36 WHIP is sixth highest among the AL teams. The individual at-bats are not necessarily long, but they face more batters per inning.

Steven asks: Both John Ryan Murphy and Aaron Hicks are off to very cold starts in their new uniforms. How much do you think the change of scenery affects both of them? And in Hicks case, how much of his struggles are due to his lack of starts thus far? I thought he’d be taking more starts from Beltran, but Carlos has been too hot to sit very often.

I think both guys are struggling because of a lack of playing time so far. Hicks has 23 plate appearances in 14 games and Murphy has 27 in 16 games. I can understand being buried behind Brian McCann on the Yankees, but being buried behind Kurt Suzuki on the 5-11 Twins? Rough. Poor JRM. I’m not sure the change of scenery itself has hurt either guy much. Hicks changed roles, going from everyday center fielder to fourth outfielder, which could be having an impact. Murphy is in the same role as last year. I think it’s just one of those things, to be honest. The noise of a small sample. Boring answer, but we’re talking about 20-something at-bats spread across two and a half weeks of games.


Paul asks: How crazy of an idea is it for Gardner to switch LF and RF with Beltran so that Gardner is in whichever field the batter is more likely to hit to?

Brett Gardner has played one game in right field in his career and I remember it. It was at Fenway Park two years ago and he looked completely lost out there. I remember he misread two or three balls because they sliced away from him more than he expected. This could work with someone like Hicks, who is used to both corner spots, but not Gardner given his inexperience in right.

Andy asks: What do you make of the Yankee’s rotation ranking 4th in the MLB in SIERA (3.40)? Do you expect the results to catch up with the underlying skills soon?

The rotation has a 5.01 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 3.38 xFIP, and a 3.30 SIERA at the moment. Last year the starting staff had a 4.25 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 3.75 xFIP, and a 3.85 SIERA. The Yankees are big believers in DIPS Theory, they’ve made it clear with the players they’ve acquired, and that’s all well and good. Lots of strikeouts, lots of grounders, few walks, and few homers is a wonderful recipe for success.

I think the Yankees have a rotation that will generally post lower FIP/xFIP/SIERAs than ERA for a few reasons. One is Yankee Stadium, which is very homer happy, and I don’t think the ERA estimators account for that properly. Two is the fact guys like Eovaldi and Pineda are hittable. That might be true with Severino as well. SIERA does account for balls in play (FIP and xFIP donot), but it’s not perfect. Come the end of the season, I think all four stats will be much closer to 4.00. The 5.01 ERA is too high and the 3.30 SIERA is too low because weird stuff happens in the first 14 games.

John asks: I realize that it’s early yet and that we’re all hoping that A-Rod turns things around. But if we get to June 30th or so and he still has a .163/.250/.302 split through 250 or so plate appearances, do you think the team will finally cut ties? I know the Yankees have been reluctant to release players with time left on their contracts, but several other teams have done so recently (Swisher’s an example). The Yankees gave Soriano until July 4th two years ago, and his stats were better than Alex’s so far this year.

They Yankees were only paying Alfonso Soriano $5M in 2014 and that was the final year of his contract. Cutting him loose didn’t hurt the wallet too much. Cutting A-Rod at midseason would mean eating $30M and no one wants to do that. The Braves ate $10M in one season to release Swisher (the Indians were paying the rest of his salary), which is very different than $30M across two years. I would be surprised if A-Rod is struggling that badly comes June. I would be even more surprised if the Yankees released him at that point. I think they would seriously consider releasing him in the offseason if he does go the entire season looking down. Like done done.

Listless Yankees get swept by the A’s with a 7-3 loss

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It hurts to get swept. It hurts even more when it happens at your home. The Yankees have lost seven out of their last nine and are 5-9 for season. On the bright side, Luis Severino pitched a pretty nice game and the offense delivered three hits in RISP situations (3-for-11, which certainly is better than 2-for-49). But in the end, on the night that Prince passed away, the Yankees partied like it’s the early-90’s: getting swept by the Oakland Athletics.

Back and Forth

The Yankees had a dance with RISP situations in the second. Rich Hill walked Mark Teixeira and A-Rod to begin the frame. Chase Headley followed it up by hitting into your usual 1-4-3 fielder’s choice out to put the runners second and third. Aaron Hicks snapped his 0-for-17 skid and poured some relief in the Yankee RISP drought with a bloop single to drive Tex in for a 1-0 lead. Well, Yankees had two more chances with RISP that inning and they failed to bring another one in (Austin Romine and Ronald Torreyes both K’d). Busts!

Severino got into a bit of a trouble in the fourth. He allowed a back foot slider double to Josh Reddick to start the inning. Jed Lowrie hit a low changeup into right for an RBI single, tying the game at one apiece. Stephen Vogt added more pressure with another single but Severino cleaned it up with a Chris Coghlan fly out and striking out both Khris Davis and Coco Crisp. Not too much harm done.

In the bottom of fourth with one out, A-Rod walked. As he attempted to steal second, Hill tried to pick him off at first but he badly overthrew the 1B Mark Canha, advancing A-Rod to third. The Yankees got another run in with Romine’s two-out swinging bunt single that was just placed niftily. Another RISP hit! 2-1. Unfortunately, that would be the last lead that New York had for the rest of the game.

The A’s tied it right back in the top of fifth. With two outs, and on a 2-2 count, Severino hung a slider up the zone that Canha reached and sent it to the right field seats for a home run. 2-2.

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Severino, who had a 5.91 ERA coming into tonight, had an outing much more like himself. He pitched six innings of two-run ball while striking out four. He now has a 4.86 ERA with 3.47 FIP. I expect that ERA to keep climbing down in next few outings. Like Nathan Eovaldi last night, I feel like he pitched himself to an outing deserving of a win. However, baseball is harder than that – it certainly isn’t easy when you have the Yankee offense hitting like how they have for past week or so.

The Downward Spiral

Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Chasen Shreve, who had been great in the young season, came in the seventh to relieve Severino. In the first two pitches, he gave up two solo homers. Khris Davis and Coco Crisp both jumped on first pitches to give Oakland a 4-2 lead. Not ideal. It also seemed quite hard to ask Yankee offense to score two.

In the next frame though, Brett Gardner led off with a walk. Brian McCann followed it up with a strikeout and Didi Gregorius flied out to make it two quick outs. Jacob Ellsbury singled to give a breathe of hope to rally and Starlin Castro followed up with an RBI single to bring it within one, 4-3. Hope!

The A’s weren’t done though. In the top of eighth, with Johnny Barbato on the mound, Chris Coghlan hit a two out, two-run homer to make it a three-run lead, 6-3 A’s. Oakland added another run in the top ninth off Kirby Yates with a Canha sac fly, 7-3. If the game wasn’t out of reach already, well, they had done it there.


Ellsbury has not had the best defensive display this season but he saved a run in the first inning. With speedy Billy Burns on the first, Canha hit a liner that appeared to be a gap double. Ellsbury ran a good route and dove all-out to make a highlight reel catch. He also had a good night at the plate; going 3-for-5, raising his average to .255.

Hicks showed off his cannon arm again. In the top of sixth, Jed Lowrie hit a single to left and tried to stretch it to double. Hicks threw another laser to second that got Lowrie out pretty, pretty easily. It was really not close at all.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 8.52.19 PM

The Yankees had three relievers in the game and each of them allowed at least a run – Shreve and Barbato each allowed two and Yates, one. Sure, they are no Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller but… just not the team’s night at all. But hey, at least they didn’t face the same fate as the Cincinnati Reds.

Box Score, WPA, Highlights and Standings

Here’s box score, updated standings, video highlights and WPA.

Source: FanGraphs

The Yankees welcome Tampa Bay Rays for a three-game series for this weekend. The big man CC Sabathia is going to look to turn it around for the Yankees while the Rays will send out Matt Moore.

DotF: Sanchez goes deep; Kaprielian strikes out nine

OF Slade Heathcott is day-to-day with a contusion after taking a pitch to the hand last night, reports Shane Hennigan. X-rays came back negative, so that’s good.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 loss to Buffalo)

  • CF Ben Gamel & RF Aaron Judge: both 1-5 — Gamel struck out
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB — second homer of the year
  • DH Rob Refsnyder: 1-4, 1 R, 1 K
  • 1B Chris Parmelee: 1-2, 2 R, 1 2B, 2 BB, 1 K
  • RHP Luis Cessa: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 5/3 GB/FB — 37 of 57 pitches were strikes (65%) … first start here after one tune-up relief appearance
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 0/1 GB/FB — 28 of 45 pitches were strikes (62%)
  • LHP James Pazos: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — half of his 22 pitches were strikes

[Read more…]

Game 14: The Elusive Third Run

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

The Yankees stink right now. They’ve lost six of their last seven games, and they’ve scored two runs or fewer in all six losses. The Yankees are 5-1 when they score three or more runs this season and 0-7 when they’re held to two or less. That third run has been pretty big so far. Too bad it has been so hard to come by of late.

Those six losses in the last seven games are in the books. Nothing the Yankees can do about them now. Today is another opportunity to bust out of the slump, get some runs on the board, and start a winning streak. There are 149 games to be played. The season is still mighty young. Here is the A’s lineup and here is the Yanks’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 2B Starlin Castro
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. 3B Chase Headley
  7. LF Aaron Hicks
  8. C Austin Romine
  9. SS Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Severino

The Yankees have stunk during this homestand but the weather has not. Another great day in New York today. A tad cool, but there are only a few clouds in the sky. Pretty great. Today’s game is scheduled to begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Brett Gardner (neck) is available to play today, Joe Girardi confirmed this afternoon.

YES Update: FOX regional sports affiliates, including YES, can now be streamed on Sling TV. It’s $20 a month — there’s a free seven-day trial — so it’s not free, but it’s not too pricey either. You will be able to stream Yankees games on YES, even if you’re in-market and a currently dealing with the Comcast nonsense. Here’s the Sling TV link. I’m going to post this reminder one last time tomorrow, so if you know someone who may be interested, don’t forget to tell them.

2016 Draft: Nolan Jones

Nolan Jones | SS

Jones attends Holy Ghost Preparatory School in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, which is about halfway between Trenton and Philadelphia, so he’s kinda sorta local to the Yankees. He is 10-for-14 (.714) with a double, a triple, two home runs, and ten walks through six games this spring. Jones impressed with his ability to handle advanced prep arms from warm weather states in showcase events last summer. He’s slated to attend Virginia in the fall.

Scouting Report
At 6-foot-4 and 185 lbs., most expect Jones to outgrow shortstop and move to either second or third base down the line. His bat will play anywhere, however. The left-handed hitter has a drool worthy offensive skill set. Jones has very strong hands and good raw power, yet his swing is simple and controlled, allowing him to barrel up the ball consistently. He knows the strike zone and looks very much like a player with the potential to hit for a high average with power and on-base ability down the line. The kid can even run a little. Defensively, Jones has a strong arm — he’s been clocked at 88-91 mph off the mound — and good hands, so third base won’t be an issue if that’s where he ends up.

In their latest rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’) and Baseball America ranked Jones as the 14th and 16th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. had him further down at No. 29. The Yankees hold the 18th overall pick. I’m just an idiot with a blog, so take the following with a grain of salt: Jones strikes me as an underrated draft prospect who would be getting much more attention if he were playing year round in California or Texas. I get that he hasn’t faced great competition as a high schooler, but he did rake against the best of the best in showcases last year, and the tools are very impressive. Virginia commitments can be tough to break, and if Jones winds up going to college, he has a chance to come out as potential No. 1 pick in three years.

Yankees want to see improvement from Severino, not just the offense, Thursday against the A’s


When a team struggles offensively, especially as much as the Yankees have struggled of late, it’s almost like nothing else matters. The bats have been comically bad these last few games, and there’s nothing in baseball more frustrating than not scoring runs. I’d rather watch a good offense/bad pitching team over a bad offense/good pitching team any day of the week.

As the offense has struggled, it’s been easy to overlook the way the rotation has started to turn the corner. The Yankees have had their starter complete six full innings — a very modest goal, of course — five times in the last seven games, and during that time the rotation has gone from a 5.97 ERA to a 5.01 ERA. Don’t get me wrong, that’s still not great, but it’s progress. They’re moving the right direction.

Young Luis Severino will make his third start of the season tonight, and the first two weren’t all that good. He allowed three runs on ten hits and no walks in five innings against the Tigers first time out, and last week the Mariners tagged him for four runs on eight hits and a walk in 5.2 innings. Two starts is two starts. Every pitcher is going to struggle at some point or another. It’s not a big deal yet.

Severino is a 22-year-old kid who came into the season with some clear developmental goals, most notably commanding his offspeed stuff a little better. He tends to leave his slider up in the zone more than anything. Here is the location of every slider Severino threw in his first two starts, via Baseball Savant:

Luis Severino sliders

Through two starts Severino has thrown 57 sliders, and opponents have more hits (nine) than swings and misses (five) against the pitch. Eight of the nine hits are singles (the other is a double), but still. That is: bad. Slider location is an obvious flaw Severino and pitching coach Larry Rothschild have to correct, and Severino is well aware of it.

“I think I’m trying too much. I’m pulling (my slider), not just throwing it, like I was in Spring Training,” said Severino to Brendan Kuty earlier this week. “I’m missing spots. I’m missing pitches. I’m not commanding my top stuff, and that’s the difference … I’ve been battling myself over there. I have to be better.”

Severino’s potential is so obvious when you watch him on the mound. He has true front of the rotation ability, but like any kid his age, he still has some things to work on. Unlike most kids his age, Severino has to work on them while pitching for the New York Yankees and being hyped up as the next great thing. That can be daunting, though I’ve been impressed by Severino’s poise in his 13 big league starts, and I think we can make those adjustments on the fly.

The story of tonight’s series finale against the Athletics is the offense. The Yankees need to get their bats going, if for no other reason than my sanity. Not scoring runs is just the worst. Severino’s start is a huge sidebar though. He’s struggled his first two times out and we all want to see that frontline ability we saw last year. Severino’s not just some kid they’re breaking in. He’s an important part of the team, and the Yankees need him to be successful.

Let’s try to find a bad contract-for-bad contract trade for Jacoby Ellsbury


Jacoby Ellsbury is a problem. Following last night’s 1-for-3 game, he is hitting .263/.321/.383 (95 wRC+) with 4.8 WAR in two years and 13 games as a Yankee. He’s now 32 years old, his defense is kinda sorta slipping, and he is still under contract for another four years and 149 games. Ellsbury is talented and he could certainly turn things around, but yeah. Outlook not so good.

Trading Ellsbury is far-fetched. He’s owed roughly $110M through 2020, and very few teams can and will be open to taking on that much money. Did you see how long it took good outfielders like Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes to sign this past offseason? Ellsbury’s value is down well below those two. And oh by the way he has a full no-trade clause, so he can shoot down any deal. Not great, Bob.

Unless the Yankees eat a ton of money, which just isn’t happening, any Ellsbury trade would have to be a bad contract-for-bad contract trade. Those trades are surprisingly rare — straight salary dumps are much more common — but they do happen from time to time. At Ellsbury’s pay grade though? Forget it. It’s never happened at that salary. Moving Ellsbury in a bad contract-for-bad contract deal would be unprecedented. Not impossible, just unprecedented.

The number of teams with a similar bad contracts to trade are limited — there are lots of bad contracts out there, but few have over $100M remaining — and even fewer need a player like Ellsbury. Finding a match is tough. Here are four possible fits — I guess it’s five, but there’s no sense in listing the Red Sox and some ridiculous Pablo Sandoval scenario — for a bad contract-for-bad contract trade that sends Ellsbury elsewhere. The teams are listed alphabetically.

The Team: Los Angeles Angels
The Player: Albert Pujols
The Remaining Money: $165M through 2021

Does It Make Sense For The Angels? Oh yes. The Halos would shed more than $50M in future salary obligation and get a more dynamic two-way player. They could stick C.J. Cron at first base full-time, put Ellsbury in the leadoff spot and in either center or left field (Mike Trout has played a ton of left field), and then find a cheap DH. Angels GM Billy Eppler may have some lingering affinity for Ellsbury dating back to his time as Brian Cashman‘s right hand man.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? Nope. Even if the two teams finagle the money so the Yankees don’t take on any additional cash, New York would be acquiring the older and much more one-dimensional player. The last thing they need is another lumbering DH type on the wrong side of 35. Sure, they could stick Pujols at first base and let Mark Teixeira leave next offseason, then put Pujols at DH and Greg Bird at first when Alex Rodriguez retires the offseason after that, but yuck. This one doesn’t work for the Yankees at all. That Pujols contract is the worst contract in baseball.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

The Team: San Diego Padres
The Players: Matt Kemp and James Shields
The Remaining Money: $117.75M through 2018 plus another $20.25M in 2019

Does It Make Sense For The Padres? It might! They’re currently rebuilding and looking to both shed money and add prospects. Ellsbury for the Kemp/Shields duo wouldn’t net them any prospects, but it would wipe almost $30M off the books, reduce their annual payroll through 2018, and also land them an upgrade in the outfield. Kemp has a degenerative condition in his hips and is a year or two away from being a first baseman or DH, and DHs do not exist in the NL. Ellsbury gives them the kind of speedy contact hitter who would ostensibly thrive in spacious Petco Park.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? Again: it might! Shields’ contract complicates things because he can opt-out after the season. If Shields opts out, the the Padres would actually end up taking on money in this trade because he would be walking away from $44M. I suppose the two sides could work out a conditional trade — if Shields opts out, the Yankees send a prospect or two over, or kick in more money — but when things start getting that complicated, bet against it happening.

If nothing else, Shields would give the Yankees an innings guy even though he’s dangerously close to a Sabathia-esque decline. Kemp would fit in decently. They could put him in left this year to replace Ellsbury, then put him and Aaron Judge in the corners next season since Carlos Beltran will be gone, and then put him at DH once A-Rod retires. Kemp would also add another righty bat. Would the Yankees take on money to move Ellsbury and take two declining players in return though? Seems unlikely.

Kemp alone would not work — the Padres owe him only $73M through 2019, so significantly less than the Yankees owe Ellsbury — so Kemp plus Shields it is. The Yankees would be taking on more money in the short-term, screwing up their plan to get under the luxury tax threshold, but the contracts would be off the books a year sooner. That’s not something that should be glossed over. They’d get out of the bad deal(s) sooner.

The Team: Seattle Mariners
The Player: Robinson Cano
The Remaining Money: $192M through 2023

Does It Make Sense For The Mariners? Yes if the only goal is shedding approximately $80M and three years worth of contract. No if the goal is improving the roster. Cano is a better player than Ellsbury, there’s no doubt about that, and the difference in the contract commitments is massive. Seattle doesn’t have a ready made second base replacement and they don’t really need another outfielder, so Ellsbury doesn’t fit their roster, at least not in the super short-term. Their motivation for a Cano-for-Ellsbury deal would be dumping all that money.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? No for a few reasons. One, that’s way too much money to take on. The Yankees had a chance to re-sign Cano and balked at that price. I personally would rather have Cano for ten years and $240M than Ellsbury for seven years and $153M, but that’s just me. Obviously the Yankees feel differently, otherwise Robbie would still be wearing pinstripes.

Two, the Yankees now have Starlin Castro at second base, so they don’t really need Cano. An Ellsbury plus Castro for Cano deal would be fun in an lolwtf way — it would also even out the money slightly — but c’mon. The Yankees aren’t going to add Castro to the trade and still take on $40M or so just to get rid of Ellsbury. Not happening.

In a vacuum where positions and things like that don’t matter, I’d trade Ellsbury for Cano in an instant. This ain’t no vacuum though. That stuff matters and neither player fits the roster of their would-be new team. Ellsbury for Cano seems like the kind of trade none of us would even consider had Cano not been a Yankee once upon a time.

The Team: Texas Rangers
The Player: Shin-Soo Choo
The Remaining Money: $102M through 2020

Does It Make Sense For The Rangers? Finally, a trade that seems remotely plausible. Ellsbury and Choo both signed seven-year contracts two offseasons go, and while Ellsbury received an additional $23M in guaranteed money, Choo’s deal was back-loaded, so the two are owed similar dollars from 2016-20. Bridging the gap between the $102M left on Choo’s deal and the $110M left on Ellsbury’s doesn’t seem like it would be a huge issue, right?

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Rangers GM Jon Daniels has reportedly coveted Ellsbury for years, so I’m sure there’s still some level of interest there. The problem? The Rangers have a good young center fielder and leadoff hitter in Delino DeShields Jr., who is making close to the league minimum. Texas also has a top flight center field prospect in Lewis Brinson at Triple-A. They have options at that position, so it’s not a pressing need.

Either way, the Rangers will have a declining veteran outfielder making $20M+ a year through 2020 on their roster. The question is whether they prefer Choo or Ellsbury, who are very different players. Ellsbury is the two-way threat and Choo is the bat first guy. They both have their pluses and minuses. This would almost be like a change of scenery trade.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? I think so, even if the money is evened out. The Yankees need Choo’s offense — he’s hit .259/.360/.419 (114 wRC+) with the Rangers, including .276/.375/.463 (127 wRC+) in 2015 — more than they need Ellsbury’s two-way skill set. Choo slots in perfectly in left field in the short-term, then at DH in the long-term once A-Rod is gone. As with the Rangers, the Yankees are going to have a declining veteran outfielder making $20M+ a year on their roster no matter what. Would they prefer that player to be Choo or Ellsbury?

* * *

It goes without saying those four bad contract-for-bad contract trades above are all pretty unrealistic and very unlikely to happen. This just goes to show how tough it would be to move Ellsbury without eating a significant chunk of money. It’s not impossible, crazier things have happened, but his trade value is very low for the time being. And of course there’s the whole no trade clause thing.

My sense is the Yankees really like Ellsbury as a player and wouldn’t look to move him in a bad contract-for-bad contract deal. Their best course of action is to remain patient and hope he shakes off his slow start, and gets back to being the dynamic leadoff hitter he was prior to his knee injury last year. Ellsbury’s contract is really bad, and while trading him seems like a good idea, it’s very possible the best bang for all that buck will come from Ellsbury, not a declining player on another team’s roster.