5:01pm: The Yankees have placed Tanaka on the 15-day disabled list with elbow inflammation, Joe Girardi told reporters. He had the MRI earlier today but the team doctors have yet to review the results. “I’m not saying it’s a significant injury, but there’s soreness,” said the manager. “It’s not how you draw it up, but injuries are a part of the game.”
3:28pm: Masahiro Tanaka has left the Yankees to travel to New York for an MRI on his right elbow, according to George King. Jon Heyman says Tanaka told the team he was dealing with some discomfort following last night’s start, so hopefully this is nothing more than a precaution.
The Indians roughed Tanaka up for five runs on ten hits in 6.2 innings last night, though after the game he told reporters he “didn’t feel that bad.” Last time out the Twins got to him for four runs on nine hits in seven innings. That had been his worst start of the season up until that point. It’s worth noting Tanaka’s fastball velocity has wavered in his last few starts, but last night he actually had his highest average fastball velocity of the season at 92.46 mph.
Here’s the obligatory velocity graph from Brooks Baseball:
Tanaka has been relatively healthy throughout his career, though he did miss about a month with shoulder inflammation during the spring of 2012 while with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. His workload in Japan was a hot topic over the winter — Tanaka had thrown more than 1,300 innings before his 25th birthday, a number only Felix Hernandez has approached among MLB pitchers in recent years.
The Yankees have made sure to give Tanaka extra rest whenever possible this season — ten of his 18 starts this year have come with at least one extra day of rest — and only four times did he throw more than 110 pitches. They’ve been pretty careful with him as he transitioned from a seven-day schedule to a five-day schedule, no doubt about it.
Even if the MRI comes back perfectly clean, I would put money on Tanaka not making his scheduled start in Baltimore on Sunday. It’s the final day of the first half and the Yankees have an opportunity to give him a nice extended rest during the All-Star break. No reason not to take advantage of it at this point. It goes without saying that losing Tanaka for any length of time would be devastating.
The following is a guest post from long-time reader Sung-Min Kim, who you can follow on Twitter at @SungMinKim116.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I think of the offseason of 2006~07, I always think “what if?” the Yankees had signed Ted Lilly. Theodore Roosevelt Lilly, as you may recall, was a Yankee long time ago until the trade that brought Jeff Weaver to Bronx (“Lilly had cried the day in 2002 when Cashman traded him.”) The lefty went on to have few solid seasons with the Athletics and the Jays – 9.7 cumulative fWAR from 2003-06 – until he hit free agency for the first time after the ‘06 season. Lilly strongly wanted to be a Yankee again but the team let him take the Cubs’ offer. Actually, they had someone else in mind by the time Lilly agreed with the Cubs – on November 29, 2006, the Yankees had won the bidding to talk with the Japanese lefty, Kei Igawa. Lilly signed for a four-year, $40 million contract and the Yankees spent a total of $46 million dollars ($26 million in bidding, and $20 million in 5-year contract) for Igawa.
Safe to say, the Bronx Bombers probably should have gone the other way. During the four-year contract with the Cubs, and later the Dodgers, Lilly compiled 12.8 cumulative fWAR — a top 30 figure among the starters who pitched between 2007-10. Igawa, on the other hand, made only 16 total appearances during the five-year contract while compiling an abysmal -0.2 fWAR. Looking at it any shape or form, the Yankees lost out pretty big on this one. While in the Yankee organization, Igawa became the laughingstock of the fans, toiling in the minors for the most of his contract. But before the ill-advised decision by the Yankees front office, what got Igawa the Yankee attention? Who was he?
A winter’s worth of rumors about an international spending spree proved true last week when the Yankees signed more than 20 players and spent more than six times their spending pool on the first day of the 2014-15 signing period. You can relive the day right here. Here’s more breaking down the record-setting day, and here are some more stray signings and links:
- The Yankees have signed 16-year-old Venezuelan OF Raymundo Moreno for $600k, reports Ben Badler. He is not among Baseball America‘s nor MLB.com‘s list of the top 30 international prospects. Balder says Moreno has “above-average speed, an average arm and gets good reads off the bat in the outfield. He has good bat speed and gap power from the right side.”
- Jesse Sanchez reports the Yankees have signed Dominican SS Griffin Garabito for $225k while Kiley McDaniel says they have also signed 19-year-old Dominican RHP Yossty Vargas. Both are older (relative term here) prospects who can begin playing right away. Neither was ranked among Baseball America’s or MLB.com’s top 30 international prospects.
- In an Insider-only piece, Chris Crawford says that ” in terms of both quality and quantity, [the Yankees had] the most impressive class by a considerable margin.” He also notes that they are also considered the favorite to sign a few of the top players who are still available.
Total Known Bonuses: $15.335M. Total Penalties: ~$13.135M. Total Spent: ~$28.47M.
Via Joel Sherman: The Yankees have called to check in with the Cubs about their surplus of young shortstops. Chicago recently added Addison Russell to Javier Baez, Arismendy Alcantara, and Starlin Castro through the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade. Sherman says the Cubbies plan to hold onto their young shortstops for now, however. I don’t blame them.
It’s easy to be jealous of that shortstop quartet, but remember, only Castro is proven at the MLB level. The Cubs really have one shortstop and three unproven shortstop prospects. Baez has been a strikeout machine at Double-A and above (30.5%), for example. The Yankees have an obvious need for a young shortstop with Derek Jeter retiring and they wouldn’t be doing their job if they didn’t give Cubs a call. It’d be interested to see how a trade for one of those guys would work — prospect for prospect swaps are rare (I doubt Chicago wants a veteran player), especially when they involve an elite prospect. · (95) ·
This was a tale of two games. It was all Yankees in the first two innings and all Indians after that. Masahiro Tanaka‘s worst start of the season and an offense that completely vanished after the third inning led the Yankees to a 5-3 loss to the Indians on Tuesday night. The little two-game winning streak is snapped and New York is back to being only one game over .500 at 45-44.
Something came up tonight (nothing bad, everything’s fine), so I wasn’t able to watch this game at all after the first inning and can’t recap in much detail. Trevor Bauer was all over the place early on though, throwing 67 pitches in the first three innings while allowing three runs and putting seven of the first 14 men on base. Then he threw 45 pitches in the next four innings and retired 13 of the final 14 men he faced. The one base-runner came on a Nick Swisher error. It was a weak grounder right through his legs.
The Yankees did not have a hit after the third inning and did not have a base-runner after the fifth inning. They worked Bauer hard early on, scoring those three runs on a string of mostly singles — the sacrifice bunt in the second inning was silly with Bauer on the ropes, but in fairness, it was Zelous Wheeler at the plate. Two walks (of course) on the night, no extra-base hits. The 2014 Yankees in a nutshell.
Tanaka, meanwhile, got smacked around pretty good. He set a new season-high in hits (ten) and runs (five allowed) for the second straight start, surrendering a pair of homers to Michael Brantley and Swisher. Brantley was 3-for-4 with two doubles and the homer. He’s really impressive. Tanaka struck out five and got another ten outs on the ground, plus Cleveland hitters swung and missed 14 times at his 99 pitches, but his mistakes were crushed. He was bound to hit a rough patch at some point. The All-Star break will do him some good.
The box score and video highlights are at MLB.com. FanGraphs has some other stats and ESPN has the updated standings. Brandon McCarthy will make his Yankees debut on Wednesday night, in the third game of this four-game series. Vidal Nuno threw seven shutout innings for the Diamondbacks tonight. Somewhere there is a Yankees fan lamenting the trade. Josh Tomlin will be on the bump for the Tribe.
Minor League Update: No time for the full update tonight, sorry. The box scores can be found right here. 2B Rob Refsnyder had two hits (single, double), OF Zoilo Almonte had three hits (triple, two singles), 1B Peter O’Brien had two hits (double, homer), RHP Luis Severino struck out eight in four innings, LHP Jacob Lindgren fanned three in two perfect innings, and fourth rounder LHP Jordan Montgomery allowed three runs in two-thirds of an inning in his pro debut. That’s about it.
It’s the best day of the week. Masahiro Tanaka is making his penultimate start of the unofficial first half and he has a chance to give the Yankees their third straight win (and fifth in the last six games). It’s a good night for a win. Here is the Indians lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- DH Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- 2B Brian Roberts
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
- 1B Kelly Johnson
- 3B Zelous Wheeler
RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It’s hot and humid in Cleveland, but there is no rain in the forecast. There was earlier today. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.
Injury Updates: Carlos Beltran‘s knee feels “a lot better” and he is available to pinch hit tonight … Brandon McCarthy has officially reported to the team. He is wearing No. 38, if you’re curious. Bruce Billings was optioned to Triple-A Scranton in a corresponding move … Shane Greene is still listed with the starters on the lineup card while Chase Whitley remains listed with the relievers. Between that and Billings (the other long man) being sent down, it’s likely Greene will make another start.
Via George King: The Yankees do not have much interest in acquiring A.J. Burnett from the Phillies. Philadelphia has the fourth worst record in baseball at 38-51 and there are more and more rumblings that they be ready to sell. Cliff Lee is hurt and Cole Hamels has a ton of money left on his deal, so Burnett is a lower cost option.
Burnett, 37, has a 3.92 ERA (3.89 FIP) in 19 starts and 124 innings this year, though his strikeout (19.1%), walk (9.9%), and ground ball (49.6%) rates have dropped off considerably from last season. After coming to New York with concerns about his durability, Burnett has made at least 30 starts and thrown at least 186.2 innings every year from 2008-13. He’s a workhorse, if nothing else. The Yankees can use another innings eater even after acquiring Brandon McCarthy, but bringing Burnett back isn’t happening. The Javy Vazquez reunion seems to have eliminated the “bring back a guy who stunk in pinstripes one before” option. · (28) ·
As expected, the Yankees went on a huge international free agent spending spree when the signing period opened last Wednesday. By my unofficial count, the team signed 22 players for $14.51M worth of bonuses on the first day of the signing period alone, and those are just the players we know about. I’m certain there are other deals in place that have not yet been reported.
Now that the signing period has opened and most of the heavy lifting has been completed, let’s break down everything that happened on the international front. There’s a lot to digest here.
The Yankees were assigned a $2.2M signing pool for international players this summer, but they blew right through that. Based on what we know, they will have to pay approximately $12.31M in taxes for going over their pool, and the final number will be higher than that since it is inevitable several signings have yet to be reported. Between bonuses and penalties, the current total payout is $26.82M, or thereabouts.
In addition to the tax, the Yankees are now prohibited from signing a player to a bonus larger than $300k during both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 signing periods, the last two covered by the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. Here is the most important thing: their signing pool will not change in those years. Their pool will be whatever size it’s supposed to be based on their finish in the standings, but now they can not hand out any big bonuses. They aren’t actually losing any pool money these next two signings periods.
So … Good Idea or Bad Idea?
I’ve been going back and forth about whether going all in on one signing period is a good idea. At this point I think it is. Yes, they effectively removed themselves from the bidding for the top international prospects in the next two signings periods, but the Yankees usually do a very good job of finding cheap talent in Latin America. RHP Luis Severino ($225k), SS Abi Avelino ($300k), and SS Thairo Estrada ($45k) all signed for relative peanuts. Heck, go back a few years and both Robinson Cano ($150k) and Ivan Nova ($80k) came cheap. That $300k bonus cap the next two summers shouldn’t hinder them from finding quality prospects.
More than anything, I think it’s good the Yankees added all that talent right now. Remember, we’re talking about 16-year-old kids here. Even if things work out great, we’re still talking about four or five years in the minors before they make their MLB debut. It’ll take another few years after that for them to have a real impact. This is a long-term process and by signing all of these players now, the Yankees are starting that process. They added a ton of talent in one fell swoop. (Signing players is the easy part, developing them into MLB players is the real challenge.) I’ll take a bunch of top youngsters today over the prospect of signing top youngsters tomorrow.
What Kind Of Talent Are We Talking About Here?
As always, information about international prospects is hard to come by. It’s gotten about a million times better over the last few years, but there are still lots of conflicting reports. Here are where the team’s most notable signees were ranked by Baseball America and MLB.com, for comparison:
|SS Dermis Garcia||$3.2M||9th||1st|
|3B Nelson Gomez||$2.25M||6th||2nd|
|OF Juan De Leon||$2M||2nd||5th|
|OF Jonathan Amundaray||$1.5M||22nd||7th|
|SS Wilkerman Garcia||$1.35M||7th||14th|
|SS Hyo-Jun Park||$1.16M||18th||13th|
|C Miguel Flames||$1M||16th||25th|
|OF Antonio Arias||$800k||28th||9th|
|SS Diego Castillo||$750k||24th||16th|
According to MLB.com, the Yankees signed the top two, three of the top five, four of the top seven, five of the top nine, and eight of the top 20 available prospects. According to Baseball America, they signed one of the top five, three of the top eight, four of the top nine, and six of the top 20 prospects. Bit of a difference there, and you know what? That’s perfectly fine. Consensus rankings are boring. The most important thing is that both publications agree the Yankees landed some of the very best international prospects last week. They brought in the elite.
Bats, Not Arms
As you may have noticed in the table, all of the team’s notable signings are position players, particularly up the middle players (De Leon and Amundaray are center fielders). This year’s crop of international free agents was light on pitchers to start with — according to Baseball America, only two of the top ten and five of the top 30 prospects were pitchers — but hoarding position players prospects is not a bad idea in and of itself.
Offense is getting harder and harder to find these days. Run-scoring around the league is down to its lowest point in years — MLB teams have a combined .316 OBP in 2014, which would be the lowest since 1972, the year before the DH was adopted — and that makes quality bats even more of a top commodity. Pitching is important, it absolutely is, but right now impact bats are something of a market inefficiency. Everyone wants one but few are actually available. Look at the Cubs and their prospects. Remember, not all of these guys will be future Yankees. Some will be used as trade bait and young, high-end bats are valuable. Stockpiling position player prospects makes a ton of sense.
Exposing A Broken System
This last week has exposed just how broken MLB’s spending restriction system is. The system was intended to level the playing field and give every club a shot at acquiring the best talent, but instead the Yankees (and Red Sox, as well) blew through their spending limit and signed the top available talents. Meanwhile, both the Brewers and Rays had to swing trades for pool money to sign just one top prospect because they can’t afford to pay the penalties.
Rather than create a fairer market, the new system has given large market clubs even more of an advantage. It’s not about a willingness to go over the pool to sign players, every team would do it if possible, but some simply can not do it financially. The Yankees didn’t break the rules at all, they will pay the tax and deal with the bonus limitations the next two years, but to them that is simply the cost of doing business. Smaller market teams can’t dream of doing that. Expect the system to change somehow during the next round of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.
- Mark Teixeira (knee) may need to have fluid drained again at some point. He had surgery to clean up some cartilage during the 2007-08 offseason and has had to have it drained every once in a while since. Teixeira hasn’t had any trouble since sitting out a game last week.
- Carlos Beltran (knee) was examined by doctors and told the swelling is only a minor issue. It’s his hamstring more than the knee and he remains day-to-day. “That happened to me before,” he said. “I came in [Monday] and had a lot of treatment. I feel better. I’m going to do the whole preparation and see if I can get into the lineup [Tuesday] … The doctor came and said these type of injuries, with anit-inflammatories, it can be back (to normal) soon.”
- Michael Pineda (shoulder) has been throwing off flat ground for more than a week now and everything is going fine. The Yankees are hopeful he can throw off a mound either later this week or early next week. “He’s playing catch,” said Joe Girardi. “He’s up to 90 feet. I think the hope is that at the end of the week, next week, we start to get him on a mound.”
- Matt Thornton was unavailable for a few days last week due to soreness. Not sure if it was his arm or what. Thornton warmed up in the extra innings loss to the Rays last Monday, never got into the game, then did not pitch again until Saturday. He missed time with an oblique issue last year but otherwise has been pretty healthy since about 2004.
Thanks to baseball’s general mediocrity, the Yankees remain in the postseason hunt — they come into today 3.5 games back of both the top spot in the AL East and the second wildcard — but there’s little chance they will play in October without getting help at the trade deadline. They already acquired Brandon McCarthy, but that move alone isn’t putting them over the top. They need more help, both pitching and offense.
We know the Diamondbacks are ready to sell because they’ve started doing it already. It’s not just the McCarthy trade, they also dealt Joe Thatcher and Tony Campana over the weekend. Last week we looked at the pitchers they could peddle (pre-McCarthy deal), and now it’s time to look at the position players. Remember, just because the Yankees and D’Backs have already gotten together for one trade this month does not mean they can’t hook up again.
2B Aaron Hill
Hill, 32, has been one of the most productive second basemen in baseball over the last few years, at least on and off. He hit .298/.359/.501 (129 wRC+) with 37 homers in 243 games from 2012-13, but this year he’s dropped down to .239/.275/.356 (70 wRC+) with six homers in 85 games. It’s not the first time Hill has had this kind of drop-off either. He went from 36 homers to almost being designated for assignment while with the Blue Jays back in the day.
Hill’s strikeout rate (17.5%) is way up and his walk rate (4.3%) is way down this year (13.0 K% and 7.9 BB% from 2012-13), though his plate discipline stats are right in line with the last few years. He isn’t swinging more or less often, either at stuff inside or outside the zone, which suggests his strikeout and walk numbers may return to his career norms in time. Maybe he’s offering at more pitchers’ pitches, but the plate discipline numbers don’t come with any red flags. It’s weird.
The biggest concern with Hill is that his power is way down. He had a .203 ISO from 2012-13, but is down to only .117 this year. Again, his batted ball profile is right in line with the last few years, so there are no red flags there, and batted ball distance data shows he is hitting the ball just as far this year (on average) as the last few seasons:
I’m not quite sure how the explain the poor strikeout, walk, and power numbers, which is not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing. It could be a indication he is having an unlucky year — I think the word “luck” has jumped the shark in baseball, but it still exists, sometimes guys have bad years or no real reason — and will bounce back in the future, or it could be a sign there is some kind of mechanical/swing issue we can’t detect with the stats. That’s much more problematic.
The Diamondbacks bought into Hill’s huge 2012 season (132 wRC+) and gave him a three-year, $35M extension the following spring. He is owed approximately $5.5M through the end of the season plus $12M in each of the next two seasons. If he was still mashing 20+ homers with a 120+ wRC+ and average defense at second, it would be more than a fair salary. But he’s not doing that anymore. Hill’s production has fallen way off and he is at that age when second basemen tend to fall off a cliff.
IF/OF Martin Prado
Like Hill, Prado’s production has fallen off this season after very successful 2012-13 campaigns. The 30-year-old hit .292/.346/.427 (111 wRC+) with 24 homers and 20 steals in 311 games from 2012-13, though this year he is at .268/.313/.365 (86 wRC+) in 89 games. His strikeout (13.9%), walk (4.9%), and plate discipline numbers are right in line with the career averages, though he is hitting a ton more grounders (53.8%) and that has sapped his power (.097 ISO).
Now Prado is not much of a power hitter to start with, at least not over the fence power. He’s usually good for 10-15 homers per season, though he’ll also chip in 30+ doubles per year as well. This season he has four dingers and only 13 two-baggers. It’s fairly common for contact hitters to start beating the ball into the ground when they decline, but Prado seems a little too young for that. A half-season of batted ball data is hardly enough to conclude he’s in irreversible age-related decline.
As you may know, Prado has always stood out for his versatility. He has a ton of experience at second base, third base, and in right field. He’s also filled in at shortstop, right field, and first base on occasion. The various defensive stats say he’s a tick above average at third and in left but slightly below average at second. Hill has been a second baseman exclusively for about eight years now, so while Prado can not match his over-the-fence power ability, he makes up for it by being able to play more positions competently.
Arizona gave Prado a four-year extension worth $40M last spring. He is owed about $5M through the end of the season plus $11M in both 2015 and 2016, so he and Hill have basically identical contract situations. If he was producing like regular old Martin Prado, it would be more than a fair wage. Since he is having a down year and it’s unclear if there is something more to it than just the general ups and downs of baseball, it’s a bit more scary.
OF Cody Ross
The Yankees have received only 15 homers from right-handed hitters this year, six by the departed Alfonso Soriano. They went into last night’s game hitting only .257/.321/.375 (92 wRC+) against lefties this season. That’s pretty terrible. The need for another right-handed power bat is pretty obvious.
Ross, 33, dislocated his hip (!) running through first base last August, an injury that required surgery and kept him on the shelf at the start of the season. He returned in mid-April and has hit .224/.278/.279 (53 wRC+) overall, including .260/.327/.260 (67 wRC+) against lefties. Before the injury, Ross put up a stout .339/.399/.612 (170 wRC+) batting line with 16 homers in 242 plate appearances against southpaws from 2012-13. Considering he is coming off the hip injury and has nearly twice as many plate appearances against righties (103) than lefties (55), this year’s poor performance isn’t all that surprising.
The D’Backs gave Ross a three-year deal worth $25M two winters ago, so he is owed approximately $4.5M through the end of the season plus another $9.5M in 2015. That’s pretty pricey for the right-handed half of a right field platoon, no? Maybe Arizona would be willing to eat some money like they did with McCarthy. Ross can play all three outfield spots and is no worse than slightly below-average everywhere, which is neither good nor terrible. It’s tolerable. If you think he can get back to his 2012-13 form as he gets further away from the hip injury and are willing to live with that salary, Ross would make a lot of sense for the Yankees.
In Didi Gregorius and Chris Owings, the Diamondbacks have two highly marketable young shortstops. Gregorius, 24, is hitting .222/.337/.389 (97 wRC+) in only 87 plate appearances this year after opening the season in Triple-A, where he had a 123 wRC+. Last season he hit .252/.332/.373 (91 wRC+) as the everyday shortstop. The book on him continues to be that he can legitimately play shortstop long-term, but his bat leaves a lot to be deserved.
The 22-year-old Owings took the shortstop job from Gregorius to start the year, though he has been sidelined by a relatively minor shoulder problem these last two weeks. He was hitting .277/.313/.458 (110 wRC+) with six homers in 254 plate appearances before the injury. Owings is considered a slick fielder like Gregorius, but he offers way more pop and impact potential with the bat. UConn product Nick Ahmed, 24, put up a 119 wRC+ in 336 Triple-A plate appearances before being called up the other day. He is the best defender of the trio but also likely the worst hitter despite his minor league numbers this year. That is an enviable group of young middle infields, no doubt about it.
* * *
Real talk forthcoming: if Hill and/or Prado were on the Yankees, we’d be talking about them as overpaid veterans who are part of the problem. But, because they’re on another team and the grass is always greener, they’re being looked at as possible solutions. I think versatility is overrated and would prefer Hill to Prado, especially given the team’s need for right-handed power, but I’m just not sure if he’s simply having a bad year or is starting to decline.
Hill had two and a half years left on his contract when he was traded from the Blue Jays to the D’Backs a few years ago, and all Arizona gave up was … Kelly Johnson. They bought really low and it has worked out wonderfully. (No, Kevin Towers probably will take Johnson back for Hill now.) Hill’s trade value figures to be a little higher this time around despite his performance, especially if Arizona is willing to eat some cash like they did with McCarthy, but I don’t have any idea what a reasonable package would be. Two good but not great prospects? Someone like Ramon Flores or Rafael DePaula? I’m not sure.
Ross is owed a ton of money relative to his role and the D’Backs would have to eat some to make a deal palatable. Even then they would have to take back very little, a player to be named later type. I greatly prefer Owings to Gregorius and especially Ahmed. Obviously adding Derek Jeter‘s long-term replacement should be a goal for the Yankees in the near future. Players like Owings and Gregorius are usually dealt as part of a package for an established veteran, not by a team that is selling. Tough to gauge their market value. Arizona has some potentially useful position players for the Yankees, but for different reasons, it’s tough to pin down the exact trade value of each.