Update: Headley heading for x-rays after taking pitch to chin

10:28pm: Headley is heading for x-rays and additional tests on his jaw and will not leave with the team when they travel to Baltimore tonight.

10:07pm: Chase Headley left tonight’s game in the ninth inning after taking a Jake McGee fastball to the chin. He was down on the ground for several minutes and there was blood, but he seemed to be responsive. Team doctor Dr. Ahmad even came out to check on him, which you rarely see. Headley eventually walked off the field under his own power. Scary, scary stuff. Stay tuned for any updates.

Game 144: Big Mike takes on the Rays

BIG MIKE IS HERE

For the fifth straight series, the Yankees have split the first two games. They’re sending Big Mike Pineda to the mound tonight as they try to win the rubber game for only the second time in those five series.

Pineda has emerged as the staff ace at this point but the Yankees just don’t score any runs for him. Among the 191 starters who have thrown at least 40 innings this season, Pineda ranks 191st in run support. Dead last. The Yankees average 2.22 runs when he’s in the game. I guess that’s why they’re 3-6 in his nine starts even though he has a 1.80 ERA. Here is the Rays lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. SS Derek Jeter
  3. C Brian McCann
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. DH Chase Headley
  6. RF Ichiro Suzuki
  7. 2B Stephen Drew
  8. LF Chris Young
  9. 3B Brendan Ryan
    RHP Michael Pineda

It’s cloudy, warm, and humid in New York right now, but there is no rain in the forecast. Tonight’s game will start just after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

With postseason a long shot, Yanks should send Beltran for elbow surgery

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

Not long before last night’s win over the Rays, the Yankees had to scratch Carlos Beltran from the starting lineup because of soreness in his right elbow. He has a bone spur in the elbow, as you know, and he’s been nursing the injury since early-May. It has limited him to mostly DH duty and last night was not the first time lingering soreness forced him to skip a game. As someone who’s dealt with a bone spur, I know they can be far from comfortable.

Both the Yankees and Beltran have said he will have surgery to remove the bone spur immediately after the season, though he has played through it these last few months in an effort to help the team remain in the postseason race. That hasn’t happened though. The Yankees have faded out of the postseason picture — FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at a 1.6% right now — and it will take a historic run to win a wildcard spot at this point. It’s not gonna happen.

Because the Yankees are a long shot to play October baseball, they should get a head start on the offseason and send Beltran for his surgery right now. They’ve said he will need two months of rest before he can resume baseball activities, which won’t interfere with his usual offseason routine, but we’ve seen CC Sabathia (elbow) and Derek Jeter (ankle) have offseason surgery in recent years only to need more time to recover than expected. Beltran is 37 years old, remember. A setback or a slow recovery wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world.

Now, this is not the same situation as Masahiro Tanaka. We already know Beltran is having surgery. It’s going to happen as soon as the season ends. The Yankees and Tanaka are actively trying to avoid his elbow surgery though, a surgery that is much more serious than what Beltran will go through. If Tanaka was definitely going to have his surgery, then yeah, I’d be all for sending him for it right now. That’s not the case though. It is the case with Beltran. We know he’s having the procedure. There’s a different dynamic.

In hindsight, the Yankees should have just sent Beltran for the surgery when he initially got hurt. Word got out that he had the bone spur on May 13th, and he hit a weak .192/.252/.365 (68 wRC+) over the next two months, the time he would have missed during his rehab. The Yankees wouldn’t have missed his bat at all and they would have had a healthy Beltran for the second half. Obviously it doesn’t work exactly like that — who knows how long it would have taken Beltran to get his timing back, etc. — but playing through the injury didn’t exactly help.

Between Brett Gardner (abdomen) and Martin Prado (hamstring), the Yankees are already short two regular position players. Beltran would make it three but that’s a minor issue at this point. Rosters are expanded and their postseason odds are remote. Chris Young and Ichiro Suzuki would get a few extra at-bats and maybe Antoan Richardson would get a start. Who cares. Ending Beltran’s season 19 games early won’t mean much of anything to the 2014 Yankees.

Joe Girardi told reporters last night that the team is considering shutting Beltran down for the season and sending him for the surgery, but they’re going to wait two of three days before making a final decision. That’s fine. Two or three days isn’t a big deal. I’m just happy they’re considering the option and not stubbornly looking to keep him in the lineup and in an effort to feign contention. Shutting Beltran down now won’t change anything with regards to where the team sits in the standings, but getting the two-week head start on the surgery would help put him in the best possible position to help the team in early-2015.

Teixeira blames injuries, down year on lack of a normal offseason

Prior to yesterday’s game, Mark Teixeira told reporters his nagging injuries and declining production this year are the result of having a restricted offseason following wrist surgery. “I’m really looking forward to getting stronger this offseason. That’s going to keep me healthier,” he said to Brendan Kuty. “Look, this year was not a year, health-wise, that I was happy about, so (a normal offseason) will keep me healthier and that’s going to improve performance, no doubt.”

Teixeira, 34, is down to .223/.322/.415 (106 wRC+) on the season, easily the worst full season of his career. I’m happy he thinks he can rebound with a normal offseason but I’m going to need to see it to believe it. Teixeira battled nagging injuries during the 2012 season — remember the cough? he also missed time with wrist and quad injuries that year — and he had a normal offseason before that. At this point I think he’s just an older player breaking down and seeing his production slip, which happens to most players in their mid-30s. I’d be thrilled if Teixeira rebounded in 2015. I just don’t see why I should think it will happen.

Mailbag: Asdrubal, Shortstops, Kang, Reynolds

The Yankees have a doubleheader tomorrow, meaning there won’t be time for the mailbag in the morning. My options were either post the mailbag a day early or not at all, so I went with the former. I’ve got five questions this week and three are kinda long. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar if you’d like to send us anything throughout the week. The mailbag will still be posted Friday morning going forward.

(Greg Fiume/Getty)
(Greg Fiume/Getty)

Brian asks: Mentioned in the “thoughts” piece, but there are a number of SS available in free agency this year. Doesn’t Asdrubal Cabrera make the most sense as a guy who is only 28 years old?

Like I said in the post, Cabrera and every one of the other shortstop free agents comes with their pluses and minuses. Hanley Ramirez is a legitimate middle of the order hitter but he gets hurt all the time and is awful in the field. Stephen Drew is very good in the field but looks like he forgot how to hit. J.J. Hardy is also a legit shortstop but his power fell off big time this year. Jed Lowrie can hit when he’s not hurt or busy being a butcher in the field.

Cabrera, who will turn 29 in November, had two pretty big years with the Indians from 2011-12, putting up a 116 wRC+ with 41 homers across those two seasons. He slumped down to 94 wRC+ last year but has rebounded to hit .247/.311/.398 (101 wRC+) with 14 homers so far in 2014. The defensive stats hate Cabrera, consistently rating him as a below-average defender throughout his career. From what I’ve seen, he has a knack for the highlight play but will botch the routine play more than a big league shortstop should. (He’s playing second base for the Nationals right now, in deference to Ian Desmond at short.)

Asdrubal is a switch-hitter who has been better against righties (111 wRC+) than lefties (100 wRC+) over the last four years, and the split has been even more pronounced the last two years (106 vs. 80 wRC+). He does have power though, plus he doesn’t strike out much either (17.1%), a skill that is increasingly valuable in this offensively starved era. The defense is iffy and because he was traded at midseason, the Nationals won’t be able to make Cabrera a qualifying offer, so he won’t cost a draft pick to sign. I’m not sure Cleveland would have made him the offer anyway.

The fact that Cabrera is only 28 is nice, but I wouldn’t overvalue his age and the perception that he has more upside remaining. The guy has has played almost 1,000 games and has more than 4,000 plate appearances to his credit. We have a pretty good idea what he is at this point, and that’s an average-ish hitter with good power for the position but sketchy defense. It’s worth noting Cabrera is swinging at more pitches than every before these last two years — both in and out of the zone — so maybe he’ll get back to being a 115+ wRC+ hitter with some more plate discipline. He’s a viable shortstop candidate but I wouldn’t get too caught up in his age. The other guys are very good players in their own right.

(Mitchell Leff/Getty)
(Mitchell Leff/Getty)

J. Kelly asks: Even with a deep SS free agent class and that being the most likely route the Yanks go in search of a SS, who would be some potential trade targets to fill that spot?

The obvious big name shortstop trade target is Troy Tulowitzki, who as far as we know is not even going to be on the market. The Rockies have been very hesitant to deal him. Tulowitzki also just underwent surgery to repair a torn hip labrum, which is pretty scary. If he slows down at all the field, his value is going to take a huge hit. Even with his annual injuries, Tulo is the best shortstop in baseball and it’s not all that close. I’d take 100 games of him and 62 of a replacement level shortstop over any other shortstop in baseball. I just don’t see him being available.

The other big name shortstop trade candidate is going to be Jimmy Rollins, who is under contract next season for $11M after his option vested. He’s already said he’s open to accepting a trade under the right circumstances and I think coming to the Yankees to replace Derek Jeter seems like something right up Jimmy’s alley. He has quietly had strong year, hitting .243/.323/.394 (102 wRC+) with 17 homers, 28 steals, and his usually strong defense. I know he’s an old guy and the Yankees should avoid old guys at all costs for reasons, but trading for one year of Rollins is not a bad idea if the free agent prices are through the roof in my opinion. Not at all.

Other than those two, I suppose the Tigers could shop Jose Iglesias if they’re happy with Eugenio Suarez at short. Iglesias hasn’t played all year due to stress fractures in his shins, so his value is down. (I don’t see the point in trading for a glorified Brendan Ryan when you already have the real Brendan Ryan.) Everth Cabrera seems to be on the way out with the Padres, the Cubs have a bunch of young shortstops to offer if you’re willing to give them an ace, the Mariners might move Brad Miller or Chris Taylor if they really believe in one or the other, and I’m sure the Mets would give Ruben Tejada away at this point. That looks to be about it for the shortstop trade market, though surprise names always pop up every winter.

Travis asks: Have you heard anything linking the Yankees to Korean SS Jung-Ho Kang? Has good defense and power from right side.

Outside of a recent Nick Cafardo report saying the Cardinals had interest at one point, there hasn’t been anything linking the Yankees or any other team to Kang. The 27-year-old is hitting .360/.463/.757 with 33 doubles and 38 homers in 107 games for the Nexen Heroes this year, easily the best season of his very good career. Here are the obligatory stats (the obligatory video is above):

Year Age Tm Lg G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2006 19 Hyundai KBO 10 21 1 3 1 0 0 1 0 1 0 8 .150 .150 .200 .350
2007 20 Hyundai KBO 20 15 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 .133 .133 .133 .267
2008 21 Woori KBO 116 408 36 98 18 1 8 47 3 1 31 65 .271 .334 .392 .726
2009 22 Woori KBO 133 538 73 136 33 2 23 81 3 2 45 81 .286 .349 .508 .857
2010 23 Nexen KBO 133 522 60 135 30 2 12 58 2 2 61 87 .301 .391 .457 .848
2011 24 Nexen KBO 123 504 53 125 22 2 9 63 4 6 43 62 .282 .353 .401 .754
2012 25 Nexen KBO 124 519 77 137 32 0 25 82 21 5 71 78 .314 .413 .560 .973
2013 26 Nexen KBO 126 532 67 131 21 1 22 96 15 8 68 109 .291 .387 .489 .876
2014 27 Nexen KBO 107 458 98 137 33 2 38 107 3 3 62 98 .360 .463 .756 1.219
9 Seasons 892 3517 465 904 190 10 137 535 51 28 381 593 .298 .382 .503 .885
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/10/2014.

Kang is said to be a true shortstop with strong defense, and his best offensive tool is his big power from the right side. Supposedly he’s a dead fastball hitter who struggles against good breaking pitches, which would be a major concern if true. Remember, Kang is playing in Korea, where the level of competition is even lower than Japan.

I remember reading something a few years ago that pointed it almost all the successful position players to come over from Asia were outfielders because the game on the infield is simply too fast and too big of an adjustment. Akinori Iwamura is the most notable recent Asian import to make it work on the infield in MLB, and he was nothing more than a league average player for two and a half years. Others like Kaz Matsui and Tsuyoshi Nishioka flopped despite being high-profile pickups and stars in Japan. That doesn’t mean Kang will be a bust, but it’s something to keep in mind.

I don’t know nearly enough about Kang right now to say whether the Yankees should have interest in him, but I’m sure they’ll do their due diligence. He’s a shortstop and he has power, two things the Yankees desperately need. Reports say he will be definitely posted this winter, and MLB’s posting agreement still uses the old posting rules. It’s a blind bid for the right to negotiate with the player for 30 days. The release fee nonsense Masahiro Tanaka went through only applies to Japanese players.

JPK asks: I’m for re-signing Chase Headley and DHing A-Rod. But an acceptable alternative in my mind would be to go back after Mark Reynolds, agree or disagree?

I like Reynolds. He’s a potentially useful player if you look at what he is instead of focusing on the strikeouts. Reynolds went into last night’s game hitting .196/.288/.392 (87 wRC+) with 21 home runs, and it’s worth noting his offensive production has declined from a 116 wRC+ in 2011 to a 109 wRC+ in 2012 to a 95 wRC+ last year to an 87 wRC+ this year. He can split time at the two corner infield spots and DH on occasion. The Yankees have sorely lacked power and a true backup first baseman this year, two roles Reynolds would fill. Would I give him 600 plate appearances? No way. But if he would take a minor league deal with an invite to Spring Training and try to win a 250-300 plate appearance bench job, great. I wouldn’t guarantee him multiple millions or anything. Remember, Reynolds turned the Yankees down last offseason to sign with the Brewers because they offered more playing time.

James asks: Obviously offense is down around the league, and many chalk it up to lack of PED’s, shifts, and strong bullpens. It also seems that the strike zone is much bigger than it used to be, the low and away pitch just off the plate often gets called, along with just below the knees. Any statistical proof of an increased strike zone from this year compared to the last few seasons?

Yes, absolutely. Jon Roegele put together a great PitchFX analysis of the strike zone back in January, showing that the zone is shrinking on the corners but getting bigger at the knees. A few days ago Jeff Sullivan showed the bottom of the zone has continued to get bigger this season. It’s easier to get a strike at the knees now than ever before — pitching coach Larry Rothschild made sure to emphasize the low strike in Spring Training — and I think that has absolutely contributed to the decline in offense around the league. Those pitches are hard enough to hit as it is, and now batters can’t let them go because they’re being called strike.