How does McCann fit into the Yankees’ long-term picture?

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Over the last two weeks or so the Yankees have changed their direction dramatically. Yes, they’re still playing up the “we’re trying to contend” angle, but they traded quality veteran players at the deadline and have installed several young prospects into the everyday lineup. Those kids are playing too. They’re not sitting on the bench three or four days at a time like we’ve seen in the past.

The first of those young players to arrive was catcher Gary Sanchez, who has started ten of 12 games since being called up. Six of those ten starts have come behind the plate, which is great, except the Yankees already have a pretty good veteran backstop in Brian McCann. McCann’s not someone you just brush aside, not with another two years and $34M left on is contract after the season.

McCann has started exactly two games behind the plate since Sanchez was called up. That’s it. Sanchez has caught six and Austin Romine has caught four. McCann has started five other games at DH, so he’s been in the lineup seven times and out of the lineup five times since Sanchez arrived. That’s a pretty drastic shift in playing time, right? This isn’t an A-Rod caliber benching, but it’s definitely a reduction in playing time.

There are reasons for this. One, Sanchez is clearly the catcher of the future and the Yankees want to see what he can do behind the plate on a regular basis, which means McCann has to sit. Two, McCann’s been in a pretty miserable slump, going only 14-for-77 (.182) in the second half. And three, it helps reduce the wear-and-tear on McCann. He’s not young in catcher years. There’s a lot of innings on that body.

Sanchez’s arrival has led to less playing time for McCann in the short-term. What happens in the long-term? That’s a pretty big question. I see three possible outcomes, only two of which are realistic.

1. Release McCann. This just isn’t going to happen. I know the Yankees cut ties with Alex Rodriguez last week, but quality catchers are very hard to find, and McCann is still very good relative to his peers at the position. You don’t just eat $34M across two years and let some other team have McCann for free. Do that and he’d be a Red Sox or Ray or Tiger or Indian or Astro in about three seconds. This ain’t happening.

2. Keep McCann. Again, McCann is pretty productive for a catcher, and there’s never anything wrong with keeping a productive catcher. The second half slump has taken a bite out of his numbers, but a .232/.334/.406 (100 wRC+) batting line and 15 homers from a backstop is nothing to sneeze at. Years ago we watched Joe Girardi mentor Jorge Posada when Posada first broke into the big leagues and learned how to be an everyday catcher. McCann can be that mentor to Sanchez next year. Could you think of a better veteran to watch over the kid? I can’t.

3. Trade McCann. A year ago at this time I probably would’ve laughed at the idea. But now we know the Yankees had trade talks with the Braves about McCann, and that the team is open to continuing trade talks — with any team, not just Atlanta — after slipping McCann through trade waivers earlier this month. After trading away Carlos Beltran, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman, why wouldn’t the Yankees listen to offers for McCann? They’d be doing themselves a disservice if they didn’t. (The big obstacle here is McCann’s no-trade clause.)

(Jason Miller/Getty)
(Jason Miller/Getty)

The McCann situation is similar to the Miller situation. The Yankees don’t have to trade him. He’s signed for another two years and if a team makes them a nice offer, great. But if not, they’re not going to just give him away for the sake of making a move. McCann’s a quality player who can be valuable to any franchise, even one going through a transition — “transition” is the Yankees’ word for rebuild — like the Yankees.

At the same time, the McCann situation is not similar to the Miller situation. For starters, Miller was a truly elite player at his position whereas McCann is merely really good. Also, there are seven (and sometimes eight) bullpen spots. There’s always room for a guy like Miller, on any team. Most teams only carry two catchers though, maybe three, so roster space is at more of a premium.

The Yankees are blessed with three big league quality catchers at the moment. McCann’s a proven veteran, Sanchez did everything he needed to do in Triple-A, and Romine has shown himself to be a passable backup. They could carry all three on the roster next season. Heck, they’re carrying all three right now. It was a little tough when A-Rod was still on the roster, but as long as that DH spot is not married to one player, three catchers is doable.

Doable doesn’t make it the best way to go, however. Especially since these guys aren’t versatile. It’s catcher and first base only. Romine doesn’t have much trade value — guys like Bobby Wilson and Bryan Holaday seem to be on waivers every other week — and Sanchez is presumably off-limits. McCann’s not stupid. He knows Sanchez is here to take over behind the plate long-term. Does that make him more willing to waive his no-trade clause? I guess that depends on the teams that want him.

Over the last few weeks the Yankees have moved on from several expensive veterans, either by trading them or releasing them. Mark Teixeira‘s going to be gone after the season and I’d bet good money on either Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury being trading over the winter. (So Gardner, basically.) The Yankees are going young and McCann’s one of those veterans the team will be able to replace internally rather easy.

There is no reason to rush into a decision with McCann. If the Yankees get a good trade offer in the coming weeks, great. If not, they can take McCann into the offseason and explore the trade market then. And if that doesn’t turn up anything good, they can carry him into next season. The fact Sanchez is here and getting the bulk of the playing time does mean that, for the first time since he arrived three years ago, McCann’s role with the Yankees going forward is not entirely certain.

The Yankees have moved on from some veterans, and now they’re way more fun and interesting


Last night’s 1-0 win over the Blue Jays was very much a nail-biter. The Yankees have 61 wins this season and not too many of them have been stress-free. This team doesn’t do blowouts. Not this year. So of course the Blue Jays were able to put the tying run on third base in the ninth inning. The Yankees had to sweat right up until the final out, and when it was all said and done, they won for the ninth time in 14 games since the trade deadline.

That trade deadline was a momentous day (or series of days) for the Yankees. They sold for the first time in nearly three decades, sending away three productive veterans (and Ivan Nova) for 12 total prospects (and Adam Warren). I don’t think many folks thought the Yankees would actually go through with the sell-off even though it was clearly in the best interests of the franchise long-term. It had to be done.

In many cases, once a team trades away productive veterans for prospects at the deadline, they slip back in the standings and really wear it the rest of the season. Not many teams sell and improve in the second half. Those seem like conflicting ideas. Usually it’s one or the other. Not both. It’s a little early to say the Yankees have improved since the trade deadline, but you know what? They are way more fun and interesting. I have zero doubts about that.

It’s all because of the young players. The Carlos Beltran trade has cleared the way for Aaron Judge, who is the first Yankee ever to record an extra-base hit in his first three career games. The first guy to do that in franchise history. Insane. Gary Sanchez has been up for close to two weeks and he’s been mashing. Judge and Sanchez recently hit balls a combined 900 feet or so for their first career home runs. It was incredible.

There’s also Tyler Austin and Chad Green, who have had their moments as well. Austin homered in his first MLB at-bat and Green shoved against the Blue Jays last night. Eleven strikeouts in six scoreless innings against that lineup? Amazing. Warren is back and that’s fun too. So is Aaron Hicks performing well since the deadline. About the only negative lately has been Luis Severino‘s two bad starts.

The Yankees had to make some tough decisions these last few weeks to make this all possible. Selling at the deadline was no doubt a difficult call for ownership. The team also pushed Alex Rodriguez out the door and ate the $25M or so left on his contract to get these young guys in the lineup. Brian McCann has not been completely benched, but his playing time has been reduced. Mark Teixeira‘s too. You think Joe Girardi wants to do that to those guys? Of course not. But it’s for the best.

Right now the Yankees are 4.5 games back of the second wildcard spot and FanGraphs has their postseason odds at 4.1% as of this writing. I have no idea whether this team can rally and get back in the thick of the playoff race. Probably not. The odds are stacked against them. I do know the Yankees have made smart moves designed to improve the franchise long-term, and I do know they’ve called up several exciting young players recently.

Judge’s and Sanchez’s at-bats are must see television right now. Same with Austin. As great as Beltran was this season, watching Judge is far more enjoyable, at least to me. Watching Sanchez and Austin is infinitely more exciting than watching A-Rod and Teixeira, and that’s coming from a huge A-Rod fan. It’s certainly helped that the Yankees have been winning and the young guys have produced right away. No doubt about it.

Now, that said, this would all still be really fun even if the Yankees were losing and the young guys were struggling because of what we hope this represents: the next great era of Yankees baseball. Judge and Sanchez are potential cornerstone pieces. They might hit third and fourth for the next decade. Or third and fifth with Greg Bird fourth. Austin, Green, and Severino are trying to force their way into the long-term mix too. There’s others like Ben Heller and Luis Cessa as well, and even more in Triple-A.

It has been a very, very long time since the Yankees last had this much young talent on their big league roster. Not since the mid-1990s, really. That’s not a Core Five comparison. That’s just a statement of fact. The Yankees have spent the last few years toeing the line between contention and mediocrity, and they’ve finally made moves geared towards improving the future. This is all new to a lot of us, and gosh, is it fun or what?

Green dominates, Judge drives in only run in 1-0 win over Blue Jays

So the Yankees just won a 1-0 game in which their right fielder (not Carlos Beltran) drove in the only run and their bullpen (not Andrew Miller and not Aroldis Chapman) made it stand up. That is pretty, pretty cool. The Yankees beat the Blue Jays by that 1-0 score Monday night.

More dangerous than he looks. (Presswire)
More dangerous than he looks. (Presswire)

Mean Green Machine
I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t feeling too great about Chad Green starting against the Blue Jays. They can really hit and Green came into this game with one good big league start in four tries. This one seemed like it could get out of hand early, but instead Green came out of the gate and retired the first 13 men he faced. He was dominant too. They weren’t hitting line drives right at people.

The perfect game bid came to an end in the fifth inning, when Troy Tulowitzki dunked a single into shallow left field. Darrell Ceciliani followed with a double into the right field corner to give Toronto runners on second and third with one out. The Yankees had a one-run lead at the time and it felt like it was gone after the double. Limit the Blue Jays to one run and go from there. That seemed like a plan.

Green wasn’t have any of that. He rebounded to strike out both Justin Smoak and Melvin Upton, stranding the two runners. The Upton at-bat was particularly grueling. Bossman Jr. forced Green to throw nine total pitches after he jumped ahead in the count 0-2, and after feeding him a steady diet of two-strike breaking balls, Green surprised him with a fastball on the outside corner for a called strike three. Just a perfect pitch. Upton was sitting slider all the way. The fastball was a total surprise.

I thought Green was done at that point. The Blue Jays forced him to throw 36 pitches that inning, so he was at 89 pitches through five, and when you get five shutout innings from a rookie starter against that lineup, it feels like you should take it and run. Instead, Joe Girardi sent Green back out for the sixth, and he struck out the side. He completely overpowered Josh Donaldson to end the inning. Blew him away with a high fastball. It was insane.

All told, Green held the Blue Jays to those two hits in six scoreless innings. He struck out eleven. Eleven! It was the second double digit strikeout game by a Yankee this season (Michael Pineda has the other). Green is the first Yankees rookie with 10+ strikeouts since Shane Greene in 2014. There’s something about that color, I guess. Check out the pitch mix, via Brooks Baseball:

Chad Green pitch selection

You’d like to see more changeups going forward, no doubt about it, but Green was heavy on the other four pitches and he mixed them very well. This wasn’t a “get ahead with fastballs, then throw sliders” start. He faced 20 batters and threw 13 first pitch sliders. This was a no nonsense start. Green attacked and yes, that led to some long counts because the Blue Jays fouled 27 of 104 pitches off, but he had the hitters on the defensive. What a start. I suggest watching the video:

Look at those sixth inning strikeouts. That’s not tricking guys. That’s overpowering them. This start was by far the best Green has looked in the big leagues. The Yankees really needed a start like that in general, but especially from one of their young arms. They collectively have not looked good in 2016.

One Run, Despite Their Best Efforts
This had all the look of a “they’re going to regret blowing all those opportunities” game. The Yankees put the first two runners on base in the both the first and second innings, but they scored neither time. They loaded the bases in the sixth and eighth innings, and scored neither time. The leadoff man reached base five times in eight offensive innings. None of the five scored. Argh!

The Yankees broke through for the game’s only run in the fourth inning because Aaron Judge was sick of this crap. R.A. Dickey walked Brian McCann and Gary Sanchez back-to-back with one out, then Judge basically inside-outed a flat knuckleball to the right-center field warning track for a run-scoring double. He looked like he flicked his wrists. I thought it was a little jam shot bloop off the bat. The damn thing nearly hit off the wall. Judge has shown some crazy power in these three games.


All told the Yankees went 2-for-18 (!) with runners in scoring position, and of course one of those two hits didn’t even scoring a run. Jacoby Ellsbury managed lead off the first with a double and still have a terrible game. He grounded out with runners on first and second in the second, struck out with runners on second and third in the fourth, hit a chopper back to the pitcher with the bases loaded in the sixth, and struck out with runners on first and second in the eighth. Woof. Nine left on base.

Judge and Gary Sanchez both went 2-for-3 with a walk. The other seven hitters went a combined 4-for-27 (.148) with five walks. That youthful bat speed is a welcome addition to the lineup, though it should be noted both Chase Headley and McCann each had a hit and two walks. They did their job. Not a great night by the offense overall, but you know what? Sometimes you need to win a game 1-0.

Dellin’s Escape Job
New old Yankees Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren combined for perfect seventh and eighth innings. Clippard’s inning was huge. He faced the 3-4-5 hitters and retired them on nine pitches. Dellin Betances came in for the ninth inning and things got hairy. He jumped ahead of Josh Thole, the No. 9 hitter, 0-2 in the count, but ended up walking him to start the inning. ARGH.

Donaldson rifled a single back up the middle later in the inning for give Toronto runners on corners with one out. Edwin Encarnacion, who is hitting roughly .380/.550/.900 since the start of June (.298/.401/.662, to be exact), was up to the plate and he hit a rocket. Statcast measured it at 103 mph off the bat. It just so happened to be a grounder right at Headley.

Never in doubt! (It was very much in doubt.) That was a hold onto your butts ninth inning for sure, and while I was hoping Betances would get out of it with a pair of strikeouts, a hard-hit 5-4-3 double play will work just as well. Dellin’s 5-for-5 in save chances as the closer this season. This was also the first time all season he pitched a full inning and did not strike out a batter. It was only his fourth strikeout-less game in 57 appearances overall.

I guess I kinda covered it all already, huh? Well, the Yankees are now 9-5 since selling at the trade deadline, so that’s fun. I feel like I should mention that. Also, Green got the win and Judge drove in the game’s only run. The youth movement is pretty darn fun, isn’t it?

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
ESPN is the place to go for the box score and updated standings. has the video highlights and we have both Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages. By my unofficial count, the Yankees have played 38 series this season and YES has used 15 different booth combinations. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Blue Jays continue this three-game series with the middle game Tuesday night. Pineda and Marco Estrada are the scheduled starting pitchers, making that one a candidate for the most frustrating game of the year. Pineda is Pineda and Estrada excels at getting weak pop-ups with his upper-80s fastball. There are two games left on the homestand, and if you want to catch either live, go to RAB Tickets.

DotF: Acevedo returns, Amburgey extends hitting streak in Tampa’s win

Here are the day’s notes:

  • RHP Domingo Acevedo (back) was activated off the High-A DL, reports Josh Norris. He only missed two weeks. Acevedo was reportedly on the verge of being promoted to Double-A Trenton before getting hurt, so we’ll see how long it is until he finds himself with the Thunder.
  • Make sure you check out this Randy Miller feature on the caring and charitable side of OF Clint Frazier. He obviously a very talented baseball player, but Frazier also seems like a genuinely great person. It’ll be easy to root for him. That’s for sure.
  • And finally, congrats to Jorge Posada, who will be inducted into the NY-Penn League Hall of Fame this year, the league announced. Posada hit .235/.388/.359 with four homers in 71 games as a 19-year-old with the 1991 Oneonta Yankees.

Triple-A Scranton Game One (2-1 win over Norfolk in eight innings, walk-off style) makeup of the May 29th rainout

  • CF Mason Williams: 2-4, 1 R, 1 K — one of the two hits was an infield single, so the quad must be feeling good
  • RF Ben Gamel: 1-3, 1 CS
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 BB
  • DH Chris Parmelee: 0-2, 2 BB
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-3, 1 K
  • C Eddy Rodriguez: 0-0, 1 RBI — walk-off sac fly after replacing Higashioka, who was lifted for a pinch-runner in the bottom of the seventh … the pinch-runner (Cesar Puello) eventually scored the tying run
  • LF Jake Cave: 0-3 — in a brutal 5-for-48 (.104) slump
  • LHP Dietrich Enns: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 5/4 GB/FB — 53 of 92 pitches were strikes (58%) … 13th time in 22 starts he’s allowed no more than one earned run
  • RHP Johnny Barbato: 2.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/4 GB/FB — 25 of 34 pitches were strikes (74%)

[Read more…]

Game 118: Beat the Blue Jays

Why yes, I did already buy a 99 JUDGE shirt. (Presswire)
Why yes, I did already buy a 99 JUDGE shirt. (Presswire)

Here’s a not-so-fun fact: the Yankees are 6-16 against the Blue Jays since last year’s trade deadline, including 2-8 at Yankee Stadium. They’ve been outscored 100-68 in the 22 total games. This is not a rivalry. It’s been thorough domination by Toronto. The Yankees have won just twice in nine tries against the Blue Jays this season, and if they’re going to have any chance of making the playoffs, that trend has to be reversed right now, starting tonight. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. SS Didi Gregorius
  4. 1B Mark Teixeira
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Brian McCann
  7. C Gary Sanchez
  8. RF Aaron Judge
  9. LF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Chad Green

Thankfully it has cooled down a bit in New York, meaning it was only about 90 degrees and humid today rather than 100 degrees and super humid like it was over the weekend. There is some light rain in the forecast throughout the night, but the really heavy stuff isn’t supposed to come down until the wee hours of the morning. Tonight’s game will begin a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES.

8/15 to 8/17 Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays


One AL East rival leaves town and another comes in. The first place Blue Jays are in the Bronx for a three-game series this week. The Yankees are still kinda sorta in the postseason race, and if they’re going to make things interesting, they have to keep winning series. They’ve won their last three series and need to keep it going. Unfortunately, the Yankees are 2-7 against the Blue Jays this season. They’ve been outscored 39-21. It hasn’t been pretty.

What Have They Done Lately?

Like last season, Toronto started off slowly this season before catching fire at midseason. They bottomed out at 19-23 on May 18th and have gone 48-28 since. That’s the best record not just in the AL, but all of baseball since that admittedly arbitrary date. Toronto is 67-51 overall with a +88 run differential. They’re a half-game up in the AL East and 6.5 games better than the Yankees.

Offense & Defense

Last season the Blue Jays had baseball’s highest scoring offense since the 2009 Yankees. This year’s they’re averaging a healthy 4.81 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, so they’re merely one of the best lineups and not the best lineup. Manager John Gibbons is without two important regulars: RF Jose Bautista (114 wRC+) and CF Kevin Pillar (79 wRC+). Bautista has a knee injury and Pillar has a thumb injury. Neither is coming back this week. OF Ezequiel Carrera (Achilles) is out too.

Encarnacion. (Presswire)
Encarnacion. (Presswire)

Even without Bautista, the Blue Jays still have an insane middle of the order led by 3B Josh Donaldson (157 wRC+) and DH Edwin Encarnacion (143 wRC+). SS Troy Tulowitzki (107 wRC+) has been much better of late too. 2B Devon Travis (120 wRC+) has come back very well from shoulder surgery, and LF Michael Saunders (129 wRC+) has been great this year. Those five guys are Toronto’s top offensive threats with Bautista sidelined. They do the majority of the damage.

C Russell Martin (92 wRC+) and 1B Justin Smoak (94 wRC+) are the other regular regulars. With Bautista and Pillar out, the Blue Jays have had to play OF Melvin Upton Jr. (87 wRC+) in center with an OF Junior Lake (74 wRC+)/OF Darrell Ceciliani (-31 wRC+) platoon in the other outfield spot. Not great. IF Darwin Barney (75 wRC+) and C Josh Thole (27 wRC+) are the other bench players. Only a three-man bench for the Blue Jays right now. More and more teams seem to be doing that.

The Blue Jays are very good defensively when at full strength. Losing Pillar and Bautista definitely hurts though. Upton and the Lake/Ceciliani platoon are a big downgrade. The infield is very good though — Donaldson is Gold Glove caliber at third, the other three guys are very good — as is Martin behind the plate. He’s still one of the top defensive catchers in the game.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (7:05pm ET): RHP Chad Green (vs. NYY) vs. RHP R.A. Dickey (vs. NYY)
Four years ago the Blue Jays acquired Dickey to be their ace, and now he’s their sixth best starter. The 41-year-old has a 4.61 ERA (5.28 FIP) in 24 starts and 142.2 innings, with the kind of peripherals you’d expect to see from a 41-year-old knuckleballer: 17.0% strikeouts, 8.6% walks, 43.4% grounders, and 1.64 HR/9. He also has a very small platoon split. Dickey’s knuckleball sits in the mid-70s and his show-me fastball averages 82 mph. He used to throw two knuckleballs with the Mets, a slow one in the low-70s and a harder one in the upper-70s, but not anymore. The Yankees scored four runs in 6.2 innings against Dickey back in May.

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TOR) vs. RHP Marco Estrada (vs. NYY)
Estrada, 33, has shown last year’s success was no fluke. He’s followed up his breakout season (3.13 ERA and 4.40 FIP) with a 2.95 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 20 starts and 128.1 innings this season. Estrada’s underlying stats don’t jump out at you (23.4 K%, 8.9 BB%, 34.3 GB%, 1.05 HR/9, small platoon split), but he’s a proven FIP beater because he’s adept at getting pop-ups and weak fly balls. The guy has a .217 BABIP this year after having a .216 BABIP last year. It’s not a fluke after 309.1 innings. Those pop-ups and weak fly balls are easy outs. Estrada does it with a dynamite upper-70s changeup that he throws with the same arm action as his upper-80s fastball. He screws up the hitter’s timing as well as any pitcher in the game. Estrada also throws some upper-80s cutters and mid-70s curves, but the fastball/changeup combo is his bread and butter. The Yankees have seen the veteran righty twice this season and it didn’t go well either time: three runs in seven innings and eight shutout innings, both in May.

Estrada. (Presswire)
Estrada. (Presswire)

Wednesday (1:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TOR) vs. LHP J.A. Happ (vs. NYY)
Spoiler alert: Happ is going to get a healthy number of Cy Young votes this season. That’s what going 16-3 with a 2.96 ERA does for you. The 33-year-old has a 3.75 FIP in 23 starts and 143 innings, and like Estrada, his peripherals don’t stand out (21.6 K%, 7.5 BB%, 42.4 GB%, 0.94 HR/9, small platoon split), but the guy gets so much weak contact in the air that it works. Happ throws low-90s four-seamers, low-90s sinkers, mid-80s changeups, and upper-70s curves. Nothing sexy there. Happ has faced the Yankees twice this season, and he limited them to one run in six innings both times.

Bullpen Status

The Blue Jays have a three-man bench but only a seven-man bullpen. That’s because they’re currently using a six-man rotation as a way to control Aaron Sanchez’s and Marcus Stroman’s innings. Here’s the relief crew Gibbons has to work with:

Closer: RHP Roberto Osuna (1.89 ERA/2.49 FIP)
Setup: RHP Joaquin Benoit (3.94/4.67), RHP Jason Grilli (3.16/3.46)
Middle: RHP Joe Biagini (2.09/2.25), LHP Brett Cecil (4.74/3.91), RHP Ryan Tepera (3.68/3.82)
Long: RHP Scott Feldman (3.74/4.04)

The bullpen, specifically the middle innings, has been a problem for the Blue Jays for much of the season. The Grilli and Benoit pickups have helped, as has the emergence of Biagini, a Rule 5 Draft pick from the Giants. Cecil is the only lefty and he’s the kind of guy who can go a full inning if necessary.

Benoit, Grilli, and Cecil all pitched yesterday, though none of them threw more than nine pitches. Grilli pitched Saturday as well. Other than that, Toronto’s bullpen is in pretty good shape. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relief crew.

It’s time for the Yankees to put Severino’s development before big league roster needs


Right now, Luis Severino is not a Major League starting pitcher. I’m not just saying that because he was optioned to Triple-A yesterday. He’s not a Major League caliber starting pitcher. Following yesterday’s seven-run, 3.2-inning disaster, Severino is sitting on a 7.19 ERA (4.71 FIP) in 51.1 innings in 2016. Opponents are hitting .304/.349/.528 against him. He’s basically turned everyone into Carlos Beltran (.300/.341/.540). You don’t get to stay in the show with those numbers.

The Yankees were counting on Severino to be a big part of their rotation this season and man, he’s been a huge letdown. The team is 0-9 in his nine starts this season. 0-9! Had Severino been slightly less awful and the team gone 4-5 in his nine starts instead of 0-9, the Yankees would be a half-game back of the second wildcard spot. It’s not fair to pin the club’s current spot in the standings on one player, but let’s not kid ourselves here. Severino’s hurt their postseason odds.

“I think all players hit bumps, whether you’re young or old,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings yesterday. “But one thing I think part of our focus has to be is helping those kids get through those bumps, because you don’t get here unless you’re talented enough. You don’t just come from nowhere and all of a sudden stay here. But you got to help them get through the ups and downs.”

Severino was deservedly demoted to Triple-A after yesterday’s game, just like he was demoted to Triple-A prior to his previous start as well. Nathan Eovaldi‘s elbow injury opened a rotation spot and prompted the Yankees to bring Severino back. What changed for Luis? Nothing. He wasn’t suddenly more Major League ready just because Eovaldi got hurt. The Yankees said they were sending him down so he could focus on his changeup, and he didn’t get a chance to do that. That’s why this happened:

Tuesday vs. Red Sox: Two changeups
Sunday vs. Rays: Four changeups

Severino still didn’t use his changeup yesterday even though the Rays had four lefty hitters in the lineup. Why would we expect anything different? Last week Severino admitted he’s lost confidence in the changeup — “I’m not throwing it a lot because I don’t have the same confidence I had two years ago. I have to figure it out and come back. It’s difficult to be a starter with two pitches, so I have to work,” he said to Mark Feinsand — and he didn’t get a chance to work on it since that last start.

The Yankees didn’t give Severino yesterday’s start because he deserved it. They gave it to him almost out of necessity. Eovaldi got hurt and they were in a bit of a bind, so Severino got the ball. The Yankees had other options, namely Chad Green and Luis Cessa, but they went with Severino and he again gave them no chance to win. Even if you think the team has zero chance at the postseason, his performance doesn’t meet the minimum acceptable standard of production to stay in MLB.

Had yesterday’s start been a one-time blip, it would be a different story. But is a problem that has been repeated. And no, right now I’m not talking about Severino’s performance. I’m talking about the team’s decision to use him to fill a big league need when he wasn’t ready for it. Remember, they called Severino up to fill Aroldis Chapman‘s roster spot after the trade a few weeks ago. Why? Because that was his day to start in Triple-A and he was available for long relief.

That’s not a good reason to call a highly touted young pitcher up. Not in this case. The Yankees optioned Severino to Triple-A a few weeks back because he very clearly had some things to work on, and even with his improved slider, there are some problems here. Severino should have stayed in Triple-A to continue refining his secondary pitches, but no, he was called up to replace Chapman and then to replace Eovaldi. Not the best moves, those were.

Don’t forget the Yankees were extremely aggressive with Severino. He spent one full season in the minors. One. Severino pitched a half-season of rookie ball in 2013, threw a full season in the minors in 2014, then threw a half-season in the minors in 2015 before being called up. Severino threw 256.1 minor league innings before being called up, so I guess it’s not much of a surprise he’s not close to a finished product right now.

Last season Severino had success during his eleven big league starts, but the red flags were there. There was a big disconnect between his ERA (2.89) and FIP (4.37 FIP) because he was exceptionally good at stranding runners (87.0%). Severino allowed 21 runs in 62.1 innings last year and 12 of them came on homers. He stranded almost everyone else and that just wasn’t going to continue. No one is that good at stranding runners. (The highest strand rate of the last 30 years is 86.6% by 2000 Pedro Martinez, who had arguably the greatest pitching season in history.)

Even pitching coach Larry Rothschild admitted Severino’s success last year was something of a mirage. “Last year, he came up when he was on a pretty good roll, which makes a difference. But he got away with some pitches because hitters hadn’t seen him and he executed pitches to a degree — not a lot different, but I think a little bit better,” said Rothschild to Brendan Kuty last month. Those warning signs from last year are showing up in Severino’s performance this year.

The Yankees sent Severino back to Triple-A last night and I hope they keep him there through the end of the season and even the playoffs. At this point he’s only going to make three Triple-A starts before rosters expand on September 1st, but forget about that. Let him pitch in the Triple-A postseason — the RailRiders have the best record in all of Triple-A (76-45) and should clinch a playoff spot soon — and keep working on things in games that don’t mean anything.

“My confidence is good,” said Severino to Jennings after being sent down yesterday. “I have to work more. Work on my changeup, work on my fastball command, and it will be good … It’s been tough, but a lot of players have been through this and you just have to keep working.”

Some of the club’s top hitting prospects are starting to reach the big leagues and that’s awfully exciting. There are a few more on the way too. The Yankees don’t have the upper level pitching to match the bats though and that’s something they’ll have to work on going forward. Severino is, by frickin’ far, their best young starting pitcher, and they have to make his development a priority. Using him like an up-and-down arm to plug roster holes doesn’t help that cause.