Thanks to new hard-throwing approach, Chasen Shreve a promising addition to Yankees’ bullpen


Last week, in their first transaction of the new year, the Yankees traded longtime prospect Manny Banuelos to the Braves for a pair of relievers, righty David Carpenter and lefty Chasen Shreve. Carpenter has been in the league for a little while now and will step right into Shawn Kelley’s old setup role. Shreve, on the other hand, is a relative unknown with only 12.1 MLB innings to his credit.

The 24-year-old Shreve is from Las Vegas and he attended the College of Southern Nevada, where he was Bryce Harper’s teammate in 2010. Harper hit 31 homers (with wood bats!) in 66 games as a 17-year-old against college kids and was drafted first overall that year. Shreve had a 5.57 ERA in 42 innings and was picked in the 11th round by Atlanta. Like a few other players on the team, Shreve benefited from the extra exposure as scouts flocked to see Harper.

Prior to the 2010 draft, Baseball America (subs. req’d) gave Shreve a one-sentence scouting report, saying he “was in the mid-80s last year and up to 91 this year, but he also battled arm injuries.” Whatever those arm injuries were, they haven’t hindered him as a pro. The Braves moved Shreve into the bullpen full-time immediately after signing and he averaged 68.1 innings from 2011-14, a full workload for a reliever. Here are his minor league stats, via Baseball Reference:

2010 19 -1.9 Danville APPY Rk 2.25 8 16.0 16 5 4 1 3 0 20 1.188 9.0 0.6 1.7 11.2 6.67
2011 20 -1.8 Rome SALL A 3.86 34 70.0 77 33 30 3 26 4 68 1.471 9.9 0.4 3.3 8.7 2.62
2012 21 -2.1 2 Teams 2 Lgs A+-AA 2.66 43 64.1 61 24 19 3 33 2 57 1.461 8.5 0.4 4.6 8.0 1.73
2013 22 -1.8 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-A+ 3.90 50 62.1 58 32 27 2 30 4 43 1.412 8.4 0.3 4.3 6.2 1.43
2014 23 -1.8 2 Teams 2 Lgs AA-AAA 2.67 46 64.0 51 20 19 4 12 1 87 0.984 7.2 0.6 1.7 12.2 7.25
5 Seasons 3.22 181 276.2 263 114 99 13 104 11 275 1.327 8.6 0.4 3.4 8.9 2.64

Baseball America never ranked Shreve among Atlanta’s top 30 prospects in their Prospect Handbook and it’s easy to understand why — he has been young for his level every year of his career, yes, but he had a 3.48 ERA with forgettable strikeout (7.68 K/9 and 19.5 K%) and walk (4.07 BB/9 and 10.3 BB%) rates from 2011-13. Pair that with the “he was in the mid-80s last year and up to 91 this year” scouting report and he just wasn’t all that interesting, even as a lefty.

That all changed during the 2014 season, when Shreve posted his best minor league strikeout (10.24 K/9 and 29.0 K%) and walk (2.79 BB/9 and 7.9 BB%) numbers. He was briefly called up to MLB in July and returned when rosters expanded in September. During his short MLB cameo, Shreve struck out 15 and walked three in his 12.1 innings while averaging 92.5 mph and topping out at 95.2 mph with his fastball according to Brooks Baseball. That’s not the same “he was in the mid-80s last year and up to 91 this year” guy that was in the scouting report back in 2010.

Obviously there’s the physical maturity factor — Shreve was a 19-year-old kid when Baseball America wrote his pre-draft scouting report back in 2010 and now he’s a 24-year-old man who has been under the watch of professional coaches and instructors. He also changed roles and became a full-time reliever. Adding velocity during this phase of a career isn’t exactly unheard of. There is a little more to the story, however. Jake Seiner explains:

Determined to start moving the other direction, he made a conscious decision to change who he was as a pitcher. In Spring Training (of 2014), he mentioned to M-Braves pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn that he was capable of throwing harder but had held back in past years to gain better control, like childhood heroes Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine. Lewallyn instructed him to rear back and fire more often, and a few months later Shreve was a Major League reliever. In the Minors, the 24-year-old left-hander posted a 2.67 ERA with 87 strikeouts in 64 innings.

“He was a guy that, the last two years, he was a crafty type guy who would move in and out,” Holbert said. “He went from 88-89 to 93-94 or whatever it was, and it stayed.

“It was very strange, if you ask me. It was a different approach and a different way, but it worked out for him. I wish all those other years, we would’ve seen that same Chasen. Maybe he would’ve been in the Majors even sooner.”

Shreve made a conscious decision to change who he was as a pitcher last year in an effort to advance his career, and it worked. Most guys have to learn to scale it back and not throw as hard as possible every pitch so they can improve their command. Shreve did it the other way. He started throwing harder and the result was more strikeouts, fewer walks, and a better pitcher.

There was a tangible reason for Shreve’s improvement last year and that’s exciting. Lefties who sit 92+ and touch 95 aren’t all that common, even in relief. A total of 366 pitchers threw at least 40 innings last year, and of those 366, 172 averaged 92+ mph with their fastball. Of those 172, only 33 were left-handed. Shreve didn’t come close to throwing 40 innings, but he did show that kind of velocity, and his change in approach gives us a reason to believe it’s real.

In addition to his new fastball, Shreve also threw a mid-80s slider and a low-80s changeup during his MLB debut last year. (I’ve seen the changeup called a splitter in some places, but same difference. Both pitches accomplish the same thing.) Here’s a look at that slider, courtesy of Shreve’s only pitching highlight video at

Striking out Ryan Howard — especially as a left-hander — isn’t exactly a tremendous accomplish, but that doesn’t really matter. The slider looks like a decent offering based on that one-pitch sample, and since hitters swung and missed at it 16.7% of the time last year (MLB average for a slider is 15.2%), there’s reason to believe it’s a quality second pitch. The changeup had an even better whiff rate (18.8%), but he rarely threw it, so I’m just going to ignore it for now. Shreve has the requisite two-pitch mix to be a quality big league bullpener.

As for Banuelos, he was once the Yankees’ top prospect — I ranked him number one in 2012 and number two behind Jesus Montero in 2011 — but has been derailed by elbow problems the last few years, including Tommy John surgery. He returned from elbow reconstruction last season and didn’t look much like the pre-injury version of himself, though that wasn’t entirely unexpected after missing nearly two full years. The Yankees talked Banuelos up all summer because that’s what teams do, talk up their prospects, but other reports indicated he didn’t look all that hot. Keith Law (subs. req’d) wrote there was “a big gap between his old 92-95 mph fastball with a little pop and the current 90-92 version” after seeing Manny in June, for example.

Clearly Banuelos’ stock has dropped a bit because of the injuries, and, had he repeated his 2014 showing in 2015, his trade value next offseason would have been tiny. The Yankees used him to get a no doubt big league reliever in Carpenter and an interesting, suddenly hard-throwing southpaw in Shreve, who at this point in time appears to have more actual MLB value than Banuelos despite having a fraction of the name value. In fact, I would say Shreve definitely has more MLB value than Banuelos right now, not “appears to.” If Shreve’s velocity spike is real — and the conscious decision to simply air it out suggests it is — the Yankees may have landed themselves a quietly promising lefty bullpen piece with last week’s trade.

Fan Confidence Poll: January 5th, 2015

2014 Record: 84-78 (633 RS, 664 RA, 77-85 pythag. record), did not qualify for postseason

Top stories from last week:

Please take a second to answer the poll below and give us an idea of how confident you are in the team. You can view the interactive Fan Confidence Graph anytime via the nav bar above, or by clicking here. Thanks in advance for voting.

Given the team's current roster construction, farm system, management, etc., how confident are you in the Yankees' overall future?

Weekend Open Thread

The holidays this year were so perfectly timed with Christmas and New Year’s right smack in the middle of the week, and as much as I enjoyed the little two-week break, I think I’m ready for things to go back to normal Monday. I must be getting old. Anyway, the video above features the 20 longest homers of 2014, and here are the weekend links:

  • A new year means Jayson Stark’s annual Strange But True column. It’s a must read each and every year. Here’s part one, here’s part two. The Yankees earn a mention because, well, they “lost three games in three days at Yankee Stadium — to three different teams.” They lost to the Twins on June 1, the Mariners on June 2 (makeup of the April 30 rainout), and the Athletics on June 3. Sigh.
  • Keeping with the end of the year theme, David Laurila posted a collection of 2014’s best quotes from his conversations with players, coaches, and executives. There are some real gems in there. Some insightful, some funny, all worth reading.
  • I’m passing this one along even though I haven’t had a chance to read it yet: Chris Mitchell is working on a system to forecast the future MLB value of hitting prospects, a system he named KATOH after Yankees prospect 2B Gosuke Katoh. According to KATOH, one of the best hitting prospects in the minors is Yankees OF Alex Palma, who was in rookie ball last year. OF Ramon Flores and OF Leonardo Molina both rate highly as well.
  • Tony Blengino wrote two really great pieces on players with favorable (and not so favorable) batted ball profiles heading into season. Here’s the AL, here’s the NL. The Yankees aren’t featured prominently or anything, but I find this batted ball stuff so interesting. Wish there was more (and better) data available.
  • Here’s a good piece from James Wagner about Carlos Alvarez, a former Nationals shortstop prospect who went by Esmailyn “Smiley” Gonzalez before it was discovered he lied about his identity. Washington gave him a $1.4M bonus thinking he was 16 when he was really 20. Alvarez, who said Nationals advisor Jose Rijo took a $300,000 kickback from his bonus, is still playing in Mexico and other countries. His case led to the team firing GM Jim Bowden and to MLB overhauling their operations in Latin America.

Friday: This is your open thread for the evening. The Knicks, Nets, Islanders, and Devils are all playing, plus there’s some college football and basketball on as well. Yuo folks have been doing this long enough by now, so you know how this works. Have at it.

Saturday: Use as your open thread again. Go nuts.

Sunday: For the last time, this is your open thread.

DotF: Flores and Pirela wrap up excellent winter ball seasons

It’s been a while since the last winter ball update, and since just about all of the leagues have finished their seasons, this will be the final check-in of the year. Before we get to the final minor league update until April, here are some notes:

  • 1B Greg Bird and OF Aaron Judge were both named to the Arizona Fall League Top Prospects Team. Vince Lara-Cinisomo has (free!) scouting reports on those two as well as the other 20 players on the Top Prospects Team, one of whom is former Yankees farmhand C/1B Peter O’Brien.
  • Chad Jennings put together a list of the longest tenured homegrown Yankees, and it’s actually outdated a bit because RHP David Phelps has since been traded. RHP Ivan Nova, who signed with the club back in 2004, is the longest tenured non-Alex Rodriguez player in the organization.
  • The Yankees have released RHP Elvin Perez, according to Matt Eddy. The 24-year-old spent four years in the Dominican Summer League before coming stateside last summer. He had a 2.75 ERA (3.20 FIP) in 39.1 innings for the Rookie GCL Yanks in 2014.

Arizona Fall League (season is over)

  • OF Tyler Austin: .304/.392/.449 (135 wRC+) with two doubles, two homers, ten walks, and 19 strikeouts in 19 games.
  • 3B Dante Bichette Jr.: .260/.317/.274 (67 wRC+) with one double, seven walks, and 18 strikeouts in 20 games.
  • 1B Greg Bird: .313/.391/.556 (156 wRC+) with six doubles, six homers, 13 walks, and 23 strikeouts in 26 games.
  • C Kyle Higashioka: .409/.480/.682 (216 wRC+) with three doubles, one homer, three walks, and two strikeouts in six games.
  • OF Aaron Judge: .278/.377/.467 (133 wRC+) with five doubles, four homers, 13 walks, and 22 strikeouts in 24 games.
  • RHP Caleb Cotham: 10 G, 13.1 IP, 18 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 2 BB, 14 K, 2 HR, 1 HB, 1 WP (6.08 ERA, 4.25 FIP)
  • RHP Kyle Haynes: 10 H, 11.2 IP, 11 H, 7 R, 3 ER, 8 BB, 9 K, 1 WP (2.31 ERA, 4.24 FIP)
  • RHP Alex Smith: 10 H, 10.1 IP, 25 H, 15 R, 12 ER, 8 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 2 HB (10.45 ERA, 7.79 FIP)

Australian Baseball League (season ends January 25th)

  • OF Adam Silva: 24 G, 21-89, 10 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 12 RBI, 8 BB, 23 K, 1 SB, 2 HBP (.236/.313/.303)

Dominican Summer League (season is over)

  • SS Abi Avelino: 2 G, 1-4, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K (.250/.250/.500)
  • C Eduardo de Oleo: 3 G, 0-3, 2 K
  • OF Eury Perez: 30 G, 18-93, 9 R, 3 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 0 BB, 21 K, 2 CS, 1 HBP (.194/.202/.258)
  • OF Jose Rosario: 10 G, 7-27, 5 R, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 4 BB, 2 K, 1 SB (.259/.355/.333)
  • RHP Joel De La Cruz: 7 G, 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K, 1 WP, 1 HR (0.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) – unearned homeruns are my favorite baseball oddity
  • RHP Gonzalez Germen: 10 G, 7 IP, 9 IP, 7 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K (7.71 ERA, 1.71 WHIP)
  • RHP Esmil Rogers: 3 G, 3 GS, 11.2 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 18 K (4.63 ERA, 1.29 WHIP)  — I have to think he’ll work as a starter in Spring Training

Mexican Pacific League (season is over)

  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 16 G, 16 IP, 16 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 12 K, 2 HR, 1 HB (1.69 ERA, 1.31 WHIP)
  • RHP Luis Niebla: 9 G, 9 GS, 37.2 IP, 29 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 18 BB, 27 K, 2 HB, 2 HR (2.87 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League (Puerto Rico) (season is over)

  • SS Vince Conde: 4 G, 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K (.200/.200/.400)

Venezuelan Winter League (season is over)

  • C Francisco Arcia: 25 G, 16-87, 3 R, 3 2B, 8 RBI, 4 BB, 21 K, 1 HBP (.184/.228/.218)
  • UTIL Ali Castillo: 59 G, 71-233, 43 R, 10 2B, 4 3B, 2 HR, 20 RBI, 14 BB, 34 K, 16 SB, 6 CS, 3 HBP (.305/.346/.408) — great winter for the Castillo, who could wind up in Triple-A Scranton this year
  • OF Ramon Flores: 56 G, 68-196, 36 R, 8 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 31 BB, 33 K, 2 SB, 2 CS, 1 HBP (.347/.435/.505) — guessing we’ll see him in MLB at some point next year
  • UTIL Adonis Garcia: 57 H, 73-233, 28 R, 13 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 41 RBI, 15 BB, 22 K, 4 SB, 4 CS, 6 HBP (.313/.369/.468)
  • OF Ericson Leonora: 5 G, 3-11, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 5 K (.273/.273/.545)
  • UTIL Jose Pirela: 47 G, 50-169, 31 R, 11 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 2 RBI, 26 BB, 30 K, 3 SB, 1 CS, 2 HBP (.296/.394/.515) — next up for him, trying to win the second base job in Spring Training
  • C Jackson Valera: 3 G, 0-3
  • RHP Luis Cedeno: 1 G, 0 IP, 2 H 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 HR — the ol’ infinity ERA and WHIP is never good
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 24 G, 23 IP, 26 H, 14 R, 12 ER, 7 BB, 16 K, 2 HB, 3 HR (4.70 ERA, 1.43 WHIP) — was always a long shot bullpen candidate, but now he’s a really long shot

Mailbag: Ryan Vogelsong


Ethan asks: Would Ryan Vogelsong make any sense for the Yankees? Essentially Chris Capuano #2, but probably can be counted on for a few more innings. I wouldn’t be surprised if either of them crashed and burned out of the gate, so why not double up?

My first reaction was nah, Vogelsong’s probably not worth the trouble, likely because his stinky postseason performance was still fresh in my memory. His combined NLCS and World Series line was 6.2 IP, 14 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 4 BB, 4 K. Eek. The Giants’ non-Madison Bumgarner starters were really awful in October.

Anyway, upon further inspection, the 37-year-old Vogelsong appears to still be a perfectly cromulent back-end innings guy at this point of his career. He’s thrown at least 175 innings in three of the last four seasons, with a broken finger suffered on a hit-by-pitch (stupid no-DH-having NL) being the only reason he was limited to 103.2 innings in 2013. Innings are good. Teams need innings.

Here is what Vogelsong has done since resurfacing with the Giants back in 2011 after spending three seasons finding himself in Nippon Pro Baseball in Japan (via Baseball Reference)

33 SFG 2.71 30 28 179.2 164 62 54 15 61 139 5 129 3.67 1.252 0.8 3.1 7.0 2.28
2012 34 SFG 3.37 31 31 189.2 171 76 71 17 62 158 8 105 3.70 1.228 0.8 2.9 7.5 2.55
2013 35 SFG 5.73 19 19 103.2 124 73 66 15 38 67 6 60 4.91 1.563 1.3 3.3 5.8 1.76
2014 36 SFG 4.00 32 32 184.2 178 86 82 18 58 151 9 87 3.85 1.278 0.9 2.8 7.4 2.60

Vogelsong was really awful in 2013 even before the finger injury, but he bounced back well this past season. That said, while his 4.00 ERA in 2014 looks nice on the surface, in this offense-starved era and in that huge ballpark, it’s only an 87 ERA+, so comfortably below-average.

It is worth noting Vogelsong’s underlying performance this past season was right in line with his very successful 2011-12 seasons. The strikeout, walk, and home run rates are nearly identical, ditto his small-ish platoon split, though his ground ball rate had steadily declined from 45.6% in 2011 to 38.4% in 2014. Vogelsong’s 72.3% strand rate in 2014 was well below his 78.1% mark from 2011-12, hence the inflated ERA.

Beyond the stats, Vogelsong’s stuff has held up well these last four seasons. His velocity rebounded after a small drop last season — between the velocity and performance dip, it sure seems like he was nursing some kind of unreported injury in 2013, no? — which you can see here (via Brooks Baseball):

Ryan Vogelsong velocity

The swing-and-miss rates on his pitches have also remained steady across the board with the exception of his changeup, which got a whiff more 12% of the time from 2011-12 but only 7.2% in 2014. Although Vogelsong has thrown his changeup a healthy ~14% of the time with San Francisco, it is only his fifth most used pitch behind his four-seamer (~30%), sinker (~20%), cutter (~20%), and curveball (~18%). Losing a few swings and misses on your fifth pitch isn’t the end of the world. At least I don’t think it is.

Because of his age, it’s more likely Vogelong will get worse next season rather than maintain his established level of performance another year. That’s why he won’t cost much to sign. He worked on a one-year deal worth only $5M last year, so Capuano money. As Ethan said in the question, that’s basically who Vogelsong is, Capuano v2.0, though probably a better bet to throw 150+ innings. One year and $5M is the going rate for a projected ~1 WAR starter these days.

Beyond the obvious (age, declining ground ball rate, etc.), my concern with Vogelsong is that the Giants aren’t pursuing him at all. They know him better than anyone and they need an innings guy as much as the Yankees, if not more, yet John Shea recently reported the two sides haven’t had any contract talks. What do the Giants know that we don’t? There has to be a reason they’re staying away given their need for pitching. That makes me a little nervous.

Now, that said, a one-year contract worth $5M is nothing. It’s a move the Yankees could easily back out of if Vogelsong stinks or a better option comes along. The team is going to need innings from somewhere, and Vogelsong is as likely to provide them as any non-Max Scherzer/James Shields free agent at this point. I don’t think he’s any kind of rotation savior or anything, but he could help at a low cost. I will define my interest as: tepid.

Bullpen depth could lead to Adam Warren working as a starter in 2015


Even after losing David Robertson to free agency and trading away Shawn Kelley (and losing Preston Claiborne on waivers), the Yankees have a ton of upper level bullpen depth at the moment. Andrew Miller replaced Robertson, the just acquired David Carpenter replaces Kelley, and the team also added lefty Justin Wilson in the Francisco Cervelli trade. The Yankees seem to have more relievers than bullpen spots at the moment. Look:

That’s 16 17 pitchers for 14 bullpen spots — seven in MLB and seven in Triple-A — and I still feel like I’m forgetting someone. (Update: Forgot Wilson!) Obviously it isn’t that simple — DePaula, Mitchell, and Whitley could all wind up in the Triple-A Scranton rotation, we have no idea if Pinder and Burawa can get MLBers out consistently, etc. — but the point stands. On paper, the Yankees have a ton of bullpen depth right now.

What the Yankees don’t have is a lot of rotation depth. The rotation right now is Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Capuano in whatever order, but both Tanaka (elbow) and Sabathia (knee) have major injury concerns. No pitcher is a lock to make it through Spring Training healthy, though it is especially true for those two. Pineda isn’t exactly known for his durability either.

Because of the rotation concerns, the Yankees told Warren to come to Spring Training as a starter and prepared to compete for a rotation spot. (They told David Phelps the same before he was traded away.) In fact, I bet they told Rogers the same thing. He’s been a starter before, including last season in Triple-A with the Blue Jays (and one spot start with the Yankees), so there’s no reason not to stretch him out. It doesn’t hurt anyone and gives the team options in camp.

Warren did a nice job as a swingman in 2013 and really seemed to find himself in short relief last year, when his velocity ticked up and he missed more bats than ever. He was a starter his entire career before the 2013 season though, and I’m sure that if you asked him, he’d like to be a starter once again. That’s where the money is at, after all. I’m certain he sees the injury questions in the rotation as a big opportunity this coming year.

Warren has made three career big league starts (6.97 ERA and 6.83 FIP) but the numbers are skewed heavily by his disastrous six-run, 2.1- inning MLB debut back in 2012. He made two spot starts in 2013 and both went fine — two runs in three innings while on a strict pitch count in the first, five shutout innings in the second — plus he also made several strong multi-inning relief outings, including five of at least four innings (four runs in 23.1 innings in those five outings).

That really doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what Warren can do as a starter in 2015 though. Those long relief appearances have selection bias — the reason he was in there 4+ innings is because he was getting outs, they wouldn’t have left him in that long if he was getting hammered — and 2013 Adam Warren isn’t the same as 2015 Adam Warren. He has more experience now and is presumably more comfortable in the league. That matters.

Even as a short reliever last year, Warren threw three pitches (four-seamer, slider, changeup) regularly while also throwing some curveballs and cutters, according to Brooks Baseball. He definitely has enough pitches to start, the question is whether his stuff is good enough to turn over a lineup multiple times. The answer could easily be yes, especially now in this no offense era, and that after his success last season he is more willing to attack hitters and better understands how to maximize his arsenal. Like I said, experience matters.

I like Warren most as a short reliever and I can’t say I’m confident he can turn over a lineup multiple times, but there is no harm in seeing what he does as a starter in Spring Training. Remember, this doesn’t have to be a permanent thing either. The team may only need him to start until Ivan Nova returns at midseason, perhaps as early as May. Warren was an important part of the relief crew last year but the Yankees do now have enough bullpen depth to replace him. Moving him into the rotation is much more viable now than it was a year ago.

Mailbag: Myers, Sabathia, Refsnyder, Ryan, Lindgren

Got eleven questions for you in the mailbag this week. Send us questions through the “For The Mailbag” form in the sidebar at any time. I know it doesn’t look like the question goes through, but trust me, it does. We’re working on that.

Ouch. (Winslow Townson/Getty)
Ouch. (Winslow Townson/Getty)

Chris asks: Will the Padres seemingly all in, do you think some sort of Wil Myers for Brett Gardner deal makes any sort of sense? Looks like the Padres could use a genuine CF.

I don’t think the Padres would go for that. They’ve made it clear they’re seeking power bats and are willing to live with shaky defense to get it. In theory Gardner would make a lot of sense for San Diego’s roster because they lack both a true leadoff hitter and a true center fielder, but I don’t think they’d flip Myers to get him. The Yankees would have to sweeten the pot quite a bit. Some of the shine is off Myers now but he’s still a just turned 24-year-old with a career 105 wRC+ and 19 homers in 175 big league games with five years of team control remaining. That’s really valuable.

Neil asks: Did the Yankees re-sign Slade Heathcott?

Heathcott hasn’t signed anywhere yet. This might be a wait-and-see situation. He had season-ending knee surgery in June and is probably still rehabbing. The Yankees probably want to see him at 100% before committing and Heathcott probably wants to be at 100% to see what offers come along. A team just might decide he’s worth a 40-man roster spot if he’s fully healthy and looks good in workouts later this offseason.

Joe asks: Would the Yankees have received a compensatory draft pick had they offered Kuroda a qualifying offer and rejected it to pitch in Japan?

Nope. The player has to sign a Major League contract with one of the other 29 MLB clubs in order to receive the compensation draft pick. Also, if the player signs a minor league deal and is called up before the draft, his old team gets the draft pick. Basically, to get the pick, he player has to be in MLB with one of the other 29 teams at some point before the next year’s draft. Japan or Korea or Taiwan or wherever else doesn’t count.

(Eric Christian Smith/Getty)
(Eric Christian Smith/Getty)

P.J. asks: Would designating CC Sabathia for assignment at the end of the 2015 season mean the Yankees are NOT obligated to pay his vesting year option when they release him?

I don’t know the answer to this, but I’m guessing they’d still be on the hook for the option. The option vests if Sabathia isn’t on the DL with a shoulder injury at the end of 2016, doesn’t spend more than 45 days on the DL with the shoulder injury in 2016, and doesn’t make more than six relief appearances due to a shoulder injury in 2016. Technically none of those things would happen if they release him, right? So wouldn’t the option vest? It’s a substantial amount of money ($25M) and I’m guessing Sabathia and the MLBPA would dig and fight that one.

Sid asks: Do you any scenario in which A-Rod and/or Mark Teixeira and/or CC are traded, what kind of return would they fetch? Assuming the Yanks are eating the majority of the salaries?

Nope. I think Teixeira has the most trade value of those guys and it’s pretty close to zero. Even if the Yankees eat all the money. Yes, I know Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder and a bunch of other guys were traded with a ton of money left on their contracts, but they were much younger and more productive than Teixeira, A-Rod, and Sabathia. The Yankees are stuck with those three, but at least now we are starting to see the light at the end of their contract tunnels.

Mark asks: Do you think the Yanks have glossed over Rob Refsnyder‘s lousy defense at 2B in all but making him the starter next year? Not sure about you, but I’m worried the fickle NY media and win-now fan base will turn on him quickly if he makes a few bad errors early on.

No, I think they’re very aware of Refsnyder’s defensive issues and are either willing to live with them or believe he is improving rapidly. That and they believe he has the makeup to handle any scrutiny. Besides, if Refsnyder comes up and struggles next year, either at the plate and/or in the field, he’s unlikely to be the center of attention. People are going to be focused on Didi Gregorius replacing Derek Jeter, on Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow, on Carlos Beltran‘s rebound, and, of course, on A-Rod. Refsnyder might just fly under the radar.

P.J. asks: Does Jose Pirela have minor league options left in case the Yankees go with Refsnyder for the last roster spot?

Pirela was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in September — remember the Yankees called him up only after Martin Prado‘s appendectomy abruptly ended his season — so he has all three minor league options remaining. They can send him to the minors no questions asked next year. That said, Pirela is already 25. If the Yankees have to consider optioning him down in a few years during his age 28 season, he’s probably not worth his roster spot anyway.


Chris asks: Brendan Ryan doesn’t have a place on the roster anymore as he hits lefties even worse than Didi. Would the Yankees be better served flipping his cheap contract for a PTBNL or release him, and use Pirela as the utility infielder? The projections have Pirela and Didi both being far more valuable than replacement level Ryan.

Like it or not, the Yankees do need Ryan because he is capable of playing shortstop on an everyday basis at the MLB level. He can’t hit a lick, but he can play the position, which Jose Pirela and others like Nick Noonan and Jonathan Galvez can not. I agree that Pirela would be more valuable than Ryan in a vacuum, but Pirela can’t play short regularly, and the Yankees need someone who can do that if Gregorius gets hurt or stinks. Maybe they could slip Ryan throughout outright waivers and stash him in Triple-A — if he refuses the assignment, he’d forfeit the rest of his contract, and I doubt he walks away from a guaranteed $3M — but I doubt they risk it. Ryan’s the 25th man on the roster and he does serve a purpose.

Daniel asks: Wouldn’t it be best if the Yankees held off on the QO FA’s this year, did the best they could this season with what they have, and then load up next offseason? I am salivating at the thought of adding Jordan Zimmermann, Justin Upton, Johnny Cueto, and Ian Desmond.

Aside from the ownership-mandated Rafael Soriano signing, the team’s M.O. seems to be loading up on qualified free agents in one offseason to lessen the draft pick blow. So, rather than giving up their first rounder each year to add one qualified free agent, they sacrifice their first, second, and third draft picks in one offseason. Next offseason looks to be as good a free agent class as any to employ that strategy — I think the Yankees are going to go hard after Doug Fister next year, he’s excellent but figures to a smaller contract than Cueto and Zimmermann, plus they drafted him once upon a time (sixth round in 2005), so he presumably has some supporters in the organization — though it’s worth noting there is very little money coming off the books after the 2015 season. Chris Capuano and Chris Young. (Update: Garrett Jones too. Forgot about him.) That’s it. The Yankees won’t be able to go on a big spending spree without pushing payroll into the $250M+ range, which they might be willing to do since Teixeira and Beltran come off the books after 2016.

Grayson asks: What’s Jacob Lindgren‘s future with the Yanks look like now that New York has signed LH Andrew Miller and traded for LH Justin Wilson? I thought Lindgren would be a lock for a lefty bullpen role. He rose fast through the system and the Yanks would have max years of team control, how do you see it playing out?

This is a question that only gets asked about left-handed pitchers. If Miller and Wilson and Lindgren (and the just acquired Chasen Shreve) were all right-handed, no one would worry about how they all fit on the roster. Miller is no lefty specialist, he can get both righties and lefties out and will be expected to do that next season. He just happens to throw lefty. Lindgren projects to be the same type of pitcher. If these guys are among the seven best bullpen arms in the organization, they’ll be in MLB. Their handedness isn’t much of a concern. They aren’t normal lefties. I expect Lindgren to start the year with Triple-A Scranton and get called up at some point during the summer. The Yankees didn’t draft a pure reliever with their top pick last year to not fast track him to MLB. The plan hasn’t changed.

Joe asks: Assuming this is A-Rod’s last contract, do any rules prohibit the Yankees from extending him for more years with same money owed to ease the luxury tax penalty? For example, if A-Rod is owed $100M over four years then could the Yankees sign him for $100M for ten years or would the MLBPA go bananas?

MLB frowns upon blatant luxury tax circumvention and this would qualify. There’s no other reason for the Yankees to extend Alex Rodriguez‘s contract. (MLB could simply not approve the contract if they think the team is trying to beat the luxury tax.) Also, the union doesn’t like players restructuring their contracts without getting something in return, like a raise or a no-trade clause or something like that. Maybe the MLBPA wouldn’t care in this case since, you know, A-Rod sued them, but they probably wouldn’t want to set a precedent. The Yankees are already well over the luxury tax threshold. I’m guessing they’d rather suck it up and pay the extra luxury tax these next three years than be stuck with Alex for any longer than that.