Got six questions for you this week, so this is one of the longer mailbags we’ve had. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us anything throughout the week.
Joe asks: Any chance the Red Sox decline their team option on Jon Lester and if so should the Yankees sign him? Also what are your thoughts on Tim Hudson for them next year?
The Red Sox do have quite a bit of pitching depth going into next year, with Jake Peavy, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, and Ryan Dempster all under contract for 2014 with youngsters like Allen Webster and Brandon Workman waiting in Triple-A. Lester, who is still only 29, had an awesome start to the season but has been terrible for more than two months now. Following last night’s outing, he is sitting on a 4.38 ERA and 3.97 FIP, which isn’t much better than what he did last year (4.82 ERA and 4.11 FIP)
Lester has not been a truly dominant ace since 2010 (3.25 ERA and 3.13 FIP), so I don’t know if he’s a guy who simply peaked early or what. He’s definitely worth examining more in depth, in a non-mailbag setting. The Red Sox hold an affordable $13M option for next year, and when you consider that Ervin Santana was terrible last season (5.16 ERA and 5.63 FIP) yet still found a team willing to pick up his $13M option, I’m guessing Boston will pick up Lester’s and look to trade him rather than cut him loose entirely. If they do cut him loose though, I would definitely want the Yankees to look into him. Reasonably young AL East proven lefties are a rare commodity.
As for Hudson, I’m very wary of a 38-year-old coming off a major ankle injury like that. He was good but not great before getting hurt (3.97 ERA and 3.46 FIP) and it’s fair to wonder how he can rebound. Even though he’s not a pitcher, we needn’t look further than Derek Jeter to see how hard it can be for an older player to come back from a traumatic ankle injury. If Hudson’s willing to take a low-base, incentive-heavy one-year contract with no guarantees, sure, look at him. I just wouldn’t want the Yankees to sign him with the idea that he’ll automatically step into the rotation.
Alex asks: If Alex Rodriguez were to get injured this year, say a pulled hammy, can he decide to start serving his suspension before the appeal is heard to get some games out of the way and miss less time next year if the suspension is reduced?
Sure, A-Rod can drop the appeal at any time and start serving the suspension right away. I don’t think he would in the case of injury because he would still get paid while on the DL. He won’t get paid during the suspension and that’s what this is all about. Alex isn’t stupid, he knows his career is probably over after the suspension. He’ll try to stay around as long as possible to collect as much of his contract as he can, especially since it’s front-loaded and his salary goes down the next few years.
Donny asks: How about Mark Reynolds (DFA’d)? He sure has sucked since May 1st, but so has every other third basemen we have run out there this year.
I can’t imagine many teams have cut their leading homerun hitter, but that’s what the Indians did when they designated Reynolds for assignment yesterday. He is hitting .205/.307/.373 (93 wRC+) with 15 homers on the year, but it has definitely been a tale of two seasons. Reynolds hit .254/.340/.503 with 12 homers in his first 50 games and .173/.272/.235 with three homers in his last 49 games. He’s been awful since the end of May.
That said, Reynolds is useful. Limited, but useful. The just-turned-30-year-old has hit .215/.333/.411 (111 wRC+) against lefties this year, plus he can play the two corner infield spots. “Play” the two corner infield spots, if you catch my drift. He’s a bad defender and he strikes out a ton (32.0 K%), but he hits lefties and works the count very well (11.2 BB%). The Yankees could send David Adams, who is unlikely to play all that much anyway, back to Triple-A Scranton and platoon Reynolds at first with Lyle Overbay. It’s probably too late for a move like this to impact the playoff push, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an upgrade.
Paul asks: Let’s assume for a moment that the season ended today. Where would the Yankees pick in the draft, and is it a strong draft this year? I’m looking for any kind of silver lining to this season, help me out here.
The Yankees currently have the 14th best (16th worst) record in baseball, so they would have the 17th overall pick in next summer’s draft if the season ended today. The Blue Jays have a compensation pick for failing to sign this year’s tenth overall pick (RHP Phil Bickford), which is why it’s the 17th overall pick and not the 16th. New York had the 17th overall pick in the 2005 draft (SS C.J. Henry), which they got from the Phillies as compensation for losing Tom Gordon. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 1993 for the last time they picked that high (RHP Matt Drews, 13th overall).
As for the quality of next year’s class, here’s what an unnamed scout said to Chris Crawford (subs. req’d) back in June:
“On paper, it’s a much better crop (than 2013),” an NL scout said. “It’s not the strongest group of advanced bats again, but there’s so much more depth than there has been the past two years, particularly with the high school hitters and even more particularly up the middle. This year, other than J.P. Crawford, there isn’t one high school shortstop I would have taken in the first round. Next year, there’s about four or five that I’d consider. It’s all speculation, but I feel much more confident about getting a quality player this year than the last two.”
It’s still way, way too early to get a firm grasp on the quality of next summer’s draft class. NC State LHP Carlos Rodon is the clear favorite to go first overall right now, he’s David Price-esque, but everything else is up in the air. We have to wait for the high school and college seasons to start in January and February before players start falling into place.
He turns 21 in December, so let’s not jump off the ledge worrying he’ll be old when he debuts just yet. The Yankees have been relatively conservative with Sanchez so far, having him repeat Low-A Charleston last year and spending most of this year in High-A Tampa. I like that, I do think they’ve been a little overly aggressive at times with their top guys the last few years. I wouldn’t expect Sanchez to have a realistic chance to make the team out of camp next year, though that could come in 2015. Have patience. They need a catcher in the worst way, but rushing the top prospect to fill that hole isn’t the answer, especially not with J.R. Murphy in Triple-A.
Ori asks: Who is the best Yankee pinch-hitter ever? I remember Ruben Sierra being a particularly good one.
Hooray for the Play Index? Hooray for the Play Index! Here are the team’s top ten pinch-hitters during the DH era (since 1973), minimum 20 pinch-hitting opportunities (34 qualifiers):
Bernie Williams is 12th with a .768 OPS and Sierra is 21st with a .646 OPS. Hassey has the highest batting average as a pinch-hitter in team history (Strawberry is second) while Johnson has the highest OBP and SLG (Strawberry is second in both).
Johnson, who played with the Yankees from 1977-79, and Strawberry are clearly a notch above everyone else here. I like that pinch-hitting was part of their role too; they weren’t full-time guys who came off the bench a few times like Matsui or Giambi. They were legit part-time players who were expected to pinch-hit in key spots. Strawberry was awesome, still my all-time favorite player to this day.
As expected, RHP Michael Pineda has been placed on the Triple-A Scranton DL. He’s dealing with shoulder tightness. Donnie Collins says the recently outrighted UTIL Brent Lillibridge takes the roster spot.
Triple-A Scranton Game One (5-2 loss to Buffalo in seven innings) makeup of the April 13th postponement
- CF Melky Mesa, RF Adonis Garcia & 3B Ronnie Mustelier: all 0-3 — Mesa struck out twice, Mustelier thrice
- C J.R. Murphy: 1-3, 1 R, 1 2B
- RHP Chris Bootcheck: 6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 K, 10/2 GB/FB — 62 of 94 pitches were strikes (66%) … remember how lights out he was earlier in the year (1.22 ERA in his first six starts)? he’s up to a 3.90 ERA on the season
Here is your open thread for the off-night. It’ll be nice to forget about the Yankees for a few hours. That series against the White Sox was a nightmare. The schedule is pretty light tonight, just three games, but MLB Network will air one of them. Who you see depends on where you live. Talk about that or anything else right here. Go nuts.
The Yankees have outrighted utility man Brent Lillibridge to Triple-A Scranton. He cleared waivers and accepted the assignment, so he’ll remain in the organization as a non-40-man roster player rather than become a free agent. Lillibridge had a few big hits during his short time with the Yankees, but otherwise he’s not much more than the 25th man on the roster despite being able to play all over the field. It’s nice that he’s sticking around in Triple-A just in case there’s another roster need at some point. · (6) ·
I guess the only way to start this post is by saying there is no chance in hell the Yankees will trade Mariano Rivera. Absolutely zero. I’m more confident in that than anything I’ve ever written on this site. They’ve got a big retirement ceremony planned for September, they’re giving away a bobblehead … there’s no chance they’re going to let Rivera wear anything other than Yankees pinstripes in his career. So consider this post an intellectual exercise, or something.
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As of this morning, the Yankees have a 1.5% chance to make the postseason according to Baseball Prospectus. They are six games back of the second wildcard spot in the loss column with four teams ahead of them. Yes, it’s still mathematically possible for the Yankees to make the playoffs, but it’ll take a minor miracle. Losing five of six to the lowly Padres and even lowlier White Sox was a huge blow to their October chances. Those were supposed to be the easy wins.
Rivera’s final season — earlier this week he reiterated to Andrew Seligman that he is definitely retiring after the season — is going to waste in the sense that the greatest postseason weapon in history won’t get a chance to pitch in the playoffs one last time. As it stands, his final postseason appearance will be Game Five of the 2011 ALDS against the Tigers. I now retroactively consider myself lucky to have been at that game even though it ended the team’s season.
Trading Mo would be a Ray Bourque-esque “thanks for all the great years, sorry we couldn’t contend but we’ll trade you elsewhere so you have one last crack at a championship” move rather than something designed to kick start a rebuild. The Yankees would be doing Rivera a solid by sending him to a team that gives him a chance for a sixth World Series title in his final year. The market would be limited because it would have to be a legit contending team, not a fringe contender who is fighting for a spot. No one would be trading for him hoping he’ll get them into the postseason. They’re trading for him to turn playoff games into eight-inning affairs.
The team that acquires Rivera would have to be all but guaranteed to go to the postseason. I see eight teams that fit the bill (eight teams already? it’s August 8th!):
- Red Sox
We can rule the Rays and Red Sox right out. That ain’t happening. The Athletics have a strong bullpen and a very good closer already, so adding Mo doesn’t make a ton of sense. Same goes for the Braves. The Pirates are expected to get Jason Grilli back from his injury in the not-too-distant future, so adding a replacement closer isn’t a high priority at the moment. That could change if Grilli has a setback or something.
We’re left with the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Tigers, all of whom have at least a five-game lead on a playoff berth. They also have a closer who was a setup man when the season started and a need for another arm in middle relief. Acquiring Rivera would push Edward Mujica, Kenley Jansen, or Joaquin Benoit, respectively, back into a seventh or eighth inning role. That’s much more realistic than say, pushing Craig Kimbrel into the eighth inning.
Obviously Rivera is one of a kind in that he’s still at the very top of his game (last night’s blown save notwithstanding) at age 43. I joked earlier this year that you don’t see many athletes walk away from the game in their prime like Mo, but there is some truth to that. He’s still as brutally effective as ever. There’s no good way to gauge his trade value though, it’s not like elite closers are traded two months prior to retirement/free agent all that often. I guess there’s 2009 Billy Wagner and 2007 Eric Gagne, right? That’s pretty much it, and neither was as good then as Rivera is now.
Wagner was fresh off Tommy John surgery at the time of the trade, as in just two appearances with the Mets before being traded fresh. He brought back absolutely nothing in return. The Mets should have kept him and taken the two draft picks after the season. What a terrible move. Gagne, on the other hand, brought back two big league ready and maybe useful pieces in David Murphy and Kason Gabbard as well as a low-level lottery ticket prospect (Engel Beltre). Gabbard flamed out and Beltre finally made it to the show this year, but Murphy turned into a pretty solid player. Pretty nice return for two months of a closer.
So would that be the framework for a Rivera trade? Two iffy but big league ready prospects and a low-level minor leaguer? Yeah I guess. Like I said, trading him would be more about getting him one last shot at the postseason than maximizing the return. It would be nice to get a useful piece in return however. Someone the Yankees could plug into the lineup or the pitching staff for the next five or six years. Doesn’t have to be a star, a Murphy-esque player would be just fine. Best of an unfortunate situation, you know?
I can’t imagine seeing Rivera in another uniform and thankfully I don’t have to worry about that ever happening. He’s not getting traded in the next few weeks. Like I said before, there’s zero chance of that happening. I know it, you know it, and he knows it. I just wanted to talk things out to see what kind of market and what kind of return the Yankees could expect if they did decide to move their closer to a contender as a personal favor in his final season. It’s a thought I never expected to entertain, that’s for sure.
Via Joey Nowak: Brian Cashman confirmed the Yankees are still in the market for third base help even after Alex Rodriguez returned. “We will be looking into [August trades],” said the GM. “We had to get through [Monday] because obviously there’s always a domino effect. Are you going to have Alex? Are you not going to have Alex? That certainly affects what your needs are and what you’re looking for and, ‘Should you stop looking?’ But we’ll continue to see what’s available. I don’t know if anything’s going to be there for us or not.”
Michael Young has somewhat surprisingly cleared trade waivers according to Ken Rosenthal, so he can now be dealt to any team as long as he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause. It wouldn’t make sense for the Yankees to go out and add a rental player like that at this point — the time for that type of move has come and gone. They should be looking for a more long-term solution at third base though, and at several other spots as well. Those kinda players are rarely traded in August, however. August trades are usually band-aid moves as contenders look for that one final piece. · (61) ·
The only good thing about the Yankees being this bad — 27-38 in their last 65 games, a 67-win pace over a full season — is that I can kinda stop caring about the outcome of each game. Just sit back and watch baseball, that’s all. Maybe even get excited when they win. Crazy idea, no? Being free of expectations is pretty cool. Anyway, some random thoughts.
1. The Yankees should absolutely start playing some of their young players, but they aren’t exactly loaded with big league ready talent. They can steal at-bats from various veterans to give David Adams more playing time and flat-out replace Chris Stewart with Austin Romine, but that’s really it. Maybe dump Joba Chamberlain for Dellin Betances. Not much more they can do besides that unless Michael Pineda gets healthy pretty soon. It’s still worth it though, Romine and Adams (and Betances) might actually be useful next year and it’s worth seeing what they’ve got.
2. I threw this out there on Twitter the other day, so I might as well do it here: what positive long-ish term developments have there been for the Yankees so far this season? Just at the big league level and not something like Hiroki Kuroda being awesome. Something that improves the team’s 2014 outlook. You know what I mean. There’s Ivan Nova‘s last five or six weeks, Preston Claiborne and Shawn Kelley in the bullpen, and … that’s it, right? I suppose Adam Warren as well, despite last night’s outing. There has not been much of a silver lining so far this year, though I suppose that could change if they do start playing some more youngsters. I’m not going to hold my breath though. It’s not in their DNA.
3. Although he’s been slumping since the All-Star break, Robinson Cano is still hitting a stellar .287/.371/.492 (131 wRC+) on the year. It is down a touch from his .311/.370/.538 (142 wRC+) performance from 2010-2012, however. How much of that step down do you think is the result of his recent slump, and how much is actual age-related decline? The 30-year-old Cano has been really good this year overall, though he has had some frustrating;y long stretches of being straight up bad and I don’t know what to think. With Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley signing contracts valued at $14M per year (or below), the idea of a $20M+ annual deal for Robbie isn’t sitting well with me. He’s better than those two, but that much better? I keep going back and forth with the idea of signing him long-term, but I full expect the Yankees to give him a fat new deal at some point.
4. This isn’t Yankees related, but have you noticed the NL playoff field is just about set already? The Braves and Dodgers are running away with their divisions, plus the Pirates, Cardinals, and Reds all have comfortable leads on a postseason spot. They just have to sort out the NL Central winner and two wildcards. Cincinnati has the worst record of the trio and they’re four games up on the next best team, the Diamondbacks. That NL Central race will be interesting, but otherwise all the late-season excitement will come from the AL.
That wasn’t the worst loss of the season. The worst loss of the season should come in a game that means something. The Yankees were dead in the water before being swept by the lowly White Sox, this series just clinched it. Wednesday’s final was 6-5 in 12 innings.
If you were still trying to convince yourself this was something other than not the Yankees year, this game should change your mind. I know this because I watched Adam Dunn slap a single (!) through the left side of the infield (!!) in an 0-2 count (!!!) off Mariano Rivera (!!!!) to tie the game with two outs in the ninth. That’s right, the rare quadruple exclamation point schtick. I don’t get bothered when Mo blows a save anymore, not in a long time actually, and this is no different. What are you going to do? I’ll take a one-run lead with Rivera on the mound in the ninth every day of the week.
Of course, one blown save wasn’t enough … well, actually, Adam Warren didn’t blow a save. He blew his win, technically. Dumb rules. Robinson Cano finally decided to show up for the second half with a long solo homer in the 12th inning, giving the Yankees a 5-4 lead. It was his first dinger since the All-Star break and second in the last month. Warren, who was in his second inning of work, couldn’t preserve the lead though, allowing three straight hits with two outs for the walk-off loss. It all started with an infield single off his glove that deflected away from the infielders, a Murphy’s Law type of hit. Mo and Warren faced five total batters representing the final out, and all five picked up hits. What a spectacular loss. They really went all-out for this one.
Four Is Better Than Three But Not As Good As Five
For the first time in eight games, since the game before the start of the road trip, the Yankees scored more than three runs. Granted, it was only five runs this time, but I’ll take it. Two of the five came on Alfonso Soriano‘s first inning homer, which was a bomb halfway up the stands in left. The under-rated part of the Soriano pickup is that the Yankees finally have someone with a decent bat flip. He pimped that homer a little bit. Vernon Wells singled in the third run — it was a bloop that fell between two miscommunicating fielders — and Eduardo Nunez solo homered in the fourth run. Cano’s dinger accounted for the fifth.
The offense did have several chances to blow this game open and make it a bit easier on the pitching staff, but they kept squandering rally after rally. Bases loaded with two outs in the sixth, first and second with no outs in both the seventh and eighth, runner on second with one out in both the ninth and eleventh … zero runs each time. The Yankees went 1-for-16 with men in scoring position as a team, which is a huge eyesore. If you want to get mad at someone, get mad at the offense. Not Mo or Warren. They had plenty of opportunities to tack on runs and never bothered to actually do it.
Better … I Think
Was this a good outing by CC Sabathia? I can’t decide. I mean yes, three runs in 7.1 innings is solid at worst and very good at best, but Sabathia is still clearly not right. He did show off some noticeably different mechanics — quicker tempo specifically, but his arm slot was a bit higher it seemed — and he did a better job of keeping the breaking ball down in the zone, but we are talking about a bad White Sox offense here. The worst non-Yankees offense in the league. Was Sabathia good or are the ChiSox just bad?
Either way, Joe Girardi has clearly lost some faith in his nominal ace because he pulled him from the game after only 86 pitches, which is a very short outing for Sabathia. In fact, it was his shortest outing since August 2010, ignoring some rain-shortened starts. I actually thought Girardi should have gone to the bullpen to start the eighth, but he let Sabathia start the inning for the left-on-left matchup. All told, CC allowed five hits (three singles, a double, a homer) and walked none while striking out just one. Sixty-four of those 86 pitches were strikes (74%), but only six were swings and misses (7.0%). This was a much better outing for Sabathia than what he’s been doing for the last two months, but let’s not declare him out of the woods just yet.
Sabathia did allow what is becoming the #obligatoryhomer, this one a solo shot to Gordon Beckham. It was the 25th dinger he’s given up this year, the second most in the league behind A.J. Griffin (28). It was also the third homer he’s given up in an 0-2 count since the start of last year. He allowed zero 0-2 homers from 2007-2011. Hat tip to Katie Sharp for that one.
Rivera, meanwhile, threw more than one inning in an outing for the first time since July 2011 and two complete innings for the first time since June 2011. It was the first time he came back out for a second inning after blowing a save since August 2008. Something about desperate times blah blah blah. His 30 pitches were only four more than his season high.
All together, the Yankees had eleven hits and eight walks in the game. Nunez went 3-for-4 with two walks and was a triple shy of the cycle, plus both Wells and Soriano had two hits apiece. Alex Rodriguez singled and walked, Austin Romine drew two walks, and Brett Gardner laid down a gorgeous drag bunt single to leadoff the game.
Soriano’s homer was his second with the Yankees this year and his 100th as a Yankee overall. He’s the 40th player to get to that number in pinstripes. That seems high to me. I’m surprised that many guys have hit a hundred homers with the team.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
MLB.com has the box score and video highlights, FanGraphs the nerd score, and ESPN the updated standings. The Yankees are one game over .500 with a -20 run differential, and Cool Standings says they have 1.8% chance of making the postseason. That’s too high.
The Yankees are off on Thursday and will welcome the Tigers to the Bronx for a three-game weekend series. Ivan Nova and the local kid Rick Porcello will be the pitching matchup for Friday night’s opener. Detroit has only won eleven games in a row, so they’re totally due for a loss.
Triple-A Scranton (7-2 win over Syracuse)
- CF Melky Mesa: 2-4, 2 R, 2 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — 3-for-12 (.250) since being sent down, but all three are extra-base hits (two doubles and a dinger)
- C J.R. Murphy: 0-3, 2 BB — 42 walks in 90 games this year after 42 walks in 110 games last year
- 1B Dan Johnson: 3-5, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1 K — four homers in his last five games, giving him the farm system lead with 20
- RF Ronnie Mustelier: 1-4, 1 RBI
- RHP Caleb Cotham: 7 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 WP, 13/2 GB/FB — 57 of 77 pitches were strikes (74%)
- RHP Dellin Betances: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 23 of 36 pitches were strikes (64%) … 63/21 K/BB in 49.1 innings as a reliever