Francisco Cervelli is dealing with “severe headaches” and will not be available for the foreseeable future, according to Sweeny Murti. Insert joke about having to watch the offense here. Austin Romine will be called up to join the Yankees in the meantime. Cervelli has a history of concussions and, if I remember correctly, he did take a pretty hard foul tip to the face mask the last time he played. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. The brain is nothing to mess around with.
Am I the only one who finds myself looking forward to Michael Pineda starts more than anything right now? I can’t be, right? I mean, Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy are cool, so is Hiroki Kuroda, but Big Mike is the star of the pitching show. He’s been awesome just about every time out this year. Hoping to see more of the same tonight. Here is the Royals lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- SS Derek Jeter
- LF Brett Gardner
- DH Carlos Beltran
- C Brian McCann
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- 2B Stephen Drew
- 3B Chase Headley
- RF Ichiro Suzuki
RHP Michael Pineda
It’s warm and humid in New York this evening, but the sky is clear and there is no rain in the forecast. Tonight’s game is scheduled to start a little after 7pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.
Injury Update: Martin Prado (hamstring) did some more running and baseball activities but obviously is not back in the lineup just yet. He said he hopes to be available to pinch-hit tonight.
Believe it or not, this is the last series the Yankees will play against a non-AL East team this season. Well, at least until they make that huge September push to win the division and face the Angels in the ALDS. Anyway, the Royals are in town for a three-game set starting tonight. The two teams have split their first four games of the season, three back in June and one last week in the makeup game of a rainout.
What Have They Done Lately?
Prior to yesterday’s off-day, the Royals swept a three-game series from the lowly Rangers. They dropped five of seven before that. Kansas City sits atop the AL Central at 77-61 with a +27 run differential, though their one-game lead over the Tigers is hardly commanding even this late in the season.
Manager Ned Yost’s team averages 4.07 runs per game with a team 93 wRC+, so the Royals are a bit below-average offensively. It’s worth noting they have the lowest strikeout rate in baseball at 15.7%, nearly two full percentage points lower than any other team. They just don’t strike out. Their only injured position player is IF Christian Colon, who just broke a finger and is done for the season.
Kansas City’s lineup revolves around OF Alex Gordon (129 wRC+), who is getting a bunch of MVP love thanks to some recent clutch homers and his UZR-inflated 6.2 WAR. Both 1B Eric Hosmer (90 wRC+) and DH Billy Butler (97 wRC+) are having down years, but both C Salvador Perez (101 wRC+) and OF Lorenzo Cain (106 wRC+) have been strong supporting players for Gordon. OF Josh Willingham (117 wRC+) plays based on matchups.
The rest of Yost’s regular lineup includes OF Norichika Aoki (90 wRC+), 2B Omar Infante (79 wRC+), SS Alcides Escobar (89 wRC+), and 3B Mike Moustakas (78 wRC+). Ex-Yankees OF Raul Ibanez (60 wRC+) and IF Jayson Nix (-1 wRC+ in limited) are on the bench alongside backup C Erik Kratz (78 wRC+) and the speedy OF Jarrod Dyson (96 wRC+). C Francisco Pena, IF Johnny Giavotella, OF Lane Adams, OF Terrance Gore, and OF Carlos Peguero are the September call-ups on the roster. Francisco is Yankees bench coach Tony Pena’s son.
Friday: RHP Michael Pineda (vs. KC) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
The Yankees and Royals will technically play only two series this season, but New York is going to wind up facing Shields three times because of that stupid rainout. Just their luck, huh? Shields, 32, has a 3.38 ERA (3.77 FIP) in 29 starts and 192 innings this season, though his strikeout rate (7.03 K/9 and 18.7 K%) is the lowest it’s been in five years. His walk (1.88 BB/9 and 5.0 BB%), homer (0.98 HR/9 and 10.3 HR/FB%), and ground ball (45.3%) rates are right where they usually are. Both his home/road and platoon splits are small. A mid-80s changeup remains Shields’ go-to pitch, though he has scaled back on it a bit this year and is throwing more low-90s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters instead. He also throws an upper-70s curveball on occasion. The Yankees have faced ex-Rays righty twice this year, first scoring one unearned run in six innings, then scoring six runs in 6.2 innings.
Saturday: RHP Brandon McCarthy (vs. KC) vs. LHP Danny Duffy (vs. NYY)
Duffy, 25, has a 2.42 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 141.1 innings across 22 starts and six relief appearances in his first full season following Tommy John surgery. His peripherals aren’t all that impressive outside of his homer rate (0.64 HR/9 and 5.4 HR/FB%) though: 6.88 K/9 (19.0 K%), 3.18 BB/9 (8.8 BB%), and 35.6% grounders. Duffy doesn’t have a home/road split but he is far better against lefties (.170 wOBA) than righties (.292 wOBA). He throws his mid-90s fastball more than two-thirds of the time, even as a starter, and he backs it up with an upper-70s curveball and a handful of mid-80 changeups per start. Duffy allowed three runs to the Yankees in 5.2 innings back in June.
Sunday: RHP Shane Greene (No vs. KC) vs. RHP Yordano Ventura (vs. NYY)
The Yankees did not see the 23-year-old Ventura when these two clubs met in June because he was nursing an elbow injury. The hard-throwing rookie has a 3.38 ERA (3.67 FIP) in 25 starts (and one relief appearance) and 152 innings in 2014 with very good homerun (0.77 HR/9 and 9.4 HR/FB%) and ground ball (48.0%) rates. His strikeout (7.82 K/9 and 20.3 K%) and walk (3.38 BB/9 and 8.8 BB%) numbers aren’t as strong, plus he has uncannily similar home/road (.295/.314 wOBA) and left/right (.295/.316 wOBA) splits. Freaky. Ventura is one of the hardest throwers in baseball, sitting in the upper-90s with both his two and four-seamer — his average four-seam fastball velocity (96.1 mph) is the second highest among qualified starters, behind only the injured Garrett Richards (96.4) — while also offering mid-80s changeups and low-80s curveballs. Like I said, the Yankees did not see Ventura the last time(s) these clubs met.
Yost has the best seventh/eighth/ninth inning trio in baseball in his bullpen. RHP Kelvin Herrera (2.69 FIP) is the seventh inning guy, RHP Wade Davis (1.38 FIP) is the eighth inning guy, and RHP Greg Holland (1.94 FIP) is the ninth inning guy. They’re all dominant and effectively make it a six-inning game. It is worth noting Holland has shown some signs of fatigue recently and been less effective the last week or so.
Elsewhere in the bullpen, Yost has LHP Scott Downs (4.16 FIP), RHP Aaron Crow (5.36 FIP), RHP Jason Frasor (3.47 FIP), and LHP Francisley Bueno (3.85 FIP). The crop of September call-ups includes RHP Casey Coleman, RHP Louis Coleman, RHP Liam Hendriks, and LHP Brandon Finnegan. Finnegan was the 17th overall pick in June’s draft. He’s the first 2014 draftee to reach MLB. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then check out Royals Review and Royals Authority for the latest and greatest on the Royals.
Yes, I’m swiping Mike’s bit, kind of. He’s invited me to do so for years, and now seems like a good time to take him up on the offer.
Brian Cashman‘s contract expires after this season. With the possibility of his team missing the postseason for the second consecutive year, fans have speculated that Cashman’s 16-year tenure as GM could come to an end.
Plenty of fans, particularly the loudest ones, have hoped that is the case. But it appears that they will be disappointed.
Playoffs or no playoffs, the Yankees intend to offer Brian Cashman a new contract this winter, according to pretty cool guy Jon Heyman. His sources indicate that ownership doesn’t blame Cashman for the way the last two seasons have unfolded.
(Perhaps because their own meddling has played a role?)
Few fanbases stand 100% behind the general manager. There’s always a set of people who believe that they’re the smartest people in the room, and they’re vocal so they can prove it to everyone. Yet it seems that this group is larger than it was the last time Cashman’s contract expired.
At that point, after the 2011 season, I fully supported bringing back Cashman. Since the inception of RAB the three of us (now four with Jay) have felt that Cashman is the guy for the job.
Now? I’m not so sure. Hence, a “thoughts on” post.
1. Where is this team headed? The Yankees had some tough decision to make last off-season. Not only did they face a depleted roster, but their far-and-away most productive hitter hit the free agent market. The time seemed ripe for a rebuilding effort.
They could have acted far differently. They could have re-signed Robinson Cano and signed Masahiro Tanaka without sacrificing the 18th pick in the draft. Instead they went in a completely different direction, trying to patch multiple weaknesses with high-priced free agents.
As Mike wrote earlier this week, the Yankees face an even tougher set of decisions this winter. Do they double down on their spending strategy to bring in Jon Lester? Do they seek out an offensive upgrade — Nelson Cruz or Hanley Ramirez? They’ve already committed $168 million to the 2015 team, and that covers just 10 players.
It seems kind of silly to hold back this off-season after going big and seeing little results this past season. Yet, as Mike noted, they certainly need to rethink how they operate as the team around them modify their philosophies.
The point is, in the past we’ve had some idea of the direction the Yankees were taking. Right now? I have none, and I don’t think anyone else outside the organization does, either.
The further point is, I’m not totally sure Cashman is the guy to take the team in a different direction.
2. Is it a higher ups problem? There are plenty of young executives from other clubs the Yankees could poach for a potentially vacant GM spot. But if they’re not allowed to actually make decisions, will it even matter?
The larger question is of whether ownership is truly a problem here. Yes, the Steinbrenners have opened their wallets to help the team, but are they spending that money wisely? Are they meddling to too great a degree? These are questions we have difficulty answering from the outsider perspective.
We’ve seen certain instances where the higher ups step in to make decisions. Rafael Soriano remains the most prominent example. Ichiro Suzuki, too. So how many decisions is ownership forcing on the team? How independently can the GM act?
The Diamondbacks just fired their GM, Kevin Towers. They’ll find someone soon to fill that role. Will he have any success? It’s tough to say, because, as my dear friend Leo said, Ken Kendrick still owns them. It has become pretty apparent that ownership is part of the problem here. Knicks fans have known this for far more than a decade.
If the problem does lie with the higher ups, then does it even matter who holds the GM position? In that case, having Cashman, who has been around the Steinbrenner family his entire adult life, might be an advantage.
3. Would a good candidate even want the job? Many of us have dreamt of becoming the GM. (And a few among us have delusions that we’re qualified.) Who would turn down the opportunity if offered?
Plenty of people. Perhaps the most qualified candidates wouldn’t find the Yankees’ job attractive. Two highly regarded executives, Jason McLeod of the Cubs and David Forst of the A’s, declined to interview for the Padres GM job earlier this year. Would they interview for the Yankees’ gig, knowing that ownership gets involved in baseball decisions?
The absolute worst case scenario is to let Cashman walk only to hire some retread GM, because none of the elite candidates want the job. I like Kevin Towers well enough, but I don’t want to see him replace Cashman as GM of the Yankees.
There’s no point in letting Cashman go if they’re not going to replace him with an elite GM, or a young executive on his path to greatness. Firing Cashman and then hiring (shudders) Ed Wade or Jim Bowden or Jim Hendry seems like a sure step backward. What if they’re the only guys lining up to interview for the job?
4. A Theo/Hoyer situation? By most visible measures, Billy Eppler has done a fine job in the last few years, first as pro scouting director and now as assistant GM. The Padres courted him for their vacant GM position, and nearly hired him. The man is in demand. Might it be his time to shine?
The Yankees could choose to promote Cashman and move Eppler into the GM role, a situation similar to how Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein operate in Chicago. On a practical level that might not accomplish much. Epstein surely continues to call shots in Chicago, just as Ken Williams continues to call shots in Chicago even though Rick Hahn is the GM.
At the very least, this kind of nominal move could keep Eppler in New York. Given the work he’s done in the last few years and the reputation he’s established, that seems desirable. The Yankees have an obstacle, in that they already have a team president. While most of us have less than perfect impressions of Randy Levine, it’s not as though the Steinbrenners are just going to fire him because they want to move Cashman into that position.
Six questions and six answers in this week’s mailbag. If you’d like to send us anything, mailbag questions or links or cooking tips or whatever, use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar. We get a ton of questions each week, so don’t take it personally if we don’t answer yours.
Tim Leary asks: Am I the only one who thinks that nobody won the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda deal? Just because Montero is seemingly a disaster right now and Pineda has made seven starts now, doesn’t mean the Yankees won. Montero could have fetched any number of star caliber players from 2010 through 2012 and the Yankees flipped him for an asset who subsequently got hurt and missed two full years. I just don’t see how in retrospect you can say the Yankees “won the trade” with that misuse of a top asset. Your thoughts?
There are a bunch of different ways to evaluate a trade, right? The easiest and lamest way is to add up the WARs, in which case both FanGraphs (1.1 vs. -0.8) and Baseball Reference (1.6 vs. -0.4) say the Yankees won the trade. That doesn’t include Hector Noesi, who would only further tip the scales in the Yankees’ favor, though Jose Campos would give some of that back since he hasn’t done much of anything or been particularly healthy these last three years.
Another way and arguably the fairest way to evaluate is trade is based on what we knew at the time. Back in January 2012, we knew:
- Pineda just had an All-Star debut season and was the first rookie in history to qualify for the ERA title with 9+ K/9 and sub-3 BB/9. He had five years of team control remaining.
- Montero had a monster September in pinstripes and was widely regarded as one of the two or three best hitting prospects in baseball despite his lack of position. He had six years of team control remaining.
- Noesi had a nice MLB debut season as a swingman and looked like someone cut from the David Phelps and Adam Warren cloth. He had six years of team control remaining.
- Campos was a good looking pitching prospect way down in the short season leagues.
That’s what we knew at the time. Based on that, I think you’d have to say the Yankees got the better end of the deal because Pineda had established dominance at the MLB level. I’ve always said I thought the trade was fair value (or that the Yankees actually came out ahead) on paper, but I wouldn’t have done it because I thought they had a much greater need for a young middle of the order bat than the young top flight arm. I was kinda right, no?
Anyway, there is also an opportunity cost element here — what they actually got vs. what they could have gotten had they traded these players elsewhere — but how could we possibly evaluate that with any sort of accuracy? Unless reports come out involving these players and trades that were turned down, it’s all guesswork. We know for a fact the Blue Jays said no to Montero for Roy Halladay and that the Mariners backed out of a Montero for Cliff Lee deal, but that’s really it. Knowing that, how could you say “Montero could have fetched any number of star caliber players from 2010 through 2012?” We assume the Yankees could have gotten something nice if they traded Montero elsewhere but we don’t know that for sure.
I think the simplest and most straight-forward way to evaluate a trade like this is: did either team get what they wanted? Did the Yankees get the young pitcher who claimed a spot near the top of their rotation? Did the Mariners get their big middle of the order bat? The answer to both of those questions is no. Neither team has gotten what they wanted out of this deal. Does that mean they both lost? I guess. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who wins and who loses. There is no trade scorecard. The Yankees are left with Pineda and Campos and what happens with the Mariners is mostly irrelevant to their end of the trade. This deal has not worked out as hoped for either team and although I will stop short of calling it win for the Yankees, I do know I’d much rather have their end of the trade than Seattle’s right now.
Dustin asks: Do you think Kevin Long could be under any heat this offseason? It wouldn’t be necessarily deserved, but given the problems getting on base and scoring runs all season.
Yeah I think so. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Yankees, after spending all that money last offseason only to win fewer games and score fewer runs in 2014 than they did in 2013 (which they’re on pace to do), look for someone to take the fall after the season. Ownership reportedly wants to bring Brian Cashman back and I suspect that’s what will happen. Joe Girardi sure as hell shouldn’t go anywhere, so now we’re down to the coaches, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild deserves a lot of credit for keeping the rotation afloat despite the injuries. That leaves Long, right? If someone is going to be scapegoated for the season, the process of elimination leaves him as the likely candidate.
Justin asks: How much money comes off the Yankee payroll at the end of the season? Off the top my head I got Derek Jeter, Hiroki Kuroda, David Robertson, Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, and Ichiro Suzuki. Did I miss any one significant? Also will $189M will be a issue this offseason? If so how much room to work do they have?
According to Cot’s, the Yankees already have $168.8M in salary commitments for next season. Those players Justin mentioned plus Stephen Drew are the notable guys set to hit free agency, clearing money. Remember, Alex Rodriguez and his massive salary will be coming back. A-Rod is included in that $168.8M but the team’s arbitration-eligible players are not. This winter’s crop of arbitration-eligible players includes Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phelps, Shawn Kelley, Frankie Cervelli, Esmil Rogers, Josh Outman, and David Huff. Rogers, Outman, and Huff are all non-tender candidates. Pineda and Phelps will get nice raises as first time eligible players, Nova and Kelley less so by virtue of being hurt and a non-closing reliever, respectively.
Including the arbitration guys, the Yankees already have something like $180M to $185M on the books for 18 players next year when you include Rogers, Outman, and Huff. Non-tendering them clears three roster spots but would results in minimal savings, maybe dropping them down to $175M to $180M for 15 players. This is all back of the envelope stuff, obviously. The Yankees have opened the last few years with a payroll in the $195M to $210M range, and if they stick to that again, they’ll have approximately $20M to $30M to spend this offseason unless they manage to shed some salary through trades. The biggest needs are a big bat (right field?), another starting pitcher or two, and a reliever or two if Robertson leaves.
Adam asks: Any idea/prediction on what this offseason’s qualifying offer amount will be? And does it make sense to offer to D-Rob and/or Kuroda?
Estimations have this winter’s qualifying offer just north of $15M. Last offseason it was $14.1M, the offseason before that $13.3M. The Yankees can not make qualifying offers to McCarthy, Headley, or Drew by rule since they were traded at midseason. Kuroda is again on the fence about retirement and the Yankees have made him the qualifying offer in each of the last two winters, so I think they will again just in case he decides to spent another year in Los Angeles or something. He didn’t accept the last two qualifying offers, instead opting to negotiate a new one-year deal. I think they trust he would do that again.
I definitely think the Yankees will and should make Robertson a qualifying offer. He just might accept, at which point the team could either keep him another year at an inflated salary (not the worst thing in the world) or use it as a stepping stone towards a long-term deal. If Robertson doesn’t accept, it might kill his market. I’m not sure how many teams will give up a high draft pick to sign a reliever, even an elite one. Remember, Rafael Soriano sat out there unsigned until Yankees ownership felt the need to grab some headlines a few winters ago. My feeling at this moment is that it makes sense to extend the qualifying offer to both Robertson and Kuroda, and that the team will do just that.
Paul asks: Thoughts on the Yankees trying to get some extensions done this month, before the end of the season? D-Rob and B-Mac (is that what we call him?) seem likely candidates. Or is it more likely they’ll wait until the season ends? Also, remind me again of how the exclusive negotiating period works please. Thanks.
I know Cashman has said the no extensions policy is a thing of the past, but I would be surprised if they took the time to work out any extensions this month. Robertson and McCarthy and maybe Headley are the obvious candidates for a new contract. I assume they’ll wait until after the season to work on that. The five-day exclusive negotiating period starts the day after the end of the World Series, but the Yankees are unlikely to go to the postseason, so they’ll have the entire month of October to discuss any extensions as well. They’ll have plenty of time to talk about new deals with McCarthy and/or Robertson and I hope they do just that. There are obvious reasons to keep both and few reasons to let either go.
Jamie asks: The Yankees offensive woes makes me wonder: how many times have they been shut out? Scored one run? Two? Three? Four? Five? Etc.
As always, Baseball Reference makes this nice and easy. To the table:
The Yankees have been shut out six times and held to two or fewer runs 43 times. That’s basically one-third of their games played at this point. They’re 7-36 (.163) in those games. On the other hand, they’ve scored six or more runs 33 times and are 30-3 (.909) in those games. That’s been the “magic number” this year, so to speak. If the Yankees manage to push across six runs, then in all likelihood they won the game. The MLB average winning percentage when scoring two or fewer runs and six or more runs is .144 and .874, respectively, so the Yankees are above-average at both.