As expected, the Yankees have activated Curtis Granderson off the 60-day DL in time for tonight’s game. He is in the lineup, batting fifth and playing left field. Melky Mesa was sent to Triple-A Scranton to clear a spot on the 25-man roster, and Thomas Neal was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster. · (17) ·
Thirty-four years ago today, Thurman Munson was killed in a plane crash near his home in Ohio. The Yankees had an off-day and he was practicing take-offs and landings when he apparently came in too low, clipped a tree, and fell short of the runway. Two others survived the crash.
Munson was before my time, so all I know about him is what I’ve read and heard in stories. This day passes each year and it’s hard to connect, but it isn’t hard to see how beloved he was. He wasn’t named the team’s first captain since Lou Gehrig by accident. Munson was one of the greatest Yankees to ever play, and it’s a tragedy any time baseball and death cross paths.
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Here is your open thread for the evening. The Yankees are out on the West Coast to play the Padres and the regular game thread will be along in a few hours. The Mets are playing the Royals (Gee vs. Davis), plus MLB Network will air a game as well. Talk about either game or anything you like here. Go nuts.
For the first time since the place opened in 2004, the Yankees are heading to Petco Park for an interleague series against the Padres. They never even got to play there before the walls were brought in. New ballparks are always fun, so this weekend will be pretty neat. New York wraps up the West Coast leg of the road trip with three games against their 1998 World Series opponent this weekend.
What Have They Done Lately?
At one point in late-June, the Padres got to two games over .500 for the first time since April 2011. No, really. They’ve gone 13-23 since, though they did win four straight before losing their last game. At 50-59 with a -57 run differential, the Friars sit in fourth place in the NL West and are nine games back of a playoff spot.
For about a decade, the Padres were a pitching and defense team that really struggled to score runs. That’s not the case anymore. Quite the opposite, really. They average 4.0 runs per game with a team 95 wRC+, slightly below-average marks that rank better than the Yankees (3.9/82). San Diego is currently without OF Cameron Maybin (29 wRC+ in limited time), C Yasmani Grandal (99 wRC+), and 1B/OF Kyle Blanks (109 wRC+), all of whom are on the DL and won’t return this series. OF Carlos Quentin (142 wRC+) is day-to-day with a knee problem but could be back in the lineup as soon as tonight.
Former Rule 5 Draft pick and current leadoff man SS Everth Cabrera (109 wRC+) quietly leads the NL in stolen bases (37) and is having a great year, but he’s reportedly about to be suspended for his ties to Biogenesis. Sucks. The under-rated OF Chris Denorfia (104 wRC+) bats second ahead of 3B Chase Headley (103 wRC+), who has been battling injuries all year. 1B Yonder Alonso (111 wRC+) cleans up with Quentin out, then they’ve got OF Will Venable (101 wRC+) and 2B Jeff Gyorko (97 wRC+). It’s pronounced Jerk-o. Seriously. C Nick Hundley (96 wRC+) catches full-time with Grandal out.
The Padres have a decent bench by NL standards. 1B/OF Jesus Guzman (102 wRC+ vs. LHP) hits lefties well, but 1B/OF Mark Kotsay (54 wRC+ vs. RHP) doesn’t do much against righties. Yes, Kotsay is still playing. UTIL Alexi Amarista (97 wRC+) can play anywhere and play it well. IF Logan Forsythe (70 wRC+) is more potential than production at the moment. Former Yankees farmhand C Rene Rivera (31 wRC+ in very limited time) backs up Hundley. San Diego doesn’t hit many homers, but they have stolen the third most bases in the game (82). It’s not just Cabrera.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Andrew Cashner
Cashner, 26, is one of those guys with ace stuff but not ace results or ace durability. The right-hander has been on the DL three times in three full big league seasons, each time with a shoulder issue. He also sliced a tendon in his thumb with a hunting knife over the winter. Cashner has a 3.88 ERA (3.86 FIP) in 17 starts (and five relief appearances), plus his walk (2.91 BB/9 and 7.8 BB%), homer (0.81 HR/9 and 9.8% HR/FB), and ground ball (53.4%) rates are all strong. His strikeout rate (6.31 K/9 and 16.9 K%) leaves something to be desired. Cashner lives in the mid-90s with his four-seam fastball and he’ll run it up to 98-99 on occasion, but his low-80s slider and mid-80s changeup are nasty secondary offerings. Many think he’s a reliever long-term because of he can’t stay healthy, but the Padres are giving him a chance to show he can start. The Yankees have never faced Cashner before.
Saturday: RHP Ivan Nova vs. RHP Tyson Ross
How often does a pitcher leave the Athletics and actually get better? Not often, but the 26-year-old Ross is the rare exception. He’s got a 2.90 ERA (3.65 FIP) in five starts and 19 relief appearances for San Diego, pitching so well in relief that they moved him into the rotation. Ross walks a few too many (3.66 BB/9 and 9.9 BB%), but he has a decent strikeout rate (7.17 K/9 and 19.3 K%) and very good homer (0.61 HR/9 and 7.0% HR/FB) and ground ball (51.8%) numbers. Ross has five pitches but only really uses two, his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and mid-80s slider. He’ll use those two pitches a combined 83% of the time or so. Low-to-mid-90s two-seamers and cutters as well as a mid-80s changeup round out his repertoire. The Yankees have seen Ross a few times over the years while he was with Oakland, and they roughed him up nearly every time.
Sunday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. RHP Ian Kennedy
All we need is Joba Chamberlain to appear in this game and we can have a Save the Big Three! reunion party. The Padres made a nifty little move to buy low on IPK at the trade deadline, snagging him for two relievers (one in Double-A) and a draft pick. Of course, Kennedy was acquired so cheaply because he has been awful this year. The 28-year-old had a 5.23 ERA (4.59 FIP) in 21 starts before the trade — this will be his first start with San Diego — and his peripherals weren’t anything special: 7.84 K/9 (19.7 K%), 3.48 BB/9 (8.7 BB%), 1.31 HR/9 (12.5% HR/FB), and 36.1%. Kennedy is a true six-pitch pitcher with three fastballs (low-90s two and four-seamer, mid-80s cutter) and three offspeed pitches (mid-80s slider, low-80s changeup, mid-70s curveball). He rarely uses the slider nowadays and the changeup is his bread-and-butter. It’s why he hasn’t had much a platoon split over the years. Kennedy has never faced the team that originally drafted him.
San Diego’s bullpen isn’t as strong as we’re used to seeing. In fact, the entire pitching staff isn’t all that good. RHP Huston Street (6.13 FIP) is a cardiac closer who gives up a freaking ton of homers. I’m talking ten homers in 35.1 innings this year (2.55 HR/9). Even Hughes is embarrassed for him. Setup man RHP Luke Gregerson (2.90 FIP) continues to be excellent, and RHP Nick Vincent (2.38 FIP) has impressed in his limited opportunities.
The Padres shipped primary lefty Joe Thatcher to Arizona for Kennedy, so their only southpaw right now is LHP Colt Hynes (6.98 FIP in very limited time). RHP Sean O’Sullivan (3.54 FIP in limited time) and RHP Tim Stauffer (3.60 FIP) round out what is currently a six-man bullpen. That will probably change at some point. It’s worth noting that manager Bud Black is a Showalter-level strategic manager who always seems to make the right pitching change and whatnot. There’s only so much he can do with this group, however.
Both the Yankees and Padres were off yesterday, so their bullpens are relatively fresh. David Robertson was unavailable on Wednesday because of a tired arm and it’s unclear if he’ll be available tonight or at all this weekend. We’ll find out soon enough. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for recent reliever usage, then check out Gaslamp Ball for the latest and greatest on the Friars.
Via Jon Heyman: Alex Rodriguez’s camp is considering accepting a plea agreement from MLB that would keep him off the field until 2015, but they may are still seeking a more favorable deal. The league considers even a 150-game suspension to be light given their evidence. Ronald Blum hears A-Rod and the other players may be given until Monday to accept their deals, just in case you were worried this wouldn’t drag out any longer.
Meanwhile, Julie Brown reports the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami is now digging into Biogenesis. That could be a problem for MLB because Anthony Bosch would be unlikely to testify in front of an arbitrator (during an appeal) if he’s being investigated by the feds simply because he wouldn’t want to incriminate himself. The league promised they would put in a good word for Bosch as part of their agreement, but who knows how that far will go. Given all this talk about possibly banning A-Rod for life, I get the sense that any suspension that doesn’t keep him off the field until 2015 would be considered a loss for MLB. They backed themselves into a corner a bit.
I think we’re all sick of this Biogenesis stuff by now, but if you’re going to read one article on the subject, I recommend this one by William Rhoden. · (170) ·
Five whole questions for you today. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.
Nathan: Looking at their stats since the trade, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano aren’t too far apart. In retrospect, would you still have made that trade? A-Rod has the better stats but has been the bigger headache.
First, the side-by-side comparison (2004-present):
A-Rod was the far better player because he was a better hitter and a better defender at a tougher position. Does the headache, which really only became truly insufferable these last few weeks (at least to me), outweigh the production? I definitely don’t think so. The Rodriguez-Soriano trade worked out marvelously for the Yankees. It’s the new ten-year contract they gave Alex after 2007 that has been mostly a nightmare. The 2009 World Series does still counts for something.
Bruce asks: Why is Michael Pineda still only throwing four innings a start?
The Yankees say it’s “innings management,” and it makes sense they would try to limit his workload following shoulder surgery. He did throw six full innings in his third minor league rehab game (with Double-A Trenton), but since reaching Triple-A Scranton he has yet to throw more than five innings and 86 pitches. The last two starts have been limited to three innings (41 pitches) and four innings (58 pitches).
Pineda has thrown 39 innings in nine official minor league games this year. That doesn’t count all the simulated and Extended Spring Training games though, and there were a ton of those as you probably remember. I’m guessing they want to limit him to about 100 innings or so (hooray round numbers!) this season, and want to make sure there are some left for the big league team in September. Pineda’s has already been down long enough to delay his free agency a year, so that’s not a concern. I prefer flat out skipping starts to short starts to control innings, but the Yankees obviously feel differently. I’m sure Pineda will be allowed to start pitching deeper into the game in the coming weeks.
Sal asks: Based on the way Derek Jeter‘s Yankee Lifelong Legend Legacy is going, and with all kinds of earning potential out there for him even after he retires (corporate sponsorships and maybe even buying a stake in the Yankees), do you think he can end up with more lifetime earnings from the game of baseball than, uh, you know where I’m going with this … Alex?
According to Baseball-Reference, A-Rod is baseball’s all-time career earnings leader at $353.4M. Jeter is second at … $253.2M. That’s a nine-figure gap between first and second place. Geez. Keep in mind that Alex still has four years and $86M left on his contract after this season while the Cap’n just has a $9M player option for 2014. Given what feels like an inevitable Biogenesis-related suspension, A-Rod probably won’t see all of that $86M. He’ll probably still get a nice chunk of it though, so the career earnings gap will only widen.
I am completely out of my element when it comes to sponsorships and ownership stakes; I have no idea how lucrative that stuff can be outside of “very.” Forbes has Jeter at $9M in endorsements (Nike, Ford, Gillette, etc.) this year and A-Rod at just $0.5M. We’ve seen him in ads for Nike and Pepsi, among other stuff, in the past. I have to think Alex’s endorsements well will dry up following the Biogenesis stuff, but will that be enough to allow Jeter to pass him in career earnings over the time? It’s possible, especially if he does wind up purchasing a stake in the team, but he’s got a ton of ground to make up.
Mike asks: Does the Yankees being in 4th place make the waiver market at least slightly more favorite than in years past? Seems like there has been times where another team behind them was able to block a player from getting to them, now will they have easier access to players they want and can they now block players from getting to Boston, Tampa, or Baltimore?
Sure, being this low in the standings will definitely help the Yankees on the waiver trade market. Of course, I wish the team was higher in the standings and didn’t need the players, but that’s not the case. The Yankees have waiver priority over all of their wildcard competitors (Orioles, Indians, Rangers, Royals), meaning they’ll get first crack at whoever is on waivers. That means they can both block players and trade for them, if they want. It’s a nice consolation prize and could be helpful at some point.
Shaun asks: It may be to early to speculate, but do you see ownership’s trend of going above Brian Cashman being a problem with Cashman’s next contract? I know autonomy was a big deal to him during previous negotiations. If anything, ownership is making it more difficult to get under the $189 threshold.
Eh, I doubt it. Cashman knows how the Steinbrenner’s operate, and I believe even he said there is no such thing as true autonomy at the GM level. Besides, he signed his most recent contract after the Rafael Soriano signing. Hal is much less meddlesome than his father, though I suppose Cashman could be sick of it after 15 (!) years on the job. Ownership has gone over his head quite a bit these last few years, but it would surprise me if that was a big problem for him going forward.
That said, I do think this is Cashman’s last contract as Yankees GM. I’m pretty sure I’ve said this before. His current deal expires after next season, at which point I think he will be promoted to some other position. The “President of Baseball Ops” position the Cubs made up for Theo Epstein sounds nice. The Nationals just promoted GM Mike Rizzo to that just yesterday, so it’s already a trend. Cashman will have been the GM for 16 years when his deal is up, and a promotion is the natural order of things at that point. It appears as though former pro scouting director and current assistant GM Billy Eppler is being groomed to take over sometime soon, or at least he’s the only obvious in-house successor. I would be surprised if the Yankees brought in a new GM from the outside and threw them to the wolves. Experience and familiarity with the New York market would be a prerequisite.
LHP Matt Tracy has been activated off the DL, reports Josh Norris. He’s been out for a month and a half with a hip problem. LHP Fred Lewis was placed on the DL with a blister to clear a roster spot.
Triple-A Scranton (2-1 win over Indianapolis in 12 innings)
- 2B David Adams: 3-6, 1 RBI – go-ahead single in the top of the 12th
- LF Ronnie Mustelier: 2-6, 2 K
- C J.R. Murphy: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 K — six doubles in his last ten games
- RF Thomas Neal: 3-5
- RHP Caleb Cotham: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 9/3 GB/FB — 43 of 57 pitches were strikes (75%)
- RHP Dellin Betances: 2.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 20 of 27 pitches were strikes (74%)
Alex Rodriguez will play two games with Double-A Trenton this weekend, the Yankees announced. He felt good following a simulated game in Tampa earlier today and will join the Thunder for their games on Friday and Saturdayday. I suppose if his hip and quad feel good, Alex could rejoin the team in Chicago for the start of their series against the White Sox on Monday. Then again, he might be banned from baseball for life before then. · (56) ·
For the second time in four days, the Yankees are off tonight. That Los Angeles to San Diego trip is pretty brutal, assuming they’re traveling by rickshaw. In all seriousness though, off-days are precious this time of year. The Yankees need as much rest as they can get, especially David Robertson and Mariano Rivera at the back of the bullpen. Those are two are going to be insanely important down the stretch. They have to protect every lead that comes their way these next two months.
Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The fifth game of that huge Cardinals-Pirates series will air on MLB Network (Kelly vs. Morton) — Pittsburgh has won the first four games of the series and are currently 2.5 games up in the NL Central — and that’s really it. Thankfully, that’s an awesome game. Talk about it or anything else here. Enjoy.
Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees made the Phillies two offers for Michael Young prior to yesterday’s trade deadline. They first offered right-hander Tommy Kahnle while assuming the $5M left on Young’s contract before offering a different (unnamed) prospect, but both were rejected. The Yankees also asked about Carlos Ruiz but were told he wasn’t available.
Both Young and Ruiz are prime August waiver trade bait as Philadelphia continues to fall out of the race. The Yankees are pretty high up on the waiver priority list, at least relative to their primary wildcard competitors, but both Young and Ruiz would have to pass through the NL and about a half-dozen AL teams before New York had a shot at them. Here’s how August waiver trades work, if you need a reminder. It’s doable but complicated. · (31) ·
To date, this has been a lost season for Curtis Granderson. Two long-ish term fluke injuries have limited him to just eight (!) of the team’s first 107 games, and the Yankees have sorely missed his power production in the middle of the lineup. The injuries also came at a bad time for Curtis personally, since he’s due to become a free agent for the first time this winter. That’s unfortunate.
The good news is that Granderson’s time on the DL is about to come to an end. He wrapped up his six-game minor league rehab assignment yesterday, going 4-for-19 (.211) with four walks and five strikeouts with High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Granderson played left field in four of the six games — he was the DH in the other two, once because he had a stomach bug and couldn’t play the field as scheduled — and reported no problems with his left hand.
“Curtis has been a vital part of our offense,” said Derek Jeter to Wally Matthews. “He’s a guy that can change the game with one swing. We’re looking forward to him coming back, but just because Curtis is back doesn’t mean we can sit back and relax. Everybody has a job to do and everyone needs to do it.”
As a team, the Yankees have hit just 28 homers in 53 games since the calendar flipped to June, including a recent eight-game homer-less streak that was their longest since going ten straight in April 1984. That’s where Granderson, a flawed hitter who won’t hit for much average and will strike out a bunch, figures to give the team a big boost. They need someone who can put a run(s) on the board with one swing, and few hitters in the world can do that as well as Curtis. That his left hand was broken and not the right (front hand) bodes well for retaining that power after the injury.
There’s also this: the Yankees have become a very impatient team. They rank 19th in baseball with a 7.5% walk rate, their lowest since 1990 and their first time below 8.5% since 2001. Outside of Brett Gardner, who is seventh in baseball with an average of 4.24 pitches per plate appearance, not a single regular sees more than 3.75 pitches per plate appearance. That’s awful and leads to a lot of quick outs, as you may have noticed. In addition to hitting for power, one of Granderson’s strengths is drawing walks (11.0% in 2012, 10.1 % career) and seeing pitches (4.27 P/PA in 2012, 4.16 career). That will be a welcome addition to the offense.
Although the Yankees are lefty-heavy, it won’t be tough to squeeze Granderson’s bat back into the lineup. I assume Melky Mesa will be sent to Triple-A to clear a 25-man roster spot and either Luis Cruz or Zoilo Almonte will be transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man spot, but that’s the easy part. Granderson should play left field every day, pushing Alfonso Soriano into the DH role. Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells will have to duke it out for playing time in right. The regular lineup could look something like this:
- CF Gardner
- SS Jeter
- 2B Robinson Cano
- LF Granderson
- DH Soriano
- 1B Lyle Overbay
- RF Ichiro or Wells
- Third Base
That splits up the lefties a bit, rather than batting Soriano cleanup and having three straight lefty bats from the five through seven slots whenever Ichiro plays. It’s not perfect, but that suddenly looks like a competitive big league lineup. Four guys you can expect to be above-average, two you can expect to be about average, and three that range from below-average to awful. It’s not a classic Yankees lineup, but it’s far better than what they’ve trotted out there for most of the season.
So, this is it. The Yankees are at full strength now. With the exception of Alex Rodriguez, who is facing a Biogenesis-related suspension, all of the injured position players will be back as soon as Granderson is activated. Frankie Cervelli is heading to see Dr. Andrews and is unlikely to play again this year, and the trio of Cruz, Almonte, and Travis Hafner are largely inconsequential. This is it barring an August waiver trade. With Curtis back, the Yankees are as close to full strength as they’re going to get, and now is the time to make a run at that second wildcard spot.