Thoughts ten days prior to the July 31st trade deadline

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The 2015 non-waiver trade deadline is now only ten days away. There are more buyers than sellers (as usual) and this season the Yankees are absolutely a buyer. I mean, they’re always buyers, the Yankees are never going to sell, but this year they’ve got a decent lead in the AL East and their 82.1% postseason odds are the third best in the AL right now. Buy buy buy! Here are some thoughts prior to the trade deadline.

1. I want the Yankees to be aggressive at the deadline, even if it means “overpaying” to make a trade. That doesn’t mean they should empty the farm system for the sake of it, but don’t lose out on someone because you’re not willing to kick in that extra mid-range minor leaguer, especially if the alternative is the player going to a division rival. (I expect the Blue Jays to be very active at the deadline. GM Alex Anthopoulos might not be back next year if they miss the postseason.) Why do I want them to be aggressive? Because I don’t think the Yankees can count on Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez being this productive next year. Same with Carlos Beltran. Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow might not cooperate next year and others like Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Chase Headley are inching closer to age-related decline as well. I’m not saying the Yankees won’t contend next year, just that I don’t think their chances will be as good as they are right now at this very moment. The offense is very good, the bullpen is great, and the rotation is promising. Strengthen the roster and go for it. This might be the last chance to win with this core.

2. Starting pitching should be the club’s top priority, even ahead of second base. Tanaka (elbow), Michael Pineda (workload), and CC Sabathia (performance) all carry some kind of significant red flag. Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t been great and Ivan Nova has been uneven since returning from Tommy John surgery as well. I’d rather see the Yankees add a starter at the deadline and have “too much” pitching than need it and not have at some point in the second half. Jon Morosi says New York is still scouting Johnny Cueto and Susan Slusser says they had a scout watching Scott Kazmir over the weekend, so they’re out there looking for rental arms. (Ken Rosenthal says the White Sox are in “listening mode” with Jeff Samardzija, another rental starter.) Cueto, Kazmir, Samardzija, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy, Bartolo Colon, Yovani Gallardo, Dan Haren, Mat Latos … the rental pitchers are out there. At this point I think I prefer Kazmir to everyone else, but the Yankees should bring in some rotation help either way. It’s a clear area of need.

3. Now, if the Yankees do bring in a starter, they’ll need to squeeze him into the rotation. I don’t think that will be too tough though, even if the team is unwilling to bump Sabathia into the bullpen. The easiest solution is using a six-man rotation until rosters expand on September 1st, simply sucking it up with a six-man bullpen or a three-man bench. It could be both — the team has three off-days in August and could pull off a six-man bullpen for part of the month and a three-bench the other times. I doubt this would happen, but the Yankees could also control Pineda’s workload not just by skipping a start, but by sending him to the minors for ten days to free up the roster spot. Pineda has minor league options left (two by my count) and he’s probably never going to use them at this point, so that’s an option. (Besides, ten days in the minors won’t burn an option. It takes 20 days.) That said, I don’t see the Yankees doing it, and the idea of undeservingly sending a player to the minors is sorta yucky. The “too many” starters issue will sort itself out. It always does. And if it doesn’t, celebrate!

Gyorko. (Presswire)
Gyorko. (Presswire)

4. Aside from pitching, the biggest need is at second base, though I’m not sure who is realistically available other than Ben Zobrist. I’m sure the Reds would give Brandon Phillips away, but I want no part of him. Martin Prado is another name, but I could see the Marlins holding onto him and trying to contend next year. Dustin Ackley? He’s barely outhitting Stephen Drew and I’m not sure the “he was a former top prospect!” line of thinking applies anymore. Just go with Rob Refsnyder rather than try to squeeze water from the Ackley rock. Jedd Gyorko? He has a 78 wRC+ since signing his six-year, $35M contract last year. Gyorko’s been so bad the Padres had to send him to Triple-A a few weeks ago. If the Yankees can’t make a trade for a second baseman, then they have to go with Refsnyder the rest of the way. Drew had his chance. Time to move on.

5. Brian Cashman told reporters yesterday (including Erik Boland) that it is “more likely that we don’t do anything rather than predicting we do something significant,” which is GM Speak 101. Ever notice how almost every GM says he doesn’t expect to do anything significant this time of year? It’s all posturing, nothing more. There’s no benefit to a GM coming out and saying he’s looking for X, Y, and Z at the deadline. The Yankees are excellent at keeping things quiet too — the Justin Wilson, Didi Gregorius, Chasen Shreve and Eovaldi trades all came out of nowhere this offseason. Rumors are fun! But the Yankees are good at keeping things under wraps, and that can make the deadline sorta boring. I’m pretty sure they’re going make a move or two before next Friday. And I’m also pretty sure it’ll come out of nowhere and be a total surprise. Trying to predict their trade deadline activity is futile.

6. Annual reminder that July 31st is not really the trade deadline. Teams can still make trades in August and September through trade waivers — a player has to be in the organization by August 31st to be eligible for the postseason roster, however — though the Yankees typically handle their business in July. (Here’s a primer on trade waivers.) Here’s the full list of players they’ve acquired in August waiver trades since 2009: Chad Gaudin and Steve Pearce. That’s it. (They did acquire Brendan Ryan in September a few years ago because Derek Jeter got hurt and they needed a shortstop.) The club’s most notable August pickups in recent years were Chris Young and Mark Reynolds, who signed as free agents after being released their former clubs. I’m not saying the Yankees won’t make an August waiver trade if something makes sense, just that recent history suggests they’ll make their most meaningful moves before next Friday.

DotF: Mateo steals three more bases in doubleheader

Got a bunch of updates to pass along:

  • Chad Jennings has a whole bunch of minor league notes to check out. Most importantly, Brian Cashman confirmed OF Aaron Judge is day-to-day with “some minor stuff,” so he’s been out the last three days but it’s not a big deal. Also Jennings hears LHP Ian Clarkin is not expected to have surgery. That’s … good?
  • Other stuff from Jennings: OF Mason Williams (shoulder) has resumed playing catch, OF Slade Heathcott (quad) is close to playing in minor league rehab games, and LHP Jacob Lindgren (elbow) is rehabbing but has yet to begin a throwing program. RHP James Kaprielian is working out in Tampa, but Cashman doesn’t know when he’ll make his pro debut. That’s up to farm system head honcho Gary Denbo.
  • IF Nick Noonan was released from Triple-A Scranton, reports Brendan Kuty. He hit .262/.308/.328 (83 wRC+) in 67 games before landing on the DL. This pretty much confirms IF Cole Figueroa will be the starting shortstop the rest of the season.
  • And finally, 1B Kane Sweeney was named the Appalachian League Offensive Player of the Week. This year’s 29th rounder came into the day hitting .273/.373/.568 (158 wRC+) with three homers in 14 pro games.

Know what I haven’t done this season? Updated the standings. So let’s do that now.

Triple-A Scranton (5-0 loss to Indianapolis) they’re 51-46 and a half-game back in the division

  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 K
  • LF Jose Pirela: 2-4 — 13-for-25 (.520) in his last six games
  • 1B Greg Bird: 1-3, 1 BB, 1 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 2-3, 1 2B
  • RHP Eric Ruth: 6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HB, 8/6 GB/FB, 1 E (throwing) — 58 of 88 pitches were strikes (66%) … his strong season at Double-A was rewarded with a Triple-A spot start in place of RHP Luis Severino, who is away from the team because his wife is having a baby

[Read more…]

TiqIQ: Even With Secondary Market Hot, Primary Tickets Remain For Yankees-Orioles Series

It’s been a very up-and-down season for the reigning AL East champion Baltimore Orioles. After a slow start to the year that saw them saddled with a 23-29 record in early-June, the Orioles turned things around with their best stretch of the season, going 18-7 throughout the rest of the month to vault back into first-place. However, they would proceed to go cold again, losing 10 of their last 13 entering the All-Star break, which sunk them down to the .500-mark and right back into the middle-of-the-pack.

 

Fortunately for Buck Showalter’s club, they’ll have a very nice opportunity to gain some ground back, as they travel to Yankee Stadium for a crucial series with the first-place Yankees. The Bronx Bombers have experienced their own highs and lows throughout the season, but at the moment, have sustained a decent lead for first over the rest of the division residents and will try and keep it going as the second half gets rolling.

It’s been an evenly-matched season series between the two clubs up to this point, as they’ve split ten meetings heading into this three-game set. Ironically, it’s been the road team that has dominated, as the Orioles took two of three from each of their series at Yankee Stadium, while New York took three out of four when they visited Camden Yards in Baltimore in early-May. With this series being in the Bronx, the Yankees will look to reverse that trend.

Speaking of trends, fans might be surprised to learn that a majority of superior ticket deals can actually be found on Yankees.com, as opposed to on the secondary market and the same holds true for this very series. For instance, look no further than the highly coveted seats in section 128, row 25 on the field for Thursday’s series finale. Those who explore their options on the Yankees website can get those premium seats for $155, which is an immense bargain when compared to what other sellers are asking for. In fact, those same tickets are going for whopping $235 on the secondary market.

Furthermore, the same game sees tickets in section 228, row 7 going for just $90 from the Yankees, which easily bests the $149 price tag those same seats are listed at from outside sellers. Fans can also attain better value straight from the team for the series opener in section 234, row 1. On Yankees.com, those seats cost $55, whereas on the secondary market, they cost $70.

Early on in the second half, this is as close to a “must-see” series as it gets, considering how tightly-contested the race in the AL East is, and the storied organizations involved. Without question, this will be one of the more high-profile series throughout this week, and that’s why the demand for tickets is so high on the secondary market. Thus, your best bet is going straight to the source for your ticketing needs.

Monday Night Open Thread

The Yankees have yet another off-day today — doesn’t it seem like the off-days have been bunched together this year? — so this is a good time to pass along this great Billy Witz article on Hideki Matsui, who joined what is essentially a high-end Sunday rec league on Randalls Island. Matsui pitches and, to make it fair, bats right-handed. He also sponsors his team. Godzilla turned 41 last month and he has bad knees, yet here he is, playing in a rec league because he loves the game. So great.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The Mets are playing the Nationals and that game will be on ESPN (Harvey vs. Gonzalez). Believe it or not, the Mets are only two games back of the Nats in the NL East. Talk about that game, Matsui’s rec league, or anything else right here.

Hal on Jeter rejoining the Yankees in some capacity: “He will … I have no doubt”

Derek got slimed by Nickelodeon recently. (Kevin Winter/Getty)
Derek got slimed by Nickelodeon recently. (Kevin Winter/Getty)

Aside from the occasional photo globetrotting with his girlfriend, Derek Jeter has managed to keep a low profile since retiring last season. Are you surprised? You shouldn’t be. Jeter perfected the art of keeping a low profile despite being a megastar in New York.

During a recent interview, Hal Steinbrenner told Marc Topkin he expects Jeter to one day rejoin the Yankees in some capacity. Not as a player, of course, but in some sort of ex-player role. Whatever it is Reggie Jackson does, for example. Here’s what Hal told Topkin:

“He will be (involved in some capacity), I have no doubt,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “He lives here in Tampa. . . . I think he’s just trying to relax for a year. God knows he earned it. It’s a good relationship and I have no doubt he’ll be involved in whatever way he wants to be involved.”

We all know Jeter wants to own a team one day — “That’s the next goal, buddy. Calling the shots, not answering to someone, that’s what interests me,” he said to reporters last summer — and hey, who can blame him? We all not so secretly want to own a team one day. It’s good work if you can get it.

Could the Yankees let Derek buy a piece of team? I suppose, but who really knows. Hal simply said Jeter would “be a great owner, no doubt about it,” when asked. Either way, I’m certain Jeter has a job waiting for him with the Yankees whenever he’s ready to get back into baseball. It benefits both sides to keep the relationship going.

Heyman: Yankees looking to add righty bat, righty reliever before trade deadline

Baker. (Presswire)
Baker. (Presswire)

According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are looking to add both a right-handed bat and a right-handed reliever before next Friday’s trade deadline. I assume that is in addition to the club’s continued search for pitching. We heard the Yankees were looking for righty relief weeks ago, but that was before they moved Adam Warren back to the bullpen.

The Yankees are hitting .241/.322/.408 (102 wRC+) against lefties this season, seventh best among the 30 clubs, but the bottom of the lineup is very lefty heavy thanks not only to Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew, but also Chase Headley‘s platoon split. He’s a switch-hitter, yeah, but he’s been way better against righties (99 wRC+) than lefties (68 wRC+) this year. Carlos Beltran has had his problems with lefties this year as well (91 wRC+).

We’ve seen the Yankees get shut down by a lefty reliever for a few innings on more than one occasion this year, so the interest in adding a righty bat makes sense. Ideally, it would be a righty (or even a switch-hitter) who can play both corner infield spots as well as the corner outfield spots, so he could platoon with Headley and replace Garrett Jones on the roster. Problem is, who is that player? That’s a pretty specific profile.

The only names that jumped to mind are Martin Prado, Jeff Baker, and Mike Olt. Prado is kinda expensive and he would presumably take over as the regular second baseman if re-acquired, not serve as a part-timer. Baker has historically mashed lefties (career 126 wRC+) but hasn’t done it this year (99 wRC+). Olt has only played a handful of games this season due to a wrist injury and owns a career 71 wRC+ against southpaws. I’m not sure he’s the answer either.

The Yankees aren’t desperate for a right-handed bat, but it would be a nice addition to round out the roster. Maybe the answer is in the minor leagues somewhere, a Quad-A player along the lines of Chris Colabello, who could sit in the minors in August, then come up when rosters expand in September. (Ryan Roberts maybe? He’s in Triple-A with the A’s.) That would give the Yankees the extra righty bat and allow them to keep Jones.

Even before Refsnyder demotion, Yankees needed to add a second baseman at the trade deadline

(New York Daily News)
(New York Daily News)

Disappointingly — and somewhat surprisingly — the Yankees demoted Rob Refsnyder to Triple-A Scranton yesterday when they needed to clear a roster spot for Carlos Beltran. Refsnyder played four games after being called up right before the All-Star break, going 2-for-12 (.167) with a homer while playing a not-so-natural second base. The team never did commit to him as the everyday second baseman.

“Just continue to improve,” said Joe Girardi to Chad Jennings when asked what the team wants to see from Refsnyder. “Understanding the position, continue to make little adjustments. I thought he did a really good job considering the situation we put him in. In Fenway Park, that’s not the easiest place to start. But we believe he’s going to be here for a long time, and for right now, we’re going to stay with the guys we got.”

Brian Cashman said the move was made to maintain depth prior to the trade deadline — the obvious move to keep Refsnyder would have been designating Brendan Ryan for assignment — which makes sense but is disappointing. We’re all sick of the unproductive Stephen Drew and the homegrown Refsnyder is the team’s best chance for an upgrade from within. Four games with an All-Star break mixed in isn’t much of an audition.

Now, here’s the thing: Refsnyder wasn’t going to get much of audition before the trade deadline anyway. There’s nothing he could have done between the time he was called up and the July 31st trade deadline that could have convinced the Yankees or anyone else he was ready to be the everyday second baseman on a contending team. It’s not enough time to evaluate a young player at all. He was going to get 40 at-bats at the most before the deadline. That’s it.

The Yankees didn’t make a mistake by sending Refsnyder down yesterday. The mistake was not bringing him up sooner. Drew hasn’t hit all season — Girardi pointed out Drew had a good June (125 wRC+), but that month was three two-homer games and 11-for-83 (.133) in the other 21 games — and, as many have been saying, Refsnyder should have been up weeks ago, getting a longer audition to show what he can do, good or bad. They stuck with Drew too long.

“I think a lot of times people are going to have discussions about it, try to gather as much information as you can, and make the best decision you feel at the time,” said Girardi to Jennings. “Sometimes as you look back, maybe you would have done it a little different, but I think the important thing is that you make the best decision at the time with the information that you have. Guys are very close here, and that’s probably what’s making this decision tough.”

So the Yankees are in the same place they were a few weeks ago, in need of a new second baseman. Except now the Yankees have less time to evaluate Refsnyder before having to go outside for help, so in essence Refsnyder is a non-option. Well, that’s not true, I just have a hard time believing the Yankees would throw him to the wolves as a starting middle infielder in the middle of a postseason race. Believe it or not, he could actually be worse than Drew.

The team’s hesitancy to use Refsnyder tells us they don’t quite believe he is ready for regular big league action, either offensively, defensively, or both. In that case, the Yankees will need to go out and make a trade for a second baseman at some point in the eleven days, because the last four months have told us their current options aren’t enough. That was true even before Refsnyder was sent back down.