Scouting the Trade Market: Cleveland Indians

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Even after losing three of four to the Yankees before the All-Star break, the Indians own the best record in the AL (55-38) and have a comfortable 6.5-game lead in the AL Central. That’s not insurmountable by any means, but it is a nice lead at this point of the season. Cleveland has been to the postseason just once since beating the Yankees in the 2007 ALDS, and that was a wildcard game loss to the Rays in 2013. You know they want to do better this year.

It’s no surprise then Jerry Crasnick reported yesterday that folks within the game believe the Indians are more willing to make a blockbuster trade at the deadline this year than they have been in quite some time. Their rotation is still young and cheap, their core veterans (Michael Brantley, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, etc.) are still in their prime, and they’re in position to make the postseason. They have a great chance to win this year and they want to capitalize.

The Indians could really use another late-game reliever to lighten the load on setup man Bryan Shaw and closer Cody Allen, and preferably that reliever would be a lefty. Somehow the Tribe has gotten only 22.1 innings from lefty relievers this season. Crazy, right? Chasen Shreve alone has thrown 22 innings for the Yankees. Anyway, Cleveland is said to have interest in Andrew Miller, who’s pretty much the best possible solution for that late-inning lefty role. Someone like Carlos Beltran could be of interest too since Brantley’s shoulder keeps barking.

The Yankees reportedly had two scouts watching the Indians’ High Class-A affiliate yesterday, which happens to house many of their top prospects. Cleveland has a loaded farm system — they landed seven players on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 list — so they have the motivation and wherewithal to make a big trade. Which prospects should the Yankees target in a potential Miller (or Beltran) trade? That’s what we’re here to discuss. Here are a handful of candidates. The players are listed alphabetically and the scouting report blurbs are from MLB.com.

LHP Brady Aiken

Background: Aiken, 19, was the first overall pick in the 2014 draft, but he didn’t sign with the Astros after they found something in his physical. He blew out his elbow the following spring and the Indians picked him 17th overall in the 2015 draft anyway. Aiken has completed his Tommy John surgery rehab and is currently pitching in rookie ball, where he’s allowed 15 runs on 18 hits and nine walks in 14.2 innings. He’s struck out 22. Baseball America ranked him 59th on their midseason top 100.

Scouting Report: “The left-hander spots his fastball to both sides of the plate, working at 92-94 mph and touching 97 with late life, and he can throw his curveball for a strike or take it out of the zone to induce whiffs. Aiken’s changeup gives him a third weapon, thrown with good deception and tumble, and his athleticism and smooth, repeatable delivery bode well for his command profile … If Aiken can regain and then build on his pre-surgery form, he could develop into a front-of-the-rotation starter.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? When right, Aiken has true top of the rotation upside and that is very hard to find. The term “future ace” gets thrown around way too often these days but Aiken absolutely fits the bill. He had command of three above-average pitches before getting hurt and his competitiveness and makeup are considered pluses. That’s an ace starter kit all the way.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Aiken did not have a routine Tommy John surgery. There was apparently some other stuff going on in his elbow as well, though no one seems to know what, exactly. His performance hasn’t been good since finishing his rehab, and while you can attribute that to rust, it’s a reminder of just how far Aiken has to go to reach that ace ceiling. He’s very far away from MLB and very high risk.

OF Greg Allen

Background: The Indians selected the 23-year-old Allen in the sixth round of the 2014 draft and he’s been a hitting machine as a pro. So far this season he’s authored a .298/.425/.398 (140 wRC+) line with three homers, 37 steals in 40 attempts, a 13.8% walk rate, and a 12.3% strikeout rate in 85 High-A games. Allen is a bit old for his level, so just keep that in mind.

Scouting Report: “Allen knows how to use his above-average speed, as he’s a disciplined hitter with advanced on-base skills who consistently puts the ball in play from both sides of the plate … He has below-average power overall … Allen’s wheels also serve him well in center field, where he gets good jumps consistently and covers a lot of ground … Allen shows the makings of becoming a top-of-the-order hitter who also offers value with his baserunning and defense.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Allen is not a top prospect — MLB.com ranks him 22nd in Cleveland’s system — but he’s a high-contact hitter from both sides of the plate with plate discipline and speed and center field defensive chops. That profile is a pretty good bet to amount to something in the big leagues, even if it’s only a fourth outfielder. Allen shouldn’t be the center piece of any trade, but he would be a fine third or fourth piece.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Guys with minimal power like Allen are always at risk of getting beat with fastballs in the zone at the upper levels. Pitchers don’t worry about being taken deep, so they challenge these guys. Low minors walk rates are not very predictive and Allen’s ability to get on base via the free pass may evaporate as he climbs the ladder.

1B Bobby Bradley

Background: Since being a third round pick two years ago, Bradley has punished minor league pitching, and he currently owns a .257/.377/.484 (137 wRC+) batting line with 16 homers and a 14.8% walk rate in 83 High-A games as a 20-year-old. He’s nearly three years younger than the average Carolina League player. Baseball America ranked Bradley as the 64th best prospect in baseball in their midseason update.

Scouting Report: “Bradley has all the ingredients needed to be an impact hitter, with plus bat speed, huge power and feel for using the entire field at a young age … (He has a) raw approach, and there are some scouts who worry about his capacity to make consistent contact at higher levels … Bradley faces an uphill battle due to his profile as first-base-only prospect, but his combination of power and hitting ability is plenty good enough to overcome those odds.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Despite his defensive and positional limitations, Bradley projects to be an impact player thanks to his offensive profile from the left side of the plate. He has the potential to hit for average and power down the line, and that’s someone who can hit in the middle of a lineup. Bradley’s more than holding his own despite being young for his level this year.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Those defensive and positional limitations do exist. Bradley is a first baseman only and not a particularly good one either. He also offers nothing on the bases. Bradley has to hit and hit big to have value, and it should be noted he’s struck out 31.4% of the time this year and 29.6% of the time in over 1,000 minor league plate appearances. There are real contact concerns here.

RHP Mike Clevinger

Background: The Indians straight up stole Clevinger two years ago, when they got him from the Angels for Vinnie Pestano. The 25-year-old righty has since blossomed into a very good pitching prospect, one with a 2.82 ERA (3.23 FIP) in 83 Triple-A innings this year. He has a 26.5% strikeout rate and a 9.0% walk rate as well. Clevinger made his MLB debut earlier this season and it didn’t go to well (14 runs in 16.1 innings), but that’s okay. Lots of guys struggle in their first taste of the show. Clevinger was 71st on Baseball America’s midseason top 100, and it’s worth noting the Yankees had at least three scouts on hand to see his most recent Triple-A start, according to Mark Feinsand.

Scouting Report: “Clevinger usually operates at 92-95 mph with his fastball but has touched 97. His slider is his best secondary offering and projects to be above average, thrown with power and depth, and he knows how to keep hitters off balance using his curveball and changeup, though neither pitch is better than fringe average at the moment … There’s still room for improvement, but Clevinger isn’t far away from making an impact in the Major Leagues.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Clevinger is basically big league ready right now. He misses bats with two pitches and has the makings of two others, so he has no doubt starter stuff and control. Is the upside sky high? No, but Clevinger has the tools to hold down a spot in the middle of the rotation for the next several years. The Yankees have been looking for pitching controllable behind 2017 and Clevinger definitely fits the bill.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many reasons to stay away, really. Clevinger had Tommy John surgery in 2012, so his medical history isn’t clean, and he struggled with his mechanics big time in 2014. He had a 4.41 ERA (4.56 FIP) in Single-A that year, which is why the Tribe was able to get him for Pestano. He’s been healthy and his mechanics have been fine since then though, so yeah. Clevinger is a quality MLB ready starting pitching prospect.

UTIL Yandy Diaz

Background: Diaz, 24, was a lower profile Cuban signing a few years back ($300,000 bonus) and he’s been very productive in the minors. This season he’s hitting .311/.413/.438 (148 wRC+) with six homers, ten steals, a 14.8% walk rate, and a 15.6% strikeout rate in 83 games split between Double-A and Triple-A. That’s split into a 145 wRC+ in 26 Double-A games and a 148 wRC+ in 56 Triple-A games. Diaz is primarily a third baseman, though he played second in Cuba and has seen time in the outfield corners this year.

Scouting Report: “Diaz is a truly disciplined hitter who never tries to do too much and rarely expands his zone. He makes a lot of contact with his compact right-handed swing, while his flat path through the zone produces line drives across the whole field … (Some) scouts question whether he has the necessary bat speed to generate usable pop in games … Diaz has quickly developed into an above-average defender at third base, where his range, soft hands and strong arm are all clean fits.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Even without much power, Yandy makes enough contact and draws enough walks to be an asset at the plate. The Yankees could also use a long-term third base solution — Miguel Andujar is awesome, but you shouldn’t bank on any one guy to be the answer — and Diaz can not only play the position, but play it well. And he can even fill in at second and in the corner outfield spots. That’s a nice little player for the bottom of the lineup.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? I like Yandy but I feel like his upside is the current version of Chase Headley. Good defense and a bunch of walks, but not much power or speed. Diaz is a bit of a ‘tweener because he doesn’t have the kind of pop expected from a corner spot. Playing some second and outfield will help because at least then you can put him on the bench. As a regular though, Diaz seems like someone who won’t kill you while you look for someone better, and that’s not very exciting.

LHP Rob Kaminsky

Background: The Yankees were connected to the 21-year-old Kaminsky, a New Jersey native, prior to the 2013 draft, but he was off the board before their extra picks came around. The Cardinals traded him to the Indians for Brandon Moss last summer, and so far this year Kaminsky has a 3.86 ERA (4.10 FIP) with a 15.0% strikeout rate and an 8.7% walk rate in 81.2 Double-A innings.

Scouting Report: “His fastball sat 86-92 mph with decent arm-side run and sink, and he showed feel for adding and subtracting with the pitch. His plus curveball is a true bat-misser, thrown with outstanding 12-to-6 shape and downer action, and it’s been his greatest weapon since high school … (he has a) changeup and below-average slider … Kaminsky’s advanced command allows him to throw strikes with his entire repertoire … the Indians love his competitiveness and high baseball IQ on the mound.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? The Yankees have a lot of big stuff/poor command guys in the organization and Kaminsky is pretty much the opposite. To use an old cliche, he’s a pitcher, not a thrower. Kaminsky is not a future ace like Aiken, but he projects to be a solid mid-to-back-end starter who gets by on smarts more than blow-you-away stuff. Cheap rotation help is always a plus, especially lefties in Yankee Stadium.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Kaminsky’s stuff has taken a pretty big step back since the 2013 draft. His fastball no longer consistently sits in the low-90s and both his changeup and slider have taken a step back because he falls in love with his curveball too easily and doesn’t throw his other pitches enough. (To be fair, it’s a great curveball.) The Cardinals know pitching as well as anyone. When they deal a former first rounder two years later for a guy like Brandon Moss, that’s a red flag to me. They must think the current version of Kaminsky is here to stay. The old version ain’t coming back.

LHP Justus Sheffield

Background: Sheffield, 20, was the 31st overall pick in 2014, and so far this year he has a 3.53 ERA (3.77 FIP) with a 22.9% strikeout rate and a 9.7% walk rate in 89.1 innings at High-A. Baseball America ranked him No. 69 in their midseason top 100 list. It’s worth noting Keith Law said the Yankees had two scouts at Sheffield’s start yesterday, when he struck out eight in 6.2 scoreless innings.

Scouting Report: “He’s hit 96 mph with his fastball but usually sits in the 92-93 mph range with late, arm-side life and some sink. His curveball flashes plus and projects as a swing-and-miss offering at the highest level, and he made strides developing his changeup in 2015 … Both his secondary pitches and his command require further refinement, but the southpaw has all the tools necessary to develop into a quality mid-rotation starting pitcher.”

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Sheffield has premium stuff and I think he is Cleveland’s best perfectly healthy pitching prospect (Aiken’s coming back from elbow reconstruction), so he’s pretty much the best they have to offer on the mound. Lefties who can miss bats are always in demand, especially in Yankee Stadium given the short porch. The history of the Yankees is loaded with quality southpaws, after all.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? Sheffield is listed at 5-foot-10 and there’s always a question about whether a short pitcher can get enough downhill plane on his fastball to avoid being fly ball and home run prone. Also, his location has not been as good this year as last year, when he had a 6.9% walk rate. Sheffield is also a 20-year-old in High-A too. He’s not exactly big league ready. There’s a long way to go to get from where he is now to that mid-rotation ceiling.

* * *

I’m assuming the Indians will make their top two prospects, outfielders Bradley Zimmer and Clint Frazier, completely off limits in a Miller (or Beltran) trade. I know I would. Miller’s awesome but those guys are potential difference-makers who are knocking on the door. Depending on how you feel about Aiken after Tommy John surgery, he’s the best the Indians have to offer after Zimmer and Frazier. Clevinger, Sheffield, and Bradley are the next tier.

The Indians are loaded with prospects, so these guys listed above are hardly all they have to offer. I could definitely see the Yankees pushing for both Clevinger (the MLB ready guy) and Sheffield (the higher upside guy) in a Miller trade, if not more. Remember, they’re going to have to be blown away to trade Miller. Clevinger and Sheffield is a real nice start, though I’m not sure those two alone will be enough to get the Yankees to budge. The Indians definitely have the pieces to get a deal done though.

Yankees 7, Orioles 1: Castro and Swarzak (!?) lead Yankees to third straight win

Against all odds, the Yankees have now won three straight games and six of nine against the Indians, Red Sox, and Orioles. Those are arguably the three best teams in the AL. Tuesday’s win was a 7-1 job over the O’s. This is a suboptimal development for #TeamSell.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Build a Lead
It’s been nearly a full calendar month since the Yankees last scored in the first inning. I wish I was joking. They last did it 23 games ago on June 21st, the day before Starlin Castro‘s walk-off homer against the Rockies. Geez. The Yankees they were able to score in the second inning Tuesday night, so that’s cool. Didi Gregorius worked a hard-fought ten-pitch walk against Vance Worley with two outs, and Castro made it count with a two-run homer in the second deck in left. ‘Twas a bomb.

The Yankees scored their third run in the fifth inning, and they manufactured that sucker. Rob Refsnyder drew a leadoff walk, stole second base, then Jacoby Ellsbury drove him in with a ground ball single back up the middle. Brett Gardner failed to get a sac bunt down before the single, otherwise it would have been the most manufacturey run that was ever manufactured. Ellsbury picked up Gardner and gave the Yankees a 3-0 lead.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Five Innings of Nasty Nate
In his first start back in the rotation, Nathan Eovaldi was pretty excellent for the first five innings. He allowed harmless singles in the first and second innings, then retired ten straight batters on only 36 pitches. Eovaldi was effective and efficient, which is something we haven’t seen out of him since May. His June was awful. The demotion to the bullpen was not undeserved. The first five innings were a nice rebound.

Then the sixth inning happened. Eovaldi got the first out easily, but then he walked No. 9 hitter Ryan Flaherty and allowed a ground ball single to Adam Jones. Joey Rickard (Joey Rickard!) pulled a double to left to score a run and put runners on second and third with one out. Eovaldi couldn’t put him away in a two-strike count and missed over the plate with a fastball. Boom, double. A four-pitch walk to Manny Machado followed — it really looked like he pitched around him, which seems silly with Mark Trumbo on deck — ending Eovaldi’s night. He allowed four hits and two walks in 5.1 innings and struck out one.

We’ve seen the “cruise through five innings then not get out of the sixth” act from Eovaldi before, so this was nothing new. What was new (new-ish, really) was the cut fastball he was throwing. I didn’t count how many he threw, but it was quite a few. Eovaldi threw a cutter with the Marlins a few years back but we hadn’t seen it with the Yankees. Seems like something he’s trying to regain some effectiveness. We’ll see if it sticks. The sixth inning stunk, but the first five innings were cool.

Anthony F. Swarzak. (Elsa/Getty)
Tony F. Swarzak. (Elsa/Getty)

#SwarzakForSchwarber
The Cubs won’t trade Kyle Schwarber for Andrew Miller, but do you think they’d trade him for Anthony Swarzak? Swarzak inherited the bases loaded with one out from Eovaldi, and he not only managed to escape without allowing a run, he did it on five pitches against Trumbo and Jonathan Schoop. Trumbo leads MLB in homers and Schoop has been crushing the Yankees for three years now.

Swarzak did have some help, of course. Refsnyder made a great running catch on Trumbo’s pop-up in foul territory, then turned and threw home right away to prevent the runner from scoring from third. It was a really great heads up play by Refsnyder. Here’s the video. You should watch it. Schoop’s foul pop-up was much more routine. Gregorius reeled that one in along the third base line. Heck of a job by Swarzak there.

The Yankees tacked on two runs in the bottom of the sixth on Castro’s two-run double, which gave them a 5-1 lead and allowed Joe Girardi to send Swarzak back out for the seventh. He retired the side on 15 pitches. Girardi sent Swarzak back out for the eighth, and he again retired the side, this time on seven pitches. Swarzak retired all eight guys he faced on a night Girardi wanted to stay away from the big three relievers because of their recent workloads. Heck of a job. Swarzak’s ours and you can’t have him, Cubs!

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Leftovers
Chase Headley whacked a two-run insurance homer in the bottom of the eighth to give the Yankees their 7-1 lead. Nick Goody then struck out the side in the ninth, because hey, why not? Swarzak and Goody retired all eleven batters they faced and they didn’t let a single ball out of the infield. Trumbo’s pop-up to Refsnyder was the farthest hit ball against the bullpen. Go figure.

Castro was the offensive star, going 2-for-4 with the two-run homer and two-run double. Gregorius went 2-for-3 with a walk. The other seven hitters in the lineup went 3-for-20 (.150). Headley had the homer and both Gardner and Ellsbury singled. The Yankees drew a season-high tying seven walks: Carlos Beltran (two), Brian McCann, Alex Rodriguez, Gregorius, Headley, and Refsnyder had them. Three of the seven walks came around to score.

And finally, history was made! Ellsbury recorded his ninth catcher’s interference of the season in the very first inning. Remember, he declined one a few weeks back because the swing resulted in a hit, so it’s really ten catcher’s interferences. The previous single-season record belonged to Roberto Kelly, who had eight for the 1992 Yankees. That’s why they pay Ellsbury the big bucks, to make history.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, go to ESPN. MLB.com has the video highlights. Here are our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages, and here’s the win probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The Yankees and Orioles continue this four-game series with the third game Wednesday night. Michael Pineda and Yovani Gallardo are the scheduled starting pitchers. There are five games remaining on the homestand and RAB Tickets can get you in the door to all five.

DotF: Dermis Garcia homers in fourth straight game

Two quick notes:

  • RHP Chad Green was scratched from tonight’s Triple-A Scranton start tonight for an unknown reason, says Shane Hennigan. Not sure what’s going on there. Injury? Trade? Call-up? Intrigue! (I’m guessing he’s coming up to make a spot start to give the other starters an extra day of rest.)
  • LHP Ian Clarkin was placed on the High-A Tampa DL, the team announced. That bites. Clarkin left last night’s game with an injury and I have no idea what’s wrong with him. He missed all of last season with elbow inflammation, remember.

Triple-A Scranton (4-3 loss to Charlotte, walk-off style)

  • CF Mason Williams: 3-4, 1 2B, 3 RBI, 1 K — 15-for-30 in his last eight games
  • LF Ben Gamel: 1-5, 1 K — 22-for-60 (.367) in his last 13 games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-4, 1 BB, 1 E (throwing)
  • 1B Ike Davis: 2-5, 1 2B
  • DH Jake Cave: 1-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • LHP Tyler Webb: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 4/1 GB/FB — 42 of 60 pitches were strikes (70%) … nice spot start in place of Green
  • RHP Diego Moreno: 3.1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 Balk, 3/1 GB/FB — 33 of 49 pitches were strikes (67%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — ten pitches, seven strikes … 71/12 K/BB in 54 innings
  • RHP Kirby Yates: 0.2 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 12 of 25 pitches were strikes (48%)

[Read more…]

Game 93: Eovaldi returns to the rotation

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Nathan Eovaldi‘s stint in the bullpen is over, at least for now. The hard-throwing righty returns to the rotation tonight after three successful relief outings (7.2 scoreless innings) as the Yankees hope to get him back on track. Eovaldi allowed at least five runs in each of his last five starts. Bad. Very bad. He was pretty good before that though, and the early-season version of Eovaldi is who the Yankees hope to see tonight. Here is the Orioles’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. RF Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. DH Alex Rodriguez
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 1B Rob Refsnyder
    RHP Nathan Eovaldi

Much nicer weather in New York today than yesterday. It’s a little cloudy but the sky is blue and it’s not crazy hot either. It’s going to be a nice night at the ballpark. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:05pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Trade Deadline Notes: Marlins, Indians, Nationals, Cubs

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

We are now 13 days away from the trade deadline, and while the Yankees have won two straight, their odds of playing in October are long. Buster Olney says they are going “full bore” in shaping possible trades, though ownership still needs to give the thumbs up. I wish they’d go ahead and sell now before someone gets hurt or other teams decide to drop out of the race and sell. There’s a lot of demand and not much supply right now. That works in New York’s favor. Alas. They’re still not ready to move players. Anyway, here’s the latest from the rumor mill.

Pineda among Marlins’ targets

The Marlins are working to add a starter before the trade deadline and Michael Pineda is on their list of targets, reports Jon Morosi. Miami and the Yankees discussed Aroldis Chapman a few weeks back, so the two teams have been in contact. It’s unclear if the Yankees and Marlins have actually talked about a Pineda deal, or if the Marlins simply admire him from afar.

Morosi says the Marlins are interested in Jeremy Hellickson and Andrew Cashner in addition to Pineda. All three of those guys kinda suck, but Hellickson and Cashner are rentals while Pineda has an extra year of control. That figures to play a role in Miami’s decision making. As I’ve said though, the Marlins don’t have many prospects to offer. Their system isn’t very good. That’s why the Yankees wanted big league players for Chapman.

Indians prefer Miller to Chapman

The Indians are in the hunt for a shutdown left-handed reliever, and Ken Rosenthal says Andrew Miller is “probably” their top target. Rosenthal says they prefer Miller to Chapman, presumably because he’s willing to be a setup man and has two extra years of team control. Jerry Crasnick says the feeling within the game is the Indians are more inclined to make a blockbuster trade than they normally would because they’re in first place and the club is already so well-rounded.

Not coincidentally, Keith Law says the Yankees had two scouts on hand to see left-hander and top Indians pitching prospect Justus Sheffield this afternoon. Other top prospects on the loaded High-A Lynchburg roster include first baseman Bobby Bradley, catcher Francisco Mejia, and shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang. Those guys are all far away from MLB and I imagine the Yankees want talent closer to the show for Miller, so perhaps these guys are being looked at as second and third pieces in a deal. Cleveland had seven (!) players on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 prospects list. Here is MLB.com’s top 30 Indians prospects list with free scouting reports and all that.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Chapman is Nats’ most likely target

According to Rosenthal, Chapman is the Nationals’ most likely target at the deadline. That makes sense. Dusty Baker had Chapman in Cincinnati and the Nats tried to get him from the Reds over the winter — even after the domestic violence incident — but the Yankees beat them to it. How would Chapman and Jonathan Papelbon co-exist? That ain’t my problem. That’s up to Washington to figure out.

Interestingly, Rosenthal says top pitching prospect Lucas Giolito is not as untouchable as he once was. I still highly doubt the Nationals would give him up for a reliever, even one as good as Chapman or Miller. Any trade sending Giolito to the Yankees — and let’s be clear, that is an extreme long shot — would have to be a blockbuster with high-end talent going to Washington. Maybe something like Chapman, Masahiro Tanaka, and Brett Gardner for Giolito and stuff. I dunno, I’m just spitballing here. My trade proposal sucks.

Cubs haven’t made best offer for Miller or Chapman

To date, the Cubs have not made the best trade offer for Miller or Chapman, reports Jon Heyman. To be perfectly honest, I read this report and assumed it was a leak from the Yankees intended to get Chicago to up their offer. The Cubbies have been scouting Miller and Chapman for weeks — they’re said to prefer Miller to Chapman like pretty much everyone else (except the Nats, I guess) — and there’s a definite need for a shutout lefty reliever in their bullpen.

Jeff Passan says the Yankees covet the injured Kyle Schwarber — “Cash thinks he can hit 50 home runs there,” said one of Passan’s sources — but the Cubs are not budging. They won’t deal him for a reliever, not even Miller. The Cubs have lots of prospects to offer though, so being unable to get Schwarber shouldn’t end trade talks. Assuming Heyman’s report is a leak from the Yankees, I see nothing wrong with trying to squeeze a little more out of Chicago. The Yankees control the bullpen market right now.

2016 Post-Draft Top 30 Prospects

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Last Friday was the deadline for clubs to sign their 2016 draft picks, and for the first time in a long time, every single first round pick signed. There’s usually one or two who don’t sign for whatever reason. Not this year. The Yankees signed 28 of their 40 picks (here’s the list, PDF link) and pretty much maxed out their bonus pool. They had only $177 in pool space left over.

The signing deadline means a new wave of talent has been added to the farm system, and that’s always exciting. The Yankees have also had many of their prized 2014-15 international signees make their U.S. debut this summer as well, so that’s even more talent. The raw talent is there. Now it’s just a matter of developing it into productive big league players.

The 2014-15 international class made this an extremely tough top 30 list for me. It’s always difficult to determine where those players fit in the system because they’re so talented but also so far away from MLB. I did my best to get them in here. Something tells me I’m going to end up hating this list and completely revising it when it comes time to do the annual preseason list next February.

Anyway, one player from my pre-draft top 30 list has since graduated to the big leagues: Rob Refsnyder. He’s exceeded the rookie limit of 130 big league at-bats. (He’s at 136.) As always, this list is my opinion and my opinion only. This is nothing more than a snapshot in time. You’re welcome to disagree and bookmark this post for future mocking purposes. Time for the top 30.

The Top Four Five

1. OF Aaron Judge
2. C Gary Sanchez
3. SS Jorge Mateo
4. OF Blake Rutherford
5. RHP James Kaprielian

I put Mateo at No. 1 and Judge at No. 3 in my pre-draft list and I almost immediately regretted it. I overreacted to some small samples and didn’t keep the big picture in mind. Judge was showing power and is knocking on the door. Mateo was having a great season at the time but is still years away from MLB. Judge went on an insane hot streak after the pre-draft list and Mateo wound up getting himself suspended for violating team policy. Oops.

Rutherford turns the top four into a top five. He was a consensus top ten talent in the draft who fell to the Yankees with the 18th pick because of signability concerns, then agreed to an above-slot $3.282M bonus. That’s pretty much the max they could give him without forfeiting next year’s first rounder. Kaprielian is out with a flexor tendon strain and he was supposed to go for a second opinion at some point, but we haven’t heard anything since. I wouldn’t blame you for assuming the worst.

The Next Six

6. SS Tyler Wade
7. 3B Miguel Andujar
8. OF Dustin Fowler
9. LHP Ian Clarkin
10. C Luis Torrens
11. SS Wilkerman Garcia

Andujar’s in the middle of a big time breakout season and Wade is more than holding his own as a contact oriented middle infielder. I’m the high man on him. I can’t imagine you’ll see him sixth in the system in many other lists. Clarkin and Torrens have bounced back well from lost 2015 seasons, though it should be noted Clarkin left last night’s start with an apparent injury. Sucks. Torrens is really good. Really, really good. He’d be in the top five if not for the shoulder surgery last year.

The Far Away Six

12. RHP Domingo Acevedo
13. 2B Nick Solak
14. RHP Drew Finley
15. RHP Nolan Martinez
16. SS Hoy Jun Park
17. 3B Dermis Garcia

Solak and Martinez were the team’s second and third round picks this year, respectively, and I seem to like them more than most, especially Solak. He can really hit, and I think his glove will be good enough for second long-term. Acevedo has had a very good statistical season, but he still needs to make some strides with his secondary pitches before I buy into him as a starter long-term. If the rotation doesn’t work, Acevedo has the stuff to be an impact bullpen arm.

Garcia, who signed for $3.2M back in 2014, is a new name to the list. His huge raw power is already showing up in games — he leads the Appalachian League with nine homers in 21 games — but so are his swing-and-miss tendencies. Dermis has struck out in 37.4% of his plate appearances this year. Yikes. Still, he has an elite unteachable skill (power), and that’ll get just about anyone on a top 30 list.

The (Almost) MLB Ready Six

18. OF Ben Gamel
19. RHP Chance Adams
20. RHP Luis Cessa
21. RHP Chad Green
22. LHP Jordan Montgomery
23. OF Jake Cave

All six of these guys are very close to MLB ready. Adams is this year’s breakout pitcher after making the transition from reliever to starter. He still needs to make some strides with his changeup before I’ll feel good about him sticking in the rotation long-term, but his fastball/slider combo stays firm deep into games. Adams has thrown 34 Double-A innings and is furthest away from MLB among these six players. Gamel, Cessa, and Green have all appeared in games for the Yankees this season.

The Injured Three

24. RHP Bryan Mitchell
25. OF Mason Williams
26. LHP Jacob Lindgren

Well, technically Williams is no longer injured. He was activated off the 60-day DL and optioned to Triple-A just yesterday. Missing close to a full year is a pretty huge deal, especially for a guy like Williams, who was in the process of rebuilding value before getting hurt. The tools are still outstanding. We saw them last year. Now Mason needs to stay healthy and show the improved maturity we saw a year ago is here to stay. Mitchell is currently rehabbing from his toe injury and Lindgren … well he’s pretty much disappeared. He’s out with an elbow injury and no one’s heard from him since April.

The Last Four

27. RHP Vicente Campos
28. SS Kyle Holder
29. OF Leonardo Molina
30. OF Estevan Florial

Welcome (back) to the top 30, Vicente Campos. Last time he was here he was still Jose Campos. He’s healthy, he’s having success as a starter, and he’s reached Double-A. Very promising year for Campos, who looked like a lost cause a year or two ago because he couldn’t stay on the field. I’m not sure if he can start long-term given his injury history, but at least now the chances are “slim” and not “none.”

Florial is another new addition to the list and he was a late signing during that 2014-15 signing period. He hasn’t been great statistically in rookie ball this year but a) it’s barely 100 plate appearances, and b) the reports are off the charts. Florial has power and speed, a good approach, and the defensive chops for center field. I’m always conservative with international guys in their first year stateside because there’s no much misinformation out there, so it’s possible I am hilariously low on Florial right now.

Masahiro Tanaka: The Unspoken Trade Candidate

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Even after back-to-back wins, the Yankees are five games back of a postseason spot with 13 days to go before the trade deadline. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at 6.4% as of this writing. We’ve spent the last few weeks preparing for the deadline by discussing scenarios in which the Yankees sell. Carlos Beltran, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Brett Gardner, whoever. We haven’t even bothered to consider buying scenarios.

One player we haven’t discussed as a trade candidate is Masahiro Tanaka, the staff ace and the Yankees’ best starter. Teams usually don’t trade their best pitcher, even when they’re selling. It’s a big deal when one of these guys is traded. Tanaka has been excellent overall this season, throwing 123 innings of 3.15 ERA (3.30 FIP) ball, so it stands to reason he could fetch quite a bit in a trade.

Brian Cashman and his staff surely are not ruling anything out. They’d be silly not to listen to offers for Tanaka or any other player on the roster. Does it actually make sense to trade him though? I think you can make the argument either way. In fact, let’s do that right now.

The Case for Trading Tanaka

The case for trading Tanaka boils down to this: he can bring back good young players and boy oh boy do the Yankees need some of those. It’s not quite that simple though. It never is. Here are the two main reasons to deal Tanaka.

1. He can fetch a lot of young talent. Tanaka is a top 25-ish pitcher in baseball and those guys are really, really valuable. Every team wants them too. There’s not a rotation in baseball that wouldn’t get better by adding Tanaka, so the Yankees would have no shortage of suitors. Every contender will be in the mix. Rangers, Dodgers, Giants, Nationals, you name it.

Look at the Jeff Samardzija trade. He was having an excellent season with the Cubs in 2014 (2.83 ERA and 3.09 FIP) and brought back a package led by Addison Russell despite his lack of track record. There were other players involved, but the Cubs were getting a big package for Samardzija no matter what. He was a year and a half away from free agency like Tanaka is now. That’s not a crazy trade benchmark for Tanaka.

Other pitchers traded a year and a half away from free agency include David Price (Rays to Tigers) and Dan Haren (Diamondbacks to Angels). Tanaka is not Price, but you can compare him favorably to Samardzija and Haren, and those two were traded for some nice talent. If the Yankees put him out there, Tanaka would instantly become the best available starter, and that usually means a big return.

2. His elbow is on borrowed time. Two years ago Tanaka missed the second half with a partially torn ligament in his elbow, and let’s be real, most expected him to require Tommy John surgery by now. Instead, the elbow has held up the last two years and Tanaka has been very good. The rehab process couldn’t have worked any better.

Now, that said, it’s only a matter of time until the ligament gives. Adam Wainwright pitched five years with a partial tear before it gave out, if you want one example. The Yankees don’t want to be left holding the bag when Tanaka’s elbow gives out. They’ve gotten three really good years out of him and have a chance to avoid not only his decline years, but the seemingly inevitable Tommy John surgery.

The Case Against Trading Tanaka

Getting a lot of talent and avoiding a serious elbow injury are two pretty great reasons to trade Tanaka. Keeping him? That’s a different story. It’s always easy to come up with reasons to dump a guy. Finding reasons to keep him can be a bit tougher. Here are three.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

1. The opt-out clause really hurts his value. Once upon a time opt-out clauses only went to elite players. Nowadays everyday gets one, including guys like Ian Kennedy and Scott Kazmir. Tanaka can opt out of his deal after next season, and as long as he’s healthy, he will. He’d be walking away from $67M and that’s nothing. Samardzija got $90M this winter after leading the league in hits, runs, and homers allowed.

The opt-out is almost all downside. If the elbow gives out, Tanaka will stick around and collect his $67M. If he’s healthy and productive, he’ll bolt. How do you market that in trade talks? “Here’s a guy you’ll have for a year and a half if he’s really good, or four and a half years if he’s hurt or really bad.” Not a great sales pitch. That downside created by the opt-out is going to be reflected in what teams are willing to give up to get him.

2. Can he really fetch a lot of talent? Is Tanaka’s trade value as high as we’d like to think it is? Between the looming elbow injury and the opt-out, there’s a lot of off-the-field stuff dragging down Tanaka’s value. He’s a really good pitcher! But he carries more injury risk than most and the opt-out is not team friendly. Yeah, you can get a draft pick if he opts out, but that mitigates the risk only so much. Tanaka’s a great pitcher with just enough negatives that chip away at his trade value. Add all those chips up, and before you know it the offers aren’t nearly as good as hoped. I’m not sure I’d call it selling low, but the return might not accurately reflect his value on the field.

3. Guys like Tanaka are hard to get, you know. The Yankees no doubt have plans to contend next season, and Tanaka can help them do that. He’s a top 25-ish pitcher in baseball and those guys don’t become available every often. The Yankees could trade Tanaka and get some young talent and that would be great, but that would leave them with one of the worst starting staffs in baseball with a dreadful free agent class on the horizon. Keeping Tanaka because they would be unable to replace him is not crazy, not if the goal is to win next year.

* * *

Every player is available at the right price, and I imagine the Yankees would set the price fairly high for Tanaka. They could market him as an ace caliber starter who can help you for two postseason runs, not one. And because he has that extra year of control and isn’t a rental, they don’t have to move him. Same with Andrew Miller. Keeping him is a viable strategy.

I don’t expect the Yankees to trade Tanaka because I don’t think anyone will meet their asking price, even with no other high-end starters available. He’s a guy you get because you want to win the World Series, not sneak into the postseason. Know what I mean? Only serious offers will be considered and I think the elbow and opt-out will prevent Tanaka from bringing back a massive return.