Benching A-Rod against righties is a good start, but there are other lineup changes worth making

But that's not any of Al's business. (Presswire)
But that’s none of Al’s business. (Presswire)

Later today, Alex Rodriguez will return to the lineup after spending the last two days on the bench. He wasn’t hurt. The Yankees are looking for ways to improve the offense and sitting Alex against right-handers is the solution they came up with. With lefty Cole Hamels on the mound tonight, A-Rod will be back in there.

“It’s a hard decision. Alex has meant a lot to this club over the years, but right now we’re gonna do something a little bit different and see how it works,” said Joe Girardi to Howie Kussoy yesterday. “It’s been tough for him against right-handers. That’s why we’re looking at this … You perform, that’s the bottom line. We’re in the business of performing. Things change. Nothing is set in stone.”

Rodriguez certainly has struggled against righties this year. The demotion is not undeserved. He’s hit .200/.236/.348 (50 wRC+) with a 31.7% strikeout rate against them so far, and his at-bats have looked pretty bad. A-Rod can’t seem to lay off sliders away and is getting chewed up by good fastballs. Removing him from the lineup against righties is necessary and smart.

That’s not the only lineup change the Yankees can and should make, however. Everyone involved keeps saying they’re trying to contend — “We can’t keep treading water. I want to be a contender, not a pretender,” said Brian Cashman to Josh Thomson yesterday — yet they can’t maintain the status quo and expect different results. It’s almost July. Here are some other changes the Yankees should make.

Give Teixeira’s Knee A Break


Even with Mark Teixeira going deep the last two days, my guess is Rob Refsnyder will be at first base against Hamels tonight. Not only is there the left-right thing, but the Yankees had a very long night last night, and Teixeira also just played three straight games after coming off the DL with a knee problem. Girardi said they plan to give Teixeira a little more rest just to make sure the knee doesn’t flare up again. Makes sense, right? Right.

The Yankees have to do something to get Refsnyder at-bats and Teixeira’s knee is going to need regular rest, so this works well. Maybe something like three games on and one day off for Teixeira? Or two games on, one game at DH, and one day off? That will be difficult if these homers the last two days are a sign Teixeira is snapping out of his season long funk, but the Yankees can deal with that when the time comes. The point is to get Refsnyder some more at-bats. The kid has to play.

Drop Castro In The Lineup

There are 168 players qualified for the batting title as of this morning. Starlin Castro ranks 156th with a .285 OBP. That is terrible. I know he’s hit some big dingers and has generally been better than Stephen Drew, but man, his at-bats are consistently the worst on the team. He hacks at everything. Execute a slider off the plate in a two-strike count and Starlin will go fishing, no doubt about it.

Castro’s hot start and consistent dinger production — not to mention his age and contract — has bought him a long leash in a fairly premium lineup spot. He’s been hitting fifth or sixth for a while now. That has continued even though others, specifically Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley, have out-hit Castro for weeks now. Here are some numbers since May 1st, a totally arbitrary date I picked because it’s the start of a month:

Castro 209 .231/.260/.372 64 7 7 3.3% 19.1%
Gregorius 193 .311/.344/.443 110 10 4 4.1% 8.3%
Headley 183 .279/.344/.412 104 8 4 8.2% 21.9%

So yeah, Gregorius and Headley have been way more productive players for close to two months now. Benching Castro won’t (and shouldn’t) happen — he’s still only 26 and at least has a chance to be a building block player going forward — but dropping him in the lineup shouldn’t be off the table. Moving him behind Gregorius and Headley would be totally justifiable given their recent production.

Give Gardner & Ellsbury More Rest

Remember the plan to rest the regulars more often? The Yankees talked about it all offseason and in Spring Training. It hasn’t happened though. The team got off to a slow start, so Girardi kept running his regulars out there in an effort to get things turned around. As a result, Brett Gardner has started 64 of 75 games while Jacoby Ellsbury has started 61. That’s more than I think the Yankees originally planned.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Gardner and Ellsbury have slowed down of late. Gardner is hitting .273/.340/.295 (75 wRC+) over the last two weeks and Ellsbury is at .222/.255/.244 (32 wRC+). I don’t know if giving them one extra day on the bench a week while help things, but that was the plan coming into the season, right? That plan shouldn’t be abandoned, especially with the offense being so hit and (mostly) miss. It’s time to try something different.

I know most folks are done with Aaron Hicks but I’m nowhere near ready to give up on him. Clamoring for the Yankees to sell and wanting to move on from Hicks are conflicting ideas. I say give Gardner and Ellsbury that extra day of rest per week and stick Hicks in the lineup in their place. The two veterans get more rest and hopefully stay productive while Hicks gets some at-bats.


Bonus Non-Lineup Suggestion: Get Nova Out Of The Rotation

Ivan Nova stepped into the rotation a few weeks back and strung together three very good starts. The rotation was a total mess at the time and Nova did a really nice job calming things down. Props. Lately though, Ivan has been a mess, and following last night’s dud he owns a 5.32 ERA (5.07 FIP) on the season. That can’t continue. Chad Green has a 1.54 ERA (2.25 FIP) in 81.2 Triple-A innings and lines up to take Nova’s spot perfectly. The Yankees have plenty of dead weight in the bullpen they can cast aside, so put Nova back into a long relief role and give Green a chance to show what he can do.

* * *

Are the Yankees doing all they can right now to give themselves the best chance to win? I don’t think so, not if Refsnyder is sitting on the bench for three days at a time and Nova is taking a regular rotation turn. Benching A-Rod is a good move that figures to improve the offense. There’s more than can be done though, and the sooner the Yankees start making other changes, the better off they’ll be. Sitting A-Rod should be step one, not the only step.

Yanks lose to Mother Nature, Rangers 9-6 in series opener

Boy, it’s easy to tell which team is in first place and which team is trying to trick itself into believing it’s a contender, isn’t it? The Yankees blew a multiple leads Monday night, including a one-run ninth inning lead after waiting out a 215-minute rain delay. Brutal. The final score was 9-6 Rangers.

Whatever works. (Presswire)
Whatever works. (Presswire)

Pride, Power, Singles
The Yankees had 12 hits through the first six innings and all 12 were singles. Mark Teixeira, Didi Gregorius, and Chase Headley strung together hits for a second inning run to the tie the game 1-1, then Aaron Hicks plated a second run with a ground out. In the third, the Yankees blooped their way to another run, this one giving them a 3-2 lead. The hardest hit ball of the inning (by far) was Brett Gardner‘s leadoff line out. Ian Desmond made a nice sliding catch in center.

After Gardner’s line out, Carlos Beltran blooped a single to center, Brian McCann drew a walk, Teixeira blooped another single to center, and Starlin Castro blooper yet another single to center to score the run. It was pretty much a typical Starlin at-bat. Rangers starter Chi Chi Gonzalez fed him soft stuff away, Castro hacked at it, and he managed to loop this pitch …

Starlin Castro Chi Chi Gonzalez

… into center to drive in a run. Go figure. That seems to be a Castro specialty.

Four more singles in the fifth inning created two more runs. Gardner and Beltran started the inning with back-to-back singles, then McCann lined a ball off the wall in right-center field. It was one of those “he hit it so hard he held himself to a single” singles. It actually looked like it had a chance to go out off the bat, but it stayed in the park and hit the wall. Still drove in a run. Gregorius came through with a clutch two-out single to score another run later in the inning. That made it 5-4 Yankees.

Ivan’s Last Stand?
You know, there’s no real reason to think the Yankees will pull Ivan Nova from the rotation, but if they aren’t at least considering it after Monday night, I’m not sure what else they need to see. On a night Chad Green dominated (again) for Triple-A Scranton, Nova allowed four runs in five innings to an admittedly great Rangers team. He’s now allowed 31 runs and 67 baserunners in his last seven starts and 39 innings. Yikes.


Desmond, the second batter of the game, swatted an opposite field solo homer to open the scoring. Nova has managed to allow at least one homer in all ten starts this season, and man, I’m not even mad. That’s amazing. The last Yankee to allow a homer in ten straight starts was (who else?) Phil Hughes back in 2012. He did it in 12 straight. The real back-breaker Monday night was Shin-Soo Choo’s two-out, two-strike, two-run single in the fourth. Nova was one strike away from stranding the bases loaded, but nope.

Following Monday’s game Nova is now sitting on a 5.32 ERA (5.05 FIP) in 69.1 innings. He had a 5.07 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 94 innings last year, so he’s basically been the same guy. Ivan’s first three or four starts this year were better than anything he did last year, but man, he is not good. Guys like Nova, who don’t have good command or a reliable third pitch, seem to suffer the most following Tommy John surgery. Maybe this is just who he is now?

A Rainy End
Nova was able to eke through five innings, and the Yankees took the lead in the bottom of the fifth, meaning they were one inning away from handing their big three relievers a lead. The middle innings have been a nightmare all season, but journeyman Richard Bleier came in and retired the side in order in the sixth. He did allow two hard-hit at ’em balls, but hey, outs are outs. It was nice to see a non-big reliever toss a 1-2-3 inning for once.

Dellin Betances carved up the side in the seventh — he’s retired all 12 batters he’s faced in his last four outings — and Andrew Miller allowed a solo homer to Rougned Odor in the eighth. It was a bomb into the second deck too. Can’t say I expected the lefty to do that against Miller. Luckily Teixeira tacked on an insurance run with a cheap Yankee Stadium homer to right in the previous half-inning. The lead was 6-5 after Odor’s homer.

Now, it was raining for most of the game, but for the most part it was a light rain they could play through. It started to get more intense in the seventh, then even more intense in the eighth, and then even more intense in the ninth. The Yankees were up 6-5, Aroldis Chapman started the ninth in a legitimate downpour, and he walked the leadoff man on five pitches. It was light hitting No. 9 hitter Robinson Chirinos. Annoying!


Chapman then fell behind the next batter 3-1, which prompted Joe Girardi to come out of the dugout and complain about the conditions. The umpires got together and decided to put the tarp on the field. The Rangers were pissed and rightfully so. They pitched through similar conditions in the bottom of the eighth, yet the rain didn’t become a problem until Chapman walked a batter and fell behind another. I’d be pretty angry about that too.

Following what was officially a three hour and 35 minute rain delay (!), Kirby replaced Chapman at 2:15am ET and inherited the runner on first and the 3-1 count to the runner at the plate. Not ideal! I know everyone was hoping the game would be called. Yates was able to come back from the 3-1 count to fan Choo, which was huge. He had no margin for error and was able to get the out anyway.

Home plate ump John Tumpane was giving Yates a nice wide strike zone, yet he managed to plunk both Desmond and Nomar Mazara in 1-2 counts to load the bases. Sure enough, Yates went to a 1-2 count on Adrian Beltre, and thankfully he didn’t hit him. He served up a two-run single instead, giving the Rangers a 7-6 lead. Yates then hit Prince Fielder, because why not, and gave up a two-run single to Elvis Andrus. That gave Texas a 9-6 lead.

The Yankees put 20 runners on base in nine innings and somehow only scored six runs. I guess that’s what happens when only two of your 16 hits go for extra bases. Teixeira hit the homer and Gregorius had a double as well. Every starter had a hit except Hicks. What does Ken Singleton say, there’s always someone who doesn’t get invited to the party in games like this? That was Hicks.

Gardner (two), Beltran (three), Teixeira (three), Castro (two), and Gregorius (three) all had multiple hits. Teixeira’s gone deep in back-to-back games after going nearly two months without a dinger before the knee injury. Ellsbury, Beltran, McCann, and Headley drew the team’s four walks. Didi and Ellsbury stole bases too. The Yankees went 5-for-19 (.263) with runners in scoring position.

And finally, just because the ninth inning wasn’t absurd enough, the Rangers challenged Castro’s leadoff infield single in the ninth inning. At 2:39am ET. The call was upheld and he was safe. The Yankees brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but alas, the rally fell short. I look forward to this one being blamed on the rain and not the crappy roster.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head over to ESPN for the box score and updated standings. has the video highlights. We have Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. Here’s the win probability graph:

Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
This four-game series is just getting started. The Yankees and Rangers will be play the second game Tuesday night, when veteran lefty aces CC Sabathia and Cole Hamels are on the mound. The Yankees won’t play another home game until July 15th after this series, so head on over to RAB Tickets if you want to catch any of these next three games live.

DotF: Judge homers yet again in Scranton’s win

Some notes:

  • Chad Jennings posted a really great interview with 2B Rob Refsnyder, in which he discusses OF Aaron Judge‘s recent hot streak and the way they push each other to get better. Really, really great stuff. Make sure you check it out.
  • As expected, LHP Nestor Cortes was sent down from Double-A Trenton to Low-A Charleston following last night’s game, according to Josh Norris. That was only to help a thinned out pitching staff for a night, not a permanent promotion.
  • OF Aaron Judge and C Kyle Higashioka were named the Offensive Players of the Week in the Triple-A International League and Double-A Eastern League, respectively. Congrats to both. Higashioka won the IL award two weeks ago.
  • Both RHP Austin DeCarr and RHP Domingo German appeared in today’s Prospect Report. They both made their 2016 debuts — and first appearance since 2014 — yesterday. DeCarr and German had Tommy John surgery early last year.
  • The Yankees released a few lower profile minor leaguers, reports Matt Eddy. The most notable, by far, is LHP Rony Bautista. The 6-foot-7 southpaw walked 175 batters in 280 minor league innings.
  • And finally, 2B Rob Refsnyder is no longer rookie eligible (he has too much service time), so 3B Nelson Gomez slipped into’s top 30 Yankees prospect list. Head on over to read the free scouting report.

Triple-A Scranton (5-0 win over Syracuse)

  • CF Ben Gamel: 3-5, 1 RBI, 1 K — he’s hitting .349/.427/.476 in his last 30 games
  • 1B Nick Swisher: 3-5, 1 2B
  • DH Aaron Judge: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K — that’s ten homers in his last 15 games
  • C Gary Sanchez: 1-5, 2 K
  • RF Tyler Austin: 1-5, 1 R, 3 K
  • LF Jake Cave: 1-3, 2 R, 1 RBI
  • RHP Chad Green: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 7/2 GB/FB — 59 of 89 pitches were strikes (66%) … down to a 1.54 ERA, which is the lowest among qualified starters in the International League … 82/19 K/BB in 81.2 Triple-A innings … his rotation lines up perfectly with Ivan Nova‘s, conveniently
  • LHP Chasen Shreve: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 12 of 17 pitches were strikes (71%)
  • RHP Nick Goody: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K, 1 E (missed catch) — 29 of 44 pitches were strikes (66%)

[Read more…]

Game 75: Mixing It Up


Yesterday afternoon, when Alex Rodriguez wasn’t in the starting lineup, I assumed it was because he had played eight straight days. Joe Girardi likes to rest his regulars, so sitting A-Rod gave him a day to rest and also allowed Carlos Beltran to DH, giving him a day off his feet. Girardi does that stuff all the time.

A-Rod is not in tonight’s lineup either, and he’s not hurt. Girardi confirmed the Yankees are “mixing it up” by sitting Alex against a right-handed pitcher, which makes sense. A-Rod is hitting .200/.236/.348 (50 wRC+) with a 31.7% strikeout rate against righties this year. The offense is sputtering — they had two hits without Alex yesterday, remember — and it’s time to try something different, so Alex sits. Here is the Rangers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. LF Brett Gardner
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. 2B Starlin Castro
  7. SS Didi Gregorius
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    RHP Ivan Nova

It has been cloudy and humid all day in New York, and there is some rain in the forecast tonight. It doesn’t look like it’ll be anything heavy though. Hopefully there’s no delay. Tonight’s game is scheduled to begin a little after 7pm ET. You can watch on YES. Enjoy.

Roster Update: The Yankees have outrighted Ike Davis to Triple-A Scranton, the team announced. He can still elect free agency. My guess is Davis will stick around because all it takes is one misstep by Teixeira to return to the bigs.

All-Star Update: The final fan voting update for the All-Star Game starters was announced earlier today. No Yankees are in position to start the game or are even remotely close in the voting at their respective positions. Here’s the update. The rosters will be announced next Tuesday.

Yankees announce new ticket partnership with StubHub


Earlier today, the Yankees officially announced a new multi-year agreement with StubHub, making them the team’s official ticket resale marketplace. Yankees Ticket Exchange? That’s gone. Fans have to go through StubHub now. The new system will be operational by July 7th. Here’s the press release.

“We are committed to providing our fans with a first-class ticket experience, and offering the safest, most secure and efficient platform for our fans to sell and purchase tickets,” said team president Randy Levine in a statement. “This new product was the result of many productive discussions with StubHub, which will allow them to fully integrate into our ticket system. We are confident this collaboration will best protect our fans in the resale ticket marketplace.”

Two important details. One, this covers mobile tickets only. You still can’t print your ticket at home, so if your phone dies or you’re not that tech savvy, you’re pretty much out of luck. Mobile tickets and hard stock tickets are still the only way to get into the ballpark. Two, the price floor is set at 50 percent of the full season ticket plan price. Don’t expect any super deep discounts.

Make no mistake, this deal is not about fighting ticket fraud or making sure fans get a good deal when they resell their tickets. The Yankees agreed to this deal because, as Samantha Pell reports, StubHub is going to pay them roughly $100M from now through the end of 2022. C.R.E.A.M. That’s all there is to it.

6/27 to 6/30 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

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It’s gut-check time. The Yankees have spent the last few weeks beating up on the likes of the Twins, Angels, Rays, and Athletics. Now they have to prove their mettle against arguably the best team in the AL and inarguably one of the best in all of baseball. The Rangers are in town for a four-game series. The Yankees want people to believe they can contend? Then go out, put up a fight, and win some games against Texas this week.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Rangers have been insanely hot of late. They took two of three from the Red Sox over the weekend and have won 22 of their last 28 games overall to push their record to 49-27, best in the AL by 3.5 games. The Giants are the only other team in baseball with as many as 49 wins. The Yankees and Rangers played three games in Arlington in late-April. The Rangers won two of the three.

Offense & Defense

Do the Rangers ever have a bad offense? They always seem to be really good at scoring runs. So far this year they’ve averaging 4.88 runs per game with a team 95 wRC+. (The runs per game/wRC+ disconnect always intrigues me.) Manager Jeff Banister has two injured position players: OF Josh Hamilton, who won’t play at all this season due to knee problems, and OF Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is out with a toe injury and it doesn’t look like he’ll be back this series.

Desmond. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Desmond. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Banister puts his four best hitters right at the top of the lineup. RF Shin-Soo Choo (136 wRC+) leads off, CF Ian Desmond (135 wRC+) bats second, rookie LF Nomar Mazara (101 wRC+) bats third, and future Hall of Famer 3B Adrian Beltre (101 wRC+) cleans up. Choo has a .418 OBP in the leadoff spot and Desmond has been off-the-charts the last two months. He has a 159 wRC+ in his last 57 games. Crazy. DH Prince Fielder (60 wRC+) has been awful, but he stays in the lineup because the Rangers owe him more than $80M through 2020. Egads.

SS Elvis Andrus (94 wRC+) is having his best offensive season in a few years and 2B Rougned Odor (97 wRC+) has been just okay to date. IF Jurickson Profar (134 wRC+) has been something of super utility guy getting regular at-bats all over the infield. 1B Mitch Moreland (84 wRC+) and OF Ryan Rua (123 wRC+) are platoon options. Texas is carrying three catchers: C Robinson Chirinos (105 wRC+), C Bryan Holaday (77 wRC+), and C Bobby Wilson (77 wRC+). Three catchers is a hell of a thing.

The Rangers are a very good defensive team with two major sore spots: right field and first base. Choo is not a good defender — he does throw very well, but his range stinks — and regardless of whether Fielder or Moreland (or Profar) is at first, they’re a liability. (Profar lacks experience.) Beltre, Mazara, Odor, and Andrus are all above-average glovemen. So is Desmond in center field, believe it or not. He’s never going to play the infield again. The transition to the outfield has worked so, so well.

Pitching Probables

Monday (7:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (vs. NYY)
The Rangers are currently without Yu Darvish (shoulder), Derek Holland (shoulder), and Colby Lewis (lat), so they’ve had to dip deep into their pitching depth. Gonzalez, 24, is coming up from Triple-A to make the start in place of Lewis tonight. He threw 67 innings for the Rangers last summer and was serviceable (3.90 ERA and 4.97 FIP). So far in Triple-A this year Gonzalez has a 5.04 ERA (3.91 FIP) in 14 starts and 80.1 innings. He wasn’t missing bats (15.9%) or limiting walks (7.4%), but Chi Chi did limit homers (0.34 HR/9) and keep the ball on the ground (58.0%). Gonzalez is a classic sinker/slider pitcher. He sits 91-94 mph with the sinker and in the upper-80s with his slider, so he throws it hard. A mid-80s changeup is his third pitch. Every once in a while he’ll flip a low-80s curveball to keep hitters guessing.

Tuesday (7:05pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. TEX) vs. LHP Cole Hamels (vs. NYY)
The 32-year-old Hamels is in his first full season with the Rangers, and in 15 starts he’s given the team 96.2 innings of 2.79 ERA (4.58 FIP) ball. His strikeout (23.5%) and grounder (50.8%) numbers are very good, though he’s been walk (9.1%) and homer (1.40 HR/9) prone, which is out of the ordinary. He’s been quite a bit better against lefties than righties this year, though he’s had a tiny platoon split throughout his career. Hamels is one of those ultra-rare veteran pitchers who has added velocity over the years. Check it out (via Brooks Baseball):

Cole Hamels velocity

Every pitcher should be so lucky. Hamels backs up his low-to-mid-90s four-seamer and sinker with a world class mid-80s changeup. It’s one of the best changeups in baseball and the reason he’s been so good for so long. He throws it with the same arm speed as his heater, so by time it starts fading, the hitter’s brain has already said “fastball!” and told his arms to start swinging. An upper-80s cutter and an upper-70s curveball are his fourth and fifth pitches. Hamels uses all five pitches regularly too. The Yankees didn’t see him when they were in Texas earlier this season.

Wednesday (7:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Nick Martinez (vs. NYY)
Martinez, 25, is in the rotation because of all those injuries. He’s made two starts and two relief appearances for the Rangers this year, allowing eight runs on 16 hits and seven walks in 13 innings. Martinez has struck out only five. He had a 4.50 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 64 Triple-A innings this year before getting called back up Texas. Martinez lives and dies with his low-90s sinker and mid-80s slider. He’s going to throw some mid-80s changeups and upper-70s curveballs too, but the sinker and slider are his moneymakers. They’re why he’s in the show. Martinez was still in Triple-A when the Yankees and Rangers played in April.

Thursday (1:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TEX) vs. RHP A.J. Griffin (vs. NYY)
After losing the 2014 and 2015 seasons to Tommy John surgery and shoulder issues, the now 28-year-old Griffin has a 3.08 ERA (3.55 FIP) in seven starts and 38 innings for Texas this season. He did miss a few weeks with more shoulder problems, however. Griffin has a strong strikeout rate (21.9%) and he’s kept the ball in the yard (0.71 HR/9), but his walk (9.7%) and grounder (36.8%) numbers aren’t all that good. Left-handed batters have had more success against him this season than righties. Griffin is averaging 88 mph with his four-seamer and 83 mph with his little cutter/slider hybrid. His changeup is in the low-80s and his hilariously slow curveball still sits in the mid-to-high-60s. That slow curve makes his heater play up quite a bit. The Yankees did see Griffin back in April, and he held them to one run in eight innings. I remember that game being the one when it really set in that this year’s offense stinks.

Griffin. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)
Griffin. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Bullpen Status

Despite their success, the Rangers have one of the least effective bullpens in baseball. They rank 28th in bullpen ERA (4.73) and 29th in bullpen FIP (4.67) among the 30 clubs so far this year. That’s going to have to be fixed at some point. I happen to know a team with some spare relievers. Anyway, here is Banister’s bullpen:

Closer: RHP Sam Dyson (1.93 ERA/2.81 FIP)
Setup: LHP Jake Diekman (2.83/3.38), RHP Matt Bush (2.29/2.83)
Middle: LHP Cesar Ramos (4.42/5.48), RHP Shawn Tolleson (6.84/5.61), RHP Tony Barnette (3.13/3.35)
Long: RHP Luke Jackson (7.27/7.52)

That’s the same Matt Bush who was the first overall pick in the 2004 draft … as a shortstop. He had drug and alcohol problems in the minors and got into some big time legal trouble; Bush spent 51 months in prison following a DUI hit-and-run in Florida in which he hit and nearly killed a 72-year-old man on a motorcycle. Geez. Bush was released from prison a few months ago and the Rangers felt he is truly a changed man, so they signed him, and now he’s one of their setup relievers.

Bush (22 pitches), Diekman (5 pitches), and Tolleson (15 pitches) all appeared in yesterday’s game. Tolleson pitched Saturday as well, which figures to limit his availability tonight. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen.

Waiting is understandable, but the sooner the Yankees decide to sell, the better

(Joe Mahoney/Getty)
(Joe Mahoney/Getty)

One of the best and worst things about baseball these days is the second wildcard. It’s great because it gives more teams a chance at the postseason, and that’s generally a good thing for baseball. The Giants won the 2014 World Series as the second wildcard team, remember. Fans want to watch their team play meaningful games and the race for the second wildcard means more meaningful games.

At the same time, the second wildcard leads to a lot of indecision. More teams are in contention — or can talk themselves into thinking they’re in contention — that they’re hesitant to make major moves and deal away players throughout the summer. There’s no better example of this than the 2013 and 2014 Yankees. The 2016 Yankees may be heading for a similar fate. Teams are frozen. The second wildcard clouds their judgment.

The trade deadline is exactly five weeks away, and at least one team is open to buying right now. That team? The Red Sox. They have some pitching problems and president of baseball operations David Dombrowski told Evan Drellich he’s already working the trade market for help. Only a few teams are ready to sell though. From Drellich:

“It’s still early,” Dombrowski said. “I can tell you I’ve done a great deal work, there’s five clubs that are willing to talk about it. They’re the same five clubs that have been at it all year, so it’s still a little early for that type of situation. We’ll just see what happens.

“I think the thing you got to remember is, it takes two clubs to make a deal. And most clubs, as I’ve said all along — and it hasn’t changed whatsoever really — are not prepared to move towards 2017 and be in a position of where they’re willing to move. I mean, there’s probably five clubs that have been looking at that all year long and I think those five clubs are probably the five that remain.”

My guess is the Braves, Phillies, Brewers, Reds, and Padres are those five teams ready to sell. They’re all rebuilding and have aggressively moved veterans for prospects in recent weeks and months. What pitching do they have to offer the Red Sox? Eh, not much beyond Julio Teheran. That’s Boston’s problem though. Who cares about them.

Anyway, the point is the Red Sox are looking to add help right now, but there’s a shortage of viable trade partners. And if the Red Sox are ready to buy, you can be sure other contenders like the Rangers, Nationals, Giants, Cubs, Indians, Dodgers, and Orioles are ready to buy as well. No roster is perfect. They can all be improved, some more than others. The sooner you get that help, the better your chances to contend.

The Yankees insist they are not ready to sell — what else are they supposed to say? — but Dombrowski’s comments indicate they could benefit from being decisive and making moves now. It’s a seller’s market because that second wildcard spot has so many teams thinking playoffs and thus holding on to their players. Selling now comes with some obvious benefits, such as:

  1. You can ask for more in return. Because you’re trading away more games of a player — as of today, it’s five extra weeks of a player compared to moving him at the deadline — you can ask for more in return. Maybe not a ton more, but more.
  2. You lower your risk. This is pretty simple. The longer you hold onto your top trade chips, the odds of them getting hurt on your watch goes up, especially when it comes to pitchers. Think the Padres regret not moving Tyson Ross sooner? You bet they do.
  3. Less trade market competition. No one is ready to sell right now, which means buyers don’t have many options. It’s simple supply and demand. Making your players available right now means you control the market. Everyone is trying to get your players because they’re actually available.

The Red Sox are looking to buy but the Yankees aren’t going to trade with them. I think Dombrowski and Brian Cashman would be open to trading with each other, but a Yankees-Red Sox deal probably gets squashed at the ownership level. I’m talking about a major deal here, not Kelly Johnson for Stephen Drew. Neither team wants to risk losing a major trade to the other. That’s just the way it goes.

There are still plenty of other trade partners out there though! Teams are all over the Yankees’ relievers and I’m sure there’s interest in Carlos Beltran too. The Yankees could put those guys (and others) on the market today and not only get some bites, but find legitimate interest. Their ability to be sellers depends entirely on their willingness to sell. It’s not that there’s no market for their players yet. The market exists.

Are the Yankees going to make their players available right now and take advantage of the lack of competition? Almost certainly not. They want to get back into the race — I understand that, but the players aren’t exactly cooperating — so they’ll wait until the deadline to make moves, if any. That means assuming the added injury risk and forfeiting the ability to get out ahead of the market. There’s potentially a lot to be gained by selling now, but the Yankees seem content to wait this out.