You know, I had a pretty crummy day on Tuesday. Not a bad day, I didn’t get bad news or anything, I just felt out of sorts. I hit off instead of snooze and overslept by like three hours, which is probably why. I was hoping the Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka would make everything feel better in the series opener against the Cubs, but nope. They lost 6-1.
For the first time in his big league career, Tanaka allowed four runs in a start on Tuesday night. Only three of them were earned because, well, the Yankees have a terrible team defense, but runs are runs and they all count. The first two runs scored on base hits through the drawn in infield, the next two on sacrifice flies. It could have been worse had the Cubs not bunted into two (!) outs at the plate in the fourth inning. Cubs gonna Cubs.
Tanaka was facing a team for the second time for his first time as a big leaguer, and while that may have contributed to his worst start of the season, I thought he just made a lot of bad pitches. Lots of hanging offspeed pitches. It’s not like they were laying off the splitter — seven strikeouts including nine misses on 18 swings against the splitter, identical to his 50.0% whiff rate for the season — or hitting pitchers’ pitches. Tanaka just made a bunch of mistakes and he paid for them. That’s life. Chances are the steady rain had more of an effect than the lack of a surprise attack. Oh well. Tanaka lost a regular season game for the first time since August 2012, which is very clearly not what the Yankees paid for.
Remember when A.J. Burnett dominated the Yankees like five times in 2008? Then the Yankees went out and signed him as a free agent after the season in part due to that dominance? This feels like the kind of game that could lead the Yankees going out and trading a bunch of prospects for Jason Hammel. The ex-Devil Ray held New York to one run on four hits and a walk in 5.2 innings, though he was in total control for most of the game. Things went off the rails a bit in the sixth after Brett Gardner doubled and Mark Teixeira came through with a two-out hit to score the team’s only run.
The Yankees put two men on in the first inning without the ball leaving the infield — Gardner infield singled literally off Hammel and Teixeira was hit by a pitch — but then Hammel settled down to retire the next six and 13 of the next 14 men he faced. It looked like he would be forced to leave the game after Gardner hit him with a comebacker leading off the game, but the Yankees weren’t that lucky. Outside of Gardner and Teixeira, the lineup mustered nothing all night. (The Yankees did load the bases on an infield single and two walks in the ninth, but that went nowhere.) Gardner and Teixeira went 3-for-6 with a double, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch while the rest of the lineup went 3-for-26 with two walks. Two-man army.
The Preston Claiborne/Matt Thornton/Matt Daley portion of the bullpen let things get out of hand in the late innings because that’s what the Claiborne/Thornton/Daley portion of the bullpen does. They combined to allow two runs on five base-runners in the seventh inning and it would have been a lot worse had Daley not stranded the bases loaded. David Robertson, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances, and healthy Shawn Kelley are pretty awesome. Every other reliever? Hide the women and children.
Jacoby Ellsbury went 0-for-4 and has one hit in his last 27 at-bats. He’s mired in a 5-for-49 (.102) slump and is down to .269/.347/.391 (102 wRC+) on the season. Gardner, on the other hand, is up to .303/.376/.428 (125 wRC+) on the year. The Yankees have committed $231.7M to five veteran outfielders since the start of last season and the homegrown guy is better than all of ‘em right now. By a mile too.
The umpires reviewed — at the urging of Joe Girardi (it wasn’t an official challenge, the umps reviewed it on their own) — a potential strikeout/foul ball by Anthony Rizzo in the fifth inning. The umps got on the horn with the Midtown office and were told that play wasn’t reviewable, so it was a big waste of time.
The Yankees seem to be getting burned by the infield shift more and more often these days. It happened twice in this game — the first time leading off the two-run sixth — and hopefully it’s just part of the randomness of baseball. Regardless, it’s annoying.
This quick little two-game series ends with a classic Wrigley Field day game on Wednesday afternoon, when Chase Whitley makes his second career big league start. He’ll be charged with stopping a two-game losing streak. Trade bait Jeff Samardzija will be on the bump for the Cubbies.
Some notes and links:
- Based on his Twitter feed, RHP Ty Hensley (hernia) will throw his first simulated game on Saturday. Seems like he’s on target to join either Short Season Staten Island or the Rookie GCL Yanks when their seasons start next month.
- Ken Rosenthal has a short note about how the Yankees found RHP David Phelps prior to the 2008 draft. Long story short: scouting director Damon Oppenheimer was their to see another prospect and fell in love with Phelps’ competitiveness.
- Ben Badler wrote about the lack of information available for international prospects because teams get them to verbally agree to contracts early, then essentially hide them at their Latin America academies. No one else sees them.
Triple-A Scranton (3-0 win over Pawtucket)
- 2B Jose Pirela: 1-4, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 E (fielding)
- LF Adonis Garcia: 4-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB — got picked off first and threw a runner out at home … 32-for-71 (.451) during his 17-game hitting streak to raise his season line to .340/.369/.490 in 37 games
- RF Ramon Flores: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
- 3B Scott Sizemore: 0-2, 2 BB, 1 K
- 1B Kyle Roller: 0-4, 3 K
- RHP Shane Greene: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 4/4 GB/FB — 56 of 88 pitches were strikes (64%) … I wonder if he or RHP Alfredo Aceves is next in line to join the rotation if a need arises
- RHP Jose Ramirez: 1.1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 1/1 GB/FB – 21 of 39 pitches were strikes (54%)
It’s that time of the week again. The Yankees open their two-series, six-game stay in Chicago with their ace on the mound tonight, as Masahiro Tanaka and his unique belt buckle take on the Cubbies at Wrigley Field. Tanaka held these same Cubs to two infield singles and a walk in eight scoreless innings in the Bronx last month. It will be the first time a team sees him for the second time.
The Yankees come into Chicago week having won four of the last five games and somehow still in first place in the AL East. I mean, it’s a little too early to worry about the standings, but it’s surprising to see the Bombers atop the division when it feels like they’ve been playing meh at best for the better part of a month now. The AL East is a mess this year. Both the Cubs and White Sox are rebuilding — the Cubs have literally the worst record in baseball right now — so this a good week to pad the win total and start creating some separation with the rest of the division. Here is the Cubs lineup and here is the Yankees lineup:
- LF Brett Gardner
- SS Derek Jeter
- CF Jacoby Ellsbury
- 1B Mark Teixeira
- C Brian McCann
- RF Alfonso Soriano
- 3B Yangervis Solarte
- 2B Brian Roberts
- RHP Masahiro Tanaka
It’s warm and cloudy in Chicago right now, but there are thunderstorms in the forecast later tonight, starting around 10pm ET or so. That might be a problem. We’ll just have to wait and see. First pitch is scheduled for a little after 8pm ET and you can watch the game on My9. Enjoy.
5:31pm: Beltran will try to swing a bat on Monday, Joe Girardi announced. If that doesn’t go well, he will have surgery.
3:26pm: Via Mark Feinsand: Carlos Beltran will try to play through the bone spur in his elbow. If there is too much pain, he will have surgery and be sidelined for roughly two months. He received a second cortisone shot over the weekend.
Beltran, 37, is not eligible to be activated off the disabled list until next Wednesday, so I assume he’ll spend the next several days trying to hit. He might try to “play through” the bone spur without actually playing for the Yankees, if that makes sense. If it bothers him in the batting cage or in minor league games, Beltran could decide to have the surgery without ever actually being activated. Seems like he knows he needs the surgery but will try to put it off until the offseason. We’ll see. · (35) ·
Matt Chapman | 3B/RHP
Chapman is an Orange County kid from Trabuco Canyon who went undrafted out of El Toro High School (Austin Romine‘s alma mater) in 2011. He hit .285/.380/.413 with seven homers and seven steals in 108 games as a freshman and sophomore at Cal State Fullerton, and so far this spring he has a .318/.417/.511 batting line with six homers, five steals, and nearly as many walks (22) as strikeouts (23) in 46 games.
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 lbs., Chapman stands out for his defense at the hot corner, where he has quick feet, soft hands, and a rocket arm. He has some power in his right-handed swing and a good approach at the plate, but he has struggled against premium velocity throughout his career. Chapman has been classified as a hard-nosed, blue collar player who plays very hard. Although he has not pitched during his three years at Fullerton, Chapman threw 98 mph out of the bullpen with Team USA last summer. He is considered a better prospect as a position player, but the mound is an obvious fallback option.
In their recent rankings, Keith Law (subs. req’d), Baseball America, and MLB.com ranked Chapman as the 54th, 64th, and 77th best prospect in the draft class, respectively. As I mentioned yesterday, scouting director Damon Oppenheimer loves his SoCal prospects, and he has sown an increased affinity for college bats the last two drafts. Chapman appears to be a player the Yankees could target with their top pick, their second rounder (55th overall).
Via Ken Rosenthal: The Red Sox have re-signed Stephen Drew to a one-year contract worth $14.1 pro-rated, so basically the qualifying offer he turned down over the winter. He will presumably take over shortstop with Xander Bogaerts moving back to third base. Drew will be a free agent again after this season, but because he did not spend the entire season with Boston, they will not be able to make him a qualifying offer.
The Yankees had on again, off again interest in Drew during the offseason and even in recent weeks — we recently heard they would reconsidering signing him after the draft — which makes sense given the infield situation. Just this morning I said I expected Drew to sign with the Tigers after the draft, which shows what I know. Kendrys Morales is still unsigned, and if the Yankees lose Carlos Beltran to elbow surgery, he would make some sense as a full-time DH and replacement middle of the order bat. · (51) ·
For the fourth series in a row, the Yankees are playing a National League team. This time they’re on Chicago’s north side for two games against the Cubs. These clubs played two games at Yankee Stadium last month and the Yankees didn’t just win both games — the first game was rained out, so they played a doubleheader the next day — they shut the Cubs out both times. It was pretty great. Alfonso Soriano is returning to Wrigley Field for the first time since being traded back to New York last July, so it’ll be interesting to see the reception.
What Have They Done Lately?
The Lovable Losers took two of three from the Brewers over the weekend, winning both Saturday and Sunday. They dropped three straight and ten of 12 before that. The Cubs have lost 90+ games in each of the last three seasons and they are again terrible in 2014, coming into today with a 15-27 record and a -3 run differential. That is the very worst win-loss record in baseball despite a decidedly average run differential.
The Cubs average 3.95 runs per game and have a team 82 wRC+, so they are well-below-average offensively. They are missing two outfielders in OF Justin Ruggiano (80 wRC+) and OF Ryan Sweeney (36 wRC+), both of whom are on the 15-day DL with hamstring problems. Ruggiano started a minor league rehab assignment yesterday, so I suppose he could be activated at some point during this series. Sweeney is out long-term.
Rookie manager Rick Renteria has two above-average bats in his lineup in 1B Anthony Rizzo (134 wRC+) and SS Starlin Castro (126 wRC+). Rizzo has bunted to beat the shift several times this year, including once against the Yankees, so expect them to pull the third baseman a little closer to the line. Castro has rebounded quite well following a brutal 2013 season. IF Luis Valbuena (114 wRC+) plays just about everyday, either at second or third. OF Junior Lake (103 wRC+) has been solid in left field.
OF Emilio Bonifacio (89 wRC+) got off to a ridiculously hot start but has cooled down considerably. He leads the team with eleven steals and is their only serious threat to run. 3B Mike Olt (89 wRC+) has hit a bunch of homers (nine) but also has a .254 OBP and a 31.6% strikeout rate. C Welington Castillo (94 wRC+) has been good by catcher standards. Everyone else on the active roster — OF Nate Schierholtz (33 wRC+), OF Ryan Kalish (69 wRC+), UTIL Chris Coghlan (-6 wRC+), IF Darwin Barney (38 wRC+), and C John Baker (-46 wRC+) — has not hit at all.
The Yankees are in serious need of rotation help following the CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova injuries, and it just so happens two prime pieces of trade bait will be on the mound for the Cubs this series. They aren’t shy about being terrible for the sake of accumulating prospects with an eye towards a future that may never come. Consider this a chance to do some advance scouting.
Tuesday: RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. CHC) vs. RHP Jason Hammel (vs. NYY) (Pitcher GIFs)
Hammel, 31, took a one-year “I know you’re going to trade me but hey, money” contract from the Cubs over the winter and has a 3.06 ERA (3.36 FIP) in eight starts and 53 innings so far this season. His strikeout (7.30 K/9 and 21.2 K%), homer (0.85 HR/9 and 8.5% HR/FB), and ground ball (43.9%) rates are alright, his walk rate (2.04 BB/9 and 5.9 BB%) very good. Lefties (.303 wOBA) have hit him much harder than righties (.207 wOBA), and his still ridiculously low BABIP (.217) has recently started to correct. Hammel has been throwing his low-90s two-seamer way more than ever before this year while cutting back on his mid-to-upper-70s curveball. A hard low-to-mid-80s slider is now his top breaking ball. He also throws the occasional mid-80s changeup. Hammel held the Yankees to three runs in seven innings a few weeks ago.
It’s worth noting tonight’s game will be the first time Tanaka faces a team for the second time this season, so the element of surprise will theoretically be gone. He held them to two singles and a walk with ten strikeouts in eight scoreless innings last month, and I’m not sure the Cubs will be the best litmus test for how Tanaka will pitch the second time around the league because they aren’t a great offensive team.
Wednesday: RHP Chase Whitley (No vs. CHC) vs. RHP Jeff Samardzija (vs. NYY) (GIFs)
Some pitchers get undeservingly raised to ace status for some reason, and the 29-year-old Samardzija is one of those guys. He’s been excellent so far this year — 1.62 ERA (2.86 FIP) in nine starts and 61 innings, and prepare yourself for a lengthy discussion about his 0-4 record — but there’s also nothing in his track record as a starter to suggest his homer rate (0.30 HR/9 and 4.2% HR/FB) is close to sustainable. Samardzija’s strikeout rate (7.50 K/9 and 20.7 K%) has fallen off big time this year while his walk (2.80 BB/9 and 7.7 BB%) and ground ball (50.3%) numbers are right in line with the last two seasons. Like Hammel, he’s been getting knocked around by lefties (.308 wOBA) but not righties (.228 wOBA). I mean, don’t get me wrong, he’s very good. Let’s pump the breaks on the ace talk for a bit though. Samardzija sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his running two-seam fastball and a couple ticks lower with his cutter. A low-80s slider is his top offspeed pitch, and he’ll use a mid-80s splitter as a changeup. The Yankees did not see Samardzija in the Bronx earlier this year.
The Cubs are carrying eight relievers for the time being, presumably until Ruggiano is ready to come off the DL. Former Yankee RHP Jose Veras (10.03 FIP) just came off the DL himself and is being eased back into things right now. Renteria has been using RHP Hector Rondon (1.60 FIP) as his closer even though he’s stopped short of declaring him the guy. RHP Pedro Strop (4.65 FIP) and former Yankees property RHP Brian Schlitter (3.45 FIP) have been seeing most of the setup time. Schlitter never actually pitched for the Yankees; he was briefly with the team between waiver claims in 2011.
LHP Wesley Wright (3.46 FIP) and LHP James Russell (5.77 FIP) are Renteria’s two lefties, and both are specialists more than anything. RHP Justin Grimm (3.66 FIP) and RHP Neil Ramirez (1.89 FIP) fill out the rest of the bullpen. The Cubs were off yesterday, so their bullpen is nice and fresh. The same is true for the Yankees. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for details on the recent reliever usage, then check out Bleacher Nation for whatever you need to know about the Cubbies.
Tuesday: The Yankees have been scouting Carbonell during his workouts in Mexico, but they have not offered a contract and are not seriously pursuing him according George King, Dan Martin, and Jesse Sanchez. Carbonell is said to be seeking a four-year deal.
Saturday: Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees are one of five finalists for Cuban outfielder Daniel Carbonell. We heard they had interest in him a few weeks ago. Carbonell has to sign by July 2nd, otherwise he will be subject to the international spending restrictions.
Carbonell, 23, is said to be a speedy switch-hitting center fielder with some power. He hit .288/.378/.405 with two homers, six steals, ten walks, and eleven strikeouts in 127 plate appearances in Cuba last season before defecting. Here is his over the top workout video. It’s unclear what kind of bonus Carbonell will command. The Yankees had interest in Cuban infielder Aledmys Diaz earlier this year, but not enough to make an offer. · (32) ·
The Yankees were off yesterday but there was still some rather large news delivered. Brian Cashman confirmed CC Sabathia will miss at least six weeks following the stem cell treatment on his twice surgically repaired right knee, meaning the team has lost its six-time Opening Day starter until at least July. If the stem cell treatment doesn’t work, Sabathia will presumably have surgery and miss even more time. That’s not good. Here are some miscellaneous thoughts.
1. Losing Sabathia for what is essentially two months — when you include the time he has already spent on the disabled list — really sucks. I have been an unabashed optimist about his ability to adjust to reduced velocity as he grew older, perhaps foolishly, but this injury means he will lose a lot of the time necessary to make those adjustments and learn how to pitch with his new arsenal. We’ll probably never truly find out, but I’m very curious to know how long the knee has been bothering him. Maybe the injury has contributed to his struggles these last few weeks — at least the location issues since it his landing knee — and man I really hope that is the case because at least then we’d have an explanation. It would be really great if Sabathia came out on the other end of this injury and pitched effectively, even as like a 4.00 ERA innings eater, but I think the odds of that happening are on the small side. This really bites.
2. So obviously now we’re going to be talking about the Yankees trading for a starter nonstop, with Cliff Lee and Jeff Samardzija the two big names. Lee might not even available, the Phillies are weird like that, but we all Samardzija will be out there. The Cubs are in a perpetual rebuilding process. Do the Yankees have the young pitching — Chicago has a ton of position player prospects and has been targeting arms in trades the last year or two — to swing a deal for him? Not unless the Cubs are open to a bunch of Single-A guys like Luis Severino and Rafael DePaula. Outside of Manny Banuelos and Shane Greene, the Yankees don’t have any upper level prospect arms to offer. If they did, they’d probably be in the big league rotation right now. Jason Hammel would cost considerably less to acquire and might be the more realistic trade target just based on the likely asking price and available trade chips.
3. As for some other possible trade targets, guys like Justin Masterson and Brandon McCarthy jump out because they’re due to become free agents this offseason and their teams are terrible. Masterson has lost nearly three miles an hour off his trademark sinker this year and besides, he’s an extreme ground ball pitcher (61.6% in 2014 and 56.1% from 2011-13). A pitcher who relies on his infield that much is a very bad fit for the Yankees given their current roster. I mean, yeah, you can play Brendan Ryan at short on days he starts, but that would only help so much. McCarthy, on the other hand, is another ground ball heavy guy (54.1% in 2014 and 45.6% from 2011-13), except he has a long history of injury problems. He’s visited the disabled list at least once with a shoulder injury every year from 2009-13. It’s only a matter of time until he gets hurt this year. The Yankees need to add some reliability to the rotation, someone with a track record of durability who can miss bats and won’t live and die by the infield defense. That’s the perfect world scenario. Does that pitcher exist? I don’t know.
4. Anyway, let’s shift gears to another potentially devastating injury, the bone spur in Carlos Beltran‘s elbow. He received a second cortisone injection a few weeks ago and that’s bad news — cortisone shots are supposed to provide instant relief and the need for a second shot indicates the first isn’t working. Beltran is scheduled to see Dr. James Andrews today and it seems more and more likely he is destined for surgery, which would keep him out either 6-8 or 8-12 weeks, depending on who you ask. Either way, it’ll be a while. Given the state of the rotation, the Yankees are basically going to have to out-hit their pitching staff this summer to contend, and that will be very difficult without the best all-around hitter on the roster. I know Beltran was in a big slump before he got hurt, but I think it was only a matter of time before he snapped out of it and started to hit like he did earlier this season. Between him potentially missing so much time and the shaky non-Masahiro Tanaka starters, extended winning streaks will be very tough to put together.
5. That said, if Beltran does need surgery and will have to miss so much time, the Yankees have to sign either Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales in my opinion. Joe made the case for signing both and while that would be neat, I don’t think it’ll happen. Both guys have something to offer but squeezing Drew into the lineup to full take advantage of what he has to offer (specifically his defense) will be tough until the Yankees commit to playing Derek Jeter at DH on a near full-time basis. Considering they played him at short and moved Ryan to first base (!!!) on Sunday, I’m guessing there’s close to zero chance of that happening. Morales, meanwhile, would more or less replace Beltran’s switch-hitting bat and he could slot right in as the regular DH. Alfonso Soriano would have to play right field everyday, and while that isn’t ideal defensively, he has said he prefers playing the field than sitting around for innings on end as the DH. The small sample numbers back that up. Signing Morales to replace Beltran would be the bigger upgrade in my opinion and give the Yankees a better chance to out-hit their pitching staff, so to speak.
6. I think Drew is going to sign with the Tigers almost immediately after the draft. Like, literally the day after. I remember reading somewhere that the earliest he and Morales could sign without requiring the signing team to forfeit a draft pick was the day after the first day of the draft, so Friday, June 6th. I think he’ll be a Tiger that day. Detroit’s shortstops have been atrocious (29 wRC+) and they are so very clearly in win now mode. Max Scherzer, Victor Martinez, and Torii Hunter are all free agents after this season and others like Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler, Joe Nathan, and Anibal Sanchez aren’t getting any younger. The window could not possibly get any more open. GM Dave Dombrowski tends to be decisive when addressing the team’s needs and owner Mike Ilitch has certainly not been shy about opening his wallet to improve the team. Many teams we see deals that are so obvious and such great fits not happen for whatever reason. I think this is an exception. Drew to the Tigers feels inevitable.
Guest: Christina Kahrl of ESPN. She writes for the SweetSpot blog (her archive here). We talk about the upcoming Cubs series, but really more about the woeful state of the team and what they’re doing to get back on track. Plenty of Jeff Samardzija talk, as you might imagine.
We also dive into social issues in sports, where Christina plays an active role. You can follow her on Twitter, @ChristinaKahrl.
Before that, Jay, Mike, and I talk a bit about the Pirates series. Lots of prospect talk going on during that 35-minute opening segment. I guess it’s appropriate, since Mike and I talk a bit more about the week in the minor league system.
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