Yanks should hesitate to trade prospects for pitching

sanchez judge

So, the last few weeks of Yankee baseball have been pretty fun, huh? With rookies Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Tyler Austin making their loud debuts in the lineup and Chad Green and Luis Cessa finding success–however limited–in the rotation, the Yankees are interesting to watch again. For the majority of 2013-July of this year, the Yankees haven’t exactly been exciting for a variety of reasons, but with prospects starting to graduate and make their bones in the Bronx, that’s changing for the better.  Enjoying these performances in the moment is great as it is, but since these players are young and figure to (hopefully) be mainstays in the House that George Built going forward, it’s easy to keep the future in mind. And with the injury to Nathan Eovaldi, it’s become necessary to think about the future.

The loss of Eovaldi for all of 2017 obviously leaves a hole in the Yankee rotation. Over the last week, I’ve heard suggestions on both New York sports talk radio stations (I know, I shouldn’t subject myself to that, but in my defense, my car is really old and doesn’t have a working CD player or a Bluetooth connection) that the Yankees should consider trading some of their recently bolstered prospect depth for starting pitching. With the caveat of “never say never,” this is a plan that doesn’t immediately appeal to me.

Why yes, I did already buy a 99 JUDGE shirt. (Presswire)

One of the biggest problems of roster construction for the Yankees recently has been a lack of young, cost-controlled hitting. Over the past decade, only Robinson Cano and Brett Gardner have played that role to any acclaim. Of course it’s dangerous to count prospect chickens before they hatch and some prospects are closer than others to contributing at the Major League level, but the Yankees are closer to having a solid base of young offensive talent than they have been in years. That lack of a guarantee is also why the Yankees might not want to dip into the prospect pool to trade for pitching.

The 2017 Yankees are not likely to be one pitcher away from championship-caliber contention. Given that Judge and Sanchez are likely to be counted on to replace the production–at least partially–of the departed Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and Carlos Beltran, there’s always the chance that they falter. The rest of the lineup, which may or may not include another power threat in Brian McCann, is not necessarily good enough to make up for any lack o production. Then there’s the Yankee rotation, which going into 2017 has exactly one reliable starter in Masahiro Tanaka and a bunch of questions in Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia, Luis Severino, Chad Green, and Luis Cessa. Given that, it may be more prudent to buy an innings eater type on the free agent market and use 2017 as another chance to develop and evaluate the young hitters. I suppose you could make the argument that signing an innings eater and making a trade could give the Yankees a rotation solid enough to compete, but that might be hard to do from a cost perspective. Even in the offseason, the pitching market will likely favor sellers and it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which the Yankees acquire an impact pitcher without giving up one of Judge or Sanchez, thus leaving a hole in an already suspect lineup.

More dangerous than he looks. (Presswire)

It would be irresponsible to say that the Yankees should decidedly not deal any of their prospect depth; that’s not a smart strategy at all and it’s foolish to say ‘never’ in baseball. Regardless, the Yankees should be wary and judicious when weighing their trade options in the offseason.

Cessa’s strong start, another Sanchez homer give Yankees a 5-1 win over Angels

Source: FanGraphs

I have to say, the 2016 Yankees sure went from boring to fun in a hurry. It’s amazing what some (mostly) internal roster moves can do. The Yankees beat the Angels by a 5-1 score on Saturday night. They’ve won seven of their last ten games overall. It’s Saturday night and this was a West Coast game, so bullet points it is:

  • Three Early Runs: Gary Sanchez can’t stop won’t stop. He whacked his sixth home run of the season in the first inning, this one a solo shot to left field. Sanchez was way out in front of Ricky Nolasco’s slow breaking ball, yet he still muscled it out. Kid is crazy strong. A single (Didi Gregorius), a double (Starlin Castro), and a two-run single (Brian McCann) followed. All with two outs too. The Yankees were up 3-0 before Luis Cessa threw a pitch.
  • The Good Luis: Luis Cessa out-pitching Luis Severino is not a thing I expected coming into the season. Cessa, in his first big league start, held the Angels to three singles in six outstanding innings Saturday night. He was pitch efficient, he worked fast, and he missed bats with both his fastball and breaking ball. Cessa struck out five and walk one in his scoreless outing. The only thing that could stop him was his pitch count; Joe Girardi wasn’t going to let him throw much more than the 85 pitches he threw after not starting a game in a few weeks. Heck of a job, Luis.
  • Two More Two-Out Runs: Nolasco really settled down after that rough first inning. He retired 13 in a row at one point. The Yankees finally got back on the board in the sixth inning. Castro and McCann singled with two outs, then, after McCann stole second (!), Aaron Judge inside-outed a fastball to right field to score two runs and give the Yankees a 5-0 lead. It was maybe the loudest opposite field single I’ve ever heard. The ball makes a different sound off his bat.
  • Leftovers: Brett Gardner made an absurd jumping catch to rob C.J. Cron of a two-run homer in the seventh inning. Here’s the video. That’s a legit play of the year candidate … Tyler Clippard (seventh) and Tommy Layne (eighth) threw scoreless innings, and Dellin Betances allowed a garbage time solo homer to Albert Pujols in the ninth. Betances had not pitched since Monday and needed the work. Layne struck out Mike Trout, which was rather unexpected … Castro (single, double), McCann (two singles), and Judge (single, walk) each reached base twice … the 8-9-1-2 wrap-around portion of the lineup went 1-for-17. Ouch.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. The Yankees are four games back of the Orioles for the second wildcard spot, and they still have nine games remaining with Baltimore, including the final series of the season at Yankee Stadium. Long shot? Yes. Doable? Also yes. The Bronx Bombers will look to finish the sweep of the Angels on Sunday afternoon. That one starts at 3:35pm ET. Chad Green and Jhoulys Chacin are the scheduled starters.

DotF: Refsnyder and Montgomery lead Scranton to a win

Notes and notes and notes and notes:

  • RHP Luis Severino did indeed throw a ton of changeups during last night’s start, writes Shane Hennigan. “They told me that I had to throw more changeups. (The Yankees) told me that they didn’t care what the score is. They told me that I had to throw changeups and that’s what I did,” he said. That’s good. The stats don’t matter. Severino needs to throw that pitch and work on it.
  • According to the team’s Twitter account, OF Blake Rutherford was in Pulaski’s original lineup today, though he was later scratched. My guess is he went through batting practice and all that, and the team decide to give him an extra day. Rutherford is reportedly dealing with a knee issue.
  • After flirting with a perfect game last night, LHP Nestor Cortes landed in today’s Prospect Hot Sheet. “Cortes pitches backward, leading with his offspeed stuff and using his fastball as a putaway pitch,” said the write-up.

Triple-A Scranton (4-0 win over Pawtucket)

  • RF Ben Gamel: 2-4, 1 RBI, 1 K — 18-for-45 (.400) during his eleven-game hitting streak
  • LF Clint Frazier: 0-4, 3 K
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 4-4, 1 R, 1 2B — 15-for-31 (.484) in nine games since being sent down
  • C Kyle Higashioka: 1-4, 2 K, 1 CS
  • CF Mason Williams: 1-4, 1 R, 2 K
  • DH Jake Cave: 1-3, 1 BB
  • LHP Jordan Montgomery: 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 1 WP, 10/1 GB/FB — 63 of 102 pitches were strikes (62%) … third straight scoreless start … 123/43 K/BB in 127.2 total innings … he seems to be getting better each time he gets promoted
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, zeroes, 1/1 GB/FB — ten of 12 pitches were strikes
  • RHP Ben Heller: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — eight of 13 pitches were strikes … 55/14 K/BB in 48 innings

[Read more…]

Game 122: Cessa’s First Start

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

The youth movement continues tonight. Rookie righty Luis Cessa is making his first big league start after a few up-and-down appearances as a reliever. I think Cessa is better equipped to start right now than Chad Green, who fanned eleven Blue Jays in six scoreless innings last time out. Cessa has four pitches (fastball, curveball, slider, changeup) and he’s super athletic (not surprising for an ex-shortstop) with a good delivery. I’m a fan. Looking forward to seeing how this goes. Here is the Angels’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. 2B Starlin Castro
  6. DH Brian McCann
  7. RF Aaron Judge
  8. 1B Tyler Austin
  9. 3B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Cessa

Yet another great weather day in Southern California. Never would have guessed it. Tonight’s game will begin at 9:35pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Saturday Open Thread

We’re still a few hours away from first pitch between the Yankees and Angels, so here’s an open thread to keep you busy for the time being. The Mets and Giants are on FOX Sports 1 (4pm ET), there are some NFL preseason games on as well, plus the Olympics are still going on. Talk about that stuff or whatever else here. The regular game thread will be along later.

Saturday Links: Gurriel, Beltran, A-Rod, Forbes, Watson

Lourdes Jr. (Getty)
Lourdes Jr. (Getty)

The Yankees and Angels continue their weekend series later today, but not until 9:35pm ET. Blah. I hate Saturday night games, especially when they’re on the West Coast. Oh well. What can you do? Here are some links to help you pass the time.

MLB declares Gurriel a free agent

MLB has declared Lourdes Gurriel Jr. a free agent, reports Eric Longenhagen. He is the younger brother of Yulieski Gurriel, who signed a five-year contract worth $47.5M with the Astros a few weeks ago. Lourdes is a free agent but he’s not going to sign right away. Once he turns 23 in October, he will no longer be eligible for the international spending restrictions. He’s going to wait until then to sign to max out his earning potential.

Longenhagen and Ben Badler (subs. req’d) say reports on Lourdes are mixed. He’s a good athlete capable of playing an up-the-middle position, and while he has speed and power, his swing can get long. Gurriel has a lot of upside, but is also a bit of a project for a kid who will soon turn 23. He’s probably not someone who will zoom through the minors and be in the big leagues within a year. That’s fine. Talent is talent, and Lourdes has a lot of it.

Red Sox tried hard to land Beltran

According to Nick Cafardo, the Red Sox “tried very hard” to acquire Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline, though the Rangers swooped in with a better offer. I assume Boston would have played Beltran in left field, where they’ve had a revolving door pretty much all season. Or maybe Beltran plays right and Mookie Betts moves to left. I dunno. Who cares. Whatever.

The real question is whether the Yankees (and Red Sox, for that matter) would have actually gone through with the trade if the Red Sox had indeed made the best offer. Potentially losing a trade to your biggest rival is enough to make anyone squeamish. My guess is Brian Cashman and David Dombrowski would have been willing to go through with a trade, but the two ownership groups would not have signed off. This is much different than a Stephen Drew-for-Kelly Johnson swap.

Hal not ruling out a spot for A-Rod in Monument Park

During a radio interview last week, Hal Steinbrenner did not rule out the possibility of Alex Rodriguez one day winding up in Monument Park. He didn’t exactly endorse it, but he didn’t shoot it down entirely either. Here’s what Hal said, via Brendan Kuty:

“It’s a bridge to cross when we come to it, but he has done a lot for this organization, on and off the field,” Steinbrenner said. “And I’m talking about players way back, even (Mariners second baseman Robinson) Cano, who he was a mentor to. He’s done a lot for this organization on the field though the years, but also off the field that people don’t know about. He’s been a great mentor.”

A-Rod is, unquestionably, one of the greatest players in Yankees history, especially recent history. He’s among the all-time franchise leaders in a ton of categories, including homers (6th), OPS (7th), WAR (8th), OPS+ (10th), runs (10th), and total bases (10th). Alex also won two MVPs in pinstripes and was a major factor in the team’s most recent World Series title. If that’s not Monument Park plaque worthy, I don’t know what is.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

Yankees among most valuable sports franchises

A few weeks back Forbes posted their annual look at the most valuable sports franchises in the world. The Yankees placed fourth, with an estimated value of $3.4 billion. That’s up 6% from last year. The Yankees are behind only the Dallas Cowboys ($4 billion), Real Madrid ($3.65 billion), and Barcelona ($3.55 billion). The Dodgers are the second most valuable MLB franchise at $2.5 billion, so the gap between the Yankees and everyone else is significant.

Attendance dropped from 41,995 fans per game in 2014 to 39,430 last year, and again to 38,967 so far this year. That’s roughly 3,000 fewer fans per game since two seasons ago. The attendance decline was at least somewhat expected after Derek Jeter retired, though obviously the team’s less than inspiring play for much of this season has played a role too. That said, the Yankees are still raking in money through other avenues (YES, Legends Hospitality, etc.), and there’s no real end in sight. The team prints money.

Watson battling kidney failure

Going to close with some sad news: Bob Watson, former GM of the Yankees, is currently battling kidney failure, he told Chuck Modiano. He is on nocturnal dialysis and doctors told him he only has a few years to live. “I really wanted to be (at the 1996 World Series reunion last weekend), but my health won’t allow it. I am battling Stage 4 kidney failure. Not too many people know about it,” said Watson, who beat prostate cancer in the mid-1990s.

Watson, 70, had an incredibly productive playing career — he hit .295/.364/.447 from 1966-84, mostly with the Astros, but also with the Braves, Yankees, and Red Sox — and he became the first African American GM in baseball history to win a World Series in 1996. Watson served as Yankees GM from October 1995 to February 1998, when he stepped down and took a position in the commissioner’s office. He bridged the Gene Michael and Brian Cashman eras. I’m sad to hear he isn’t doing well. Keep fighting, Bob.

Yanks use the long ball and Tanaka to shut out Angels 7-0

Source: FanGraphs

Earlier this season the Yankees were a horribly boring team that seemed to be going nowhere. They might still be going nowhere, but at least now they’re fun and exciting with a bunch of energetic young players in the lineup. The Yankees beat the Angels 7-0 in Friday night’s series opener. West Coast night games get bullet point recaps, so let’s get to it:

  • Bronx Bombers: It was ugly from the get-go for Jered Weaver. He served up a leadoff homer to Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning, then, two innings later, Ellsbury dunked a single into shallow right to score another run. The wheels came off in the fifth. Ronald Torreyes (!), Didi Gregorius, and Brian McCann all took Weaver deep and gave the Yankees a 5-0 lead. Weaver allowed five runs on ten hits (four homers) in 4.2 innings. Oof.
  • Hit Parade: The Yankees kept piling on after Weaver was out of the game. Three singles (Aaron Hicks, Torreyes, Ellsbury) and a ground-rule double (Gregorius) plated another two runs in the sixth inning. Eight of 12 Yankees had hits at one point spanning the fifth and sixth innings, and five of the eight went for extra bases (two doubles, three homers). That led to a comfy 7-0 lead.
  • Master Tanaka: The box score says Masahiro Tanaka allowed five singles in 7.2 innings, and he seemed to be even better than that. The Angels didn’t have a runner reach third base until Gregorio Petit, the last batter Tanaka faced, blooped a single into shallow left to put runners on the corners. Tanaka fanned a season high nine, and nine of his other 14 outs were recorded on the infield. Total domination by the staff ace.
  • Leftovers: Torreyes went 4-for-4 and hit his first homer of the season his career … Ellsbury had three hits, and his leadoff homer was his first homer of the second half … Gary Sanchez went 3-for-4 with two doubles and a walk … Aaron Judge went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts, though he hit a fly ball to right that would have been a homer in Yankee StadiumAdam Warren struck out Mike Trout with the bases loaded to end the eighth inning … the Yankees have hit 3+ homers in three straight games for the first time since last June and only the second time since 2012.

Here are the box score, video highlights, and updated standings. Don’t miss our Bullpen Workload and Announcer Standings pages too. The Yankees and Angels continue this three-game series Saturday night. That’s a 9:35pm ET start. Blah. West Coast night game on a Saturday? The worst. Luis Cessa will make his first big league start in that one. Ricky Nolasco will be on the bump for the Halos.