Yankees send Zoilo Almonte and Zelous Wheeler to Triple-A

As expected, the Yankees have sent outfielder Zoilo Almonte and utility man Zelous Wheeler to Triple-A Scranton. The moves clear room on the active roster for Stephen Drew and Martin Prado. The Yankees still need to clear a spot for righty Esmil Rogers, who is joining the bullpen. Chase Whitley is a candidate to be sent down, where he would be able to stay stretched out as the de facto sixth starter. We’ll find out soon enough.

Update: Disregard, I’m an idiot. Brian Roberts being designated for assignment clears the roster spot for Rogers, so the Yankees are carrying eight relievers at the moment.

8/1-8/3 Series Preview: Boston Red Sox

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

This series will certainly have a different feel to it, don’t you think? Both teams remade their rosters with a series of moves prior to yesterday’s trade deadlines, though what the Yankees did was mere tinkering compared to the moves the Red Sox made. We will get our first look at several new faces in this series in addition to the usual Yanks-Sawx hoopla. The Yankees have won six of ten against the BoSox this year, including two of three at Fenway Park back in April.

What Have They Lately?
Oh, you mean besides take a sledgehammer to the roster that won the World Series ten months ago? The Red Sox were off yesterday, but before that they got swept by the Blue Jays at home in a three-game series. They have lost eight of their last nine games overall and currently sit in last place in the AL East at 48-60 with a -55 run differential. Something tells me they will be even worse these next two months because they’re going to allow all of the runs. All of them.

Offense
The Red Sox come into today’s game averaging 3.81 runs per game with a team 91 wRC+, so while they’ve been below-average overall, they did just add several new faces to the lineup. OF Shane Victorino (86 wRC+) is currently dealing with a back problem and GM Ben Cherington told reporters yesterday that he is a candidate to be placed on the disabled list.

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

Manager John Farrell’s new-look lineup still revolves around DH David Ortiz (124 wRC+) and 1B Mike Napoli (134 wRC+), though now they’ll have help from the just acquired OF Yoenis Cespedes (113 wRC+). He is expected to be in the lineup tonight. Ortiz and Napoli always destroy the Yankees. Adding Cespedes to the mix isn’t going to make life any easier. 2B Dustin Pedroia (98 wRC+) is having a down year and both CF Jackie Bradley Jr. (67 wRC+) and SS Xander Bogaerts (89 wRC+) have been very disappointing.

The just acquired 1B/OF Allen Craig (81 wRC+) will probably be in the lineup tonight but I’m not sure what position. He hasn’t hit much since hurting his foot/ankle last season. UTIL Brock Holt (114 wRC+) has cooled off but has still been very good overall. OF Daniel Nava (85 wRC+) and 1B/OF Mike Carp (73 wRC+) are platoon bats and there’s a good chance one will be dropped off the roster to make room for Craig today. C Christian Vazquez (75 wRC+) and C David Ross (71 wRC+) form the defensive-minded catching tandem. 3B Will Middlebrooks (75 wRC+) is expected to be called up from Triple-A today, likely replacing Victorino.

Pitching Probables

Friday: LHP Chris Capuano (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Anthony Ranaudo (No vs. NYY)
With Jon Lester and John Lackey traded away, the Red Sox will turn to the 24-year-old Ranaudo to fill a rotation spot, at least temporarily. The New Jersey native has a 2.41 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 21 starts and 119.1 Triple-A innings this season, though his strikeout (7.47 K/9 and 20.3 K%), walk (3.70 BB/9 and 10.1 BB%), and ground ball (38.1%) rates aren’t all that impressive. He does keep the ball in the park though (0.45 HR/9). Ranaudo is a big guy at 6-foot-7 and 230 lbs., and he uses that size to unleash low-to-mid-90s four-seamers. Ranaudo throws a power curveball in the low-80s as well as an okay changeup.

Saturday: RHP Shane Greene (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Allen Webster (vs. NYY)
Webster, 24, was part of that huge blockbuster with the Dodgers a few years ago and he took over the just traded Jake Peavy’s rotation spot recently. He allowed one run in 5.1 innings against the Rays while walking more batters (five) than he struck out (four) in his lone MLB start of the season last weekend. Webster has a 3.10 ERA (3.91 FIP) in 122 Triple-A innings this year and a 7.82 ERA (6.20 FIP) in 35.2 MLB innings over the last two years. His Triple-A strikeout (7.38 K/9 and 19.7 K%) and walk (3.25 BB/9 and 8.6 BB%) numbers are just okay while his ground ball (48.2%) and homer (0.66 HR/9) rates are good. Webster sits in the low-to-mid-90s with two and four-seam fastballs, backing them up with low-80s sliders and changeups. The changeup has been his preferred secondary pitch in his brief big league time.

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

Sunday: RHP David Phelps (vs. BOS) vs. RHP Clay Buchholz (vs. NYY)
In the span of one afternoon, the 29-year-old Buchholz became the ace of the Boston staff. He has a 5.87 ERA (4.64 FIP) in 17 starts and 96.2 innings this year. Yikes. Buchholz has underwhelming peripherals across the board — 6.52 K/9 (16.0 K%), 3.07 BB/9 (7.6 BB%), 1.21 HR/9 (11.5 HR/FB%), and 45.4% grounders — and he gets hit harder by lefties (.368 wOBA) and at home (.392 wOBA) than by righties (.350 wOBA) and on the road (.335 wOBA). As always, Buchholz uses low-90s two and four-seamers as well as an upper-80s cutter to set up his knockout low-80s changeup and occasionally knockout upper-70s curveball. He faced the Yankees back in April and allowed four runs (two earned) in six innings.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Red Sox were off yesterday, so Farrell’s bullpen is rested. They traded away setup man LHP Andrew Miller but still have closer RHP Koji Uehara (2.47 FIP) and setup man RHP Junichi Tazawa (2.68 FIP) for the late innings. I assume LHP Craig Breslow (4.78 FIP) will take over as the primary matchup lefty.

At the moment, RHP Burke Badenhop (3.11 FIP) and RHP Edward Mujica (4.31 FIP) are the only other relievers on the team’s active roster. They’re going to have to make a series of roster moves before tonight’s game to accommodate all the new players, and part of that will be calling up some extra bullpen arms. Here is their 40-man roster if you want see the call-up candidates. I haven’t the slightest idea who it will be and won’t even bother to guess. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen and then check out Over The Monster for everything you need to know about the new-look Red Sox.

Michael Pineda to begin rehab assignment in Triple-A on Sunday

Michael Pineda is scheduled to begin an official 30-day minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Scranton this Sunday, Brian Cashman told reporters following the trade deadline yesterday. “He’s coming back hopefully soon on a rehab assignment to give us more choices in the rotation,” said the GM to Chad Jennings.

Pineda, 25, has been out since late-April with a muscle problem in his back/shoulder. Joe Girardi said earlier this week that he will throw 60-65 pitches on Sunday, so I suppose he might only make two rehab starts before jumping back into the rotation. Say 60-65 pitches this time, 80-85 pitches next time, then bam, back in MLB. The Yankees could always play it safe given his history of shoulder problems, but they’re desperate for pitching help and there isn’t much season left. They might simply turn him loose after sitting around and waiting these last three years.

Thoughts following the trade deadline

(Norm Hall/Getty)
(Norm Hall/Getty)

I know Friday morning is usually the mailbag slot, but c’mon, yesterday was the trade deadline. It wasn’t just any ol’ trade deadline either, it was the most active and unpredictable trade deadline in a long time. Lots of big names were moved, and, somewhat surprisingly, there were a lot of big leaguer-for-big leaguer trades. Only a handful of prospects changed hands. Seems like teams are finally starting to come around on the idea of prospects being overrated. MLB players are where it’s at. Here’s a recap of all the deadline moves and here are some scattered thoughts.

1. I feel too many people view the trade deadline as binary these days, that teams should either buy or sell with nothing in between. That’s not reality though. There is always a middle ground and that’s the way the Yankees went. They made small upgrades and hugged their prospects at the same time. They acquired four no-doubt upgrades in Brandon McCarthy, Chase Headley, Stephen Drew, and Martin Prado, and they did so at amazingly minimal cost (and got cash back!). All they gave up were two fringe big leaguers in Vidal Nuno and Yangervis Solarte, two mid-range prospects in Peter O’Brien and Rafael DePaula, and the replaceable Kelly Johnson. I mean, how do you not love that? I don’t know if those moves will be enough to put them over the hump and into the postseason, in fact I’ll so as far as saying it is unlikely they will be, but those are clear upgrades that do not damage the short or long-term health of the franchise. Those are four quality players acquired for nothing the Yankees will miss. Amazing.

2. Now, that said, it’s pretty obvious they still need some pitching. At the very least an innings eater just to, well, eat innings. Someone who can spare the bullpen that extra inning or two every fifth day. The Yankees in position to take on salary in an August waiver trade and I think they will at some point. Cliff Lee re-injured his elbow last night and that makes him a non-option — not just for the remainder of this year either, if he doesn’t pitch at all the rest of this season I don’t see how they could go after him in the winter with all that money left on his contract — but other August trade candidates are John Danks, Scott Feldman, Kevin Correia, Bartolo Colon, Chris Young, Colby Lewis, A.J. Burnett, and James Shields. (How fantastic would a Shields rental be?) I’m not saying the Yankees should go after those guys specifically, just that there should be some pitching options this month, especially as more and more clubs fall out of the race. Win or lose, postseason or no postseason, they need some arms to avoid running their valuable pitchers into the ground.

3. Here’s the upcoming free agent class. There are very few position players listed there I prefer over Prado at his fair value contract and that’s not something to be overlooked. The Yankees got out ahead of the market by extending Brett Gardner before he hit free agency — how amazing does that deal look right now? — and trading for Prado saves them from bending over to sign some meh free agent to plug a hole over the winter, whether it be an outfielder or an infielder or whatever. Free agency is not what it once was, the solution to every problem is not out there in the form of an above-average player every offseason because teams are signing all of their best players to multi-year extension. Trading for those guys is now the way to acquire talent. Prado isn’t a sexy name and frankly I don’t think he’s anything more than a league average player, but league average is valuable and it’s one less thing to worry about this winter.

4. Drew is obviously auditioning to replace Derek Jeter next season. You realize that, right? I know he’ll be playing second base these next two months, but the Yankees and everyone else knows he can play shortstop without a problem. They get to see how he handles New York, how he fits in the clubhouse, how well he can take advantage of Yankee Stadium‘s short right field porch, stuff like that. That’s not nothing. Sometimes a player just isn’t a good fit (see: Carl Crawford and the Red Sox) and usually you don’t find that out until after he’s signed. The same applies to Headley, really. The Yankees will get to know him these next few weeks and see firsthand how well he fits the team. If they like what they see, they could look to sign him during the exclusive negotiating period and avoid a bidding war on the open market.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

5. When Spring Training opened, the candidates for the non-shortstop and non-first base infield positions were Johnson, Solarte, Brian Roberts, Eduardo Nunez, Scott Sizemore, and Dean Anna. Every single one of them is gone. Johnson (trade), Sizemore (release), and Roberts (designated for assignment) were all jettisoned yesterday, Solarte (trade) was moved a few weeks ago, Nunez (trade) was moved back in April, and Anna (waived) was dropped from the roster last month. Pretty amazing that none of them survived the season and Solarte managed to be the best of that bunch. If nothing else, Headley and Drew will be big upgrades defensively — I’m pretty confident Drew will out-defend Roberts on pure athleticism even though he’s never played second as a pro — over that Island of Misfit Infielders. Headley’s already helped with the bat and Drew might. With Roberts gone and Ichiro Suzuki glued to the bench, the Yankees have a bonafide starting caliber Major League player at every position for the first time since 2012. It really is the little things in life that make you happiest.

6. This is a minor point but one worth mentioning: the DePaula and O’Brien trades did help clear up some organizational logjams. I’m pretty sure DePaula will be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, so that saves the Yankees a 40-man roster spot. He would have been a borderline protect/expose candidate like Jose Campos this winter, and, as they’ve shown the last few years, the Yankees almost always protect those borderline guys and it limits roster flexibility. Trading DePaula helps that situation. Moving O’Brien also ends the daily lineup/position juggling at Double-A Trenton. Gary Sanchez can catch everyday, Tyler Austin can play first base everyday, and the trio of Mason Williams, Jake Cave, and Ben Gamel can play the outfield everyday. Plus the DH spot stays open. Thunder manager Tony Franklin had to wedge O’Brien into the lineup somewhere these last few weeks, but that’s not an issue anymore.

7. I think you can make a very strong argument the three best (healthy) starting pitchers in the AL East were traded yesterday as Jon Lester (Athletics), David Price (Tigers), and John Lackey (Cardinals) were shipped to other divisions. That’s pretty remarkable. Four of New York’s five Opening Day rotation starters are on the disabled list while the Red Sox traded four-fifths of their Opening Day rotation (Lester, Lackey, Jake Peavy, Felix Doubront) in the last week or so. I don’t really know where I’m going with this, I just thought it was interesting. Two years ago this division housed top notch pitchers in Lester, Price, Shields, CC Sabathia, and Hiroki Kuroda. Now the best healthy pitcher in the division is … Alex Cobb? Chris Archer? Mark Buehrle? Marcus Stroman? Yeesh.

8. I really like Drew Smyly — I even wrote a post about the Yankees potentially trading for him back in the day — but man, that is an underwhelming return for Price. Friend of RAB and Rays fans Tommy Rancel is one of the smartest baseball dudes I know and even he agrees the return was light. Smyly’s good and Franklin should have some sort of MLB career, but that’s it. That Willy Adames kid is an 18-year-old project in Single-A. Where’s the young stud big leaguer or elite prospect? That trade was made to fill needs and not acquire the most talent possible, and acquiring the most talent is what I think you have to do when trading someone of Price’s caliber.

9. The Red Sox did fine in their trades assuming Allen Craig hasn’t permanently forgotten how to hit. I’m interested to see what happens with Yoenis Cespedes next year. They don’t get the standard six years of team control over him — his contract stipulates that he has to be non-tendered after his fourth year, and because he has to be non-tendered, they can’t make him a qualifying offer and recoup a draft pick. Will they really let him walk after next season for nothing? Or will they re-sign him into his 30s, something they’ve been hesitant to do with other players and refused to do with their homegrown ace? If not, will they be looking to trade him at the deadline next summer? That’ll be fascinating.

DotF: Murphy homers in Scranton’s win

Following today’s trade deadline activity, Brian Cashman told reporters 2B Rob Refsnyder will remain at second base for the remainder of the season. No more experimenting in right field. Happy to hear it.

Triple-A Scranton (8-3 win over Gwinnett)

  • LF Jose Pirela: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 3B, 2 RBI
  • 2B Rob Refsnyder: 2-5, 1 R, 2 RBI
  • 1B Austin Romine: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 K
  • C John Ryan Murphy: 2-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI – pleasantly surprised that is still with the team following the trade deadline
  • RHP Bruce Billings: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 3/8 GB/FB — 60 of 96 pitches were strikes (63%)
  • RHP Matt Daley: 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 1 HB, 0/3 GB/FB — 11 of 18 pitches were strikes (61%)

[Read more…]

Thursday Night Open Thread

Well that was a hell of a day, wasn’t it? The Yankees did more or less exactly what I expected them to — make relatively small upgrades without giving up anything of consequence. I don’t know if these moves will be enough to push the team into the postseason, but I’m not sure any series of moves could have done thatanyway. They’re going for it without sacrificing top prospects, which makes me happy. No complaints from me about this trade deadline, though I’m sure that puts me in the minority.

Anyway, here is your open thread for the night. The Yankees are off, thankfully. A game tonight would have been too much from my selfish “I have to blog this stuff” perspective. MLB Network is airing a game tonight, and who you see depends on where you live. Talk about that, the trade deadline zaniness, or anything else right here.

Yankees to designate Brian Roberts for assignment

The Yankees will designate Brian Roberts for assignment to clear a roster spot for the recently acquired Martin Prado, Brian Cashman told reporters. Roberts, who was lifted for a pinch-hitter on Monday and did not play Tuesday or Wednesday, was only two plate appearances shy of triggering a $250k bonus in his contract. The team cited general soreness and fatigue as reasons for the mini-benching.

Roberts, 36, hit .236/.300/.360 (81 wRC+) with five homers in 91 games and 348 plate appearances this year, his most since 2009. He hasn’t hit at all this month (69 wRC+) and his defense had become an issue in recent weeks, with lots of errors and bobbles and misplays. Perhaps he was just worn down. Roberts had the unenviable job of replacing Robinson Cano and the guy played hard all the time, but it just didn’t work out. That’s baseball. Something tells me he’ll be wearing a San Francisco Giants uniform very soon.