Mailbag: 40-Man Roster, Tanaka, Sanchez, Traded Prospects

Only nine questions this week, which qualifies this as a small mailbag. Once upon a time these things used to be three or four questions, you know. Anyway, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you should send all mailbag questions.

Gleyber. (Scranton Times Tribune)
Gleyber. (Scranton Times Tribune)

Joe asks: How does the off-season’s 40 man roster crunch look after the deadline deals?

Not nearly as severe as it did earlier this season. Part of that is the trades and part of it is players playing their way out of 40-man roster consideration. The Yankees traded away three prospects who will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season: Ian Clarkin, Zack Littell, Tito Polo. Here’s a quick breakdown of the notable players eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after the season:

  • Will be added to 40-man roster: Albert Abreu, Domingo Acevedo, Gleyber Torres
  • Won’t be added to 40-man roster: Abi Avelino, Rashad Crawford, Leonardo Molina, Erik Swanson
  • On the bubble: Daniel Camarena, Jake Cave, Thairo Estrada, J.P. Feyereisen, Billy McKinney, Stephen Tarpley

Camarena and Cave will be minor league free agents, so the Yankees would have to add them to the 40-man right after the World Series to keep them. They can’t wait until the November 20th deadline to set the roster for the Rule 5 Draft. I think Cave gets added and Camarena doesn’t.

Among the bubble guys, I’d say McKinney’s chances of being protected at this point are really good. Probably 90/10 or thereabouts. He’s having a strong season, he’s a former first rounder and top 100 prospect, and he’s only 22. There might not be a ton of upside there, but even a lefty platoon bat would be useful. Estrada and Feyereisen would be prime Rule 5 Draft fodder if they go unprotected, Estrada as a utility infielder and Feyereisen as a hard-throwing reliever. Tarpley has great numbers and is a lefty with good velocity, but he’s also never pitched above Single-A.

The Yankees have five players scheduled to become free agents after the season: Todd Frazier, Jaime Garcia, Matt Holliday, Michael Pineda, and CC Sabathia. (Possibly Masahiro Tanaka too.) That’s five open 40-man spots, though it’s really four because Pineda is on the 60-day DL right now and doesn’t count against the 40-man. The Yankees would be able to easily add Abreu, Acevedo, Cave, and Torres. They’d have to cut someone loose for Estrada, Feyereisen, and/or McKinney. (Plus any other offseason pickups.)

Anonymous asks: In Tanaka’s start against the Tigers, he threw only three (!) fastballs and 44 sliders. His usage rate according to Fangraphs has him basically abandoning the fastball altogether over his last 10 starts which have also coincided with a rebound in his performance. New Tanaka or is he buying into the new Yankees philosophy of throwing more offspeed stuff?

The Yankees in general throw fewer fastballs than any other team, though with Tanaka, I think it has more to do with his fastball not being very good than it does team philosophy. Tanaka’s not going to blow anyone away. Never has and never will. He succeeds by getting hitters to chase his slider and splitter, and lately he is using those pitches an extreme amount. From Brooks Baseball:

masahiro-tanaka-pitch-selection

Wednesday’s grind of a start against the Blue Jays notwithstanding, Tanaka has been pretty darn good over the last two months or so, and it coincides almost perfectly with the shift to the “no fastballs” approach. Here are the splits:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% HR/9 Fastballs
First 12 starts 66 6.55 5.68 19.7% 6.1% 2.32 47.8%
Last 11 starts 67.2 3.33 3.64 30.0% 5.4% 1.46 34.9%

Over those last eleven starts Tanaka has been close to the guy he was from 2014-16 (3.12 ERA and 3.53 FIP). The homers are still a problem and I think they always will be. What can you do? As long as most of them are solo homers — 19 of the 28 homers he’s allowed this year have been solo shots — you just kinda live with it, I think. There’s no other choice, really.

Is throwing essentially one-third fastballs a viable long-term approach? I don’t know. Maybe it is. Lots of sliders and splitters seems bad for the elbow. Then again, people have been waiting for Tanaka’s elbow to give for three years now, and it hasn’t happened. If he were that worried about the elbow, I can’t imagine he’d be throwing that many sliders and splitters. I think this is all a reaction to Tanaka’s fastball getting hit earlier this year. That’s all.

Eric asks: How long would it take one of our OF to learn to play 1B? Could McKinney or Cave start playing 1B in AAA, likely as Bird Insurance for 2018?

Depends on the player, right? One player might pick it up in a week and another might never get it at all. McKinney is the better first base candidate among those two guys because he’s not much of an outfield defender. He’s not bad, necessarily, but he’s not going to save you a ton of runs out there either. He’s a bat first prospect. Cave can play center field, so if you stick him at first base, you’re sacrificing a lot of defensive value. If you’re going to move one of these guys to first base, it should be McKinney. Let Cave use his speed to run down balls in the outfield.

Anonymous asks: Until recently the Yankees couldn’t draft their way out of a paper bag, on any round, early, middle or late, with the exception of the year the got Dellin, Robertson, Kontos, etc. Now, they seem to get good players in all 3 days of the draft. Maybe not all stars but projected major league contributors. Though it’s early, guys like Sensley and Wagaman, late rounders, from this year, already look good. Throughout, the draft was headed by Oppenheimer. What changed?

Nothing. The Yankees have been finding quality players in the late rounds of the draft for years now. Getting David Robertson in the 17th round in 2006 is the big coup, though other late round gems include David Phelps (14th round in 2008), Shane Greene (15th round in 2009), Bryan Mitchell (16th round in 2009), Ben Gamel (10th round in 2010), Tyler Austin (13th round in 2010), Chase Whitley (15th round in 2010), Rookie Davis (14th round in 2011), James Pazos (13th round in 2012), and Dustin Fowler (18th round in 2013). Those guys have all been useful to the Yankees in one way or another. That late in the draft, the expected return is basically zero. Turning a 15th round pick into someone like Greene, who gets traded for an above-average shortstop, is pretty great. The Yankees have had some big time misses in the first round over the last 20 years or so. Their mid-to-late round drafting has been really good though.

Adam asks: Does it seem to you as though Girardi made Gary Sanchez the scapegoat for the team’s recent struggles? I mean he’s not the only one that has made defensive miscues. Seemed like Girardi went out is his way to embarrass a young star possibly for his own self preservation. Love to hear your thoughts. Thanks.

There seems to be an insane amount of Sanchez criticism these days. Not necessarily from Girardi and the Yankees, but from the media and fans. It’s getting to be ridiculous. A 24-year-old catcher hitting .266/.344/.492 (122 wRC+) with 18 home runs in 80 games is a star, even if he does lead the league in passed balls. Maybe it’s just a function of expectations, or the whole “build it up so you can tear it down” mentality that exists. Whatever it is, it’s dumb.

Anyway, I don’t think Joe Girardi made Sanchez the scapegoat. I think as an ex-catcher, Girardi pays attention to that position more than any other. If he were an ex-infielder, maybe he’d have benched Starlin Castro for his slow double play turns or something. Sanchez allowed a lot of passed balls in a short period of time (five in 12 games before the benching) and Girardi wanted to nip it in the bud. It may have seemed silly to single out Sanchez when pretty much the entire team has been struggling, but that doesn’t mean Girardi shouldn’t have done anything.

Everything is Gary's fault. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Everything is Gary’s fault. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Kian asks: With the recent, and seemingly endless, struggles with RISP; can we get a look at where the stats put the yanks with RISP? See if it lines up with the eye test … which they aren’t passing lately. I feel like we struggle no more than other teams. RISP fail is such a big event I think we’re blowing it out of proportion a little out of frustration.

Every fan of every team thinks their team stinks with runners in scoring position. The team’s actual performance is irrelevant. The propagation of RISP stats is easily my least favorite current trend in baseball. Go 4-for-12 with RISP and you’re hitting .333, but 4-for-12 still looks bad and means you’ve missed a lot of opportunities. I hate everything about RISP stats. But, because I was asked, here’s where the Yankees ranked in RISP this year going into last night’s game:

  • AVG: .256 (17th in MLB, league average is .260)
  • OBP: .332 (20th in MLB, league average is .343)
  • SLG: .462 (6th in MLB, league average is .429)
  • wRC+: 106 (8th in MLB, league average is 98 wRC+)

The Yankees as a team are hitting .256/.332/.462 (106 wRC+) with runners in scoring position and .261/.337/.441 (107 wRC+) in all situations. Kinda weird they’re so close, huh? Funny how that works. It’s almost like if you gave everyone enough at-bats with RISP, their RISP numbers would look a lot like their overall numbers.

Daniel asks (short version): When farm systems are ranked, do they take into account the record of the minor league teams? Right now the Yankees farm system from top to bottom is leading their respective leagues. The farm system has done all this while losing some its best members to the majors, injuries and trades. Shouldn’t that make them the #1 farm system?

No and they shouldn’t. Minor league team records do not reflect prospect quality at all. Most organizations have 40-50 prospects with true MLB potential. The deepest teams might have 60-70. That’s true “hey if this guy clicks he could stick around for a while” ability, not “this guy might get called up for a few games at some point” ability. Most organizations have seven minor league affiliates: Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, Low-A, Short Season, rookie ball, Latin American summer league. Some teams, like the Yankees, have more.

Anyway, seven affiliates with 25-man rosters gives you 175 players. Those 100-something non-prospects and organizational guys are doing much more to drive minor league win-loss records than the actual prospects. It’s cool to see the Yankees’ minor league affiliates all leading their division, but it doesn’t mean much. Minor league win-loss record has close to zero correlation to farm system rank or future big league success. There’s way way way too much noise. So many non-prospects — both playing for you and against you — skew the results.

Steve asks (short version): Looking ahead toward the offseason, you think we should all brace ourselves for a Betances trade or at least “He’s available” rumors? With Green and Kahnle emerging and Chapman not going anywhere, would think Betances would make the most sense to trade from depth and get a really good return (prospects or MLB ready).

Oh yeah, it’s definitely coming. And there’s nothing wrong with listening to offers for Dellin Betances (or any player) as far as I’m concerned. Betances should bring a pretty nice return. Not an Andrew Miller return, but a pretty good return. If the Yankees do look to trade a reliever this winter, I wonder if they’ll look to trade Robertson rather than Betances. Robertson will make $13M next year and become a free agent after the season. Betances won’t become a free agent until after 2019, and he might make $13M total from 2018-19. Robertson won’t net the Yankees the same return as Betances, but he will help them get under the luxury tax threshold, and they’d be keeping the reliever with two years of control rather than the reliever with one. Ultimately, I think the Yankees wind up keeping both Robertson and Betances, and try to make a run with them next year.

Justin asks: How have Blake Rutherford and Jorge Mateo preformed since their trades?

It hasn’t been all that long since the trades, so these guys haven’t had a chance to log many games with their new organizations yet. Dietrich Enns got called up yesterday and made his MLB debut with the Twins. He allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits and one walk in 2.1 innings against the Brewers last night. He struck out zero in the start. Here’s how the other prospects have fared since the trades:

  • Ian Clarkin, White Sox: 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K in one High-A start. He’s currently on the disabled list with an oblique strain.
  • Zack Littell, Twins: 11.2 IP, 13 H, 9 R, 7 ER, 4 BB, 11 K in two equally mediocre Double-A starts. It wasn’t one good start and one bad start.
  • Jorge Mateo, Athletics: 12-for-43 (.279) with two doubles and three triples in nine Double-A games. Last night was his first hitless game since the trade.
  • Tito Polo, White Sox: 7-for-26 (.269) with one double and one triple in seven Double-A games. He’s currently on the disabled list. Not sure what’s wrong with him.
  • Blake Rutherford, White Sox: 18-for-74 (.243) with four doubles in 18 Low-A games.

Dustin Fowler (knee) and James Kaprielian (elbow) are rehabbing from their surgeries, so they haven’t played yet (duh). It hasn’t even been a month since the trades, so I wouldn’t get too caught up in the results one way or another. And thus concludes your regularly scheduled “I can’t believe they traded that guy!” update.

Blue Jays 4, Yankees 0: Baserunners are made for strandin’

Remember the no shutout streak? That was fun. The Yankees have now been shut out twice in the last eight games and three times since the All-Star break. Wednesday night’s eleven-run outburst was followed with zero runs and RISPFAIL of epic proportions Thursday night. The Yankees lost 4-0 to the Blue Jays in the series finale. They are 39-42 in their last 81 games.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

RI(S)P
Is it better to have chances and never score, or to never have chances at all? We’ve seen a little of both these last few weeks, but Thursday’s game was definitely the former. The Yankees has plenty of chances Thursday. Two runners in the first, one in the second, one in the third, two in the fifth, two in the sixth, one in the eighth, two in the ninth. All stranded. Every last one of ’em. Five walks, three doubles, three singles, zero runs.

I’d say the most annoying blown chance came in the fifth inning. Garrett Cooper started the inning with a single and Ronald Torreyes followed with a walk. Toe drew a walk! His seventh of the season. The Yankees were down 3-0 at the time, but the eight and nine hitters reached base to set things up for the top of the lineup with no walks. The next three batters: fly out, pop up, strikeout. Should Brett Gardner have bunted the runners up there? Maybe. I’m not sure it would have mattered anyway.

The Yankees went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position overall and it was a total team effort. Every regular in the starting lineup had at least one at-bat with runners in scoring position except Todd Frazier. Also, fun fact: the Yankees had eleven baserunners but only one made it as far as third base. That was Aaron Judge in the first inning. He drew a walk and Didi Gregorius doubled him to third. Stranded. Stranded stranded stranded.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Sonny Grinds
Sonny Gray wasn’t particularly sharp in the early innings Thursday, and by time he found it, it was a little too late. He walked four batters and was generally up in the zone. Up and out of the zone at times. The end result: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 K. He threw 103 pitches. This was one of those “a lesser pitcher probably gives up six runs early” starts for Gray. He battled to keep the Blue Jays to three.

Toronto scored their first run on a double, an error — Gray threw a pickoff into center field — and a weak tapper back in front of the mound. Gray didn’t have time to do anything other than shuffle it to Gary Sanchez with his glove, but he couldn’t do it quick enough. Run scores. And inning later a walk, a steal, and a Josh Donaldson single gave the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. In the fourth a single, a bunt, a walk, and a single made it 3-0. Kevin Pillar went down for a two-strike curveball and chopped a grounder through the left side there.

Gray has now thrown 12 innings as a Yankee and there have been four errors behind him. One was his own error, so I guess it’s really three errors behind him. In those 12 innings, the Yankees have scored exactly zero runs. Gray’s run support is zero. The Yankees scored one run in his previous start — Sanchez hit a solo after Gray was out of the game — and none tonight. Rough. Sonny probably wishes he was back with the A’s to get some run support.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Leftovers
Cooper was the only Yankee with multiple hits. He had a single and a double. Gregorius and Judge each had a double as well. Sanchez and Frazier had singles. The walks belonged to Gardner, Judge, Sanchez, Torreyes, and Jacoby Ellsbury. I’m glad the Yankees are getting runners on base. That’s better than nothing, But geez, at some point cash those baserunners in.

Chasen Shreve was the only reliever used Thursday and he allowed a Jose Bautista solo homer in two otherwise uneventful innings. At least the top relievers got to rest. Good thing MLB juiced the ball this year so Bautista could get to 20 homers. (He now has 19.)

And finally, welcome back Aaron Hicks. He went 0-for-5 with a strikeout and looked like a guy still on a minor league rehab assignment. The Yankees did bring him back a day early, so I guess that’s to be expected. Welcome back, A-A-Ron.

Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
Head on over to ESPN for the box score, MLB.com for the video highlights, and ESPN again for the updated standings. Here’s our Bullpen Workload page and here’s the loss probability graph:


Source: FanGraphs

Up Next
The road trip is over and the Yankees are heading home for a five-game homestand that might as well be a seven-game homestand because they’re playing two games at Citi Field. First up: three games against the Red Sox. The most important series of the season so far. Lefties Jaime Garcia and Eduardo Rodriguez will be on the mound in Friday night’s opener. RAB Tickets can get you in the door if you want to catch any of the Red Sox games or Mets games in person.

DotF: Abreu returns from injury in GCL loss

Triple-A Scranton (1-0 loss to Durham in eleven innings, walk-off style)

  • CF Mason Williams & 1B Ji-Man Choi: both 0-4 — Williams stole a base … Choi struck out three times
  • RF Jake Cave: 0-4, 4 K
  • 3B Miguel Andujar: 0-3, 1 BB, 2 K
  • DH Tyler Austin & LF Billy McKinney: both 0-4 — Austin struck out twice, McKinney thrice
  • RHP Domingo German: 6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K, 8/1 GB/FB — 53 of 90 pitches were strikes (59%) … pointlessly bold prediction: he makes 10+ MLB starts next year … not necessarily with the Yankees, but with someone
  • RHP J.P. Feyereisen: 3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 1 HB, 1/2 GB/FB — 23 of 43 pitches were strikes (53%)

[Read more…]

Game 112: Sonny Day

(David Maxwell/Getty)
(David Maxwell/Getty)

Very nice of the Yankees to allow their big trade deadline acquisition to pitch tonight’s game. Sonny Gray has been a Yankee for eleven days now and this will be his second start. It’ll be his third start in the last 22 days. 22 days! If nothing else, Sonny should be feeling pretty fresh. That’s good, because the Yankees could really use a starter going out and throwing seven innings one of these days. Lots of short starts lately.

In other news, Aaron Hicks is back! Hooray for that. He was activated off the disabled list one day ahead of schedule because Clint Frazier‘s oblique landed him on the disabled list. Frazier tweaked something during batting practice last night and went for tests today, and apparently the tests showed the injury was severe enough for a disabled list stint. Welcome back, Hicksie. Now go carry the offense. (I kid, I kid. Kinda.) Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. DH Brett Gardner
  2. LF Aaron Hicks
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. SS Didi Gregorius
  5. C Gary Sanchez
  6. 3B Todd Frazier
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 1B Garrett Cooper
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Sonny Gray

It is cool and cloudy in Toronto this evening, and I’m not sure whether the Rogers Centre roof will be open for the game. There’s a little bit of rain in the forecast later tonight, so maybe they’ll close it preemptively. Whatever. Not like I’m at the park anyway. Tonight’s series finale will begin a little after 7pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: Like I said, Frazier was placed on the 10-day DL with an oblique strain and Hicks was activated, the Yankees announced. An oblique injury swap. Hicks has been out since June 25th, so more than six weeks now. Frazier’s strain is considered mild, though he will be shut down for a week. No swings or legendary bat speed for a while.

Rotation Update: Joe Girardi indicated Jordan Montgomery is likely to start Sunday night, in place of CC Sabathia. Montgomery was sent down Sunday, so Sabathia would have to be placed on the disabled list to bring Montgomery back before his ten days in the minors are up.

With Ronald Torreyes locked in at second, the Yankees should let Tyler Wade play everyday in Triple-A

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Last night, for the first time since last Thursday, Tyler Wade got into a game with the Yankees. He played one half-inning in the field at the end of a blowout. That’s all. Wade has not started a game since last Thursday and he’s played only one full game in the last ten days. He is the quintessential utility infielder right now. Use only when absolutely necessary.

Wade has been glued to the bench basically since that ugly 0-for-5 with three strikeouts game against the Rays, in which the big spot kept finding him and he couldn’t come through. Predictably, Joe Girardi has gone with Ronald Torreyes almost exclusively at second base since then, and hey, Torreyes has played well. He’s gone 12-for-42 (.286) in eleven games since Wade’s disaster against Tampa.

Starlin Castro is currently working his way back from his hamstring injury, and given the way things have gone the last week and a half, there’s no real reason to believe Girardi won’t continue to stick with Torreyes at second base in the interim. Torreyes is in the position player Circle of Trust™. Wade has been an overmatched rookie. It happens. The Yankee are trying to contend and Torreyes gives them a better chance to win.

That said, is sitting on the bench the best thing for Wade at this point of his career? I don’t think so. I totally believe being in the big leagues can be a great learning experience for a young player, even when he’s not playing, but is that experience so valuable that the lost at-bats don’t matter? Maybe it is. I’m not so sure. Wade is a 22-year-old kid who hasn’t played a full Triple-A season yet, and lately he hasn’t been playing at all.

Castro is tentatively scheduled to start a minor league rehab assignment next week, which means he’s probably two weeks away from the returning to the lineup, give or take. Unless Girardi reverses course and starts playing Wade — he hasn’t even been playing against right-handed pitchers — that’s another two weeks on the bench on top of the two weeks he’s been sitting on the bench already. That’s an awful lot of sitting.

The solution here is pretty clear. Send Wade down to Triple-A so he can actually play, and call up a different player to serve as the utility infielder for the time being. Someone with no real long-term future with the Yankees. Someone who won’t make you lose any sleep if he goes two weeks between at-bats. Donovan Solano, Jonathan Diaz, and Cito Culver are with Triple-A Scranton and they all fit the bill. (I’d go with Solano, but that’s just me.)

There are 40-man roster considerations that are relatively minor. The Yankees do have an open 40-man spot, so adding Solano or Diaz or Culver would be a piece of cake. They would have to be removed once Greg Bird is activated off the 60-day DL, and since Bird is reportedly ahead of Castro in his rehab, there’s some conflict here. You can’t not have a utility infielder. The Yankees might have  to call Wade back up for a few days in that case. Point is, the 40-man roster aspect of calling up a different utility infielder is workable.

Anyway, the point here is Wade has not played much at all, and there’s little reason to believe he will get much playing time going forward. Sitting on the bench for a month isn’t the best development plan for a 22-year-old prospect. I know Wade has looked overmatched, and he has been, but he’s awfully talented. He’s good defensively, he’s athletic, he’s fast, and he can really work an at-bat. We’re not seeing it right now, but it’s in there. The skills have to be honed.

My preference would be Wade playing second base against righties, but since that’s not going to happen, sending him down is the next best thing. Let someone else rot on the bench. A 22-year-old kid with a chance to be part of the long-term future shouldn’t be the one stuck sitting for weeks on end. Teams go out and get journeymen like Solano and Diaz for exactly this reason. So kids like Wade wouldn’t be in the position he’s currently in.

The Yankees are trying to add a bat, but the Mets keep taking lesser offers from other teams

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

Last night’s outburst notwithstanding, the Yankees have had a hard time scoring runs in the second half, and especially over the last week or so. They’ve scored no more than two runs in six of their last eight games, and since the All-Star break they are hitting .251/.316/.412 (91 wRC+) as a team. They’re averaging only 4.19 runs per game since the break. It’s not just Aaron Judge. Lots of guys haven’t hit.

The Yankees did try to get add some offense prior to last Monday’s trade deadline. They made a run at Lucas Duda — “The Mets just wouldn’t trade him to us,” said someone with the Yankees to Jon Heyman — and this week they tried to acquire Jay Bruce. Bruce was instead traded to the Indians last night in a pure salary dump. Cleveland took on the remainder of his $13M salary (roughly $4M) and sent the Mets a non-prospect.

Joel Sherman and Marc Carig report the Yankees were willing to meet the Mets’ asking price. They offered the two prospects the Mets wanted — there’s no word on who those prospects were, and I’m not really expecting the names to leak — but apparently the hangup was the money. The Yankees wanted the Mets to eat some of Bruce’s salary — Ken Rosenthal says they wanted the Mets to eat $1M — and the Mets opted to save money than receive actual prospects, so that’s that.

Bruce, an impending free agent, is hitting .256/.321/.520 (120 wRC+) with 29 home runs this season. The Yankees really need another left-handed bat and Matt Holliday‘s injury creates an opening at DH, so Bruce was an obvious fit for the offense. He wouldn’t have even had to change cities. The Yankees were reportedly on Bruce’s no-trade list, though I doubt he would’ve blocked a deal to a contender, especially when he wouldn’t have even had to relocate.

Anyway, the Mets opted for the salary dump and the Yankees still need offensive help. There are two ways to look at this. One, the Wilpons are cheap and petty, and would rather dump Duda and Bruce for payroll relief than trade them to the Yankees for actual prospects. The dynamics of a crosstown trade are complicated, though is it really that big a deal if Duda or Bruce helped the Yankees win? They’re impending free agents. Who cares?

And two, the Yankees should have upped the ante to make sure they got the bat needed. They could have offered more for Duda. They could have offered to take on Bruce’s salary. Heck, they could have claimed Bruce on trade waivers and backed the Mets into a corner. Their options would have been a) trade him to the Yankees for a prospect, b) dump him and his contract on the Yankees with no return as a waiver claim, or c) pull him back and keep him. I don’t see (c) happening. The Mets wanted to clear Bruce’s salary.

While I can understand the argument for overpaying to get make sure you get Bruce or Duda — the Yankees didn’t trade all those prospects to the Athletics and White Sox for nothing, after all — I don’t really agree with it. The money bothers me more than anything. You’re the Yankees, you got the pitching help you needed at the trade deadline, and these guys are rentals. Why not take on the extra cash to get a deal done? Then again, if you’re taking on Bruce’s entire salary, why are you giving up two actual prospects? There has to be some give and take here.

One thing to keep in mind: the Yankees are pretty annoyed with how the Bruce deal played out. They’re one of the quietest teams in the league when it comes to leaks, and yet, since Bruce was traded to the Indians, we’ve heard the Yankees met the asking price and offered two prospects. That’s coming from the Yankees, not the Mets. Why would the Mets leak something that makes them look bad? The Yankees aren’t happy so they’re letting this info out to make the Mets look petty, and hey, it’s working. Mets fans I know don’t like the straight salary dump.

Ultimately, Duda and Bruce were two of the better bats available, and the Yankees made offers for both. Could they have offered more? Yeah, of course, but at some point you have to stand your ground and not allow yourself to be taken advantage of. There are other bats out there (Jed Lowrie, Daniel Nava, Curtis Granderson). The Mets didn’t want to trade them across town and that’s fine. That’s their right. It still leaves the Yankees short a bat, but at least they’re trying. Hopefully they pivot elsewhere and pick up another hitter soon, because they still need one.

As the Yankees wait for players to get healthy, Garrett Cooper is earning a longer look

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Last night, during their win over the Blue Jays, the Yankees received a much-needed breakout from their offense. They scored eleven runs last night after scoring 15 runs total in their previous six games, and their 17 hits were one short of their season high. No, they didn’t face the best pitching, but who cares? The Yankees needed a night like that against any pitching.

Four of those 17 hits belonged to rookie first baseman Garrett Cooper, who wasn’t even supposed to be in the starting lineup. Joe Girardi uses Cooper as a platoon bat against left-handed pitchers, but when Clint Frazier felt something in his oblique during batting practice, he was scratched from the lineup and Cooper was inserted. A 4-for-5 effort with a double followed.

Cooper became the first Yankees rookie since Joe Collins in 1950 to record four hits in a game, and that came one day after a two-hit game. He was the only Yankee to put up much of a fight against J.A. Happ on Tuesday. Cooper is 12-for-33 (.364) during his brief big league career, and while he’s only walked once, I think his approach has been sound, especially the last two days. He hasn’t been hacking wildly at pitches out of the zone.

Last night’s outburst notwithstanding, the Yankees have had a real hard time generating offense the last week and a half — they needed Abe Almonte to misplay Jacoby Ellsbury‘s bases loaded line drive to get the big hit Sunday — and with Cooper starting to show signs of life, Joe Girardi should keep him in the lineup, even against righties. That’s obvious, right? He’s having some success and building confidence now, so keep running him out there.

Cooper is a first base only guy, which complicates things, but the DH spot is open with Matt Holliday on the disabled list. That pretty much takes care of that. Chase Headley has slotted in at DH the last two nights, and he could always play first or third on any given night, allowing Cooper or Todd Frazier to get the proverbial half a day off at DH. It would be nice if Cooper could play another position. That’s not possible, so first base and DH it is.

I’m not the biggest Garrett Cooper fan in the world — a 26-year right-handed hitting first base only guy who never hit double-digit homers until playing in Colorado Springs doesn’t excite me much — but my opinion doesn’t matter. The Yankees aren’t really in position to be picky right now. He’s had good at-bats and good swings the last two nights, and the Yankees need as much offense as they can get, so Cooper should keep playing until the reinforcements arrive.