Via Dan Martin: The Tigers have some interest in Joba Chamberlain. Detroit’s relievers have a 4.15 ERA (3.53 FIP), which is a bottom five mark in baseball. They’re definitely lacking quality bullpeners beyond Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit. The Giants, Braves, and Phillies are also said to have interest in the right-hander.
Chamberlain, 27, is an impending free agent with a 5.40 ERA (4.95 FIP) in 23.1 innings this year. He’s a reclamation project arm at this point; someone who sits 94.7 mph with his fastball (according to PitchFX) and still has a nasty mid-80s slider that misses bats (9.64 K/9 and 22.3 K%). The Yankees are reportedly “aggressively pushing” Joba in trade talks, but rental middle relievers who are both inconsistent and injury prone usually don’t bring much back via trade. · (25) ·
It’s hard to believe this is the first time the Yankees have visited Fenway Park this season, isn’t it? That means nine of their final 37 road games — roughly one out of every four — will be played up in Boston. It is what it is. The Red Sox have won four of six meetings between the two historic rivals this season.
What Have They Done Lately?
Before the All-Star break, Boston lost two of three to the Athletics and split a ten-game West Coast trip right down the middle, five wins and five losses. At 58-39 with a +91 run differential, the Sawx are in first place in the AL East, have the best record in the AL, and have the third best record in MLB.
The Red Sox have no trouble putting runs on the board. They lead baseball with an average of 5.13 runs per game and rank second with a team 113 wRC+. They’re even better at home (119 wRC+), as you can imagine. Boston is currently without SS Stephen Drew (92 wRC+) and C David Ross (80 wRC+), but Drew is likely to return sometime this weekend. I suppose it could be as soon as tonight.
The top of manager John Farrell’s lineup falls right into place. CF Jacoby Ellsbury (113 wRC+) leads off, RF Shane Victorino (100 wRC+) bats second, 2B Dustin Pedroia (126 wRC+) bats third, DH David Ortiz (163 wRC+) bats fourth, and 1B Mike Napoli (113 wRC+) bats fifth. OF Daniel Nava (118 wRC+), OF Jonny Gomes (97 wRC+), and 1B/LF Mike Carp (159 wRC+ in limited time) rotate in based on matchups. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (113 wRC+) is the primary backstop with Ross injured.
IF Brock Holt (73 wRC+) has been playing third with Drew out while IF Jose Iglesias (141 wRC+) subs in at short. Once Drew is healthy, Iglesias will play third. UTIL Brandon Snyder (95 wRC+ in limited time) and C Ryan Lavarnway (77 wRC+ in limited time) round out the bench. The Red Sox are only a middle of the pack homer-hitting team with 98 dingers, but this lineup will wear pitchers down and capitalize on mistakes. It’s what the Yankees’ offense used to be.
Starting Pitching Matchups
Friday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. LHP Felix Doubront
The Sox aren’t stupid. They know the Yankees struggle against lefties (77 wRC+), so they made sure to line up their rotation accordingly this weekend. Doubront, 25, has a 3.91 ERA (3.63 FIP) in 16 starts and one relief appearance this year. His strikeout rate (8.45 K/9 and 21.6 K%) is down from last year and his walk rate (3.91 BB/9 and 10.1 BB%) is unchanged, so his improvement comes from more grounders (46.7%) and fewer homers (0.73 HR/9 and 8.5% HR/FB). Doubront will use low-90s two- and four-seamers as well as a mid-to-upper-80s cutter to set up his mid-70 curveball and low-80s changeup. He doesn’t have much of a platoon split because of that repertoire. The Yankees haven’t been able to touch Doubront since the start of the last season, and that includes a six-inning, one-run start earlier this year.
Saturday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. RHP John Lackey
The 34-year-old Lackey has a brand new elbow following Tommy John surgery and the performance results are startling. He’s got a 2.78 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 16 starts with dynamite peripherals: 8.34 K/9 (22.5 K%), 2.06 BB/9 (5.6 BB%), 1.26 HR/9 (15.6% HR/FB), and 51.6% grounders. The homers are an eyesore, but you can live with them considering everything else. Lackey is primarily a three-pitch pitcher, using his low-90s four-seamer, mid-to-upper-80s cutter, and upper-70s curveball more than 90% of the time combined. He will, however, mix in the rare low-90s two-seamer, mid-80s slider, and low-80s changeup. Like, one or two of each per start. Lackey has been around a while; the Yankees have seen him plenty over the years.
Sunday: LHP CC Sabathia vs. LHP Jon Lester
Lester, 29, has a 4.58 ERA (4.17 FIP) in 20 starts this year, but it’s been a tale of two seasons for him. He had a 2.72 ERA (3.01 FIP) in his first nine starts and a 6.27 ERA (4.98 FIP) in his last eleven starts. I don’t get it, he should be so much better. Lester’s strikeout (7.38 K/9 and 19.1 K%) and walk (3.22 BB/9 and 8.4 BB%) numbers are good but not great, and he gives up a decent amount of homers (1.07 HR/9 and 11.9% HR/FB) despite getting plenty of grounders (47.8%). He’s a true five-pitch pitcher who uses three distinct fastballs — low-90s four-seamer, low-90s sinker, upper-80s cutter — as well as a mid-80s changeup and mid-70s curveball. Word on the street is he gets into trouble when he falls in love with his cutter and starts using it almost exclusively. There are no secrets here, the Yankees have seen Lester plenty of times over the years, both the good and bad versions.
Farrell’s bullpen is pretty beat up, with LHP Andrew Miller, LHP Franklin Morales, and RHP Joel Hanrahan out long-term. RHP Koji Uehara (2.40 FIP) is the closer right now while RHP Junichi Tazawa (3.11 FIP) and RHP Andrew Bailey (4.77 FIP) do the setup thing. The recently acquired LHP Matt Thornton (4.87 FIP) will be in the late-inning mix as well.
LHP Craig Breslow (3.43 FIP) headlines the rest of the Boston bullpen. RHP Pedro Beato (1.73 FIP in limited time) and LHP Drake Britton (has not pitched) fill out the last two spots. Britton’s next appearance will be the first of his big league career. If the Red Sox have a weakness, it’s definitely their middle relief.
Keith Law posted his midseason update of the top 50 prospects in baseball yesterday (subs. req’d), and Twins OF Byron Buxton occupies the top spot. Here’s a clear number one prospect in baseball at the moment. Cardinals OF Oscar Taveras and Red Sox SS Xander Bogaerts are two prospect list mainstays who round out the top three.
The Yankees have just one prospect on the list — C Gary Sanchez snuck on as #49. “His stock has taken a hit as his receiving, much improved last year, has regressed, while his explosive hands and raw power haven’t produced offensive results yet, either,” wrote Law. It’s worth noting Baseball America, who ranked Sanchez 34th on their midseason update, had a more optimistic outlook on his defense. Baseball Prospectus was another detractor, however. Sanchez dropped from 18th on Law’s preseason list while OF Mason Williams (#35) dropped out of the top 50 all together. · (45) ·
The Yankees have placed Derek Jeter on the 15-day DL with a Grade I right quad strain, the team announced. The move is retroactive to July 12th, so he can be activated one week from tomorrow. That doesn’t mean he will be healthy enough to return then, however. Utility man Brent Lillibridge has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton to fill the vacated roster spot.
Jeter, 39, went 1-for-4 with an infield single in his first and only game back from the left ankle fracture(s) last week. He hurt the quad running out a ground ball in his third at-bat and left after his fourth at-bat. The 29-year-old Lillibridge has hit .355/.425/.742 (209 wRC+) with seven homers in 22 games for Triple-A Scranton since being acquired from the Cubs in a minor trade last month. The Yankees will have to make a 40-man roster move to accommodate him. Corban Joseph is a 60-day DL candidate following season-ending shoulder surgery. · (79) ·
Only four questions this week, but they’re good ones. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the best way to send us any questions throughout the week.
Jeff asks: Carlos Beltran is a free agent next year. While the Yankees do have an abundance of outfielders, you see any chance they try to pick him up?
Do the Yankees have an abundance of outfielders? They have a bunch of warm bodies, but how many are legitimate everyday or even (gasp!) above-average players? I think Brett Gardner is the only guy you can say that about with any certainty.
Anyway, Beltran makes sense for the Yankees next season just like he did nine years ago (before he signed with the Mets) and even two years ago (before he signed with the Cardinals). He’s hitting .309/.346/.533 (146 wRC+) with 19 homers for St. Louis this year, and he continues to be a true switch-hitter who hits both lefties and righties. Perhaps most importantly, he has managed to avoid the DL these last two seasons. That’s encouraging given his history of knee problems.
Beltran turned 36 in April, and there are two significant red flags in his performance. His walk rate (5.1%) is a career-low by far, dropping from 10.5% last year and his 10.5% career average. His swing-and-miss rate (9.2%) is essentially identical to last year (9.3%), which was his career-high. Beltran has a career 7.3% whiff rate and was at 6.6% as recently as 2011. Seeing an older hitter cut his walk rate in half with an increased swing-and-miss rate suggests he may be cheating and starting his bat a little earlier. That’s not uncommon for guys that age.
The Yankees could certainly use a switch-hitting power guy in the middle of the lineup, especially since they should shuffle him between right field and DH to keep his legs fresh. Beltran has made it very, very clear he wants to play for the Yankees in the past*, which could work in their favor if he’s willing to take a one-year deal. I don’t like the idea of a two-year contract at this point of his career, but there’s a definite fit at the right price.
* For what it’s worth, I think passing on Beltran prior to 2005 was the biggest blunder of the Brian Cashman era, especially after he came to the team at the last minute and was willing to sign at a relative discount.
Brian asks: If the Yankees wanted to, what should they get in return in a trade for Hiroki Kuroda? To me, it may be a great opportunity to get some quality prospects in exchange for a valuable commodity.
From what I can tell, the 38-year-old Kuroda does not have a no-trade clause. He had one last year for sure, but I can’t find anything indicating this year’s contract includes one. That seems kinda odd and I’m just going to assume he does have no-trade protection. Why would he demand one in 2012 but not 2013? Weird.
Anywho, Kuroda is pitching like an ace this year (2.65 ERA and 3.62 FIP) and getting him for the second half would be a huge help to some contender. Just imagine the Dodgers or Rangers or Diamondbacks or even the Red Sox getting their hands on him. Low maintenance, affordable, proven in a big market, everything you could want in a rental starter.
If the Yankees were to move him, I think they should seek a return on par with what the Brewers got for Zack Greinke last year. Kuroda now is better than Greinke was last year, though he’s much older and Greinke had more “name value” as a former Cy Young winner. The Angels gave up their number two (Jean Segura), four (Johnny Hellweg), and nine (Ariel Pena) prospects for Greinke, though only Segura was a top 100 guy (#55 by Baseball America).
That’s the framework I’d be looking for in return for Kuroda. A top-100 prospect who is big league ready — Segura stepped right into the Brewers’ lineup after the deal — and two other good but not great prospects. Kuroda has shown a willingness to use his no-trade clause however — he blocked deals to the Yankees and Red Sox while with the Dodgers in 2011 — so getting him to agree to a deal wouldn’t be easy even if the Bombers wanted to move him, which I doubt they do.
Kevin asks: Was Hiroki Kuroda an all-star snub? And does he have a legit shot at the Cy Young award?
Oh yes, he absolutely was an All-Star snub. During the All-Star lineup/starting pitcher press conference, Jim Leyland confirmed he took Chris Tillman (3.95 ERA and 4.95 FIP) over Kuroda because he had more wins (11-3 vs. 8-6). Kuroda ranks second in the AL in ERA, seventh in bWAR (3.2), and 11th in fWAR (2.3 WAR). Definitely a snub considering eleven (!) AL starting pitchers were named to the All-Star team, including the injury replacements.
The Cy Young award is tougher to defend. No AL pitcher is having an outrageous season that moves them to the front of the pack yet; instead there are a bunch of guys — specifically Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, and Chris Sale — who are simply having excellent seasons. For a Yankee to win a major award, he needs to blow everyone else out of the water and make it obvious like Alex Rodriguez in 2007. There is a voter bias against Yankees for sure, and that will work against Kuroda. He’d need a dynamite second half to make a serious run at the award, otherwise he’s a guy who will get a few fourth or fifth place votes at best.
Dan asks: With the Diamondbacks wanting bullpen help is there anything they’d give up that is valuable for Joba Chamberlain? Surely he’d fair better in the NL West.
The AL-to-NL switch isn’t as significant for relievers, who are much more likely to face a pinch-hitter than the opposing pitcher. The D’Backs have had some interest in Joba in the past, particularly during the rumored Dan Haren trade talks. That was back when Joba was, you know, good. Good and under control for a few more years.
These days Chamberlain is just a rental reclamation project reliever, which is nothing to get excited about. Brandon League was a Proven Closer™ having a good (but not great) year when he was traded at the deadline last year, and all he fetched was two non-top 30 prospects. Maybe Arizona would give up a failing former top prospect like RHP Anthony Meo (5.86 ERA and 6.06 FIP in 43 innings), a lottery ticket type. I wouldn’t expect much in return for Joba at this point, unless he’s like the second or third piece in a package deal. He won’t bring back much by himself.
- OF Tyler Austin has a bone bruise in his right wrist, reports Josh Norris. He’ll keep it immobilized in a brace and then be re-evaluated in a week. Austin told Mike Ashmore he was hesitant to swing because it hurt whenever he did.
- UTIL Ronnie Mustelier was activated off the Triple-A Scranton DL according to Chad Jennings. He was out with two groin strains. Given the team’s struggles against southpaws, I have to think he’ll be considered for a call-up at some point.
- Baseball Prospectus (subs. req’d) but together a quote book from scouts on various prospects. Here’s a piece of the OF Slade Heathcott nugget: “Terrible approach when I saw him but was still arguably the most physically talented prospect I’ve seen this year … farm directors dream about players having tools like that, and at his age I would not give up on him.”
Triple-A Scranton (8-0 win over Louisville)
- 2B David Adams: 2-4, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 RBI — nine hits in 24 at-bats (.375) since being sent down
- 3B Alex Rodriguez: 1-4, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 K — had a little more on him earlier
- SS-3B Brent Lillibridge: 3-5, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 E (throwing) — he’s been crushing the ball since being acquired last month
- C J.R. Murphy: 1-5, 1 R, 1 2B
- CF Melky Mesa: 3-5
- RF Adonis Garcia: 2-3, 1 BB
- LF Ronnie Mustelier: 0-4, 1 R — very close to an all-Cuban outfield
- RHP Michael Pineda: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 3/3 GB/FB — 56 of 82 pitches were strikes (68%), and this is the first time he’s gone over 80 pitches since getting into official minor league games … he was sitting in that same 92-93 range with a few 94-95s … according to Collins, he seems to be running into a bit of a wall around the fourth and fifth inning, which isn’t a surprise given the injury and long layoff
- RHP Dellin Betances: 2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 2/1 GB/FB — 14 of 27 pitches were strikes (52%) … 48/16 K/BB in 38 innings since moving to the bullpen
10:28pm: A-Rod will be indeed be activated on Monday if he comes through this weekend in one piece, team president Randy Levine told Bob Nightengale. “If he’s ready to come back, and he’s healthy, he’ll be back Monday night,” said Levine.
9:29pm: In his latest minor league rehab game with Triple-A Scranton, Alex Rodriguez went 1-for-4 with a homerun to right field. He flew out to the warning track in right, ground out to first, and struck out in his other three at-bats. Donnie Collins has video. A-Rod played seven innings at third base and didn’t have to field a single batted ball.
“I think we have one big obstacle and that’s this weekend. That includes four games. After that’s over, we’ll huddle up with our medical staff, the front office, [Joe Girardi], and we’ll come up with the best decision and what’s the schedule. And that will come from them,” said A-Rod to Dan Martin before the game. Alex has been swinging the bat better the last few days and his rehab assignment expires Monday. If he comes through this weekend fine, it’s hard to think they won’t activate him then. · (40) ·
It is actually Thursday, right? Right. Had a little mix-up in yesterday’s open thread. I’ve been off one day all week for some reason, I think because of the Futures Game on Sunday. That felt like a Monday. Anyway, someone sent me that first half highlight video today and I think we’re all going through baseball withdrawals, so I figured it would make a fine open thread video. Hope you enjoy.
Here is your open thread for this baseball-less evening. It’s a good night to chip away at the DVR/Netflix queues. The All-Star break ends tomorrow, thankfully. Talk about whatever you like here. Have at it.
Via Andrew Marchand: Teams have contacted the Yankees looking to trade for Robinson Cano, but they aren’t looking to move him. The club’s goal is to re-sign their star second baseman and move forward with him as the centerpiece of the lineup. I am curious to know who made those calls, however. Dodgers? Tigers? Nationals? The Cardinals did ask him prior to 2009, remember.
Cano, 30, is having a typical Robinson Cano year, which means hitting .302/.386/.531 (144 wRC+) with 21 homers and being one of the very best all-around players in baseball. He has big-time trade value despite being eligible for free agency after the season. If the Yankees decide to deal him (extremely unlikely), they should ask for nothing less than an elite prospect in return. A half-season of Carlos Beltran fetched Zack Wheeler, and Robbie is a) better now than Beltran was then, and b) doesn’t come with any of the injury concerns. · (123) ·