The Second Half Setup Men [2016 Season Review]


The Yankees opened the season with maybe the most dominant bullpen trio in baseball history. For a few months a lead after six innings was close to an automatic win. Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller, and Aroldis Chapman protected basically every lead they were given. The Yankees weren’t very good overall, but they always had the advantage in the late innings.

Things changed dramatically at the trade deadline. The Yankees were far back in the wildcard race with no real indication they could make a run in the second half. So, the front office acted appropriately, and cashed in Chapman and Miller as trade chips. Betances remained and took over as closer. The seventh and eighth innings looked much different the rest of the way.

Return of the Bullpen Handyman

Second base was a priority for the Yankees over the winter. The Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew types weren’t cutting it, and it has been made pretty clear the team doesn’t believe Rob Refsnyder can hack it at the position defensively. At least not on an everyday basis. At the Winter Meetings the Yankees acquired their second baseman of the present and the future by picking up Starlin Castro from the Cubs. Chicago had just signed Ben Zobrist and Castro was superfluous.

The cost to get Castro: Adam Warren. It was a straight up, one-for-one trade. Warren was rock solid for the Yankees from 2013-15 in a variety of roles, but Castro has obvious natural talent, plus he’s young and signed affordably. That was the price they had to pay. I didn’t love the trade, but I understood it. Starlin was good enough with the Yankees in the first half. Warren was a mess with the Cubs, pitching to a 5.91 ERA (5.83 FIP) in 35 innings.

Warren was so bad with Chicago that when time came to complete the Chapman trade, the Cubs were willing to send him back to New York. In fact, Brian Cashman indicated getting Warren back was a key to the trade. “We got a Major League piece that was a high-performer for this franchise for the last few years,” said the GM. “That was important. I think I can represent that was important for Hal Steinbrenner.”

In the past, Joe Girardi used Warren to do whatever was needed at the time. Two innings to bridge the gap between the starter and Betances? Go to Warren. Fill-in eighth inning guy for a day? Warren. Spot start? Warren. He did it all for the Yankees, and when he returned this summer, his job was setup man. In fact, he took over the eighth inning guy after Miller was traded, albeit briefly.

Warren’s first seven weeks back with the Yankees were typical Warren. He had a 2.91 ERA (3.70 FIP) in 22 games and 21.2 innings, with strikeout (22.1%) and walk (8.1%) numbers that were more in line with 2013-15 Warren than Cubs Warren. Of the seven runs he allowed in those 21.2 innings, four came in one game. Otherwise he was rock sold. Warren slipped little at the end of the season — he allowed a run in four of his last seven appearances — though it wasn’t a total meltdown.

All told, Warren finished with a 3.26 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 29 games and 30.1 innings with the Yankees. His strikeout (20.0%), walk (8.0%), and ground ball (44.3%) rates were right where they were from 2013-15 (20.5%, 7.8%, 45.3%). The only difference between this year’s version of Warren and previous versions was home runs. He had a 1.52 HR/9 (14.5 HR/FB%) this season, including 1.19 HR/9 (1.18 HR/FB%) with the Yankees, compared to 0.75 HR/9 (9.1 HR/FB%) from 2013-15.

Home runs were up around the league overall, so I’m sure that contributed to Warren’s long ball issues in 2016, especially since he played in two hitter friendly home parks this year. One thing the Yankees did is get Warren to throw his slider more often. He was at his best from 2014-15 when he threw his slider as often as his fastball. The Cubs had him throwing more changeups and fewer sliders. The Yankees put an end to that.

Adam Warren pitch selection

Maybe I’m just a giant homer, but I don’t think Warren’s success with the Yankees was a fluke. They know him a heck of a lot better than the Cubs and they used him more regularly. Warren routinely went four, five, six days between appearances in Chicago. “I never really had a set role. It’s tough because I pride myself on my versatility, but not really knowing when you’re coming in — that was the hardest thing, the unpredictability,” he said after the trade.

Warren will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2018 — MLBTR projects a $2.3M salary in 2017 — and while there’s little reason to think he won’t be back in pinstripes next year, a trade is always possible. I didn’t think the Yankees would trade Warren last offseason, after all. I’m an unabashed Warren fan. I love that he does whatever the Yankees need and that his arm is resilient. He bounces back after heavy workloads no problem. That’s a nice guy to have in the bullpen.

Back in the day the Yankees brought Warren to Spring Training stretched out and ready to start, and if they don’t trade him this winter, I expect the same to be true next year. The team has a lot of back-end options (Luis Cessa, Luis Severino, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell) and there’s no reason not to throw Warren into the mix too.

Return of the Yankee Clippard


The Yankees did make one buyer’s trade at the deadline. With Chapman and Miller gone, the team acquired Tyler Clippard from the Diamondbacks to help replenish some bullpen depth. Someone had to pitch the seventh and eighth innings, after all. The cost to complete the one-for-one trade: Vicente Campos, the second piece in the Michael PinedaJesus Montero trade back in the day.

Clippard’s days as a dominant workhorse reliever ended a few years ago, though he is still a reliable late-innings option. Just not with the D’Backs, for whatever reason. He had a 4.30 ERA (4.31 FIP) in 40 games and 37.2 innings with Arizona. The D’Backs decided to gut their bullpen and shed salary at the deadline — they traded Brad Ziegler to the Red Sox as well — so Clippard became a Yankee again.

At first, Clippard was the seventh inning guy and Warren was the eighth inning guy. Girardi flipped them before long and wisely so. Not necessarily because Clippard was better than Warren (he was), but because Warren was better equipped to go multiple innings if Girardi needed him in the sixth inning too. It made sense to flip them, though either way, they were the new setup tandem.

Clippard was phenomenal immediately after the trade. He allowed three runs (one earned) in his first 21 games and 19 innings with New York. Opponents hit .164/.253/.224 against him. Like Warren, Clippard hit the skids a bit by the end of the season — he allowed six runs in his last 6.1 innings, including a pair of game-losing homers to Hanley Ramirez and Jose Bautista — but otherwise he was excellent in pinstripes.

All told, Clippard had a 2.49 ERA (4.05 FIP) in 29 games and 25.1 innings in his second tour of duty with the Yankees. His underlying stats were damn near identical to his career rates:

Clippard with Yankees: 24.3 K%, 10.3 BB%, 30.9 GB%, 1.07 HR/9, 7.9 HR/FB%
Clippard career: 26.8 K%, 10.1 BB%, 28.3 GB%, 1.08 HR/9, 8.7 HR/FB%

Clippard is a very unconventional pitcher. His fastball is mostly 91-93 mph these days and he pitches up in the zone with it an awful lot. The deception in his delivery allows him to do that, and the result is a lot of weak infield pop-ups. His pop-up rate was an unfathomable 34.2% (!) with the Yankees. That’s double his career rate, which is one of the highest in history.

The Yankees let Clippard throw his slider again after the trade, which helps explain why he was much more effective in New York than he was in Arizona. Clippard is primarily a fastball/changeup pitcher, those are his moneymakers, but the slider gives him another weapon against righties. Something to keep them honest. He started messing with the pitch last year, shelved it with the D’Backs, and brought it back with the Yankees.

Arizona signed Clippard to a two-year contract worth $12.25M and the Yankees took on the remainder of the deal, so they owe him $6.15M in 2017. Perfectly reasonable. I don’t think Clippard has a ton of trade value — Campos was basically a reclamation prospect trying to regain his form, and I can’t imagine the Yankees could get more in return now — but we can’t rule out a trade. More than likely, he’ll be back next season in a late-inning capacity.

MLBTR’s projected 2017 arbitration salaries and the Dellin Betances outlier

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

With the 2016 season now complete, we can begin to look forward to the offseason and the 2017 Yankees, and this winter a lot of attention will be paid to arbitration-eligible players. The Yankees have a lot of them. Nine, in fact. Some of them are pretty important parts of the team too.

Yesterday Matt Swartz at MLB Trade Rumors published his annual arbitration salary projections for next season. Swartz’s model is pretty darn accurate and it gets more and more precise with each passing season. The numbers might not be exact, but they’re usually in the ballpark. Here’s what Swartz’s model projects for the Yankees’ nine arbitration-eligible players.

That’s $32.8M worth of arbitration salaries next year, which works out to a $14.6M raise over what those nine players earned this past season. As a reminder, players need three years of service time (3.000) to qualify for arbitration in most cases. Some, like Gregorius and Layne, are arbitration-eligible four times as a Super Two. The Super Two cutout this year is approximately 2.127, according to Steve Adams. That doesn’t really affect the Yankees. Anyway, here are some thoughts on the projected arbitration salaries.

1. The Betances projection seems light. The arbitration process is pretty archaic. Old school stats like ERA and saves — especially saves — matter most. Betances has been a setup man for the majority of his career, so he doesn’t have those big money making saves totals, which is going to hurt his arbitration case. We all know Dellin has been one of the two or three best relievers in baseball since Opening Day 2014 though.

Swartz’s model has trouble with elite players with unprecedented resumes. Tim Lincecum damn near broke the thing when he went into arbitration with two Cy Youngs a few years ago. Betances leads all relievers in innings and strikeouts over the last three seasons by a lot. He struck out 392 batters from 2014-16. Next most by a reliever? Andrew Miller with 326. Yeah. Look at the five highest strikeout totals by a reliever the last three years:

  1. 2014 Betances: 135
  2. 2015 Betances: 131
  3. 2016 Betances: 126
  4. 2016 Miller: 123
  5. 2015 Aroldis Chapman: 115

Yeah. Betances is also a three-time All-Star. Do you know how many other relievers have been to the All-Star Game each of the last three years? None. Not one. Dellin’s the only one. The All-Star Game selections plus the bulk inning and strikeout totals mean Betances is going into arbitration with far more earning potential than most setup men. He could break Swartz’s model, so to speak.

As best I can tell, the record salary for a first year arbitration-eligible reliever is $6.25M by Jonathan Papelbon back in the day. The lack of saves will probably prevent Betances from breaking Papelbon’s record, though I do think he’s going to wind up with a salary closer to Papelbon’s than the projected salary above. Dellin isn’t a normal reliever and projecting his arbitration salary with a one size fits all model probably won’t work.

2. Eovaldi and Ackley are goners. Swartz’s model projects no raise for Ackley. He made $3.2M this year and the model has him making $3.2M next year. That’s what happens when you barely play and barely hit before suffering a season-ending injury. Given the salary and the lack of production, Ackley is a prime non-tender candidate this offseason. The Yankees might release him after the World Series to clear 40-man roster space rather than wait until the December 2nd tender deadline.

As for Eovaldi, the model projects a $1.9M raise, though that’s pretty irrelevant. He recently underwent major elbow surgery, including his second Tommy John surgery, so he’s going to miss the entire 2017 season. There’s no sense in paying Eovaldi that much money to not pitch next season, especially when he’ll be a free agent next winter. The business side of baseball can be cruel. Eovaldi is hurt and soon he’s going to be unemployed too. The Yankees will non-tender him. Brian Cashman all but confirmed it.

A non-tender wouldn’t necessarily mean Eovaldi’s career in pinstripes is over. The Yankees could re-sign him to a smaller contract with an eye on 2018. They’ve done that before, sign injured pitchers to a two-year deal and rehab them in year one. Think Jon Lieber and Andrew Bailey and David Aardsma. The second Tommy John surgery is much riskier than the first, but with pitching so in demand, it’s probably worth exploring a two-year deal with Eovaldi. Just not at the projected salary.

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

3. Extension time for Gregorius? Gregorius made $2.425M this past season and projects to make $5.1M next season, which is a $2.675M raise. His salary projects to more than double. Didi will be in his second of four arbitration years as a Super Two next year, so if we apply similar raises going forward, we get $7.775M in 2017 and $10.45M in 2018. That’s a real quick and dirty way of estimating his earning potential the next three years.

That rough estimate puts Gregorius at $23.325M from 2016-18 before he hits free agency. Is it worth it to explore a long-term extension this offseason? It is if you think his power breakout this past season was real, and there are reasons to believe it is. Gregorius is only 26, remember. He’s entering what should be the best years of his career. A four-year deal that guarantees him $35M or so seems worthwhile for the Yankees. We’re talking about a prime age player at a premium position.

At the same time, the Yankees have a ton of shortstops in the minors, namely Tyler Wade in Double-A plus both Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo in High-A. I wouldn’t worry about that though. Gregorius is a talented young player at a hard to fill position and those guys are worth locking up. If there’s a logjam at shortstop when Wade and Torres and Mateo and whoever are ready, great! That’s a good problem.

4. Big Mike‘s big salary. Being a starting pitcher is pretty good when arbitration time arrives. Even mediocre starters like Pineda get hefty raises. He made $4.3M this past season and projects for $7.8M next year, so we’re talking about a $3.5M raise. That’s despite a 6-12 record and a 4.82 ERA (90 ERA+) in 175.2 innings. That stuff matters in arbitration.

Pineda’s raise has more to do with his 207 strikeouts and AL leading 10.6 K/9. And really, $7.8M is still below market value for a pitcher of Pineda’s caliber. Guys like him will run you $10M to $12M or so in free agency. Probably more these days. It would be worth asking Pineda and his representatives what it would take to get an extension done this offseason, simply because the upcoming free agent pitching classes are so weak.

5. The remain projections are fair. The projections for Warren ($2.3M), Hicks ($1.4M), Layne ($1.2M), and Romine ($900,000) seem just about right. Not high enough to consider a non-tender and not low enough to see it as a bargain. That could change in a year, but right now, they’re fair. Weirdly enough, it wouldn’t surprise me if all four of those guys are on the 2017 Opening Day roster and it wouldn’t surprise me if all four are jettisoned in the offseason. I feel like we’re in for some surprises this winter.

Youth has helped the Yankees get back into the race, but they have veterans in important places too

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Even after two straight losses, the Yankees are still only two games back of the second wildcard spot with 19 games to play. FanGraphs puts their postseason odds at a slim 9.6% as of this writing, but hey, that’s better than the 2.3% they were at nine days ago. Those odds can change real quick from one day to the next.

At 24-15, the Yankees have the second best record in the AL since selling buying for the future at the trade deadline. (The Royals are 25-14.) Gary Sanchez has had a monumental impact, Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin have had their moments, and young hurlers like Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell contributed too. The Yankees would not be where they are without these kids.

As productive as many of them have been, the young players are not the only reason the Yankees have climbed back into the wildcard race. That was never going to be the case. The Yankees weren’t going to call up a bunch of prospects and let them carry the team into October. Some of the holdover veterans have contributed too, and in fact, the Yankees have veteran players in very important spots.

Front of the Rotation

It’s easy to forget Masahiro Tanaka is still only 27 years old, isn’t it? He’s two months younger than Chris Archer and five months younger than Jacob deGrom. And yet, despite his relative youth, Tanaka is very much a veteran pitcher. He’s thrown 477 innings with the Yankees on top of over 1,300 with the Rakuten Golden Eagles, with whom he won a championship and a pair of Sawamura Awards (Cy Young equivalent).

There’s something reassuring about having a veteran ace on the staff. During his heyday from 2009-12, you knew CC Sabathia was going to go out every fifth day and give the Yankees a quality outing. Even his bad starts weren’t that bad. We watched Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina do the same for years and years. That’s Tanaka now. He’s very good, rarely bad, and every fifth day he’s going to give the Yankees a good chance to win. (Remember when he couldn’t pitch on normal rest? He’s allowed six runs in 31.1 innings in his last five starts on normal rest.)

Back of the Bullpen

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

At this point Dellin Betances qualifies as a veteran, right? I think so. This is only his third full season, but he’s already been a three-time All-Star, and Dellin’s been throwing high-leverage innings for well over two years now. Relievers don’t have the longest career life span in this game. Betances is a grizzled veteran compared to most bullpen guys.

Add in Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren, and each of the Yankees’ three end-game relievers has been around the block. Veteran relievers melt down just as easily as rookies (see: Nathan, Joe), but there’s always going to be the element of the unknown with kids. How do they handle intense late-season games with postseason implications? There’s less wiggle room in the eighth and ninth innings because there’s not much time to score any necessary runs. The more unpredictability you can take out of the bullpen, the better.

Top of the Lineup

As we’ve seen over the last three weeks or so, Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury really ignite the offense when they’re both hot at the same time. The Yankees look like an entirely different team when those two are causing chaos. It’s imperative they stay hot for the Yankees to reach the postseason, and when it comes to setting the table for the offense, the Yankees have two veteran leadoff men. They need them too; none of their young players fits the leadoff hitter mold. I guess maybe Mason Williams, though asking him to do that right away seems like too much, too soon.

In the Clubhouse

Even after their sell-off, the Yankees kept most of their leadership core intact. Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran are gone, ditto Alex Rodriguez, but team leaders like Sabathia, Gardner, Brian McCann, and Mark Teixeira remain. Both McCann and Teixeira have had their roles reduced and that’s surely tough for a veteran player. They haven’t complained though. They continue to go about their business and help the young players. Young players are great! You need them to win these days. There also needs to be a leadership core in place to help those young players develop into winners, if not immediately than down the road.

* * *

At the end of the day, talent reigns supreme. It doesn’t matter how many veterans you have or where they fit on the roster if the performance is there. Can having experience and good leadership help that talent translate into good performance more frequently? I firmly believe the answer is yes. The Yankees have turned their season around because their young players have (mostly) performed and brought a lot of energy to their team. The veterans still play a big role though, and they still occupy some very important spots on the roster.

Game 100: Can the Yankees get to four games over?

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

Last night the Yankees finally broke through and improved to three games over .500 for the first time this season. Tonight they’re trying to move to four games over .500, which is a bit of a conundrum for #TeamSell. Aroldis Chapman has been dealt and that’s great, but there are others on the roster who are more useful to the Yankees as trade chips than players in the second half. Anyway, here is the Astros’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  3. DH Carlos Beltran
  4. C Brian McCann
  5. 1B Mark Teixeira
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 2B Starlin Castro
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. RF Aaron Hicks
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is hot, humid, and raining on and off in Houston this evening. I assume the Minute Maid Park roof will be closed. Tonight’s game will begin at 8:10pm ET and you can watch on YES. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Adam Warren has arrived and is available tonight. Chasen Shreve was optioned down to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man roster spot, the Yankees announced. There’s no need for a 40-man roster move because Warren takes Chapman’s spot. Also, Anthony Swarzak is wearing No. 41 now. Warren has his old No. 43 back.

Guest Post: Adam Warren: The Once and Future Yankee

The following is a guest post from longtime reader Tarik Shah, who wrote about new old Yankee Adam Warren. Tarik previously wrote a guest post about the Yankee fandom in his family.


Ever since the departure of Robinson Cano to the Pacific Northwest, the Yankees have gotten cute trying to fill the gaping hole in their middle infield. First, in 2014, the ghost of Brian Roberts was given a shot, which predictably required the Yankees to acquire Martin Prado midseason. Prado performed admirably (147 wRC+ in 37 games), but it was not to be, as he was included in the trade that brought Nathan Eovaldi to the Bronx.

The 2015 season brought the great Stephen Drew experiment. The experiment, I believe, wasn’t to discover whether Stephen Drew could be a capable second baseman, but whether he could consistently hit a home run at the exact moment when the front office, coaches, and fans had exhausted their patience with his subpar play, thereby securing more playing time. By that metric at least, the experiment was a success.

Ultimately, this past offseason Brian Cashman made a risky move in acquiring the talented but enigmatic Starlin Castro from the Cubs. The new Yankee second baseman’s play thus far has been uninspiring. Castro accumulated 0.2 fWAR through his first 96 games. For reference, the much pilloried Stephen Drew accumulated 0.2 fWAR in 132 games. Of course, the cost to acquire this thus far unimpressive infielder is the subject of today’s article, Adam Warren. As has been widely reported, Mr. Warren is set to return to the Bronx as part of the trade that will send Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs.

When Warren was traded away, many fans were concerned as Warren had pitched well as a Yankee (2015: 3.29 ERA/3.59 FIP/3.89 xFIP in 131.1 IP). In particular, he occupied the often referenced, but rarely filled, Ramiro Mendoza slot. Such a player would be valuable to a team that had trouble in the back-end of its bullpen and rotation, so when the back-end of the Yankees bullpen and rotation stumbled, Warren’s loss was acutely felt.

However, casual fans, or those who only follow the Bombers, might be surprised to find out that Adam Warren has not performed well this year. In fact, his performance had been so poor, the Cubs recently demoted him to AAA (2016: 5.91 ERA/5.83 FIP/5.23 xFIP in 35 IP).

K% BB% HR/9
2015 19.5 7.3 0.69
2016 17.8 12.5 1.80

Giving up more walks, hits, home runs, and striking out fewer batters is no recipe for success. So what has changed for Warren, and what might he be able to tweak upon return to Yankee Stadium? The first thing that jumps out at you when looking at his batted ball profile is that he’s giving up more fly balls, and of those, more are going for home runs. The league average HR/FB is around 10%, so hopefully Warren can benefit from some regression to the mean. Even so, Warren’s xFIP sits at 5.23, which is not that far off from his 5.83 FIP. So, regression there will only help so much.

2015 22.8 45.2 32.0 8.3
2016 16.3 43.3 40.4 16.7

Warren has also not been as proficient at stranding runners this year, as he has throughout his career. His LOB% this year sits at 64.7% whereas it’s 75.8% for his career. Perhaps this too is an area where Warren can benefit from some regression.

As far as his pitch selection is concerned, so far in 2016 it seems that the only thing that Warren has changed is that he’s scaled back on sliders and curveballs, while going to his changeup more often. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help us explain why Warren has been struggling, as his change up has actually been worth 2.47 runs per 100 pitches.

2015 44.8 29.0 11.1 15.1
2016 44.9 25.5 7.5 22.1
Career 45.5 27.3 10.3 16.9

Has the velocity of his pitches decreased or changed significantly? It seems not. In fact, if you were to look at any number of Warren’s metrics you’d find that there has not been much of difference between what he did last year, and what he’s done this year, save for the results.

2015 92.5 87.2 79.4 84.3
2016 92.8 87.4 79.9 84.5

Unfortunately, this comes to an incredibly foreseeable and unsatisfying ending. Adam Warren has thrown 35 poor innings this year, not a very significant sample size. Reliever performance is volatile and subject to the effects of small sample sizes.

As far as can be told from the information available, Adam Warren the Cub is not much different from Adam Warren the Yankee, and yet, Adam Warren the Cub has not performed well. Brian Cashman knows this, and is hoping that with a little help from the cruel goddess of reliever volatility, Adam Warren can once again pitch like the Yankees version of Adam Warren.

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Monday


The 2016 non-waiver trade deadline is exactly one week away, and for the first time since they traded away Rickey Henderson and Mike Pagliarulo in 1989, the Yankees have to seriously consider selling this year. They’re 4.5 games out of a wildcard spot with three teams ahead of them, and, more importantly, at no point this season have the Yankees looked capable of making the kind of extended run it’ll take to get back into the race.

Over the weekend learned the Yankees are inching closer to trading Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs for top prospect Gleyber Torres and a second piece. That could happen as soon as today. Our Scouting the Market: Cubs post will tell you everything you need to know about Torres and various other Cubs prospects. Several other teams were in the mix for Chapman as well, and I suppose someone could sneak in at the last minute and make a big offer. We’ll see. We’re going to keep track of the day’s trade rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. All time stamps are ET.

  • 10:15am: The Yankees are expected to receive Torres, ex-Yankee Adam Warren, and likely two others (!) for Chapman if the trade is completed. Jorge Soler and Jeimer Candelario are not in the deal. It’s still a 4-for-1 trade and, uh, wow. [Joel Sherman, Ken Rosenthal]
  • 10:15am: The Yankees “internally debated” Torres or Eloy Jimenez as the center piece of the trade. They’re opting for the potential up-the-middle impact player over the corner outfield bat. For what it’s worth, Torres is the higher-ranked prospect too. [Sherman]
  • 10:15am: The Yankees have discussed shortstop prospect Yu-Cheng Chang in trade talks with the Indians. Chang is Cleveland’s No. 12, per The 20-year-old is hitting .275/.345/.494 (128 wRC+) with eleven homers and nine steals in 87 High-A games this year. [Buster Olney]
  • 10:15am: Once the Yankees wrap up the Chapman trade, they’re expected to continue sifting through trade offers for Andrew Miller. It’s not a guarantee they’ll move him. They’re going to do their due diligence and see what teams put on the table. [Olney]
  • 10:15am: The Giants are getting “radio silence” from the Yankees with regards to their relievers. We heard a few days ago that the Yankees don’t consider San Francisco a good trade match because they’re short on high-end prospects. [Hank Schulman]
  • 11:05am: One of the other two pieces in the Chapman trade is outfield prospect Billy McKinney. He was a first rounder in 2013 and I remember the Yankees being connected to him prior to the draft. McKinney went to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija/Addison Russell trade. [Sahadev Sharma]
  • 11:29am: The Yankees have been pushing Ivan Nova in trade talks. That’s not a surprise. They shopped him over the winter, and Nova will be a free agent after the season, so it’s better to get something for him now than nothing after the season. [Olney]
  • 4:10pm: The Chapman trade is official. It’s Chapman for Torres, Warren, Billy McKinney, and Rashad Crawford. That’s a hell of a deal.

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.

Yankees send Aroldis Chapman to Cubs for four players

Bye Aroldis. (Presswire)

4:10pm: Both teams have announced the trade, so it’s official. Officially official. The trade is as reported: Chapman for Torres, Warren, McKinney, and Crawford. Torres and Crawford are going to High-A Tampa and McKinney is going to Double-A Trenton. Warren is going to join the Yankees in Houston.

“I want to thank the New York Yankees for trusting and supporting me, and I wish nothing but the best for the Yankees organization and my former teammates,” said Chapman in a statement. “I am excited about today’s trade and look forward to joining the Chicago Cubs and meeting my new teammates. It is a privilege to wear the Cubs uniform and to play for the fans of Chicago.”

12:13pm: For the first time in a long time, the Yankees have made a true “sellers” trade. The Yankees and Cubs have an Aroldis Chapman deal in place, reports Jon Heyman. Shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, outfield prospect Billy McKinney, right-hander Adam Warren, and a fourth player are coming back to New York. Patrick Mooney identifies the fourth player as outfield prospect Rashad Crawford. We’re still waiting for an official announcement from the team, just FYI.

Trading Chapman before the deadline was close to a no-brainer. The Yankees acquired him from the Reds in the offseason for pennies on the dollar because of his pending suspension under the league’s domestic violence policy. Once the suspension was served, they could market him for what he is: an elite rental reliever. Generally speaking, this all boils down too:

Rookie Davis
Eric Jagielo
Caleb Cotham
Tony Renda
35 innings of Adam Warren
Brendan Ryan
a few months of bad PR stemming from Chapman’s domestic violence incident


31.1 innings of Aroldis Chapman
Starlin Castro
Gleyber Torres
Billy McKinney
Rashad Crawford

That is a pretty incredible. The Yankees did not surrender any of their top prospects to acquire Chapman and now they’re netting Torres, who Keith Law (subs. req’d) and Baseball America respectively ranked as the 26th and 27th prospect in baseball in their midseason updates, plus some decent secondary pieces. That’s pretty great.

Using Andrew Miller as a benchmark, the going rate for an elite rental reliever was one top 50-ish prospect just two years ago. The Yankees got a top 25-ish prospect and more for Chapman. That’s a function of a) Chapman having a much longer track record than Miller, and b) the market for bullpen help being insane right now. The Yankees would be wise to gauge the market for Miller and Dellin Betances next. It doesn’t hurt to listen, after all.

Torres, 19, is obviously the center piece of the deal. He’s hitting .275/.359/.433 (122 wRC+) with nine homers, 19 steals, a 21.3% strikeout rate, and a 10.3% walk rate in 94 High-A games. Torres is doing that despite being nearly four years younger than the average Carolina League player. He’s outperforming Jorge Mateo, who is an excellent prospect himself, at the same level while being a year younger. Here’s a piece of’s free scouting report:

Torres signed for $1.7 million out of Venezuela on the strength of his advanced bat and potential for solid tools across the board. He has a quick right-handed swing and a mature approach, recognizing pitches well and using the entire field. Once Torres gets stronger and learns to pull pitches more often, he could produce 15 or more homers per season … While Torres’ range may be just average, his instincts and strong arm allow him to make plays. If he has to change positions, he’d profile well offensively and defensively at either second or third base.

It wouldn’t be crazy to consider Torres the Yankees’ top prospect now. I haven’t thought enough about it to have a firm opinion, but he’s definitely in the conversation along with Mateo, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez. For what it’s worth, Law ranked Judge higher than Torres in his midseason top 50 while Baseball America ranked Mateo higher than Torres in their midseason top 100. So yeah. This is a bit up in the air.

The other big name in the trade is McKinney, who went to the Cubs in the Jeff Samardzija/Addison Russell trade two years ago. The Yankees were connected to him prior to the 2013 draft — I even wrote up a draft profile on him — and last year McKinney ranked 83rd on Baseball America’s top 100 list. He’s had a rough 2016 though, hitting .252/.355/.322 (101 wRC+) with one homer, a 19.5% strikeout rate, and a 13.5% walk rate in 88 Double-A games.

The good news is McKinney is still only 21 — he’s three years younger than the average Southern League player — and just last year he was a top 100 guy who hit .300/.371/.454 (135 wRC+) between High-A and Double-A. The bad news is McKinney’s 2015 season ended in August when he fouled a pitch off his knee and suffered a hairline fracture. His bad 2016 season may be the result of the injury. Here’s a piece of’s free scouting report:

McKinney has hit everywhere he has gone, the result of his quick left-handed swing, tremendous hand-eye coordination and mature approach. He also draws enough walks to record healthy on-base percentages, though some evaluators question how much over-the-fence power he’ll develop. He has bat speed and makes hard contact easily, so he should produce plenty of doubles with 15 or more homers per season … He’s a decent athlete with average speed and fringy arm strength, which doesn’t make him much of a factor on the bases or in the outfield.

The knee injury and down 2016 season stink, but without them the Yankees wouldn’t be able to get McKinney as part of this trade. They’re buying low on a good pure hitter who was a top 100 prospect just last season. Considering McKinney is not the center piece of the package that’s coming to the Yankees, he’s a pretty nice little lottery ticket. Shrewd pickup.

Crawford, 22, is currently hitting .255/.327/.386 (99 wRC+) with three homers, 22 steals, a 19.8% strikeout rate, and an 8.9% walk rate in 83 High-A games. He is not a top prospect in any way. In fact, neither nor Baseball America ranked Crawford among the Cubs’ top 30 prospects coming into the season. He’s a fringe prospect, though J.J. Cooper calls him a “perfect” fourth piece for the Yankees because of his tools, specifically above-average speed and center field defense.

I assume the Yankees will send Torres and Crawford to High-A while McKinney goes to Double-A. That’s where they were playing with the Cubs. The Torres-Mateo dynamic will be interesting in Tampa. Will Mateo finally get the promotion he reportedly complained about, or will Torres get the promotion because he’s had a better year? Perhaps they’ll both stay in High-A and split time at second and short. Intrigue!

Welcome home, Adam. (Getty)
Welcome home, Adam. (Getty)

As for Warren, well, we’re all familiar with him. He pitched well for the Yankees in a variety of roles from 2013-15 before being traded for Castro this offseason. Warren, 29 next month, has not had a good season with the Cubs, pitching to a 5.91 ERA (5.83 FIP) in 35 innings. His walk (12.5%) and homer (1.80 HR/9) rates are far higher than they ever were in New York. He’s even had to spend some time in Triple-A.

My guess is Warren will step right into Chapman’s roster spot and reclaim his old jack of all trades bullpen role, which might make him the seventh inning guy right off the bat. Basically, he’s in the Circle of Trust™ until he pitches himself out of it, which just might happen based on the way he’s pitching with the Cubs this year. We’ll see what happens. I’m pretty stoked to have Warren back. He’s always been a personal fave.

There was talk the Cubs would not do the trade without signing Chapman to an extension first, and who knows if that happened. As far as the Yankees are concerned, who cares? They didn’t have to do any of the legwork (negotiate the extension, etc.) and apparently the Cubs were compelled to give them some extra players anyway. Hey, I’m not complaining. Whatever it took to get done. For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman says the Yankees did talk to Chapman about an extension at one point, and when he wasn’t interested, it swayed ownership to trade him.

The Yankees haven’t made a move like this — a big leaguer for prospects trade designed to improve the long-term future of the franchise — in a very long time. Since trading Rickey Henderson and Mike Pagliarulo in 1989, basically. The trade hurts in the short-term, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve all seen the impact Chapman can have. The Yankees will miss that in their bullpen even with Miller and Betances still around.

This trade helps improve the 2017 and beyond Yankees though, and considering the team’s current place in the standings, it was time to prioritize the future. Based on everything we know right now, this trade looks like a major coup for New York. They capitalized on Chapman’s stock being down over the winter and flipped him for a 25-ish prospect plus other stuff. Pretty cool.