Warren and Wilson trades mean Yankees are now short on options for important innings

Will Mitchell be the new Warren? (David Banks/Getty)
Will Mitchell be the new Warren? (David Banks/Getty)

Somewhat surprisingly, the Yankees traded away both Adam Warren and Justin Wilson on back-to-back days last week. I say somewhat surprisingly because although Warren and Wilson never felt untouchable, at least not to me, it didn’t seem like they would be moved given their effectiveness and years of cheap control. Both were valuable members of the staff in 2015.

The Yankees did trade both though, and regardless of how you feel about the trades, you don’t have to try too hard to understand them. Warren was traded for 25-year-old middle infielder who has already gone to three All-Star Games and is signed affordably for another four years. Wilson was dealt for two Triple-A starting pitcher prospects to rebuild depth.

I understand the trades, though that doesn’t change the fact the Yankees traded away two pretty good pitchers who were expected to throw important innings next season. There was always a chance Warren could have ended up in the rotation, but, at the very least, he and Wilson were two of the team’s four best relievers. They’d be two of the three best on many teams.

“You lost two really important pieces,” said Joe Girardi to Ryan Hatch. “Wilson did a tremendous job in the seventh inning and Adam went between starter and bullpen, and was the guy that we could turn to in the bullpen and either be a seventh, eighth, or ninth if we didn’t have that guy … Obviously I’m going to miss Adam. There’s a relationship there. But to get something good we had to give up something good.”

Soon after the trades, Nick Ashbourne pointed out Warren and Wilson combined to be Francisco Liriano this past season, and that kind of production is not easy to replace. Are the Yankees good at building bullpens? Oh yes, absolutely. They’ve been very good at it in recent years. I’m pretty confident they can adequately replace Warren and Wilson. I’m just really curious to see how they do it.

Internal options are plentiful and lately Plan A has been trying to find help from within. To me, the trades represent big opportunities for Bryan Mitchell and Jacob Lindgren. Mitchell will have a chance to step right into that swingman role Warren filled so capably. Lindgren is the obvious candidate to replace Wilson as the lefty setup guy who can throw full innings. The Warren and Wilson trades can be viewed as votes of confidence for Mitchell and Lindgren.

At the same time, it is only December 15th, so the Yankees still have several weeks to look outside the organization for help, and I’m sure they will. At this time last year I don’t think any Yankees fans even knew Chasen Shreve existed. I know I didn’t. The Yankees picked him up in early-January and he had five really good months in pinstripes. I would honestly be stunned if they don’t bring in some sort of big league pitching help between now and Spring Training.

Will that soon-to-be-acquired pitching depth plus internal options like Mitchell, Lindgren, and all the other relievers on the 40-man roster adequately replace Warren and Wilson? Maybe! Who knows though. Heck, 2016 Warren and Wilson might not replace 2015 Warren and Wilson. Relievers are notoriously unpredictable. The Yankees believe they can replace those two though. The trades wouldn’t have been made otherwise.

Losing Warren and Wilson is pretty scary, especially since none of the shuttle relievers impressed this summer and no one in the rotation seems capable of going 6+ innings consistently. I’d be lying if I said I was comfortable with the bullpen as is, even with Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller holding down the late innings. Lots of games are lost in the middle innings. We’re not going to know whether the Yankees adequately replaced Warren and Wilson until the season starts, but, right now, it’s clear there’s work that needs to be done to replace two high-leverage arms.

“Are those guys in place yet? No,” said Girardi when asked about replacing Warren and Wilson, “but I think they will be by the time we start the season.”

Yankees swap Adam Warren and Brendan Ryan for Starlin Castro

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the second time this offseason and the fifth time in the last 13 months, the Yankees have brought in a change-of-scenery player to add youth to the roster. New York acquired Starlin Castro from the Cubs on Tuesday night, sending Adam Warren and a player to be named later to Chicago. Both teams have announced the trade, so it’s official. Officially official.

Castro, 25, joins Didi Gregorius, Nathan Eovaldi, Dustin Ackley, and Aaron Hicks as young players the Yankees have acquired in trades since last November. All five are talented — they’ve all appeared on at least one Baseball America top 100 prospects list, for what it’s worth — and all five fell out of favor with their former teams. The Yankees swooped in and picked them up as part of their on-the-fly rebuild.

This past season Castro hit .265/.296/.375 (80 wRC+) with eleven home runs in 578 plate appearances. He started the season as Chicago’s shortstop and stayed there for 109 games before being moved to second base. Castro hit .353/.373/.588 (161 wRC+) with six home runs in 42 games after changing positions. Obviously the Yankees are hoping to get that guy going forward.

“He looked like a different player after the position change,” said Brian Cashman to reporters Tuesday evening, after the trade was announced. “I like that he’s athletic. I like his age. (I like that he) can play multiple positions and adds balance to lineup. He’s a contact-oriented player. He’s a free swinger, but a contact (freak) … (Castro) checks a lot of boxes — youth, flexibility.”

The various defensive stats consistently rated Castro as a below-average defender at short. He only played 258 innings at second base, so looking at numbers would be useless at this point. I reckon his second base defense can’t be any worse than what the Yankees were looking at from the Ackley/Rob Refsnyder platoon. Castro is signed through 2019 for $41.4M with a 2020 club option worth $16M. That’s pretty affordable by today’s standards.

Castro’s a former tippy top prospect with big upside, so the appeal is obvious. There’s also major downside too: he’s been one of the worst players in baseball two of the last three years by WAR. His good years have been good but not great (117 wRC+ and 2.8 fWAR in 2014) and his down years have been abysmal (74 wRC+ and 0.1 fWAR in 2013). Special assistant Jim Hendry was the Cubs GM when they signed, developed, and summoned Castro to MLB, so he surely had input into this move.

In Warren, the Yankees are giving up a valuable and a versatile arm capable of doing pretty much anything. Start, long relief, middle relief, setup … Warren’s done it all for the Yankees the last few seasons. The 28-year-old had a 3.29 ERA (3.59 FIP) in 131.1 innings spread across 17 starts and 26 relief appearances in 2015. He was arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and is projected to earn $1.5M in 2015. Warren is three years from free agency.

Although the Yankees were planning to bring Warren to Spring Training as a starting pitcher, he was likely no higher than sixth on their rotation depth chart behind Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and Eovaldi in whatever order. Still, Warren’s shown he can succeed in pretty much any role, so he was going to have a important place on the roster in 2016. He’ll be missed.

At this time of the year, a player to be named is usually a non-40-man roster player who is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. That’s not the case here though. Joel Sherman says Brendan Ryan will be the player to be named. They’re holding off because the Cubs don’t want to fill another 40-man spot before Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. Once the draft passes, Ryan will go to Chicago. The Yankees will have two open 40-man spots when it’s all said and done.

Ryan, 33, hit a weak .229/.275/.333 (64 wRC+) in 47 games and 103 plate appearances around a variety of injuries in 2015. He makes his money in the field with his glove, not at the plate. Castro will be the starting second baseman but also figures to double as Gregorius’ backup at short. That would make Ackley and/or Refsnyder the backup plan at second base. We’ll see how that shakes out.

An Ackley/Refsnyder platoon was somewhat intriguing, but I also think it was one of those things that sounds okay in December and leaves you pulling your hair out in May. There’s a lot of risk here. Warren’s going to be tougher to replace than I think many realize, and Castro has been more down than up in recent years. There’s also some crazy high upside. Castro’s a high-level talent and is about to enter what should be his prime years.

2015 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Tuesday

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Fernandez. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

As far as the Yankees are concerned, yesterday was the slowest Winter Meetings day I can remember. Very few rumors came out of Nashville and those that did mostly involved stuff we’ve already heard, like Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller being available. It was a boring day, to say the least.

“Clearly, I’m not comfortable with recommending anything that’s come my way, despite a lot of dialogue, and my opponents are not comfortable with the things I’m suggesting at this time,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch. With a reportedly tight payroll, the Yankees continue to focus on trades, not free agents.

Here are Monday’s rumors if you missed any of the little bit that happened. Once again, we’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here in this open thread, so make sure you check back often. All time stamps are ET.

  • 10:30am: The Yankees are among the teams “digging” on Jose Fernandez, meaning they’re asking around about his health, makeup, and work ethic. The Marlins understandably want five or six young players for their ace. Why ask for anything less? For what it’s worth, president of baseball operations Michael Hill said flatly “He’s not available.” [Jayson Stark, Jon Heyman, Clark Spencer]
  • 10:30am: The Yankees have interest in Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Miami has liked Bryan Mitchell as a starter and Adam Warren as a reliever in the past, which seems backwards, but whatever. It’s the Marlins. [George King]
  • 10:38am: The Yankees have reached out to free agent catcher Tyler Flowers, who was non-tendered by the White Sox last week. He’s deciding between the Yankees, Rays, and Braves. I wrote about Flowers in last week’s mailbag. He seems like a Yankees type because he rated as an elite pitch-framer in 2015. Flowers is from Georgia and the Braves offer way more playing time potential, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands in Atlanta. [Bryan Hoch]
  • 12:03pm: Five teams, including the Reds, Orioles, and Angels, have their eye on Jake Cave for Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. Cave seems like a goner. Whether he sticks on the 25-man roster all year is another matter. [Brendan Kuty]
  • 1:00pm: The Yankees are willing to include Luis Severino in a package for Jose Fernandez. The belief is the Yankees do not have enough to land Fernandez though, even if they include Greg Bird in the deal. [Joe Frisaro]
  • 1:32pm: The Yankees say Luis Severino is not going anywhere. He wasn’t in their offer for Jose Fernandez and there are no ongoing talks. Sounds like the Marlins are trying to get the Yankees to blink and include Severino in the package, more than anything. [Joel Sherman]
  • 5:50pm: The Yankees and Cubs have talked about a trade that would bring Starlin Castro to New York. No word on any other pieces that would be involved. Castro’s young and I guess that means he offers upside, but he’s also been among the worst players in baseball two of the last three years. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 6:08pm: Brett Gardner is not part of the current Starlin Castro talks with the Cubs. The Cubbies don’t want Jacoby Ellsbury either. Chicago is said to be working on all sorts of stuff — they’re after Ben Zobrist, discussing Javier Baez with the Braves and Rays, etc. — so this is part of some master plan for them. [Joel Sherman]
  • 6:14pm: Talks with the Cubs about Starlin Castro are in the early stages. The Yankees tend to keep things very close to the vest, annoyingly so at times (it’s boring!), so chances are this is coming from the Cubs’ side. [Jon Heyman]
  • 6:37pm: The Cubs have “been curious” about Adam Warren, whatever that means. Warren’s not a sexy name but he’s become incredibly valuable to the Yankees. I’m not sure Castro is enough of an upgrade at second base to move him. [Joel Sherman]
  • 7:51pm: The Yankees and Cubs are moving closer to a Starlin Castro trade. The Cubs just agreed to sign Ben Zobrist so it’s only a matter of time until Castro goes. [Buster Olney]

(Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.)

Cashman says Warren is “going to come in as a starter” next season

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

As expected, Brian Cashman confirmed Adam Warren will come to camp next season as a starting pitcher, reports Erik Boland. “(He is) going to come in as a starter. That would be the plan,” said the GM. There is no reason not to bring Warren or Bryan Mitchell or whoever to Spring Training stretched out as a starter next year. No-brainer.

Warren, 28, has come to Spring Training as a starter for a few years now, so this is nothing new. The difference now is Warren actually received an opportunity to start this past season — he was in the Opening Day rotation thanks to Chris Capuano‘s quad injury — and showed he can do it.

In 17 starts this summer, Warren had a 3.66 ERA (3.92 FIP) in 96 innings. That includes his rough April, when he struggled to complete five innings and walked almost as many batters as he struck out. Warren really settled in after that first month and went on a nice run for a few weeks before moving back into the bullpen.

“I want to be a starter,” said Warren to Jack Curry recently. “I really wasn’t sure going into last season whether I wanted to be a starter or a reliever, and obviously I got the opportunity to start and I really fell in love with it. Fell in love with getting to see hitters three or four times and thinking through at-bats and what pitches you want to throw.”

At the moment, I’d say the 2016 rotation will include Masahiro Tanaka, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia in whatever order. That’s assuming everyone is healthy and there’s no big offseason trade, stuff like that. Warren and Ivan Nova are the depth starters.

When it comes to the sixth starter, Warren might be at a disadvantage because he’s shown he can excel in a short relief role. Nova hasn’t pitched in relief a whole lot in his career and has never worked as a true one-inning guy. That might put him ahead of Warren on the rotation depth chart. We’ll see.

“I feel like (starting) suits my game better. I really enjoy doing that,” added Warren. “Getting the opportunity to at least compete as a starter is really something I’m really working hard for this offseason and really focusing on to come in to Spring Training to really impress.”

The Value and Versatility of Adam Warren [2015 Season Review]

AdamWarrenIt’s easy to forget Adam Warren received his first extended big league opportunity because of Phil Hughes. Hughes suffered a minor back injury late in Spring Training two years ago, forcing David Phelps into the rotation. That freed up the long man spot and opened the door for Warren to be on the 2013 Opening Day roster.

Since making that Opening Day roster two years ago, Warren has worn all sorts of hats for the Yankees. He’s been a spot starter, a long man, a middle reliever, a setup man … Warren did a little of everything for the Yankees the last two seasons. And, once again, Warren did a little of everything for the Yankees in 2015. He was one of the most valuable pitchers on the staff.

An Opportunity in Spring

Warren came to Spring Training stretched out as a starter, but, even with Phelps traded to the Marlins, there was no obvious rotation spot available. CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, and Nathan Eovaldi were locked into the top four spots, and depth signing Chris Capuano had a leg up on the fifth spot after pitching admirably down the stretch last season.

Then, on March 11th, Capuano took a misstep covering first base and suffered a Grade II quad strain. He was going to start the season on the DL, opening a rotation spot for Warren. Well, the Yankees tried to pass it off as a competition between Warren and Esmil Rogers, but c’mon. Warren allowed five runs in 16.2 innings across five Grapefruit League starts. He looked like Adam Warren. Uneventful spring, really.

Reliever or Starter?

Warren opened the season as the fifth starter and the first few times out, he looked very much like a reliever masquerading as a starter. He struggled after turning the lineup over and he wasn’t efficient at all. Warren threw 31 innings in his first six starts — that’s fewer than five innings plus one out per start — with 13 walks and 16 strikeouts. Only once in those six starts did he have more strikeouts than walks. (Really.)

It’s hard to believe there was a time we were waiting for Capuano to return to Warren could shift back to the bullpen, but it happened. Unfortunately Masahiro Tanaka landed on the DL with a forearm injury, so Capuano took his spot, not Warren’s. That actually worked out well. Warren settled in as a starter in May, allowing three runs in seven innings against the Rays on May 13th. It was his seventh start of the season and the first time he completed six innings of work, nevermind seven.

From that point on, Warren was arguably the most reliable pitcher in the rotation. Tanaka was hurt, Sabathia was struggling, Eovaldi still hadn’t figured out the splitter, Pineda was have a tough time after the 16-strikeout game, and Capuano was Capuano. Warren had a 2.96 ERA (4.10 FIP) in eight starts and 51.2 innings from May 13th through June 25th. His best start came on May 26th against the Royals. He held them to one run on two hits in 6.1 innings.

Through June 25th, Warren owned a 3.59 ERA (4.17 FIP) in 14 starts and 82.2 innings. April was rough, but eventually he settled into a groove and pitched very well for about six weeks there. Considering he was the team’s sixth starter coming into the season, things were working out pretty damn well.

Back to the Bullpen

Tanaka returned from his forearm injury on June 3rd and Ivan Nova returned from Tommy John surgery on June 24th, so suddenly the Yankees had six starters for five spots. (Capuano had been demoted to the bullpen.) The Yankees decided to stick with Nova and send Warren back to the bullpen, where he was so effective from 2013-14. At the time of the demotion, Warren had the lowest ERA among the club’s starters.

“I took it about as well as you can take it,” said Warren to reporters after the demotion. “I was a little frustrated at first because I want to be a starter. They sat down and talked to me about it and I understood where they were coming from, I told them I’m not going to be unhappy out of the bullpen. I enjoyed being out of the bullpen the last couple of years. I’m not upset by any means. For me it’s just getting back to a bullpen routine. You knew the six-man rotation was not going to last, just playing the numbers game I felt this was going to happen sometime.”

Girardi took advantage of Warren being stretched out by asking him to throw 2+ innings in five of his first eleven bullpen appearances. Of course, Warren was also pitching in low-leverage situations more often than not for some reason. At one point from late-June into early-July, he entered six consecutive games in these situations:

sixth inning down four
seventh inning up 14
sixth inning up ten
sixth inning down two
sixth inning down four
seventh inning down two

Not a whole lot of important innings there. The Yankees had a great end-game trio in Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Justin Wilson, but those couldn’t pitch every day, and for some reason Warren wasn’t being used to pick up the slack. I dunno, it was weird.

By time July and August rolled around, Warren had settled back into a true one-inning relief role. He threw 32.2 innings across 25 appearances after being sent back to the bullpen, pitching to a 2.51 ERA (2.76 FIP). Both his strikeout (26.6%) and walk (6.2%) rates were significant better than they had been as a starter earlier in the season (16.0 K% and 7.7 B%). Warren was excellent. That was no surprise though. He was excellent out of the bullpen from 2013-14.

Whatever You Need, Skip

The Yankees ran into some rotation trouble at the end of the season. Eovaldi had to be shut down with elbow inflammation and Tanaka pulled a hamstring, so they had no choice but the use Warren as a starter. He made three starts with a limited pitch count in mid-September, allowing six runs in 13.1 innings.

The bullpen was full of extra arms thanks to expanded rosters, but the Yankees still needed someone to go out and soak up some innings as a starter. Warren again did that. On October 1st, the Yankees needed something else from Warren. The bullpen was taxed and they needed someone to bridge the gap between Sabathia and Betances, the day’s designated closer.

With the Yankees looking to clinch their first postseason berth in two seasons, Warren came out of the bullpen against the Red Sox and held them to one hit and one walk in three scoreless innings. He took the ball from Sabathia and gave it directly to Betances.

The final month of the 2015 season was the Adam Warren Experience in a nutshell. He dominated as a short reliever in early-September, filled in for a few starts in the middle of September, then gave the Yankees a big long relief outing in early-October. Warren is a bullpen jack of all trades. He’s the closest thing the Yankees have had to Ramiro Mendoza since Ramiro Mendoza.

That three-inning outing against the Red Sox was Warren’s final appearance of the 2015 season. He was on the wildcard game roster and was presumably the next man out of the bullpen had the game gone to extra innings. Warren closed out the season with a 3.29 ERA (3.59 FIP) in a career high 131.1 innings across 17 starts and 26 relief appearances. Both bWAR (2.7) and fWAR (2.2) say he was one of the four most valuable Yankees pitchers in 2015.

“Every good club that I’ve been on has seemed to have a guy like Adam Warren that is able to do so many different things for you as a pitcher,” said Girardi at the end of the season. “His value has been as big as any pitcher that we have in that room … He’s invaluable.”

Looking Ahead to 2016

After three seasons of doing whatever the Yankees needed, Warren will finally earn something more than the league minimum in 2016. He’s arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason and is projected for a $1.5M salary next year. Barring a surprise trade, Warren will again come to Spring Training as a starter next season. What will be his role during the regular season? A little of everything seems like a safe bet once again.

Yankees well-stocked with trade chips heading into the offseason

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Over the last 12 months the Yankees have changed the way they do business. We’re used to seeing them throw money at their problems. They’ve been doing that for decades. Trades were the focus last offseason though, and whenever a need arose during the season, the Yankees called someone up from the minors. It was … different.

The Yankees have limited flexibility this winter. The roster is pretty full thanks to guaranteed contracts and whatnot, and with so little money coming off the books, there’s probably not much payroll space to work with either. Not unless Hal Steinbrenner approves a payroll increase, which he’s been hesitant to do over the years.

Trades again figure to be the focus this offseason. That allows the Yankees to both navigate their roster and payroll limitations while attempting to improve the team at the same time. They don’t all have to be blockbuster trades, of course. Shane Greene for Didi Gregorius was a low-key move that paid big dividends for the Yankees in 2015.

So, with trades again likely to dominate the winter months, let’s sort through the team’s trade chips and figure out who may be on a move.

The (Almost) Untouchables

As far as I’m concerned, the Yankees do not have any untouchable players. They have some players I wouldn’t trade unless the return is significant, but that doesn’t make them truly untouchable. Wouldn’t you trade, say, Luis Severino for Jose Fernandez? I know I would. The group of almost untouchables includes Severino, Gregorius, Dellin Betances, Aaron Judge, and Andrew Miller. That’s all of ’em in my book.

The Untradeables

The Yankees have several players who they couldn’t trade even if they wanted to due to performance or contract or something else, or in some cases all of the above. Jacoby Ellsbury, Alex Rodriguez, and CC Sabathia headline this group. None of them are worth the money they’re owed and they all have full no-trade protection as well, so the Yankees would have to get their permission to move them.

There’s a second tier of big contract players who are not necessarily untradeable, but who would be difficult to move for various reasons. Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley, and Masahiro Tanaka fit here. Teixeira and Beltran are entering the final year of their contracts, so they’d be short-term pickups, but they both have no-trade protection and have indicated a desire to stay in New York.

McCann, even while in decline, is still one of the better catchers in baseball. Maybe not top five anymore, but certainly top seven or eight. He’s got another three years and $51M left on his contract, and paying a catcher $17M per season is not something most teams can afford. Headley’s contract isn’t bad — three years and $39M is nothing — but he was below-average on both sides of the ball this season.

Tanaka is an interesting case. It seems like he’s neither as good nor as bad as many people think. Is he an ace? On his best days, yeah. But a 3.51 ERA (3.98 FIP) in 154 innings this year suggests he is more above-average than elite. Tanaka is also owed $22M in both 2016 and 2017 before his opt-out comes into play. He just had elbow surgery and teams are well aware his UCL is a grenade with the pin pulled. How in the world do you value him?

The Yankees could try to move any and all of these players. It’ll be tough though, either because their performance is down, their contracts are exorbitant, or they have no-trade protection. They’re untouchable, but in a different and bad way.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

The Top Chip

Among the established players on the roster, Brett Gardner has by far the most trade value. It also helps that he doesn’t have a no-trade clause. (Gardner gets a $1M bonus if traded.) Gardner is owed only $39.5M over the next three years and he remains above-average on both sides of the ball. Even with his second half slump, he still put up a .259/.343/.399 (105 wRC+) batting line with 16 homers and 20 steals in 2015.

The Yankees can market Gardner as a two-way leadoff hitting center fielder to teams looking for outfield help but unable to afford top free agents like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, and Yoenis Cespedes. He’s affordable, he’s productive, and he’s a high-character guy who’s shown he can play and win in New York. Teams absolutely value that stuff. Getting a player of Gardner’s caliber on a three-year contract would be a major coup.

The real question is why would the Yankees trade Gardner? He’s arguably their best all-around player. They could move him to free up an outfield spot for, say, Heyward, but I think that’s unlikely. I also don’t think anyone in the minors is ready to step in and play left field regularly. Gardner is the only veteran on the team with actual trade value though. That’s why we’ll hear his name a lot this offseason.

The Top-ish Prospects

Beyond Judge, the Yankees have a few other high-end prospects they could trade for big league help, most notably Gary Sanchez, Jorge Mateo, and Rob Refsnyder. Greg Bird is technically no longer a prospect — he lost his rookie eligibility late in the season — but we can lump him in here too because he’s not exactly an established big leaguer yet. The elimination of the Pete Incaviglia Rule means the Yankees could trade James Kaprielian and any other 2015 draftees this winter, if they choose.

Sanchez and Mateo are the team’s best young trade chips among players who could actually be made available. (I don’t think the Yankees would trade Bird but I would in the right deal.) Sanchez is stuck behind McCann and John Ryan Murphy, and his defense probably isn’t up to the team’s standards. Mateo is an excellent prospect, but Gregorius is entrenched at the MLB level, and the Yankees are loaded with lower level shortstop prospects. They already offered Mateo in a trade once, remember. (For Craig Kimbrel at the deadline.)

The Yankees refused the trade Refsnyder this summer — the Athletics wanted him for Ben Zobrist — but they also refused to call him up for much of the year. It wasn’t until very late in the season that he got an opportunity. Refsnyder’s defense is improving but it is still an issue, and the truth is it may never be good enough for the Yankees. That doesn’t mean they’ll give him away though.

Second tier prospects like Eric Jagielo, Tyler Wade, Rookie Davis, and Jordan Montgomery could all be trade bait, though that’s true every offseason. The second tier prospects usually don’t bring back a whole lot unless there’s a salary dump involved. Either way, we can’t rule them out as trade chips.

The Outfielders & Relievers

The Yankees are very deep in Triple-A left-handed hitting outfielders and relievers. Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, and Jake Cave make up the crop of lefty hitting outfielders. Relievers? Gosh. There’s Chasen Shreve, Branden Pinder, Caleb Cotham, Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody, James Pazos, healthy Jacob Lindgren, and I guess even Bryan Mitchell. He’s part of this group too, although he can start.

These are obvious positions of depth and the Yankees can and should use them in trades this offseason, if possible. The problem is they don’t have a ton of trade value. The Yankees already traded a lefty hitting outfielder (Ramon Flores) and a Triple-A reliever (Jose Ramirez) this year. The return was busted Dustin Ackley. So yeah. Heathcott and Williams have been both hurt and ineffective in recent years while Gamel lacks a track record of top end production. They have trade value, no doubt, but don’t expect them to headline any blockbusters.

The Spare Arms

The Yankees have a lot of pitchers but not a whole lot of pitching, if you catch my drift. The rotation ranked 19th with a 4.25 ERA and 15th with a 4.04 FIP this past season. Right smack in the middle of the pack. The Yankees have seven potential starters in place next year: Sabathia, Tanaka, Severino, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, and Adam Warren. That group is a mixed bad of upside and mediocrity, I’d say.

Of the final four pitchers on that list, I’d say Nova has the least trade value because he was both hurt and terrible last year. Also, next season is his final year of team control before free agency. Eovaldi and Pineda are the embodiment of that “upside and mediocrity” group. They’re so obviously talented. But the results? Eh. Not great this year. Both are under team control for another two seasons, which is a plus.

Warren has proven himself as a very valuable member of the pitching staff. He’s basically a high-end version of Ramiro Mendoza. He can start or relieve and is very good in both roles, and he’s durable with a resilient arm. No injury problems at all since being drafted. Warren is under control another three years and the Yankees rejected the trade that would have sent him to the A’s with Refsnyder for Zobrist.

Personally, I don’t think the Yankees are in position to deal away pitching depth given some of the injury concerns in the rotation, but I thought that last year and they traded Greene anyway. As it turned out, they were planning to trade for another pitcher (Eovaldi) and bring in a low cost veteran for depth (Chris Capuano). They also had Warren waiting. The same could happen this year.

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

The Best of the Rest

There’s three players on the roster we haven’t covered. The best of the bunch is Murphy, a young and cheap catcher with defensive chops, a promising bat, and five years of team control remaining. I can’t imagine how many calls Brian Cashman has fielded about Murphy over the last 18 months or so. He’s really valuable and not just in a trade. To the Yankees too.

Justin Wilson is what every team looks for in a reliever: he throws hard and he misses bats. Being left-handed is a bonus. He struggles with control sometimes, and that’s why he’s only a reliever and not a starter or something more. Wilson has three years of control remaining, so his trade value is less than last offseason, when all it took to get him was an injury plagued backup catcher two years away from free agency. (What Francisco Cervelli did after the trade doesn’t change anything.)

Ackley is the third player and he doesn’t have much value. Flores and Ramirez. There’s his trade value, even after a strong finish to the season. Those 57 plate appearances with the Yankees didn’t erase his 2,200 plate appearances of awful with the Mariners. Given his versatility, Ackley is more valuable to the Yankees as a player than as a trade chip. I think the same is true of Wilson as well.

* * *

Last offseason taught me that pretty much no one is safe from trades other than the guys with no-trade clauses. I did not at all expect the Yankees to trade Greene or Martin Prado or even Manny Banuelos. Those were surprises. I would be surprised if the Yankees traded guys like Severino and Gregorius and Gardner this winter, but hey, anything can happen. Surprises are fun. The Yankees are well-armed with trade chips this winter. All shapes and sizes.

Joe Girardi’s End-of-Season Press Conference: Ellsbury, Gardner, Rotation, Refsnyder, More

Earlier this morning at Yankee Stadium, Joe Girardi held his annual end-of-season State of the Yankees press conference. There was no major news announced — no coaches were fired, no players are having offseason surgery, nothing like that — which is a good thing, I suppose. Girardi instead reflected back on this season and looked ahead to next season.

The press conference was shown live on YES and you can watch the entire thing in the two videos above. Here are the highlights with some of my thoughts as well.

The Second Half Slump

  • On players getting worn down this year: “When I look at our club, we struggled down the stretch, to me more offensively than anything that we did. You can look at things a couple different ways. You could say ‘were they tired?’ I don’t know. Everyone during the season is going to get physically worn down … We do have a lot of players that are considered to be the prime age, we have some older players in Alex and Carlos.”
  • On possibly playing the veterans too much: “With the info in front of me and being prepared and having discussions with my coaches, we’re not so sure that it would have worked any better (had we done it differently). I did the best I could, is the bottom line.”
  • On having a different plan next year: “You always try to put a reason on certain things. Try to understand it, how you can learn from that, do you try to do something different next year? In these situations, it’s something I’ll think long and hard about this winter … For whatever reason some guys struggled in the second half, the last month, whatever it is.”
  • On Brian McCann‘s second half slump: “I’ll evaluate what I did with Brian McCann this year and see could you do it a little different next year to keep him physically strong.”

More than anything, Girardi seemed to indicate he believes his plan to rest players this season was correct given the information, but it didn’t work as hoped. He really seemed to emphasize reviewing what happened this year and coming up with a way to avoid the second half slump again, either through more rest or something else.

Girardi didn’t simply brush off the second half offensive slump as just “one of those things.” He acknowledged it as a real problem and made it clear he believes it can be corrected. He also said he needs to make sure the players buy into whatever plan they come up with going forward. How do they fix it next year? I have no idea. I came away with the impression that Girardi and Yankees will spent a lot of time this winter trying to come up with a way to keep their veterans productive all season in 2016.

Bullpen Struggles

  • On Dellin Betances in September: “I think he became a little human, that’s all. It’s not like he had a 4.00 ERA in those months. He still pitched pretty well … He had a human month. We’ve seen other great relievers have a human month.”
  • On overworking his key relievers: “As far as using them more than I would have liked, no. I paid attention to Dellin’s (workload) numbers in Triple-A, last year, and this year … Miller had a couple weeks off during the season. Wilson’s workload was not as much as Dellin’s.”
  • On Chasen Shreve‘s rough finish: “I think Shreve has a chance to be better because of the struggles he went through and (he) learned a lot about himself. For the first couple of months he was really good and a huge part of his bullpen. We have to figure out what happened, mechanically. There were probably some things that were a little bit off … I think it has a chance to really help him.”
  • On Adam Warren‘s value: “When Adam went back into our rotation it changed our bullpen dramatically. He made our bullpen deeper … He was as valuable as any pitcher we have because of the opportunities he gave us to win games.”
  • On the young relievers: “I think there’s a number of relievers who came up and got good experience … When you move (Warren) into the rotation, now you’re asking kids to do that. At times we were asking a lot of them. I think the experience they got was extremely valuable. It will help them in the future and give us more options. Did they struggle? Yes they did.”

I thought Betances in particular had a really heavy workload between the sheer volume of innings (84, most among all relievers) and high-leverage work (1.64 Leverage Index when entering games, tenth highest among relievers). He has a long history of struggling to throw strikes, and his late season control issues could easily have been him fighting his mechanics, but I can’t imagine the workload helped. Dellin is crazy valuable and it’s tempting to use him four or five outs at a time, but boy, relievers just don’t work like that anymore.

As for the rest of the bullpen, yes, figuring out what the hell happened with Shreve will be a major item this winter. Shreve was awesome for much of the season, he really stepped up when Andrew Miller got hurt, but his finish was abysmal. They need to get first half Shreve back. I also agree that the young relievers got good experience this season, but I don’t think they can continue shuttling them back and forth again next year. It’s time to give one or two an extended opportunity. You’re not going to learn anything about them when they’re throwing two or three innings between being called up and sent back down every other week.

Ellsbury & Gardner

  • On Jacoby Ellsbury‘s knee injury: “Ellsbury felt good. He physically felt pretty good the second half. He did run into the wall (during the final homestand) and I think it affected his shoulder a bit … Speed guys are going to get beat up as much as anyone.”
  • On Brett Gardner being banged up and slumping in the second half: “I’ll look at how I used him. Some of the months he was so good it was unbelievable (and it was hard to take him out of the lineup) … We tried to get him rest. We try to give these guys rest.”
  • On Gardner’s lack of stolen bases after the first few weeks: “Part of it is he wasn’t on nearly as much, and teams pay attention to him obviously a lot. That’s probably something that needs to be addressed because we need that out of him … He never complained about his legs, but when a guy doesn’t steal as much, maybe he doesn’t feel physically 100%.”
  • On sitting Ellsbury in the wildcard game: “You know what, there’s a lot of hard decisions I have to make during the course of the season. At times I sat Gardner for Chris Young and at times I sat Ellsbury …  I went all through kind of scenarios … It came down to a body of work over the season against left-handers. I did what I thought was the best at the time. Did it work out? No.”
  • On having to possibly mend the fence with Ellsbury: “As far as fence mending, I guess that’s to be determined … Only time will tell. I thought we had a great conversation that day. I thought he had a great attitude that day.”

I was actually kinda surprised Girardi acknowledged Gardner’s lack of stolen bases — he did go 20-for-25 in steal attempts this year, for what it’s worth — as a problem. I figured he’d just brush it off. I’m not a huge stolen base guy, especially early in the game (I’d rather not risk losing the base-runner with the middle of the order due up), but if they can Gardner to be more aggressive next year, great!

The “mending the fence” question with Ellsbury was interesting. That’s an Ellsbury problem as far as I’m concerned, not a Girardi problem. Sitting Ellsbury was the right move in my opinion. Is he really going to hold a grudge after the season he had? If Ellsbury is upset with anyone, he should be upset with himself for putting Girardi in a position where he had to pick between him and Gardner in a winner-take-all game.

Injuries

  • On CC Sabathia‘s rotation status: “I thought when you look at his last seven or eight starts, once you look at his starts with his knee brace, things got better. He pitched much better. I think right now, you view him as a starter, you see how he physically bounces back again.”
  • On Masahiro Tanaka‘s elbow and giving him extra rest between starts: “I think that’s another discussion we have to have. We had some physical concerns going into the season and I think we were trying to be proactive in that situation, but I think he answered the bell pretty well … I think he answered (questions about his elbow). I think he showed that was not an issue during the course of the season.”
  • On any offseason surgeries: “As of right now, I don’t think so … As we look at guys, Jake’s knee healed up fine, we didn’t have any issues … there’s nothing scheduled right now.”

Girardi did not address Sabathia’s stint in rehab at all. The answer about whether he is considered part of the rotation next year was purely performance and health (knee) based, and he gave the answer I expected. There’s no reason to think they’ll remove Sabathia from the rotation at this point as long as he’s physically able to take the mound.

The Young Players

  • On who we could see next year: “We feel Aaron Judge is going to make a big impact. We feel Gary Sanchez is going to make a big impact. We feel good about the improvements he made (in 2015) … You’ve got a Brady Lail … To me, when there’s talent, there’s an opportunity they’re going to have an impact for you. When you have players who are extremely talented, they get there before you anticipate, and that’s what happened this year.”
  • On Rob Refsnyder not getting a bigger opportunity: “The one thing as a club you always want to have is depth … If we would have kept Refsnyder — there were still some question marks that had to be answered about him, about playing the position, there were shifts taking place, we wanted to make sure (he was) complete aware of — we probably would have had to release someone and we weren’t ready to do that.”
  • On giving young kids playing time: “You don’t want a young player playing once or twice a week when there’s still development that has to happen. You don’t want to slow that down … John Ryan Murphy did very well. I thought he thrived in that situation.”
  • On trying Refsnyder and Murphy at other positions: “I don’t really see a Refsnyder going back to the outfield. I think we will continue to try to develop him as a second baseman. We believe his bat is going to play … Could you toy around with a Murphy playing a different position? I think you could. I think he’s athletic enough. I’m not opposed to that. I’m not opposed to doing anything if it has value and I think it’ll help us.”

The Yankees had Murphy work out at first base late in the season and he takes ground balls at third base regularly before games — he also played a little bit of third in the minors — and that might be worth exploring in the future. I like (love!) him behind the plate, but a little versatility wouldn’t hurt.

As for Refsnyder, one thing is becoming clear: the Yankees weren’t happy with his defense when he was called up in July, but they felt he improved after going to Triple-A and was more ready in late-September. The outfield is a waste of time to me. Put Refsnyder in the outfield and he’s just another guy. He has to remain at second to have the most value. Do the Yankees feel Refsnyder’s defense is ready for full-time play? That remains to be seen.

Also, it was interesting Girardi mentioned Lail by name. Lail, Judge, and Sanchez were the only prospects to get mentioned by name. Lail had some success in Triple-A this year and figures to be a call-up option next season. That Girardi is mentioning him by name — he mentioned Refsnyder and Severino by name at last year’s end-of-season press conference, for what it’s worth — indicated Lail is in the plans next year.

Improving Next Year

  • On the rotation: “I think you’re going to see improvement from our starting pitchers. Michael Pineda is not a rookie but it’s almost like he had to start over in a sense because this was the first time in a long time he was expected to take the ball every fifth day. Ivan Nova was coming off a major surgery where command was the last thing to come back … From a health standpoint, I feel a lot better about them.”
  • On the Yankees needing an ace: “Looking at Tanaka, I think he’s a top of line rotation pitcher. Is he a one or a two, I don’t know. I think Sevy has a chance to be a top of the rotation guy … We have five starters that give you a chance to win. That’s the most important thing.”
  • On young players taking a step forward: “I think a lot of those questions we had going into Spring Training have been answered. I think we saw improvement out of players over the course of the season, (like) Didi … We’ll have Severino for a full year, Michael has proved he can stay healthy … We have more pitchers we expect back and no more questions … I think there’s more depth in the organization.”
  • On Refsnyder at second base: “He played well. It’s a small sample. I thought he improved during Triple-A during the course of the season. You at him, you look at what’s available (at second base) and you make a decision … That’s something that will have to address this spring.”
  • On possible trades: “I think anything’s always possible. I do. But I’ve always said about trades, trades only work if both teams can agree. I’m sure that will be looked at.”

Not surprisingly, Girardi mostly deferred questions about offseason moves to the front office. That’s not really his place, though after eight years as manager, I assume he has input. It does seem like the Yankees will bank on their young players taking a step forward next year — not just their young players, but others like Nova bouncing back as he gets further away from surgery — and that’s not surprising. The Yankees stuck with their young players this year and it worked, for the most part. Why would they change it up?

Miscellany

  • On standing pat at the trade deadline: “I think when you look at the contributions (the kids) made, I think we made the right move. I know a David Price did extremely well in his 10-12 starts over there … But when I look at Severino’s body of work, I think we’re all pretty pleased. When I look at Bird’s body of work, I think we’re pretty pleased and glad we kept him.”
  • On A-Rod returning to the infield: “I imagine that he’s probably mostly going to be a DH going forward. That’s something that we’ll probably address over the winter … It’s probable he’s mostly a DH.”
  • On continuing to use a sixth starter next year: “Inserting a sixth starter every once in a while is not a bad, but it becomes something of an up and down shuttle … I think that’s something we really have to address too.”
  • On the coaching staff: “We haven’t even talked about that yet. I haven’t even been in the office until today … I haven’t even thought about that.
  • On his wish list for 2016: “It’s pretty plain and simple: win the World Series. Whatever it takes, that’s what my wish list is.”

Between his comments about Tanaka earlier and saying the spot sixth starter is “something we really have to address,” it seems like Girardi wants to get away from being so protective of the starters and turn them loose, at least more than they did this year. If nothing else, they definitely need more innings from the rotation next year. They can’t go through another season asking the bullpen for 10-12 outs a night.