Adam Warren will start Wednesday night’s game, Joe Girardi announced. The Yankees will need to use a spot starter at some point in these next four days because of the doubleheader, so they’ll get it out of the way tomorrow. Andy Pettitte will pitch Thursday, pushing Hiroki Kuroda back to Friday’s series opener against the Rays.
No, it’s not the literal midway point of the season, but we’re going to use the four-day All-Star break to review the Yankees’ performance to date. We’re handing out letter grades, A through F. We’ve already tackled the A’s and the B’s, now it’s time for the C’s.
I guess that, by definition, a grade C is average, right? It is right in the middle of the A through F scale, but I’m not sure that really applies to baseball though. For every A there are a hundred F’s and for every B there are a couple dozen D’s. Grade C is closer to the top than the bottom, I think, slightly better than average.
Anyway, the Yankees sit in fourth place and three games out of a playoff spot at the All-Star break because they’ve gotten a lot of mediocre performances and very few really good ones. Some guys have wound up C’s because they’re disappointments, but others are here because they’re doing pretty much exactly what’s expected. Heck, some are even here because they’ve been surprisingly good. I’m trying to keep this objective and not look at performance vs. expectations, however. Easier said than done, obviously.
Enough rambling, onto the grade C’s.
It happens almost every year. A known but not necessarily highly-touted young arm comes up from the farm system and impresses in relief for the Yankees. Claiborne has followed in the footsteps of David Phelps (2012) and Hector Noesi (2011) by posting a 2.43 ERA and 3.03 FIP in 29.2 innings. He was excellent early on but has faltered a bit of late, which is not atypical of young relievers. Claiborne stepped in when Joba Chamberlain hit the DL and didn’t just temporarily fill the hole, he upgraded the bullpen.
This has been a tale of two seasons for Nova, who owns a very good 3.63 ERA and an excellent 3.00 FIP in 52 overall innings. He was awful before going down with a triceps issue (6.48 ERA and 3.11 FIP in 16.2 innings), good in two brief relief appearances after getting healthy (one run in six innings), and outstanding since coming back up from the minors (2.45 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 29.1 innings). Which Nova will the Yankees get going forward? Who knows. He’s gone from excellent to awful and back again so many times in the last two years. Right now he has a rotation spot thanks to the Phelps’ injury and will get an opportunity to show this latest version is the real Ivan Nova.
Emotions are a tricky thing. They make you say things that aren’t true just because they once were and you want to believe they still are. “Andy Pettitte is still a reliable mid-rotation starter” is one of those things. Pettitte, who has a 4.39 ERA and 3.75 FIP in 16 starts, has had a season very appropriate for baseball’s oldest starting pitcher. The 41-year-old battled nagging back and lat problems early in the year and has been pretty hittable of late, pitching to a 4.96 ERA and 3.28 FIP in eight starts since coming off the DL. Older finesse pitchers are exactly the kind of guys who underperform their peripherals. Andy has been a dandy number four or five starter, but he hasn’t been particularly reliable or durable this year.
Supposedly team ownership — or at least someone above the baseball operations level — brought Ichiro back on a two-year deal this past winter, a definite head-scratcher of a move. A recent hot streak has raised his season line to .283/.320/.393 (92 wRC+), which is almost identical to the .283/.307/.390 (91 wRC+) line he put up last season. He’s no longer a true burner (on pace for 22 steals) or an elite defender (especially considering how he wastes his arm strength by taking forever to get rid of the ball), but he’s an above-average contributor both on the bases and in the field. A below-average offensive player and above-average defender in right field is a serviceable player, but not exactly a world-burner. Ichiro didn’t completely fall off a cliff this year, and that’s about the best thing you can say about his 2013.
Warren was in a weird place coming into this season, mostly because he appeared to be ticketed for a third trip to Triple-A Scranton since there was no big league opening for him. That’s how careers stall. Phil Hughes started the year on the DL with a back problem though, opening the long-man role for Warren. When Nova went down, that spot stayed open. Warren took advantage of that opportunity and has pitched to a 3.09 ERA and 3.84 FIP while averaging more than 2.2 innings per appearance. He’s had some real bullpen savers this year, including 5.1 innings on April 3rd (one run), four scoreless innings on both May 13th and May 22th, and six scoreless innings in the 18-inning marathon against the Athletics on June 13th. Long reliever is a mostly thankless job, but Warren has excelled in that role and put himself in position to be considered for a starting job next season, or maybe even in the second half of this year.
Going with a rapid fire mailbag today, so nine total questions. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to send us anything throughout the week.
John asks: Hypothetically speaking, if the Yankees were to trade Robinson Cano today, what type of package do you think they could expect in return? Considering the new rule that the acquiring team will not get comp picks if they lose him, would the package really be that significant? In Spring Training I think they could’ve gotten, lets say, Oscar Taveras and Shelby Miller from St. Louis. Now I don’t think they would get Taveras by himself. Am I off base?
Half-a-season of Carlos Beltran fetched Zack Wheeler, and Beltran had a clause in his contract that prevented the team from offering arbitration after the season. The Giants knew at the time they would be unable to recoup a draft pick. Beltran was also a corner outfielder with a long injury injury while Cano plays a more premium position and 159+ games a year, every year. There’s no way they should settle for anything less than a prospect of Taveras’ caliber. That said, Matt Carpenter is amazing and the Cardinals no longer need a second baseman. I know they were just an example though. A half-season of Cano should net the Yankees an elite prospect at the very least. I’d want someone MLB ready who could step right into the lineup after the trade.
Humphrey asks: Given the apparent need of the Tigers to improve their bullpen, is this a place the Yankees can match up? Is there something the Yankees could get in return that would be valuable to them?
The Tigers desperately need bullpen help, particularly capable late-game relievers. The problem is that they’re a contender and are unlikely to trade away big league players to get that bullpen. They’ll offer prospects instead, and they don’t have many great ones to offer. Sorry, but you’re not getting Nick Castellanos (or even Avisail Garcia, for that matter) for David Robertson. I can’t see the Yankees weakening the pitching staff, pretty much the only thing keeping them afloat these days, for minor league players who won’t help right away. I don’t see a good fit for anything more than a minor trade.
Travis asks: Do you think Adam Warren will get a shot at starting in 2014 or will he just stay in the bullpen?
Assuming Phil Hughes is allowed to leave and neither Hiroki Kuroda nor Andy Pettitte return, the Yankees will have to come up with three starters next year. Even if they sign some free agents, they won’t all be studs. I expect Warren to come to camp as a starter with the opportunity to win a rotation spot. I do think he’s best suited for the bullpen and have for a few years now. He’s been very good as the long reliever but I think he could also wind up contributing as a more tradition one-inning, late-game reliever at some point. Give him the chance to start though, he’s earned it. If they come to camp with an open rotation spot or two, they owe it to themselves to see what Warren can do.
SMC asks: What would it take to get Danny Espinosa from the Nationals? He’s clearly fallen out of favor with their organization, but he’s a young switch-hitter with power who plays the middle infield well, steals bases, and draws walks.
I have to preface this by saying I’m a huge Espinosa fan. He was awful this year (23 wRC+) while foolishly trying to play through a chipped bone in his wrist, and he’s since been placed on the DL and then sent to the minors. Espinosa has flirted with 20-20 in each of the last two years and came into this season with a career 98 wRC+. He’s also very good defender who can legitimately play shortstop on an everyday basis. I’d love to get my hands on him at this point while his value is down, especially since Washington has Anthony Rendon at second and seems disinclined to move Ryan Zimmerman off third. I don’t know what the Nationals would want in return, but if they wanted a good but not great prospect like Nik Turley or Ramon Flores, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Espinosa fits the Yankees needs very well going forward even if he is a low-average, strikeout-prone hitter. Power, speed, and defense on the middle infield is hard to find.
Ian asks: If Mark Teixeira‘s wrist is still hurting, what is the point of even trying to bring him back? It clearly isn’t right and isn’t likely to get right given the rigors of the season. Why not accept reality and do the surgery so the team can try to salvage the last three years of this now awful contract?
I disagree that it “isn’t likely to get right given the rigors of the season.” If the doctors say he is healthy enough to play, let him play. He can help the team. Wrist surgery is no small thing, you never want to cut into an important joint like that if it can be avoided.
Donny asks: The Yankees have three potential free agents who could be offered a qualifying offer — Cano, Curtis Granderson, and Hughes. This would result in a total of four first round draft picks, correct? If that is the case, are there any limits on how many compensatory picks a team is allowed or, in theory, could the Yankees have their entire team turn down qualifying offers that then resulted in 26 first round picks? That seems a little ridiculous to me if that is the case, no?
We could add Kuroda to that list as well, he’s definitely a qualifying offer candidate. Hughes is very much on the fence right now. But yes, there is no limit to how many compensation picks a team can have. The idea of letting the entire roster walk and netting 25 additional first rounders is obviously unrealistic, but technically it is possible. I don’t think it’s ridiculous at all either. If you have a lot of good players, you should be able to reap the draft pick reward if they decide to sign elsewhere.
Colin asks: Saw a blurb that the White Sox may look to sell at the deadline. What are the chances they move Alex Rios or Gordon Beckham? Rios would be a great fit for the Yanks right now.
Beckham, even the disappointing version who is just an okay player and not the star he was expected to be, would definitely help the Yankees. I have a hard time trusting Rios though. He is so wildly up and down. Here, look:
You’ve got a star player one year, a replacement level guy the next, a league average player the next … who knows what’s coming in the future? The 32-year-old Rios has hit well since the startof last season and seems to have figured it out, but is it worth gambling ~$20M through 2014? The Yankees are already saddled with Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells through next year, I’d hate to add another dud outfielder to those two. Plus having Rios and Wells on the same team gives me nightmares about the mid-2000s Blue Jays.
Bill asks: Would never happen but say hypothetically the Dodgers were looking to trade Matt Kemp (once healthy) since they have Carl Crawford, Yasiel Puig and Andre Ethier. What would the Yanks have to offer if they even have enough?
Kemp, 28, was having a terrible year (78 wRC+) before hitting the DL with a hamstring problem. He had left (front) shoulder surgery during the offseason, and the team has acknowledged it is still giving him problems. That said, he put up a 146 wRC+ just last year and nearly went 40-40 in 2011. He’s not old, though he is well-paid (~$140M through 2019). I really don’t know what it would take to acquire Kemp; we don’t have any comparable trades to reference. The first Alex Rodriguez trade maybe? The contract and shoulder should drag the value down a bit, but it’ll still take a huge package. Multiple top prospects, I’m guessing.
Ari asks: Chris Stewart hasn’t hit a double all season. What is the record for plate appearances without one? Can we start the Chris Stewart doubles watch?
I hadn’t even realized Stewart was double-less until this question came in. Stewart has three homers and no other extra-base hits on the season. That’s hard to believe. Anyway, the record for most plate appearances without a double by a non-pitcher is 321 (!), which Rafael Belliard set with 1988 Pirates. Here’s that list, and here’s the list of most double-less games to start a season by a Yankee (doesn’t include last night’s game, but it doesn’t change much):
Add in last night’s game and Stewart is at 41 games, still sitting in ninth place on that list. At some point he will yank a ground ball passed the third baseman and into the left field corner for a double … right? Yeah, it’ll happen eventually. He has about a month to do it before he sits atop that forgettable list.
3:24pm: Both Warren and Almonte have indeed been called up. Teixeira has been placed on the DL and Bootcheck has been designated for assignment.
2:16pm: Via Sweeny Murti: The Yankees will indeed place Mark Teixeira on the 15-day DL with wrist inflammation today. They will use the injury to bring long-reliever Adam Warren back from Triple-A before the ten-day waiting period expires. Murti also hears outfielder Zoilo Almonte could be called up as well, though the team has yet to announce anything. Removing Chris Bootcheck from the roster would be the obvious corresponding move there.
The Yankees announced a series of roster moves this afternoon, so let’s recap:
- Kevin Youkilis has been placed on the 15-day with a lumbar strain. That’s the same back injury that send him to the DL earlier this year. He woke up with numbness in his right foot and will see a specialist. Not the most surprising news in the world, hopefully the injury explains his lack of production.
- Thomas Neal and Chris Bootcheck have both been called up from Triple-A Scranton. We heard both moves were coming earlier today. Neal will primarily DH against lefties while Bootcheck gives the bullpen a fresh long reliever.
- Adam Warren has been optioned to Triple-A Scranton. He threw 85 pitches across six innings in yesterday’s 18-inning marathon, so he was the obvious send down candidate to clear to a roster spot for a fresh arm.
- To clear spots on the 40-man roster for Neal and Bootcheck, the Yankees have transferred Eduardo Nunez to the 60-day DL and outrighted Cesar Cabral to Double-A Trenton. Because Cabral cleared waivers, the Rule 5 Draft rules no longer apply and he is officially Yankees property with no strings attached.
- Obviously, David Adams remains with the team with Youkilis hitting the DL.
Coming into this season, Adam Warren was at a weird place in his career. He repeated the Triple-A level in 2012 and pitched marginally better than he had in 2011, but not well enough to really force his way into the team’s plans. His disastrous one-start big league stint last summer didn’t help matters either. Warren was stuck in spare arm purgatory, a nice pitcher to have in the organization but hardly a cornerstone.
Instead of going back to Scranton for a third stint at Triple-A, the 25-year-old Warren made the team out of Spring Training with an assist from Phil Hughes‘ balky back. It was basically a repeat of last year, when David Phelps unexpectedly made the club out of camp thanks to Michael Pineda‘s shoulder. An injury to a projected starter forced the projected long man into the rotation, creating an opening in the bullpen. Phelps took advantage last year and Warren is looking to do the same now.
“I think Dave kind of started something last year when he came up and did well,” said Warren to Mark Feinsand on Monday. “For us guys down in the minor leagues, we’re kind of like, ‘Well, we might have a chance to help this team.’ So you kind of get that little bit of glimmer of hope. Now, this year, guys are getting some opportunities and we’re trying to take advantage of them. We have that confidence coming up that we know we can get outs, so I think that really helped us.”
In seven relief appearances this year, Warren has posted a 1.45 ERA and 3.07 FIP in 18.2 innings. Four of those seven outings lasted at least two innings, including his first (one run in 5.1 innings) and most recent (four scoreless innings) appearances. His strikeout rate isn’t anything special (7.23 K/9 and 20.3%) despite an above-average 10.4% overall whiff rate, but he has limited walks (2.89 BB/9 and 8.1 BB%) and gotten a ton of ground balls (52.8%). They aren’t the kind of peripherals that make you think he’s worthy of higher leverage work, but they’re plenty good enough to succeed in this role.
Warren hasn’t changed his approach much in relief, mostly because he’s turned lineups over a few times and needed to use all his pitches. His fastball has averaged 92.3 mph and topped out at 94.1 mph — a tick or two better than what he usually does as a starter — and he’s thrown his mid-80s slider and low-80s changeup nearly 20% of the time each. He’s thrown his upper-70s curveball once out of every ten pitches as well. Most guys scrap their third or fourth best pitch when they move into the bullpen, even long relief, but Warren has stuck with the kitchen sink approach.
“You just have to stay mentally focused,” said Warren to Chad Jennings earlier this month when asked about his role. “Things can change so quick. For me personally, I try to have a good attitude about whatever role I’m in. Opportunities arise. You do have to stay kind of mentally focused even though you may not be pitching in games that are close to start out with, just try to stay sharp for when you do get that opportunity.”
I wasn’t quite sure where Warren fit with the Yankees after last season, at least beyond being an extra arm in Triple-A for emergencies. It seemed like he was, at best, the team’s seventh starter and tradeable prospect. Kinda sorta useful. To his credit, Warren has taken advantage of his opportunity and become a valuable multi-inning reliever, someone capable of soaking up some bulk innings in blowouts without sending Joe Girardi to the bullpen phone every time a runner reaches base. He might only be the 22nd or 23rd man on the roster, but he’s pitched himself up the depth chart after being the 38th or 39th man on the 40-man roster just a few weeks ago.
When the season opened, the Yankees made a point of carrying relievers capable of throwing multiple innings in an outing. That meant Adam Warren and Shawn Kelley got the nod over one-inning guys like David Aardsma and Josh Spence. Phil Hughes started the year on the DL and carrying bullpeners who could provide length for the first few weeks made sense. No team wants to wear out their pitching staff in April.
Now that we’re three weeks into the season, the need for multiple multi-inning relievers — and multiple long relievers, especially — isn’t as great. Ivan Nova remains a drain on the bullpen every five days, but otherwise the trio of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte have shown the ability to pitch deep into the game each time out while Phil Hughes can do it on occasion. Sure, having a bunch of relievers who can throw multiple innings at a time is a nice luxury, but it’s no longer a necessity. Quality over quantity should be the focal point when it comes bullpen innings now.
Since his 5.1-inning appearance in relief of Kuroda in the second game of the season — 19 days ago now — right-hander Adam Warren has thrown a total of three innings and 42 pitches. Two of those innings came during a blowout win against the Indians, the other yesterday. He hasn’t warmed up on any other occasion during the last ten days, as our Bullpen Workload page shows. It’s a dead roster spot, especially since Joe Girardi seems to prefer David Phelps in long relief situations. The only way Warren gets into a game right now is a super mop-up situation, a blowout or extra innings.
Phelps hasn’t pitched well early on (6.23 ERA and 3.87 FIP), and it’s not just these last two appearances. The four shutout innings against Baltimore last week is the only one of his five outings in which he hasn’t allowed a run. He is a better pitcher than what he’s shown so far, but he needs to figure some things out. It happens. He should work on those things in low-leverage situations though, not the situations he’s seen recently. It should happen in the innings currently designated for Warren, basically. It’s the bullpen circle of life, especially for a young reliever: if you stink for two or three weeks you lose some responsibility.
Ideally, I think the Yankees should adjust their bullpen situation by sending Warren down to Triple-A and replacing him with a power reliever who can miss bats in the middle innings between the starter and the Joba Chamberlain/David Robertson setup crew. Cody Eppley doesn’t fit the bill — he’s been awful since the start of Spring Training anyway — but Mark Montgomery sure makes a lot of sense for that role. The right-hander has 15 strikeouts and one walk in eight Triple-A innings so far after whiffing 99 in 64.1 innings last summer.
Because Phelps threw 62 pitches on Sunday and will be out of commission for at least one more game (likely two), holding onto Warren for another few days makes sense. Once Phelps is ready to go though, I think he should be put into a more traditional long reliever role while Warren is swapped out in favor of someone who can miss bats. Montgomery is the obvious candidate but not the only option. Maybe Preston Claiborne or Sam Demel is better suited to help the team right now, who knows. Either way, the idea is to optimize the bullpen by replacing the seldom-used second long man with a more useful middle reliever who can miss some bats.