Saturday Links: Gurriel, Beltran, A-Rod, Forbes, Watson

Lourdes Jr. (Getty)
Lourdes Jr. (Getty)

The Yankees and Angels continue their weekend series later today, but not until 9:35pm ET. Blah. I hate Saturday night games, especially when they’re on the West Coast. Oh well. What can you do? Here are some links to help you pass the time.

MLB declares Gurriel a free agent

MLB has declared Lourdes Gurriel Jr. a free agent, reports Eric Longenhagen. He is the younger brother of Yulieski Gurriel, who signed a five-year contract worth $47.5M with the Astros a few weeks ago. Lourdes is a free agent but he’s not going to sign right away. Once he turns 23 in October, he will no longer be eligible for the international spending restrictions. He’s going to wait until then to sign to max out his earning potential.

Longenhagen and Ben Badler (subs. req’d) say reports on Lourdes are mixed. He’s a good athlete capable of playing an up-the-middle position, and while he has speed and power, his swing can get long. Gurriel has a lot of upside, but is also a bit of a project for a kid who will soon turn 23. He’s probably not someone who will zoom through the minors and be in the big leagues within a year. That’s fine. Talent is talent, and Lourdes has a lot of it.

Red Sox tried hard to land Beltran

According to Nick Cafardo, the Red Sox “tried very hard” to acquire Carlos Beltran at the trade deadline, though the Rangers swooped in with a better offer. I assume Boston would have played Beltran in left field, where they’ve had a revolving door pretty much all season. Or maybe Beltran plays right and Mookie Betts moves to left. I dunno. Who cares. Whatever.

The real question is whether the Yankees (and Red Sox, for that matter) would have actually gone through with the trade if the Red Sox had indeed made the best offer. Potentially losing a trade to your biggest rival is enough to make anyone squeamish. My guess is Brian Cashman and David Dombrowski would have been willing to go through with a trade, but the two ownership groups would not have signed off. This is much different than a Stephen Drew-for-Kelly Johnson swap.

Hal not ruling out a spot for A-Rod in Monument Park

During a radio interview last week, Hal Steinbrenner did not rule out the possibility of Alex Rodriguez one day winding up in Monument Park. He didn’t exactly endorse it, but he didn’t shoot it down entirely either. Here’s what Hal said, via Brendan Kuty:

“It’s a bridge to cross when we come to it, but he has done a lot for this organization, on and off the field,” Steinbrenner said. “And I’m talking about players way back, even (Mariners second baseman Robinson) Cano, who he was a mentor to. He’s done a lot for this organization on the field though the years, but also off the field that people don’t know about. He’s been a great mentor.”

A-Rod is, unquestionably, one of the greatest players in Yankees history, especially recent history. He’s among the all-time franchise leaders in a ton of categories, including homers (6th), OPS (7th), WAR (8th), OPS+ (10th), runs (10th), and total bases (10th). Alex also won two MVPs in pinstripes and was a major factor in the team’s most recent World Series title. If that’s not Monument Park plaque worthy, I don’t know what is.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

Yankees among most valuable sports franchises

A few weeks back Forbes posted their annual look at the most valuable sports franchises in the world. The Yankees placed fourth, with an estimated value of $3.4 billion. That’s up 6% from last year. The Yankees are behind only the Dallas Cowboys ($4 billion), Real Madrid ($3.65 billion), and Barcelona ($3.55 billion). The Dodgers are the second most valuable MLB franchise at $2.5 billion, so the gap between the Yankees and everyone else is significant.

Attendance dropped from 41,995 fans per game in 2014 to 39,430 last year, and again to 38,967 so far this year. That’s roughly 3,000 fewer fans per game since two seasons ago. The attendance decline was at least somewhat expected after Derek Jeter retired, though obviously the team’s less than inspiring play for much of this season has played a role too. That said, the Yankees are still raking in money through other avenues (YES, Legends Hospitality, etc.), and there’s no real end in sight. The team prints money.

Watson battling kidney failure

Going to close with some sad news: Bob Watson, former GM of the Yankees, is currently battling kidney failure, he told Chuck Modiano. He is on nocturnal dialysis and doctors told him he only has a few years to live. “I really wanted to be (at the 1996 World Series reunion last weekend), but my health won’t allow it. I am battling Stage 4 kidney failure. Not too many people know about it,” said Watson, who beat prostate cancer in the mid-1990s.

Watson, 70, had an incredibly productive playing career — he hit .295/.364/.447 from 1966-84, mostly with the Astros, but also with the Braves, Yankees, and Red Sox — and he became the first African American GM in baseball history to win a World Series in 1996. Watson served as Yankees GM from October 1995 to February 1998, when he stepped down and took a position in the commissioner’s office. He bridged the Gene Michael and Brian Cashman eras. I’m sad to hear he isn’t doing well. Keep fighting, Bob.

DotF: Frazier homers, Severino strikes out ten in AAA win

Another day’s worth of notes:

  • Hudson Belinsky has a full write-up of RHP Chance Adams’ start last night. It’s not behind the Baseball America paywall, as far as I can tell. “The sum of Adams’ parts certainly points to a future as a major league starter. He’s shown the ability to command four pitches and maintain velocity, and he was able to throw all of his pitches from the same arm slot,” wrote Belinsky. “Fifth-round picks usually are not this good this quickly.”
  • RHP Diego Moreno has been released, reports Shane Hennigan. We’ll always have that game in Texas last year, Diego. The Yankees originally acquired Moreno from the Pirates in the A.J. Burnett salary dump trade. We can close the book on that deal now.
  • Hal Steinbrenner told Ken Davidoff he plans to reach out to Alex Rodriguez to gauge his interest in traveling to Tampa to work with SS Gleyber Torres and SS Jorge Mateo in a near future. “I can’t think of anybody better to bring in for a week or two weeks,” said Hal.
  • Mateo, meanwhile, ranked ninth in this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. He’s finally starting to come out of his extended slump. Also, OF Isiah Gilliam landed in today’s Prospect Report. Gilliam is fourth in the rookie Appalachian League with nine homers.
  • Brendan Kuty spoke to OF Aaron Judge about his ongoing swing changes. Most notably, he’s added a leg kick and lowered his hands this year. Judge told Kuty that happened after watching video of Matt Holliday and Anthony Rizzo.

Triple-A Scranton (7-4 win over Pawtucket)

  • LF Mason Williams: 2-4, 2 R, 1 3B, 2 RBI
  • DH Clint Frazier: 1-5, 1 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K — second homer since the trade … he’s gone 9-for-29 (.310) in his last seven games
  • 3B Rob Refsnyder: 1-3, 1 R, 1 BB
  • CF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 2B, 1 RBI
  • RF Jake Cave: 3-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 1 K — getting more at-bats since the Aaron Judge promotion and he’s making the most of them
  • RHP Luis Severino: 5.2 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 10 K, 1 WP, 5/1 GB/FB — 74 of 106 pitches were strikes (70%) … I don’t care about the results at all … I just want to know whether he threw his changeup
  • RHP Jonathon Holder: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 1/0 GB/FB — nine pitches, eight strikes

[Read more…]

Yankeemetrics: Birth of the Baby Bombers [Aug. 12-14]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Saying Bye-Rod
The Yankees made sure that Mr. Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez’s farewell game in pinstripes would be a memorable and winning one, as they sent the controversial slugger off into the sunset with an exhilarating comeback victory on Friday night against the Rays.

A-Rod’s final game with the Yankees (and perhaps his career) marks the final act of one of the most confounding and polarizing, yet also brilliantly talented, players in the history of this sport. Earlier this week we detailed a few of his many baseball superlatives; now here are two more numbers that put his complicated and fascinating tenure with the Yankee franchise into perspective.

(AP)
(AP)

Rodriguez enters the pinstripe record books with a batting line of .283/.378/.523 across 12 seasons in the Bronx. Among the hundreds of players that have compiled at least 200 plate appearances with the Yankees, only four others have reached each of those thresholds in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage: Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth.

Although A-Rod has frequently been chastised for his purported lack of clutch hitting in the playoffs, there is this stat to consider: A-Rod had four career game-tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning or later in the postseason, the most among all players in major-league history.

With the adrenaline pumping, A-Rod kicked off his last game in style, sending a 96 mph fastball from Chris Archer into right-center field for a first-inning RBI double. It was his first hit on pitch of more than 95 mph since June 7, a single off Angels reliever Cam Bedrosian.

Dellin Betances struck out the side in the ninth inning, recording his 100th, 101st and 102nd strikeouts of the season. This is the third year in a row he’s racked up at least 100 strikeouts, becoming the third reliever in American League history with back-to-back-to-back 100-K campaigns. The others are Dick Radatz (1962-65) and Duane Ward (1989-92), who both put together four-season streaks of at least 100 Ks.

(Getty)
(Getty)

New Kids in the Bronx
These are certainly not your father’s Yankees anymore. On Day One of the post-Alex Rodriguez Era, it was clear that the franchise’s much-hyped youth movement is in full swing.

The team called up highly-touted prospects Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge before Saturday’s afternoon contest and Joe Girardi immediately wrote their names on the lineup card, Judge in right field and Austin at first base. They were the first Yankee teammates to make their big-league debuts as starters in the same game since John Ellis and Jim Lyttle on May 17, 1969 against the Angels.

The two Baby Bombers wasted little time in earning their True Yankee pinstripes. Batting seventh and eighth, the duo electrified the Yankee Stadium crowd early with back-to-back solo homers in the second inning, fueling an offensive explosion that resulted in a fun-to-watch and rousing 8-4 win.

With those two blasts, Austin and Judge completed a stunning and unprecedented feat, becoming the first teammates in baseball history to each homer in their MLB debut in the same game. Before they went deep, only three other Yankees had ever homered in their first career at-bats in the bigs: Andy Phillips in 2004, Marcus Thames in 2002 (on the first pitch from Randy Johnson!) and John Miller in 1966.

Austin added a stolen base to his historic debut, becoming the first AL player to homer and steal in his first major-league game since Bert Campaneris (Kansas City A’s) in 1964; he is the only Yankee to accomplish the feat since at least 1913.

Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks and Didi Gregorius soon joined the home run party on this hot and humid day, sending the ball over the fence in the fourth, fifth and seventh innings, respectively.

That gave the Yankees five players age 26 or younger with a longball, the first time in franchise history they’ve had that many under-27 guys go deep in the same game. Only three other teams have ever done this in the regular season over the past century: the 2016 Cubs, 2013 Astros and 1996 Brewers (the Cubs also did in Game 3 of the NLDS last year).

Even more impressively, each of the five youngsters also added another hit, making the Yankees the only MLB team in last 100 years to have five different players under the age of 27 with at least two hits and a homer in the same game.

Judge, jury and … homers!
The Yankees emotional ceremony-filled weekend ended with a thud on Sunday afternoon. They were creamed by the Rays, 12-3, snapping their four-game win streak and pushing them further back in the wild card race.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Luis Severino got hammered for seven runs in 3 2/3 innings, falling to 0-8 with a 8.58 ERA as a starter this season. That is the longest losing streak as a starter to begin a season by a Yankee since Fred Talbot lost his first eight starting decisions in 1968.

Even more depressing, the Yankees have still yet to win a game with Severino on the mound as the starting pitcher. Over last 100 years, this is the only time that the Yankees have lost the first nine games of a season started by a pitcher.

His fastball command was inconsistent and his changeup again was non-existent, though his slider was nasty at times, as he racked up seven strikeouts.

That bizarro performance produced a crazy pitching line that no major-league pitcher had recorded in nearly a decade. The last guy to allow at least seven earned runs and strike out at least seven batters in an outing of fewer than four innings pitched was Kenny Rogers in 2008 for the Tigers.

The lone highlights of the game were provided by the bats of the newly-christened Baby Bombers as Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez both homered in the loss. Judge became just the second player in franchise history to go deep in each of his first two major-league games, joining the immortal Joe Lefebvre (1980).

Sanchez’s two-run shot left his bat at 102 mph; he now has an average exit velocity of 91.6 mph this season, the highest among all Yankees with at least 10 batted balls in play.

Life After A-Rod

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Way back when Mariano Rivera left the Yankees, I was writing for another site and had previously written about life after Mo. However discomforting it may have been to be without the world’s greatest security blanket (aside from my actual security blanket from childhood, of course), I felt a sense of optimism going forward. The Yankees had survived a year without him with Rafael Soriano closing and had David Robertson waiting to take over for Mr. Untuck. As it turns out, things have been A-OK in the closer department for the Yankees since Rivera left. Ironically, that stability has come in the form of many different pitchers, which serves to highlight Mariano’s consistency. Now, we’re left with a similar vacancy with Alex Rodriguez‘s release/retirement hybrid. Though I’ve hardly begun to process what it means to me as a fan that A-Rod will no longer be on my favorite team, it’s time already to look forward to 2017 and beyond without him. Nothing made that clearer than Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge arriving with authority yesterday, each collecting two hits and a home run in their Bronx and big league debuts.

Regardless of our attachments to A-Rod, at the end of the day, he was a roster spot and a position to the Yankees–the designated hitter. For the rest of the year, it looks like that spot will be filled by some combination of Brian McCann and Gary Sanchez, presumably with Mark Teixeira taking a few games in when he needs a blow at first base, provided, of course, by Tyler Austin. The use of McCann and Sanchez in some sort of catcher/DH rotation makes sense: both have good bats and it’s worthwhile to pace Sanchez’s arrival, rather than just throwing him into things right away. How this bodes for next year, especially given Austin Romine‘s general competence as a backup this year, is another interesting angle.

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

Mike touched on the idea of three catchers in a mailbag about two weeks ago, and with Rodriguez leaving, the idea of three catchers in 2017 makes a lot more sense now. And given that Austin Romine has seen time at first base this year, it gives the Yankees some flexibility that a three catcher roster would normally prohibit. How could the Yankees manage their three catchers, as wall as the (expected to be) returning Greg Bird at first base? Let’s take a look.

On the average week in MLB, a team will likely have one of Monday or Thursday off. For argument’s sake, let’s say it’s a week when the Yankees have a Monday off and have night games, with the exceptions of Saturday and Sunday. They could go with a simple every-other-day rotation, alternating McCann and Sanchez at C/DH from Tuesday-Saturday with Romine going on Sunday, allowing Joe Girardi to play to the matchups for the DH spot. Tough lefty? Go with Sanchez. Tough righty? Go with McCann.  Alternatively, they could catch in chunks: McCann on Tuesday and Wednesday, Sanchez Thursday and Friday, Romine on Saturday, and one of McCann or Sanchez on Sunday. If Bird needs a day off or a half day off, Romine could slip over to first with Bird sitting or DHing, putting one of McCann or Sanchez on the bench.

Brian McCann

Assuming Brian McCann is on the team next year, he is going to be the centerpiece of the offense with Rodriguez, Tex, and Carlos Beltran gone. Gary Sanchez is going to be a big part of bolstering and supporting the lineup and getting each player rest will be crucial to continued offensive success. Additionally, while the defensive outlook for Sanchez is better than it initially was, it’s doubtful he’ll be as skilled as McCann in the immediate future–despite his proficiency at throwing out runners–and breaking him in gradually may help that development.

Alex Rodriguez was a complex person and player whom I’ll miss dearly. It was a joy to watch him play for my favorite team over the last twelve years. However, despite that feeling, the Yankees are well-positioned to creatively replace him and his production at DH.

Yankees call up Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin

Judge. (Presswire)
Judge. (Presswire)

The Yankees have called up Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin, and they’re both in the lineup this afternoon, making their Major League debuts. Judge is playing his usual right field and Austin is at first base. One is replacing Alex Rodriguez on the roster. No word on the other roster move yet. The Yankees also have to clear a 40-man roster spot, but that won’t be a problem. Conor Mullee is a 60-day DL candidate.

Word got out late last night that Austin would be called up to replace A-Rod. The Judge call-up is a bit of a surprise, though it’s not totally unexpected. The Yankees have strongly hinted he would get called up at some point. It just seemed like they would wait until rosters expand in September, at least to me. What a pleasant surprise. They’re going all-in on their prospects down the stretch.

Austin, 24, is one of the feel good stories of the season. He was the team’s 13th round pick in 2010 and he quickly emerged as a quality prospect, but injuries set him back and really took a bite out of his prospect stock the last few years. Austin has reemerged this season and is hitting .294/.392/.524 (162 wRC+) with 17 homers in 107 games between Double-A and Triple-A. He’s a cancer survivor and has been throughout quite a bit of adversity to get to MLB.

Judge took a more straight forward path to the big leagues. The 24-year-old mountain of a man was the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 draft, and aside from the second half with Triple-A Scranton last year, he destroyed the minors the last few seasons. He’s hitting .269/.363/.481 (145 wRC+) with 19 homers in 92 games around a relatively minor knee injury with the RailRiders this season. Judge mashed a monster homer just last night.

It’s a safe bet that Judge will play right field pretty much every day going forward. In fact, Brian Cashman told Bryan Hoch, “You’re going to definitely see Aaron Judge playing every day in right field.” They didn’t call him up to sit on the bench. Austin doesn’t have as clear a path to playing time. I think he’s going to end up bouncing around between first base, the corner outfield, and DH the rest of the way. Nothing wrong with that.

Judge and Austin join the recently called up Gary Sanchez on the roster, so the Yankees in the middle of a full blown youth movement. That’s awfully fun. The Yankees are also still trying to win, and hey, why not? They’re only 3.5 games out of a wildcard spot. Not like there’s anything better to do the rest of the season, right? If the Yankees do get to the postseason, the kids will have to lead them.

Thoughts following Alex Rodriguez’s final game

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Last night Alex Rodriguez played the 1,509th and final game of his Yankees’ career. It’s hard to believe it’s over. I still remember exactly where I was when I found out the Yankees acquired him. What a ride this was, huh? A-Rod drove in a run and even played a little third base last night. I have some thoughts on all of this.

1. I think A-Rod is completely done. Forget the logistics of it all — who needs a DH who can’t H? — listening to Alex before and after the game yesterday, he truly sounded like someone at peace with his career being over. I do think he really wanted to become the fourth player to hit 700 home runs, but I also think he realizes being the fourth player to hit 696 home runs is pretty cool too. A-Rod talked about going home and spending time with his family, and basically staying away from baseball for a little while. I know his track record doesn’t exactly scream honesty, but I believed him. He sounded sincere yesterday.

2. Man did Joe Girardi hear it from the crowd yesterday. He was booed loudly during pregame introductions and again when he came out of the dugout to tell the umpires they were giving up the DH and putting Alex at third base in the ninth inning. Girardi said last weekend he would find a way to get A-Rod into as many games as he wanted this week, but it didn’t happen, and Alex admitted he was “disappointed” he didn’t get to start Tuesday and Wednesday. I was disappointed too because I wanted to see him play, and apparently I’m not alone. Girardi really wore it yesterday. Fans booed him like he was David Ortiz or something.

3. Now, that said, I’m becoming increasingly convinced the decision to sit Alex those two games earlier this week was made above Girardi. Girardi was asked about sitting A-Rod the last few weeks after yesterday’s game and he seemed genuinely upset about it. He got really emotional during his press conference. Here’s one little clip:

Later in the press conference Girardi said it was difficult for the organization to sit A-Rod, then corrected himself to say it was difficult for him to sit A-Rod, which is another indication that maybe there were some directives from above. Why? I dunno. Chances are I’m reading way too much into this anyway. I just don’t think Girardi is some evil person who set out to intentionally embarrass Alex the last few weeks.

4. This entire situation was very weird because it all happened so fast, and because it happened in the middle of the season. It was only last Sunday that the Yankees and A-Rod announced he would be playing his final game Friday, giving us less than a full week to prepare. Also, yesterday was August 12th. The Yankees have 47 games remaining. Almost one-third of a season. This was almost like a farewell tour crash course. With Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, we had the entire season to prepare for their retirements. With Alex, it happened very quickly, and it happened at a weird point in the season. The Yankees are going to show up for work today and suddenly A-Rod won’t be there. What a weird situation.

(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
(Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

5. I’m pretty happy Alex got to play third base one last time, even if it was only one batter and the ball wasn’t put in play. A-Rod got a huge ovation when he ran out of the dugout and simply making warm up throws before the inning had to be special for him. (Alex said after the game he was happy he got to make one last throw to Mark Teixeira at first base, even if it was a warm-up toss.) At this point of his career, being a full-time DH became necessary. I’m still going to remember A-Rod as a third baseman — he actually played more games at shortstop (1,272) than third base (1,194) in his career, which surprised me — and you could tell he wanted to get out there one more time. Remember when the Yankees were in San Diego a few weeks back and Alex almost got into a game at third because the Yankees had run out of players? He looked like a kid on Christmas morning when he went to get his glove in the clubhouse. I’m glad he got to go out to third base one last time, even if he all he did was stand on the field for a few pitches.

6. Now that A-Rod and Ivan Nova gone, the longest tenured player in the organization is Brett Gardner, who was drafted in 2005 and made his MLB debut in 2008. There are only two players on the roster right now who wore Yankee pinstripes and played a home game in the old Yankee Stadium: Gardner (28 games) and Tyler Clippard (three games). That’s it. And Clippard’s not even a long-tenured Yankee. He just rejoined the team after spending the 2008-15 seasons elsewhere. This really is the end of an era. Forget about the Core Four and A-Rod being gone and all that. We’re rapidly approaching the point where no players who played in the old Yankee Stadium will remain. I feel old now.

Game 115: Goodbye, Al

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

I still remember exactly where I was when I found out the Yankees acquired Alex Rodriguez. There aren’t many baseball moments I remember vividly, but that’s one of them. I was still in college and I was out at dinner with the girl I was dating at the time. We were at Applebee’s (classy!) and one of the televisions at the bar was on ESPN. The trade scrolled across the ticker. That’s how I found out A-Rod was a Yankee. (I’m pretty sure I’ve told that story before.)

Now, more than 12 eventful years and 1,500 games later, the A-Rod era is coming to an end. Alex will play his final game as a Yankee tonight — likely the final game of his career as well — after winning one World Series, two MVPs, and more regular season games than I care to count in pinstripes. This past calendar year is the first time Alex was something less than immensely productive as a Yankee.

This is a bittersweet day. A-Rod is one of my all-time favorite players and I’m sad to see him go. At the same time, he’s at the end of the line, and the Yankees are better off without him going forward. This goodbye had a chance to get really ugly. I wouldn’t call the last few days pleasant, but things have gone about as well as we could have hoped. Rodriguez is getting something of a grand send-off today.

The Yankees do indeed have a pre-game ceremony planned. They asked fans to be in their seats at 6:50pm ET, and tonight’s game is not scheduled to start until 7:35pm ET. I would be surprised if the Yankees announced they are retiring No. 13 — they haven’t even announced they’re retiring No. 2 yet — or giving Alex a plaque in Monument Park, but who knows. I’m sure it’ll be fun either way.

After the ceremony, the Yankees will play the first of three games against the Rays. A-Rod played his first ever game as a Yankee against the (Devil) Rays, you know. That was back in 2004, during that two-game trip to Japan. He went 1-for-4 with a double. That was a long, long time ago. Here is tonight’s Rays’ lineup and tonight’s Yankees’ lineup:

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

The weather in New York positively sucks today. It is disgustingly hot and humid, and there’s some rain in the forecast pretty much all night. Hopefully it holds off for A-Rod’s final game the way it did for Derek Jeter‘s final game two years ago. The game will air on YES locally and FOX nationally. Enjoy.