5/29 to 5/31 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images North America)
(Rick Yeatts/Getty Images North America)

Happy Memorial Day, folks!

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees hosted the Orioles for a three-game series to close out April, winning two. It was a high-scoring affair – the Yankees outscored the Orioles 30-22 – with two of the games going into extra innings, and it left the two tied atop the AL East. It was an excitingly frustrating (or frustratingly exciting) series. Some notes:

  • The Yankees were trailing 11-8 heading into the bottom of the ninth in game one. Jacoby Ellsbury brought them within 2 runs with an RBI groundout, and then Starlin Castro tied it with a two-run home run. And then Matt Holliday walked it off in the bottom of the tenth.
  • Didi Gregorius made his season debut in that first game, and he returned in style by going 2-for-5 with a double and an RBI. He went 7-for-15 in the series, putting the ball in play in 14 of his 15 plate appearances.
  • Aaron Judge had himself a series, going 5-for-9 with 7 runs, 3 HR, 5 RBI, a steal, and more walks (6) than strikeouts (4).

Injury Report

Closer Zach Britton has been sidelined with a left (pitching) forearm strain since early May, and is not expected back until late June. The Orioles had a top-five bullpen by most measures last year, due in no small part to Britton’s staggering 0.54 ERA in 67.0 IP (as well as his 47 saves in 47 chances). They’re a middle-of-the-pack group this season, and they’ve already blown eight saves, as compared to fourteen in 2016 as a whole.

Utility player Ryan Flaherty is also on the DL (right shoulder strain). There’s a slim chance that he could be back during this series, but a June return seems much more likely. And Adam Jones was out of the team’s lineup on Saturday and Sunday due to hip and ankle soreness; he isn’t expected to head to the DL, but he may be limited this week.

Their Story So Far

The Yankees are meeting the Orioles at a fairly opportune time, as they have lost seven in a row by a combined score of 38-17. The Orioles have had a rough May in general, posting a 10-15 record over the last four weeks. They currently sit third in the AL East at 25-23, and their -7 run differential suggests that they are a true talent .500 team (as has been the case for much of Buck Showalter’s tenure).

Underperformance may well be the defining characteristic of their first two months. Manny Machado (98 wRC+), Adam Jones (91 wRC+), Mark Trumbo (93 wRC+), and J.J. Hardy (52 wRC+) have disappointed with the bat, and Chris Tillman (95 ERA+), Kevin Gausman (67 ERA+), and Ubaldo Jimenez (58 wRC+) have struggled in the rotation. Most of these players were expected to perform much, much better, and there’s reason to expect them to rebound – but the Orioles must be getting antsy.

The Lineup We Might See

Showalter has mixed-and-matched his lineup more often than in years past, due to injuries, underperformance, and attempting to find a fit for new additions. He also utilizes a couple of platoons, notably in the corner outfield. Assuming that Adam Jones will be playing, however, it’s a fairly safe bet that we’ll see something like this:

  1. Seth Smith, RF
  2. Adam Jones, CF
  3. Manny Machado, 3B
  4. Chris Davis, 1B
  5. Mark Trumbo, DH
  6. Welington Castillo, C
  7. Trey Mancini, LF
  8. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  9. J.J. Hardy, SS

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (1:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Dylan Bundy

Bundy was a consensus top-five prospect heading into 2013, due to his overpowering stuff and advanced pitchability (especially for someone who would spend the entirety of the 2013 as a 20-year-old). A series of injuries limited him to 63.1 IP over the next three seasons, and many wondered if he’d ever be able to contribute at the highest level as a result. He had a solid (and mostly healthy) 2016 as a swing man, tossing 109.2 IP of 4.02 ERA (107 ERA+) ball as a rookie. And he’s been even better this year, with a 142 ERA+ in 64.2 IP through ten starts.

All of those injuries took their toll on Bundy, as he’s now limited to a low-90s fastball. He also throws a low-80s slider, low-80s change-up, and a mid-70s curveball. The slider and change-up are his best pitches, and both are used to pick up whiffs.

Last Outing (vs. MIN on 5/23) – 7.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 7 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Chris Tillman

Shoulder bursitis kept Tillman out until May 7, so he has only made four starts in 2017. He was the nominal ace of the Orioles from 2013 through 2015, and, despite a poor 2016, hopes were fairly high that he would be healthy and effective this year. The early returns have been less-than-stellar, but he did come back a bit earlier than expected.

Tillman’s fastball usually sits in the low-90s, but it has been limited to the upper-80s since his return from the DL. He throws a four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter, and all are right around the same velocity. He also throws a slider, a change-up, and a knuckle-curve.

Last Outing (vs. MIN on 5/24) – 5.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K

Wednesday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Kevin Gausman

Gausman may well be the most disappointing player on the Orioles, given his prospect pedigree and the promise he showed in 2016. His strikeout (from 23.0% to 14.9%), walk (6.2% to 8.6%), and home run (1.40 per nine to 1.67) have trended in the wrong direction, and an increase in velocity implies that there isn’t an injury limiting him. The Yankees have hit him heard both times they faced him this year, so here’s hoping that trend continues.

Last Outing (vs. HOU on 5/26) – 6.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 2 K

The Bullpen

The repercussions of the loss of Britton cannot be overstated, as the Orioles bullpen was very dependent upon pre-assigned roles (sound familiar?). The rest of the bullpen is just 11 for 19 in save opportunities, and Brad Brach has struggled since inheriting the closer’s mantle. Him, Mychal Givens, and Darren O’Day are Showalter’s high-leverage arms, and the aforementioned Jimenez has become the long-man out of the bullpen (he went 6 IP yesterday, allowing 2 runs). Brach didn’t pitch this weekend, and Givens and O’Day only went once apiece, so the core group is fairly well-rested.

Yankees Connection

I mentioned Buck Showalter, Vidal Nuno, and Chris Davis last time around. You can now add the immortal Richard Bleier to the list, as he has thrown 11.2 IP out of the bullpen since his call-up on May 3. He spent all of 2016 in the Yankees organization, posting a 1.96 ERA in 23 IP in the majors. And, as much as I’d like to make a joke about the Yankees giving up on him, he’s a 30-year-old journeyman with an extremely limited track record.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I’m interested in watching Dylan Bundy, given his tumultuous journey to the majors and his still-impressive stuff. The Yankees saw him four times last season (two starts), but his stuff has improved dramatically this season.

4/28 to 4/30 Preview: Baltimore Orioles

Future Yankee Manny Machado. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)
Future Yankee Manny Machado. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images North America)

The Yankees are heading back to the Bronx to continue their three-series stretch against divisional opponents. It’s too early for this to feel terribly significant, but it’s interesting nevertheless that this series could determine who is in first place in the AL East on May 1.

The Last Time They Met

It was just three weeks ago that the Orioles hosted the Yankees, taking two out of three in a rather frustrating series. The Yankees dropped the first two despite holding leads of four and three runs, respectively, with the bullpen taking the loss in both games (one-run losses, at that). In fact, the Yankees outscored the Orioles 16-14 that weekend, while also accumulating seventeen more base-runners. And, as if that wasn’t bothersome enough, it was also the series in which Gary Sanchez went down with a shoulder injury.

Check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post for more interesting tidbits.

Injury Report

Closer Zach Britton is on the disabled list with a left forearm strain, and was initially expected to be back sometime in May. He’s slated for a rehab assignment on Friday, though, and could be activated for Sunday’s game. Starter Chris Tillman is also on the disabled list, and has been since Spring Training due to right shoulder bursitis that required a platelet-rich plasma injection. He made a rehab start at High-A Frederick on Thursday, so he won’t be back in time for this series.

Their Story So Far

The Orioles sit atop the AL East (and the American League as a whole) with a 14-6 record. Their offense has struggled at times (95 wRC+, 3.95 runs per game), but their pitching has been excellent, placing fifth in the majors with a 3.42 ERA. As per usual, and despite Britton’s injury, the bullpen has been particularly strong, maintaining a 2.73 ERA thus far; surprisingly, the rotation has been more than adequate, as well, with a 3.82 ERA.

Starter Dylan Bundy is their feel good story of the moment, as the former top prospect has been excellent through four starts (26.1 IP, 20.4 K%, 4.1 BB%, 1.37 ERA, 1.88 FIP). He missed the vast majority of 2013 through 2015 due to various injuries, and was all but written off as a result. It’s still very early in the season, of course, but it’s a promising start on the heels of a decent (and mostly healthy) 2016 season.

The Lineup We Might See

Buck Showalter employs a few platoons, so the lineup will likely be dependent upon who is starting for the Yankees. CC Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery will probably see something like this:

  1. Craig Gentry, LF
  2. Adam Jones, CF
  3. Manny Machado, 3B
  4. Mark Trumbo, RF
  5. Chris Davis, 1B
  6. Trey Mancini, DH
  7. Welington Castillo, C
  8. Jonathan Schoop, 2B
  9. J.J. Hardy, SS

Whereas Michael Pineda will probably face a lineup along these lines:

  1. Seth Smith, RF
  2. Jones, CF
  3. Machado, 3B
  4. Davis, 1B
  5. Trumbo, DH
  6. Castillo, C
  7. Hyun Soo Kim, LF
  8. Schoop, 2B
  9. Hardy, SS

The Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Kevin Gausman

The Yankees roughed Gausman up on April 8, to the tune of 4 runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in just 4.2 IP. It was a welcome sight, considering that the 26-year-old held the Yankees to a 1.10 ERA in 41.0 IP last year (and a 4.35 ERA against every other team). Last year did appear to be something of a breakout for Gausman, as he pitched a full, healthy season, but the early returns have not been too encouraging (particularly his 5.63 BB/9 and 7.50 ERA).

Gausman is a three-pitch guy, featuring a mid-90s fastball, a mid-80s splitter (against which hitters whiffed 20.7% of the time last year), and a low-80s slider.

Last Outing (vs. BOS on 4/23) – 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 4 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez

The Yankees knocked Jimenez around, as well, scoring 5 runs on 7 hits (including two home runs) in his 4.1 IP. Jimenez somehow avoided the Yankees in 2016, which seems all but impossible for a pitcher that spent the entire season in the AL East, making 25 starts along the way; that may have been by design, though, given his career 5.50 ERA in Yankee Stadium. Am I alone in remembering when fans of most every team wanted a shot at Jimenez back in 2011? That seems even more impossible, with the benefit of hindsight.

Jimenez used to pump his two- and four-seam fastballs into the mid-to-upper 90s, but they currently sit right around 90 MPH. He also throws a splitter and a slider, both of which sit in the low-80s. He’ll also sprinkle in a mid-70s curveball every now and then.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 4/24) – 3.1 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 3 K

Sunday (1:05 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. LHP Wade Miley

Miley held the Yankees scoreless on April 9, despite walking seven in 5 IP. The Yankees won that game anyway, scoring 7 against the bullpen, but it was an irritating first five innings. The 30-year-old Miley has quietly been an innings eater for some time now, having made at least 29 starts and thrown at least 166 IP in each of the last five seasons. He’s a rock solid back of the rotation starter, although he is coming off of his worst full season by ERA (5.37) and FIP (4.45).

It may be a bit of a cop-out to call Miley a crafty lefty, but that’s exactly what he is. He throws a couple of low-90s fastballs, a low-80s change-up, a low-80s slider, and a mid-80s curveball, and he threw all of his offerings regularly last season. As per PITCHf/x, Miley has thrown his change-up significantly less this season, so that may be something to watch.

Last Outing (vs. TBR on 4/25) – 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 6 BB, 8 K

Yankees Connection

Buck Showalter’s four-year tenure as the Yankees manager (1992 to 1995) is always brought up when these teams meet, so much so that you’d think that the Orioles stole him from the Yankees. He was a fine manager in the Bronx, winning AL Manager of the Year for the strike-shortened 1994 season (they had the best record in the league when the season was cut short), and guiding the Yankees to the playoffs in 1995. His departure from the organization wasn’t on good terms, though, as he resigned after George Steinbrenner demanded that he fire his pitching coach.

LHP Vidal Nuno is the only other real connection, having pitched for the Yankees for parts of two seasons. He was dealt to the Diamondbacks for Brandon McCarthy back in 2014. I suppose you could also count Chris Davis, who was drafted by the Yankees out of high school in the 50th round of the 2004 draft, but opted to go to college instead.

Who (Or What) To Watch

Machado’s defense at the hot corner is must-see TV, and that may well be the only reason to watch the Orioles this weekend. The offense does hit plenty of home runs, too, if dingers are your thing, which reminds me – you should also follow Sung Min Kim on Twitter, on the off-chance that Hyun Soo Kim goes deep (or just because he’s a great follow).

Yankeemetrics: Baltimore Chopped (April 7-9)

Get well soon, El Gary. (Getty Images)
Get well soon, El Gary. (Getty Images)

Leads are for wimps
The season-opening road trip headed north to Camden Yards, a house of horrors recently for this Yankees team. They entered the weekend with a 7-20 record at the ballpark since 2014, the second-worst mark by any AL team in that span, and were 1-8 in nine series openers there over the previous three seasons.

Make that 7-21 and 1-9 in road series openers against the Orioles after Friday night’s 6-5 loss.

Luis Severino got a no-decision, extending his winless streak to 13 starts dating back to his final start of 2015. Over the last 15 seasons, that’s tied with Phil Hughes (2013) for the most consecutive starts without a win by any Yankee pitcher.

The big blow came off the bat of Manny Machado, who drilled a 96-mph fastball for a three-run homer into the left field bleachers to cut the Yankees lead to 5-4 in the fifth inning.

Of the 21 homers Severino has allowed in the majors, more than half (14) have come on pitches 95 mph or faster. Since the start of last season, opponents have slugged .522 on his 95-plus mph four-seam fastballs, the fourth-highest mark among major-league pitchers in that span (min. 75 at-bats).

Gary Sanchez broke out of his early slump with a 2-for-3 effort that included a monster 426-foot home run in the top of the fifth. Since August 1 of last season, Sanchez has four homers of at least 425 feet, and the rest of the Yankees have combined for three such bombs.

It was his 21st career homer in his 59th career game – the second-most homers for any player in major-league history before their 60th game. Boston Braves outfielder Wally Berger had 22 homers in his first 59 games in 1930.

Brett Gardner sparked the offense with three hits, three runs scored and two stolen bases. He’s the first Yankee to reach those totals since … Gardner did it six years ago (July 17, 2011) vs Toronto. The only other Yankees to have multiple games with at least three hits, three runs and two stolen bases in their career are Rickey Henderson (3), Snuffy Stirnweiss (2) and Chuck Knoblauch (2).

Mr. 2,000. (Getty Images)
Mr. 2,000. (Getty Images)

Another painful loss
It was deja vu for the Yankees on Saturday afternoon, as they once again built an early multi-run lead, coughed it up in the middle innings, resulting in yet another frustrating one-run loss. It also clinched yet another losing road series to the Orioles, the 10th consecutive set they’ve lost at Camden Yards.

How long has it been since they actually won a series in Baltimore? When they clinched their last series win there on Sept. 11, 2013, Mariano Rivera posted the 651st save of his career and Andy Pettitte tossed a quality start; Curtis Granderson, A-Rod and Robinson Cano each homered in the 5-4 victory.

For the third time in the last five seasons, the Yankees are 1-4 through five games. They are the only MLB team to start 1-4 or worse three times since 2013.

Masahiro Tanaka looked solid through the first four innings before unraveling in the fifth. He really struggled with his command, hitting a guy and walking two others while giving up two runs. Adam Warren relieved him in the sixth inning, making it the fifth time in five games that the team’s starter didn’t go more than five innings.

This is just the second time in the last 100 years that no Yankee starting pitcher recorded an out in the sixth inning in the first five games of the season. It also happened in 2007, with a rotation of Carl Pavano, Andy Pettitte, Mike Mussina and Darrell Rasner.

Milestone Alert! Matt Holliday provided one of the few highlights, notching his 2,000th hit with a single in the first inning. He joined Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera as the only active players with at least 2,000 hits and a .500-or-better career slugging percentage.

Rally Time
The Yankees flipped the script in the final game of the series as they avoided the sweep with a much-needed comeback win. On Sunday they fell behind early, rallied late and left Baltimore with a 7-3 victory.

And the Yankees take the lead! (AP)
And the Yankees take the lead! (AP)

Starlin Castro delivered the game-winning hit with a tie-breaking RBI single in the ninth inning. Since the start of last year, Castro has seven go-ahead RBIs in the seventh inning or later — that’s two more than any other Yankee over the last two seasons.

Before Castro’s heroics, Aaron Judge tied it up with a solo blast leading off the eighth inning. He’s the third Yankee with a game-tying home run in the eighth inning or later at Camden Yards, joining the legendary duo of Travis Hafner (2013) and Roberto Kelly (1992).

The Orioles pitchers couldn’t find the strike zone all afternoon — issuing 11 walks, including seven by starter Wade Miley — and Holliday took advantage. He walked five times, tying a franchise single-game record. It had been done nine times prior to Sunday, with the two most recent being Mark Teixeira in 2009 and Roger Maris in 1962.

Besides Holliday, two other Yankees drew five free passes in five plate appearances and didn’t score a run: Hersh Martin in 1944 and Lou Gehrig in 1935. #FunFact: Martin and Holliday both went to high school in Oklahoma, and Martin attended Oklahoma State University in Holliday’s hometown of Stillwater.

Miley was effectively wild, giving up seven walks, one hit and zero runs in five innings. It had been more than 80 years since a pitcher had that many walks, allowed no more than one hit and held the Yankees scoreless — Washington Senators lefty Earl Whitehall achieved the feat on May 30, 1934. The No. 3 and 4 hitters in that lineup were Gehrig and Babe Ruth, who both went 0-for-2 and drew two walks each.

4/7 to 4/9 Series Preview: Baltimore Orioles

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

At long last, the Yankees have escaped Florida. Aside from that quick little one-day trip to Atlanta for the exhibition game at SunTrust Park last week, the Yankees have been stuck in the Tampa area since mid-February. They’re now in Baltimore for a three-game weekend set against the Orioles. After that, the first home stand of the season. Thank goodness.

What Have They Done Lately?

The Orioles had an even wonkier schedule than the Yankees this week. They opened the season with a little two-game series against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards. They played Monday, had an off-day Tuesday, played Wednesday, then had another off-day Thursday. What is that? Good grief. The O’s won both games against the Blue Jays, including the first on a Mark Trumbo walk-off home run.

Offense & Defense

Davis. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Davis. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

The Fightin’ Showalters have scored six runs in their two games so far, and in typical Orioles fashion, four of those six runs have come on home runs. Adam Jones hit a two-run shot while Trumbo and Chris Davis hit solo homers. Here are the numbers so far and each player’s 2017 ZiPS projection:

2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS Projection
C Welington Castillo 3-for-7 (.429), 1 2B .243/.304/.421 (91 wRC+), 17 HR
1B Chris Davis 2-for-8 (.250), 1 HR .239/.334/.509 (121 wRC+), 39 HR
2B Jonathan Schoop 1-for-7 (.143) .264/.297/.453 (97 wRC+), 22 HR
SS J.J. Hardy 0-for-7 .249/.287/.368 (71 wRC+), 10 HR
3B Manny Machado 2-for-7 (.286) .289/.349/.511 (127 wRC+), 32 HR
LF Hyun Soo Kim 0-for-3 .294/.370/.434 (117 wRC+), 11 HR
CF Adam Jones 2-for-8 (.250), 1 2B, 1 HR .267/.304/.450 (97 wRC+), 27 HR
RF Seth Smith 1-for-4 (.250), 1 2B .252/.341/.434 (107 wRC+), 14 HR
DH Mark Trumbo 2-for-8 (.250), 1 2B, 1 HR .251/.307/.491 (109 wRC+), 32 HR
BENCH
C Caleb Joseph N/A .227/.274/.358 (65 wRC+), 9 HR
UTIL Ryan Flaherty N/A .217/.288/.357 (70 wRC+), 7 HR
OF Joey Rickard 0-for-5 .244/.314/.334 (75 wRC+), 4 HR
OF Craig Gentry 0-for-2 .216/.280/.264 (52 wRC+), 1 HR
1B/OF Trey Mancini 1-for-4 (.250) .263/.314/.436 (98 wRC+), 21 HR

Like the Yankees, the Orioles are using early season off-days to skip their fifth starter. They have three off-days within the first nine days of the season and four off-days within the first 16 days of the season. Geez. Unlike the Yankees though, the Orioles are using the extra roster spot to carry a fifth bench player, not an eighth reliever. The only position player they’re missing is outfielder Anthony Santander, a Rule 5 Draft pick who is on the disabled list with an elbow injury.

Baltimore has played two games and they’ve faced one right-handed starter and one left-handed starter. They’re platooning the left-handed hitting Kim and Smith with the right-handed hitting Rickard and Mancini. Smith and Rickard hit leadoff in the two games, then the thunder followed in the two through five spots: Jones, Machado, Davis, Trumbo. Yikes. Schoop and Hardy have hit eighth and ninth, respectively, in both games so far.

The Orioles are going to hit a ton of home runs this season. That’s what they do. They will not, however, steal bases. This is largely the same roster as last season — the only notable changes are Castillo in for Matt Wieters and Smith in for Pedro Alvarez — and last year the O’s stole 19 bases total. 19! Rickard led the club with four. Gentry can fly and he’s a quality pinch-running option. Otherwise this is a station-to-station team that lives and dies with its power.

On defense, Baltimore is very good to great all around the infield — Davis doesn’t get enough credit for being a good defensive first baseman — and mediocre to bad in the outfield regardless of who is in the corners. Jones is still a decent center fielder but he has started to lose a step. Gentry is, far and away, the best outfield defender on the roster, and his bat makes him a bench player only. Castillo is a pretty good thrower behind the plate.

Pitching Matchups

Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)
Gausman. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (vs. NYY)
I still do not understand using Ubaldo before Zach Britton in the AL Wildcard Game last season. I don’t understand it and I never will. Jimenez, now 33, had a typical Ubaldo Jimenez season in 2016: 5.44 ERA (4.43 FIP) with 19.6% strikeouts, 11.3% walks, and 49.0% grounders in 142.1 innings. Actually, that’s a bit worse than a typical Ubaldo season. Makes the Wildcard Game decision even more confusing. Last season Jimenez worked right around 90 mph with both his two and four-seam fastballs, and his go-to secondary pitch is a low-80s splitter. He also throws a mid-80s slider and a mid-70s curveball. Ubaldo is cut from the same cloth as Michael Pineda. Every once in a while he’ll come out and dominate, but most of the time he’ll leave you frustrated.

Saturday (4pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. BAL) vs. RHP Kevin Gausman (vs. NYY)
The O’s have so many early off-days that they can skip not only their fifth starter, but their fourth starter too. Gausman got the ball on Opening Day and he’ll get the ball in the fourth game of the season as well. The 26-year-old right-hander held the Blue Jays to two runs in 5.1 innings in his season debut Monday. Last season he had a 3.61 ERA (4.10 FIP) in 179.2 innings and good gravy, Gausman dominated the Yankees in six starts: 41 IP, 33 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 6 BB, 35 K, 2 HR. That’s a 1.10 ERA and 2.51 FIP. He shut them down every time out. Gausman is a three-pitch pitcher with a mid-to-upper-90s fastball and a knockout mid-to-upper-80s splitter. A low-80s slider is his third pitch. Hopefully all the new faces in the lineup will help the Yankees avoid being dominated by Gausman again this summer.

Sunday (1:30pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. BAL) vs. TBA
Officially, the O’s are listing this rotation spot as TBA. It will be Wade Miley, however. He is currently on the 10-day disabled list with flu-like symptoms, which is total garbage and just a way for the team to manipulate the roster. It allowed them to carry an extra player for a few days. Miley will be activated for Sunday’s start. He threw an 87-pitch simulated game Tuesday to get ready. Yeah. Miley, 30, was terrible overall last season (5.37 ERA and 4.45 FIP) and somehow even worse with the Orioles (6.17 ERA and 3.79 FIP) than the Mariners (4.98 ERA and 4.76 FIP) after coming over in a midseason trade. His overall strikeout (19.3%), walk (6.9%), and grounder (47.3%) rates were okay. At this point of his career Miley works right around 90 mph with his two and four-seam fastballs, in the mid-80s with his slider and changeup, and in the mid-70s with his curveball. The one thing that always stands out to me about Miley starts are how quickly he works. He gets the ball and is ready to throw. He puts the pressure on the batter to be in the box and ready to swing.

Bullpen Status

Okay, I kinda lied earlier. The Orioles are carrying both a fifth bench player and an eighth reliever. The Miley disabled list move makes that possible. So far Buck Showalter has only had to use four of his bullpen arms. Here are the real numbers and the fake projections:

Role 2017 Stats 2017 ZiPS
LHP Zach Britton
Closer 3 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 2 K 2.25 ERA (2.27 FIP)
RHP Brad Brach
Setup 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K 3.04 ERA (3.38 FIP)
RHP Darren O’Day
Setup N/A 2.76 ERA (3.58 FIP)
RHP Mychal Givens
Middle 1.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K 2.95 ERA (3.11 FIP)
LHP Donnie Hart
Middle N/A 3.45 ERA (3.88 FIP)
LHP Vidal Nuno
Middle N/A 3.77 ERA (4.14 FIP)
RHP Tyler Wilson
Long 1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K 4.96 ERA (4.77 FIP)
RHP Oliver Drake Long N/A 3.81 ERA (3.76 FIP)

Britton’s had a tough go of it early on. I watched his two outings and he was struggling to locate both times. He missed some time with an oblique issue in Spring Training and it seems like he’s still trying to get locked in with his command. Brach, O’Day, and Givens are a nice little trio of righties and they each have a different look. It’s not like you’re going to see a parade of fastball-slider guys out of the bullpen.

Both the Yankees and Orioles had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpens are well-rested. Checkout our Bullpen Workload page anyway.

Yankees trade Richard Bleier to the Orioles

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees announced they have traded lefty Richard Bleier to the Orioles for cash or a player to be named later. There are now 66 players in big league camp. Bleier was designated for assignment last week to make room on the 40-man roster for Chris Carter.

Bleier, 29, joined the Yankees as a minor league free agent last winter and he made his MLB debut last summer. He threw 23 relief innings with a 1.96 ERA (2.76 FIP) for New York while spending most of the season in Triple-A. I’m surprised he stayed on the 40-man as long as he did. Soon-to-be 30-year-old rookies usually don’t stick around long.

I wouldn’t spend much time thinking about the player to be named later. It won’t be an actual prospect. It never is in these situations. Chances are the Yankees will end up taking the cash anyway. That’s usually how it goes. At least they were able to get something in return for Bleier rather than lose him on waivers for nothing.

Now that he’s with the Orioles, expect Bleier to get a big out against the Yankees at some point this season. Folks will then complain they let him go. “Why can’t the Yankees get pitchers like that?” they’ll say. Thank you for your time.

Potential trade partners for Brett Gardner dwindling due to hot stove activity

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees right now are very much open to trading pricey veterans for prospects. They sold big time at the deadline and continued selling in the offseason by sending Brian McCann to the Astros for two Single-A pitching prospects. The Yankees have reportedly dangled Brett Gardner and Chase Headley in trade talks this winter, and I’m sure they’d love to move Jacoby Ellsbury too, but, you know.

Two teams that stood out as obvious suitors for Gardner addressed their outfield needs last week. The Nationals traded for Adam Eaton and the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler. Both clubs needed a defensively competent center fielder — Gardner plays left for the Yankees in deference to Ellsbury, but he could still handle center full-time, no problem — and a top of the order on-base guy. The Nats and Cards went in another direction.

Gardner is a good player, not a great one, and the two years and $23M left on his contract is not unreasonable. And besides, the Yankees have shown a willingness to eat money to facilitate trades. They did it with Carlos Beltran at the deadline and McCann a few weeks ago. Salary shouldn’t be a problem. The problem is finding a team that actually needs Gardner, a defense first outfielder with on-base skills. Here are the remaining potential trade partners I came up with.

Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Current Outfield: Adam Jones in center and Hyun-Soo Kim in left, with Joey Rickard and Rule 5 Draft picks Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez candidates for right. They also have the option of moving Chris Davis to right field and playing prospect Trey Mancini at first.

Why Would They Want Gardner? He’s a heck of a lot better than Rickard and the Rule 5 Draft kids — Santander has never played above High-A — and he’d give the O’s a legitimate leadoff hitter, something they really lack. Jones was their leadoff hitter most of this past season. Yeah. Also, the Orioles have an opening at DH, remember. They could put Gardner in left, Kim at DH (where he fits best), and stick with the kids in right.

So Are They A Fit? Yes with the caveat that they’re an AL East rival, and intradivision trades are rare. I don’t think that closes the door completely, it just makes it unlikely. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman told Bryan Hoch he’d have no problem trading with the Orioles.

“If I can trade with the Red Sox and the Mets, I can trade with the Orioles. I can trade with anybody. If it’s in our best interest, whether it’s short- or long-term, it doesn’t matter what the other teams get. Does it make sense for us? If it happens to be them, I don’t really care.”

What do the O’s have to offer the Yankees for Gardner? Geez, beats me. Their farm system isn’t in great shape (here’s their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and I doubt they’d be willing to give up pieces from their big league roster. I’m sure the Yankees could find some combination of minor leaguers to make it work though.

Cleveland Indians

Current Outfield: Tyler Naquin in center and Lonnie Chisenhall in right. Brandon Guyer and Abe Almonte are expected to hold down left field until Michael Brantley returns from shoulder surgery.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Not too many reasons at this point. The Indians seem focused on adding a big middle of the order bat to share first base and DH with Carlos Santana, and I suppose if those plans go awry, they could circle back and import Gardner to be part of a rotating DH system. He’d give them a more traditional leadoff hitter too. They used Santana at leadoff most of last season, which was somewhat a waste of his power because he batted with fewer men on base.

So Are They A Fit? Nah, I don’t think so. Naquin had a nightmare postseason but a very good regular season, good enough to finish third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and earn a starting spot in 2017. They’ll ride it out with Almonte and Guyer until Brantley returns, which could be as soon as April.

Detroit Tigers

Current Outfield: Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez on the corners, with Anthony Gose and JaCoby Jones in the mix for center. Tyler Collins could get a crack at the job too, though he’s best in a corner.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Gardner is much better than the group of players vying for Detroit’s center field job at the moment. Of course, the Tigers traded away Cameron Maybin earlier this winter, and they seem to be scaling back on payroll a bit. Salary dumping Maybin only to turn around and acquire Gardner would be a bit weird, don’t you think?

Of course, plans change, and the Tigers are looking at a more winnable AL Central right now. The Twins stink, the White Sox are selling, and the Royals might have to sell at the deadline since basically their entire core will hit free agency next winter. The Tigers won 86 games in 2016 despite going 4-14 (4-14!) against the Indians. What are the odds of that happening again? Small. Gardner would improve their chances in a much more winnable division.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe! I think the Yankees would have to eat money to make a trade happen, which I doubt would be a deal-breaker. If the Yankees ate money to trade Beltran and McCann, I’m sure they’d do the same for Gardner.

Oakland Athletics

Jake Smolinski was the A's everyday center fielder in the second half. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)
Jake Smolinski was the A’s everyday center fielder in the second half. For reals. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Current Outfield: Some combination of Khris Davis, Matt Joyce, Brett Eibner, and Jake Smolinski. Did you know Khris Davis hit 42 home runs in 2016? True story.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The A’s are in the market for a center fielder this offseason, it’s been reported everywhere, and they’ve most recently been connected to Jarrod Dyson of the Royals. Gardner is a very similar player (lefty hitting leadoff type with speed and defense) who happens to be much more expensive. But again, if the Yankees are willing to eat money, his contract may not be an obstacle.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe. The Athletics are a weird team that seems to be stuck between going for it and rebuilding. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they traded for an outfielder making $23M over the next two years despite losing at least 93 games the last two seasons. They’re weird like that.

San Francisco Giants

Current Outfield: Denard Span in center and Hunter Pence in right, with Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker slated to platoon in left. Gorkys Hernandez has a leg up on a bench job.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Left field is wide open. Williamson and Parker did an okay job as platoon partners while Pence was on the disabled list this summer — they hit a combined .230/.338/.402 with eleven homers in 278 plate appearances in 2016, but also struck out 28.5% of the time — though neither is a long-term building block. Williamson is the young one at 26. Parker turns 28 in three weeks.

Gardner would, at a minimum, give the Giants an above-average defender for that spacious left field at AT&T Park. In also guessing he’d outproduce a Williamson/Parker platoon at the plate over a full 162-game season. The Mark Melancon signing pushed San Francisco over the luxury tax threshold and they don’t want to go much higher, so Gardner’s contract could be an issue. Then again, the Giants are built to win right now, while Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner are still in their primes, and left field is a sore spot.

So Are They A Fit? Yes, definitely. The Giants have enough prospects to cobble together a trade package (here is their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and the Yankees could eat money to make things work on San Francisco’s end with regards to the luxury tax. The Giants are a fit. A great fit. No doubt.

Seattle Mariners

Current Outfield: Leonys Martin in the middle with some combination of Seth Smith, Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, Mitch Haniger, and possibly even Danny Valencia in the corners.

Why Would They Want Gardner? As an alternative to that hodgepodge of platoon veterans and mid-range prospects slated for the corners. The Mariners are trying to win right now. I mean, they should be. Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz aren’t going to be this productive forever, so anything Seattle can do to improve their short-term chances qualifies as a good move in my book. Gardner represents an upgrade.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in theory, no in reality. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has said his team is too left-handed at the moment, which Gardner would only exacerbate. Also, they seem committed to playing those kids in the outfield. So while there is a fit on paper here, I don’t see it happening.

Texas Rangers

Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)
Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Current Outfield: Carlos Gomez in center, Shin-Soo Choo in right, and Nomar Mazara in left. Delino DeShields Jr. and Ryan Rua are the depth options.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The Rangers have no first baseman or designated hitter at the moment. Adding Gardner would allow them to slide Mazara over to right field, his natural position, and put Choo at DH full-time, which is where he belongs at this point. Texas has money and prospects to trade, plus an obvious opening for Gardner in the lineup and on the field.

So Are They A Fit? Yes. Whether the Rangers are willing to make a trade is another matter. They may prefer to hang on to their prospects and address those first base and DH openings through free agency. There are still plenty of those players available.

Toronto Blue Jays

Current Outfield: lol

Why Would They Want Gardner? Kevin Pillar is still the center fielder. That much is clear. But after losing out on Fowler, the Blue Jays have Melvin Upton, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Dalton Pompey penciled in as their corner outfielders. That might be the worst outfield unit in baseball. Gardner would give them a legitimate left fielder and leadoff hitter, allowing them to slide Devon Travis lower in the order, in a run producing spot. That would be a big help considering they effectively replaced Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in the same way the Orioles are a fit. The Blue Jays could use Gardner, for sure, but to get him, they’d have to swing a rare intradivision trade. It’s not impossible. Just really tough to do. There’s a reason you don’t see them often. Everyone’s afraid of losing a trade to a division rival.

2016 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Thursday

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The 2016 Winter Meetings wrap-up today from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland. Late last night the Yankees swooped in and agreed to re-sign Aroldis Chapman to a five-year contract worth $86M, which is easily the largest reliever contract in history. Now the team can move on to other business, like adding rotation and middle relief help.

“I’ve got a lot of different things going on,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch. “Listen, they’ve got a time frame in free agency. They’re going through their process. In the meantime, I’m doing a whole bunch of other stuff at the same time. I’ve had several conversations with various agents today and a lot of club activity at the same time.”

On Wednesday we learned the Yankees have cast a wide net for bullpen help and have checked in on White Sox closer David Robertson and free agent Sergio Romo. Also, they want Ruben Tejada and Nick Rumbelow on minor league deals. We’ll once again keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. I can’t promise a ton of updates. The final day of the Winter Meetings is traditionally the slowest. All time stamps are Eastern Time.

  • 9:30am: When asked about recent rumors involving Brett Gardner and the Orioles, Cashman said he wouldn’t have a problem making a trade within the AL East. “If I can trade with the Red Sox and Mets, I can trade with the Orioles,” he said. Interestingly, Cashman said he tried to trade Ivan Nova to the O’s at the deadline. [Pete Caldera, Hoch]
  • 10:29am: Cashman doesn’t expect to pursue any more position players this offseason. The focus is pitching. “It’s unlikely for us to make any changes on the position player side unless we trade Gardy,” said the GM, who added he’s rejected offers for Chase Headley. [Caldera]
  • 11:23am: Not surprisingly, Cashman said the Yankees are basically out of spending money this offseason after signing Chapman. Good thing the free agent class stinks, huh? [Andrew Marchand]
  • 12:24pm: Once again, Cashman reiterated he’s not optimistic about improving the rotation this offseason. “I don’t anticipate adding any starting pitching. I’d love to if I could but I doubt it’s realistic,” said the GM. [Marchand, Erik Boland]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.