Scouting The August Trade Market: Salary Dump Starters

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

The Yankees were unable to land pitching help before last Thursday’s trade deadline but that doesn’t mean they are out of the market for arms. David Phelps just landed on the disabled list and the team is somehow more desperate for pitching now than at any other point in the season, and that’s with Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka seemingly on the mend. At best, Pineda is about ten days away while Tanaka could return next month.

The August trade season has been surprisingly active the last few years. Just last year guys like Justin Morneau, Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, and David DeJesus were dealt in August. The Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster went down in August two years ago. The Yankees themselves haven’t been all that active on the August trade front the last few years — they acquired Chad Gaudin in August 2009, but their only August trade since was the Steve Pearce pickup a few years ago — but that hardly means they’re against August moves. That’s just the way things shook out.

The Phillies got the August trade market going yesterday by putting just about everyone on waivers — Ken Rosenthal says Byrd, Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, Roberto Hernandez, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Ryan Howard were placed on trade waivers. The Yankees don’t have interest in a reunion with Burnett, Hernandez and Kendrick are blah, and Hamels seems unattainable at this point. Cliff Lee’s injury completely killed his trade value as well.

Players have already started to hit waivers though, and that’s the most important thing. The August trade engine is revved up. Here are some potential pitching trade targets for the Yankees, with an emphasis on guys who might be available for little more than salary relief.

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

RHP Bartolo Colon, Mets
The Mets tried hard to unload the 41-year-old Colon at the deadline, but found no takers because he is owed another $3M or so this year plus $11M next year. He’s pitched well enough in 2014, with a 4.12 ERA (3.51 FIP) while averaging 6.2 innings per start, but something about a pitcher that old and with that arm injury/PED history scares teams away. Can’t say I blame them. The Mets will reportedly try to move Colon again in the offseason, when one year of him at $11M might be an appealing alternative to the free agent market.

The Yankees obviously know Colon after helping him bring his career back from the dead in 2011, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be eager to trade for him. It could mean the exact opposite, in fact. It could scare them away. I don’t think the Mets would let Colon go on waivers for nothing just to dump salary — he does still has some trade value as an innings-eater — but I am certain he’s available.

LHP John Danks, White Sox
We heard an awful lot about the Yankees and Danks these last few weeks, especially in the days leading up to the trade deadline. The two teams were unable to work out a deal in part due to a disagreement over how much of the ~$33M left on his contract the ChiSox would eat. Danks is signed through 2016 at $14.25M per year, and he’s been nothing more than serviceable since coming back from a torn shoulder capsule last year (4.63 ERA and 4.96 FIP). That includes a 4.50 ERA (4.85 FIP) in 136 innings this year.

Given all the money left on his contract and the fact that he’s coming off a recent major injury, an injury that usually ends most pitchers’ careers, I do think the White Sox would let Danks go on waivers for nothing but the salary relief. They could try to work out a trade to get a prospect in return first, but, if push came to shove, I don’t think they would pull him back. Either way, no team will take the risk and claim him. He’ll clear waivers, allowing him to be traded anywhere. If Danks was a pure rental, it would be a much different story. But since he’s signed for another two years at significant dollars, I don’t think the Yankees should go after him without Chicago paying down a decent chunk of the salary.

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

RHP Jason Hammel, Athletics
Since being acquired from the Cubs early last month, Hammel has a 9.53 ERA (7.31 FIP) in four starts and 17 innings for Oakland. (Five homers with a 12/10 K/BB.) He’s been terrible since the trade — two of his starts have been disasters, the other two okay at best — so much so that I have to think it’s more than a simple statistical correction after he pitched over his head for the Cubbies for three months. Maybe he’s hiding an injury or a mechanical mess, a la Jim Johnson. Hammel was pretty awesome for Chicago, remember (2.98 ERA and 3.19 FIP). I doubt he forgot to pitch on the flight to join his new team.

Anyway, Rosenthal says the A’s placed Hammel on trade waivers yesterday and, right before the trade deadline, Jon Morosi reported GM Billy Beane was “getting flooded” with calls about the righty in the wake of the Jon Lester deal. That doesn’t mean they will trade him, he is still penciled in as their fifth starter following the Lester pickup, but maybe they’re open to moving Hammel after adding another ace to the rotation and pushing him down the depth chart. He’s owed another $2M this season before becoming a free agent. Beane could look to save some cash and recoup a prospect rather than carry a potentially terrible starter these last few weeks. I know he’s stunk lately, but when you have Matt Daley on the roster and are considering starting Esmil Rogers, claiming Hammel and his $2M salary off trade waivers seems like a no-brainer to me. I suspect some team will beat the Yankees to it.

RHP Colby Lewis, Rangers
Lewis beat the Yankees twice in the last two weeks, though he still has a 5.98 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 19 starts and 102.1 innings overall this year. He’s coming back from elbow and hip problems that cost him the second half of 2012 and all of 2013. Lewis has been much better over the last few weeks (thanks in part to the Yankees!), allowing no more than two earned runs in four of his last six starts and no more than three earned runs in five of his last six starts. The one exception was a total disaster (13 runs in 2.1 innings!). Look at his gamelog and you’ll see he’s been good more often than not over the last month or so.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

There have been no trade rumors involving Lewis this year mostly because he hasn’t pitched well, but also because the Rangers are desperate for pitching themselves. They have six pitchers on the 60-day disabled list, including starters Derek Holland, Martin Perez, and Matt Harrison. Rotation options Alexi Ogando and Tanner Scheppers are also hurt. Lewis is only owed another $700k this season, give or take, so his salary isn’t an issue either. Holland is due to back relatively soon and maybe Texas would be open to dealing Lewis to a contender for a prospect or salary relief or whatever, but that seems unlikely. He’s an August trade candidate only in the sense that every player on a bad team is an August trade candidate.

* * *

Lee would have been the ultimate August salary dump trade candidate, but his latest injury put an end to that. He’s going to miss the rest of the season with a recurring structural problem in his elbow, so his trade value is shot both for this month and the offseason. Ian Kennedy, whose named popped up in plenty of rumors before the deadline, may still be available, but he’ll require giving up something of actual value. Brian Cashman has done nothing but add players on the cheap this summer.

Aside from getting Hammel for nothing on waivers — I really doubt that will happen, Beane’s no idiot and he won’t let pitching depth walk away for nothing but salary relief — the best case August trade scenario is getting James Shields from the Royals. He’s a pure rental and he’s a very good AL East proven workhorse, which is pretty much exactly what the Yankees need. Kansas City would both have to fall out of race — they’re 4.5 back in the AL Central and 1.5 back of the second wildcard spot — and acknowledge they can’t afford to re-sign him after the season. Plus the Yankees would have to give up something more valuable than the supplemental first round pick the Royals would receive when he signs elsewhere. Shields (and Hammel) seems very unlikely, so the Yankees will have to pick through scraps to boost their starting staff down the stretch.

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2014 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Monday

"There's always money in the banana stand!" (MLB.com)
“There’s always money in the banana stand!” (MLB.com)

The non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET this Thursday, and between now and then there will be a ton of rumors and speculation. Some actual moves too. The Yankees have already swung trades for Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley, but Brian Cashman has said he is still seeking another starter and another bat. I don’t know if they’ll get another deal done, but I fully expect plenty of Yankees-related rumors this week, hence a full week of open threads rather than one or two days.

Over the last few days we’ve heard New York connected to John Danks (link) and Ian Kennedy (link). They do not have interest in Matt Kemp (link), however. The Rockies and White Sox are said to be keeping an eye on Francisco Cervelli (link). Obviously young catching is one of the team’s most tradeable assets. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here in this post, so make sure you check back throughout the day. All of the timestamps below are ET.

  • 5:35pm: The Yankees have been connected to outfielder Chris Denorfia, but they are not engaged in talks with the Padres about him. [Sherman]
  • 5:11pm: The Red Sox are getting “hit hard” with inquiries about both Jon Lester and John Lackey, including from other AL East clubs. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Yankees called, but it would make sense if they did. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 4:03pm: The Yankees are “in on everything” but they are very reluctant to trade away their best prospects. If true, they won’t be able to make any big upgrades, just smaller, incremental ones. [Joel Sherman]
  • 3:05pm: The White Sox have been scouting New York’s minor league catching depth in recent days, furthering speculation of a Danks trade. The Yankees are also focusing on a right-handed platoon partner for Ichiro Suzuki, which doesn’t really make sense given his splits the last few years. [Jayson Stark]
  • 12:25pm: The Yankees and Cubs have discussed Jake Arrieta, though it would take a huge offer to pry the right-hander away from Chicago. Arrieta is in the middle of a breakout year following some mechanical and pitch selection adjustments. [George Ofman]
  • 11:00am: The Yankees are eyeing Josh Willingham as well as other outfield bats like Alex Rios and Marlon Byrd. They prefer Willingham because he is a pure rental. The Yankees are included in Rios’ six-team no-trade list. Here’s my Scouting The Market post on Willingham. [Jon Heyman & Ken Rosenthal]
  • Danks remains a target and is among the most likely players to be moved. There is no evidence they’ve talked with the Padres about Kennedy and they aren’t focused on Cliff Lee because his contract ensures he’ll be available in August. The Yankees do not appear to have interest in Wade Miley, Bartolo Colon, or Edwin Jackson. [Heyman]
  • Just in case you got your hopes up after his appearance at Yankee Stadium yesterday, Troy Tulowitzki is not close to being traded to the Yankees. “I’m with my family. I wanted to see (Derek) Jeter play one more time,” he said. Tulo was in the area seeing a specialist about his hip injury. [Nick Groke]

Martino: Yanks haven’t discussed Kennedy; no interest in Colon, Jackson

Via Andy Martino: The Yankees have not discussed Ian Kennedy with the Padres and they do not have interest in either Bartolo Colon or Edwin Jackson. That last part makes a lot of sense. San Diego has indicated they are willing to keep Kennedy for next year, but that seems like a negotiating ploy. “Oh, [Brian Cashman’s] out there. He’s really trying to make something happen,” said a rival GM. “I personally don’t think he has the pieces to get a big trade done, but he’s working at it.”

The Yankees have not yet officially announced their starters for Monday and Tuesday, but there is no reason to think it will be anyone other than Shane Greene and Chase Whitley in some order. CC Sabathia is done for the season and who knows if or when Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda will return, so there is no more internal pitching coming. They absolutely need another starter (and another bat or two as well), even if it’s only a minor pickup like Brandon McCarthy. Buy or sell, they need someone to soak up some innings. I fully expect Cashman to swing a deal or two before the trade deadline in eleven days.

Scouting The Free Agent Market: Bartolo Colon

The Yankees have already re-signed Hiroki Kuroda and they will conduct a fifth starter’s competition in Spring Training, but they still need to add another starter on top of that. There’s a chance Masahiro Tanaka will not be posted, but, even if he is, it might not happen anytime soon. Negotiations and finalization of the new posting agreement have dragged on for a while. The Yankees have been connected to him but it’s unclear how long they’re willing to wait.

The best available free agent starters right now are Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Ubaldo Jimenez, all of whom come with red flags. Garza was hurt the last two years, Santana was terrible in 2012, and Jimenez was terrible as recently as the All-Star break. It seems like those guys are in something of a holding pattern until the Tanaka situation is resolved, which isn’t all that surprising. He’s the more desirable target. Earlier today we heard New York checked in on with Garza and Jimenez, but nothing on Santana yet.

Rather than hand out another huge contract this offseason, the Yankees could opt for a lower cost starter on a one-year contract if Tanaka is not posted anytime soon (or at all). Another Kuroda type, basically. One of the top such available pitchers is 40-year-old former Yankee Bartolo Colon, who is coming off two very good years with the Athletics (2.99 ERA and 3.49 FIP), good enough that he’s priced himself out of Oakland. Is a reunion for 2014 a good idea? Let’s look at what he brings to the table.

The Pros

  • Colon pounds the zone and does it with fastballs almost exclusively. He has thrown 87.1% fastballs — 36.4% four-seamers and 50.7% two-seamers — during his two years in Oakland while barely throwing his slider (8.2%) and changeup (4.7%). Colon’s veocity (four-seamer and two-seamer) had held pretty steady these last two years despite his advanced baseball age.
  • Bart has been an extreme strike-thrower these last two years. He has a 1.37 BB/9 (3.7 BB%) over the last two seasons, and during that time he led all of baseball by throwing 59.7% of his pitches in the strike zone. Cliff Lee is a distant second at 57.4%. That “pound the zone with fastballs” approach has led to a lot of weak contact and few balls hit further than 300 feet.
  • Since resurrecting his career with the Yankees in 2011, Colon has put together back-to-back 150+ inning seasons. He threw 190.1 innings in 2013 and he would have thrown a similar amount in 2012 had he not been suspended in mid-August. Bart will chew up from innings for you.
  • The Athletics did not make Colon a qualifying offer, so teams will not have to forfeit a high draft pick to sign him.

The Cons

  • Colon neither strikes guys out nor gets ground balls. He had a steady 5.46 K/9 (14.8 K%) during his two years in Oakland — hitters made contact with 88.5% of their swings, the highest rate in baseball since 2012 — and his ground ball rate dropped from 45.7% in 2012 to only 41.5% in 2013.
  • Although lefties did not give Bartolo a problem this past season (lefties had a .297 wOBA, righties .281), they did hit him hard from 2011-2012. Colon held righties to a .245/.275/.330 (.265 wOBA) batting line during those two seasons while lefties tagged him for a .283/.326/.505 (.355 wOBA) line. That would be a problem in Yankee Stadium.
  • Injuries have been an issue since Colon returned in 2011. He has been on the DL in each of the last three seasons because of a hamstring strain (2011), an oblique strain (2012), and a groin strain (2013). At least none were arm injuries, I guess.
  • As I mentioned before, Colon was suspended 50 games in 2012 (the suspension carried over into early 2013) after failing a performance-enhancing drug test. He was connected to Biogenesis this summer but wasn’t suspended since he had already been disciplined. PED guys are always a bit of a question mark.

Jon Heyman reported yesterday that the market for Colon has been heating up, with the Orioles and Mets among the interested teams. The Yankees have not been connected to him. Heyman adds that if Colon takes a one-year contract (likely given his age), it’ll be for pretty big bucks, around $10M or so. He won’t come as cheap as he has the last three years now that he’s shown a) the arm problems are a thing of the past, and b) he can be an effective starter in the AL.

Among the free agent pitchers who are likely to take a one (or even two) year contract, Colon appears to be the best. That crop of players includes Bronson Arroyo, Erik Bedard, Chris Capuano, Paul Maholm, Mike Pelfrey, and Edinson Volquez. There are obvious red flags here — Colon’s arm could explode or he could simply stop getting guys out, among other things — probably more red flags than any other available pitcher who was actually good in 2013. The Yankees know Bart and he knows them, so there is some type of relationship in place and that could help spur along a deal. Colon does fits the team’s needs but boy is he risky.

Thoughts following the sweep in Chicago

(REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

The Yankees just got swept by the White Sox in a three-game set in Chicago for the first time in 21 years, dropping their AL East lead to three games. That’s the smallest lead they’ve had in 52 games, since June 25th. Coincidentally enough, their opponent that day was the same Indians team they’ll face tomorrow in Cleveland. The Bombers are off today, so here are a few scattered thoughts for the morning…

1. The Yankees have way too any platoon players right now. The Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez injuries play a huge part in that, but so has Robinson Cano‘s inability to hit left-handers this year (71 wRC+). He’s been a lefty masher his entire career up to this point. Hopefully it’s just a one-year blip, but the point still stands: all of these platoon guys really limit flexibility. If the Yankees let the switch-hitting Nick Swisher walk after the season and don’t replace him with someone capable of hitting both lefties and righties, it’s going to stand out like a sore thumb. Using two players to approximate the production of one is no way to build half a lineup.

Late Add: This came across my Twitter feed and I thought it was appropriate to mention here…

2. Speaking of Cano, I think the Yankees are much better off batting him cleanup and Mark Teixeira third with A-Rod out. Derek Jeter and Swisher have been a dynamite one-two punch for the last two weeks, but Robbie goes up their hacking and is prone to the bat at-bat, especially during this recent slump. Teixeira is far more patient and will continue to let the pitcher work himself into trouble if that’s what he’s trying to do. If and when Cano starts hitting again, they can bump him back up. Right now though, Tex is the more dangerous hitter and they should stack their best hitters together atop the lineup.

PED = Performance-Enhancing Donuts. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

3. So how about this Bartolo Colon stuff? It hasn’t been a great week for the “shoulda kept Colon! shoulda kept Melky Cabrera!” crowd. Do you think the Yankees knew something was up and that’s why they decided to re-sign Freddy Garcia instead of Bart? I think it has more to do with his second half collapse myself, but you never know. I guess you can’t be surprised that a guy who underwent an experimental stem cell procedure to revive his career would be willing to take some less than legal drugs as well.

4. Joe and I were talking about this a bit yesterday, but I have absolutely no idea who the Yankees are going to call up in September, especially on the pitching side of things. The only non-MLB, non-DL pitchers on the 40-man roster right now are Dellin Betances, Adam Warren, Justin Thomas, and Cory Wade. That’s it. Even the non-40-man players in Triple-A like Manny Delcarmen and Ryota Igarashi are unappealing. The Yankees opened the season with a ton of pitching depth in Triple-A, and five months later it has completely vanished.

5. When we first learned about the club’s intention to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014, we knew that was going to require some cheap production from young players. CC Sabathia was supposed to be joined in the rotation by Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, and Manny Banuelos, and now all three are injured following Nova’s shoulder problem. Hopefully it’s not serious like the injuries that cost Pineda the entire season and Banuelos most of it, but Ivan wasn’t exactly pitching well before he got hurt anyway. They’re going to have to go back to the drawing board for this whole 2014 payroll plan, because the pitching aspect has blown up already.

Bartolo Colon threw 38 consecutive strikes last night

Bartolo Colon pulled a Hiroki Kuroda last night, shutting out the much-hyped Angels over eight innings. More impressively, he threw 38 consecutive strikes from the fifth through eighth innings. Thirty-eight! Here’s video if you don’t believe me. Colon had no problem pounding the zone with the Yankees last year, but sheesh, this is excessive. Bartday was my favorite day of the week in the first half last season, and now the Oakland faithful get to enjoy the fun.

The Bartolo Era Ends: Colon Heads To Oakland

Via Jayson Stark, Bartolo Colon has agreed to a one-year deal with the Athletics. He’s a stopgap solution for a team that traded away both Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill this offseason, and will be without Brett Anderson until at least midseason due to Tommy John surgery.

Colon, 39 in May, was an option for the Yankees right up until Friday night, when the Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda stuff went down. He was the team’s second best starter in the first half of 2011, painting corners with 95 mph heat and backing lefties off the plate with two-seamers inside. Once he started throwing 91-92 and wasn’t hitting the corners as frequently, it stopped being fun. Good luck Bart, thanks for those 164.1 IP.