Hot Stove Notes: Jansen, Melancon, Cespedes, Bautista

Kenley. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)
Kenley. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the GM Meetings wrapped up in Scottsdale and everyone headed home to really get down to offseason business. This week we learned the Yankees have already been in touch with Aroldis Chapman’s people, have some interest in Kendrys Morales, and have identified a possible trade partner for Brian McCann. Here are some more bits of news and notes from the GM Meetings.

Yankees willing to eat money to move McCann

According to Jeff Passan, the Yankees have expressed a willingness to eat up to half the $34M left on McCann’s contract to facilitate a trade. The catch: they want better young players in return. That’s usually how this works. I said yesterday I hope the Yankees are open to eating some money in exchange for a better return, and it appears they are willing to do just that. Hooray.

Yankees reached out to Jansen, Melancon

In addition to Chapman, the Yankees reached out to the representatives for both Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon this week, reports Brendan Kuty. The Yankees are said to be targeting a top free agent reliever this winter, and those two along with Chapman are by far the best available. Jansen received a qualifying offer and will cost a draft pick. Chapman and Melancon will not. They were ineligible for the qualifying offer after being traded at midseason.

There’s been some talk we could see the first $100M reliever this offseason — Jonathan Papelbon’s $50M deal with the Phillies is still the largest contract ever given to a reliever, so we’re talking about doubling that — but I don’t think that will happen. I don’t think teams are ready to commit that much to a 65-inning pitcher, even if they are 65 high-leverage innings. Andrew Miller‘s postseason usage is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Once we get further away from that and people remember relievers don’t get used like that all the time, contract expectations will change.

Yankees planning to talk to Hill

Amazingly, the best free agent starter on the market this year is journeyman southpaw Rich Hill, who reinvented himself two years ago by raising his arm angle and moving to the extreme third base side of the rubber. Brian Cashman told Kuty he intends to reach out to Hill, who pitched out of the bullpen for the Yankees in September 2014, at some point soon.

“I can’t remember if I have (reached out to him) or not. Let’s put it this way. I will be reaching out to Rich’s agent if I haven’t yet. I have a to-do list I’m working through,” said the GM. Hill will be 37 in March and he hasn’t thrown more than 120 innings since 2007, but the market is so light on starting pitching that he’s going to end up with a three-year contract. When healthy this year, Hill pitched like an ace (2.12 ERA and 2.39 FIP). The Yankees need pitching too, so checking in on the best available starter only makes sense.

Yankees have checked in on Cespedes, Bautista

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The Yankees have reached out to free agent sluggers Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista, reports Jon Heyman. Both guys would give the team some much-needed middle of the order thump, but Cashman downplayed their interest and chalked it up to due diligence. “I’m open to anything. But as of right now, we’re going to let the kids take a shot. Our current focus is to let the kids try to take the job,” he said.

Bautista and especially Cespedes are true impact bats who change the entire complexion of the lineup. The Yankees could use a hitter like that! Right now, given the team’s current situation, spending big on a corner outfield bat over 30 doesn’t seem like the best idea. If they were ready to win right now, then yes, sign one of those guys. But the Yankees aren’t. They’re right to prioritize the kids, especially with Aaron Judge arriving this past season and Clint Frazier not far behind.

Yankees in on Logan

Blast from the past: The Yankees are among the teams interested in lefty Boone Logan, according to Joel Sherman. Right now Tommy Layne is New York’s top lefty reliever, and he’s followed on the depth chart by guys like Richard Bleier and Chasen Shreve. Eh. I don’t blame the Yankees at all for looking at the bullpen lefty market. Here’s 2016 Logan vs. 2016 Layne:

IP ERA FIP AVG/OBP/SLG vs. LHB K% vs. LHB BB% vs. LHB GB% vs. LHB
Logan 46.1 3.69 3.23 .139/.222/.255 33.6% 7.6% 60.6%
Layne 44.2 3.63 3.93 .214/.310/.261 20.8% 9.9% 51.6%

The question really isn’t whether Logan is better than Layne. It’s whether Logan is better than Bleier and Shreve and James Pazos. Those guys. I don’t love the idea of carrying two lefty specialists in the bullpen, especially with a rotation that doesn’t pitch deep into games, but it is doable. My guess is Logan gets more money elsewhere and the Yankees are just kicking the tires out of due diligence.

Teams calling on Andujar

The Yankees are getting phone calls and receiving trade interest in third base prospect Miguel Andujar, reports Kuty. “I get a lot of compliments on him from other clubs, a lot of teams asking me about him. He’s going to be a big leaguer,” said Cashman. I’m guessing Andujar is not the team’s only prospect generating trade interest. The Yankees have many quality players in their system at the moment.

Andujar, 22 in March, is currently hitting .309/.400/.392 (122 wRC+) with more walks (nine) than strikeouts (seven) through 16 Arizona Fall League games. He broke out with a .270/.327/.407 (108 wRC+) batting line and 12 home runs in 137 games split between High-A and Double-A during the regular season. Andujar is the closest thing the Yankees have to a third baseman of the future, and while I certainly wouldn’t make him off-limits in trade talks, I am excited to see him take another step forward in 2017.

Yankees can still add depth for the stretch run with small waiver trades

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Despite trading away valuable veterans at the deadline, the Yankees remain in the wildcard race and have a chance to at least make these last few weeks interesting. Are they the front-runners for the second wildcard spot? No. But they’re within striking distance, and as long as they’re close, they should continue to push for a postseason spot. If you’re not going to do that, what’s the point?

The Yankees are an obviously flawed team that is now at least fun to watch. They were pretty boring for most of the season. All of the recent call-ups have made things way more interesting, and I’m pretty sure they’ve made the Yankees an overall better team too. There are still ways to get better, and the Yankees can still make upgrades through waivers trades in the coming weeks.

A really quick crash course on trade waivers: every player on the 40-man roster has to go through trade waivers to be traded after the deadline. If the player goes unclaimed, he can be traded anywhere. If he is claimed, he can only be traded to the claiming team. Trade waivers are completely revocable, so if a player is claimed, he can be pulled back. Pretty much every player is placed on trade waivers this month. By putting everyone on waivers, teams mask the guys they actually want to trade.

Players must be in the organization by 11:59pm ET on August 31st to be eligible for the postseason roster and that’s a hard deadline. There are no loopholes around that one. Obviously if you make a waiver trade, you want to be able to take that player into October. But the Yankees aren’t in position to think that far ahead yet. They have to get to the postseason first, and if that means making a trade after August 31st, so be it.

The Yankees are committed to this transition and playing the kids, as they should be. There are still ways to upgrade the roster around them and improve the team’s chances of contention, and the Yankees should look to do that in the coming weeks. Here are the obvious spots Brian Cashman & Co. could look to upgrade for the stretch drive, plus some potential targets on teams out of the race.

The Sixth Starter

The last turn through the rotation has gone well thanks to Chad Green and Luis Cessa, who are replacing the injured Nathan Eovaldi and the ineffective Luis Severino. Severino is the sixth starter by default right now, which isn’t great because he has some things to work on in Triple-A. There’s always room for more pitching, though right now, the pickin’s are slim. Unless you want to pay big for someone like Jeremy Hellickson, that is. One veteran candidate stands out as a possible trade target.

De La Rosa. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)
De La Rosa. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies: The Rockies were three games back of a wildcard spot as recent as August 4th, though they’ve struggled of late and have slipped to seven games back. De La Rosa, an impending free agent, has a 5.07 ERA (5.19 FIP) in 110 total innings this season, though that doesn’t tell the whole story. He started the year in the rotation, pitched terribly, got demoted to the bullpen, then eventually rejoined the rotation.

De La Rosa made his first start back in the rotation against the Yankees and held them scoreless over five innings, as you may remember. Since rejoining the rotation the 35-year-old southpaw has a 3.56 ERA (5.00 FIP) in 78.1 total innings. The Yankees have been connected to De La Rosa before, both as a free agent and in trades, so there may be lingering interest. You could do a lot worse than a guy with a history of missing bats, getting grounders, and experience pitching in a harsh home ballpark for your sixth starter.

The Extra Reliever

No, they’re not Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, but Adam Warren and Tyler Clippard have done a fine job in the seventh and eighth inning since the trade deadline. The middle relief is still a bit sketchy — Tommy Layne and Blake Parker haven’t done much to solve things — and besides, there’s always room for another quality reliever. Reliever prices have been pretty high, though there’s a chance they may come down as rebuilding teams look to unload impending free agents rather than lose them for nothing after the season. Here are some potential bullpen targets.

Jim Johnson, Braves: The Braves have been signing and flipping scrap heap arms for prospects all year. They did it with Bud Norris, Jhoulys Chacin, Jason Grilli, and Lucas Harrell. Johnson has a 3.50 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 46.1 innings thanks to an improved strikeout rate (24.2%) and his typically excellent ground ball rate (56.6%). He’s been closing the last few weeks, ever since Arodys Vizcaino landed on the DL with an oblique problem. Johnson’s on a cheap one-year contract.

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
Logan. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Boone Logan, Rockies: The Yankees went from having two of the three best lefty relievers in baseball to no reliable southpaws at the trade deadline. Miller and Chapman are gone, leaving guys like Layne, Chasen Shreve, and Richard Bleier to pick up the slack. It hasn’t gone too well. Logan is having a phenomenal contract year, pitching to a 2.65 ERA (2.42 FIP) in 37.1 innings. More importantly, he’s held left-handed batters to a .148/.213/.253 batting line with a 32.6% strikeout rate and a 62.5% ground ball rate. He’s been a shutout left-on-left matchup guy.

Carlos Torres, Brewers: Don’t ask me why, but I’ve been an irrational Carlos Torres fan for a few years now. He’s have a strong season in Milwaukee (2.86 ERA and 3.78 FIP) and he’s a rubber-armed swingman, someone who can throw two or three innings at a time and pitch back-to-back-to-back days with no problem. As an added bonus, Torres would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2018. The Yankees don’t have a long man at the moment and Torres would fill that void well.

The Big Bench Bat

Pitching is pitching and teams always need it. These next two positions are September specialties. Only once rosters expand does it make sense to dedicate a spot to an extra lefty bench bat, something the Yankees lack right now. (Their current bench is Mark Teixeira, Aaron Hicks, Ronald Torreyes, and Austin Romine.) Expanded rosters give teams the flexibility to carry a dedicated pinch-hitting specialist, which can come in handy. Here are two candidates.

Ryan Howard, Phillies: Go ahead and laugh. After all, Howard is hitting .198/.252/.445 (78 wRC+) on the season and he’s been a punchline for three or four years now. He hasn’t even hit righties this year (.206/.268/.472). So why target him? Because Howard is a short porch friendly left-handed hitter who can still hit a baseball to the moon …

… and he’s hitting .378/.425/.838 (228 wRC+) this month. The Phillies have been trying to give Howard away for close to two years now. Picking him up for cash considerations, say the pro-rated portion of the league minimum, to pinch-hit 12-15 times in September as literally the 40th man on the 40-man roster is a super-low-risk move. One well-timed dinger in those 12-15 September at-bats would make it all worth it.

Justin Morneau, White Sox: The Howard logic applies to Morneau, though Morneau is at least hitting a respectable .275/.312/.480 (108 wRC+) in limited time with the White Sox this year. They signed him at midseason following offseason elbow surgery and the club has since fallen out of the race, so there’s not much point in keeping him. As with Howard, Morneau could be a strategic September pinch-hitter as long as he comes super cheap.

The Pinch-Runner Specialist

Designated pinch-runners have become a September staple. The Yankees don’t have a true burner in Triple-A, and in fact their best pinch-runner option may be Jorge Mateo, who will have to be added to the 40-man roster for Rule 5 Draft protection after the season anyway. Is it worth calling him and starting his service time clock for that? Maybe. There are other candidates around the league though.

Emilio Bonifacio, Braves: Bonifacio never has been able to carve out as a role as a super utility guy, but he can still run, and he currently leads the Triple-A International league with 37 steals (in 42 attempts). He’s always been a bit reckless on the bases, which isn’t necessarily a good thing, but at least he won’t hesitate to run. Bonifacio is mighty aggressive.

Michael Bourn, Diamondbacks: Bourn’s days as an elite base-stealer are over because he’s old by speed guy standards (33), but he can still run a little and is 12-for-17 in steal attempts this year. I also think there’s something to be said for his base-stealing experience and knowing pitchers (and their moves) around the league.

Mastroianni. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Mastroianni. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Darin Mastroianni, Twins: A sexy name? Nope. But neither was Rico Noel last year, and Rico did the job well. Mastroianni has been up-and-down and hurt this year, so he hasn’t played much and only has ten steals (in 13 attempts). This is a guy who went 56-for-67 (84%) in steal attempts from 2013-15 though. Remember, the September pinch-runner only has to run. He doesn’t have to hit or even field. Just run. Mastroianni can run.

* * *

The important thing here is expanding rosters. There’s no sense in acquiring someone like Howard or Mastroianni right now. They’re guys you acquire on August 31st and activate on September 1st, once rosters expand so you don’t have to cut someone loose. The Yankees can still commit to playing the kids while upgrading the margins of their roster, either with some extra arms or bench players. And as long as they’re in the postseason race, even minor league upgrades are moves worth making.

Saunders: Tommy Kahnle makes Rockies’ roster

Via Patrick Saunders: Right-hander Tommy Kahnle has made the Rockies’ Opening Day roster. They selected him from the Yankees in the Rule 5 Draft back in December. He is filling former Yankee Boone Logan‘s spot since the lefty is not all the way back from offseason elbow surgery.

Kahnle, 24, must remain on Colorado’s 25-man active roster all season, or be offered back to the Yankees. He had a 2.85 ERA (3.85 FIP) in 60 innings for Double-A Trenton last season, and this spring he allowed just one run in 9.2 innings. Kahnle throws very hard but his command is spotty at best. As with most Rule 5 Draft players, the odds are greatly in favor of him being offered back to the Yankees at some point.

Bullpen exodus: Joba to Tigers, Logan to Rockies

The Yankees have lost two relievers to free agency over the last 24 hours or so. First, Buster Olney reported Joba Chamberlain has agreed to a one-year contract worth $2.5M with the Tigers. He’ll join their revamped setup crew. Joba was awful in 2013 (4.93 ERA and 5.64 FIP in 42 innings) and finished his Yankees career with a 3.85 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 444.2 innings. There were no indications the team was interested in a reunion, understandably.

Next, Jon Heyman reported Boone Logan has agreed to a three-year, $16.5M deal with the Rockies. Nice payday for him. Logan had a 3.23 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 39 innings this past and Clayton Kershaw was the only left-handed pitcher in baseball with a higher strikeout rate against left-handed batters. He finishes his Yankees career with a 3.38 ERA (3.63 FIP) in parts of four seasons. Boone caught a lot of undeserved crap over the years (I’m certainly guilty) but chances are the team will miss him next season (they did talk about re-signing him). Pretty crazy that he ended up being the best player to come out of that trade.

Between these two guys plus Mariano Rivera, the Yankees have now lost three relievers who combined for a 3.22 ERA (3.97 FIP) in 145 innings this past season. The bullpen is pretty sketchy behind David Robertson right now. The team needs to work on that these next two months.

2013 Winter Meetings Day One Open Thread

2013 Winter Meetings

It’s hard to believe that after everything that happened last week, today is the first day of the Winter Meetings in Orlando. These next three days — the fourth day of the Winter Meetings is always slow because teams head home around noon-ish — might be a little slower than usual only because some of the very top free agents are always off the board. I still expect this week to be pretty busy, with lots of rumors and trades and signings with whatnot.

Robinson Cano is leaving for the Mariners and Curtis Granderson is going across town to the Mets, but the Yankees have already inked Jacoby Ellsbury (seven years, $153M), Brian McCann (five years, $85M), Carlos Beltran (three years, $45M), Hiroki Kuroda (one year, $16M), and Kelly Johnson (one year, $3M). They still need another infielder to help replace Cano as well as another starting pitcher — Yu Darvish was posted during the 2011 Winter Meetings, so hopefully we get some clarification about Masahiro Tanaka this week — and some bullpen help. General depth is always something to monitor as well.

Brian Cashman is not expected to arrive in Orlando until this afternoon according to Andy McCullough, but that’s pretty typical. A few clubs and executives are already there but most trickle in throughout Monday. We’re going to keep track of any Yankees-related news right here throughout the day, so make sure you check back often. All of the timestamps are ET.

  • 10:58pm: The Yankees have not changed their stance on Gardner. They will listen to offers but aren’t overly motivated to trade him. [Jack Curry]
  • 7:47pm: The asking price for Gardner is “through (the) roof” and the Giants don’t have much interest in Ichiro Suzuki. Not surprised on either count. [John Shea]
  • 6:58pm: The Giants are intrigued by Gardner. One person involved in talks called a trade “not likely, but not impossible.” [Sherman]
  • 6:38pm: The most likely return for Gardner would be a number four starter, according to rival executives. A number three would be a strong return. Just keep him in that case. [McCullough]
  • 5:05pm: The Yankees are looking for relievers and they have stayed in contact with Boone Logan. He had a bone spur removed from his elbow after the season and is expected to start throwing this month. [McCullough]
  • 5:01pm: Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz will be eligible to sign on February 19th after being suspended for falsifying his age. The Yankees had a “large presence” at the 23-year-old’s recent showcase events in Mexico. Some teams like him more as a second baseman. [Jeff Passan]
  • 11:10am: The Yankees have not expressed interest in Johan Santana. He’s coming off his second torn shoulder capsule and the first is usually the kiss of death. [McCullough]
  • 11:03am: Thinking about Roy Halladay? Forget it. He’s retiring. Halladay will sign a one-day contract with the Blue Jays and make the official announcement later today. [Jon Heyman]
  • The Yankees are one of the teams with interest in trading for Cubs right-hander Jeff Samardzija. I wrote about him around the trade deadline. [Bruce Levine]
  • 9:00am: “That’s the last thing I’m worried about,” said Cashman when asked about acquiring a closer. He acknowledged they’re seeking another starter and bullpen help in general. “Listen, we have enough voids that you don’t have to prioritize any of it. You hope to run into something sooner than later that makes you better.” [Dan Martin]
  • The Yankees did look into a reunion with Raul Ibanez but he isn’t much of a fit now. The outfield is crowded and there’s no room for another DH-type. Ibanez is expected to sign this week. [Joel Sherman]
  • The Yankees still have interest in Omar Infante as a Cano replacement. They are not talking to Mark Ellis, however. [Ken Rosenthal]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

147 players, 13 Yankees officially become free agents

As I mentioned this morning, eligible players officially became free agents at 9am ET this morning. They still have to wait five days to sign with new teams, however. The MLBPA released a list of all 147 free agents this afternoon, which you can check out right here. Among those 147 players are 13 Yankees: Robinson Cano, Joba Chamberlain, Curtis Granderson, Travis Hafner, Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, Boone Logan, Lyle Overbay, Andy Pettitte, Mark Reynolds, Mariano Rivera, Brendan Ryan, and Kevin Youkilis.

There are currently 28 players on the 40-man roster, though Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Corban Joseph, Jayson Nix, Francisco Cervelli, and CC Sabathia all have to be activated off the 60-day DL by Monday. So, in reality, there are 34 players on the 40-man.

What Went Right: Boone Logan

The 2013 season is over and now it’s time to review all aspects of the year that was, continuing today with a bullpen stalwart and one of the most undeserved punching bags in recent Yankees history (I’m guilty).

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Given all the money they’ve spent over the years, it’s pretty obvious the Yankees value having a quality left-handed reliever in the bullpen. And they should. The AL East is full of powerful lefty bats, from David Ortiz to Chris Davis to Colby Rasmus to … uh … James Loney. Once upon a time they had to deal with guys like Carlos Pena and Carlos Delgado as well. It definitely makes sense for New York to have that shutdown southpaw. For the fourth straight year, Boone Logan was that guy.

Fittingly, Logan’s season was book-ended by elbow problems. He was on the 2013 Yankees, after all. The team took it easy on him in Spring Training — Logan only appeared in four Grapefruit League games, less than half what a regular big league reliever usually makes — because of a tender elbow, which likely had something to do with his a) career-high 55.1 innings and league-leading 80 appearances in 2012, and b) extreme slider usage (51.4% in 2012 and 44.8% from 2011-2012). Lots of appearances — not to mention all the times he warmed up but didn’t get into the game — and lots of sliders are usually bad for the elbow.

Despite the elbow issue, Logan was his usual self for most of the regular season. He had his first notable meltdown on May 5th and even that was just a solo homer by MVP candidate/right-handed batter Josh Donaldson to break a tie in the eighth inning. Logan allowed only three runs between that game and the All-Star break, striking out 26 and walking three (one intentionally) in 16.1 innings across 27 appearances. He was dominating both lefties (.189/.225/.324, 50.0 K%) and righties (.190/.217/.333, 26.1 K%).

Logan hit a rough patch in mid-August, allowing four runs on four base-runners in one full inning of work across two appearances against the Angels. He allowed one run in nine appearances going into that stretch and followed with seven straight scoreless outings. It was just a hiccup. When August came to an end, Logan had a 2.68 ERA and 3.51 FIP in 37 innings across 56 appearances. Lefties hit .230/.266/.392 with a 38.8% strikeout rate against him during the first five months of the 2013 season. A little too much power (three homers), but fine overall.

For all intents and purposes, Logan’s season came to an end on September 6th. That was the game in which he inherited a bases loaded situation and allowed the grand slam to Mike Napoli. I know you remember that game. He left that game with what was originally called tightness in his biceps, and subsequent tests showed only inflammation. Logan received a cortisone shot and started a throwing program, but he didn’t improve and headed to see Dr. James Andrews. Andrews found a bone spur in Boone’s pitching elbow. He was given the okay to continue pitching but Joe Girardi only used him once more that season: on September 24th, when he struck out the only man he faced (Sam Fuld).

(Dave Reginek/Getty)
(Dave Reginek/Getty)

Logan ended the season having thrown 39 innings across 61 appearances, posting a 3.23 ERA and 3.82 FIP overall. Obviously his primary job was to neutralize lefties and he did that, limiting same-side hitters to a .215/.274/.377 (.281 wOBA) line with very good to great strikeout (14.57 K/9 and 40.0 K%), walk (2.57 BB/9 and 7.1 BB%), and ground ball (44.2%) rates. Among left-handed pitchers, only Clayton Kershaw (41.5%) had a higher strikeout rate against lefty batters this summer (min. 20 IP). In the quirky stat department, Logan led all relievers in appearances in which he struck out every batter he faced this year with 12. Kinda cool, I guess.

Homeruns were a bit of a problem for Logan this summer, as he allowed a career-high seven dingers in those 39 innings (1.62 HR/9). That’s a lot of homers even for Yankee Stadium, especially for a pitcher with a very good 47.3% ground ball rate overall. His 20.0% HR/FB ratio was more than double the 9.3% HR/FB ratio he posted during his first three years in pinstripes. The long ball spike could be due to a number of things, including the elbow issue that he acknowledged had been bothering him all year. The homers were a bit of a bugaboo this summer.

Logan had surgery to remove the bone spur right after the season and is expected to both start throwing again in December and be ready in time for Spring Training. He will become a free agent in the coming days and has already expressed an interest in returning to the New York, though it’s unclear if the feeling is mutual. The Yankees are trimming payroll and lefty reliever sure seems like a potential spot to save money. Either way, Logan capped off a rather successful four-year stint in pinstripes with another very good performance this year. He has been, by far, the team’s best left-handed reliever since Mike Stanton.