Life After A-Rod

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

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

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

(NY Daily News)
(NY Daily News)

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

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

Brian McCann

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

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

Heyman: Yanks wanted Foltynewicz, Inciarte for McCann?

(AP)
(AP)

4:28pm ET: Heyman’s post has been changed and now says the last known request was simply “two young players.” Foltynewicz and Inciarte are no longer mentioned by name. Developing!

3:30pm ET: According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees’ “last known request” during Brian McCann trade talks with the Braves was hard-throwing righty Mike Foltynewicz and outfielder Ender Inciarte. Atlanta was apparently willing to eat half of McCann’s $17M annual salary, but they also wanted to give up lesser prospects.

McCann has already cleared trade waivers, and while Heyman says no deal is close, the Yankees are expected to continue listening to offers for their starting catcher. The Braves make sense as a trade partner. McCann played all those years with the Braves, he’s from the Atlanta area, and he’d give them a veteran catcher to lead their young pitchers as they make the transition from rebuilder to contender.

Foltynewicz, 24, was drafted by the Astros and included in the Evan Gattis trade. He has a 4.37 ERA (4.67 FIP) in 78.1 innings this year, and a 5.10 ERA (4.87 FIP) in 183.2 career big league innings. Foltynewicz throws extremely hard — PitchFX says he’s topped out at 99.8 mph this season — and he fits into the Nathan Eovaldi/Michael Pineda class of “hard-throwing but hittable” pitchers. Here’s video:

The 25-year-old Inciarte was part of the Shelby Miller trade and is a WAR All-Star who posts insane defensive numbers. He’s a very good outfielder, don’t get me wrong, but the numbers are a bit skewed because he bounces between the three outfield spots. That messes with the positional adjustments. Inciarte hit .303/.338/.408 (100 wRC+) last year but has zero track record of being a threat at the plate. His numbers dropped back down to .267/.325/.340 (81 wRC+) this year.

I don’t know about you, but Foltynewicz and Inciarte seems light to me. Unless you’re expecting Foltynewicz to take a huge jump forward soon and/or believe 2015 Inciarte is the real Inciarte, you’re talking a project pitcher and a role player for an above-average everyday catcher. The Yankees shouldn’t dump McCann for the sake of dumping him. He’s not blocking Gary Sanchez. The two can co-exist. They are right now!

The Yankees love their big stuff project pitchers — they haven’t had much success turning them into productive big leaguers, but I digress — so it’s not really a surprise they wanted Foltynewicz. I have no idea what they’d do with Inciarte. Flip him elsewhere? How many low-power lefty hitting outfielders can one team carry? The Yankees have Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury in MLB, plus Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, and Jake Cave in Triple-A.

I don’t think Foltynewicz and Inciarte was an unreasonable request by the Yankees. If anything, it was probably a little light, especially if the Braves were only willing to pay half McCann’s salary. It sounds like the Yankees will continue to listen to offers for McCann and I’m sure they’ll circle back around with the Braves at some point. This won’t be the last time we hear about a potential McCann deal.

Heyman: Brian McCann clears trade waivers

(Getty)
(Getty)

According to Jon Heyman, Brian McCann has cleared trade waivers. That means he can now be traded to any other team the rest of the season. Obligatory reminder: pretty much every player will be placed on trade waivers this month. Who clears is not terribly interesting. It’s who doesn’t clear that stands out.

Anyway, the Yankees reportedly listened to offers for McCann prior to the trade deadline, and supposedly the Braves showed interest. I guess they want a veteran catcher who can work with all those young pitchers they’ve acquired as part of their rebuild. McCann is hitting .231/.330/.413 (100 wRC+) with 15 homers this season and remains one of the most productive backstops in the game. I have some thoughts on this.

1. The Yankees will likely continue to explore trades. The Yankees solid at the trade deadline. Legitimately sold. They traded away three of their very best players (and Ivan Nova) for a boatload of prospects. It only makes sense to continue exploring trades involving veteran players in August, and not just McCann. Brett Gardner, Chase Headley, Michael Pineda, Nathan Eovaldi … pretty much everyone.

The Yankees called up Gary Sanchez this week and gave him two starts behind the plate within the last few days. In fact, McCann hasn’t caught a game since Thursday. He’s spent the last three games at DH. The Yankees seem committed to giving their young players a chance down the stretch, and that includes giving Sanchez plenty of starts behind the plate. Save McCann some wear and tear and get a look at Sanchez. It’s a win-win.

Sanchez is, without question, the future behind the plate. At least that’s the plan. Giving him a year as an apprentice under McCann a la Joe Girardi and Jorge Posada back in the day would make sense, though I don’t think it’s imperative. Austin Romine is a decent enough backup option, and Kyle Higashioka’s emergence gives the team extra depth. Besides, the Yankees could always trade McCann and then sign a veteran free agent catcher to mentor Sanchez.

2. What’s a fair price? This is the sticking point. Reportedly the Braves wanted the Yankees to eat a bunch of the $34M owed to McCann the next two years while giving up minimal prospects. I mean, that’s what every teams wants to do with every trade. The Yankees held out for quality prospects and I don’t blame them at all. McCann’s a valuable player, and even with the Yankees in transition, keeping him makes sense, Sanchez or no Sanchez.

I thought the Yankees did really well with their deadline trades, though I’m not sure if that’s because I have a poor read on the market, or because Brian Cashman is just that good. Probably a little of both. I’d want a package with at least one really good prospect for McCann, something along the lines of the Carlos Beltran trade. He’s too productive to give away or salary dump. This isn’t a “must trade” situation. The Yankees have plenty of leverage and can ask for a big return.

3. Eating money is on the table. Prior to the deadline all we heard was the Yankees were not willing to eat money to make trades, and then bam, they ate money to trade Beltran. I imagine eating money to move McCann — they ate some cash in the Martin Prado/Eovaldi deal too — is something they would consider as well. Assuming the other team gives them more in return, of course. That’s how this works.

McCann is pretty expensive by catcher standards — only Buster Posey ($18.6M) has a contract with a higher average annual salary than McCann ($17M) among catchers — and I’m not sure how many teams are willing to commit big bucks to a 32-year-old catcher with all that mileage. Eating money may be the only way for the Yankees to get the kind of return they seek. After taking on salary to trade Beltran, I’m sure they’d be willing to do with McCann as well.

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Monday

Bye, Carlos? (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Bye, Carlos? (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

The 2016 non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET this afternoon, and the Yankees have already been very active. One of the most active teams in baseball, really. Within the last week they traded Aroldis Chapman, traded Andrew Miller, and added Tyler Clippard. Chances are they aren’t done either.

“Stay tuned. A lot more things could happen,” said Brian Cashman to reporters during a conference call following the Miller and Clippard trades yesterday. “If you want to become a super team, there are ways you have to go about it. We’re trying to get back to a situation where we can build an uber-team, and a sustainable one.”

Here are Sunday’s rumors. Once again, we’re going to keep track of the day’s Yankee-related rumors right here in this post. I’m going to be running around a bit today — bad timing, I know, but family first — and will do my best to update things promptly. All time stamps are ET.

  • 9:00am: The Astros, Red Sox, Indians, and Rangers are all in on Carlos Beltran. He has not yet been asked to waive his limited no-trade clause and, unsurprisingly, a trade with Boston is considered unlikely. I’m sure the thought of Beltran helping the BoSox win the World Series makes ownership squeamish, even if it means making the best possible deal. Some clubs want the Yankees to eat money to facilitate a trade. [Buster Olney, Mark Feinsand, Jon Heyman]
  • 9:00am: The Yankees continue to listen to offers for Brian McCann, Brett Gardner, Nathan Eovaldi, and Michael Pineda. They also want to unload impending free agent Ivan Nova prior to today’s deadline. [Joel Sherman]
  • 12:03pm: McCann remains a possibility for the Braves. They want the Yankees to eat a bunch of money and the Yankees want good prospects in return, so there are some things that need to be worked out. [Mark Bowman]

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Sunday

(Stephen Lam/Getty)
(Stephen Lam/Getty)

There are now less than 30 hours until the 2016 non-waiver trade deadline. The Yankees dealt Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs earlier this week, and, in case you missed it earlier this morning, they agreed to trade Andrew Miller to the Indians for four prospects. The Yankees are officially on #TeamSell. What a world.

Yet again, we’re going to keep track of the day’s trade rumblings right here, in this one post. I’m going to be busy most of the day, but I’ll do my best to update things in a timely manner. Here are Saturday’s rumors and here is all of today’s news. All time stamps are ET.

  • 10:00am: The Yankees are listening to offers for Carlos Beltran, but right now other clubs find the asking price to be high. Aside from maybe Jay Bruce, Beltran is the best hitter rumored to be on the market right now. There’s still another day for some team to blink and meet the asking price for the impact bat who might get them over the hump. [Buster Olney]
  • 10:11am: The Yankees are looking to add a veteran reliever to replace Miller. It sounds silly to buy, but you know what? Trading away one or two of those spare upper level outfield prospects for a non-rental bullpen arm makes a lot of sense. [Joel Sherman]
  • 10:19am: The Yankees are indeed close to adding a veteran reliever. Who? And for what? Your guess is as good as mine. [Jack Curry]
  • 10:21am: With Miller gone, the Yankees are expected to make multiple moves prior to Monday’s trade deadline. Beltran is very much in play. [Curry]
  • 12:42pm: A trade sending Brian McCann to the Braves is far from a sure thing. Atlanta wants the Yankees to eat money while not giving up top prospects. McCann has not yet been asked to waive his no-trade clause. [Ken Rosenthal, Mark Feinsand]
  • 12:45pm: The Yankees are still trying to find a taker for Ivan Nova prior to Monday’s deadline. That’s not a surprise. [Joel Sherman]
  • 12:46pm: “Stay tuned. A lot more things could happen,” said Brian Cashman on a conference call this afternoon. He added he has “not been pre-green-lighted on anything,” however.

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Saturday

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

The trade deadline is creeping closer and closer. It’s less than 55 hours away right now, and so far the Yankees have made just one deal, the Aroldis Chapman swap. To be fair, it’s not like a ton of trades are happening around the league. There’s been one or two a day this last week, and none have been particularly exciting. Chapman’s been by far the best player traded this week.

Once again, we’re going to keep track of the day’s trade rumblings right here. Or try to, anyway. I’m going to be running around all day today, so I can’t promise prompt updates, but I’ll do my best. The Yankees tend to keep things close to the vest anyway. It’s not like the last few days have been full of rumors. Here are Friday’s rumblings and here’s what’s happening today. All time stamps are ET.

  • 10:00am: Brian Cashman has been given the thumbs up to trade Ivan Nova, but not yet Michael Pineda or Nathan Eovaldi. Ownership is still hanging on to that “this team can contend!” silliness. Hopefully it’s just posturing. [Joel Sherman]
  • 10:00am: The Yankees and Indians have discussed all sorts of trade scenarios, including some involving Carlos Beltran. Cleveland doesn’t have much payroll wiggle room though and that’s an obstacle. In my opinion the Yankees should be very willing to eat money if it means getting better players in return. Flex that financial muscle. [Jon Heyman]
  • 10:00am: Brian Cashman told the Giants very early on that they didn’t have the prospects to get Chapman or Andrew Miller. Harsh? Maybe. But it’s good to get that out there early rather than string the Giants along and waste everyone’s time. [Sherman]
  • 1:53pm: The Yankees are gauging Brian McCann‘s market and the Braves have interest in a reunion. New York wants real prospects in return and doesn’t want to eat money. The Braves, naturally, want the Yankees to eat some of the $34M owed to McCann from 2017-18 and give up lower rated prospects. McCann has a no-trade clause but is from the Atlanta area, so he may be willing to waive it to go home and help the Braves open their new park next season. [Jon Heyman, Buster Olney, Joel Sherman]
  • 1:58pm: The Rangers have touched base with the Yankees about Beltran, but talks don’t appear to be serious. Texas lost Prince Fielder to season-ending neck surgery a few days ago, creating an opening at DH. [T.R. Sullivan]

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.

Yankeemetrics: Raise or lower the white flag? [July 25-27]

Be Like Mike. (Photo: Getty)
Be Like Mike. (Photo: Getty)

No Chapman, no problem
Despite making their first significant “sell” trade-deadline move in more than two and a half decades, the Yankees continued to remain on the fringes of the playoff race with a 2-1 win over the Astros on Monday.

With the win, the Yankees moved to three games above .500 for the first time this season. This is the deepest into the season they’ve gone without reaching that mark since 1991, when they never got more than a game above .500 the entire season. They finished that forgettable campaign with a 71-91 record, their fifth-worth winning percentage in franchise history.

A victory did not look promising less than a minute after Michael Pineda took the mound in the bottom of the first inning; George Springer deposited the first pitch into the right-field seats for a quick 1-0 Astros lead.

It was the first time a Yankee allowed a first-pitch homer to the first batter of the game since the Jose Reyes took Hiroki Kuroda deep in Toronto on June 25, 2014, and just the 11th occurrence since pitch data became available in 1988. Of the 10 other instances, the only other Yankee pitcher who allowed no other runs besides that leadoff homer — like Pineda — was Jack McDowell on July 13, 1995 versus the Twins.

Austin Romine played the unlikely role of hero with a tie-breaking RBI double in the eighth inning. That was the first career go-ahead hit in the eighth inning or later for the backup catcher, who is hitting a robust .375 (12-for-32) with runners in scoring position this season, the best mark on the team through Monday.

Milestone alerts! Carlos Beltran’s double leading off the seventh inning was the 524th of his career, passing one Hall-of-Famer (Willie Mays) and moving into a tie for 44th place with another Hall-of-Famer (Ken Griffey Jr.). Up next is Ted Williams with 525 doubles.

Chase Headley’s game-tying single in the fifth inning was his 1,147th career hit, breaking the major-league record for most hits by a Colorado-born player. He surpassed Roy Hartzell, a Golden, CO native who played 11 seasons with the St. Louis Browns (1906-10) and the Yankees (1911-16). According to a 1914 New York Times article, Hartzell was the “handiest utility man the Yankees ever had…he has played every position on the club except battery positions.”

That was easy. (Photo: AP)
That was easy. (Photo: AP)

All aboard the win train
The Yankees sure are making it tough for Prince Hal to push the SELL! button. For a team that’s defined inconsistency, they’ve somehow caught an incredible wave of positive momentum at the most critical juncture of the season, beating the Astros again on Tuesday night. It was another comeback win fueled by dominant starting pitching, some timely hitting and a shutdown back-of-the-bullpen performance.

CC Sabathia posted his best start in more than a month, giving up two runs on four hits while pitching into the seventh inning. He snapped a six-game winless streak during which he allowed at least four runs in each outing. That matched the longest such streak of his career, which he also did in 2002.

Although Sabathia had posted an ugly 7.46 ERA in his previous six turns, it wasn’t like he was getting crushed every night. He still entered Tuesday’s game with the lowest average exit velocity allowed (85.8 mph) among pitchers with at least 200 batted balls in play, and then nearly matched that number against the Astros (86.8).

Dellin Betances pulled off another crazy Houdini act, getting out of a two-out bases-loaded jam in the eighth inning to help seal the win. Hitters are just 2-for-27 (.074) with ducks on the pond against Betances in his career, the second-lowest batting average allowed in that situation among active pitchers (min. 25 at-bats), behind only Pirates lefty Tony Watson (.069).

Aces down
The Yankees desperate playoff push hit a speed bump on Wednesday night as the Yankees squandered a golden opportunity to move within three games of the second Wild Card spot after losing to the Astros, 4-1.

Still, even with the disappointing defeat, the Yankees are 11-5 (.688) all-time at Minute Maid Park, their third-highest winning percentage at any ballpark, behind only Atlanta’s Turner Field (.857, 12-2) and Minnesota’s Target Field (.760, 19-6).

Rotation ace Masahiro Tanaka — who entered the game with a league-leading 1.50 ERA in nine road starts — allowed four runs in five innings and lost for just the third time in 21 starts this season.

The loss also snapped a streak of seven straight Yankee wins in games started by Tanaka, the team’s longest such streak since winning 12 games in a row with Ivan Nova (!) on the mound in 2011. Tanaka has now been tagged for 10 runs and 14 hits in 10 career innings at Minute Maid Park.

Prior to Tanaka’s sub-par performance, Yankee pitchers had allowed just 17 runs in their previous 10 games, their best 10-game stretch of run prevention since July 1998.

Brian McCann drove in the lone Yankee run in the fourth inning with his 15th home run. This is the 11th time in his career he’s hit than many homers in a season, a feat matched by only seven other catchers in MLB history: Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Lance Parrish, Yogi Berra, Jorge Posada and Gary Carter.