Yanks activate Holliday, call up four others as rosters expand

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
Matt’s back. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

September roster expansion has arrived and the Yankees added five players to the active roster Friday. Matt Holliday was activated off the disabled list and Jordan Montgomery, Ben Heller, Bryan Mitchell, and Erik Kratz were all called up from Triple-A Scranton. Luis Cessa, who is out with a rib cage injury, was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Kratz. The Yankees now have 30 players on the active roster.

Holliday has been out since August 4th with a back problem and, prior to that, he’d been dealing with an illness for weeks. He is hitting .229/.319/.430 (98 wRC+) with 16 home runs this season, but, in the 31 games prior to the back injury, he hit a weak .175/.263/.307 (51 wRC+) in 156 plate appearances. I’m curious to see how the Yankees use him. Will Holliday step back into the lineup as the full-time DH? Or will he see more time on the bench until he proves he deserves more at-bats? We’ll see.

Montgomery and Mitchell were locks to be called up — at least I thought they were — and I’m pleasantly surprised to see Heller get the call over Jonathan Holder. Holder got the call pretty much every time the Yankees needed a shuttle arm this summer, so I figured he’d come up on September 1st and Heller would remain in Triple-A. Instead, Heller is up and Holder is still down. Holder will be up soon enough though. Probably after the Triple-A postseason.

The Yankees acquired Kratz from the Indians in a cash trade yesterday and he’ll be the third catcher the final month of the season. Kyle Higashioka is currently on the Triple-A disabled list and he’s missed an awful lot time this year. Only 96 plate appearances all season. I imagine he’ll remain with Scranton through the postseason. Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine will serve their suspensions at some point, so Kratz is going to play a bit.

Garrett Cooper (hamstring) and Clint Frazier (oblique) are on the disabled list and figure to be activated at some point this month. There are eight players on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues right now: Holder, Higashioka, Miguel Andujar, Tyler Austin, Domingo German, Ronald Herrera, Caleb Smith, and Tyler Wade. Austin, Smith, and Wade can’t come up yet because of the ten-day rule. The other guys will have to wait until the Triple-A postseason ends, I imagine.

Previewing the Yankees’ upcoming September call-ups

Matty H. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Matty H. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

This coming Friday, on September 1st, all 30 big league teams will be allowed to expand their active rosters from 25 players up to 40 players. Most teams end up going with 30-35 players in September. Maybe two or three clubs a year actually go with the maximum 40 players. Either way, rosters are going to expand in a few days and every club has reinforcements coming.

The Yankees have been fairly aggressive with September call-ups in recent years. Aggressive in the sense that they call up a lot of extra players in general, especially on September 1st. Last year they called up six players on September 1st. The year before it was seven players. The year before that it was nine players. Nine call-ups on September 1st! Good gravy. The Yankees tend to call up plenty of help the first day possible. I’m surprised more teams don’t do the same.

So, with September call-ups only a few days away, there’s no better time to look ahead at who the Yankees could bring to the big leagues once rosters expand. Let’s take a trip through the organizational depth chart. Come with me, won’t you?

The Injured Guys

Might as well start here. The Yankees currently have five players on the MLB disabled list: Luis Cessa, Garrett Cooper, Clint Frazier, Matt Holliday, and Michael Pineda. Pineda’s done for the season following Tommy John surgery. I’m not really sure what’s up with Cessa. We haven’t heard any updates on him since he was sidelined by rib cage issue on August 15th. Should Cessa get healthy before the end of the season, he’ll join the Yankees, I’m sure.

Both Holliday and Cooper are on minor league rehab assignments right now and in all likelihood both will be activated Friday, the first day rosters expand. Frazier recently started taking swings and going through some other baseball activities, so he’s a little further behind Cooper and Holliday. Once he gets healthy and goes through the requisite minor league rehab assignment — assuming there are still minor league games being played at that time — Frazier will be activated and join the Yankees for the rest of the season. Pretty straightforward here.

The September Locks

Monty. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Monty. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

As always, the safest bets for September call-ups are guys who were up earlier this season. There are eleven such players on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues right now: Miguel Andujar, Tyler Austin, Gio Gallegos, Domingo German, Ben Heller, Ronald Herrera, Kyle Higashioka, Jonathan Holder, Bryan Mitchell, Jordan Montgomery, and Tyler Wade. All eleven of those guys have seen big league time this year. Some more than others.

Like I said, the Yankees have been fairly aggressive with their September 1st call-ups in recent years, so I expect several of these players to join the Yankees on Friday. Montgomery is an absolutely lock. He’s going to get a September call-up and step right back into the rotation, I suspect. Mitchell, Holder, and Gallegos have been the primary up-and-down relievers this season, and since the Yankees like to load up on pitching reinforcements whenever possible, my money is on all three guys showing up to Yankee Stadium this Friday.

Austin and Wade are all obvious September call-ups candidates as well, though there is a catch here. They were both sent down recently and need to wait out the ten-day rule first. Wade was sent down Friday, when Starlin Castro was activated, so he can’t come back up until Monday. Austin was sent down Saturday to make room for Greg Bird. He can’t come back until Tuesday. The ten-day rule is a bit of a hassle. It is what it is.

The Guys Who Might Have To Wait

As noted, there are eleven players on the 40-man roster and not in the big leagues right now. I expect four to be called up on September 1st: Mitchell, Montgomery, Gallegos, and Holder. That’s all. The other seven will have to wait a little bit for different reasons. Austin and Wade have to wait because of the ten-day rule. Here’s my thinking on the remaining five guys.

1. Higashioka and Herrera are both hurt. Pretty good reason for not calling them upright away, I’d say. Herrera is currently pitching in rookie ball rehab games and is expected to join the Double-A Trenton rotation (or maybe Triple-A Scranton rotation) for the postseason next week. Herrera was called up twice this year as an emergency fill-in. It was one of those “crap we need a long man and he’s the only guy lined up” situations. Well, two of those.

Higashioka, meanwhile, is currently out with a shoulder injury that is not believed to be serious. There’s even some talk he could be ready to go by time rosters expand Friday. That would be cool. A third catcher is a September staple, and keep in mind Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine have suspensions pending. They’re appealing, though at some point they’re going to have serve at least part of their suspensions, and having Higashioka on the active roster will make it much easier to get by without those guys. He has to get healthy first though.

2. The Yankees have mostly avoided Andujar and Heller. There have been plenty of opportunities to call up both guys this year, and they have seen big league time. Andujar had the one great game against the White Sox. Heller has made two appearances with the Yankees this season, most notably throwing two scoreless innings in the 16-inning win at Fenway Park right after the All-Star break.

Andujar. (Times Leader)
Andujar. (Times Leader)

The Yankees could have easily — and justifiably — called up Andujar and/or Heller on several other occasions this season, but choose to go in another direction. With Andujar, he’s a bonafide prospect who needs to improve his defense, so keeping him in Triple-A to work at the hot corner rather than play sporadically at the MLB is understandable. Heller? I’m not sure. The Yankees seem to prefer Gallegos and Holder for whatever reason. I’m a Heller guy. The Yankees aren’t.

Point is, because these two have been passed over for call-ups these last few weeks, I don’t think they will be September 1st call-ups when rosters expand. Both will likely have to wait until the Triple-A postseason ends, which could be as early as next weekend or as late as September 19th. There aren’t going to be many at-bats available for Andujar, and with Heller, how many mop-up relievers does a team need? I think both will have to wait until the RailRiders are done playing.

3. German needs to pitch. From June 6th through July 28th, a span of 52 days, German made eight appearances and threw 350 total pitches. That’s all. This kid’s a starter! But he spent so much time with the Yankees as their seldom used eighth reliever that it took a few Triple-A outings to get stretched all the way back out. German has thrown 115 total innings this season and that’s not much at all. This is his first full season since Tommy John surgery, so I imagine the Yankees are monitoring his workload closely. I still think they want German to log more innings this season. That’s why I think he’ll stay with Scranton, start every fifth day through the end of their season, then come up to sit in the bullpen.

Non-40-Man Roster Guys

Every once in a while the Yankees will take a player who will be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season, add him to the 40-man roster, and call him up September. Rather than wait to add the player to the 40-man at the November deadline, they get a head start on things and call him up in September. Romine received his first taste of the big leagues that way in September 2011. The Yankees did the same thing with James Pazos in 2015.

That does not happen often, however, and I do not think the Yankees will do it this September. Gleyber Torres is hurt, Domingo Acevedo has been shut down due to his workload, and Albert Abreu missed a big chunk of the season with injuries and has yet to pitch above High-A. They’ll all be Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season and the Yankees will add them to the 40-man roster prior to the November deadline, no doubt. Not a second earlier, however. Torres and Acevedo are unavailable and Abreu is a Single-A kid. Calling them up would be pointless.

Other 40-man roster hopefuls like Jake Cave and Billy McKinney wouldn’t have a defined role in September. Romine was the third catcher. Pazos was the third lefty. Cave and McKinney would be … the seventh and eighth outfielders? Not exactly a big priority. I suppose the Yankees could add Cave to the 40-man roster — he’s going to be a minor league free agent this winter, so the Yankees will have to add him to the 40-man pretty much right after the World Series to avoid losing him — as a reward for his great season, but nah. Roster space is at a premium.

E-Rod. (Scranton Times Tribune)
E-Rod. (Scranton Times Tribune)

Now, that all said, there are two non-40-man players who I think could get a September call-up. One is Eddy Rodriguez, and he will only get called up if a) Higashioka doesn’t get healthy reasonably soon, and b) both Sanchez and Romine have their appeals heard and must serve their suspensions. So basically only if the Yankees run out of eligible catchers. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. If it does, the Yankees will have no choice but to clear a 40-man roster spot to call up Rodriguez.

The other non-40-man call-up candidate? I don’t know. It’ll be the designated September pinch-runner, whoever that ends up being. Last year it was Eric Young Jr., the year before it was Rico Noel, and the year before that it was Antoan Richardson. Back in 2009 it was Freddy Guzman. Guzman was on the postseason roster all three rounds that year. True story. The Yankees have made it clear they value the designated September pinch-runner.

Jorge Mateo has been traded and I don’t think the Yankees would use Jacoby Ellsbury as their designated pinch-runner — besides, he’s starting to hit a little bit now, so I imagine he’ll find himself in the starting lineup a little more often going forward — so they don’t have an obvious in-house candidate for that role. If the Yankees are willing to open a 40-man roster spot, they’ll likely go out and get someone to come off the bench and run in September. Not a big trade — they got Young for cash last year — but a trade nonetheless.

* * *

As is often the case, this year’s batch of September call-ups is fairly straightforward. Holliday and Cooper will return from the disabled list Friday while Montgomery, Mitchell, Holder, and Gallegos figure to came up from Scranton, giving the Yankees six extra players on the first day rosters expand. Others like Andujar, Austin, German, Heller, and Wade are likely to come up shortly thereafter. Cessa, Frazier, and Higashioka will join the Yankees once they’re healthy, and if Higashioka doesn’t get healthy soon, Rodriguez figures to come up instead. Herrera and a pinch-runner are other possibilities.

I am pro-September call-ups — there are a lot of weirdos out there who don’t like expanded rosters — and it’s always fun to see the young guys come up, but here’s something to keep in mind: the Yankees are fighting for a postseason spot. They’re not going to play Andujar (or Cave) for the heck of it. Joe Girardi is going to stick with his regulars because the Yankees need to win, and the regulars give them the best chance to do that. The call-ups are around for blowouts and emergencies. That’s about it.

Game 124: Tanaka Returns

(David Maxwell/Getty)
(David Maxwell/Getty)

The Yankees are finally starting to get healthy. CC Sabathia returned over the weekend and at some point soon Starlin Castro, Greg Bird, and Matt Holliday figure to return as well. They’re all on minor league rehab assignments. Tonight Masahiro Tanaka returns from what was essentially a quick ten-day vacation to knock out a dead arm phase. Tanaka threw an extended bullpen session over the weekend and feels good to go. Good news.

Tonight the Yankees begin a three-game series with the very bad Tigers in Detroit. The Tigers are 54-69 this season and 3-12 in their last 15 games. The Yankees lost two of three to these Tigers a few weeks ago, and geez, that can’t happen again. The Yankees really need to start beating up on bad teams these final few weeks to reach the postseason. One game at a time though. Win tonight and go from there. Here is the Tigers’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. CF Aaron Hicks
  3. C Gary Sanchez
  4. RF Aaron Judge
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. DH Tyler Austin
  7. 1B Chase Headley
  8. 3B Todd Frazier
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Masahiro Tanaka

The weather was not good in Detroit today. Rained pretty much all afternoon. It’s supposed to clear out tonight and stay cleared out, so the Yankees and Tigers shouldn’t have a problem getting this game in. Tonight’s series opener will begin at 7:10pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Bryan Mitchell was sent down to clear a roster spot for Tanaka, the Yankees announced. The Yankees still have eight relievers in the bullpen.

Game 111: Sanchez returns behind the plate

(Lindsey Wasson/Getty)
(Lindsey Wasson/Getty)

This shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is: Gary Sanchez is back at catcher for tonight’s series opener against the Blue Jays. He served as the designated hitter Saturday and was flat out benched Sunday, all because of his recent passed ball issues. Sanchez has allowed five passed balls in his last 12 games, which is entirely too many. Joe Girardi had enough, so he sat Gary to send a message.

The Yankees, without Sanchez in the lineup, broke out for eight runs Sunday after scoring eight runs total in their previous five games. Hopefully that gets them going on a little hot streak. The pitching staff has been phenomenal since the All-Star break — the Yankees lead the AL in ERA (2.92) and FIP (3.11) in the second half — and now the bats need to do their part. Here is the Blue Jays’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. LF Clint Frazier
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. C Gary Sanchez
  5. DH Chase Headley
  6. SS Didi Gregorius
  7. 3B Todd Frazier
  8. 1B Garrett Cooper
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

Great weather today in Toronto, at least according to the internet, so I assume the Rogers Centre roof will be open. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:07pm ET and YES will have the broadcast. Enjoy the game.

Injury Update: Greg Bird (ankle) and Starlin Castro (hamstring) both took batting practice and went through fielding drills today. First time since surgery for Bird and first time since going on the disabled list for Castro. They’re both still a few days away from running the bases, but at least they’re progressing. Bird said he hopes to begin a minor league rehab assignment in the middle of next week … Aaron Hicks (oblique) will continue his rehab assignment with Double-A Trenton tonight and could rejoin the Yankees later this week … Matt Holliday (back) saw a doctor today, though the Yankees didn’t have an update yet.

Roster Move: As expected, Bryan Mitchell has been called up to replace Jordan Montgomery on the roster, the Yankees announced. Mitchell was scratched from last night’s Triple-A Scranton start, which was a pretty good indication he’d be the one coming up. The Yankees have eight relievers and a three-man bench right now.

Rotation Update: According to Jon Morosi, Montgomery will make his next start on seven days’ rest in Triple-A, and he’ll have an innings cap in that game. Girardi said Montgomery’s limit is roughly 180 innings this year — he’s thrown 120.2 innings so far — and that’s how the Yankees will keep his workload in check the rest of the way.

2017 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Friday

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

The 2017 non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET next Monday, and already the Yankees have made one significant trade. They acquired Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox for three prospects (and Tyler Clippard) a week and a half ago. That one has paid dividends already. The Yankees have made two smaller trades (Tyler Webb for Garrett Cooper, Rob Refsnyder for Ryan McBroom) as well.

At the moment the Yankees are a half-game back in the AL East and 2.5 games up on a wildcard spot, so they’re very much in the race. Adding is the way to go. The White Sox trade answered any “buyer or seller?” questions. A starting pitcher is the obvious priority following Michael Pineda‘s injury, though another bat and a lefty reliever shouldn’t be ruled out either. We’re going to keep track of all the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so keep coming back for updates. All timestamps are ET.

  • 3:44pm: The Yankees had a scout (Brandon Duckworth!) on hand to watch Yu Darvish’s most recent outing, so if nothing else, they’re doing their due diligence. Darvish got hammered by the Marlins on Wednesday night (3.2 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 5 ). [George King]
  • 3:42pm: The Yankees have interest in Lance Lynn and the Cardinals have been scouting New York’s farm system. Lynn is a pure rental. Here’s my Scouting The Market post. [Derrick Goold]
  • 1:41pm: During talks with the Mets about Lucas Duda, the Yankees offered a similar relief prospect to Drew Smith, who the Mets acquired from the Rays in the trade yesterday. I wonder if that means Ben Heller or Jonathan Holder? Either way, since the Yankees were only offering a similar prospect, the Mets opted not to send Duda across town. [Sherman]
  • 12:00pm: Talks with the Athletics about Sonny Gray at an impasse because they’re asking for either Clint Frazier or Gleyber Torres, and the Yankees won’t include them in any deal. Oakland also likes Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian, and Estevan Florial. Despite the impasse, the Yankees are still believed to be in the lead for Gray because they’re offering the strongest package. [Jon Heyman, Bob Klapisch]
  • 12:00pm: The Yankees are among the teams in the mix for Tigers lefty Justin Wilson. Tons of teams are after the former Yankee. I’d be surprised if the Yankees go all out to win a bidding war for Wilson after adding Robertson and Kahnle. [Anthony Fenech]
  • 12:00pm: The Yankees remain engaged with the Braves about first baseman Matt Adams, though a starting pitcher remains their priority. Atlanta is playing Freddie Freeman at third base in deference to Adams, which is crazy, but it’s not my problem. [Joel Sherman]
  • 12:00pm: There have been no recent talks with the Cubs about Bryan Mitchell. Chicago has liked him in the past and the Yankees are trying to clear up the back of their 40-man roster, though the two clubs haven’t touched base. [Sherman]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Game 92: Stay in Postseason Position

The last 30 games in picture form. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
The last 30 games in picture form. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Here is the very simple math: with a loss tonight, the Yankees will fall out of postseason position for the first time since April 13th, the day of the ninth game of the season. The Yankees are 9-21 in their last 30 games — that’s their worst 30-game stretch since going 8-22 in late-May/early-June of 1995 — and the Twins are a half-game back of the second wildcard spot. A loss tonight means the Twins will be a half-game up.

The Yankees are in the middle of a collapse. It would feel a heck of a lot worse if it were happening in September, but it’s a collapse. Over the last 30 games they’ve gone from four games up in the division to barely hanging on to the second wild card spot. Every day it seems something new goes wrong. One day it’s the offense. The next day the bullpen melts down. The day after that the starter gets rocked. This is as ugly a stretch of baseball as I can remember. Find a way to squeeze out a win tonight and go from there. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. LF Clint Frazier
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 1B Garrett Cooper
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Cessa

It rained in Minneapolis for much of the afternoon, though it’s supposed to stop in time for the game. There is no more wet stuff coming tonight either, so once they get this one started, they should have no trouble finishing it. Tonight’s game will begin at 8:10pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and ESPN nationally. Try to enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Bryan Mitchell was sent down to get Cessa on the roster, the Yankees announced. I thought maybe they’d send down Caleb Smith instead, but nope. Smith remains. The middle innings lefty role is a land of opportunity right now.

Injury Updates: As expected, Michael Pineda (Tommy John surgery) and Greg Bird (ankle) had their surgeries today. Everything went fine. Bird released a statement saying he intends to play again this year. You can read it here.

Game 89: Let’s Play Two

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Between yesterday’s 16-inning affair and today’s doubleheader, the Yankees and Red Sox are going to play (at least) 34 innings of baseball in about 34 hours this weekend. Pretty crazy that the All-Star break ended three days ago and the pitching staff is already overworked. Baseball can be a real jerk like that sometimes.

Anyway, the Yankees are an Aroldis Chapman blown save away from winning the first two games of this series, but that cuts both ways. The Red Sox are a Craig Kimbrel blown save away from winning the first two. As poorly as the Yankees have played these last few weeks, these two teams always seem to be evenly matched when they meet. It’s weird but also kinda fun and puke inducing. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup for Game One:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. LF Clint Frazier
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. 1B Ji-Man Choi
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is a lovely day for two games in Boston. Nice and sunny with temperatures right around 80. Not a bad day to spend 18 innings at the park. This afternoon’s game will begin shortly after 1pm ET. You’ll be able to watch on YES locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: As expected, the Yankees have reinforced the bullpen for today’s doubleheader. Bryan Mitchell is up as the 26th man, and both Domingo German and Caleb Smith have been called up as well. Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller have been sent down. Joe Girardi said they might make more moves between games depending how things go. Neither Holder nor Heller deserve to be sent down after last night’s performances, but that’s the way it goes with young relievers. Michael Pineda (elbow) was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Smith, who will be the 12th player to make his MLB debut with the Yankees this season whenever he gets into a game.