2016 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Wednesday

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

There is one full day remaining in the 2016 Winter Meetings and so far the Yankees have done, well, not a whole lot. Things can come together pretty quickly though. Last year at this time we were all lamenting the lack of activity, then bam, the Starlin Castro and Justin Wilson trades went down.

“The free-agent stuff, you just have to stay close to it, because that can move fast,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch. “The trade stuff, there have just been certain teams that keep pursuing specific guys, so that’s been hot. There have been a couple different dynamics that have developed. Whether they lead anywhere or not, we’ll see.”

On Tuesday we learned the Yankees made contract offers to both Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, which is interesting. I’m kinda curious to see what happens if they both accept at the same time. We’ll again keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so check back often. All time stamps are Eastern Time.

  • 9:30am: Chapman apparently has a $92M offer in hand. Goodness. That is offer is not from the Yankees, though they’re pursuing him aggressively and are “determined” to get a deal done. [Bob Nightengale, Jon Heyman]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees did talk to the White Sox about Chris Sale before he was traded to the Red Sox, but they weren’t going to go all out to get him. “As long as we stick to the plan, we’ll be better off in the long run,” said Cashman. [David Lennon]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees have spoken to the ChiSox about David Robertson. I assume he’s a backup plan should Chapman and Jansen fall through. The White Sox are rebuilding, and obviously the Yankees know Robertson and are comfortable with him. [Sweeny Murti]
  • 9:30am: Brett Gardner is “seen as a possible fit” for the Orioles, though they’d want the Yankees to eat some money. This sounds like speculation more than anything. I have a hard time thinking Gardner will be traded to a division rival, but who knows. [Heyman]
  • 9:40am: The Yankees are interested in signing infielder Ruben Tejada to a minor league contract. They’ll need to sign at least one stopgap infielder for Triple-A this offseason, possibly two. Also, the Yankees are trying to re-sign Nick Rumbelow as well. [George King]
  • 10:07am: It sounds as though adding a closer is the team’s top priority, so much so that the Yankees will put all their other business on hold until that’s resolved. They need to see exactly how much money will be left over, I assume. [Brendan Kuty]
  • 11:00am: Cashman reiterated he doesn’t expect to land a starter at the Winter Meetings. “I don’t anticipate it. It’s a tough market and the price tags are extremely high. We could play on a lot of things because we have a lot of prospects people desire and we desire them, too. I would say it’s less likely for us to acquire a starter,” said the GM. [King]
  • 11:23am: The Rockies have agreed to sign Ian Desmond. This is notable because Colorado is forfeiting the 11th overall pick, which means the Yankees move up from 17th to 16th. Here’s the full draft order. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 12:20pm: Along with the Yankees, both the Marlins and Dodgers are in on Chapman and waiting to hear his decision. Chapman is New York’s top target. [Heyman]
  • 12:42pm: I don’t think this will matter, but the Yankees are one of the eight teams included in Jay Bruce’s limited no-trade clause. He could block a trade across town. [James Wagner]
  • 4:57pm: The Yankees are one of several teams to show interest in free agent righty Sergio Romo. If the Yankees miss out on Chapman and Jansen, Romo could be a setup option behind Dellin Betances. [John Shea]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Scouting the Trade Market: Jose Quintana

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

Yesterday afternoon, after days and weeks of rumors, the White Sox finally traded staff ace Chris Sale. He did not go to the Nationals, as long rumored. He instead went to the Red Sox for a four-prospect package that included infielder Yoan Moncada, arguably the best prospect in baseball. Pitchers of Sale’s caliber do not get traded very often. That deal was the definition of a blockbuster.

With Sale gone, it stands to reason the White Sox will continue tearing things down and start a full blown rebuild. It would be completely silly to trade Sale for four non-MLB pieces only to keep everyone else. The ChiSox fire sale has just begun, I assume, which means left-hander Jose Quintana should be on the trade block as well. The former Yankees’ farmhand may not be as good as Sale, but he’s really good overall, and he’s signed cheap too. The Yankees should have interest in Quintana and here’s why.

Background

Might as well start here. Yes, Quintana was once in the Yankees’ farm system. Before that he was actually in the Mets’ farm system. The other New York team signed Quintana out of Colombia back in 2006. He spent a few seasons in their farm system, failed a performance-enhancing drug test, then got released. The Yankees scooped him up and he spent 2008-11 in their system. The 2011 season was his breakout year: 2.91 ERA (3.15 FIP) in 102 innings with High-A Tampa.

Quintana was eligible for minor league free agency following that breakout 2011 season. The Yankees opted not to add him to their 40-man roster, and a few weeks later the White Sox signed him to a guaranteed Major League contract. Can’t blame Quintana for jumping at the 40-man roster spot. “We liked him. We didn’t love him. He was a performer, but not someone with ceiling,” said Brian Cashman to Mike Fitzpatrick this summer. D’oh!

“A very poised young man. Professional. He knew how to pitch and work both sides of the plate. Just a good-looking kid,” said Joe Siers, the White Sox scout who recommended Quintana, to Scott Merkin two years ago. “To be honest, I didn’t know he would be a No. 2 starter. I thought he had a chance to be a back-end, a fourth starter. I knew he was a guy who could get some innings. He commanded the ball and could pitch deep into games.”

Recent Performance

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

Quintana, 28 in January, has been one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball since joining the White Sox. Over the last four seasons he has a 3.35 ERA (3.34 FIP) — his worst full season is a 3.51 ERA (3.82 FIP) back in 2013 — while throwing no fewer than 200 innings in any given year. According to both bWAR and fWAR, Quintana has been the seventh most valuable pitcher in baseball since 2013. Yeah.

Unlike Sale, Quintana is not going to blow hitters away and rack up big strikeout numbers. He’s not that type of pitcher. Quintana did have nice strikeout (21.6%) and walk (6.0%) numbers this summer — neither his ground ball (40.4%) nor home run (0.95 HR/9) rates were great — and he excels at keeping hitters off balance and generating weak contact. His average exit velocity on balls hit in the air these last two years is 89.6 mph, 11th lowest in baseball. So while Quintana’s ground ball rate isn’t stellar, he’s not giving up loud contact in the air either.

We have over 800 innings of data telling us Quintana is a very good Major League pitcher, one who has had success in a hitter friendly home ballpark in the DH league. He’s also done it despite having some shaky pitch-framers behind the plate. (Basically every catcher the White Sox have employed other than Tyler Flowers since 2013.) As long as he stays healthy, there is every reason to believe Quintana will be effective for the foreseeable future. Nothing is trending the wrong way.

Present Stuff

When Quintana first got to Chicago, longtime White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper helped him get to the next level by teaching him a cutter. Cooper has been teaching that cutter for decades now. Interestingly enough, Quintana has phased out the cut fastball and replaced it with a sinker over the last three seasons. He operates with a four-seamer, sinker, curveball, and changeup these days. From Brooks Baseball:

jose-quintana-pitch-selection

That’s a really nice mix. Quintana uses three pitches each more than 20% of the time, and his changeup rate hangs around 10% as well. He’s not a guy who leans on, say, his sinker and curveball, and uses the straight four-seamer and changeup as show-me pitches. Quintana is a true four-pitch pitcher, and he still has the cutter in his back pocket as well. Here’s some gory math (MLB averages for left-handed pitchers in parenthesis):

Average Velocity Swing-and-Miss Rate Ground Ball Rate
Four-seamer 92.6 (92.3) 8.3% (6.9%) 32.0% (37.9%)
Sinker 92.5 (91.0) 6.1% (5.4%) 50.0% (49.5%)
Curveball 78.0 (77.5) 11.7% (11.1%) 38.8% (48.7%)
Changeup 86.7 (83.3) 7.3% (14.9%) 47.2% (47.8%)

Those are 2016 numbers, the most recent season and the best indicator of who Quintana is right now. Again, nothing jumps out at you. The velocity is basically average to a tick above, there’s no dominant swing-and-miss pitch, and there’s no dominant ground ball pitch either. And yet, it works. Quintana’s command is a huge part of his success. So is his deception. Check out his release points from this past season, via Brooks Baseball:

jose-quintana-release-pointEverything is nice and tight together. It all overlaps. A lot of times you’ll see the pitcher has a different release point for his breaking ball — usually slightly higher than the fastball for a curveball, and slightly lower for a slider — but not with Quintana. All five pitches come out from the same spot. By time the hitter can tell the pitches apart as they approach the plate, it’s already too late. He’s had to start his swing. Quintana’s command and deception make up for his lack of overwhelming velocity and a dominant pitch. He makes it work.

Let’s look at some video. Reading about pitches and staring at a pitch selection chart only does so much. Let’s see Quintana in action. Here’s a 2016 highlight video — reminder: everyone looks like an ace in a highlight video — in which we get to see all five pitches in action:

Beautiful. Nice fluid delivery, fastballs to both sides of the plate, a willingness to pitch inside, a curveball that looks like a strike until it drops out of the zone … it’s easy to understand why Quintana is so successful. To quote my favorite cliche: he’s a pitcher, not a thrower.

The Yankees seem to have a type. They like pitchers with big fastballs and wipeout breaking balls, and hey, that stuff is cool. Their most successful pitchers this past season, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, are quite the opposite though. They succeeded with command and pitchability, which happen to be Quintana’s two best traits. I would really like to see the Yankees get away from the huge stuff/bad command profile a bit, and Quintana would be a step in that direction.

Injury History

Easy: none. Quintana has never been on the disabled list or had any kind of noteworthy injury, Majors or minors. He had a start pushed back four days after taking a comebacker to the shin during Spring Training in 2013. That is the entirety of Quintana’s injury history.

Contract Status

The White Sox smartly inked Quintana to a five-year contract extension three seasons ago. The deal guaranteed him a mere $21M, which is a pittance compared to what he could have made through arbitration given his success. Can’t blame him for taking the guaranteed payday though. Anyway, here is the remainder of Quintana’s contract:

  • 2017: $6M
  • 2018: $8.35M
  • 2019: $10.5M club option ($1M buyout)
  • 2020: $10.5M club option ($1M buyout)

Assuming the options are picked up — unless Quintana suffers a catastrophic injury or develops the yips, they will be exercised, for sure — Quintana is owed $35.35M over the next four seasons. These days No. 1 starters are getting north of $30M per season. Quintana is a borderline ace and he’s owed roughly that through 2020. Pretty great contract, eh? Very luxury tax friendly given his production.

Trade Benchmarks

These are always tough to come up with but they are important. Our trade proposals suck, they really do, so it’s good to provide some context. You’re not going to get Quintana for the team’s best prospect you don’t like plus threes randos off the bottom of the 40-man roster, you know? Here are some pitchers recently traded when they were three or four years away from free agency, like Quintana.

  • Gio Gonzalez: One top 50-100 prospect (Derek Norris) and three top 15 org prospects (A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Tommy Milone).
  • Wade Miley: Two young arms with five years of control (Rubby De La Rosa, Allen Webster) and one top 30 org prospect (Raymel Flores).
  • Shelby Miller (four years of control): One year of an above-average big leaguer (Jason Heyward).
  • Shelby Miller (three years of control): One top 20 prospect (Dansby Swanson), one top 75 prospect (Aaron Blair), and five years of an average or better big leaguer (Ender Inciarte).
  • Chris Sale: One top five prospect (Yoan Moncada), one top 50 prospect (Michael Kopech), a top ten org prospect (Luis Basabe), and a top 30 org prospect (Victor Diaz).

I almost didn’t include the second Shelby Miller trade because it was so ridiculous, but you know what? It happened and it changed the market. All of a sudden every team with a good young pitcher raised their asking price. I know I would have done the same.

Of the four pitchers (five trades) listed above, I think the one closest to Quintana would be Sale. I really do. It’s four years of control vs. three years of control, but Quintana has been consistently above-average for four years running now. Gonzalez and Miley each had two good years at the time of their trades. Miller had two good years the second time he was traded. The difference in track record is pretty substantial.

Also, supply and demand, yo. The demand for pitching is high, as always, but the supply is very short. There are no good free agent starters left, and realistically, how many pitchers as good as Quintana are available in trades? There’s Chris Archer and Sonny Gray, and that’s about it. We could use the Gio trade or the Shelby trade as a benchmark, but ultimately, the marketplace is different. Quintana won’t come cheap. I know that much.

So What About The Yankees?

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

I don’t think it will happen, but it needs to be said anyway: the Yankees can’t let their history with Quintana get in the way of a potential deal. They screwed up five years ago. No doubt about it. They can’t let their pride get in the way of a deal. The Yankees would get mocked for trading top prospects for a guy they gave away a few years ago, but whatever. Own it, move on, and improve the team.

Okay, so anyway the Yankees have both a need for a long-term rotation help and the prospect wherewithal to swing a trade for a pitcher like Quintana. He has yet to turn 28 and he comes with four years of contractual control, so when all those shiny prospects are ready to start winning big league games, Quintana figures to still be in the prime of his career. That’s pretty cool. An over-30 star wouldn’t jibe with this roster. But a 27-year-old? Oh sure.

Whether the Yankees should dip into that farm system to get Quintana is a valid question. He won’t come cheap. The White Sox got two top 50 caliber prospects for Sale and I’m guessing they’ll want the same — or something close to it — for Quintana, plus other stuff. The Yankees would be starting a package with, say, Clint Frazier and Jorge Mateo. Or Aaron Judge and James Kaprielian. Ouch.

Jon Heyman hears “nobody’s sacred” with the White Sox, meaning they’re ready to trade everyone following the Sale deal. Quintana really does make a lot of sense for the Yankees — I mean, pitchers this good make sense for every team — and that fourth year of control is huge. If the Yankees aren’t a bonafide contender by year four, something has gone terribly wrong. Ideally you’re semi-contending by year two, you know?

I don’t have any problem with the Yankees trading good prospects for above-average big leaguers in their 20s with long-term control. It helps speed up the rebuilding transitioning process, at least in theory, and it allows them recoup value from prospects. Hanging on to every last prospect equals a lot of wasted opportunity. Some are most valuable as trade chips. Depending on the price, Quintana is maybe the best pitching target available to the Yankees this year, and I think they should pursue him pretty aggressively. Put that dynamite farm system to work.

2016 Trade Deadline Rumors Open Thread: Thursday

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier this week the Yankees swung a blockbuster trade with the Cubs, sending Aroldis Chapman to Chicago for Adam Warren and three prospects. There were an awful lot of rumors and buildup to that trade — that’s a Theo Epstein hallmark — but things have been fairly quiet since. That’s not unusual for the Yankees. Their moves tend to come out of nowhere. The Chapman trade was the exception.

Of course, the Yankees are also said to be on the fence about selling, and their recent 11-6 hot streak hasn’t exactly helped matters. It’s making me a little nervous. The Yankees are going to make some important decisions these next four days, decisions that really impact the future of the franchise. Anyway, here are Wednesday’s rumors, and once again, we’ll keep track of the day’s trade rumors right here, so make sure you check back often. All time stamps are ET.

  • 9:30pm: The Yankees will move Ivan Nova no matter what before the deadline. The team is not planning to make him the qualifying offer after the season, so they want to get something for him at the deadline rather than nothing after the season. The pitching market is so bleak right now that I think Nova might actually fetch something halfway decent. [Joel Sherman]
  • 11:25am: The Yankees have called the White Sox about Chris Sale multiple times. Chicago wants five top prospects for their ace lefty, and thanks to the haul from the Aroldis Chapman trade, the Yankees just might have the pieces to get it done. [Jon Heyman]
  • 12:04pm: One Yankees-connected person said there is “no chance” they trade Andrew Miller. The team is listening to offers, but their asking price is “prohibitive.” Given what they received for Chapman, I can’t even imagine what it would take to get Miller. [Heyman]
  • 2:09pm: The Yankees asked the Nationals for a four-player package built around young pitching for Chapman. First they asked for Lucas Giolito, and when Washington said no, they asked for Joe Ross. The Nationals said no again. [Heyman]

Reminder before you comment: Your trade proposal sucks.

King: White Sox asked about Gary Sanchez this week, but asking price was “far too high”

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

According to George King, the White Sox asked the Yankees about top catching prospect Gary Sanchez earlier this week, but talks didn’t progress far because the asking price was “far too high.” The ChiSox just lost Alex Avila to a hamstring injury and are looking to stay in the wildcard race. Also, Sanchez would be a long-term solution behind the plate.

Sanchez, 23, went into last night’s game hitting .281/.321/.487 (132 wRC+) with nine homers in 55 Triple-A games. He missed a few weeks earlier this season after taking a foul tip to the thumb and suffering a fracture. Sanchez spent one day in the big leagues a few weeks ago, serving as the DH against the White Sox, coincidentally enough. Anyway, I have three quick thoughts on this.

1. So the Yankees asked for one of the lefties, right? I’m guessing the Yankees asked the ChiSox for one of their three left-handed starters, meaning Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, or Carlos Rodon. When a team asks about one your top prospects, you ask about getting one of their best players in return. That’s how this usually works. Sale and Quintana are presumably off-limits and I’m sure the Yankees knew that. They were probably asking for Sale or Quintana, and willing to “settle” for Rodon. He’d satisfy their need for young pitching controllable beyond 2017.

2. What else do the White Sox have to offer? The White Sox don’t have a great farm system, especially with Tim Anderson now holding down the shortstop position in the big leagues. Carson Fulmer, the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft, has a 4.76 ERA (4.11 FIP) with a 13.0% walk rate in Double-A this year. His stock is down because concerns about his high-effort delivery and imprecise command are manifesting themselves in pro ball.

Here is MLB.com’s top 30 White Sox prospects, for your perusal. I don’t see anyone — or even a combination of multiple players — worth giving up Sanchez to get. Maybe I’m just a raging homer. If nothing else, that prospect list shows why the Yankees (probably) focused on the White Sox’s lefty starters. What else do they have to offer? Brett Lawrie? No thanks.

3. Sanchez is the most “untouchable” prospect the Yankees have. As far as I’m concerned, the Yankees do not have an untouchable player in their organization. They don’t have a young franchise cornerstone like Mike Trout or Francisco Lindor, and they don’t have a truly elite prospect like Lucas Giolito or Dansby Swanson. Those guys should be untouchable. Not players like Sanchez or Didi Gregorius or Aaron Judge.

That said, it would be tougher to part with some players than others, and Sanchez is one of them as a Triple-A catcher with a chance to hit in the middle of the order. Those guys are hard to find. Trading Judge would make more sense because the Yankees have a ton of outfield prospects in Double-A and Triple-A. Trading Jorge Mateo would also make more sense because he’s only in High Class-A and the Yankees have a whole bunch of other quality shortstop prospects. They only have one Sanchez though. Outfield and shortstop are positions of depth. Catcher isn’t.

* * *

Austin Romine‘s surprisingly competency as Brian McCann‘s backup has bought the Yankees some time. They’ve been able to leave Sanchez in Triple-A so he can continue to work on his defense. He is clearly the catcher of the future, and his path to the job is pretty clear. Sanchez figures to spend next year as McCann’s understudy before taking over as the No. 1 guy in 2018 or 2019. Trading him shouldn’t be off the table, but the Yankees are right to set the price high.

Yankeemetrics: South side flop [July 4-6]

(AP)
(AP)

#RISPFAIL
The Yankees opened the second half of the schedule against the White Sox with a game that had a familiar tune: substandard starting pitching, lack of clutch hitting and a listless loss.

The Yankees had plenty of chances to make a dent in the scoreboard but their sputtering lineup went hitless in 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. It was their worst 0-fer with a man on second and/or third since Sept. 12, 2012 against the Red Sox, a game they actually won 5-4; the last time they had such an awful day with RISP and lost was May 21, 2012 in a 6-0 loss to the Royals.

Starlin Castro was one of the few Yankees who actually provided some offensive fireworks with four hits in four at-bats, including two doubles, in his first game back in Chicago.

He’s the first Yankee second baseman to go 4-for-4 or better against the White Sox since Willie Randolph in 1976. With that perfect line, Castro upped his batting average at U.S. Cellular Field to .397 (25-for-63), the highest mark by any active player with at least 50 at-bats there.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Bronx hitmen
The Yankees flipped the script on Tuesday night with a lopsided 9-0 victory in the Windy City. They put together one of their most complete games of the season — a rare confluence of terrific starting pitching and explosive bats.

The last time the Yankees had at least 20 hits and allowed zero runs was an 11-0 win on August 11, 1997 against the Twins at the Metrodome. They’d never done it before in any game against the White Sox, a rivalry that dates back to the beginning of the franchise in 1903.

The team’s offensive breakout was encouraging, but the frustrations with men on base continued as the Yankees stranded 14 guys. The only other game in the last decade where they had 20 or more hits while leaving 14 or more men on base was September 13, 2009 in a 13-3 win over the Orioles.

And if it felt like they should have scored a bunch more runs based on their bloated hit total … you’d be correct. This was the first time in at least the last 100 years that the Yankees pounded out at least 20 hits in a nine-inning game but failed to score in double digits.

Masahiro Tanaka bounced back from his worst outing of the season, firing 7 2/3 scoreless innings for his sixth win of the season. With that ace-like performance, he lowered his road ERA this season to 1.14, the lowest among starting pitchers the majors through Tuesday. It was his ninth straight road start allowing no more than two runs, the longest such streak by any Yankee pitcher since at least 1913.

From heroes to zeroes
With a chance to get back to .500 and build some momentum heading into their final pre-break series, the Yankees laid an egg as they were blanked by the White Sox, 5-0, on Wednesday night. It was just the second time they’ve ever been shut out at the current version of Comiskey Park/U.S. Cellular Field (which opened in 1991); the other game was also a 5-0 loss on April 13, 1994.

With the loss, the Yankees fell to 5-11 at U.S. Cellular since 2012, their worst record at any AL ballpark in that span, and the second-worst record by any AL team at that stadium over the past five seasons (the Rangers are 4-11).

(AP)
(AP)

Looking to extend a solid run of six June starts during which he posted a 2.75 ERA with 49 strikeouts, Michael Pineda reverted back to his early-season form, giving up five runs across six innings. Four of the five runs were scored with two outs in the second frame, highlighting two of his biggest statistical bugaboos this season: early-game troubles and difficulties closing out innings.

He’s now allowed 17 runs in the first inning, and 17 runs in the second inning this season (compared to 25 runs in all other innings combined). The 34 total runs given up in the first and second frames are the second-most by any pitcher the majors, behind only James Shields (38). Pineda also now leads all MLB pitchers with 37 two-out runs allowed.

Pineda will enter the All-Star break with first-half statistics that are both dominant (113 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings) and dreadful (3-8 record, 5.38 ERA).

The Good: his strikeout rate of 10.69 per nine innings is the second-best in franchise history before the break (min. 60 innings), just a hair behind David Cone’s 10.72 in 1997. The Bad: he is the second Yankee pitcher to make more than 10 starts before the break and post an ERA of at least 5.30 with a win percentage of .273 or worse; the other, coincidentally (or not), was David Cone in 2000 (1-7, 6.40 ERA in 16 starts).

Putting it all together, his mix of strikeout excellence and awful run prevention is unprecedented in baseball history. Pineda’s 5.38 ERA is the highest by any pitcher heading into the All-Star break who also had a strikeout rate of at least 10 batters per nine innings and at least 75 innings pitched.

7/4 to 7/6 Series Preview: Chicago White Sox

Is that a Joe Crede statue?! (Presswire)
Is that a Joe Crede statue?! (Presswire)

Time for the second city of this ten-game, three-time zone road trip. The Yankees are on Chicago’s south side for three games with the White Sox this week. These two teams played three games in Yankee Stadium in mid-May. That was Aroldis Chapman‘s second series back from his suspension. The Yankees won two of three to the surprise of everyone.

What Have They Done Lately?

The ChiSox got off to an excellent start this season (23-10), then they slumped for a few weeks (10-26), and now they’re back to playing well again (9-4). They took two of three from the Astros this weekend. The Second City’s second team is 42-40 overall with a -10 run differential on the season. They’re in fourth place in the AL Central and two games back of a postseason spot.

Offense & Defense

Despite their big offseason additions, the White Sox have had a below-average offense this season. They’ve averaging 4.17 runs per game with a team 90 wRC+. The ChiSox are without two ex-Yankees: CF Austin Jackson (77 wRC+) is on the DL with meniscus tear and LF Melky Cabrera (112 wRC+) is day-to-day with a mild wrist sprain. He hasn’t played since last Tuesday but it sounds as though he could return to the lineup any day now.

Anderson. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Anderson. (Bob Levey/Getty)

The White Sox have made a change at shortstop since the Yankees last saw them in May. Top prospect SS Tim Anderson (108 wRC+) has replaced veteran SS Jimmy Rollins (67 wRC+), who was released. Manager Robin Ventura has been using Anderson as his leadoff hitter, with RF Adam Eaton (102 wRC+), 1B Jose Abreu (98 wRC+), and 3B Todd Frazier (98 wRC+) following as the 2-3-4 hitters. Melky had been hitting fourth with Frazier hitting fifth before his wrist issue.

2B Brett Lawrie (99 wRC+) typically follows the top four (top five when Melky is healthy) hitters in the lineup. C Alex Avila (97 wRC+) and C Dioner Navarro (70 wRC+) split catching duties, and with Cabrera and Jackson hurt, CF J.B. Shuck (69 wRC+) and LF Avisail Garcia (78 wRC+) have been getting regular playing time. IF Tyler Saladino (84 wRC+), IF Carlos Sanchez (7 wRC+), and OF Jason Coats (39 wRC+) are the White Sox’s other bench players. They’re carrying a normal four-man bench, which I guess isn’t so normal these days.

Defensively, the White Sox made huge upgrades over the winter with Frazier and Lawrie. Replacing Rollins with Anderson has been a big help as well. Eaton, who moved from center to right in deference to Jackson, has been very good at his new position. Shuck is a capable replacement for Jackson, though going from Melky and Jackson to Shuck and Garcia is a net downgrade. You can run on Avila and especially Navarro.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (2:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. CWS) vs. RHP James Shields (vs. NYY)
Boy are the Yankees catching a break this series. They’re playing three games against the ChiSox and won’t face Chris Sale or Jose Quintana. That is a gift from the baseball gods. Shields, now 34, actually started this season well, but he’s now allowed 36 runs and 63 baserunners in his last six starts and 23 innings. His last two starts were decent too (three runs in five innings, one run in 6.2 innings). Goes to show how bad he was before that.

Overall, Shields has a 5.85 ERA (5.23 FIP) in 16 games and 87.2 innings between the Padres and White Sox this year. His grounder rate (44.4%) is right in line with his career norms, but his strikeouts are down (17.8%), his walks are up (10.4%), and he’s giving up a ton of homers (1.54 HR/9). Not a good combination there. As you’d expect, Shields is getting hammered by both righties and lefties this year. These days Shields sits 90-91 mph with his four-seamer and in the mid-80s with his cutter. His trademark changeup is still in the mid-80s, and he also throws an upper-70s curveball. The Shields we saw all those years with the Rays is no more. His stuff is down across the board. Years of throwing 200+ innings have taken their toll.

Tuesday (8:10pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. CWS) vs. LHP Carlos Rodon (vs. NYY)
I still can’t believe the Marlins didn’t take Rodon with the second pick in the 2014 draft. They took high school righty Tyler Kolek instead, and he had a disappointing 2015 season before blowing out his elbow this spring and needing Tommy John surgery. Rodon was close to MLB ready and he’s a local kid from Miami, plus his family is from Cuba, and that appeals to a large portion of the Marlins fan base given the large Cuban community in South Florida. Instead, the Marlins took Kolek and the ChiSox grabbed Rodon with the third pick. He was in their rotation nine months later.

Anyway, the 23-year-old Rodon is having a serviceable sophomore season, pitching to a 4.24 ERA (4.22 FIP) in 15 starts and 87 innings. His strikeout (23.1%), walk (79%), and grounder (45.5%) numbers are all promising, though he has been really home run prone (1.34 HR/9). Righties have crushed him, both this year and last year. Rodon’s money maker is a devastating mid-to-upper-80s slider …

Carlos Rodon slider

… that is truly Andrew Miller-esque. Rodon sets the slidepiece up with mid-90s sinkers and four-seam fastballs. He also throws a mid-80s changeup that is clearly his third pitch. When push come to shove, Rodon’s going to throw the slider. It’s by far his best pitch and the pitch he’ll use to get out of tight spots. His slider is so good that he could tell you it’s coming and you still might not be able to hit it.

Wednesday (8:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. CWS) vs. RHP Miguel Gonzalez (vs. NYY)
The Yankees tried and failed to sign the 32-year-old Gonzalez this spring, after the Orioles cut him loose because his velocity was down so much in Spring Training. He opted to join the White Sox because there was a clearer path to a spot in their rotation. Sure enough, John Danks got hammered early in the season and a rotation spot opened up. Gonzalez has made eleven starts (and one relief appearance) with Chicago so far, and he has a 4.88 ERA (4.47 FIP) in 62.2 innings. For the most part his underlying performance (17.6 K%, 9.5 BB%, 43.0 GB%, 1.01 HR/9) is in line with his career averages, and once again his platoon split is small. That’s because Gonzalez has a great mid-80s splitter that neutralizes southpaws. His four-seamer and sinker sit in the low-90s, and, not surprisingly, he’s added a mid-80s cutter this year. ChiSox pitching coach Don Cooper has a reputation for developing cutters. Gonzalez also has an upper-70s curveball that he’ll use a handful of times per outing. Unlike Shields and Rodon, the Yankees did face Gonzalez when these clubs met back in April. They touched him up for three runs in 4.2 innings.

Awww D-Rob. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Awww D-Rob. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Bullpen Status

I would stop short of saying the White Sox have a great bullpen, but it has been good overall, and their setup/closer tandem doesn’t get enough credit for being one of the best in baseball. Here is the relief crew Ventura is working with these days:

Closer: RHP David Robertson (3.28 ERA/3.22 FIP)
Setup: RHP Nate Jones (2.61/3.08)
Middle: LHP Zach Duke (3.08/2.75), RHP Matt Albers (5.17/5.72), LHP Dan Jennings (1.85/3.75)
Long: RHP Chris Beck (5.79/4.88), RHP Michael Ynoa (3.00/3.50)

I’m so old that I remember when Michael Ynoa was Michel Inoa. He was arguably the highest profile international amateur free agent ever, and the Athletics gave him a then-record $4.25M bonus back in 2008. The Yankees tried to sign him but fell short, and of course they were crushed for it. Ynoa got hurt and stalled out in the minors, and the A’s eventually traded him to the White Sox in the Jeff Samardzija deal last year. He finally made his MLB debut this season.

Anyway, Robertson and Jones are Ventura’s big end-game arms, and both Duke and Albers will also see high-leverage work from time to time. The other three guys are there because, well, someone has to throw innings when you’re losing. Both Jones and Robertson pitched Saturday and Sunday. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s relief crew.

Yankeemetrics: Light at the end of the tunnel? [May 13-15]

Chase "Mr. Clutch" Headley (AP Photo)
Chase “Mr. Clutch” Headley (AP Photo)

Raise the white flag
Friday’s pitching matchup between Chris Sale and Luis Severino looked like a complete mismatch on paper, and that’s how it played out in real time as the White Sox crushed the Yankees, 7-1, in the series opener.

Sale went the distance, dominated the Yankees lineup and moved to 8-0 with a 1.67 ERA this season. He also lowered his career ERA versus the Yankees to 1.17, the best mark against the Yankees by any pitcher in major-league history who has made at least five starts against the team.

Holding the Yankees to one run on six hits, Sale also became the first White Sox pitcher with a complete game win at Yankee Stadium since Jim Abbott on July 18, 1995. The last White Sox pitcher to allow one run or fewer in a nine-inning complete-game win at Yankee Stadium was Neil Allen in 1986.

Severino was removed in the third inning after surrendering seven runs, and fell to 0-6 with a 7.46 ERA in seven starts. The only other Yankees in the last 100 years to go winless in their first seven starts of the season, and lose at least six of those games, were Chien-Ming Wang (2009), Doyle Alexander (1982) and Stan Bahnsen (1969).

Two good to be true
The Yankees bounced back from Friday’s deflating loss with a 2-1 victory on Saturday afternoon, improving to 9-2 against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium since the start of 2013, their best record in the Bronx against any team over the past four years.

The win was also their first this season when scoring fewer than three runs; entering Saturday, the Yankees were 0-16 in those games, the worst record among all MLB teams.

Ivan Nova, making his second start of the season, was outstanding in giving the Yankees 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball. He’s now allowed one run or fewer in six of his seven starts against the White Sox, including all three at Yankee Stadium. His 2.42 career ERA versus Chicago is the best by a Yankee pitcher in the Wild Card era (min. 44 innings).

Dellin Betances relieved Nova in the sixth inning and struck out all four of the batters he faced. That’s the second time in his career he’s thrown more than an inning and punched out every guy.

He is the only Yankee pitcher in the last 100 years to have multiple outings like that. Two other active pitchers have two such games on their resume: Steve Geltz (Rays) and Kenley Jansen (Dodgers).

Milestone Man (mlb.com)
Milestone Man (mlb.com)

Don’t call it a comeback
Slowly, but surely, the Yankees are starting to dig themselves out of the massive hole they dug themselves into during the first month of the season. After taking the rubber game on Sunday afternoon against White Sox, the Yankees clinched their third series in a row and finished off a strong 10-game homestand at 7-3.

Carlos Beltran, hitless in his previous three games, broke out of that mini-slump in style with a towering home run in the sixth inning to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead. It was also the 400th of his career, putting Beltran in rare company with some of baseball’s greatest sluggers. He is the:

  • 54th player in MLB history with 400 career homers;
  • eighth player to reach the 400-homer milestone in a Yankee uniform (Babe Ruth, A-Rod, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Gary Sheffield, Alfonso Soriano);
  • fourth switch-hitter to reach the milestone (Chipper Jones, Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray);
  • third Puerto Rican in the exclusive club (Carlos Delgado and Juan Gonzalez).

Beltran’s legacy is more than just homers, though, he’s one of the best all-around, five-tool players. There are now three players in major-league history with at least 400 homers, 75 triples, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases in a career: Beltran, Willie Mays and Barry Bonds.

While Beltran provided the biggest milestone moment of the game, Chase Headley delivered the decisive blow with a two-out, pinch-hit RBI double in the bottom of the seventh that broke a 5-5 tie. It was his fifth go-ahead hit in the seventh inning or later since his debut in pinstripes on July 22, 2014. That’s tied with A-Rod for the most go-ahead hits in the seventh inning or later among Yankees during that span.