Recent free agent signings clear up trade possibilities for Brett Gardner

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Over the last week, the two best unsigned free agent outfielders came off the board when Justin Upton signed with the Tigers and Yoenis Cespedes agreed to return to the Mets. Others like Alex Gordon and Denard Span signed a few weeks back, so, with Spring Training a little less than a month away, Dexter Fowler (tied to draft pick compensation) and Austin Jackson are the top available free agent outfielders.

The Upton and Cespedes signings took away two potential trade partners for Brett Gardner, though a trade with the Mets was never all that likely. I think Brian Cashman and Sandy Alderson would do a deal if they felt it improved their teams, but a crosstown trade might make the ownership groups a little queasy. No one wants to lose a trade to their geographic rival.

Anyway, with Upton and Cespedes (and Gordon and Span) off the board, the trade market for Gardner has become a little more clear. Gardner has been on the market all winter as the Yankees look for ways to land a young pitcher, though the crowded free agent outfield class complicated things. Now the free agent market isn’t so crowded. Here are the teams that could be in play for Gardner.

Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles did bring back Chris Davis recently, yet their outfield situation remains Adam Jones and some combination of Hyun-Soo Kim, Nolan Reimold, L.J. Hoes, and Rule 5 Draft pick Joey Rickard. And I guess Mark Trumbo too. There’s a clear fit for Gardner in Baltimore — the O’s could bat him leadoff and drop Manny Machado into a run-producing lineup spot — but the chances of a major Yankees-Orioles trade are tiny.

Chicago Cubs
The Cubbies have been after Gardner for a while — they originally wanted Gardner in the Starlin Castro trade — and they could still use a true center fielder and leadoff hitter. Chicago does have a full outfield at the moment (Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jorge Soler), though Soler’s name has popped up trade rumors, so a Gardner deal could rekindle those efforts. But, again, the problem with a Cubs trade all winter has been their lack of young pitching to offer. I’d argue the Yankees should focus on getting the best possible talent for Gardner regardless of position, but they’re focused on arms.

Chicago White Sox
Reports indicate the White Sox were in on both Upton and Cespedes in recent weeks, though they were not willing to extend their offer beyond three years. The ChiSox have added both Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie this offseason in an effort to fix one of MLB’s least productive infields, and they shouldn’t stop there. They’re not good enough to be AL Central favorites and not bad enough to rebuild. With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Jose Abreu in their primes, the White Sox should continue adding in an effort to contend, and Gardner would be a massive upgrade over Avisail Garcia. Quintana or Carlos Rodon for Gardner isn’t happening, but could Erik Johnson? That’s the extent of Chicago’s pitching depth.

Cleveland Indians
The Indians, again. They talked to the Yankees about an outfielder for pitcher trade earlier this winter, though obviously nothing came of it. Cleveland has plenty of pitching to spare and they need outfield help — Michael Brantley will be out until at least May following shoulder surgery, so their outfield mix right now is Rajai Davis, Abe Almonte, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Collin Cowgill — so it seems like there should be a match. The problem? The Indians operate with a very strict budget and don’t have room for a $13M a year outfielder. The Yankees would have to pay down some of Gardner’s salary, which of course means they should expect more in return. The Tribe likely have their eyes on cheaper outfield options.

Los Angeles Angels
It never seemed like the Angels were going to make a serious run at Cespedes or Upton. They have a clear need for a left fielder — the currently have a Daniel Nava/Craig Gentry platoon planned, and yikes — and some pitching depth to spare, namely Nick Tropeano, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, and Matt Shoemaker. Some are more available than others, obviously. (Heaney’s close to untouchable, I think.)

Calhoun. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Calhoun. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

I think there’s a real possibility for an Angels trade right now. Angels GM Billy Eppler is said to be a big Gardner fan and the Halos really need both a leadoff hitter and another lefty bat. Gardner would push Kole Calhoun into a middle of the lineup spot. He’s a great fit for them, assuming it works financially. (The Angels want to stay under the luxury tax threshold and have about $12M in wiggle room.) I don’t think I would call a trade likely, but I do think if Gardner is dealt, the Angels are the favorite to land him.

St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have a lot of outfielders (Matt Holliday, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Brandon Moss) but no true center fielder. Grichuk’s the most athletic of the group so he has the center field job by default. St. Louis doesn’t strike me as the kind of organization to make a knee-jerk reactionary move, but it’s tough to ignore all the improvements the Cubs made this winter, so the Cardinals could feel some pressure to keep pace. Gardner would solve a clear roster problem and the Cards have some young pitching to offer (Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney). Money is no issue either — St. Louis bid big for Heyward and David Price, and were in the market for Chris Davis, yet they’ve only walked away with Mike Leake this offseason.

Washington Nationals
I’m not sure the Nationals are a possibility for Gardner following the Ben Revere trade. Yes, they made a run at Cespedes, so they’re still willing to add an outfielder, but Gardner and Cespedes are very different types of players. Washington might not want another left-handed hitting leadoff type with Revere on board. Never say never, but it appears the Nationals are no longer a match for Gardner following the Revere trade.

* * *

Keep in mind the Yankees are not the only team with a spare outfielder at the moment. The Dodgers would probably love to move Andre Ethier before he gains ten-and-five rights in April, plus the Rockies have four outfielders for three spots (Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Gerardo Parra). The outfield trade market is not limited solely to Gardner. Outfield needy teams have options.

Realistically, the Angels and Cardinals appear to be the best possible fits for Gardner. The White Sox, Cubs, and Indians are also potential suitors to a lesser extent. I still don’t expect the Yankees to trade Gardner before Spring Training, but at least now the trade market is a bit more clear with the big name free agents off the board. That also means there are fewer suitors, though there are still several clubs out there in need of outfield help.

Update: Yankees acquire Kirby Yates from Indians in cash deal

(Alex Goodlett/Getty)
(Alex Goodlett/Getty)

Sunday: The Yankees sent $78,000 to the Indians for Yates, according to the Associated Press. It’s not often we hear how much money exchanges hands in these cash deals. Neat.

Friday: The Yankees have acquired right-hander Kirby Yates from the Indians in a cash trade, the team has announced.

Yates, 28, was designated for assignment earlier this week when the Indians signed Mike Napoli. Cleveland picked him up in a cash trade with the Rays back in November. Yates has a 5.27 ERA (5.51 FIP) in 56.1 big league innings, all with Tampa Bay. Here’s some video:

Yates had a 5.33 ERA (4.70 FIP) in 25.1 Triple-A innings this past season. He’s got a low-90s fastball and throws a mid-80s slider, a low-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball, so he’s one of those rare four-pitch relievers.

As best I can tell, Yates has a minor league option remaining, so he’s another candidate to ride the bullpen shuttle next season. This is basically Chris Martin 2.0. The Yankees picked up Yates for practically nothing and will see if they can get some decent innings out of him.

The club still has two open spots on the 40-man roster.

Assessing possible trade partners for Brett Gardner

(Elsa/Getty
(Elsa/Getty

Things have slowed down of late, but Brett Gardner has been a popular name on the trade rumor circuit this offseason. He’s one of the few Yankee veterans with positive trade value, so it’s not a surprise the team is at least listening to offers as they aim to get younger. The Mariners and Cubs both checked in, possibly the Indians as well.

“I think it’d be more likely that we keep them than move them,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch at the Winter Meetings, referring to Gardner and Andrew Miller. “I say that recognizing that if somebody wants to ring a bell that I’ve put out there, then that could happen as early as tomorrow. But if I’m predicting anything, I’d predict that they would be here, not somewhere else.”

It’s easy to say clubs looking for outfield help can simply turn to the free agent market, where quality players like Adam Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton remain unsigned, but not every team can afford them. Gardner is owed $37.5M over the next three years. That might buy you a year and a half of Cespedes or Upton. Gardner also has the advantage of being a legitimate center fielder.

I don’t necessarily want the Yankees to move Gardner, but there are reasons to do so. There are still plenty of teams that need outfield help at this point of the offseason. Some teams are more realistic candidates than others — for example, no rebuilding club wants Gardner, so it’s contenders only — especially if the Yankees stick to their demand of a young starter under control beyond 2017. Let’s run down the possible suitors.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Outfielders? A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Yasmany Tomas.
Young Starters? Robbie Ray and Chase Anderson. I assume Archie Bradley is off-limits.
Cash? Lots, apparently. Their massive new television deal just kicked in, as Zack Greinke found out.

The D’Backs had enough outfield depth to include Ender Inciarte in the Shelby Miller trade, and it stands to reason they’re committed to Tomas after giving him $68.5M last offseason. If so, they’re not a fit for Gardner. Pollock and Peralta aren’t going anywhere. They’re way too good. Arizona may have a young starter to spare and chances are they can afford Gardner, but the outfield is currently too crowded. A Fit? No.

Baltimore Orioles
Outfielders? Adam Jones, Hyun-Soo Kim, and, uh, Nolan Reimold? Egads.
Young Starters? Outside of Kevin Gausman, no one worthwhile.
Cash? Yeah. They just offered Chris Davis $150M or so.

Man, is Gardner not a perfect fit for the O’s? He gives them a solid left fielder and leadoff hitter, allowing them to put Manny Machado in the middle of the lineup. Gardner’s also affordable, he knows the ballpark, knows the division, and his lefty bat would help balance their righty heavy lineup. It’s such a great fit.

Of course, Orioles owner Peter Angelos would sooner play with a 24-man roster than make a significant trade with the Yankees. He had a contentious relationship with George Steinbrenner and he still holds the grudge to this day. Never say never, but it’s hard to see Angelos signing off on a significant trade with New York. That they lack a suitable non-Gausman young starter to send back also complicates things. A Fit? No.

Heyward. (David Banks/Getty)
Heyward. (David Banks/Getty)

Chicago Cubs
Outfielders? Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler. Kyle Schwarber plays an outfielder on TV.
Young Starters? Adam Warren! But seriously folks, no.
Cash? Oh indeed.

The Cubbies are no longer up-and-coming. They’re all-in. That much is clear. Right now the plan is to play Heyward in center field with Soler and Schwarber in the corners, though there’s talk they may move Soler for a young starter, which would push Heyward to right and free up center. Gardner would fill that center field hole perfectly. The problem? The Cubbies don’t have a young starter to send back to New York. That’s why they signed John Lackey and are open to flipping Soler for an arm. I mean, I guess Kyle Hendricks counts, but I’m not a fan. A Fit? Maybe.

Cleveland Indians
Outfielders?
Michael Brantley will be out until May following shoulder surgery, leaving only Rajai Davis, Abe Almonte, Collin Cowgill, and Lonnie Chisenhall. (Chisenhall’s an outfielder now.)
Young Starters? Plenty. Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar would be ideal, Cody Anderson or Josh Tomlin are more likely.
Cash? Unlikely. Payroll has hovered around $85M for a few years now, and they have $64.5M on the books plus another $15.1M in projected arbitration salaries.

The payroll situation is a significant obstacle. The Yankees could always eat salary to facilitate a trade, but I can’t imagine they’d pay Gardner to play for another team, especially another AL contender. The Indians just went on a mini-spending spree (Davis, Mike Napoli) and the front office indicated they won’t be spending any more money. The Yankees have an outfielder to spare and the Indians appear to have a starter to spare. The finances are messing things up. A Fit? Maybe.

Detroit Tigers
Outfielders? Anthony Gose, Cameron Maybin, J.D. Martinez.
Young Starters? I assume Daniel Norris is off-limits, leaving Shane Greene and Matt Boyd.
Cash? For shizzle.

The Tigers are going for it next season. They’ve added Maybin, Justin Wilson, Jordan Zimmermann, and Francisco Rodriguez so far this offseason. There’s an obvious opening in left field — Gose and Maybin would platoon in center, ideally — and Gardner would fill that spot well. He plays strong defense for spacious Comerica Park and gives them a nice leadoff option.

As for the young starters Detroit has to offer … eh. Boyd is an extreme fly ball guy who is as generic as generic lefties get. Greene? I know more than a few people out there would be cool with the idea of bringing him back, except I’m sure no one would think that if he wasn’t an ex-Yankee. If Greene came up and debuted with any team other than the Yankees, no one would love the idea of acquiring him after the season he just had. A Fit? Maybe.

Kansas City Royals
Outfielders? Lorenzo Cain is currently flanked by Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando. Yeah.
Young Starters? Yordano Ventura is presumably off-limits. Danny Duffy might not be. That’s it.
Cash? Seems likely. They had a $113M payroll last year and are currently at $108M for 2016, including arbitration projections. They just won the World Series and I assume payroll will increase. Payroll increased $10M following their 2014 postseason run, after all.

The Royals have a clear need for outfield help. They wisely let the unproductive Alex Rios walk as a free agent and will likely lose Alex Gordon to a club with a larger payroll. GM Dayton Moore has said they’re willing to give Dyson a chance as a starting outfielder, but Orlando? He was a nice story as a 29-year-old rookie in 2015, but he didn’t hit at all. Starting him should be a non-option.

Assuming the money works out, the only really issue is finding a suitable return. Duffy is interesting, though the Yankees are looking for guys they can control beyond 2017, and he doesn’t fit. He’ll be a free agent after 2017. That’s pretty much all the young pitching the Royals have to offer. They’re been scouring the market for an extra arm this offseason just like New York. A Fit? Maybe.

Los Angeles Angels
Outfielders? Woo Mike Trout! Kole Calhoun’s good too. Then there’s Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry.
Young Starters? Andrew Heaney ain’t happening. Nick Tropeano and the not-so-young Matt Shoemaker might.
Cash? Indubitably.

GM Billy Eppler told reporters he’s ready to roll with the Nava/Gentry platoon in left field, which sounds so unappealing. That would have been a good idea from, like, 2012-13. In 2015? Nah. The Angels also could use a left-handed bat to balance their lineup. Gardner would slot right in as the leadoff hitter and allow them to use Calhoun in a run-producing spot.

Furthermore, the Angels have some young pitching to offer, specifically Tropeano. I wrote about him in last week’s mailbag. Heaney would be ideal but it’s just not going to happen. It’s not realistic. The Gardner for Tropeano framework could make sense for both clubs. Eppler and Cashman certainly have a good relationship, which could help expedite things. A Fit? Yes.

St. Louis Cardinals
Outfielders? Matt Holliday, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Tommy Pham.
Young Starters? Yes. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha ain’t happening. Think Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney, or maybe personal fave Marco Gonzales instead.
Cash? Yeah. They offered Heyward $200M and David Price $180M, reportedly.

Gonzales. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)
Gonzales. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)

This has been a tough offseason for the Cardinals. By bWAR, they lost their best pitcher (John Lackey) and position player (Heyward) to the rival Cubs. They made runs at Price and Heyward but fell short. Yesterday they added Mike Leake, who will probably end up throwing 230 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA in 2015 because of Cardinals Devil Magic™.

Even with all those outfield bodies, the Cardinals lack a true center fielder. Grichuk is the center fielder by default and he’s no better than average out there. Gardner would give them a real center fielder and allow Matt Carpenter to move into a run-producing lineup spot — did you know Carpenter hit 28 homers in 2015 after hitting 25 total from 2011-14? Like I said, Cardinals Devil Magic™ — plus they have some young arms to spare. Gardner for Cooney or Gonzales could be a thing. A Fit? Yes.

San Francisco Giants
Outfielders? Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco.
Young Starters? No. That’s why they had to sign Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.
Cash? Yes. They had a $173.2M payroll in 2015 and are currently at $160M right now, counting arbitration projections.

The Giants do have some young outfielders they could try in left field, specifically Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, but I can’t imagine they’d commit $220M to Cueto and Samardzija only to cheap out on the outfield. Pagan is declining and has missed a lot of time to injuries in recent years. They can’t count on him to contribute much.

Gardner fits their roster perfectly as the everyday left fielder, part-time center fielder, and leadoff hitter. They can also afford his salary, it appears. (They’re shedding Pagan’s contract next offseason too.) They just don’t have any young pitching to offer, and no, Chris Heston doesn’t count. I explained why in last week’s mailbag. The Giants didn’t sign Cueto and Samardzija because they had nothing better to do. They needed pitching in a big way. A Fit? Maybe.

Washington Nationals
Outfielders? Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Michael Taylor.
Young Starters? A few. Joe Ross and A.J. Cole are the most notable.
Cash? Yep. They reportedly offered Heyward $200M.

The Nationals are in a weird place. They had a very disappointing 2015 season, then lost several key players to free agency, yet they’re still in position to contend in 2016. Harper, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Max Scherzer is a pretty strong core. They do need help though, especially with Werth and Ryan Zimmerman showing their age.

Gardner would step in to replace Denard Span as the center fielder and leadoff hitter, two obvious needs for Washington. The Nationals also have some young pitching to offer — Ross and Cole are the most notable (here’s my Scouting The Market post on Ross), but I guess Tanner Roark counts too — money to spend and incentive to win. Last year’s performance was embarrassing and they want to turn things around in a hurry. These two teams seem to match up awfully well for a trade. Whether they can agree to the particulars is another matter, but the puzzle pieces fit. A Fit? Yes.

* * *

So after all of that, I count three yeses (Angels, Cardinals, Nationals), two nos (D’Backs, Orioles), and five maybes (Cubs, Indians, Tigers, Royals, Giants). In the case of the Cubs, I think it’s worth noting Cashman and Theo Epstein are both pretty smart dudes with a willingness to be creative, so I wouldn’t rule out a three-team trade that sends Gardner to the Cubs and a young pitcher from the third team to the Yankees.

For now, it appears there are several possible suitors for Gardner, though I’m not really sure whether time is on the Yankees’ side. On one hand, if they hang onto him until after the top free agent outfielders sign, teams won’t have anywhere else to turn for outfield help. On the other hand, once the top free agents are off the board, there might not be any teams looking for outfield help. Quite the pickle, that is. The Yankees say they’re not shopping Gardner, but my guess is they would move him quickly if the right offer comes along. These ten teams stood out as the best possible suitors.

Morosi: Yanks among teams to talk outfielder-for-starter trade with Indians

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Carrasco. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

According to Jon Morosi, the Yankees are among the teams tho discuss an outfielder-for-starter trade with the Indians. The Dodgers and Blue Jays are also in that mix. The Indians came into the offseason needing at least one outfielder, and that was before Michael Brantley underwent shoulder surgery, which will sideline him for the first few weeks of 2016.

Cleveland does have some big time rotation depth and they realize that is their key to success. They’re only going to go as far as their rotation will take them. They want outfield help but won’t just give away a spare arm either. Here is the rotation depth chart on the team’s official site:

Indians rotation

The Indians also have lefty T.J. House as their seventh starter. He gave them 102 innings of 3.35 ERA (3.69 FIP) ball last year but missed most of 2015 due to shoulder inflammation. House did pitch in the Arizona Fall League and will be ready for Spring Training though.

Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar have been mentioned most often as trade bait* and both will command significant returns. Carrasco, 28, has pitched at an ace level since moving back into the rotation midway through 2014 — he has a 2.99 ERA (2.54 FIP) in 40 starts and 252.2 innings since rejoining the rotation — and his contract will pay him only $37.5M through 2020, assuming his two club options are picked up.

* Realistically, we can probably rule out the Indians trading the ultra-popular Corey Kluber. Trevor Bauer had a 4.55 ERA (4.33 FIP) this past season and had the highest walk rate in baseball (10.6%). The Yankees seek out guys with very low walk rates, so he doesn’t seem like a fit. Cody Anderson? Josh Tomlin? Eh. Carrasco and Salazar are both hard-throwers and the Yankees love that.

The 25-year-old Salazar went up and down a few times from 2013-14 before sticking for good this past season, pitching to a 3.45 ERA (3.62 FIP) in 30 starts and 185 innings. He is not signed long-term but is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2020. The Yankees are said to be looking for starters they can control more than two years since basically everyone in their rotation except Luis Severino can become a free agent following the 2017 season.

Carrasco and Salazar are potential building block players because they’re so good and under control so long. The Indians don’t have to move them. It’s not like they’re impending free agents. They’ll only deal them if they get exactly what they want in return. The Tribe are a small market team with a tight payroll, so any idea of a Jacoby Ellsbury-Terry Francona reunion probably won’t happen. The obvious fit here is Brett Gardner.

The Yankees owe Gardner $38M over the next three years and even that might be too expensive for the Indians. New York could always eat some money to facilitate a trade — or take back a bad contract, like the $16.5M owed to Chris Johnson the next two years — which they’ve been willing to do in the past. They ate a bunch of money to move A.J. Burnett and more recently picked up part of Martin Prado‘s contract to get Nathan Eovaldi.

Either way, Gardner for Carrasco or Salazar straight up probably isn’t happening. I’d do either of those deals in a heartbeat which means they’re lopsided in favor of the Yankees, right? More than likely it would be Gardner plus stuff for Carrasco or Salazar, and the stuff would have to be pretty good too. Gardner and Aaron Judge for Salazar or especially Carrasco would not be an unrealistic request by the Indians in my opinion. Not at all. I’d still do either of those trades which means they’re still lopsided in New York’s favor.

Point is, there’s a potential fit here. The Yankees want a starter and have extra outfielders, the Indians need an outfielder and believe they have extra starters. This could work! Addressing Gardner’s salary and finding a common ground on the talent changing hands will take some work — what if the Yankees flipped Aaron Hicks instead of Gardner? — but at least this looks doable. The Yankees and Indians appear to match up well.

Yankeemetrics: The last-place curse (Aug. 20-23)

Rare celebration against the Indians (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
Rare celebration against the Indians (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Cy Tomlin
This might have been the most boring game of the season, until Joe Girardi got himself ejected in the ninth inning and the Yankees’ rally fell just short, sending them to a 3-2 loss to the Indians in the series opener.

Josh Tomlin held the Yankees to just two hits and one run in seven innings, becoming the first Indians pitcher to give up no more than two hits in at least seven innings pitched at Yankee Stadium since Bartolo Colon on Sept. 18, 2000. Of course, Tomlin entered this game with a 11.57 ERA at the new Yankee Stadium, the fifth-highest by any pitcher with at least two starts at the ballpark.

Cy Carrasco
The Yankees lost their second in a row to the last-place Indians on Thursday, which gave them a 1-4 record vs the Tribe this season and guaranteed they’d lose the season series. Combined with their 3-4 record against them last year, this is the first time that they Yankees have lost the season series to the Indians in back-to-back seasons since 1968-69.

Carlos Carrasco became the latest Indians pitcher to silence the Yankee bats, striking out 11 guys in 6 2/3 innings. He’s the only Indians starter in the last 100 years with that many strikeouts in fewer than seven innings pitched against the Yankees. The last pitcher on any team to do that to the Yankees was the Rays’ Matt Moore on Sept. 22, 2011.

Carrasco has now allowed one run in 18 2/3 innings pitched over three starts in the Bronx against the Yankees in his career. That’s the fewest runs allowed by any visiting pitcher in his first three major-league starts at Yankee Stadium (old or new).

Welcome to the club
It’s amazing what a little run support will do … Luis Severino finally earned his first career win, throwing six innings of three-hit, one-run ball on Saturday afternoon as the Yankees beat the Indians, 6-2.

The Yankees had scored a total of two runs when he was on the mound in his first three starts combined. And then Brett Gardner matched that total with one swing of the bat, hitting a two-run homer in the first inning.

Brian McCann extended the lead with a solo shot, giving him 75 RBI this season, the seventh time in his career he’s reached that number. The only other catchers in MLB history with at least seven 75-RBI seasons within their first 11 major-league seasons are Bill Dickey, Johnny Bench, Ted Simmons, Yogi Berra and Mike Piazza.

This is the second time in four games Severino has pitched at least five innings and allowed no more than three hits. Here’s the list of Yankee pitchers besides Severino with two starts like that within their first four career games in the last 100 years: Dave Righetti and Johnny Broaca.

Babe Lindor
This habit of losing to cellar-dwellars might really come back to haunt the Yankees. They dropped another game to the Indians on Sunday and are now 14-15 vs last-place teams this season; the Blue Jays are 16-11 against last-place teams and the Orioles are 23-7.

Dellin Betances took the loss when he allowed a tie-breaking homer to Francisco Lindor — the first homer that Betances had ever given up to a player batting left-handed. He had faced 302 lefties in his career before Lindor’s eighth-inning blast.

Lindor finished the season with a .433 batting average (13 for 30) in seven games against the Yankees. Over the last 100 years, the only players in their age-21 season or younger to have a higher batting average (min. 25 at-bats) against the Yankees are Claudell Washington (.452 in 1976) and Alex Rodriguez (.434 in 1996).

Brett Gardner reached a milestone in this game, becoming the sixth Yankee with 200 career stolen bases. He’s also just the second player in franchise history to get 200 steals within his first eight seasons, joining Hal Chase, who racked up 243 steals in his first eight seasons from 1905-12.

8/20 to 8/23 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The ten-game homestand continues with a four-game weekend series against the Indians. The Yankees were just in Cleveland last week, when they lost two of three to the Tribe. That was when the Yankees were really struggling to score runs, however. Hopefully things will go a little better this time around.

What Have The Indians Done Lately?

Cleveland lost two of three in Fenway Park earlier this week. They’re 55-64 with a -26 run differential this season, and that has them in last place in the AL Central and well out of the postseason race. The Indians have been a huge disappointment this season. Uuuuge.

Offense & Defense

At 4.00 runs per games with a team 98 wRC+, the Indians are a below-average offensively club this season. And remember, most of that offense came before they traded away David Murphy, Brandon Moss, Nick Swisher, and Michael Bourn. They’ve been disappointing in many ways. Their only injured position player is IF Chris Johnson. He just landed on the DL with a hand issue. That bites. Johnson seemed to kill rally after rally in Cleveland last week.

Lindor. (Presswire)
Lindor. (Presswire)

The biggest difference between the Indians the Yankees saw last week and the Indians the Yankees will see this week is 2B Jason Kipnis (142 wRC+). He was on the DL with shoulder inflammation when these two teams played a week ago but was just activated Tuesday. Kipnis has been the Tribe’s best player this year. OF Michael Brantley (139 wRC+) always seem to kill the Yankees and 1B Carlos Santana (107 wRC+) is still quite productive. SS Francisco Lindor (99 wRC+) has been both slightly below-average overall and on fire of late — he’s got a 130 wRC+ over the last 30 days.

C Yan Gomes (77 wRC+) and IF Jose Ramirez (54 wRC+) are having poor years, though Ramirez did tear up the Yankees last week. They couldn’t get him out. 3B Giovanny Urshela (85 wRC+) plays third everyday and the quartet of UTIL Ryan Raburn (131 wRC+), UTIL Lonnie Chisenhall (85 wRC+), UTIL Jerry Sands (91 wRC+), and former Yankees farmhand OF Abe Almonte (122 wRC+) rotate around Brantley in the outfield. IF Mike Aviles (67 wRC+) is the backup infielder and C Roberto Perez (106 wRC+) is the backup catcher.

As I said last week, the Indians are a below-average defensive club, especially now that Kipnis has returned and will take playing time away from Ramirez. Lindor and Urshela are great on the left side of the infield and Almonte is strong in center, but otherwise every other regular on the roster is a below-average defender. Cleveland is one of the worst defensive clubs in baseball. They were the worst before calling up Lindor and Urshela.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (vs. NYY)
Boy do the Yankees catch a break this series. Four-game set with the Indians and they’re missing reigning Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, who started last night. Missed him in Cleveland last week too. Pretty great. Tomlin, 30, has missed most of the season with shoulder trouble and has made just one start since returning, holding the Twins to two runs in 6.1 innings. He had a 4.76 ERA (4.01 FIP) in 104 innings last season, with a good strikeout rate (21.1%), a great walk rate (3.1%), and well-below-average grounder (37.5%) and homer (1.56 HR/9) numbers. When healthy, Tomlin operates with an upper-80s four-seamer and mid-80s cutter — PitchFX says his velocity in his first start off the DL was in line with last year — which set up his mid-70s curveball. He’s rarely thrown his low-80s changeup since the start of last season.

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (vs. NYY)
The Yankees will miss Kluber again but they will get stuck facing Carrasco one more time. The 28-year-old has a 3.63 ERA (2.88 FIP) in 24 starts and 151.1 innings this year with phenomenal peripherals: 27.1 K%, 5.2 BB%, 50.8 GB%, and 0.83 HR/9. That’s as good as it gets. Righties (.300 wOBA) have had more success against him than lefties (.264 wOBA) both this year and last year, so the reverse split is probably not a fluke. Carrasco sits in the mid-90s with both his two and four-seam fastball and in the upper-80s with both his changeup and slider. Carrasco also throws a low-80s curveball on occasion. He throws everything hard. The Yankees scored two runs (on solo homers) in eight innings against Carrasco last week. Tough assignment.

Salazar. (Presswire)
Salazar. (Presswire)

Saturday (1pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Danny Salazar (vs. NYY)
Salazar, 25, is another hard-throwing Indians pitcher. He’s pitched to a 3.15 ERA (3.56 FIP) in 22 starts and 139.2 innings in 2015, and he’s done a better job neutralizing righties (.274 wOBA) than lefties (.291 wOBA). Salazar has a great strikeout rate (27.7%), a below-average homer rate (1.16 HR/9), and average-ish walk (7.3%) and grounder (44.5%) numbers. His four-seamer sits mid-90s and will touch 98-99, and his changeup is a mid-80s offering. Salazar also throws a mid-80s slider but not often, less than 10% of the time this season. The Yankees scored just one run in 7.1 innings against Salazar in the series last week.

Sunday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. CLE) vs. RHP Trevor Bauer (vs. NYY)
I’m pretty sure Bauer is the most enigmatic pitcher in baseball. He’s an extreme great stuff/bad results guy. He has a 4.62 ERA (4.58 FIP) in 24 starts and 142.1 innings this year, and he’s allowed at least five runs in five of his last seven starts. Bauer, 24, has a slightly above-average strikeout rate (22.9%) but below-average walk (9.6%), grounder (38.2%), and homer (1.45 HR/9) rates. Lefties (.337 wOBA) have done more damage against him that righties (.306 wOBA). Bauer throws low-to-mid-90s two and four-seamers, upper-80s cutters, mid-80s changeups, low-80s sliders, and upper-70s curveballs. He favors the four-seamer over the two-seamer but has thrown all six pitches at least 9% of the time in 2015. The Yankees punished Bauer for six runs in 3.1 innings last week.

Bullpen Status
Francona’s club is down to a normal seven-man bullpen. Closer RHP Cody Allen (3.94 ERA/2.08 FIP) has been much better the last few weeks after a really rough start to the season. Former Yankees farmhand RHP Zach McAllister (3.09/2.76) has settled in as Allen’s primary setup man, and RHP Bryan Shaw (2.68/4.32) also sees some late-inning work. LHP Kyle Crockett (2.61/4.46 in limited time) is the lone southpaw.

RHP Austin Adams (3.96/3.63), RHP Jeff Manship (1.23/2.79), and RHP Ryan Webb (2.45/3.72) fill out the rest of the bullpen. Aside from Manship, all of these guys throw hard. The Indians love their power arms. Crockett has pitched the last two days and both Shaw and McAllister pitched yesterday, by the way. Our Bullpen Workload page can keep you updated on the tired Yankees’ bullpen. Check out Let’s Go Tribe and The DiaTribe for the latest on the Indians.

Yankeemetrics: Welcome back, Offense (August 11-13)

(AP/Aaron Josefczyk)
(AP/Aaron Josefczyk)

Can it get any worse?
Just when you thought the Yankees had hit rock bottom last week … Well, they somehow managed to break that unbreakable rocky crust and dig themselves into an even deeper hole to start this week.

Yeah, Tuesday night’s marathon loss to the Indians was that bad.

The Yankees finally scored more than one run — progress! — and actually had a lead in the game — even better! — but Andrew Miller picked the wrong time to blow his first save of the season. Miller’s streak of 24 straight saves was the longest in franchise history to begin a Yankee career, the second-longest in franchise history to start a season and the third-longest in major-league history to begin a career with a new team.

Before Miller blew the save and the rest of the extra-inning sadness played out, the Yankees snapped a 31-inning scoreless streak — their longest since 1991 — and Luis Severino delivered another terrific outing (6 IP, 2 R, 7 H). Severino has now pitched at least five innings and given up no more than two runs in each of his first two career games, but has zero wins on the back of his baseball card. The last Yankee pitcher to start his major-league career like that was … um … yeah, no one in the last 100 seasons.

In the end, the Yankees were beaten 5-4 in the 16th inning, the first time they lost a game that long to the Indians since a 19-inning loss on May 24, 1918. Amazingly, the Indians starting pitcher that day — Stan Coveleski — threw a complete game (yes, 19 innings!) for the win.

Of course, this wasn’t the first time the Yankees lost a game this season that went at least 16 innings. (I tried to forget that 19-inning loss to the Red Sox in April, too.) This is the only season in the last 100 years that the Yankees have lost two games lasting 16-plus innings. Wut?!

Jacoby Ellsbury (0 for 7), Brett Gardner (0 for 6) and Mark Teixeira (0 for 6) — aka, the top of the order — had the worst “hitting” performances of the night at the plate. The last time the Yankees had three of the top four hitters in the lineup go 0 for 6 or worse was July 26, 1967 (Roy White, Mickey Mantle, Elston Howard).

Is it winter yet?
The Yankee bats went into hibernation again on Wednesday night, wasting a second straight solid performance by CC Sabathia in a 2-1 loss to the Indians. And thanks to the fact that the Blue Jays will never lose another game this season, the Yankees fell out of first place in the AL East for the first time since the morning of July 2.

Sabathia has now thrown a quality start in all five games he’s pitched against the Indians in Cleveland. He’s the first Yankee with a streak of five straight road starts of at least six innings and three earned runs or fewer against the Indians since Mel Stottlemyre from 1967-71.

Return of the bats
The Yankees finally broke out of their deep offensive slump with 10 hits and eight runs in Thursday’s win, and avoided being swept in Cleveland for the first time since September 11-13, 1970.

Brian McCann got the fireworks started with his 20th homer of the season, a three-run shot in the top of the first inning. He joins Mike Piazza, Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra and Gary Carter as the only catchers in major-league history with at least nine 20-homer seasons.

Stephen Drew clubbed a solo homer in the second inning to make it 4-0, his 15th dinger of the year, and added a double in the fourth inning to raise his season batting average to .195. That’s better! (But still pretty awful.) Looking ahead … the lowest batting average by any Yankee to hit at least 15 homers in a season was .192 by Steve Balboni.

Despite the offensive outburst, the Yankees running game remained dormant; no one even attempted to steal a base. The Yankees have now gone 18 straight games without a stolen base, their longest streak since 1975.

Greg Bird, the latest Baby Bomber to be called up to The Show, wasn’t invited to the scoring party; he went 0 for 5 in his major-league debut. Bird is the first Yankee to go hitless with at least five at-bats in his first career game since a 20-year-old shortstop named Derek Jeter on May 29, 1995. That guy turned out okay, I guess.