Yankeemetrics: Two up, two down in Cleveland (Aug. 3-6)

(AP)
(AP)

Sorry, Sonny
Thursday’s series opener in Cleveland — a sloppy and frustrating 5-1 loss — was definitely not the ideal way to welcome Sonny Gray to the New York Yankees franchise.

Four batters into the game and the Yankees had already committed three errors behind Gray and the Yankees were quickly in a 2-0 hole. Whoops. It was the first time the Yankees committed three errors in any inning since October 2, 2010 against the Red Sox.

For Gray, this was a recurring nightmare that he thought had ended when he left Oakland, which leads the league in errors. Instead, he now has 13 unearned runs allowed on his ledger, tied with Derek Holland for the most in the majors through Thursday.

Gray pitched well as the Yankee gloves failed behind him, showing his toughness in pitching out of jams and limiting the damage on the scoreboard. He finished with two earned runs allowed on four hits in six innings, and for that solid effort, gets our Obscure Yankeemetric of the Series:

Gray is the first pitcher in nearly 60 years to post those numbers or better (at least 6 innings, 2 earned runs or fewer, 4 hits or fewer) in his debut with the Yankees — and lose. The last guy to be this unlucky was Duke Maas in 1958. Maas (no relation to Kevin, I think) was traded by the A’s to the Yankees in mid-June, and then made his pinstriped debut as the starter in a 1-0 loss to the Tigers on June 21.

The Yankees bats also provided little offensive support as they were dominated by Corey Kluber, who tossed an 11-strikeout, three-hit complete game while giving up one run. That was his fourth straight start with at least eight strikeouts and one earned run or fewer allowed against the Yankees, the longest such streak ever by any pitcher against the Yankees.

(AP)
(AP)

Bad News Bombers
It was deja vu all over again on Friday night for the Yankees, as the mistakes in the field piled up and their offense remained in a miserable slump, resulting in another disappointing loss.

The “star” of the defensive lowlights was Gary Sanchez, who had his 12th passed ball of the season, the most in the majors despite the fact that he missed nearly a month of games in April and early May. He also has 10 errors, the second-most among catchers through Friday.

While the Yankees could barely touch Kluber’s stuff on Thursday, they put plenty of runners on base against Trevor Bauer and the Indians bullpen, but repeatedly failed to cash in on those chances. For the 15th time this season, they outhit their opponent (11-8) but still lost; only the Blue Jays (16) and White Sox (21) had suffered more losses in games when out-hitting their opponents through Friday.

Jaime Garcia contributed to the miserable night with a mediocre outing. He coughed up six runs in 4⅔ innings and couldn’t find the strike zone (four walks, one wild pitch), earning himself this #NotFunFact:

He’s one of just seven players in the Live Ball Era (since 1920) to allow that many runs, not get out of the fifth inning and walk at least four batters in his Yankee debut. The most recent guy to do it was CC Sabathia on Opening Day 2009 … okay? And the others are Tim Redding (2005), Bob Wiesler (1951), Fred Sanford (1949) and Karl Drews (1946).

(AP)
(AP)

Chase “Hero” Headley
While the bats remained silent on Saturday, the defense was outstanding and the Yankees got a stellar effort from Jordan Montgomery to survive a 2-1 nail-biter in Cleveland.

It was perhaps one of the team’s most unlikely wins, given how dominant Danny Salazar and the rest of the Indians pitchers were against a feeble Yankee lineup. They struck out 15 times, were on base just nine times and scored only two runs. In the last 100 years, no Yankee team had ever won a game with that many strikeouts, fewer than 10 baserunners and no more than two runs scored … before Saturday.

Montgomery was terrific, allowing one run on three hits in five innings, and making a strong statement that he should be a key part of the rotation down the stretch (which is now a hot topic for us banter about after he was optioned to Triple-A following Sunday’s game). Although Monty rarely dazzles like a Severino or Pineda, he consistently puts up solid numbers and keeps the Yankees in the game while he’s on the mound.

Consider this stat: Saturday was the 16th time this season that he held the opponent to three runs or fewer. Only five other Yankee pitchers have done that within their first 21 career games: Dave Righetti, Doc Medich, Masahiro Tanaka, Mel Stottlemyre and Spec Shea.

Chase Headley rescued the Yankees from another depressing loss when he belted a tie-breaking home run in the top of the eighth inning. Headley, who has quietly been one of the best hitters in the league since the All-Star break deserves a #FunFact for his heroics on Saturday: He is just the third Yankee first baseman in the last four decades with a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning or later against the Indians – Jason Giambi (2005) and Don Mattingly (1984 and 1986) are the others.

(AP)
(AP)

#Sevy4MVP
Finally … the Bronx Bombers are back. The Yankees offense, which had been M.I.A. for the past week, exploded for eight runs on Sunday, more than they had scored in their previous five games combined. But it was the brilliant pitching of Luis Severino and a shutdown performance by the Yankee bullpen that truly shined in the 8-1 win.

It was the fourth game this year that the pitching staff allowed no more than three baserunners. The last time a Yankees team did that? 1929!

Sevy, the undisputed ace of the 2017 staff, cemented his status as a no-doubt Cy Young contender with another lights-out performance: two hits, one run, nine strikeouts over 6⅔ dominant innings. I think this is a good list to be on:

He also became the first Yankee pitcher in more than 20 years to beat the Indians in Cleveland while holding them to no more than two hits. The last guy to do it? David Cone in the 1996 opener … and we know how that season ended.

Severino’s effort would have been another wasted gem in a deflating loss if not for the team’s offensive explosion in the sixth and seventh innings. The five-run sixth was sparked by the most unlikely source, a bases-loaded triple off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury. The struggling lefty entered the day hitting .163 with runners in scoring position, the sixth-lowest batting average among AL players (min. 50 PA).

The three-run seventh, on the other hand, was powered by a much more familiar name — Mr. Aaron Judge — who smoked a 94 mph fastball into the rightfield seats for his 35th homer of the season. And, of course, with that blast, Judge etched his name in the baseball record books once again: He is the only rookie outfielder in major-league history with at least 35 homers and 75 walks in a season.

8-3 to 8-6 Series Preview: Cleveland Indians

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The Yankees’ RISP-fail-filled series with Detroit is over and so ends a 6-3 homestand. Now they’ll face the defending American League champion Indians, who lead the AL Central and seem poised to repeat with the division crown. They’re coming off two losses to the Red Sox and a Wednesday rainout, which will be made up later this month.

The Last Time They Met

This is their first meeting this season, so their last meeting came around this time last year, when the Yankees took 2 of 3 at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 5-7. With the series win, the Bombers moved above .500 and stayed there for the rest of the season. It’s when we first saw them reach that second gear post-trade deadline.

  • A few hours prior to the series opener Mark Teixeira announced he would retire following the season. Then, a few hours prior to the series finale, the Yankees announced Alex Rodriguez would be released the following week.
  • In the opener, the Yankees broke out for 13 runs against Josh Tomlin and co. Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks hit home runs while Gary Sanchez got the first two RBI of his career, one on his first double and one on a walk. He also gunned down two baserunners.
  •  Corey Kluber held the Yanks to two runs (one earned) in eight innings and Andrew Miller picked up the save a week after the Yankees traded him.
  • In the finale, Masahiro Tanaka threw six innings of one-run ball while Dellin Betances picked up a four-out save in a 3-2 win. Didi Gregorius had a solo homer and Teixeira doubled in a run to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.

For more information, check out Katie’s Yankeemetrics post.

Injury Report

Second baseman Jason Kipnis (hamstring) is currently rehabbing in Double A and is expected to return during this series. Former Yankees Andrew Miller (patella tendinitis, 10-day DL) and Boone Logan (strained left lat, 60-day DL) are both out for this series. Tomlin (hamstring) is also out.

OF Lonnie Chisenhall is on the disabled list and has yet to make a rehab appearance.

Their Story So Far

The Indians are 57-48 with a +95 run differential and they are 1.5 games up on the Royals. They were tepid buyers at the trade deadline, acquiring Blue Jays reliever Joe Smith while passing on bigger names like Yu Darvish and Zach Britton.

This is an all-around good team with very few holes. They’re fifth in wRC+, fourth in BB%, second in K%, and fifth in OPS. They control the strike zone very well. Their pitching staff has the second highest WAR in baseball behind the Dodgers and are best in K-BB%. The Indians’ bullpen is still one of the best in baseball despite Miller’s absence for the time being and should be a menace again come October.

Lineup We Might See

As with his unconventional bullpen maneuverings, manager Terry Francona tends to mix up the lineup depending on matchup. SS Francisco Lindor (109 wRC+), 2B/3B Jose Ramirez (146 wRC+), DH Edwin Encarnacion (126 wRC+), 1B Carlos Santana (109 wRC+) and CF Bradley Zimmer (114 wRC+) are the top players you’ll likely see regardless of matchup. LF Michael Brantley (111 wRC+) is a top AL Comeback Player of the Year candidate.

Here’s what their lineup tends to look like vs. RHPs without Kipnis (and here’s an example vs. LHPs)

  1. CF Bradley Zimmer
  2. SS Francisco Lindor
  3. LF Michael Brantley
  4. DH Edwin Encarnacion
  5. 3B Jose Ramirez
  6. 1B Carlos Santana
  7. RF Austin Jackson
  8. C Yan Gomes
  9. 2B Erik Gonzalez

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Thursday (7:10 PM EST): RHP Sonny Gray(!) vs. RHP Corey Kluber
While fans will be tuned in to see Gray don the road greys for the first time, they’ll also see the 2014 AL Cy Young winner. Kluber has been his dominant self, flashing his phenomenal two-seam sinker, slider and cutter with devastating results. The movement on his fastballs and slidee=rs are unreal. He’s struck out at least 10 in nine of his last 11 starts and has K’d 38 in his last three games alone.

He pitches deep into games (6.74 innings per start) and has few, if any, weaknesses. He’s given up four homers over his last three starts, but he typically keeps the ball on the ground when he isn’t striking batters out.

Last Outing (at CHW on Jul. 29) – 6.1 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 12 K

Friday (7:10 PM EST): LHP Jaime Garcia vs. RHP Trevor Bauer
Bauer was supposed to start on Wednesday against Boston before the rainout, so he’ll take on the other new Yankee Friday evening. The 26-year-old righty is a fastball-curveball guy, mixing in a few other pitches but sticking to that combo when things get rough. His fastball sits in the mid-90s while his curveball averages 79 mph. He tends to be hurt by his lack of control and a few too many homers, which plays into his 5.25 ERA.

Last Outing (vs. LAA on Jul. 27) – 8.0 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K

Saturday (7:10 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. TBD
Friday’s starter was initially supposed to be Danny Salazar while Saturday was scheduled to be Mike Clevinger. Salazar, a RHP, was dominant in two starts since returning from the DL two weeks ago, allowing just four hits and two runs over 13 innings while striking out 16.

Following his career path, he’s given up a tad too many homers and can struggle with walks, but he makes up for it with a lot of strikeouts. Throws mid-90s heat with his four-seamer and sinker while playing off of it with his changeup.

Sunday (1:10 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. TBD
Assuming Salazar goes Saturday, Sunday will either be Clevinger or RHP Carlos Carrasco. If you want to oversimplify things, both are four-pitch starters with mid-to-high 3.00 ERAs that strikeout more than a batter an inning. Carrasco has much more of a track record, pitching to an ERA of 3.89 or below for at least 125 innings every season since 2014.

The Bullpen

The Indians will miss Miller this series, but they still have an efficient group waiting in the wings. They are tied with the fewest meltdowns in baseball this year (38), are fifth in Win Probability Added, third in K-BB% and are second only to the Dodgers in ERA.

Francona will mix up roles, but Cody Allen is the closer while Shaw will likely be his primary set-up man with Miller out. Nick Goody, Dan Otero and Joe Smith are all solid middle relievers, as is Zach McAllister, who often pitches more than one inning. Tyler Olson is the lone lefty and can pitch multiple innings while Adam Plutko has two MLB games to his name, both in 2016.

Yankees Connection

This may be the team with the most Yankees connections.

Olson threw all of one game last year in pinstripes. Goody made 34 appearances in pinstripes before he was dealt for a PTBNL this winter. McAllister and Jackson are both former Yankees prospects that they dealt to the AL Central.

And that’s just the active roster. Miller is the obvious one (Be honest: We all wanted to see Miller vs. Clint Frazier for #WhoWonTheTrade purposes). Logan is on the 60-day DL and in order to place him on the 60-day, the team claimed … Diego Moreno, the Yankee reliever they received from Pittsburgh for A.J. Burnett.

Who (Or What) to Watch?

The initial pitching matchup is dang near perfect. Gray vs. Kluber is the best way to test out Sonny in his Yankee debut. Garcia gets going a day later. At some point this weekend, Salazar and maybe Carrasco will take the hill, so it will be quite the challenge for the Bombers.

And this could be a preview of October. With the Astros way ahead of everyone, it’s likely the AL Central and AL East champs will face in the ALDS, so there’s a non-zero chance of Yankees-Indians this fall. Games like this could be key to determining home field for that series, or if either team even makes it there.

As a side note, I’m personally excited to see Zimmer play. While he tends to strikeout a fair amount, he does basically everything else well. In another year without Aaron Judge, he’d be a Rookie of the Year candidate.

Saturday Links: Happ, Zimmer, Sanchez, Mock Drafts, Girardi

The Yankees and Rays will play the second game of their three-game series later this afternoon. Here are some links to check out until then.

Yankees passed on Happ, Jimenez, Zimmer

This is pretty fun and interesting. According to Joel Sherman, during trade talks last year, the Yankees and Cubs agreed that New York would receive either Gleyber Torres, Ian Happ, or Eloy Jimenez in the Aroldis Chapman trade. Also, during talks with the Indians about Andrew Miller, it was down to Clint Frazier or Bradley Zimmer. Both Happ and Zimmer were called up within the last week, and both have hit their first MLB home runs already.

Sherman says the Yankees passed on Jimenez because he was furthest away among the three Cubs prospects, and they passed on Happ because he’s not expected to be much of a defender. Torres had the best all-around ability. The Yankees went Frazier over Zimmer because he’s two years younger and has fewer exploitable holes in his swing. (Zimmer had a 30.7% strikeout rate between Double-A and Triple-A last year. Yikes!)

I really do like Happ, though I am totally cool with passing on him for Gleyber. The Yankees picked correctly in both cases, in my opinion. Torres is a budding superstar. Frazier has a much better chance to be an impact bat long-term too. Something tells me we’ll all have one eye on Happ and Jimenez and Zimmer over the next few years. Either way, the trade deadline last year truly was a franchise altering event. The Yankees are in much better shape long-term right now than they were 12 months ago.

Sanchez among top 25 under 25

A few days ago Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked the 25 best players in baseball under the age of 25. Not surprisingly, Bryce Harper claims the top spot. Manny Machado and Carlos Correa are second and third. Yeah. The Yankees have one player on the list: Gary Sanchez, who ranks 14th. He’s one spot behind Alex Bregman and one spot ahead of Dansby Swanson. Here’s the write-up:

Sanchez had a rookie season — well, half-season — for the ages last year, with 20 homers in 53 games, good enough to get him second in Rookie of the Year balloting and push the Yankees to trade Brian McCann and give Sanchez the starting job behind the plate. Sanchez has improved enough as a receiver to stay back there, though he is probably always going to be a bat-first, throw-second, glove-third kind of guy. I’m sure the Yankees will be fine with that.

Aaron Judge, who turned 25 last month, was not eligible for the list. I’m sure he would have made it had the list been players age 25 and under. The list is very position player heavy — Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Sanchez, Julio Urias, and Michael Fulmer are the only pitchers — and I’m guessing Luis Severino wasn’t particularly close to making it. That doesn’t surprise me. Sanchez is the only catcher in the top 25, and that is pretty darn cool.

Baseball America’s mock draft v3.0

Baseball America released their third mock draft of the year earlier this week, and now they have the Twins selecting Vanderbilt RHP Kyle Wright with the top pick. California HS RHP/SS Hunter Greene, the top prospect in the draft class, is projected to fall to the Padres with the third pick. The mock draft has the Yankees taking Alabama HS OF Bubba Thompson with their 16th pick. Here’s the write-up:

New York has been linked to preps this spring such as Huntington Beach first baseman Nick Pratto and Alabama prep outfielder Bubba Thompson, who’s likely to go in the 16-23 range. Pratto’s relatively modest spring offensively has pushed him down lists a bit.

The draft is a little more than four weeks now, so things are still pretty wide open. So far the Yankees have been connected to mostly high school players, though that doesn’t mean much. Last year they were mostly connected to high school arms and college bats before the draft, then bam, they went with a high school bat. Hopefully things get narrowed down a bit over the next month.

MLB.com’s mock draft v1.0

In other mock draft news, Jim Callis dropped his first full mock draft of the year last week. He has the Twins taking Louisville LHP/1B Brendan McKay first overall. It seems Minnesota has been connected to all the top prospects except Greene. Weird. Anyway, Callis has the Yankees taking California HS 1B Nick Pratto withe their first rounder.

One of the most rumored mid-round marriages is New York and Pratto, though this is more a floor than a ceiling for the best high school bat available. Burger and Canning are other potential targets.

Here’s my write-up on Pratto. Also, here’s my write-up on UCLA RHP Griffin Canning, who Callis connected to the Yankees as well. Burger is Missouri State 3B Jake Burger, who is one of the top power hitters in the draft. He’s probably going to end up at first base though, and it’s unclear if his less than picturesque swing will allow him to handle pro pitching. Meh. Doesn’t seem like the kind of player the Yankees usually target in the first round.

Girardi on new competition committee

Earlier this week MLB announced the relaunch of the competition committee, a 16-man committee that is “charged with studying all aspects of the game and advising the Commissioner and Club Owners on on-field matters.” They’re going to look for ways to make baseball better, basically. I guess automatic intentional walks and talking about pace of play constantly isn’t working as well as hoped.

Anyway, Joe Girardi is one of four current big league managers on the committee, along with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny, and Orioles skipper Buck Showalter. Here is the press release with all the committee members. I do like that commissioner Rob Manfred is open to new ideas and seems genuinely interested in improving the game. I have no idea whether the new competition committee will result in any tangible improvements, but hey, at least they’re trying.

Yanks acquire pitching prospect Yoiber Marquina from Indians to complete Nick Goody trade

Yesterday afternoon the Yankees announced they have acquired right-handed pitching prospect Yoiber Marquina from the Indians as the player to be named later in the Nick Goody trade. Goody was sent to Cleveland back in December. He was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot when the Yankees signed Aroldis Chapman.

According to the press release the 21-year-old Marquina had Tommy John surgery on May 1st, so we won’t see him on a mound until next season. He had a 3.16 ERA (2.90 FIP) with 32.3% strikeouts and 10.5% walks in 31.1 relief innings in the Low-A Midwest League last year. He’s a career reliever. Not a single start among his 69 career pitching appearances in pro ball.

MLB.com did not rank Marquina among Cleveland’s top 30 prospects prior to the trade, nor does he rank among the Yankees’ top 30 prospects right now. Eric Longenhagen did list Marquina among the notable prospects in the Indians system a few weeks ago. Here’s his scouting report:

A converted catcher, Marquina mixes a mid-90s fastball with a feel for creating movement on a breaking ball and changeup, but they often play down due to arm deceleration. His secondaries obviously remain projectable because of the recent conversion. Marquina missed time this year with a shoulder ailment.

Up-and-down players who have been designated for assignment like Goody don’t have much trade value. They’re usually traded for an amount of cash equal to the waiver claim fee, which I believe is $50,000 these days. Rather than take the cash, the Yankees are rolling the dice on a relief prospect, and hoping he’ll reward them once his elbow heals. If he does, great! If not, well no big deal.

Potential trade partners for Brett Gardner dwindling due to hot stove activity

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

The Yankees right now are very much open to trading pricey veterans for prospects. They sold big time at the deadline and continued selling in the offseason by sending Brian McCann to the Astros for two Single-A pitching prospects. The Yankees have reportedly dangled Brett Gardner and Chase Headley in trade talks this winter, and I’m sure they’d love to move Jacoby Ellsbury too, but, you know.

Two teams that stood out as obvious suitors for Gardner addressed their outfield needs last week. The Nationals traded for Adam Eaton and the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler. Both clubs needed a defensively competent center fielder — Gardner plays left for the Yankees in deference to Ellsbury, but he could still handle center full-time, no problem — and a top of the order on-base guy. The Nats and Cards went in another direction.

Gardner is a good player, not a great one, and the two years and $23M left on his contract is not unreasonable. And besides, the Yankees have shown a willingness to eat money to facilitate trades. They did it with Carlos Beltran at the deadline and McCann a few weeks ago. Salary shouldn’t be a problem. The problem is finding a team that actually needs Gardner, a defense first outfielder with on-base skills. Here are the remaining potential trade partners I came up with.

Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Current Outfield: Adam Jones in center and Hyun-Soo Kim in left, with Joey Rickard and Rule 5 Draft picks Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez candidates for right. They also have the option of moving Chris Davis to right field and playing prospect Trey Mancini at first.

Why Would They Want Gardner? He’s a heck of a lot better than Rickard and the Rule 5 Draft kids — Santander has never played above High-A — and he’d give the O’s a legitimate leadoff hitter, something they really lack. Jones was their leadoff hitter most of this past season. Yeah. Also, the Orioles have an opening at DH, remember. They could put Gardner in left, Kim at DH (where he fits best), and stick with the kids in right.

So Are They A Fit? Yes with the caveat that they’re an AL East rival, and intradivision trades are rare. I don’t think that closes the door completely, it just makes it unlikely. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman told Bryan Hoch he’d have no problem trading with the Orioles.

“If I can trade with the Red Sox and the Mets, I can trade with the Orioles. I can trade with anybody. If it’s in our best interest, whether it’s short- or long-term, it doesn’t matter what the other teams get. Does it make sense for us? If it happens to be them, I don’t really care.”

What do the O’s have to offer the Yankees for Gardner? Geez, beats me. Their farm system isn’t in great shape (here’s their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and I doubt they’d be willing to give up pieces from their big league roster. I’m sure the Yankees could find some combination of minor leaguers to make it work though.

Cleveland Indians

Current Outfield: Tyler Naquin in center and Lonnie Chisenhall in right. Brandon Guyer and Abe Almonte are expected to hold down left field until Michael Brantley returns from shoulder surgery.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Not too many reasons at this point. The Indians seem focused on adding a big middle of the order bat to share first base and DH with Carlos Santana, and I suppose if those plans go awry, they could circle back and import Gardner to be part of a rotating DH system. He’d give them a more traditional leadoff hitter too. They used Santana at leadoff most of last season, which was somewhat a waste of his power because he batted with fewer men on base.

So Are They A Fit? Nah, I don’t think so. Naquin had a nightmare postseason but a very good regular season, good enough to finish third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and earn a starting spot in 2017. They’ll ride it out with Almonte and Guyer until Brantley returns, which could be as soon as April.

Detroit Tigers

Current Outfield: Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez on the corners, with Anthony Gose and JaCoby Jones in the mix for center. Tyler Collins could get a crack at the job too, though he’s best in a corner.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Gardner is much better than the group of players vying for Detroit’s center field job at the moment. Of course, the Tigers traded away Cameron Maybin earlier this winter, and they seem to be scaling back on payroll a bit. Salary dumping Maybin only to turn around and acquire Gardner would be a bit weird, don’t you think?

Of course, plans change, and the Tigers are looking at a more winnable AL Central right now. The Twins stink, the White Sox are selling, and the Royals might have to sell at the deadline since basically their entire core will hit free agency next winter. The Tigers won 86 games in 2016 despite going 4-14 (4-14!) against the Indians. What are the odds of that happening again? Small. Gardner would improve their chances in a much more winnable division.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe! I think the Yankees would have to eat money to make a trade happen, which I doubt would be a deal-breaker. If the Yankees ate money to trade Beltran and McCann, I’m sure they’d do the same for Gardner.

Oakland Athletics

Jake Smolinski was the A's everyday center fielder in the second half. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)
Jake Smolinski was the A’s everyday center fielder in the second half. For reals. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Current Outfield: Some combination of Khris Davis, Matt Joyce, Brett Eibner, and Jake Smolinski. Did you know Khris Davis hit 42 home runs in 2016? True story.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The A’s are in the market for a center fielder this offseason, it’s been reported everywhere, and they’ve most recently been connected to Jarrod Dyson of the Royals. Gardner is a very similar player (lefty hitting leadoff type with speed and defense) who happens to be much more expensive. But again, if the Yankees are willing to eat money, his contract may not be an obstacle.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe. The Athletics are a weird team that seems to be stuck between going for it and rebuilding. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they traded for an outfielder making $23M over the next two years despite losing at least 93 games the last two seasons. They’re weird like that.

San Francisco Giants

Current Outfield: Denard Span in center and Hunter Pence in right, with Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker slated to platoon in left. Gorkys Hernandez has a leg up on a bench job.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Left field is wide open. Williamson and Parker did an okay job as platoon partners while Pence was on the disabled list this summer — they hit a combined .230/.338/.402 with eleven homers in 278 plate appearances in 2016, but also struck out 28.5% of the time — though neither is a long-term building block. Williamson is the young one at 26. Parker turns 28 in three weeks.

Gardner would, at a minimum, give the Giants an above-average defender for that spacious left field at AT&T Park. In also guessing he’d outproduce a Williamson/Parker platoon at the plate over a full 162-game season. The Mark Melancon signing pushed San Francisco over the luxury tax threshold and they don’t want to go much higher, so Gardner’s contract could be an issue. Then again, the Giants are built to win right now, while Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner are still in their primes, and left field is a sore spot.

So Are They A Fit? Yes, definitely. The Giants have enough prospects to cobble together a trade package (here is their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and the Yankees could eat money to make things work on San Francisco’s end with regards to the luxury tax. The Giants are a fit. A great fit. No doubt.

Seattle Mariners

Current Outfield: Leonys Martin in the middle with some combination of Seth Smith, Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, Mitch Haniger, and possibly even Danny Valencia in the corners.

Why Would They Want Gardner? As an alternative to that hodgepodge of platoon veterans and mid-range prospects slated for the corners. The Mariners are trying to win right now. I mean, they should be. Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz aren’t going to be this productive forever, so anything Seattle can do to improve their short-term chances qualifies as a good move in my book. Gardner represents an upgrade.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in theory, no in reality. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has said his team is too left-handed at the moment, which Gardner would only exacerbate. Also, they seem committed to playing those kids in the outfield. So while there is a fit on paper here, I don’t see it happening.

Texas Rangers

Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)
Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Current Outfield: Carlos Gomez in center, Shin-Soo Choo in right, and Nomar Mazara in left. Delino DeShields Jr. and Ryan Rua are the depth options.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The Rangers have no first baseman or designated hitter at the moment. Adding Gardner would allow them to slide Mazara over to right field, his natural position, and put Choo at DH full-time, which is where he belongs at this point. Texas has money and prospects to trade, plus an obvious opening for Gardner in the lineup and on the field.

So Are They A Fit? Yes. Whether the Rangers are willing to make a trade is another matter. They may prefer to hang on to their prospects and address those first base and DH openings through free agency. There are still plenty of those players available.

Toronto Blue Jays

Current Outfield: lol

Why Would They Want Gardner? Kevin Pillar is still the center fielder. That much is clear. But after losing out on Fowler, the Blue Jays have Melvin Upton, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Dalton Pompey penciled in as their corner outfielders. That might be the worst outfield unit in baseball. Gardner would give them a legitimate left fielder and leadoff hitter, allowing them to slide Devon Travis lower in the order, in a run producing spot. That would be a big help considering they effectively replaced Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in the same way the Orioles are a fit. The Blue Jays could use Gardner, for sure, but to get him, they’d have to swing a rare intradivision trade. It’s not impossible. Just really tough to do. There’s a reason you don’t see them often. Everyone’s afraid of losing a trade to a division rival.

One thing the Yankees can learn from each of the four remaining postseason teams

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

At the moment, four teams still have a chance to win the World Series. Someone will end a long title drought this year too. Among the four clubs still alive, the Blue Jays have the shortest title drought, and they last won in 1993. The Dodgers last won in 1988 and the Indians last won in 1948. The Cubs? There were only 46 states in the union the last time they won a championship. Seriously. Look it up.

Obviously the four teams still alive are all very good, and any time a team has success, there’s something that can be learned from them. Front offices around the league wouldn’t be doing their jobs if they didn’t look at these four clubs and try to figure out what they’re doing better than everyone. The Yankees, who have been thoroughly mediocre the last four years, are no different. Here’s one thing they can take from each of the four teams still playing.

Cubs: You can have a great defense without shifting

The Cubs had a historically great defense this season. Truly historic. In terms of simple defensive efficiency, which is the percentage of batted balls they turned into outs, the 2016 Cubs were the 75th best defensive team in history (out of over 2,000 team seasons). Baseball Prospectus rates them as the best defensive team ever in park adjusted defensive efficiency. Whether they’re first best or 75th best doesn’t really matter. The Cubs were a phenomenal fielding team in 2016. No doubt about it.

Now here’s the kicker: no team in baseball used fewer infield shifts than the Cubs this season. The shifts didn’t follow Joe Maddon from Tampa, apparently. Huh. Chicago used the shift for only 10.1% of the batters their pitchers faced in 2016. The next lowest rate belongs to the Royals at 10.6%. The Astros used by far the most shifts this summer (33.2%) and the Yankees used the seventh most (26.5%). They’re weren’t all that far away from being second (Rays, 29.3%).

How did the Cubs field such a great team without shifting? Well, it starts with having tremendously athletic players gifted with defensive tools. That’s kind of a prerequisite for a great team defense. The Yankees have a few of those players themselves. The Cubs also seem to emphasize their pitchers’ strengths rather than the hitter’s tendencies. They get the hitter to hit the ball where they want him to hit the ball, not where he wants to hit the ball. Make sense? It’s hard to explain, but they do it.

The Yankees allowed a .284 BABIP with normal defensive alignments this year and a .304 BABIP when using some kind of shift, which is, uh, backwards. You should be allowing a lower BABIP with the shift. This isn’t to say the Yankees should abandon the shift all together. That’s an overreaction. Perhaps scaling back on the shift would make sense though. I’m not really sure. Point is, the Cubs showed this year you don’t need to shift heavily to be a great defensive club.

Indians: Keep all your pitching depth. All of it.

It’s amazing the Indians are so close to the World Series considering they are without their No. 2 (Carlos Carrasco) and No. 3 (Danny Salazar) starters. Also, No. 4 starter Trevor Bauer cut his finger fixing his drone over the weekend and had to have his ALCS start pushed back from Game Two to Game Three. Injuries like that can cripple a team in the postseason. Could you imagine if the 2009 Yankees had lost A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte in September, and then Chad Gaudin cut his finger fixing his stupid drone in October? They’d be done.

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

And yet, the Indians have won every single game they’ve played this postseason despite those injuries because of their pitching depth. Josh Tomlin, Cleveland’s nominal fifth starter who at one point in September was demoted to the bullpen, has given the team two strong outings in the playoffs. Lefty Ryan Merritt, who has eleven big league innings to his credit, will get the ball in Game Five tomorrow, if necessary. Rookie Mike Clevinger is the backup plan.

The Yankees do have some rotation depth at the moment. I’m looking forward to seeing more Luis Cessa and Bryan Mitchell next year. Chad Green too. Then there are Chance Adams and Jordan Montgomery. Chances are the Yankees will need most of these guys at some point next year, if not all of them. That’s baseball. That isn’t to say the team should make their pitching depth off-limits, because there’s always a point when it makes sense to trade someone, but hanging on to all of these guys sure seems like a smart move.

Dodgers: Postseason narratives are meaningless

The Dodgers have won four games this postseason. Noted playoff choker Clayton Kershaw has pitched in all four of them. Sunday night, when everyone expected him to melt down in the seventh inning because he had a 20-something ERA in the seventh inning of postseason games, he tossed a scoreless frame. It’s almost like there is no such thing as a bad seventh inning pitcher.

Anyway, I have no doubt the Yankees (and pretty much every other team) have bought into some of this stuff over the years. You can’t convince me Carlos Beltran‘s postseason reputation didn’t factor into New York’s decision to sign him three years ago. (Beltran, by the way, has hit a less than stellar .250/.351/.393 in his last 25 postseason games.) These narratives are just that. Narratives. They’re fun stories to tell. They have no predictive value. Don’t get caught up in the hoopla. Just focus on getting the best talent possible and having it on the field more than everyone else.

Blue Jays: Don’t be whiny children

Does anyone actually like the Blue Jays? Outside Toronto, I mean. They’re the Rasheed Wallace of baseball. They complain about every call then bitch about it after the game. The other day Jose Bautista said “circumstances” were working against the Blue Jays in the first two games of the ALCS, and by “circumstances” he meant the home plate umpires. Late in the season the Blue Jays refused interviews with certain reporters — they literally hung media head shots in the clubhouses with giant red X’s across them — because they didn’t like some of the criticism.

Imagine scoring three runs total in three ALCS games and blaming it on the umpires. Imagine being so upset by something a reporter said or wrote that you boycott them entirely. Could they be any more thin-skinned? The Yankees are pretty good at avoiding this stuff, thankfully. Joe Girardi will occasionally say something about the umpires when there’s an egregious mistake, but I can’t remember the last player to openly complained like Bautista. So, the lesson to be taken from the Blue Jays is this: don’t be jerks. Give people a reason to like you. People around the country have enough reasons to dislike the Yankees as it is.

Yankeemetrics: Surprising news, big wins [Aug. 5-7]

(AP)
(AP)

Tribute to Teix
The first stunning news conference of the weekend came just a couple hours before the opening game of this Yankees-Indians series, when Mark Teixeira announced that he will retire at the end of the 2016 season.

One of the defining numbers of Teixeira’s legacy is his unprecedented combination of power and defense, at a position where most players either excel in one of those two tools, but rarely both. Teixeira is the only first baseman with at least five Gold Gloves (awarded since 1957) and at least 400 homers.

Teixeira was also unique in that he produced at a high level right out the gate as a rookie, and showed impressive consistency during the prime years of his career. He reached the 25-homer mark in each of his first nine career seasons (2003-11), one of four players in major-league history to do that: Darryl Strawberry, Albert Pujols and Eddie Mathews are the others.

The next season he hit 38 homers and drove in 112 runs, kicking off an incredible eight-year run of 30-plus homers and 100-plus RBI. Among players that played at least 50 percent of their games at first base during the season, the only other guys to match that streak are Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx.

Teixeira was in the Bronx for less than a decade, but he still has a place alongside the all-time great first basemen to wear the pinstripes. He is one of three Yankee first baseman to compile at least 200 homers and 800 hits with the franchise. You might have heard of the others: Don Mattingly and Lou Gehrig.

Just hours after Teixeira’s emotional announcement, the Yankees took the field and produced one of their finest offensive performances of the season in routing the AL Central-leading Indians, 13-7.

Starlin Castro delivered the biggest blow of the game with his first career grand slam in the third inning. Thanks to that blast, Castro upped his batting average with the bases loaded this season to .429 (6-for-14 plus a sac fly), the second-highest in the majors among players with at least 15 plate appearances through Friday.

(Getty)
(Getty)

The letdown
The Yankees rollercoaster-like offense continued its up-and-down path, while another so-so performance from their starting pitcher doomed them in a 5-2 loss to the Indians on Saturday afternoon

Since the calendar flipped to August (and through Saturday), the Yankees game-by-game run totals have been as follows: 6, 1, 9, 1, 13, 2. For the season, that’s 44 games with two or fewer runs scored, by far the most among AL teams (no one else in the league even has 40 such games).

CC Sabathia retired the first 10 batters faced, but once again was victimized by the longball, giving up solo shots to Jason Kipnis in the fourth and Mike Napoli in the sixth inning. This was the third straight start that Sabathia has given up multiple homers, the first time in his career he’s done that.

After a shaky second inning during which he coughed up two runs, Corey Kluber dominated the Yankee lineup the rest of the way, facing the minimum number of batters over his final six innings while striking out eight batters. It was his third straight win over the Yankees, and in each of those games he’s given up no more than two runs and gotten at least eight strikeouts.

Only four other players in major-league history have fashioned such a streak — three straight games pitched with a win, eight-plus strikeouts and two or fewer runs allowed — versus the Yankees: Felix Hernandez (2010), Pedro Martinez (1999-00), Bob Feller (1946) and Lefty Grove (1926).

(Reuters)
(Reuters)

An A-bomb from A-Rod
For the second time in three days a shocking off-field news item grabbed the headlines in Yankeeland. Just hours before Sunday’s series finale, Alex Rodriguez and the team announced that the 41-year-old would play his final game on August 12 and then join the front office in a special advisor/instructor role.

A-Rod might be one of the most complicated and polarizing figures in baseball, but it’s hard to ignore his staggering (though tainted) statistical pedigree. He’s compiled numerous historic feats during his 22-season career, but most notably, he arguably possessed the best power/speed/run-producing combo tool of any hitter.

His 11 seasons of at least 100 RBI, 30 homers and 15 steals are the most all-time (and four more than anyone else), and he is the only player in major-league history with at least 2,000 RBI, 500 homers and 300 steals in a career.

Most people would agree that A-Rod’s signature moment in pinstripes was his incredible production during the Yankees’ 2009 World Series run. He hit .365/.500/.808 with six homers and 18 RBI, putting together one of the greatest single-postseason hitting lines in franchise history.

Among Yankees with at least 25 at-bats in a postseason, his 1.308 OPS ranks third behind only Mickey Mantle in 1960 (1.345) and Reggie Jackson in 1978 (1.315). Additionally, he is the only Yankee with more than five homers and more than 15 RBI in a single postseason.

There was still a game to be played after A-Rod’s announcement, and the Yankees once again rode the momentum of yet another tearful and emotional press conference, beating the Indians 3-2.

Masahiro Tanaka was masterful on the mound, scattering six hits across six innings while striking out eight and allowing just one run. He is now 5-1 with a 2.07 ERA in 10 starts following a Yankee loss. Among MLB pitchers with at least nine such starts this season, only Jacob deGrom (1.99) has a better ERA than Tanaka.

Tanaka’s final strikeout — the result of winning a 12-pitch battle with Lonnie Chisenhall to end the sixth inning — was also the 400th strikeout of his career. The only other Yankee to reach that milestone this early into his major-league career (67th game) was Al Downing.