Scouting The Trade Market: Miami Marlins

Baker. (Presswire)
Baker. (Presswire)

We are now a little more than one week away from the trade deadline, and at this point the buyers far outnumber the sellers. FanGraphs says nine teams have less than a 5% chance of making the postseason (only two in the AL), which actually seems kinda high. Not all nine of those teams will sell of course, and even the ones that do sell might not be matches for the Yankees. Making trades is really tough nowadays thanks to the second wildcard.

One club that is very much out of the race and as ready to sell as it gets is the Marlins, who come into today 38-55 and 12 games back of a postseason spot. The Marlins don’t screw around, when they decide to sell, they act quickly and decisively. There aren’t weeks of rumors. They know who they want, pull the trigger, and move on. Obviously this season hasn’t played out as hoped, though I doubt they’ll go full tear down. Probably more like a retooling. Luckily for them, they have a lot of rental players to market, some of whom could fit with the Yankees. Let’s look ’em over. (Players listed alphabetically.)

UTIL Jeff Baker

Yesterday we heard the Yankees are looking for a right-handed bat, and the 34-year-old Baker has hit .290/.350/.509 (126 wRC+) against lefties in his career. That’s great! The problem? He’s hitting .208/.288/.434 (99 wRC+) against southpaws this season, albeit in only 59 plate appearances. This could easily be a sample size issue. Baker hit .319/.362/.462 (128 wRC+) against lefties just last year.

We’re talking about a bench player here, a platoon bat on the short side of the platoon, and it’s damn near impossible to predict how guys like that will perform the two months after the trade deadline. Not only are they transitioning to a new team and a new city and all that, they also don’t play a whole lot. Remember Craig Wilson? That dude hit .282/.384/.518 (134 wRC+) against lefties in his career, including .307/.378/.545 (136 wRC+) for the Pirates in 2006, then put up a .222/.286/.400 (76 wRC+) line against lefties with the Yankees after being acquired a deadline.

With bench players like Wilson and Baker, the only thing you can do is bank on track record and hope they play up to their career averages. Baker has experience all over the field but is mostly a first baseman, a second baseman, and a left fielder at this point. He’s an impending free agent on a bad team and that figures to make him available. The Yankees are looking for someone for a similar skill set. Baker is a fit and hardly guaranteed to produce, because baseball doesn’t work like that.

What Will It Cost?: Baker is a utility guy. Utility guys get traded for cash or players to be named later. Gordon Beckham was traded last year for player to be named later that turned out to be a non-top 30 pitching prospect (Yency Almonte) down in rookie ball. Boom, there’s your trade reference point.

Cishek. (Presswire)
Cishek. (Presswire)

RHP Steve Cishek

Unlike the other guys in this post, Cishek isn’t a rental. He’s more of a 2016 piece than a 2015 piece, because his 2015 has been awful: 4.65 ERA (3.45 FIP) in 29 innings. This is a guy who had a 2.70 ERA (2.59 FIP) in 253.1 innings from 2011-14. Then poof, it was gone, so gone the Marlins sent Cishek to Double-A earlier this year. Not Triple-A, Double-A. To his credit, Cishek has a 0.77 ERA (2.20 FIP) since being recalled, but that is only in 11.2 innings.

The 29-year-old Cishek has a funky low arm slot and a low-90s sinker/low-80s slider combination that neutralized lefties despite said arm slot. Left-handed batters have hit .237/.325/.357 (.295 wOBA) against him in his career, which is stellar by low-slot guy standards. Batters of the opposite hand see the ball well from low-slot guys. For what it’s worth, Cishek told David Laurila earlier this month that his struggles were all mechanical:

“When the season started, my arm slot was a little low and my velocity was down,” explained Cishek. “I tried a little too hard to bring my velocity back up and started yanking everything. I was flying open and the ball was just taking off on me.

“If I’m throwing from too low, my sinker doesn’t sink. It’s flat. If I’m able to move my hand up an inch or two, I’m able to get the diving action I’ve had in the past, with a little more thump behind the ball.”

The PitchFX data shows Cishek has climbed back into the 92-94 mph range after sitting right at 90 earlier this season, which backs up the mechanical trouble. Here is Cishek’s delivery in case you’ve never seen him pitch. It’s easy to see how a delivery like that could fall out of whack from time to time.

Cishek saved 94 games over the years and he’s a Super Two, so he’s already pulling down $6.65M this season, his second year of arbitration. That puts him in line for $8M or so next season even with this year’s struggles, making him a non-tender candidate. The Marlins are not exactly a big spending team, as you may have heard. Cishek’s salary likely made him a goner after this season no matter what.

Trading for a non-tender candidate who might not help this year is sorta dumb, though the Yankees are one of the very few teams who can afford to pay Cishek that $8M next year to be a seventh or eighth inning guy (or eat it if he stinks). They talked to the Marlins about relievers before signing Andrew Miller this offseason, and I assume Cishek’s name came up, so they could have long-lasting interest. (He is 6-foot-6, after all. The Yankees love their tall pitchers.) I think this is unlikely to happen, but I figured I’d cover all my bases.

What Will It Cost?: Boy, this is interesting. The Marlins are going market Cishek as the shutdown closer he was from 2011-14 while teams are going to look at him as a reclamation projection. An expensive reclamation project. Two busted closers were traded for each other last summer (Jason Grilli for Ernesto Frieri), but that doesn’t help us. The Brewers traded John Axford for a control-challenged MLB ready reliever (Michael Blazek) a few years ago, which could be the asking price for Cishek. The Marlins could very well be in “we’re going to non-tender him anyway, so we’ll take what we can get” mode.

Haren. (Presswire)
Haren. (Presswire)

RHP Dan Haren

I feel like Haren is a perennial “should the Yankees get him?” guy. Every year we’re talking about him. Haren was very good for a very long time with the Athletics and Diamondbacks, but he is clearly in the twilight of his career nowadays, so much so that he was considering retirement before the season. Haren has a 3.46 ERA (4.31 FIP) in 117 innings this season, though the ERA hides his career-low strikeout (17.1%) and ground ball (31.4%) rates.

I’ve long felt Haren was not a good fit for the Yankees because he’s always been extremely homer prone — 1.31 HR/9 this year and 1.11 HR/9 in his career, and that’s after spending all those years in Oakland — and now he’s still homer prone, only with an 86 mph fastball instead of a 93 mph fastball. Haren doesn’t walk anyone (4.9%) and he’s really durable, so you know he’ll take the ball every fifth day and there’s value in that, I’m just not sure they will be quality innings.

Haren will be popular at the trade deadline because he comes with zero salary — the Dodgers are paying all of it. That doesn’t help the Yankees any. Quite the opposite, in fact. It levels the playing field and the concept of absorbing salary to lower the prospect price flies out the window. Haren will be a pure talent swap, not a salary dump. Given his decline and propensity for the long ball (even in big parks), Haren doesn’t seem like a fit for the Yankees unless all hell breaks loose in the next ten days.

What Will It Cost?: The going rate for an impending free agent back of the rotation veteran innings guy appears to be two or three Grade-C prospects. The Ricky Nolasco trade from a few years ago seems like a decent reference point. The Dodgers sent three pitching prospects to the Marlins for Nolasco: a Triple-A reliever (Josh Wall), a Double-A reliever (Steve Ames), and a Single-A starter (Angel Sanchez). Sanchez was ranked as the Dodgers’ 16th best prospect before the season by Baseball America while Ames and Wall were not in their top 30. Haren coming with zero salary could complicate things.

Latos. (Presswire)
Latos. (Presswire)

RHP Mat Latos

The Marlins acquired Latos from the Reds in the offseason and, in his very first start with Miami, he allowed seven runs in two-thirds of an inning. Yikes. Since then though, the 27-year-old Latos has a 4.10 ERA (3.41 FIP) in 13 starts and 74.2 innings, which still isn’t great, but it is better than the overall numbers would lead you believe (4.90 ERA and 3.48 FIP).

Latos has had a lot of physical problems over the last year or two, including hamstring, knee, and foot injuries this season. He also missed the first two and a half months of last season due to elbow (bone spur) and knee (meniscus) surgery. Latos’ velocity hasn’t really been the same since all the injuries:

Mat Latos velocity

The velocity did come back earlier this season, albeit temporarily. Latos is back to sitting in the low-90s now, where he was earlier this season and last year. His strikeout (20.8%) and walk (7.5%) rates are fine, and Latos has never been a ground ball guy (40.9% in 2015 and 43.1% career), so his underlying performance has been right in line with the rest of his career. The problem is his career-low pop-up rate (6.5%), his career-high hard contact rate (33.9%), and his near career worst performance against lefties (.336 wOBA). The contact he’s giving up is bad contact.

Latos is owed about $4.7M through the end of the season and will be a free agent this winter, so there’s no long-term risk, just the risk that you’ll give up an asset for him and he’ll stink. It happens, that’s part of baseball, but Latos seems riskier than most given his recent injury history and so so performance. He’s a warm body who can come in and take a rotation turn every fifth day, but is he the kind of guy who can put a team over the top? Maybe three or four years ago. But not now.

What Will It Cost?: Latos and Haren are both rental starters but they’re different. Haren’s a known commodity, proven durable, pitching like he always has. Latos is coming off injuries and his performance hasn’t been great. He’s a broken starter, so to speak. I’m not sure what a good reference trade would be. Justin Masterson to the Cardinals? St. Louis gave up their No. 8 prospect (James Ramsey) to get him. Brandon McCarthy last year? The Yankees gave up an MLB ready swingman in Vidal Nuno. The Marlins traded an MLB ready arm (Anthony DeSclafani, their No. 5 prospect) and a minor league depth catcher (Chad Wallach) to get Latos in the offseason. So I guess the asking price has to be lower than that, give his performance and half-season of team control, right?

Prado. (Presswire)
Prado. (Presswire)

UTIL Martin Prado

Prado is a fine player, but I’m not sure anyone has seen their perceived value increase thanks to two months in pinstripes as much as him. He raked in 37 games with the Yankees last year (146 wRC+). It was pretty awesome. Prado is also hitting .281/.325/.407 (101 wRC+) in his last 1,525 plate appearances. That’s good. It’s not great, it’s not bad, it’s just good. Basically average. Average is valuable! But given his recent history (117, 104, 103, 92 wRC+ from 2012-15), I’m not sure how much longer he’ll be even average.

That said, the Yankees have a total black hole at second base, and even a below-average Prado is a big upgrade over what the Yankees are running out there. As an added bonus, he’s a right-handed bat, which will help balance the lineup. As an extra added bonus, Prado’s versatile and would give the Yankees coverage at other positions. That said, should they bring him back, it should be to play second everyday. That’s the area of need right now.

Prado is making $11M both this season and next, and the Yankees are actually playing $3M of that each year as part of the trade that sent him to Miami. The Yankees have said they prefer rental players at the deadline, but they did acquire Prado and his contract last year, and he would be a nice depth player next season, albeit an expensive one. Prado is not really the hitter he was with the Yankees last year, but he’s a quality two-way player who would help New York quite a bit.

What Will It Cost?: Well let’s see, the Yankees traded Peter O’Brien to get two and a half years of Prado last year, though the Diamondbacks aren’t exactly known for making smart decisions. One and a half years of Prado should cost less, in theory, especially considering he’s been hurt (shoulder) and isn’t hitting as well (.275/.317/.375 and 92 wRC+ this year), and at that point you wonder if the Marlins will simply hold onto him for next year and try to contend again.

email

Heyman: Yankees will active at GM Meetings; have interest in Bronson Arroyo, Scott Feldman, and Dan Haren

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have a long list of free agent targets this winter, a list that includes right-handers Bronson Arroyo, Scott Feldman, and Dan Haren. The team is expected to be active during the GM Meetings next week. “[Hal Steinbrenner] is very involved and he wants to win,” said one source to Heyman while Scott Boras said the team has “been very aggressive.”

Arroyo, 36, had a 3.79 ERA (4.49 FIP) in 202 innings for the Reds this season. I have no interest in him for reasons I outlined in this recent mailbag. The 30-year-old Feldman had a 3.86 EA (4.03 FIP) in 181.2 innings for the Cubs and Orioles this year and I think he’s got a chance to be a real bargain, at least when compared to the asking prices being thrown out there by Ervin Santana ($100M) and Ricky Nolasco ($80M). Haren, 33, had a 4.67 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 169.2 innings for the Nationals in 2013 and was much better after spending two weeks on the DL to clear his head. The Yankees tried to acquire him in September as they made one last push for a postseason spot.

Heyman notes Hal and team ownership in general has gotten more involved in the decision-making process these last few months and … well, duh. That was obvious. He says the team’s brass is not blaming Brian Cashman for missing the playoffs and the decision to make Curtis Granderson the qualifying offer was his call. I’ve said this more times than I care to count over the last year or two: I understand no GM ever truly has autonomy, but I don’t like ownership taking a hands-on approach to roster building. Let the baseball ops people make the baseball decisions.

Rosenthal: Yankees tried to acquire Dan Haren last weekend

Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees called the Nationals and tried to acquire right-hander Dan Haren just last weekend. The two sides never did get close to a deal. “We haven’t stopped trying to improve. We’ve always been open to different things, pursuing different things. It started all the way back in March, when all the injuries hit,” said Brian Cashman, who acknowledged the team is still looking for upgrades.

Haren, 32, has a 5.02 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 150.2 innings across 27 starts (and one relief appearance) this year, but he’s been much better in the second half: 4.06 ERA and 3.31 FIP. His fly ball (35.2% grounders) and homer (1.55 HR/9 and 13.3% HR/FB) rates would have been a big problem in Yankee Stadium. The rotation has fallen apart in recent weeks as Hiroki Kuroda hit a wall and Ivan Nova stopped pitching like an ace, so seeking an upgrade over the Phil Hugheses and David Huffs of the world is a wise move. Too bad they couldn’t swing anything.

One Way To Improve the Pitching Staff

When the Yankees surged early in the year, they did it largely on the backs of the pitching staff. Hiroki Kuroda was pitching like an ace, CC Sabathia hadn’t fallen apart, David Phelps came on strong, and Phil Hughes pitched very well in a number of his starts (though got creamed in others). Even Andy Pettite had pitched well, and when he got hurt the Yankees got pretty competent performances in his absence.

This is no longer the case. Since the Yankees tumbled out of first the pitching staff has performed considerably worse, leaving the Yankees in fourth place and six games back of the Wild Card. Worse, they have no games remaining against five of the eight teams ahead of them in the AL standings. If they’re going to fight their ways back into this they need a 1995-esque run, which means running the board against AL East opponents.

The Yankees have addressed one area of weakness, finding a platoon partner for Lyle Overbay in Mark Reynolds. That should give them some additional firepower against lefties, which they sorely need. Yet it won’t be enough on its own. They need plenty of other help to leapfrog four teams and slide into the second Wild Card slot. The pitching staff represents one area where they could make a solid improvement.

Earlier today we learned that Phil Hughes is willing to pitch out of the bullpen next year. My only question is, why wait? Hughes’s 4.97 ERA ranks 43rd out of 46 qualified AL starters. He’s averaging a hair more than 5.1 innings per start. His woes also didn’t start this year. Since his return to the rotation in 2010 he ranks 49th out of 63 qualified starters in ERA. Things have gone downhill since then, as he ranks 39th out of 42 since 2011.

The problem is that the Yankees don’t have a viable replacement at the moment. Adam Warren could perhaps fit the bill, but he’s still an unknown at this point. Brett Marshall hasn’t exactly earned a spot with his AAA performances. Vidal Nuno is on the DL, as is David Phelps. Michael Pineda would have been nice here, but chances are we won’t see him pitch again this year. If the Yankees want to make such a transition, they’d have to look outside the organization.

A couple of well-known pitchers have cleared waivers in the last few days. First is left-hander Erik Bedard, the last remaining Astro earning more than $1 million. His overall season doesn’t look much better than Hughes’s, so that could be an exercise in futility. The other name is quite a bit more interesting: Dan Haren.

Like Bedard, Haren has struggled this year. His 4.82 ERA is actually higher than Hughes’s. Yet that doesn’t tell the whole story. Haren actually had a 6.15 ERA through his first 15 starts, but then went on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. That must have been truly bothering him, because he has been downright phenomenal since his return on July 8th: 2.30 ERA in 43 innings, meaning he’s averaging over six innings per start. Opponents are hitting .191/.250/.283 off him, and he’s struck out 42 while walking just 10.

For their part, the Nats are in a much worse position than the Yankees. They might have fewer teams between them and the second Wild Card (just two), but they’re also 9.5 games back of it with 42 games left to play. Their only chances against teams ahead of them (Atlanta notwithstanding, because that’s simply not happening) come with the last two series of the year, against St. Louis and Arizona. Oh, and they’re under .500 120 games into the season. If they can get even a C prospect and salary relief for Haren, they might as well try.

For the Yanks, the time has come to grasp at straws. That’s exactly what the Mark Reynolds acquisition represents. They’re looking at what’s available and adding where they can. Adding Haren, and moving Hughes to the bullpen, should help shore up both aspects of the pitching staff. They could jettison its weakest member, Joba Chamberlain, in hopes that Hughes not only performs better, but can become a reliable part of the setup crew, as he was in 2009.

(As an added bonus, if the Yanks get this done before the doubleheader Tuesday, both Haren and Hughes are lined up to pitch. That would work out better than having to call up Marshall [assuming David Huff gets DFA’d to make room for Reynolds today].)

The Pitching Backup Plans

(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

If you haven’t headed over to our Depth Chart page in a while, you might not have noticed that as of right now, the Yankees currently sport a five-man pitching rotation of…

  1. CC Sabathia
  2. Phil Hughes
  3. Ivan Nova
  4. David Phelps
  5. Adam Warren

If you’re optimistic, you can say Michael Pineda will take Warren’s spot sometime in June. If not, then I don’t know what to tell you. Either way, that’s not a championship-caliber rotation. The Yankees have some work to do this winter, and for the most part I think the pitching plan involves waiting for Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte to declare their love of pinstripes and sign nice little one-year deals to rejoin the team in 2013. That would be ideal.

What if that doesn’t happen though? It doesn’t take much effort to envision a scenario in which Kuroda decides to return to Japan and Pettitte decides to stay home with the wife and kids. The Yankees would really be in a bad spot if that happened because … well … look at that rotation above. Luckily this free agent class offers some solid rotation options, so the Yankees would have plenty of alternatives if things don’t go according to plan. Some of those options are better fits than others, however.

Zack Greinke
The undisputed best pitcher on the market, Greinke is probably looking at a contract worth $120M+ across five or six years. Matt Cain type of money. Fair or not, the Yankees are concerned about how the 29-year-old would fit in New York though. Greinke met with Brian Cashman face-to-face during the 2010 Winter Meetings in an effort to convince him that he wanted to pitch in the Big Apple, but no dice. Cashman wasn’t having any of it. There isn’t a team in baseball that couldn’t use a pitcher of this caliber in their rotation, but the combination of asking price and other concerns make Greinke almost a non-option for the Yankees.

Dan Haren
There isn’t a person alive who doesn’t want their team to take a one-year flier on Haren this offseason. He’s been an ace-caliber pitcher for the last half-decade or so and he’s still relatively young (turned 32 in September), which is all you could ask for from a free agent. That said, there are major red flags here. Haren has battled back trouble through the years and they caused him to hit the DL for the first time in his career this season, plus his fastball velocity has been declining for years.

The Angels were trying to trade Haren before having to make a decision about his option last Friday, but ultimately they came up with nothing and had to decline the net $12M deal ($15.5M option with a $3.5M buyout). The combination of the Cubs pulling out of the Haren-for-Carlos Marmol trade talks and the fact that no other club made a viable trade offer makes me think his medicals are looking pretty grim. You also have to look at it this way: if Haren is looking for a one-year, “re-establish my value” contract, why would he come to New York? A fly ball heavy pitcher in a small stadium in the AL East is no way to rebuild value. The Yankees should look into him because of his track record, but I don’t see Haren as a slam dunk no-brainer they should go all out to sign. Lots of risk here.

(Pool/Getty)

Anibal Sanchez
I’m a pretty big Anibal Sanchez fan and I consider him the best non-Greinke free agent pitching option this winter. He offers the best combination of youth (28), performance (3.70 ERA and 3.40 FIP since 2010), and durability (major shoulder surgery in 2008, but 195+ innings in each of the last three years). Sanchez made a brief cameo in the AL this season following his trade to the Tigers and he handled himself well, plus he impressed in his three postseason starts. Not the sexiest name but a rock solid pitcher. There doesn’t seem to be a consensus about an appropriate contract, but it wouldn’t surprise me if a team gets an aggressive and offers the A.J. Burnett/John Lackey contract (five years and $82.5M). I highly doubt the Yankees would offer that much, but Sanchez would be my first target if Pettitte and Kuroda decline to come back.

Edwin Jackson
Keith Law said it best this weekend: “It’s time to accept that this is almost certainly what Jackson is going to be. He looks like an ace, holding mid-90s velocity or better for 100 pitches, but just turned in another season of good-not-great performance, this time entirely in the National League.” There’s nothing wrong with that at all, especially at age 29 and with his track record of durability (180+ innings in five straight years). I’m just not expecting Jackson to get any better even though he’s yet to hit 30. He would be my number two target behind Sanchez if Kuroda and Pettitte don’t come back, number three if Haren’s back checks out okay.

Kyle Lohse & Ryan Dempster
Lohse is going to get a significant contract this winter, maybe the biggest behind Greinke, but I wouldn’t touch either him or Dempster unless they’re willing to come real cheap. They’re two guys who have had most (all?) of their success in the NL and don’t operate with much margin for error. It’s also worth noting that Lohse received a qualifying offer from the Cardinals and would require draft pick compensation. Solid pitchers for sure, but not guys I would consider impact additions for the Yankees.

(Jim Rogash/Getty)

Jeremy Guthrie, Brandon McCarthy & Shaun Marcum
All three have their warts, but all three have some kind of track record of success in the AL. Guthrie is probably the safest bet while McCarthy is both the riskiest (very long injury history) and has the highest upside. Marcum’s kind of the in the middle. I prefer any of those three to Lohse and Dempster and would consider them solid additions on one-year contracts. Anything more than that is really pushing it.

Because he doesn’t really fit anywhere else, I’m going to mention Carlos Villanueva here. I’m a big fan (perhaps too big), but I like him best as a sixth starter/swingman. I wouldn’t want the Yankees to sign him with the idea of him making 30 starts and throwing 200 innings. I can’t see how anyone could expect him to do that in 2013.

Francisco Liriano, Joe Blanton, Joe Saunders, Scott Feldman & Roberto Hernandez
I wouldn’t trust any of these guys with a starting spot, at least not right out of the chute in Spring Training. To be honest, Liriano is the only one who is remotely intriguing to me. He’s still on the right side of 30 and has a year of ace-caliber performance in the not-too-distant past to his credit (2010). I consider guys like Jeff Francis, Erik Bedard, Scott Baker, Kevin Correia, Dustin Moseley, and Jason Marquis to be minor league contract only options for the Yankees. This is the bottom of the pitching barrel right here, but thankfully there are plenty of other options out there.

Yankees “don’t seem” to be involved in Haren race

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees “don’t seem” to be one of the clubs involved in the race for Dan Haren. The Angels will reportedly look to move the right-hander today so they can avoid exercising his $15.5M option. They already traded Ervin Santana (to the Royals for a non-prospect) and hope to save as much cash as possible so they can re-sign Zack Greinke. I wrote more about Haren and the Yankees a few weeks ago.

Mailbag: Haren, Dickerson, Rangers, Trout

Six questions and five answers today, so we’ve got a good mailbag this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box to send us questions throughout the week.

(Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

Vinny and many others ask: If the Angels are serious about not picking up Dan Haren’s option, should the Yankees be all over that?

Earlier this week there was a report indicating that the Angels plan to decline Haren’s (and Ervin Santana’s) club option for next season and instead pursue a monster extension with Zach Greinke. Haren, 32, is nearing the end of his worst full season as a big leaguer, pitching to a 4.32 ERA (4.30 FIP) in 29 starts and 170.2 innings. He’ll fail to make 33 starts or crack 210 innings for the first time since 2004, when he was with the Cardinals. Blame the lower back stiffness that led to his first career DL stint.

Based on Twitter these last few days, fans of every single team want their club to pursue Haren if the Angels do indeed decline his $15.5M option. Haren is from Southern California and has made it no secret that he prefers playing on the West Coast, so right away the Yankees are at a disadvantage. It’s also worth noting that his strikeout rate is in the middle of a three-year decline, and his fastball velocity has been heading in the wrong direction for years now. That second link is particularly scary. The back issue scares me as well, especially if the Halos do cut him loose. It’s the whole “what do they know that we don’t?” thing. Haren has been a great pitcher for a long time, and that alone makes him worth looking into. There are a number of red flags however, so any team interested in signing him will have to really do their homework.

Travis asks: Is it safe to assume that if we only carry three starters on the post season roster, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova will have a role on the team out of the bullpen? I’m also assuming the three starters go to CC, Hirok!, and Dandy Andy.

The new playoff system and schedule really discourages the use of three-man rotations, since everyone would have to pitch on three days’ rest after Games One, Two, and Three to get away with it. CC Sabathia can do that (assuming the Yankees actually get into the postseason), but I’m not sure Hiroki Kuroda or Andy Pettitte could. I expect the Yankees to use four starters throughout the postseason, and right now the number four guy is clearly Hughes. Nova pitched himself out of the job these last two months or so.

Now does that mean Nova would automatically go to the bullpen? I don’t think that’s a given. Assuming the Yankees only carry eleven pitchers into the postseason (they could get away with ten, but I doubt it happens), four will be the starters and four other spots are accounted for: Rafael Soriano, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, and Boone Logan. That leaves three spots, one of which I assume will go to Clay Rapada. The candidates for the final two spots would be Nova, David Phelps, Cody Eppley, and I guess Derek Lowe (veteran presents!). Phelps seems like a given in this situation, then you’ve got your pick of the other three. I guess that decisions comes down to who throws the best the rest of the way, but frankly I would rather see the Yankees carry an extra position player in that situation, especially if Mark Teixeira‘s calf remains an issue.

Steve asks: Are the Yankees more likely to go with a iffy Brett Gardner or Chris Dickerson on the playoff roster? Can they fit both?

Ben asks: Don’t you think Chris Dickerson needs to figure into the Yankees big league plans in 2013? At least as a 4th outfielder? This guy is a great fielder and base runner and had a useful bat. Much rather have him over another Andruw Jones-type. What say you?

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Might as well lump these two together. If the Yankees do make the playoffs and use an 11-man pitching staff, they’ll have room for an extra bench player. That spot tends to go to a speedy pinch-runner type (think Freddy Guzman in 2009), a job for which both Gardner and Dickerson are qualified. Gardner is the better player, but he also is physically unable to hit right now. I have a hard time thinking the Yankees will carry someone on the postseason roster that can’t even swing the bat in case of an emergency. Maybe that changes and Brett is cleared to take his hacks at some point in the next six days, but that doesn’t seem likely based on everything we heard for the last four months.

As for next year, Dickerson’s situation depends largely on what happens with Nick Swisher. If they let him walk, then the outfield need will be greater and they should hold onto him. If they bring Swisher back, having a left-handed outfielder on the bench doesn’t make a ton of sense. I’m probably the biggest Chris Dickerson fan you’ll find, but he is just a platoon player at the plate. More of a high-end fourth outfielder than an everyday corner guy on a contender. As much as I would like him to see him stick with the club going forward, Dickerson isn’t a great fit for the roster right now.

Shaun asks: Hey Mike, do you know who would have home field if the Yankees and Rangers tied for the best record? Thanks.

The Yankees are currently two games back of Texas for the best record in the AL, and New York would get the nod as the top team in the circuit if they tie because they won the season series 4-3. They won’t play a tiebreaker game or anything like that, that only happens when the division title or a playoff spot in general is on the line. So yeah, the only thing the Yankees would have to do to secure home field advantage in both the ALDS and ALCS would be to finish with the same record as the Rangers, nothing more.

(Jeff Gross/Getty)

Steven asks: Mike, not sure if you’re aware, but Mike Trout is good at baseball. I was wondering, hypothetically speaking of course, if the Angels were to make him available, what sort of haul would he bring? Do you see his value getting any higher than it is right now? And, finally, what sort of package would the Yankees have to piece together to get these hypothetical talks started?

I don’t think any player in baseball has as much trade value as Trout. You’re talking about a just-turned-21 kid who has already shown he can play at a superstar level. He hits homers, steals bases, hits for average, gets on-base, and plays great defense at a premium position. Plus he remains under the team control for five more seasons, the next two at the league minimum. It’s impossible to top that, and I don’t think he could possibly increase his trade stock unless he agrees to like, a ten-year contract worth $25M or something ridiculous.

There’s no way for the Yankees to acquire Trout even if he was available. What do you start the package with, four years of CC Sabathia and one year of Robinson Cano while offering to pick up the bulk of the money? I wouldn’t take that for Trout. Offer me Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez, Tyler Austin, and a guaranteed to be healthy Michael Pineda and I still would say no if I were the Angels. If the Giants come calling and put both Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner on the table, then yeah that catches my attention. The Yankees don’t have anything to get a trade done, I just don’t see how it would be possible. I don’t think Trout can replicate this season (or even improve on it) year after year, but he’s going to be great for a long-time. At his age and with that much cost-control remaining, he’s the single most valuable asset in the game.