Yankeemetrics: Rain halts streaking Bombers (July 31-Aug. 2)

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Baby Bombers shine bright
Buoyed by a wave of optimism following the deadline-day trade for Sonny Gray, the Yankees extended their recent hot streak with a series-opening win over the Tigers on Monday night.

Luis Severino didn’t have his best stuff but still gutted through five tough innings and threw a career-high 116 pitches. He struck out eight while allowing only one run, despite putting multiple runners on base in three of his five frames.

He found himself in so many deep counts thanks to a career-high-tying 29 foul balls and the fact that he fell behind early and often, starting only 8-of-24 (33.3 percent) Rays he faced with a strike. That’s the lowest first-pitch strike rate for any Yankee pitcher that saw at least 20 batters since Ivan Nova (31.3 percent) on July 22, 2013 against the Rangers.

Despite his inefficient outing, Severino was able to limit the damage and notched his 10th game this season with at least six strikeouts and one run or fewer allowed.

Through Monday, that led all American League pitchers and was tied with Max Scherzer and Clayton Kershaw for the most such starts in the majors this year. Digging through the Yankee record books, the only pitcher to have more than 10 of those starts in a season is Ron Guidry, who had 13 in his Cy Young-winning 1978 campaign.

Aaron Judge provided the power in this win, smacking a 400-foot home run in the fifth inning to give the Yankees a 5-1 lead. It was his 34th homer and 75th RBI of the season — and when combined with his league-leading 76 walks — he joined Al Rosen (1950) as the only players in major-league history to reach each of those totals in his rookie year … and there’s still two months left in the season.

Clint Frazier was the other Baby Bomber that had a starring role, as he continued his extra-base binge with an RBI triple in the seventh inning. That gave him three triples, six doubles and four home runs for the season – a nearly unprecedented combination of hustle, power and hitting ability for a guy that is one month into his big-league career.

Ding, ding … we have our Obscure (yet cool) Yankeemetric of the Series: The only other Yankee to compile at least three homers, three triples and three doubles before playing in his 25th game was Joe DiMaggio in 1936.

(AP)
(AP)

So close, yet so far away
What if I told you … the Yankees would dig themselves into an early hole after their starting pitcher suffered a bout of gopheritis, then stage a furious late-game rally fueled by their own dinger-happy players, but fall just short and lose by a run. Sounds familiar, eh?

Well, that was the game story again on Tuesday night as the Yankees fell to 11-20 in one-run games, the worst mark in the American League. The only team with a worse record in the majors is the Phillies, who are also the only team with more one-run losses than the Yankees through Tuesday.

It is the first time since 1990 (ugh) that they’ve had at least 20 one-run losses in their first 105 games of the season. While they aren’t on pace to break the franchise record of 38 one-run losses – which was set by the 1966 team – their current winning percentage of .355 in one-run games would be the second-worst in franchise history, ahead of only that 1966 club (.283).

CC Sabathia was hammered in the first three innings for four runs on four hits, including two homers, but then settled down and held the Tigers scoreless in his final three frames. His early-inning struggles are nothing new, he has a 4.70 ERA in the first three innings, nearly two runs higher than his ERA for the rest of the game (2.76).

Clint Frazier had a chance to earn his second True Yankee Moment when he came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and two runners on base but popped up for the final out in the 4-3 loss. He had his first 0-for-5 game, and shockingly, failed to come through in the clutch.

He went hitless in three at-bats with runners in scoring position, including that ninth inning letdown, which was a stunning reversal from his performance in those situations prior to this game. Frazier was 8-for-20 (.400) with RISP, and 5-for-9 (.556) with the go-ahead runner on base in his brief big-league career before Tuesday.

(AP)
(AP)

Nothing sunny about this loss
A rain storm in the Bronx wiped away the Yankees latest burst of momentum, as they were shut out 2-0 in the series finale, snapping their three-series win streak. With four-plus hours of delays and countless failed at-bats in key scoring situations, this was one of the most infuriating games of the season.

Adding to the frustration meter was the fact that Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann began the day with a 5.69 ERA, the second-highest in the majors among qualified pitchers. Of course, Zimmermann dominating the Yankees shouldn’t have been surprising. After throwing seven scoreless innings on Wednesday, he lowered his ERA in four career starts against them to 1.33, the third-best mark by any pitcher that has started more than three games versus the Yankees. The only guys ahead of him on that list are Jorge De La Rosa (0.77!) and Chris Sale (1.17).

Making this loss even worse is this sobering note: it was the first time the Yankees were shut out in a regular-season game at home by the Tigers since the second game of a doubleheader on August 10, 1991. In that span of more than 25 years between regular-season shutouts, the two teams matched up in the Bronx 113 times.

Or how about the fact that they had more hits than the Tigers and still lost the game? Alas, this is a recurring nightmare with your 2017 New York Yankees. It was their 14th loss this season when out-hitting their opponent, the fourth-most such losses in MLB.

Actually, this might be the ultimate gut-punch stat: It’s not surprising that the Yankees would struggle against a mediocre team such as the Tigers. They are now 30-31 against teams with a losing record (23rd-best in MLB), and 27-18 versus teams with a .500 record or better (3rd-best in MLB).

The lone statistical highlight for the Yankees was Dellin Betances tossing an “Immaculate Inning” (nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts) in the eighth. Behold, the beauty of strikeout perfection:

chart-12

He is the sixth pitcher in franchise history to strike out the side on nine pitches, joining Brandon McCarthy (2014), Ivan Nova (2013), A.J. Burnett (2009), Ron Guidry (1984) and Al Downing (1967). Betances’ feat might actually be the craziest stat from this game: remember, he owns the highest walk rate among all major-league pitchers that have thrown at least 30 innings this season.

7/31 to 8/2 Series Preview: Detroit Tigers

(Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
(Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

I started writing this series preview this morning, about eight hours before the trade deadline, in the hopes that these two teams wouldn’t look entirely different before this hit the front page. That’s likely a fool’s errand, though, as most major deals on deadline day are announced with mere moments to spare, and this is scheduled to publish at 2 PM EST. And these two teams are expected to be active today, albeit on opposite ends of the buy-or-sell spectrum.

The Last Time They Met

The Tigers visited New York last June, from the 10th through the 12th. They took 2 of 3 that time around, dropping the Yankees to 31-32 on the season. And through that point that was the norm for the Yankees, as they spent the majority of the first half within two games of .500. Here are some notes from that series:

  • CC Sabathia, Dellin Betances, and Anthony Swarzak combined to pitch a gem in the first game of the series, a 4-0 Yankees win. They allowed eight baserunners (6 hits, 2 walks) and struck out 7 in 9 innings.
  • Former Yankee Shane Greene came in in relief in the 7th inning in games two and three … and he was relieved in the 8th inning by former Yankee Justin Wilson both times.
  • Four of the six Yankees relievers that pitched in this series (Swarzak, Kirby Yates, Nick Goody, Richard Bleier) are no longer in the organization.

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

Injury Report

LHP Daniel Norris and OF Alex Presley are both on the disabled list, and neither is expected to return for this series.

Their Story So Far

The Tigers are 47-56 with a -24 run differential, and are currently eight games out of the Wild Card race. They announced that they would be sellers back on July 18, when they sent J.D. Martinez to the Diamondbacks in exchange for prospects, and they dealt Justin Wilson and Alex Avila to the Cubs just last night. Rumors around Justin Verlander and Ian Kinsler have been swirling for a few weeks, as well, but there doesn’t seem to be anything in the works as of this morning.

Under-performance has been the Tigers greatest issue this season, as Miguel Cabrera (152 wRC+ to 103), Ian Kinsler (123 to 93), Nick Castellanos (119 to 96), and Victor Martinez (120 to 90) have all regressed heavily as opposed to last season; and Justin Verlander (136 ERA+ to 101) and Daniel Norris (123 to 82) have done the same on the pitching side of the game. It’s difficult to win games when the heart of your order and the top of your rotation struggles so tremendously.

The Lineup We Might See

Manager Brad Ausmus has been fairly consistent with his lineups, with the greatest discrepancies being caused by injuries, a catcher platoon (which no longer exists, thanks to the Avila deal), and the Martinez trade. Barring another trade, we’ll probably see something like this:

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
  2. Mikie Mahtook, CF
  3. Justin Upton, OF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  6. Victor Martinez, DH
  7. James McCann, C
  8. Andrew Romine, RF
  9. Jose Iglesias, SS

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Monday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Luis Severino vs. RHP Michael Fulmer

For better or worse, most Yankees fan know Fulmer best as the pitcher that stole the AL Rookie of the Year from Gary Sanchez last year. Many expected him to see a dip in his production this season, due to the wide gulf between his ERA (3.06) and FIP (3.76), as well as his second-half drop-off (he had a 4.76 ERA in September), but that hasn’t really happened. His ERA has risen from 3.06 to 3.35 this year, but it’s still good for a 129 ERA+ – which ranks 10th in the American League.

Fulmer is a four-pitch guy, with a mid-90s four-seam fastball, a mid-90s sinker, a high-80s slider, and a high-80s change-up. He doesn’t get many strikeouts (6.4 K/9), but he keeps the ball on the ground (50.0 GB%).

Last Outing (vs. KC on 7/25) – 8.0 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 6 K

Tuesday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez

Sanchez was a solid starting pitcher from 2006 through 2014, pitching to a 3.53 ERA (117 ERA+) in 1177.0 IP. He missed parts of several seasons with injuries, but he was reliable when he was on the field. Since then, however, he has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball, with a 5.55 ERA (74 ERA+) over the last three seasons. He’s bounced between the rotation and the bullpen these last to seasons, and the Tigers are likely counting down the days until the end of the season, when they can buy him out of his team option for 2018.

The 33-year-old Sanchez is a five-pitch pitcher, with a low-90s fastball, low-90s sinker, mid-80s slider, low-80s change-up, and high-80s curveball. None of those offerings is particularly effective, though.

Last Outing (vs. KC on 7/26) – 3.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 4 K

Wednesday (1:5 PM EST): RHP Masahiro Tanaka vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann

Two years ago, the Tigers signed Zimmermann to a five-year deal worth $110 MM. It wasn’t an entirely unreasonable deal, as he had averaged 203 IP of 3.13 ERA ball from 2012 through 2015, and he wouldn’t turn 30 until May of 2016. It hasn’t worked out, as Zimmermann has posted a 5.29 ERA (80) ERA+ in his time in Detroit, while also missing time with injuries.

Zimmermann has five pitches in his repertoire, but he focuses on three for nearly 95% of his offerings – a low-to-mid 90s four-seamer, a mid-to-high 80s slider, and a low-80s curve. He’ll also through a sinker and change-up, but those are more show-me pitches.

Last Outing (vs. KC on 7/28) – 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 2 K

The Bullpen

The Tigers are ostensibly closer-less right now, as Justin Wilson was filling that role most recently. He wrested that gig from Francisco Rodriguez, who was released in June, signed by the Nationals, and then released again. That’s not great news for a bullpen that has the worst ERA and FIP in baseball.

The expectation is that Shane Greene (2.74 ERA in 46.0 IP) will inherit the role for now, and recent call-up Joe Jimenez (12.46 ERA in 4.1 IP) will be groomed for it going forward. Alex Wilson (4.25 ERA in 42.1 IP), Daniel Stumpf (2.25 ERA in 20.0 IP), Chad Bell (6.10 ERA in 31.0 IP), Bruce Rondon (12.41 ERA in 12.1 IP), and Drew VerHagen (6.75 ERA in 4.0 IP) round out the group.

Yankees Connection

Shane Greene pitched well for the Yankees in 2014 (78.2 IP, 102 ERA+), but he is most memorable for being dealt for Didi Gregorius in December of that year. He was mostly bad for the Tigers in 2015 and 2016 (144.0 IP, 63 ERA+), but he seems to have found his niche as a short reliever this year.

Utility player Andrew Romine is the older brother of Austin Romine, and arguably the more successful of the two. He has a 67 wRC+ in 1070 MLB PA, and has spent most of the last four years on big-league rosters.

Who (Or What) To Watch

I’m looking forward to Sanchez and Fulmer squaring-off, which, depending on the Yankees batting order and ability to hit, will happen in the first or second inning. We could also see Gregorius vs. Greene, but that’s far less exciting.

King: Yankees have asked Tigers about Justin Wilson

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

According to George King, the Yankees are among the teams to check in with the Tigers about left-hander Justin Wilson. Detroit is kinda sorta trying to get younger and trim payroll — they salary dumped Cameron Maybin to clear a spot for JaCoby Jones earlier this offseason — and cashing in Wilson as a trade chip given the current bullpen market seems like a good idea.

The Tigers are looking for “controllable Major League arms” for Wilson, says King, and the Yankees passed because they found that too prohibitive. Funny how things have turned out, eh? The Tigers gave up two controllable arms (Luis Cessa and Chad Green) to get Wilson last winter, and now they’re looking to flip him for basically the same package. Anyway, I have some thoughts on this.

1. When did the Yankees ask about Wilson? Was it before or after agreeing to a deal with Aroldis Chapman? If it was before, the Yankees may have only been doing their due diligence and looking at backup plans in case Chapman went elsewhere. If it was after, then we know they’re still seriously looking to improve their middle relief. Earlier this winter Brian Cashman indicated he wants to improve his bullpen beyond adding a closer, so it’s entirely possible the Yankees are thinking Chapman and Wilson, not Chapman or Wilson.

2. If the Yankees still want a lefty, just sign a free agent. During the Winter Meetings last week we heard the Yankees want to add a lefty reliever this offseason to join (or replace?) Tommy Layne. Not just Chapman, but a middle innings guy for left-on-left matchup work. Wilson is certainly qualified to do that — he’s overqualified, actually, since he can get out righties as well — but why trade prospects for a lefty reliever when there are so many free agents available?

BF AVG/OBP/SLG wOBA K% BB% GB% HR/9
Jerry Blevins 127 .220/.278/.284 .251 30.7% 6.3% 50.6% 0.29
Mike Dunn 186 .250/.321/.353 .299 24.2% 7.5% 31.1% 0.59
J.P. Howell 198 .262/.318/.324 .284 22.2% 5.6% 66.4% 0.38
Boone Logan 205 .172/.276/.254 .245 34.2% 8.8% 57.0% 0.18
Justin Wilson 179 .276/.351/.368 .314 23.5% 7.8% 51.7% 0.44

Those are 2015-16 numbers against left-handed batters. Four of those players are free agents. Why trade prospects for Wilson when someone like Blevins or Logan can do the job just as well, if not better? Perhaps the “gets righties out too” part is too great to ignore. The Yankees have a matchup left-on-left reliever in Layne. If they are planning to carry two middle southpaws, it would be nice if one could get righties out, and Wilson can do that. The other four guys in the table generally can not.

3. Wilson wasn’t as good in 2016 as he was in 2015. During his one season with the Yankees, Wilson was really awesome. He was a legitimate high-leverage reliever Joe Girardi shoehorned into the seventh inning role, but Wilson could have easily gotten outs in the eighth or even ninth inning. And sometimes he did. This past season though, Wilson’s performance took a step back.

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9
2015 61 3.10 2.69 27.1% 8.2% 43.8% 0.44
2016 58.2 4.14 3.18 25.9% 6.8% 54.9% 0.92

Improved ground ball and walks rates coupled with a slight decline in strikeout rate is generally a good thing, I’d say. For Wilson this year, it wasn’t. He was more hittable overall — opponents hit .223/.293/.309 against Wilson in 2015 and .263/.316/.392 in 2016 — and it showed up in his ERA.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Wilson had some elbow problems this summer. He was shut down for a few days with soreness in June, then, in August, he needed a cortisone shot. Wilson was so inconsistent this past season that Bless You Boys took a deep dive. It’s entirely possible the Yankees traded Wilson at exactly the right time, before he started to break down.

4. The trade looks pretty good now, doesn’t it? Understandably, many folks didn’t like the Wilson deal when it went down. He was pretty great for the Yankees and they traded him for two unknowns. I myself had never heard of Green, and I’m as big a baseball nerd as you’ll find. Cessa’s name might have rung a bell only because he was the second piece in last year’s Yoenis Cespedes trade.

This past season, Cessa and Green showed bonafide Major League stuff during their relatively brief big league cameos. Maybe they’re only relievers long-term — I think Cessa has a much better chance to start than Green at this point in time — but they are big leaguers, not prospects, and that’s pretty great. Turning a reliever with three years of control into two pitchers with six years of control each was a nifty, albeit unpopular at the time, move by Cashman.

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.

Yankees upgrade 40th roster spot, claim Joe Mantiply and designate Branden Pinder

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees claimed left-hander Joe Mantiply off waivers from the Tigers, the team announced. Righty Branden Pinder was designated for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot.

Mantiply, 25, is a pure reliever who spent most of the season in the minors. He had a 2.73 ERA (2.15 FIP) in 59.1 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, during which he held left-handed hitters to a .168/.195/.224 batting line with a 36.7% strikeout rate and a 1.7% walk rate. So at least he has that going for him.

The Tigers called Mantiply up in September, and he allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks in 2.2 innings spread across five appearances in his first taste of the show. He’s a classic left-on-left matchup guy with a funky delivery, an upper-80s fastball, and an upper-70s slider. Here’s a tiny little bit of video:

The 27-year-old Pinder had Tommy John surgery in April and missed most of the season. He appeared in one game with the Yankees and two games with Triple-A Scranton before blowing out his elbow. Last year Pinder had a 2.93 ERA (4.72 FIP) in 27.2 innings with the Yankees as the primary shuttle reliever.

All this move does is upgrade the 40th spot on the 40-man roster. Mantiply is left-handed and healthy while Pinder is right-handed and hurt. Also, Mantiply has all three option years remaining — he was added to the 40-man roster for the first time in September — while Pinder has either one or two. That’s really all there is to it. Chances are Pinder is going to clear waivers and stay in the organization as a non-40-man roster player anyway. Injured fringe relievers aren’t exactly a hot commodity on waivers.

Trade Notes: Cubs, Gallo, Tigers, Fulmer, Norris, Reyes

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The draft is now over, which means teams will soon shift their focus to the trade deadline. The way things are going right now, the Yankees are much more likely to be sellers than buyers this summer. We’ll see what happens. Here are some miscellaneous trade notes, both past and present.

Cubs scouting Yankees’ top relievers

According to George King, the Cubs had a scout at Yankee Stadium last week taking a look at New York’s big three relievers. The Cubbies already know those guys are awesome. They’re just doing their due diligence. Chicago could really use a shutdown lefty reliever, and I’m guessing they’d prefer Andrew Miller to Aroldis Chapman. Miller is under contract two more years and is willing to pitch in any role. Also, Theo Epstein and Miller have a connection dating back to their time with the Red Sox.

I’ve already written about the Cubs as a possible trade partner a few times (here and here) and something tells me I will end up writing about them a few more times before the trade deadline. As always, it’s going to come down to what Chicago is willing to give up in a trade. We’ve already heard they won’t trade Kyle Schwarber straight up for Miller. Javier Baez and Jorge Soler were involved in trade rumors all offseason, so I imagine they’re available.

Rangers won’t trade Gallo for Miller

From the “no duh” rumor mill: the Rangers are unwilling to trade third base masher Joey Gallo straight up for Miller, reports Jon Heyman. The Rangers have the best record (40-25) and worst bullpen ERA (5.12) in the AL, so yeah, a reliever or three figures to be on their trade deadline shipping list. It’s the glaring need right now. Manager Jeff Banister has to hold his breath each time he signals for a reliever.

Texas GM Jon Daniels has a history of making big moves at the trade deadline, and no team will have more bullpen help to offer than New York, so I expect to see a ton of Rangers-Yankees rumors these next few weeks. I can’t help but wonder if the Yankees will push for Jurickson Profar. They’ve had interest in him in the past, and it appears the Rangers have no place to play him. That’s the kind of talent the Yankees should be targeting, anyway.

(Fulmer)
(Fulmer)

Tigers were unwilling to part with top prospects for Miller

Prior to the Justin Wilson trade in December, the Yankees and Tigers were discussing a Miller trade, reports Ken Rosenthal. Rosenthal says Detroit was not willing to move their top prospects, specifically righty Michael Fulmer and lefty Daniel Norris, so nothing happened. The Tigers then shifted their focus to Wilson, and that trade eventually came together.

This jibes with everything we heard about the Miller trade talks over the winter. The Yankees wanted high-end young pitching in return. They talked to the Astros about Lance McCullers Jr. and Vincent Velasquez, for example. Fulmer and Norris are cut from a similar cloth. When it comes time to take offers for Miller again — I imagine the Yankees will listen even if they’re unwilling to sell — I assume they’ll again prioritize young power arms.

Yanks didn’t offer Mateo for Reyes

Remember a few weeks back when we heard the Yankees reportedly offered the Rockies shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo for Jorge Reyes last year? That didn’t pass the sniff test at all. As it turns out, the report was wrong. Tracy Ringolsby says the Yankees did not offer Mateo for Reyes, but Mateo’s name did come up during talks about a larger multi-player trade. That makes much more sense.

I wonder who else the Yankees could have been targeting in such a deal? The Rockies don’t exactly having pitching to spare — Jon Gray had not made his MLB debut at that point, and I can’t imagine Colorado was willing to trade him anyway — and the Yankees had no other massive needs since Reyes would have presumably replaced Stephen Drew at second. Maybe Mateo and stuff for Reyes and prospects? I have no idea what it could realistically be otherwise. Intrigue!

Yankeemetrics: Welcome back to under .500 [June 10-12]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Vintage CC
They say that Father Time is undefeated … but right now CC Sabathia is giving him a heck of a battle. Sabathia wrote yet another chapter in his amazing renaissance season, shutting down the Tigers with seven scoreless innings in the Yankees 4-0 win on Friday night.

Sabathia dropped his ERA to 2.28, the lowest it’s been through the first 10 starts of any season in his career. The big lefty ended April with a mediocre 5.06 ERA, but has been brilliant since the calendar turned to May. In 38 innings over six starts since then, he’s allowed just 23 hits — only four of them for extra bases — and has a hard-to-believe 0.71 ERA.

Through Friday, that was the best ERA by any pitcher since May 1 (min. 30 innings), just ahead of Madison Bumgarner (0.96) and Clayton Kershaw (0.99). It also marks the best six-start stretch — in terms of ERA — for Sabathia during his entire career. His previous best was 0.76 from June 25 to July 21, 2011.

Sabathia isn’t blowing away hitters with high-90s fastballs anymore, but rather he’s using his cutter and sinker effectively to generate a ton of weak contact.

He got two more pop ups on Friday, increasing his rate of infield fly balls to a major-league-best 19.0 percent. His soft-contact rate of 38.1 percent against the Tigers was his second-highest single-game mark this year, and he now ranks second among AL starters in that metric (25.4 percent). And thanks to such a dominant outing on Friday, his average exit velocity allowed on batted balls fell to 85.6 mph, also the second-lowest by any AL starter entering the weekend.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Goodbye, win streak …
On paper, Saturday’s game seemed like a matchup heavily in the Yankees favor: They were 18-6 vs. the Tigers at the new Yankee Stadium, tied for their best record there against any AL team. Detroit’s Justin Verlander had struggled mightily at this ballpark during his career, going 0-4 with a 4.93 ERA in eight starts (including the postseason). That was his most starts without a win for any stadium he’s pitched at in the majors.

The Tigers and Verlander defied those numbers, Ian Kinsler had a historic day at the plate, and the Yankees five-game win streak was snapped. Verlander shut down the middle of the order with a mix of four-seamers, cutters, changeups and curves — the Yankees’ No. 3, 4 and 5 hitters were a combined 0-for-11 with one walk — and Kinsler provided the scoring punch with a three-run homer and a two-run double.

He became just the third visiting leadoff hitter in the last 50 seasons to have at least five RBIs at Yankee Stadium (old or new). The most recent was Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, and the other was the Orioles’ Brady Anderson in 1992.

Verlander cooled off the scorching-hot bat of Carlos Beltran, who went 0-for-4 and grounded into a double play against the former Cy Young winner. Beltran is now 1-for-16 (.063) with five strikeouts against Verlander in his career, his worst batting average against any pitcher he’s faced at least 15 times.

Masahiro Tanaka, who came into the game with a 1.33 ERA in his previous four outings, was tagged for five runs on six hits, including two homers. The first of those longballs came after he had gotten two quick strikes on Nick Castellanos in the second inning. It was the first time in his career that Tanaka had allowed a home run on an 0-2 count. Castellanos also had never hit a homer on an 0-2 count before taking Tanaka deep.

First time for everything
Seven times the Tigers had come to the new Yankee Stadium in the regular season, and seven times they left with more losses than wins during the series. They ended that drought with a 4-1 win on Sunday, taking two of three from the Yankees in the Bronx.

Not only had the Yankees never lost a regular-season series to the Tigers at this ballpark, but they’d never even lost back-to-back games against them there … until Sunday. The Tigers were the only AL team that had never beaten the Yankees twice in a row during the regular season at the new Yankee Stadium.

For the second day in a row, a Tigers starter dominated the Yankees lineup. Rookie Michael Fulmer tossed six scoreless innings, allowing only a pair of doubles by Austin Romine and Aaron Hicks. The last opposing pitcher age 23 or younger to go at least six innings without allowing a run and no more than two hits in the Bronx was the Twins’ Scott Erickson, who threw a two-hit shutout at the old Yankee Stadium on June 24, 1991.

Mister “Box of Chocolates” — aka Michael Pineda — continued to do his best to shed that label of inconsistency with another strong performance this month. For the first time this season, he’s put together three straight starts without allowing more than three runs in each outing. Baby steps, Big Mike, baby steps.

His slider continues to be a dominant swing-and-miss weapon for him, with the Tigers whiffing on 14 of their 32 swings (44 percent) against the pitch. During this mini-three-game hot streak in June, batters have swung at 73 of his sliders and come up empty 39 times — a ridiculous whiff rate of 53 percent.