The Yankees are trying to add a bat, but the Mets keep taking lesser offers from other teams

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Last night’s outburst notwithstanding, the Yankees have had a hard time scoring runs in the second half, and especially over the last week or so. They’ve scored no more than two runs in six of their last eight games, and since the All-Star break they are hitting .251/.316/.412 (91 wRC+) as a team. They’re averaging only 4.19 runs per game since the break. It’s not just Aaron Judge. Lots of guys haven’t hit.

The Yankees did try to get add some offense prior to last Monday’s trade deadline. They made a run at Lucas Duda — “The Mets just wouldn’t trade him to us,” said someone with the Yankees to Jon Heyman — and this week they tried to acquire Jay Bruce. Bruce was instead traded to the Indians last night in a pure salary dump. Cleveland took on the remainder of his $13M salary (roughly $4M) and sent the Mets a non-prospect.

Joel Sherman and Marc Carig report the Yankees were willing to meet the Mets’ asking price. They offered the two prospects the Mets wanted — there’s no word on who those prospects were, and I’m not really expecting the names to leak — but apparently the hangup was the money. The Yankees wanted the Mets to eat some of Bruce’s salary — Ken Rosenthal says they wanted the Mets to eat $1M — and the Mets opted to save money than receive actual prospects, so that’s that.

Bruce, an impending free agent, is hitting .256/.321/.520 (120 wRC+) with 29 home runs this season. The Yankees really need another left-handed bat and Matt Holliday‘s injury creates an opening at DH, so Bruce was an obvious fit for the offense. He wouldn’t have even had to change cities. The Yankees were reportedly on Bruce’s no-trade list, though I doubt he would’ve blocked a deal to a contender, especially when he wouldn’t have even had to relocate.

Anyway, the Mets opted for the salary dump and the Yankees still need offensive help. There are two ways to look at this. One, the Wilpons are cheap and petty, and would rather dump Duda and Bruce for payroll relief than trade them to the Yankees for actual prospects. The dynamics of a crosstown trade are complicated, though is it really that big a deal if Duda or Bruce helped the Yankees win? They’re impending free agents. Who cares?

And two, the Yankees should have upped the ante to make sure they got the bat needed. They could have offered more for Duda. They could have offered to take on Bruce’s salary. Heck, they could have claimed Bruce on trade waivers and backed the Mets into a corner. Their options would have been a) trade him to the Yankees for a prospect, b) dump him and his contract on the Yankees with no return as a waiver claim, or c) pull him back and keep him. I don’t see (c) happening. The Mets wanted to clear Bruce’s salary.

While I can understand the argument for overpaying to get make sure you get Bruce or Duda — the Yankees didn’t trade all those prospects to the Athletics and White Sox for nothing, after all — I don’t really agree with it. The money bothers me more than anything. You’re the Yankees, you got the pitching help you needed at the trade deadline, and these guys are rentals. Why not take on the extra cash to get a deal done? Then again, if you’re taking on Bruce’s entire salary, why are you giving up two actual prospects? There has to be some give and take here.

One thing to keep in mind: the Yankees are pretty annoyed with how the Bruce deal played out. They’re one of the quietest teams in the league when it comes to leaks, and yet, since Bruce was traded to the Indians, we’ve heard the Yankees met the asking price and offered two prospects. That’s coming from the Yankees, not the Mets. Why would the Mets leak something that makes them look bad? The Yankees aren’t happy so they’re letting this info out to make the Mets look petty, and hey, it’s working. Mets fans I know don’t like the straight salary dump.

Ultimately, Duda and Bruce were two of the better bats available, and the Yankees made offers for both. Could they have offered more? Yeah, of course, but at some point you have to stand your ground and not allow yourself to be taken advantage of. There are other bats out there (Jed Lowrie, Daniel Nava, Curtis Granderson). The Mets didn’t want to trade them across town and that’s fine. That’s their right. It still leaves the Yankees short a bat, but at least they’re trying. Hopefully they pivot elsewhere and pick up another hitter soon, because they still need one.

2016 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Hot Stove Links: Cliff Lee, Johnny Cueto, Jay Bruce

(Jim McIsaac/Getty)
(Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Winter Meetings start Monday, and according to Buster Olney, the Yankees are having a ton of trade discussions with teams about many different players. The only constant: they’re looking for young pitching in return. Not the first time we’ve heard that this offseason. Here are some other miscellaneous hot stove nuggets to pass along.

Cliff Lee intends to pitch in 2016

According to Jon Heyman, free agent left-hander Cliff Lee is currently throwing and has been cleared by doctors to resume pitching. He intends to pitch next season, as long as he finds a good fit. Lee missed most of the 2014 season due to a flexor strain in his elbow, then suffered a torn flexor this spring, which caused him to miss the 2015 season. The Phillies declined his $27.5M option after the season, instead paying a $12.5M buyout.

Lee, now 37, was still really good when healthy last year (3.65 ERA and 2.96 FIP in 81.1 innings), but that was a very long time and two serious arm injuries ago. Who knows what he can give a team right now. Brian Cashman and the Yankees are longtime fans of Lee. They’ve tried to trade for him on multiple occasions and tried to sign him as a free agent. Would it be a surprise if they reached out to him this offseason? No way. The questions are 1) does he consider the Yankees a good fit, and 2) will he come to camp as a non-roster invitee? Developing!

Yankees not all that interested in Johnny Cueto

This is not a surprise. According to George King, the Yankees don’t have a whole lot of interest in free agent right-hander Johnny Cueto. They are keeping an eye on the market for Jeff Samardzija and Wei-Yin Chen, however. Without a sudden increase in payroll — which I guess is always possible — it’s hard to see how the Yankees can afford a huge money starter like Cueto.

Cueto, who turns 30 in February, recently turned down a six-year contract worth $120M from the Diamondbacks, according to multiple reports. I think he’ll end up closer to six years and $150M or so, which is Jon Lester money. Cueto struggled with the Royals down the stretch but had some truly ace-like moments in the postseason, plus his track record is outstanding. He’s going to he paid. I just think if the Yankees were willing to go into the ~$25M a year range for a free agent starter like Cueto, they’d go the extra mile for David Price.

Yankees included in Jay Bruce’s no-trade list

This doesn’t seem all that important, but Jerry Crasnick reports the Yankees are one of eight teams included on Jay Bruce’s no-trade list. He can block deals to the Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Athletics, Blue Jays, and Rays. Cincinnati has committed to rebuilding and it’s only a matter of time until they trade Bruce, who hit a disappointing .226/.294/.434 (91 wRC+) with 26 homers in 2015.

The Yankees have no need for another outfielder at the moment, especially not another left-handed hitting one. I suppose they could target Bruce as a bounceback candidate should they trade Brett Gardner at some point, but I think they’d sooner go with Aaron Hicks and some young guys. Bruce, who is still only 28, has been hurt and not very good the last two years. He’s owed $12.5M next year with a $13M team option for 2017. File this under: maybe relevant down the road.

Mailbag: A-Rod, Kazmir, Chapman, Valbuena, Murphy

Massive mailbag this week. Maybe the biggest in RAB history. Thirteen questions total, so I tried (and mostly succeeded) to keep the answers short. You can send us questions via the “For the Mailbag” form in the sidebar. I know it doesn’t look like the question goes through, but trust me, it does.

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

Vinny asks: Alex Rodriguez: hitting coach. Discuss.

It’ll never ever ever ever happen for a million different reasons, but I think A-Rod would make a pretty good hitting coach. The guy was put on this planet to play baseball. He knows as much about baseball as one person could possibly know and has worked tirelessly on his swing throughout his career. I’m sure he can help players with their offense. The real question is whether his communication skills are good enough. Coaching is as much about communication as it is knowing the ins and outs of the craft. But, like I said, it’ll never happen. The Yankees would sooner not have a hitting coach than hire A-Rod in any kind of authority role.

Daniel asks: Alex Rodriguez currently sits at 2,939 career hits. He will very likely reach 3,000 hits in 2015 even with a bad season. The media will be unbearable. The Yankees front office will be so awkward. Barry Bonds set the HR record after his BALCO scandal, and he was still celebrated. But that was uncharted territory and so much has happened since. How do you think this all gets handled?

I wouldn’t say it’s “very likely” Alex will get those 61 hits next year, but it is definitely possible. He’s way to much of an injury risk to count on him staying on the field that long. Anyway, it’ll be incredibly weird whenever A-Rod gets to 3,000 hits. Bonds was absolutely loved in San Francisco, which is part of the reason why his homer chase was celebrated. Everyone hates Rodriguez, even Yankees fans. Also, unlike Bonds, Alex has actually admitted and been suspended for his PED stuff, which changes the equation. My guess is the accomplishment will be downplayed as much as possible and we’ll get another round of articles saying it is morally wrong to take PEDs. But the Yankees will probably still sell some A-Rod3K merchandise. Cash, as the kids say, rules everything around me.

Bhavin asks: It seems like every time the Yankees are interested in a player there are other teams involved and “raising the price” to sign a free agent. How come Brian Cashman doesn’t do the same for other teams? Would it be a smart strategy to make your competitors spend more money than they are comfortable for the same player even if NYY are not interested?

Oh the Yankees definitely do this. Heck, earlier this week Cashman said the only reason they said they were still interested in re-signing Robertson was to drive up the price. (That was much as thank you to Robertson as it was trying to get a competitor to spend more.) Even when the Yankees aren’t involved, agents float rumors saying the Yankees are interested in their clients too because it helps inflate the market. That’s why they’re connected to almost every big free agent each winter. The Yankees absolutely 100% do this.

Kazmir. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Kazmir. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Hunter asks: Since the Yankees need some starting pitching, what are the chances that they trade for Scott Kazmir? Billy Beane seems apt to trade him considering he’s in his walk year. Would it be a good move for New York, and who do you think it would take to get him?

For what it’s worth, Joel Sherman says the Athletics aren’t looking to move Kazmir. The A’s do still need someone to pitch innings and he’s both effective (3.35 ERA and 3.55 FIP in 2014) and reasonably priced ($13M in 2015). The fact that he’s faded big time in the second half the last two years and is a fly ball pitcher scares me, but let’s roll with it.

Three pitchers with one year of control were just traded in Jeff Samardzija, Mat Latos, and Rick Porcello. Of those three, Kazmir is most similar to Latos in my opinion. Latos fetched a good MLB ready pitching prospect (Anthony DeSclafani) and a good Single-A catching prospect (Chad Wallach). Not great prospects, not fringy prospects, good prospects. I guess the Yankees equivalent would be Bryan Mitchell and Luis Torrens, though that’s not a perfect match because Torrens is five years younger than Wallach. Of course, Kazmir is somehow the healthier of the two between him and Latos.

Anyway, that doesn’t mean Mitchell and Torrens will be enough to get Latos. Different teams have different demands and different player valuations, and Oakland seems to be prioritizing quantity over quality in their deals so far this winter, with the caveat that most of the quantity be MLB ready. Maybe that means they would want Mitchell, Ramon Flores, and Jose Pirela instead? I dunno. Kazmir’s not a perfect fit for the Yankees but he would be an upgrade for the rotation for the one year they’d have him.

Peter asks: Is a C.J. Wilson trade worth a shot? Lots of available pitching out there and if the Angels refuse to eat salary, maybe Cashman get him without giving up much. Do the Yanks and Angels even match up anywhere?

Wilson had a rough 2014 season, with a 4.51 ERA (4.31 FIP) and an AL-leading 85 walks in 175.2 innings. He’s owed $18M in 2015 and $20M in 2016 as well, so it’s no surprise the Halos are reportedly looking to deal him. Wilson was very good in 2013 (3.39 ERA and 3.51 FIP) and he had a run of four straight 200+ inning seasons from 2010-13 before an ankle sprain sidelined him for three weeks this summer. If the Angels eat enough money to make Wilson, say, an $8M per year pitcher these next two seasons, isn’t it worth at least exploring? (I wouldn’t touch him if I had to pay all that money.) He eats innings, gets grounders (47.8% in 2014), has some rebound potential (.306 BABIP in 2014 after .286 from 2010-13), and should some cheap. Maybe it can be similar to the A.J. Burnett trade, only with the Yankees playing the role of the Pirates.

Brad asks: I know the Yankees are a business and don’t place a high premium on fielding a “likable” team, but the 2014 team was joyless and terrible. And Derek Jeter was still around. Shouldn’t the Yankees have placed a higher priority on retaining David Robertson?

You answered your own question there. The Yankees can’t worry about likeability, they have to focus on putting the best team on the field. Letting Robertson walk so you can replace him with a cheaper Andrew Miller and get a draft pick is a perfectly sensible baseball move, albeit an unpopular one with the locals. These Yankees are pretty bland and unlikeable though, you’re right. At least that’s how I feel. The only players on the roster I won’t actively hate next year are Dellin Betances, Michael Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, Brett Gardner, maybe Didi Gregorius, and CC Sabathia whenever he isn’t hurt. (I may or may not be joking.)

Chapman. (Joe Robbins/Getty)
Chapman. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Ward asks: With rumors that the Reds may be trying to trade some of their pitchers to save money, what could the Yankees give up to get Chapman?

The Reds cleared some salary yesterday with the Mat Latos — by the way, Mat Latos has a cat named Cat Latos — and Alfredo Simon trades, though it’s unclear if they hit their payroll target or still have work to do. Chapman isn’t all that expensive (owed $5M in 2015 and will probably make $10M+ through arbitration in 2016 before becoming a free agent) but he would bring back a major haul. He’s no worse than the second best reliever in baseball right now and a true difference maker. Lesser relievers like Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey were traded for decent hauls a few years before free agency and I assume Chapman would blow those deals out of the water. My hunch is it would take one very good young MLB player, one top of the line prospect, plus a third lesser piece. For the Yankees, I guess that means … Pineda, Luis Severino, and maybe John Ryan Murphy? That feels light. I’m not sure they could put together a package good enough to bring Chapman to New York.

Sam asks: With the acquisition of Didi Gregorius, will the Yankees still go after Yoan Moncada? If they do, does he work at short or third in the Minors?

I don’t think the Gregorius trade will change anything with the team’s pursuit of Moncada. It shouldn’t, anyway. Moncada is still just a 19-year-old kid who is expected to start his pro career in Single-A. He’s not someone you worry about when building your MLB roster. Just about everything I’ve seen says Moncada has the potential to play just about anywhere on the field other than shortstop, though I suspect whichever team signs him will keep here there for a little while. If that doesn’t work, second base seems like the next logical spot.

Richard asks: Why didn’t the Yankees go after Josh Donaldson?

How do you know they didn’t? The Indians asked about Donaldson but the Athletics said they weren’t seriously considering moving him, according to Terry Pluto. This Donaldson deal is reminiscent of last year’s Doug Fister trade; there seem to be a lot of people wondering why the A’s didn’t shop around and get a better deal. Seems like they just really wanted the guys they got from the Blue Jays. Besides, the Yankees don’t have a player on par with Brett Lawrie they could have offered as a center piece.

Alex asks: Knowing that trades with the Mets are rare, what about trading for Daniel Murphy to fill in 1B/2B/3B? Power numbers should go up. If you can lock him up, trading Gardner for him could work for both NY teams.

Murphy would make a lot of sense for the Yankees, who could use him at every non-shortstop infield position if necessary. He might hit a few more homers in Yankee Stadium but his offensive game is more about spray line drives to left field, so I wouldn’t expect a huge boost in power. That said, he’s consistently been a .285+ AVG, .330+ OBP, 10+ homer, 10+ steals guy these last few years. The Yankees could definitely use someone like that, even if his defense stinks. I wouldn’t trade Gardner for him — Murphy will be a free agent next winter and there’s no sense in paying the Mets for the right to extend him (the “right to extend” is inherently included in every trade ever)  — but I do think Murphy’s a fit.

Valbuena. (David Banks/Getty)
Valbuena. (David Banks/Getty)

Dustin asks: If the Yankees miss on Chase Headley, would trading for Luis Valbuena be a good move? Or would you prefer starting Martin Prado and Rob Refsnyder?

Valbuena is probably the best third base option on the trade market. He doesn’t have the name recognition of Chris Johnson but he hit .249/.341/.435 (116 wRC+) with 16 homers and an 11.6% walk rate last year. That’s pretty damn good. Valbuena just turned 29, has gotten better at the plate every year since breaking into the show five years ago, and the various stats say he’s a passable defender at second and third. He’s a nice little underrated player who’s cheap (projected to make $3.1M in 2015) and under team control through 2016. I’d prefer Prado/Valbuena to Prado/Refsnyder this coming season — it’s not really an either or because Refsnyder is still in the organization — and if the Yankees miss out on Headley, I hope their next call would be to Chicago about Valbuena. Even if he is only a league average hitter in 2015 (as the projections project), that’s still a nice upgrade for New York.

Evan asks: Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce are both great fits. Brandon Phillips isn’t because he’s declining and his brutal contract.  But assuming you had to take Phillips to get Bruce or Frazier what would that deal look like?

I wouldn’t take on Phillips to facilitate a trade for either of the other two. I hate the idea of taking a bad contract to get a discount for another player — the bad contract negates the discount and, if you’re only trading prospects, there’s at least a chance they won’t come back to bite you whereas the bad contract will definitely hurt. I’d rather just pay full price for Frazier or Bruce than get saddled with more dead weight in Phillips.

Bruce is a nice rebound candidate coming off knee surgery and Frazier is just a perfect fit for the Yankees — right-handed power, quality hitter, can play the two corner infield positions plus left field, under control through 2017, super high character guy, and he’s a local dude from New Jersey. What’s not to like? It’ll take a haul to get him after the year he just had though. Unless the Yankees are willing to talk about Severino or Aaron Judge, I don’t think they have the pieces to make it worth Cincinnati’s while. Man would Frazier be a great though.

P.J. asks: Let me preface this by saying that I absolutely don’t want this to happen. That said, what would Dellin Betances be worth on the trade market? What if he was a FA (non-QO)?

If he was a free agent, he’d probably get Andrew Miller/David Robertson money. He was awesome in 2014 but has no track record whatsoever. In a trade … that’s really tough to answer. When was the last time a player like Betances traded? An elite reliever with five years of team control remaining? The Athletics traded pre-shoulder mush Andrew Bailey when he had three years of control remaining and they received an adequate everyday player (Josh Reddick) and two nondescript minor leaguers. Do the two extra years of team control mean Betances fetches better prospects in addition to the okay regular? It’s really tough to gauge his trade value. I don’t think he can be a centerpiece in a blockbuster because, at the end of the day, he’s still a reliever, but maybe he can be the number two piece in a deal for an ace or a young, above-average everyday player. If that is the case, he is worth more to the 2015 and beyond Yankees as a trade chip, or in their bullpen?