Scouting The August Trade Market: Salary Dump Starters

(Leon Halip/Getty)
(Leon Halip/Getty)

The Yankees were unable to land pitching help before last Thursday’s trade deadline but that doesn’t mean they are out of the market for arms. David Phelps just landed on the disabled list and the team is somehow more desperate for pitching now than at any other point in the season, and that’s with Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka seemingly on the mend. At best, Pineda is about ten days away while Tanaka could return next month.

The August trade season has been surprisingly active the last few years. Just last year guys like Justin Morneau, Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, and David DeJesus were dealt in August. The Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster went down in August two years ago. The Yankees themselves haven’t been all that active on the August trade front the last few years — they acquired Chad Gaudin in August 2009, but their only August trade since was the Steve Pearce pickup a few years ago — but that hardly means they’re against August moves. That’s just the way things shook out.

The Phillies got the August trade market going yesterday by putting just about everyone on waivers — Ken Rosenthal says Byrd, Jonathan Papelbon, Cole Hamels, A.J. Burnett, Roberto Hernandez, Kyle Kendrick, Antonio Bastardo, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Carlos Ruiz, and Ryan Howard were placed on trade waivers. The Yankees don’t have interest in a reunion with Burnett, Hernandez and Kendrick are blah, and Hamels seems unattainable at this point. Cliff Lee’s injury completely killed his trade value as well.

Players have already started to hit waivers though, and that’s the most important thing. The August trade engine is revved up. Here are some potential pitching trade targets for the Yankees, with an emphasis on guys who might be available for little more than salary relief.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)
(Mike Stobe/Getty)

RHP Bartolo Colon, Mets
The Mets tried hard to unload the 41-year-old Colon at the deadline, but found no takers because he is owed another $3M or so this year plus $11M next year. He’s pitched well enough in 2014, with a 4.12 ERA (3.51 FIP) while averaging 6.2 innings per start, but something about a pitcher that old and with that arm injury/PED history scares teams away. Can’t say I blame them. The Mets will reportedly try to move Colon again in the offseason, when one year of him at $11M might be an appealing alternative to the free agent market.

The Yankees obviously know Colon after helping him bring his career back from the dead in 2011, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be eager to trade for him. It could mean the exact opposite, in fact. It could scare them away. I don’t think the Mets would let Colon go on waivers for nothing just to dump salary — he does still has some trade value as an innings-eater — but I am certain he’s available.

LHP John Danks, White Sox
We heard an awful lot about the Yankees and Danks these last few weeks, especially in the days leading up to the trade deadline. The two teams were unable to work out a deal in part due to a disagreement over how much of the ~$33M left on his contract the ChiSox would eat. Danks is signed through 2016 at $14.25M per year, and he’s been nothing more than serviceable since coming back from a torn shoulder capsule last year (4.63 ERA and 4.96 FIP). That includes a 4.50 ERA (4.85 FIP) in 136 innings this year.

Given all the money left on his contract and the fact that he’s coming off a recent major injury, an injury that usually ends most pitchers’ careers, I do think the White Sox would let Danks go on waivers for nothing but the salary relief. They could try to work out a trade to get a prospect in return first, but, if push came to shove, I don’t think they would pull him back. Either way, no team will take the risk and claim him. He’ll clear waivers, allowing him to be traded anywhere. If Danks was a pure rental, it would be a much different story. But since he’s signed for another two years at significant dollars, I don’t think the Yankees should go after him without Chicago paying down a decent chunk of the salary.

(Jason O. Watson/Getty)
(Jason O. Watson/Getty)

RHP Jason Hammel, Athletics
Since being acquired from the Cubs early last month, Hammel has a 9.53 ERA (7.31 FIP) in four starts and 17 innings for Oakland. (Five homers with a 12/10 K/BB.) He’s been terrible since the trade — two of his starts have been disasters, the other two okay at best — so much so that I have to think it’s more than a simple statistical correction after he pitched over his head for the Cubbies for three months. Maybe he’s hiding an injury or a mechanical mess, a la Jim Johnson. Hammel was pretty awesome for Chicago, remember (2.98 ERA and 3.19 FIP). I doubt he forgot to pitch on the flight to join his new team.

Anyway, Rosenthal says the A’s placed Hammel on trade waivers yesterday and, right before the trade deadline, Jon Morosi reported GM Billy Beane was “getting flooded” with calls about the righty in the wake of the Jon Lester deal. That doesn’t mean they will trade him, he is still penciled in as their fifth starter following the Lester pickup, but maybe they’re open to moving Hammel after adding another ace to the rotation and pushing him down the depth chart. He’s owed another $2M this season before becoming a free agent. Beane could look to save some cash and recoup a prospect rather than carry a potentially terrible starter these last few weeks. I know he’s stunk lately, but when you have Matt Daley on the roster and are considering starting Esmil Rogers, claiming Hammel and his $2M salary off trade waivers seems like a no-brainer to me. I suspect some team will beat the Yankees to it.

RHP Colby Lewis, Rangers
Lewis beat the Yankees twice in the last two weeks, though he still has a 5.98 ERA (4.29 FIP) in 19 starts and 102.1 innings overall this year. He’s coming back from elbow and hip problems that cost him the second half of 2012 and all of 2013. Lewis has been much better over the last few weeks (thanks in part to the Yankees!), allowing no more than two earned runs in four of his last six starts and no more than three earned runs in five of his last six starts. The one exception was a total disaster (13 runs in 2.1 innings!). Look at his gamelog and you’ll see he’s been good more often than not over the last month or so.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

There have been no trade rumors involving Lewis this year mostly because he hasn’t pitched well, but also because the Rangers are desperate for pitching themselves. They have six pitchers on the 60-day disabled list, including starters Derek Holland, Martin Perez, and Matt Harrison. Rotation options Alexi Ogando and Tanner Scheppers are also hurt. Lewis is only owed another $700k this season, give or take, so his salary isn’t an issue either. Holland is due to back relatively soon and maybe Texas would be open to dealing Lewis to a contender for a prospect or salary relief or whatever, but that seems unlikely. He’s an August trade candidate only in the sense that every player on a bad team is an August trade candidate.

* * *

Lee would have been the ultimate August salary dump trade candidate, but his latest injury put an end to that. He’s going to miss the rest of the season with a recurring structural problem in his elbow, so his trade value is shot both for this month and the offseason. Ian Kennedy, whose named popped up in plenty of rumors before the deadline, may still be available, but he’ll require giving up something of actual value. Brian Cashman has done nothing but add players on the cheap this summer.

Aside from getting Hammel for nothing on waivers — I really doubt that will happen, Beane’s no idiot and he won’t let pitching depth walk away for nothing but salary relief — the best case August trade scenario is getting James Shields from the Royals. He’s a pure rental and he’s a very good AL East proven workhorse, which is pretty much exactly what the Yankees need. Kansas City would both have to fall out of race — they’re 4.5 back in the AL Central and 1.5 back of the second wildcard spot — and acknowledge they can’t afford to re-sign him after the season. Plus the Yankees would have to give up something more valuable than the supplemental first round pick the Royals would receive when he signs elsewhere. Shields (and Hammel) seems very unlikely, so the Yankees will have to pick through scraps to boost their starting staff down the stretch.

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2014 Trade Deadline Open Thread

(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)
(Brian Garfinkel/Getty)

The non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET this afternoon, and over these next few hours there will be a ton of rumors and speculation. A bunch of actual moves too. The Yankees have already swung trades for Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley, but Brian Cashman has said he is still seeking another starter and another bat. I can’t imagine they’ll get through the day without doing something.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, we learned the Yankees are “in on everything” but do not want to part with their top minor leaguers. Josh Willingham, John Danks, Jake Arrieta, Justin Ruggiano, Chris Denorfia, Joaquin Benoit, James Russell, Marlon Byrd, Ian Kennedy, and Brett Anderson were among the names connected to the club. They do not have interest in Matt Kemp and were not targeting Justin Masterson before he was traded to the Cardinals, however. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here in this post, so make sure you check back throughout the day. All the timestamps are ET.

  • 3:42pm: Apparently the Yankees are getting Stephen Drew from the Red Sox. Huh. [Gordon Edes]
  • 3:36pm: The Yankees are out on Byrd. [Jayson Stark]
  • 3:01pm: The Yankees are one of several teams talking to the Rays about Price. I can’t see this happening but I’d love to be wrong. [Bob Nightengale]
  • 1:55pm: There is a false rumor going around saying the Yankees have acquired Byrd. They have not. At least not yet, anyway. It’s bonus. No deal. [Sherman]
  • 1:48pm: The Rays will trade David Price today. I doubt it will be to the Yankees, but geez. This is fun! [Joel Sherman]
  • 1:34pm: The Yankees are going to take things right down to the wire. They’re still discussing Willingham, Denorfia, and Byrd. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 1:25pm: Just in case you’re wondering, Danks is currently pitching for the White Sox, which wouldn’t happen if he was close to being traded. Pretty slow day for the Yankees thus far.
  • 11:17am: The Yankees continue to work on small deals. Nothing big is expected to happen today. Lame. [Feinsand]
  • 9:48am: The Red Sox have traded Lester (and Jonny Gomes) to the Athletics, according to multiple reports. Yoenis Cespedes is the primary piece going back to Boston. Wow.
  • 9:30am: The Yankees are not working on anything huge at the moment. Their focus is on upgrading in right field and adding depth to the bullpen and pitching staff. [Joel Sherman]
  • The Yankees and Phillies have discussed Byrd, but nothing is close. Apparently there’s some concern about how he’d fit in the clubhouse. They are not in on Alex Rios and maintain interest in Willingham. [Jon Heyman]
  • Despite the connection to Danks, the Yankees have no interest in picking up the $28M or so he is owed from 2015-16. He is scheduled to start at 1pm ET this afternoon. They also did not bother to call the Red Sox about Jon Lester. Seems like that would be a gigantic waste of time. [Mark Feinsand & Nick Cafardo]

2014 Trade Deadline Eve Open Thread

Hole Camels. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Hole Camels. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET this Thursday, and between now and then there will be a ton of rumors and speculation. Some actual moves too. The Yankees have already swung trades for Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley, but Brian Cashman has said he is still seeking another starter and another bat. I don’t know if they’ll get another deal done, but I fully expect plenty of Yankees-related rumors.

On Monday and Tuesday we learned the Yankees are “in on everything” but they do not want to part with their top minor leaguers. Josh Willingham, John Danks, Jake Arrieta, Justin Ruggiano, and Chris Denorfia were among the names connected to the club. They are not targeting Justin Masterson, however. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here in this post, so make sure you check back throughout the day. All of the timestamps below are ET.

  • 4:59pm: In addition to Benoit, the Yankees have also checked in on Antonio Bastardo of the Phillies and James Russell of the Cubs. Both are lefties but I don’t think that says they’re unhappy with Matt Thornton. [Stark]
  • 4:33pm: The Yankees continue to be connected to Marlon Byrd, but they are wary of his $8M price tag for next season. Like I said before, they will need a right fielder next year, Byrd on what amounts to a one-year deal at $8M wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. [Jayson Stark]
  • 4:31pm: In case you were thinking about a reunion, former Yankees corner infielder Eric Chavez announced his retirement today. He was pretty awesome.
  • 2:16pm: Although the Yankees and White Sox continue to discuss Danks, they are still far apart in talks. I’m sure both the money and prospects are an obstacle. [Heyman]
  • 2:07pm: Justin Masterson has been traded to the Cardinals. The Yankees did not have interest in him, but it presumably takes St. Louis out of the running for Jon Lester and David Price, muddling the pitching market. [Peter Gammons]
  • 1:57pm: As they look to bolster their bullpen, the Yankees are eyeing Joaquin Benoit. They had some interest in him over the winter. There is “nothing going on” right now as far as talks go, however. [Heyman & Martino]
  • 12:49pm: The Yankees are still involved in talks with the Padres about Ian Kennedy, but those talks are said to be “medium,” whatever that means. San Diego cleared a lot of money with the Huston Street and Chase Headley trades and have said they don’t have any problem with holding onto Kennedy into next season. [Chad Jennings]
  • 12:06pm: The Yankees prefer rentals to players under contract next year and beyond. Rentals are cool, but the team does have holes to address next year (like right field). Trading for someone signed for next season wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. [Andrew Marchand]
  • 10:28am: In addition to rotation help, the Yankees are looking to bolster their bullpen as well. Adam Warren and Dellin Betances look like they have been running on fumes of late. [Nick Cafardo]
  • 10:06am: The Yankees are picking through the second tier of starting pitchers and they have discussed left-hander Brett Anderson. The Rockies intend to keep him and either exercise his club option for 2015 or sign him to a longer term contract, however. [Buster Olney & Ken Rosenthal]
  • 9:30am: The Phillies requested a package of multiple top prospects from the Yankees and several other teams in exchange for Cole Hamels. The assumption around baseball is that Philadelphia isn’t serious about moving their lefty ace. The Yankees are more likely to add another mid-rotation arm than an ace-caliber pitcher at this point. [Jon Heyman & Andy Martino]
  • The Yankees continue to have interest in Willingham. With Carlos Beltran continuing his throwing program and potentially returning to the outfield as soon as next week, the DH spot would be open for Willingham, who hasn’t played right field in five years. [Heyman]
  • Both the Rays and Rangers had special assignment scouts watching Double-A Trenton last night. Special assignment scouts are sent to see specific players. They aren’t there for general coverage. [Keith Law]

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2014 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Monday

"There's always money in the banana stand!" (MLB.com)
“There’s always money in the banana stand!” (MLB.com)

The non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET this Thursday, and between now and then there will be a ton of rumors and speculation. Some actual moves too. The Yankees have already swung trades for Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley, but Brian Cashman has said he is still seeking another starter and another bat. I don’t know if they’ll get another deal done, but I fully expect plenty of Yankees-related rumors this week, hence a full week of open threads rather than one or two days.

Over the last few days we’ve heard New York connected to John Danks (link) and Ian Kennedy (link). They do not have interest in Matt Kemp (link), however. The Rockies and White Sox are said to be keeping an eye on Francisco Cervelli (link). Obviously young catching is one of the team’s most tradeable assets. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here in this post, so make sure you check back throughout the day. All of the timestamps below are ET.

  • 5:35pm: The Yankees have been connected to outfielder Chris Denorfia, but they are not engaged in talks with the Padres about him. [Sherman]
  • 5:11pm: The Red Sox are getting “hit hard” with inquiries about both Jon Lester and John Lackey, including from other AL East clubs. That doesn’t necessarily mean the Yankees called, but it would make sense if they did. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 4:03pm: The Yankees are “in on everything” but they are very reluctant to trade away their best prospects. If true, they won’t be able to make any big upgrades, just smaller, incremental ones. [Joel Sherman]
  • 3:05pm: The White Sox have been scouting New York’s minor league catching depth in recent days, furthering speculation of a Danks trade. The Yankees are also focusing on a right-handed platoon partner for Ichiro Suzuki, which doesn’t really make sense given his splits the last few years. [Jayson Stark]
  • 12:25pm: The Yankees and Cubs have discussed Jake Arrieta, though it would take a huge offer to pry the right-hander away from Chicago. Arrieta is in the middle of a breakout year following some mechanical and pitch selection adjustments. [George Ofman]
  • 11:00am: The Yankees are eyeing Josh Willingham as well as other outfield bats like Alex Rios and Marlon Byrd. They prefer Willingham because he is a pure rental. The Yankees are included in Rios’ six-team no-trade list. Here’s my Scouting The Market post on Willingham. [Jon Heyman & Ken Rosenthal]
  • Danks remains a target and is among the most likely players to be moved. There is no evidence they’ve talked with the Padres about Kennedy and they aren’t focused on Cliff Lee because his contract ensures he’ll be available in August. The Yankees do not appear to have interest in Wade Miley, Bartolo Colon, or Edwin Jackson. [Heyman]
  • Just in case you got your hopes up after his appearance at Yankee Stadium yesterday, Troy Tulowitzki is not close to being traded to the Yankees. “I’m with my family. I wanted to see (Derek) Jeter play one more time,” he said. Tulo was in the area seeing a specialist about his hip injury. [Nick Groke]

Heyman: Yankees, White Sox discussing John Danks

Via Jon Heyman: The Yankees have called the White Sox about left-hander John Danks. The two sides are not close to a deal and Heyman says talks may only be in the preliminary stages. The rebuilding ChiSox are, unsurprisingly, looking for young players and prospects in return.

Danks, 29, was a popular trade topic around these parts a few years ago, when he had a 3.77 ERA (3.89 FIP) and averaged 194.2 innings a year from 2008-11. Then he tore his shoulder capsule in 2012 and has pitched to a 4.56 ERA (4.89 FIP) since surgery, including a 4.35 ERA (4.70 FIP) in 124 innings this year. PitchFX shows his velocity (all pitches) has not returned since the shoulder injury.

Danks is owed roughly $35M through the 2016 season and torn capsules are usually the kiss of death. No one has returned from one to pitch to their pre-injury levels. It effectively ended the careers of Johan Santana, Rich Harden, Mark Prior, and Chien-Ming Wang, among others. Danks has been serviceable since the injury, but given the money left on his contract, I would hope he comes cheap in terms of prospects.

Mailbag: Binder, Danks, Frenchy, Pineda

Six questions and five answers this week. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything, mailbag questions or otherwise.

Jersey untucked. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

Jerome asks: With the Yankees starting to win a lot of games (and close ones at that) without David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, who should we credit for this? Does Joe Girardi‘s binder deserve some love? I’m not saying we’re better without D-Rob and Mo but will this help convince the Yankees to never again spend big bucks on bullpen help in the future?

Yeah, it’s funny how the binder jokes went away when Girardi mix-and-matched his bullpen to 16 wins in 20 games without Robertson or Mo. I’ve always been amazed at how every industry in the world uses available data to make informed decisions and progress forward, but in sports it’s frowned upon. The number of people that think relying on “gut feel” is a good thing is staggering.

Anyway, I wouldn’t hold my breath if you think the team’s recent ability to put together strong bullpens using internal options and the scrap heap will keep them away from the free agent market. They are the Yankees and will always spend on players. Maybe they won’t splurge to the extent to Rafael Soriano again, but I doubt the Pedro Felicianos and Damaso Martes are going to go away forever. There’s nothing wrong with taking a one-year flier on a guy like LaTroy Hawkins or Chan Ho Park or Luis Ayala each winter, but the multi-year commitments for less than elite relievers are what really irk me.

Anonymous asks: Would you still be interested in acquiring John Danks after this rough start he has had to the season, including injuries? I know you were pretty high on him as a trade target.

(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Danks was terrible early on this year — 5.70 ERA and 4.97 FIP in nine starts — and is currently on the DL with a shoulder strain. He’s expected back sometime later this month. I drove the Danks train this offseason, I’m a big fan of the guy and like his chances of improving into his age-27 season, plus I liked his left-handedness and the fit for Yankee Stadium. Obviously the shoulder problem changes that somewhat, but also his new contract extension — five years and $75M — changes things as well.

The new contract basically eliminated my interest. I liked the idea of getting Danks for one year (2012) and seeing how he handled the AL East and Yankee Stadium before committing long-term. Now they’d be locked in long-term right out of the chute, which could be problematic given the 2014 payroll plan. I still like Danks and think he’ll be very good going forward, but I don’t think he makes sense for the Yankees at this point. Not with that contract.

Miller asks: If the starters keep pitching effectively, will the Yankees go after another starter at the deadline? Will they have faith in Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova to carry them through the playoffs?

Yeah, I’m sure they’ll trust those two into the postseason. Remember, you only need four starters in October and the fourth starter will be marginalized, maybe three starts tops if you make a deep run and play five or six or seven games in each series. The Yankees have a strong front three with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Hiroki Kuroda, so just one of those two — I’d go Nova and stick Hughes in the pen if the playoffs started today — needs to serve as the fourth starter.

The non-waiver trade deadline is still six or so weeks away and a whole lot can change between now and then. Injuries could pop up, guys could start stinking for no apparent reason, all sorts of stuff could force the Yankees to swing a deal for a starting pitcher. Things are going well right now and I wouldn’t expect rotation help to be all that high on the deadline shopping list at the moment.

(Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

D.R. asks: If Gardner is out for an extended period of time, what do you think of Jeff Francoeur as a trade target?

Peter asks: Jon Heyman reports that the Royals are putting Jeff Francoeur on the block. He’s a bit pricey for his production, but do you think he could be a fit for the Yanks to 1) fill in for Brett Gardner this year and 2) be a one-year stop-gap if they don’t re-sign Nick Swisher in 2013?

Frenchy is still only 28 years old and he’s under contract for $6M this year and $7.5M next season, so he’s not cheap. He had a very good season in 2011 (.346 wOBA and 117 wRC+) but has since reverted to his usual terrible self: 93 wRC+ in 2012 vs. 92 career. The two things Francoeur can do really well is hit left-handers (114 wRC+) and play defense (both just running down balls in the outfield as well as making throws). He also has a reputation as a great clubhouse guy, for what it’s worth. Frenchy is a classic underachiever in the sense that he should be so much better than he is; the talent is there for him to be a top-25 player in the game. The lack of plate discipline — not just not walking (5.0 BB%), I mean swinging at bad pitches and making weak contact — has been his downfall.

That said, Francoeur isn’t a terrible platoon option given his production, but he is given his salary. He’s being paid like an everyday guy and there’s no way the Yankees could run him out there for 500+ plate appearances. If he was making like, $2-3M or so, maybe it’s a different story as a one-year stopgap. He’s on the short-end of the platoon stick as the right-handed bat, so you’d still need a quality left-hander to make this thing work.

Rahul: Is there any update on the Michael Pineda injury? I actually forgot he is even a Yankee. I just haven’t even thought about the guy since maybe mid-May.

Pineda had his surgery as scheduled on May 1st, and Brian Cashman confirmed that everything went well that day. Based on the Twitter feeds of various Yankees’ farmhands, Pineda is currently in Tampa doing whatever he needs to do. I haven’t been able to find any kind of rehab timetable, but his arm may still be in a sling since we’re only six weeks out from surgery. I wouldn’t expect many updates at this point just because we’re less than two months into a year-long process.

Cross another name off the list: White Sox extend John Danks

Via Jon Heyman, the White Sox and John Danks have agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $65M. Danks, 26, was one of many pitchers we’d identified as possible trade targets for the Yankees, though apparently Kenny Williams was asking for two of Jesus Montero, Dellin Betances, and Manny Banuelos. That’s simply too much for a very good but not great pitcher with only one year of control left before free agency. We never did hear anything about how interested the Yankees actually were in the left-hander, but feel free to speculate.