Yankeemetrics: Bronx (bullpen) is burning [June 20-22]

(Getty)
(Getty)

Please deactivate Clip-bot
The Yankees returned to the friendly confines on Tuesday night but the story was virtually the same as the previous six games: they got themselves into an early hole thanks to some shaky starting pitching, then rallied to tie the score with a couple Baby Bombs, but a bullpen meltdown ultimately sealed their fate, resulting in another loss.

Their losing streak reached seven games, just the third time in the last two decades the Yankees have suffered that many consecutive defeats within a season – the other seven-game losing streaks came in 2000 (ended nicely!) and 2007 (ended pretty good).

What made this loss even more disheartening is that the odds were in the Yankees favor entering Tuesday’s game:

  • They had won nine straight in the Bronx against the Angels, tied for the second-longest win streak vs. any opponent at the new Yankee Stadium, and the second-longest home win streak against the Angels in the history of the rivalry.
  • The Yankees were 24-8 vs. the Angels at the current Yankee Stadium, their best record against an American League team at the ballpark
  • They had the AL’s best home record (22-9), and led the league in runs per game, batting average, home runs per game and pretty much every offensive statistic at home.

But then Tyler Clippard torched whatever good vibes the Yankees had built up, and the Yankees were losers, again. He entered with the game tied in the seventh – faced four batters, allowed three extra-base hits and three runs, got one long flyout — and exited to a chorus of boos.

Clippard was tagged with his fourth loss of the season, and only Masahiro Tanaka had more among Yankee pitchers after Tuesday’s disaster. Even worse, he suffered his 10th meltdown of the season, the most among AL pitchers through Tuesday. And his slugging percentage allowed in high-leverage situations increased to .737, per baseball-reference.com. Yeah, and Aaron Judge is “only” slugging .702 this season.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Back to business
Our long Bronx nightmare finally came to an end on Wednesday night as the Yankees snapped their seven-game losing streak with a 8-4 win over the Angels.

They avoided what would have been their first eight-game slide since 1995. If you think that’s a long drought … you’d be correct! Every other major-league franchise has suffered at least three losing streaks of eight-or-more games since the start of the 1996 season. And the Yankees have zero.

Jordan Montgomery delivered yet another impressive and gutsy performance (two runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings), and it was his curveball that really stood out as a legit weapon for him against the Angels.

He threw 32 curves, per Brooksbaseball.net, and the Angels were 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in at-bats that ended with a curveball. Opponents are now hitting .155 against the pitch this season, the ninth-lowest average among starters (min. 200 curves). Montgomery also netted eight curveball whiffs on 14 swings (53.3%), increasing his swing-and-miss rate with the pitch to 42.7 percent, another top-10 mark for him among starters that have thrown at least 200 curves this season. Pretty good for a rookie, eh?

While Montgomery kept the Yankees in the game on the mound, the hero of the night at the plate was Matt Holliday, who broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning with a solo shot to right-center. It was a milestone hit for Holliday, too, his 1,200th career RBI.

This lets us reflect on his all-around greatness – his ability to hit for power, drive in runs, get on base – among left-fielders, the position he played for much of 14-year career. He is one of just four players in major-league history that played at least two-thirds of their games in left, and accumulated at least 1,200 RBI, 300 homers, 450 doubles and 700 walks.

The others: Ted Williams, Luis Gonzalez and Barry Bonds.

Holliday wasn’t the only Yankee that entered the record books on Wednesday night – though Tyler Clippard did so in the ugliest way possible. He was inserted in the ninth inning for mop-up duty, and then immediately gave up a booming double to the first batter he faced, and a two-run homer to the next guy, before Joe Girardi mercifully pulled him from the game without getting an out.

Combined with his dreadful outing less than 24 hours earlier (see above), Clippard became the first pitcher in Yankee history to allow at least two earned runs and two extra-base hits in back-to-back appearances of one-third of an inning or fewer.

(AP)
(AP)

No lead is safe
Deja vu was the theme of Thursday night’s brutal loss as the Yankees once again found themselves in an early hole, then quickly rallied to take the lead, only to have the bullpen (and some sloppy defense) set fire to that mid-game optimism, resulting in another disgusting defeat.

It was their sixth loss this season when entering the seventh inning with a lead, matching the same number of losses they had in that situation as all of last year. They also got charged with their 13th blown save of the season, one shy of the Tigers for the most in the majors. At this point last year (game number 70), the Yankees had just four blown saves. And it was the third time this year they lost a game after leading by four or more runs. Yup, you guessed it, that’s the same number of such losses they suffered the entire 2016 season.

The difference on Thursday was that Dellin Betances hopped on the Struggle Bus, coughing up two runs on two hits (single and double). In his first 24 appearances of the season combined, he had surrendered only two runs (one earned) and had yet to give up an extra-base hit.

The night actually started on a high note when Aaron Judge crushed his 25th homer of the season in the second inning to straightaway center and deep into Monument Park, giving the Yankees a 5-1 cushion. It was his MLB-leading 15th longball with an exit velocity of at least 110 mph; last year’s leaders in 110-plus mph home runs (Nelson Cruz, Giancarlo Stanton) had 14 … for the entire season.

Of course, he’s not just obliterating the Statcast leaderboards, he’s making a mockery of the Yankee and major-league record books too.

  • His 25 homers are just four shy of the Yankee rookie record set by Joe DiMaggio in 1936.
  • He’s just the fifth Yankee age 25 or younger to hit 25-or-more homers before the All-Star break (since the game was first played in 1933). The others you might have heard of: Mickey Mantle (1956) and Roger Maris (1960).
  • Judge is the second Yankee right-handed batter to reach 25 home runs before the All-Star break, joining a fella named Alex Rodriguez in 2007

And, finally, Judge is the only MLB rookie outfielder ever to hit at least 25 homers before the All-Star break. #AllRise

Yankeemetrics: West Coast nightmare (June 12-14)

(Getty)
(Getty)

No pizza but still a win
The Yankees headed out west for the first time this season, but the story remained mostly the same on Monday night: another win and another legend-boosting performance by Mr. Judge.

This victory, however, was different from others in the past couple weeks because of the fact that John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman didn’t get to mention the beloved Papa John’s promotion. In case you’re not familiar with the popular deal: the day after the Yankees score six or more runs, customers get 50 percent off the regular menu price of all pizzas at Papa John’s online.

The Yankees scored ‘only’ five runs on Monday night, but that was still enough for the win because of another anomaly: Masahiro Tanaka did not get pummeled! Though he did cough up a solo homer to the second batter of the game, he settled down after that, retiring 13 straight at one point while pitching into the seventh inning.

One of the biggest keys for Tanaka was getting ahead in the count, throwing a first-pitch strike to a season-high 77.8 percent of the batters he faced. Because he was consistently in control of at-bats, he was then able to efficiently finish off batters when getting to two strikes, as the Angels went 0-for-11 in two-strike counts with eight strikeouts.

Okay, so back to the part of this game that was normal – Aaron Judge destroying baseballs. With the game tied in the eighth inning and a man on second, Judge drilled a 2-0 cutter from Bud Norris over the fences for a 5-3 lead. Sorry Buddy, this is not the best location for a pitch when facing a 6’7, 280-pound baseball cyborg:

aaron-judge

I wouldn’t be surprised if Judge was literally smiling as he extended his arms and pummeled this pitch into the right-centerfield seats. It was right in his power-happy zone, as he was slugging 1.182 in that part of the strikezone after Monday’s game.

judge

It was his first career go-ahead home run in the eighth inning or later … and hopefully the first of many more to come.

Judge wouldn’t have been the hero, though, without another standout performance from Didi Gregorius. He went 4-for-4 and kept the Yankees in the game with game-tying and go-ahead RBI singles in the third and fifth innings. Didi was the second Yankee shortstop ever with a four-hit, multi-RBI game against the Angels. The other guy to do it was … of course, Derek Jeter on Sept. 5, 1999 at Angel Stadium.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Clipp’d
The Yankees six-game win streak was snapped on Tuesday in one of the more frustrating losses of this season, as they lost in the 11th inning after failing to cash in on key scoring chances throughout the night. It was also a rare type of loss for a couple reasons:

  • Before Tuesday, the Yankees were one of just two teams that hadn’t yet suffered a walk-off loss – the Marlins are now on the clock as the only team left on that list.
  • The Yankees were 33-0 when leading at the start of the eighth inning, one of four major-league teams without a loss in that scenario entering Tuesday’s slate. The others: Rockies (33-0), Red Sox (26-0) and White Sox (23-0).

Tyler Clippard was the game’s biggest goat – according to Twitter, at least – as he surrendered that game-tying homer and was tagged for his fourth blown save of the season in his 29th appearance. Through Tuesday, the only pitchers in the majors with more blown saves were Tony Watson and Francisco Rodriguez (both with 5).

Fangraphs tracks a stat called Meltdowns, which answers the simple question of whether a reliever hurt his team’s chance of winning, based on changes in win probability during the pitcher’s outing. (To be more specific, he gets a Meltdown if the game’s win probability declines by at least six percent from when he enters and then exits the game.) Clippard has eight Meltdowns this season, tied for the most among American League pitchers and fourth-most in MLB.

Clippard has a shiny 2.00 ERA and .158 batting average allowed, but he’s been horrible in critical at-bats this season. He’s allowed a .304/.375/.682 line in high-leverage plate appearances – that equals a .436 wOBA, which ranked seventh-highest among pitchers that have faced at least 25 batters in those situations. For reference, Aaron Judge had a .476 wOBA through Tuesday.

As if the game wasn’t depressing enough from a standard win-loss perspective, there’s also the fact that CC Sabathia suffered a hamstring injury in the fourth inning. He had won his last five starts, with a 0.99 ERA dating back to May 16 at Kansas City. During that month-long span (May 16 to June 13), a total of 161 pitchers threw at least 15 innings; Robbie Ray (0.24) and Sabathia (0.99) were the only ones to post a sub-1.00 ERA.

(AP)
(AP)

Welcome back, Tiny Mike
This annual road trip to Southern California has been a devastating one for this franchise, even in the best of times. After dropping the rubber game on Wednesday, the Yankees continued their run of futility in Los Angeles (or Anaheim, whatever). The Yankees fell to 45-58 at Angel Stadium in the Wild Card Era, their worst record at any AL ballpark in that span.

It looked like they might reverse that trend after taking a 4-0 lead in the top of the first, capped by Gary Sanchez‘s booming 441-foot three-run homer. It was the Yankees 11th home run of at least 440 feet this season, the most in the majors.

And here’s a stat that pretty much sums up the 2017 Yankees: Sanchez’s longball was also the 35th hit by a Yankee in his age-25 season or younger; in the five-year period from 2010-2014, there were 21 homers hit by Yankees in their age-25 season or younger … COMBINED.

Unfortunately that early offensive explosion was quickly rendered meaningless as #BadMike returned with vengeance. He soon turned that 4-0 advantage into a 5-4 deficit by the end of the third inning. Pineda ended up pitching six innings and gave up five runs on 10 hits, further widening his Jeykyll-and-Hyde home/road splits this season:

He is now 1-5 with a 6.25 ERA in six road starts, compared to 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA in seven home starts. That difference of 4.3 runs is the ninth-largest among the 100-plus pitchers that have made at least five starts at home and five starts on the road.

Yankeemetrics: And the kids shall lead them [Aug. 19-21]

(AP)
(AP)

Torre-yes?!
The rookies continued to shine, while the underrated ace delivered yet another gem, and the Yankees opened their final West Coast trip of the season with a strong 7-0 win over the Angels on Friday night.

Gary Sanchez’s record-breaking feats have become commonplace since his call-up a few weeks ago, and Friday night’s superb 3-for-4, two-double performance was no exception. Through Friday, 10 of Sanchez’s 21 hits as a major-leaguer had been for extra-bases, putting him in elite company at this point in his career.

The last Yankee to compile 10 or more extra-base hits within his first 16 MLB games was a fella by the name of Joe DiMaggio, who went 30-for-73 (.411) and had 10 doubles, a triple and two homers in the first 16 games he played as a rookie in 1936.

Sanchez had an unlikely Baby Bomber co-star, with the diminutive Ronald Torreyes contributing a 4-for-4 night. He had a double and a homer in his first two at-bats, matching the number of extra-base hits he had in his previous 72 at-bats, dating back to the third game of the season he played on April 13.

It was also a most unlikely performance from a guy hitting at the bottom of the order. The only other non-pitcher in franchise history to have at least four hits, three runs scored and two RBI in a game from the No. 9 spot was Juan Rivera on Sept. 27, 2003 against the Orioles.

Masahiro Tanaka dominated the Angels lineup, surrendering just five singles over 7 ? scoreless innings while striking out nine with no walks. It was his third straight game with at least eight strikeouts and no walks, the first Yankee pitcher since at least 1913 to put together a streak like that.

His effective mix of low-90s fastballs, nasty sliders and darting splitters was key in helping the Yankees stop their mini-two-game slide heading into this series. Tanaka is now 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA in 11 starts following a Yankee loss, and the Yankees are 9-2 in those games.

Through Friday’s slate, 167 major-league pitchers had made at least five starts after a team loss this season. Tanaka’s 1.85 ERA ranks first among that group.

(AP)
(AP)

Cessa makes strong first impression
The Angels — and Angel Stadium — had become somewhat of a kryptonite for the Yankees over the past decade. From 2005-15, the Angels were the only AL team that the Yankees had a losing record against (45-49) , and their 16-30 record in Anaheim was easily their worst at any AL ballpark in that span.

The script has been flipped in 2016, though, as the Yankee improved to 6-0 against the Angels in 2016 following Saturday’s 5-1 win. With only one game remaining in the season series, they clinched their best single-season winning percentage in franchise history against the Angels. The previous high-water mark was a 10-2 (.833) record in 1980.

The youngsters led the way again with Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez combining to drive in three of the five runs and Luis Cessa pitching brilliantly in his first major-league start.

Sanchez opened the scoring with a two-out solo homer in the first inning, his sixth time going deep in the majors. The only other Yankee to hit six homers within his first 17 career games was Shelley Duncan (2007).

Judge’s two-RBI single in the sixth inning gave the Yankees a nice 5-0 cushion, continuing his success in key situations so far in his brief big-league career. It’s a very small sample size, but so far Judge hasn’t been fazed by the pressure: he’s 5-for-13 (.385) with men on base, 3-for-6 (.500) with runners in scoring position, and 6-for-12 (.500) in medium/high-leverage at-bats.

Cessa became the latest Yankee newcomer to take a turn as the star performer, tossing six-plus scoreless innings with three hits allowed and five strikeouts. He is just the second Yankee in the last two decades to pitch at least six scoreless innings and win in his first career start, joining Jose Contreras in 2003.

The elusive third win
After outscoring the Angels 12-1 in dominating the first two games of this series, the Yankee bats went limp in the finale on Sunday afternoon, getting blanked 2-0. Amazingly, the Yankees have yet to sweep a three-game set this season (although they do own a pair of four-game sweeps).

ellsbury catch
(AP)

The loss snapped a seven-game win streak over the Angels dating back to last season, which was tied for their longest win streak in the history of this series (they also won seven in a row spanning the 1980-81 seasons).

The Yankees wasted a strong performance by rookie Chad Green, who took the loss despite throwing six innings of one-run ball. He is the only Yankee starter ever to lose a game against the Angels while allowing no more than one run and five baserunners. In fact, no Yankee had done that against any team in nearly two years (Michael Pineda on Sept. 5, 2014 vs. Royals).

The Yankees miserable trend of failing to hit in the clutch continued as they went 1-for-7 with men in scoring position. They are now batting .228 with RISP this season, which would be their worst mark since 1969 (.224).

Yankeemetrics: Welcome back to .500 [June 6-9]

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Call it a comeback
For the first two-thirds of Monday’s series opener against the Angels, it looked like the game would follow a familiar script: yet another strong effort by the starting pitcher wasted because of a lack of run support …

… And then suddenly everything changed in the span of three pitches. Brian McCann and Starlin Castro hit back-to-back homers in the seventh inning, tying the game at 2-2. Carlos Beltran capped the comeback with a three-run shot in the eighth inning that gave the Yankees one of their most stirring wins of the season.

Beltran flashed rare opposite field power with that blast. It was his 67th homer as a right-handed batter over the last 10 seasons, but just the third time in that span that he’s sent the ball over the right field fence.

Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best stuff but he grinded through seven innings and held the Angels to two runs. It was his 10th start allowing two earned runs or fewer this season, the most among AL pitchers through Monday. The last Yankee to post double-digit starts with two earned runs or fewer allowed — this early into the season (57th team game) — was Ron Guidry during his Cy Young-winning campaign of 1978.

Carlos in charge
It is a question that has been asked many times this season: Where would the Yankees be without Carlos Beltran in the middle of their lineup? They most definitely would not have two wins in the first two games of this series.

For the second night in a row, Beltran hit a game-changing homer to help the Yankees beat the Angels, and this one was most notable because it was also his 1,000th career extra-base hit. We know that Beltran in his prime possessed that rare combo of power, patience and speed. And there’s proof in the numbers, too:

Beltran is just the seventh player in major-league history to compile at least 1,000 extra-base hits, 1,000 walks and 300 stolen bases. The others on that list are Willie Mays, Ty Cobb, Alex Rodriguez, Barry Bonds, Tris Speaker and Craig Biggio.

Two weeks ago, Michael Pineda‘s spot in the rotation was seemingly in jeopardy. But after Tuesday’s promising seven-inning, three-run performance, there is a glimmer of hope that maybe he’s finally turned the corner.

Thanks to a lower arm slot that has added depth to his slider, Pineda has a 61 percent whiffs-per-swing rate on the pitch in his two June starts (up from 42 percent in April and May), and has given up just three singles – while netting 10 strikeouts – among the 71 sliders he’s thrown this month.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

C-Parm, the newest True Yankee®
The Angels were once the Yankees’ kryptonite — the were the only American League team that had a winning record against them during the Joe Torre era — but since then have become their punching bag, especially in the Bronx.

With Tuesday’s win, the Yankees improved to 23-8 against the Angels at the new Yankee Stadium, their best record against any AL squad at the ballpark.

The Yankees also continued to beat up on the Angels pitching staff on Wednesday night, belting out nine extra-base hits and 17 hits overall en route to a 12-6 win.

The nine extra-base hits tied the most they’ve ever hit against the Angels (also in 1997), and was the Yankees most in a home game against any team in nearly five years. That last happened in the second game of a doubleheader against the Orioles on July 30, 2011, a 17-3 rout that included six doubles, a triple and two homers.

Chris Parmelee, making his first start in pinstripes, wasted no time in getting started on his campaign for a plaque in Monument Park. He went 3-for-5, hitting two homers and a double, while driving in three runs.

In the last 100 seasons, the only other player to hit at least two homers in his first start with the Yankees was Roger Maris. Acquired from the Royals in December 1959, Maris had four hits — two homers, a double and a single — and four RBIs in a 8-4 win over the Red Sox on Opening Day in 1960.

Broom, broom
Remember when the Yankees couldn’t even win three games in a row? With their 6-3 victory on Thursday night, they now have two four-game sweeps on their ledger this season. Amazing facts, I tell ya.

This was their first four-game sweep of the Angels since July 21-24, 1994, and the victory was also their ninth in a row against them in the Bronx. That’s the Yankees second-longest home win streak in this rivalry, behind only an 11-gamer spanning the 1961-62 seasons.

Something that is not shocking … Carlos Beltran was once again in the middle of another Yankees offensive outburst. His tie-breaking RBI double in the fifth inning was his fourth go-ahead hit in this series, and team-leading 15th go-ahead RBI of the season — nearly twice as many as any other Yankee has in 2016 (Starlin Castro and A-Rod are second with eight).

He’s also now driven in at least two runs in each of his last four games, matching the longest multi-RBI streak of his career, a mark he set in the 2006 season with the Mets. The last Yankee with two-or-more RBIs in four straight games was Mark Teixeira in 2010.

Angels claim Ronald Torreyes off waivers from Yankees

(Darin Wallentine/Getty)
(Darin Wallentine/Getty)

Earlier today, the Angels announced they have claimed infielder Ronald Torreyes off waivers from the Yankees. Torreyes was designated for assignment ten days ago when the Yankees claimed outfielder Lane Adams from the Royals, so one way or another his situation was going to be resolved today. His ten days in DFA limbo were up.

Torreyes, 23, came over from the Dodgers with lefty Tyler Olson in a very minor trade two weeks ago. He hit .262/.310/.348 (82 wRC+) in 464 plate appearances split between Double-A and Triple-A last season — Torreyes did appear in eight games with Los Angeles last September — but is a year removed from a .298/.345/.376 (90 wRC+) line in 519 Triple-A plate appearances.

I was irrationally excited about Torreyes because of his contact skills (8.2 K% in 2015), his versatility (can play all over the infield plus left field), and his high-energy style of play. He’s not a huge prospect or anything but Torreyes seemed like someone who had a chance to provide some utility off the bench, even as an up and down guy.

That said, Torreyes is now on his fifth organization since May 2015 (Astros, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Yankees, Angels) which suggests there’s really not much there to be excited about. I do think it’s kinda interesting he wound up with the Angels. Maybe the Yankees had longstanding interest in Torreyes that Billy Eppler took with him to Anaheim.

Assessing possible trade partners for Brett Gardner

(Elsa/Getty
(Elsa/Getty

Things have slowed down of late, but Brett Gardner has been a popular name on the trade rumor circuit this offseason. He’s one of the few Yankee veterans with positive trade value, so it’s not a surprise the team is at least listening to offers as they aim to get younger. The Mariners and Cubs both checked in, possibly the Indians as well.

“I think it’d be more likely that we keep them than move them,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch at the Winter Meetings, referring to Gardner and Andrew Miller. “I say that recognizing that if somebody wants to ring a bell that I’ve put out there, then that could happen as early as tomorrow. But if I’m predicting anything, I’d predict that they would be here, not somewhere else.”

It’s easy to say clubs looking for outfield help can simply turn to the free agent market, where quality players like Adam Gordon and Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton remain unsigned, but not every team can afford them. Gardner is owed $37.5M over the next three years. That might buy you a year and a half of Cespedes or Upton. Gardner also has the advantage of being a legitimate center fielder.

I don’t necessarily want the Yankees to move Gardner, but there are reasons to do so. There are still plenty of teams that need outfield help at this point of the offseason. Some teams are more realistic candidates than others — for example, no rebuilding club wants Gardner, so it’s contenders only — especially if the Yankees stick to their demand of a young starter under control beyond 2017. Let’s run down the possible suitors.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Outfielders? A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Yasmany Tomas.
Young Starters? Robbie Ray and Chase Anderson. I assume Archie Bradley is off-limits.
Cash? Lots, apparently. Their massive new television deal just kicked in, as Zack Greinke found out.

The D’Backs had enough outfield depth to include Ender Inciarte in the Shelby Miller trade, and it stands to reason they’re committed to Tomas after giving him $68.5M last offseason. If so, they’re not a fit for Gardner. Pollock and Peralta aren’t going anywhere. They’re way too good. Arizona may have a young starter to spare and chances are they can afford Gardner, but the outfield is currently too crowded. A Fit? No.

Baltimore Orioles
Outfielders? Adam Jones, Hyun-Soo Kim, and, uh, Nolan Reimold? Egads.
Young Starters? Outside of Kevin Gausman, no one worthwhile.
Cash? Yeah. They just offered Chris Davis $150M or so.

Man, is Gardner not a perfect fit for the O’s? He gives them a solid left fielder and leadoff hitter, allowing them to put Manny Machado in the middle of the lineup. Gardner’s also affordable, he knows the ballpark, knows the division, and his lefty bat would help balance their righty heavy lineup. It’s such a great fit.

Of course, Orioles owner Peter Angelos would sooner play with a 24-man roster than make a significant trade with the Yankees. He had a contentious relationship with George Steinbrenner and he still holds the grudge to this day. Never say never, but it’s hard to see Angelos signing off on a significant trade with New York. That they lack a suitable non-Gausman young starter to send back also complicates things. A Fit? No.

Heyward. (David Banks/Getty)
Heyward. (David Banks/Getty)

Chicago Cubs
Outfielders? Jason Heyward and Jorge Soler. Kyle Schwarber plays an outfielder on TV.
Young Starters? Adam Warren! But seriously folks, no.
Cash? Oh indeed.

The Cubbies are no longer up-and-coming. They’re all-in. That much is clear. Right now the plan is to play Heyward in center field with Soler and Schwarber in the corners, though there’s talk they may move Soler for a young starter, which would push Heyward to right and free up center. Gardner would fill that center field hole perfectly. The problem? The Cubbies don’t have a young starter to send back to New York. That’s why they signed John Lackey and are open to flipping Soler for an arm. I mean, I guess Kyle Hendricks counts, but I’m not a fan. A Fit? Maybe.

Cleveland Indians
Outfielders?
Michael Brantley will be out until May following shoulder surgery, leaving only Rajai Davis, Abe Almonte, Collin Cowgill, and Lonnie Chisenhall. (Chisenhall’s an outfielder now.)
Young Starters? Plenty. Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar would be ideal, Cody Anderson or Josh Tomlin are more likely.
Cash? Unlikely. Payroll has hovered around $85M for a few years now, and they have $64.5M on the books plus another $15.1M in projected arbitration salaries.

The payroll situation is a significant obstacle. The Yankees could always eat salary to facilitate a trade, but I can’t imagine they’d pay Gardner to play for another team, especially another AL contender. The Indians just went on a mini-spending spree (Davis, Mike Napoli) and the front office indicated they won’t be spending any more money. The Yankees have an outfielder to spare and the Indians appear to have a starter to spare. The finances are messing things up. A Fit? Maybe.

Detroit Tigers
Outfielders? Anthony Gose, Cameron Maybin, J.D. Martinez.
Young Starters? I assume Daniel Norris is off-limits, leaving Shane Greene and Matt Boyd.
Cash? For shizzle.

The Tigers are going for it next season. They’ve added Maybin, Justin Wilson, Jordan Zimmermann, and Francisco Rodriguez so far this offseason. There’s an obvious opening in left field — Gose and Maybin would platoon in center, ideally — and Gardner would fill that spot well. He plays strong defense for spacious Comerica Park and gives them a nice leadoff option.

As for the young starters Detroit has to offer … eh. Boyd is an extreme fly ball guy who is as generic as generic lefties get. Greene? I know more than a few people out there would be cool with the idea of bringing him back, except I’m sure no one would think that if he wasn’t an ex-Yankee. If Greene came up and debuted with any team other than the Yankees, no one would love the idea of acquiring him after the season he just had. A Fit? Maybe.

Kansas City Royals
Outfielders? Lorenzo Cain is currently flanked by Jarrod Dyson and Paulo Orlando. Yeah.
Young Starters? Yordano Ventura is presumably off-limits. Danny Duffy might not be. That’s it.
Cash? Seems likely. They had a $113M payroll last year and are currently at $108M for 2016, including arbitration projections. They just won the World Series and I assume payroll will increase. Payroll increased $10M following their 2014 postseason run, after all.

The Royals have a clear need for outfield help. They wisely let the unproductive Alex Rios walk as a free agent and will likely lose Alex Gordon to a club with a larger payroll. GM Dayton Moore has said they’re willing to give Dyson a chance as a starting outfielder, but Orlando? He was a nice story as a 29-year-old rookie in 2015, but he didn’t hit at all. Starting him should be a non-option.

Assuming the money works out, the only really issue is finding a suitable return. Duffy is interesting, though the Yankees are looking for guys they can control beyond 2017, and he doesn’t fit. He’ll be a free agent after 2017. That’s pretty much all the young pitching the Royals have to offer. They’re been scouring the market for an extra arm this offseason just like New York. A Fit? Maybe.

Los Angeles Angels
Outfielders? Woo Mike Trout! Kole Calhoun’s good too. Then there’s Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry.
Young Starters? Andrew Heaney ain’t happening. Nick Tropeano and the not-so-young Matt Shoemaker might.
Cash? Indubitably.

GM Billy Eppler told reporters he’s ready to roll with the Nava/Gentry platoon in left field, which sounds so unappealing. That would have been a good idea from, like, 2012-13. In 2015? Nah. The Angels also could use a left-handed bat to balance their lineup. Gardner would slot right in as the leadoff hitter and allow them to use Calhoun in a run-producing spot.

Furthermore, the Angels have some young pitching to offer, specifically Tropeano. I wrote about him in last week’s mailbag. Heaney would be ideal but it’s just not going to happen. It’s not realistic. The Gardner for Tropeano framework could make sense for both clubs. Eppler and Cashman certainly have a good relationship, which could help expedite things. A Fit? Yes.

St. Louis Cardinals
Outfielders? Matt Holliday, Stephen Piscotty, Randal Grichuk, Tommy Pham.
Young Starters? Yes. Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha ain’t happening. Think Tyler Lyons, Tim Cooney, or maybe personal fave Marco Gonzales instead.
Cash? Yeah. They offered Heyward $200M and David Price $180M, reportedly.

Gonzales. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)
Gonzales. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)

This has been a tough offseason for the Cardinals. By bWAR, they lost their best pitcher (John Lackey) and position player (Heyward) to the rival Cubs. They made runs at Price and Heyward but fell short. Yesterday they added Mike Leake, who will probably end up throwing 230 innings with a sub-3.00 ERA in 2015 because of Cardinals Devil Magic™.

Even with all those outfield bodies, the Cardinals lack a true center fielder. Grichuk is the center fielder by default and he’s no better than average out there. Gardner would give them a real center fielder and allow Matt Carpenter to move into a run-producing lineup spot — did you know Carpenter hit 28 homers in 2015 after hitting 25 total from 2011-14? Like I said, Cardinals Devil Magic™ — plus they have some young arms to spare. Gardner for Cooney or Gonzales could be a thing. A Fit? Yes.

San Francisco Giants
Outfielders? Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco.
Young Starters? No. That’s why they had to sign Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija.
Cash? Yes. They had a $173.2M payroll in 2015 and are currently at $160M right now, counting arbitration projections.

The Giants do have some young outfielders they could try in left field, specifically Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, but I can’t imagine they’d commit $220M to Cueto and Samardzija only to cheap out on the outfield. Pagan is declining and has missed a lot of time to injuries in recent years. They can’t count on him to contribute much.

Gardner fits their roster perfectly as the everyday left fielder, part-time center fielder, and leadoff hitter. They can also afford his salary, it appears. (They’re shedding Pagan’s contract next offseason too.) They just don’t have any young pitching to offer, and no, Chris Heston doesn’t count. I explained why in last week’s mailbag. The Giants didn’t sign Cueto and Samardzija because they had nothing better to do. They needed pitching in a big way. A Fit? Maybe.

Washington Nationals
Outfielders? Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Michael Taylor.
Young Starters? A few. Joe Ross and A.J. Cole are the most notable.
Cash? Yep. They reportedly offered Heyward $200M.

The Nationals are in a weird place. They had a very disappointing 2015 season, then lost several key players to free agency, yet they’re still in position to contend in 2016. Harper, Anthony Rendon, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Max Scherzer is a pretty strong core. They do need help though, especially with Werth and Ryan Zimmerman showing their age.

Gardner would step in to replace Denard Span as the center fielder and leadoff hitter, two obvious needs for Washington. The Nationals also have some young pitching to offer — Ross and Cole are the most notable (here’s my Scouting The Market post on Ross), but I guess Tanner Roark counts too — money to spend and incentive to win. Last year’s performance was embarrassing and they want to turn things around in a hurry. These two teams seem to match up awfully well for a trade. Whether they can agree to the particulars is another matter, but the puzzle pieces fit. A Fit? Yes.

* * *

So after all of that, I count three yeses (Angels, Cardinals, Nationals), two nos (D’Backs, Orioles), and five maybes (Cubs, Indians, Tigers, Royals, Giants). In the case of the Cubs, I think it’s worth noting Cashman and Theo Epstein are both pretty smart dudes with a willingness to be creative, so I wouldn’t rule out a three-team trade that sends Gardner to the Cubs and a young pitcher from the third team to the Yankees.

For now, it appears there are several possible suitors for Gardner, though I’m not really sure whether time is on the Yankees’ side. On one hand, if they hang onto him until after the top free agent outfielders sign, teams won’t have anywhere else to turn for outfield help. On the other hand, once the top free agents are off the board, there might not be any teams looking for outfield help. Quite the pickle, that is. The Yankees say they’re not shopping Gardner, but my guess is they would move him quickly if the right offer comes along. These ten teams stood out as the best possible suitors.

2015 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Tuesday

(Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Fernandez. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

As far as the Yankees are concerned, yesterday was the slowest Winter Meetings day I can remember. Very few rumors came out of Nashville and those that did mostly involved stuff we’ve already heard, like Brett Gardner and Andrew Miller being available. It was a boring day, to say the least.

“Clearly, I’m not comfortable with recommending anything that’s come my way, despite a lot of dialogue, and my opponents are not comfortable with the things I’m suggesting at this time,” said Brian Cashman to Bryan Hoch. With a reportedly tight payroll, the Yankees continue to focus on trades, not free agents.

Here are Monday’s rumors if you missed any of the little bit that happened. Once again, we’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here in this open thread, so make sure you check back often. All time stamps are ET.

  • 10:30am: The Yankees are among the teams “digging” on Jose Fernandez, meaning they’re asking around about his health, makeup, and work ethic. The Marlins understandably want five or six young players for their ace. Why ask for anything less? For what it’s worth, president of baseball operations Michael Hill said flatly “He’s not available.” [Jayson Stark, Jon Heyman, Clark Spencer]
  • 10:30am: The Yankees have interest in Marlins outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Miami has liked Bryan Mitchell as a starter and Adam Warren as a reliever in the past, which seems backwards, but whatever. It’s the Marlins. [George King]
  • 10:38am: The Yankees have reached out to free agent catcher Tyler Flowers, who was non-tendered by the White Sox last week. He’s deciding between the Yankees, Rays, and Braves. I wrote about Flowers in last week’s mailbag. He seems like a Yankees type because he rated as an elite pitch-framer in 2015. Flowers is from Georgia and the Braves offer way more playing time potential, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he lands in Atlanta. [Bryan Hoch]
  • 12:03pm: Five teams, including the Reds, Orioles, and Angels, have their eye on Jake Cave for Thursday’s Rule 5 Draft. Cave seems like a goner. Whether he sticks on the 25-man roster all year is another matter. [Brendan Kuty]
  • 1:00pm: The Yankees are willing to include Luis Severino in a package for Jose Fernandez. The belief is the Yankees do not have enough to land Fernandez though, even if they include Greg Bird in the deal. [Joe Frisaro]
  • 1:32pm: The Yankees say Luis Severino is not going anywhere. He wasn’t in their offer for Jose Fernandez and there are no ongoing talks. Sounds like the Marlins are trying to get the Yankees to blink and include Severino in the package, more than anything. [Joel Sherman]
  • 5:50pm: The Yankees and Cubs have talked about a trade that would bring Starlin Castro to New York. No word on any other pieces that would be involved. Castro’s young and I guess that means he offers upside, but he’s also been among the worst players in baseball two of the last three years. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 6:08pm: Brett Gardner is not part of the current Starlin Castro talks with the Cubs. The Cubbies don’t want Jacoby Ellsbury either. Chicago is said to be working on all sorts of stuff — they’re after Ben Zobrist, discussing Javier Baez with the Braves and Rays, etc. — so this is part of some master plan for them. [Joel Sherman]
  • 6:14pm: Talks with the Cubs about Starlin Castro are in the early stages. The Yankees tend to keep things very close to the vest, annoyingly so at times (it’s boring!), so chances are this is coming from the Cubs’ side. [Jon Heyman]
  • 6:37pm: The Cubs have “been curious” about Adam Warren, whatever that means. Warren’s not a sexy name but he’s become incredibly valuable to the Yankees. I’m not sure Castro is enough of an upgrade at second base to move him. [Joel Sherman]
  • 7:51pm: The Yankees and Cubs are moving closer to a Starlin Castro trade. The Cubs just agreed to sign Ben Zobrist so it’s only a matter of time until Castro goes. [Buster Olney]

(Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.)