The Latest on Masahiro Tanaka

(Koji Watanabe/Getty)
(Koji Watanabe/Getty)

Today is the halfway point of Masahiro Tanaka‘s 30-day negotiating window. He has 15 days left to work out a contract before the 5pm ET deadline on January 24th, and the entire deal must be complete by that time. Tanaka needs to pass a physical and sign on the dotted line by then. There won’t be any of this “agree to a deal and three weeks later it’s official” nonsense. Only 15 days until he is on some team’s roster. Love the hard deadline.

Anyway, we know the Yankees have already contacted with Tanaka’s agent Casey Close, but there haven’t been any real updates since. That doesn’t mean talks have stalled or anything like that, just that no updates have leaked. The whole process has been very tight-lipped, it seems. I’m guessing that’s by design. Here are some Tanaka-related notes from around the league in what I suspect is the first of many update posts:

  • Tanaka flew to the Los Angeles yesterday to begin face-to-face meetings with teams. He is slated to meet with the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, and Angels this week and he will also be seen by a doctor to get the physical process going. [David Waldstein, Bill Plunkett & Jon Heyman]
  • D’Backs GM Kevin Towers said Close “pretty much asked those clubs that are involved that just less is better and not to really say anything or divulge the process or what’s happening.” That explains the lack of updates. [Steve Gilbert]
  • Dodgers GM Ned Colletti confirmed he has touched base with Tanaka’s camp but the two sides are in the “feeling out” stage. Negotiations with various clubs are “still in a very preliminary phase” and things might not heat up until next week. [Dylan Hernandez & Andy Martino]
  • If you missed it earlier this week, here is our massive Scouting The Market post on Tanaka. Pretty much everything you need to know about the guy is in there.

The Latest on Not A Yankee Robinson Cano

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Robinson Cano has a been a Not A Yankee for a little less than three weeks now, but his market has yet to really take shape. He had not received any offers from other clubs as of November 10th. That isn’t all that surprising, however. Things have been relatively quite for other top free agents like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo as well. The market for the big names usually starts to pick up during the Winter Meetings in early-December.

Until then, here is a roundup of the latest on Cano, courtesy of Ken Davidoff, George King, Andy Martino, Andrew Marchand, Andy McCullough, Wally Matthews, Tim Brown, and Joel Sherman.

  • Hal Steinbrenner confirmed the team will meet with Cano’s people sometime this week, but also indicated they will continue to talk to other players in case things drag on too long. “We haven’t really had any communication on any specifics yet, but it’s the beginning of the process,” said Hal.
  • Jay-Z and agents Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez met with Mets owner Jeff Wilpon, GM Sandy Alderson, and assistant GM John Ricco at a Manhattan hotel yesterday. They supposedly made a “Scott Boras-like” presentation. Cano’s camp initiated the meeting and it sounds like they’re trying to drum up some leverage. The Mets aren’t handing out the type of contract it will take to sign Cano, especially under the risk-averse Alderson.
  • “[Jay-Z is] going to be intimately involved in all areas, and that has been true for the last six months” said Van Wagenen recently. “Jay is a very, very successful businessman, who has a keen understanding of value, a keen understanding of brands, and a keen understand of what this player, Robinson Cano, wants to accomplish in his career. He’s been at the table both in strategy sessions and in preparation. And he absolutely has, and will continue to be, involved in the actual negotiations with potential suitors.”
  • Cano’s camp has not yet budged off their ten-year, $305M request, but Randy Levine ain’t havin’ any of that. “We want Robbie back — we think Robbie is terrific — but we have no interest in doing any ten-year deals and no interest in paying $300M to any player. Until he gets a little more realistic, we have nothing to talk about,” said the team president.
  • The Dodgers still insist they will not get involved in the bidding for Cano. We first heard that a few weeks ago. Los Angeles seems like an obvious fit for Robbie given their huge wallet and second base vacancy, but they appear to be saving the majority of their cash for the inevitable Clayton Kershaw extension. Maybe they’ll circle back if they have some extra cash once that is taken care of.
  • Just in case you were wondering, the Marlins will not be in on Cano this winter. Shocking, I know. “We have to know our market and our payroll and our history, and our history is to build around young players and add pieces when it has become very clear that we are ready to win,” said GM Dan Jennings.

Feinsand: Dodgers will not pursue Robinson Cano

Via Mark Feinsand: The Dodgers do not have interest in Robinson Cano and will not pursue him when he becomes a free agent after the season. “They’re not interested in Cano,” said Feinsand’s source flatly. Los Angeles already has a ton of money on the books in future years and must still sign Clayton Kershaw to what figures to be the richest pitching contract in history.

Cano, 30, was recently rumored to be seeking a ten-year contract worth $305M, but that’s just the big scary number every prominent free agent floats before the offseason. No one is paying him that much. The Yankees have reportedly offered a very fair seven years and $161M. The Dodgers are an obvious suitor for Cano given their need at second base and boatload of cash, so I have a hard time believing they’re not truly interested. Even if they aren’t, it would make sense to get involved just to drive up the price. The Nationals, Tigers, Mariners, Blue Jays, and heck, maybe even the Mets, could get involved.

7/30-7/31 Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

For the second time this season, baseball’s two biggest payrolls will meet for a quick little two-game set. The Yankees and Dodgers split two games in the Bronx back in May, and now the series moves out west. It was much more fun when Don Mattingly returned to Yankee Stadium, that’s for sure.

What Have They Done Lately?
If the Rays are the hottest team in baseball, the Dodgers are the hottest team in the NL. They’ve won nine of ten games since the All-Star break and 26 of their last 32 games overall. At 56-48 with a +9 run differential, Los Angeles has a nice 2.5-game lead in the NL West.

With an average of 4.0 runs per game and a team 104 wRC+, the Dodgers are a below-average run scoring team and an above-average offensive team. Does that make sense? They hit well but don’t score as many runs as you’d expect. They have some timing issues, evidence by their 85 wRC+ with runners in scoring position. OF Matt Kemp (95 wRC+) is on the DL with an ankle issue and won’t return this series.

Hanley. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Hanley. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

The top of manager Don Mattingly’s lineup is where all the fun happens. OF Carl Crawford (117 wRC+) leads off, and he is expected to return to the lineup tonight after being under the weather for a few days. OF Yasiel Puig (185 wRC+) bats second, 1B Adrian Gonzalez (130 wRC+) bats third, and the molten hot SS Hanley Ramirez (210 wRC+) cleans up. He’s been unbelievable after missing the start of the year with thumb and hamstring problems.

OF Andre Ethier (107 wRC+) and the underrated C A.J. Ellis (109 wRC+) provide some nice lineup help from the five and six spots. 3B Juan Uribe (104 wRC+) and 2B Mark Ellis (92 wRC+) round out the rest of the regulars. On the bench, Mattingly has C Tim Federowicz (61 wRC+), UTIL Jerry Hairston Jr. (87 wRC+), UTIL Elian Herrera (38 wRC+ in limited time), and OF Skip Schumaker (96 wRC+). They lack that big power bat for key pinch-hitting spots.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: LHP Andy Pettitte vs. RHP Zack Greinke
Two games against the Dodgers, two former Cy Young Award winners on the mound. Such is life. Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy winner, has a 3.49 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 16 starts this year, including strong walk (2.85 BB/9 and 7.6 BB%) and homer (0.83 HR/9 and 10.2% HR/FB) rates. The 29-year-old’s strikeout (6.89 K/9 and 18.4 K%) and ground ball (44.3%) numbers leave something to be desired though, especially for a guy who signed for close to $150M. Greinke is a true six-pitch pitcher, using three fastballs (low-90s two-seamer, low-90s four-seamer, upper-80s cutter) to set up his three offspeed pitches (mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, mid-70s curveball). The curve and changeup see more time than the slider. Believe it or not, the Yankees have faced Greinke just once in the last five years. They punished him for seven runs in two innings back in 2011.

Kershaw. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
Kershaw. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Clayton Kershaw
For my money, Kershaw is the best pitcher in the world. The he 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner brings a 1.96 ERA (2.50 FIP) into this start, not to mention a gaudy strikeout rate (8.76 K/9 and 25.5 K%), a gaudier walk rate (1.96 BB/9 and 5.7 BB%), an excellent homer rate (0.51 HR/9 and 6.5% HR/FB), and a decent ground ball rate (45.2%). He’s a stud. The 25-year-old (!) Kershaw is basically a three-pitch pitcher, using a low-to-mid-90s fastball, a wipeout mid-80s slider, and a hammer mid-70s curve. All three are legit swing-and-miss pitches. He’ll also throw the rare mid-80s changeup. He’s ridiculous. Kershaw has actually pitched against the Yankees once before, holding them to two runs in seven innings back in 2010. You might remember him breaking a bone in Brett Gardner‘s wrist with a pitch in that game. That was before Kershaw made the leap from promising youngster to dominant ace.

Paco. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Paco. (Petersen/Getty)

Bullpen Status
After a few rocky weeks in May and June, Mattingly’s bullpen has fallen into place in recently. RHP Kenley Jansen (2.22 FIP) has replaced RHP Brandon League (4.80 FIP) as closer, and the team recently added RHP Carlos Marmol (9.42 FIP) as well. That’s three Proven Closers™, but only one is actually above-average. The other two see mostly low and medium-leverage situations.

LHP Paco Rodriguez (1.07 FIP vs. LHB), a 2012 draft pick, is already a shutdown lefty specialist. LHP J.P. Howell (2.65 FIP) is another strong matchup guy, and the Yankees are familiar with him from his days with the Rays. RHP Ronald Belisario (3.55 FIP) is the guy who did this, and he rounds out the bullpen alongside RHP Chris Withrow (3.31 FIP in limited time). Outside of the lefties, there are some seriously hard throwers in this ‘pen.

Both the Yankees and the Dodgers were off on Monday, so their bullpens are as rested as can be this time of year. Check out our Bullpen Workload page to see who pitched when, then check out Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness and True Blue LA for the latest and greatest on the Dodgers. They’re two of my very favorite team-specific sites on the web.

6/18-6/19 Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Donnie Baseball is back in the Bronx for the first time since 2007. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Donnie Baseball is back in the Bronx for the first time since 2007. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

It has been more than 30 years since the Dodgers last played in the Bronx, not since the deciding Game Six of the 1981 World Series. They have never come to the Yankee Stadium as part of interleague play, at least not until today. The Yankees and Dodgers will play a quick little two-game series that features two highest-priced rosters in baseball. There’s also a neat nostalgic element that, like many of you, I am too young to fully appreciate.

What Have They Done Lately?
The Dodgers are not very good despite their recent spending spree. They lost two of three to the Pirates this weekend and have lost six of their last eight games overall. At 29-39 with a -49 run differential, Los Angeles sits in last place in the NL West with seventh worst record in baseball.

With a team 94 wRC+ and an average of 3.5 runs per game, the Dodgers are a below-average offensive club. It doesn’t help that CF Matt Kemp (78 wRC+) is a shell of his former self following offseason left (front) shoulder surgery. He’s currently on the DL with a hamstring problem. LF Carl Crawford (133 wRC+) was having a big bounceback year before hitting the DL with a hamstring issue. OF Scott Van Slyke (132 wRC+ in limited time) is out with a shoulder injury and IF Juan Uribe (118 wRC+) is day-to-day with a back problem. He could return to the lineup as soon as tonight.

Puig. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)
Puig. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty)

As for the healthy guys, it obviously all starts with OF Yasiel Puig (260 wRC+ in limited time). He’s been the talk of baseball since coming up three weeks ago thanks to his dramatic homers and brilliant defensive plays. It’ll be fun to watch these next two days. 1B Adrian Gonzalez (130 wRC+) remains a force at the plate, and C A.J. Ellis (107 wRC+) has been one of baseball’s most underrated backstops for two seasons now. IF Hanley Ramirez (104 wRC+ in limited time) has been banged up all year and OF Andre Ethier (95 wRC+) has been disappointing.

Aside from those guys, manager Don Mattingly really doesn’t have much at his disposal. IF Nick Punto (94 wRC+) has been surprisingly not awful, but both UTIL Skip Schumaker (87 wRC+) and UTIL Jerry Hairston Jr. (85 wRC+) haven’t done much of anything. Ditto IF Mark Ellis (89 wRC+) and IF Luis Cruz (-4 wRC+). Cruz has gotten 124 plate appearances, believe it or not. Recent call-ups OF Alex Castellanos (97 wRC+ in very, very limited time) and backup C Tim Federowicz (61 wRC+) have played like rookies. Really not much to see here. Keep Puig and Gonzalez contained and you’ll be in good shape.

Starting Pitching Matchups

Tuesday: RHP Phil Hughes vs. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
I liked the idea of the Yankees pursuing Ryu this winter, but, as I tend to do, I grossly underestimated the cost. The Dodgers paid over $60M — $25.7M posting fee plus a $36M contract — to bring him over from Korea, and so far he’s been worth the investment. The 26-year-old left-baller has pitched to a 2.85 ERA (3.10 FIP) in 13 starts this year, and he’s been especially tough since settling into a groove in late-April: 2.37 ERA (3.08 FIP) in his last nine starts. Ryu has posted very good peripherals in his debut MLB season, with a solid strikeout rate (7.91 K/9 and 21.7 K%) to go along with above-average walk (2.64 BB/9 and 7.3 BB), homer (0.63 HR/9 and 7.8% HR/FB), and ground ball (48.1%) numbers. He’s a true five-pitch pitcher, using 88-92 mph two- and four-seamers to set up a low-80s slider, an upper-70s changeup, and a low-70s curveball. The changeup is his top secondary pitch and a big reason why he has a reverse split — lefties have a .266 wOBA against him while lefties are at .321. The Yankees have never seen Ryu before, obviously.

(Scott Cunningham/Getty)
Capuano. (Scott Cunningham/Getty)

Wednesday: RHP Hiroki Kuroda vs. LHP Chris Capuano
Technically, the Dodgers starter for this game is still TBA. It is widely expected that Capuano will be activated off the DL and rejoin the rotation, however. He’s been out for two weeks with a lat strain, though he threw four scoreless innings during a rehab start on Friday. Capuano, 34, has pitched to a 3.45 ERA (5.15 FIP) in 33 innings across six starts and two relief appearances while battling various nagging injuries this season. His peripherals are not great — 6.55 K/9 (16.1 K%), 3.55 BB/9 (8.7 BB%), 1.64 HR/9 (16.2% HR/FB), and 45.9% grounders — but they figure to improve as he heals up and accumulates more innings. Capuano has consistently been a low-4.00s FIP guy for the last six or seven years now. An upper-80s sinker is his top fastball, though he will mix in the occasional four-seamer at the same velocity. His upper-70s changeup is his top offspeed pitch, though he’ll also throw low-80s sliders and mid-80s curveballs. It’s worth noting Capuano typically handles left-handed hitters well, holding them to a .273 wOBA since coming back from his second Tommy John surgery in 2010. Righties have tagged him for a .343 wOBA during that time. The Yankees roughed Capuano up in 2011 when they saw him during the Subway Series with the Mets.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the Dodgers were off on Monday. Their pen is relatively well-rested. Mattingly recently replaced RHP Brandon League (5.10 FIP) with RHP Kenley Jansen (2.89 FIP) at closer. The move was a long time coming. LHP Paco Rodriguez (2.81 FIP) and RHP Ronald Belisario (4.03 FIP) see plenty of late-inning work, as does LHP J.P. Howell (3.00 FIP). RHP Matt Guerrier (4.14 FIP) and RHP Peter Moylan (3.23 FIP) round out the bullpen, assuming RHP Chris Withrow (3.06 FIP in very limited time) is sent down to make room for Capuano.

Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is in pretty good shape thanks to the off-day and CC Sabathia‘s eight-inning start on Sunday. As I mentioned this morning, I suspect Adam Warren will rejoin the team today in his usual long man role if Mark Teixeira is indeed placed on the DL. Otherwise everyone is pretty fresh. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for exact recent reliever usage. For the best Dodgers coverage, I recommend True Blue LA and Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness. They’re two of the very best team-specific blogs you’ll find.

Mailbag: Dodgers, Gardner, Aceves, Zoilo, Flores

Got six questions this week, so I tried to keep the answers reasonably short. The Submit A Tip box in the sidebar is the way to go to send us questions, comments, links, complaints, whatever.

(Harry How/Getty)
(Harry How/Getty)

Brad asks: With the Dodgers recent injury bug to their rotation and the news of Derek Jeter being out until late July at the earliest, would it make sense to swap Ivan Nova to LA for perhaps Mark Ellis and a reliever?

Yes and no. The Dodgers started the year with eight legitimate starters for five spots, but they’ve since traded Aaron Harang and lost Zack Greinke (collarbone), Chris Capuano (calf), and Chad Billingsley (Tommy John surgery) to injury. Behind Clayton Kershaw they have Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ted Lilly, and rookie Stephen Fife. I’m sure they’re in the market for a fill-in starter.

I’ve always been open to trading Nova, but Ellis wouldn’t work because he can’t play any position other than second base. Jerry Hairston Jr. would be a better fit, maybe even Luis Cruz if you think he’s better than his -52 wRC+ suggests. Los Angeles has a ton of relievers, good ones too, so there would be a fit there. I don’t like the idea of trading Nova for a utility man and a reliever though, even if it would fill two fringe roster needs. I’d rather use him as the second or third piece in a package for an impact player and instead trade prospects for infield and bullpen help.

Isaac asks: Would the Yanks ever consider extending Brett Gardner before he hits free agency? If so, what kind of deal makes sense? Does Carlos Gomez’s extension with the Brewers work as a baseline?

I think there’s a small possibility they would, but Gardner strikes me as a year-to-year guy because of his injury history. The thing that worries me most is that he’s going to be 30 this summer, and he’s the type of player who will lose his value very quickly once his speed starts to slip. I don’t really want to be on the hook for that decline.

The framework of Gomez’s deal actually works very well. His new four-year pact covers his final arbitration year and three free agent years for $28.3M total, and his $4.3M salary in 2013 should be similar to Gardner’s salary next season. An $8M average value for the following three years is reasonable. Gomez is several years younger with more power (and more raw tools in general), but he hasn’t had the same kind of success as Gardner. The Brewers bought potential. Eight million bucks a year for Brett’s age 31-33 seasons seems fine, I just worry about a quick descent into uselessness if the speed slips.

Tarik asks: Do you think Al Aceves‘ release was motivated by behavioral issues that just weren’t made public, or did Brian Cashman just not think he’d recover well from his injury? (Had to shorten the question, sorry Tarik.)

(Jim Rogash/Getty)
(Jim Rogash/Getty)

After seeing how things have played out the last 2+ years, I definitely think Aceves’ nutcase ways played a role in the team’s decision to release him. The back and collarbone problems likely contributed as well, but someone with the Yankees screwed up there. He healed just fine in time for Opening Day after the club’s doctors said he would miss the first few weeks.

I’m guessing the Yankees did a better job of keeping any behavioral incidents under wraps than the Red Sox have, or maybe the veteran clubhouse just did a better job of keeping him in line. Hell, maybe Aceves was on his best behavior with New York because he was a rookie back then. We don’t really know. It’s easier to understand why they released him nowadays, but I still can’t help but wonder if they could have found a trade partner.

Bill asks: Is there any chance the Yankees front office may value Ramon Flores more than any of the “Super 3″ based on his approach at the plate?

I think that’s possible but unlikely. The Yankees love athletes first and foremost, and Flores is a bat first player. A bat first player who has yet to show much power at that. Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams both provide a ton of value in the field, more than they do at the plate really, while Tyler Austin is simply a better hitter. I like Flores a lot — I didn’t rank him fifth on my preseason top 30 prospects list out of boredom — but he’s clearly behind the other guys for me. He’s underrated, but I would hope the team doesn’t value him more than their other outfield prospects.


Mark asks: Are you in favor of bringing up Zoilo Almonte? If we’re going to get zero production from Ben Francisco as an extra outfielder – why not bring someone up who can at least provide defensive and base running value. Shame that Thomas Neal got hurt.

Not particularly, no. Almonte’s off to a really great start this year (125 wRC+) and he’s drawing a ton of walks (20.5%), but the book on him is that his left-handed swing is ahead of his right-handed swing. That’s typical and it’s just a repetition thing because there are way more righty pitchers than lefties. His splits since the start of 2010 — .267/.324/.433 against lefties, .282/.349/.487 against righties — bear that out.

The Yankees should absolutely be looking for a Francisco replacement, though. Neal was probably the best internal candidate, but he just went down with a hamstring injury. Melky Mesa is back to his super high strikeout ways, so he’s not really a big league candidate at the moment. I guess that makes Zoilo the top option by default, especially since Ronnie Mustelier is still sidelined. Mustelier would immediately become the top choice once healthy.

Jon asks: Let’s say J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez continue to rake while Austin Romine is playing pretty good. What do the Yankees do?

Celebrate! I don’t think the Yankees would dump Chris Stewart in favor of Romine, but I expect them to promote both Sanchez and Murphy at midseason. Romine and Murphy would just have to share catching and DH duties — Murphy can also squeeze in a few games at third base — at the Triple-A level for a few weeks. It’s not ideal but hardly the end of the world.

Possible Trade Partner: Los Angeles Dodgers

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

With the Yankees scaling back their spending, the Dodgers have emerged as baseball’s new financial superpower in recent months. The team’s new ownership has absorbed roughly $600M in salary obligation since July, and this year they’re likely to set a new MLB payroll record. All of that money has brought stars to Los Angeles, including big name guys like Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Zack Greinke. It’s been fun to watch from afar.

All of the spending has left the team with some surplus though, including on the infield as Ken Rosenthal notes. The Dodgers have seven (!) backup infielders after acquiring Skip Schumaker this week, though we should really say it’s just six backup infielders because Juan Uribe is completely useless and likely to be released before Opening Day. Seriously, he’s posted a 55 wRC+ in the two years since signing a three-year, $21M contract. Yikes. The Yankees need infield help among several other things, other things the Dodgers can offer as well.

(Mike Stobe/Getty)

Jerry Hairston Jr. & Nick Punto
Two veteran utility men that offer different skill sets. We all remember the elder Hairston brother from his time with the 2009 Yankees, when he most notably scored the game-winning run in ALCS Game Two on Maicer Izturis’ walk-off error. He’s a contact-oriented (11.3 K% and 87.4% contact rate since 2010) right-handed batter who has little power (.111 ISO) but will take a walk (7.8 BB%). Hairston can adequately play almost any position, though he only played 13 innings at short over the last two years. Hairston had hip surgery in September (labrum tear and bone impingement) and is a question mark for Opening Day. He’s 36 years old and is owed $3.75M in 2013.

Punto, 35, is a contact-oriented switch hitter who saw his strikeout (22.0%) and contact (84.1%) rates decline noticeably in 2012. It could be a small sample size thing (191 plate appearances) or it could be a sign that the end is near. Punto had a big platoon split this year (62 wRC vs. RHP and 107 vs. LHP) but hadn’t in the past. He’s an infielder who grades out as about average at second, third, and short these days. Neither he nor Hairston offer much speed, but Punto is a slightly better bet to steal a base. He’s owed $1.5M next season.

Rosenthal says the Dodgers are most likely to move Punto (and Uribe, but yuck), which isn’t much of a surprise. Hairston is the more desirable player despite his hip surgery, and they’re going to keep him in an effort to win this year. Punto is never going to hit like he did in 2011 again (125 wRC+) and history suggests he’s a true talent 70-75 wRC+ guy, which stinks. Is he better than Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix? Not offensively, but he surely is with the glove. He’s someone the Yankees could look into just for depth if the Dodgers are willing to give him away.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Scott Van Slyke
Van Slyke, 26, was designated for assignment yesterday to clear room on the 40-man roster for Schumaker. He is Andy’s son and a right-handed hitting corner outfielder/first baseman. Van Slyke didn’t hit a lick in his big league debut this season (38 wRC+ in just 57 plate appearances), but his Triple-A performance was huge (152 wRC+). The problem is that it didn’t just come in the Pacific Coast League, he also played his home games at altitude in Albuquerque. It’s hard to find a more hitter friendly environment, so take the hitting stats with a big grain of salt.

Baseball America ranked Van Slyke as the team’s #21 prospect prior to this season, saying he “has a nice swing with good wrist action (and) started showing solid power to all fields.” They also note that he’s adequate defensively in left and at first base. He tagged lefties for a .329/.398/.593 batting line with 10.9 BB% and 15.8 K% in the minors over the last two years (again, grain of salt), and profiles as a platoon corner bat.

What makes Van Slyke especially appealing is that he has two minor league options remaining, so he can be shuttled back and forth between Triple-A and the big leagues in 2013 and 2014 without having to be put on waivers. The Yankees need a right-handed platoon bat given their all-left-handed outfield, but I assume they would prefer someone more established. Van Slyke could be just a depth piece stashed in the minors though, which has value. I don’t think he’ll clear waivers, so the Yankees would have to swing a trade to acquire him.

* * *

The Dodgers don’t have many roster holes to fill, but they do need a left-handed bat off the bench and a reserve outfielder capable of playing center field. Chris Dickerson, who obviously will never going to get an opportunity with the Yankees, fits both of those needs and could be dangled. He’s not much, but then again neither are Punto and Van Slyke. They also need an extra catcher, but the Yankees aren’t in a position to give away catching help at the moment.

There is absolutely nothing exciting about the prospect of acquiring players like Punto and Van Slyke, but they would potentially fill some needs for New York. The cost shouldn’t be anything prohibitive and if either guys bombs, it would be easy to cast them aside and eat the money since it wouldn’t have any impact on the plan to get under the $189M luxury tax threshold in 2014. The Yankees need infield help and a right-handed bat, and Punto and Van Slyke could serve as depth pieces in those roles.