What Went Right: The Spare Parts

Thanks to all the injuries, the Yankees used a franchise record 56 players this season. Fifteen of those 56 players appeared in no more than ten games, which isn’t much of a surprise. The last spots on the bench and in the bullpen were revolving doors all summer. A handful of those miscellaneous players were actually useful, but not nearly enough to push the Yankees into the postseason. Here are the best players to walk through those revolving doors.

Cabral. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Cabral. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

Cesar Cabral
The 24-year-old Cabral nearly made the team out of Spring Training last season, but he broke his elbow towards the end of camp and did not get fully healthy until midseason this year. The Yankees added him to the 40-man roster in September — he would have been Rule 5 Draft eligible after the season anyway, they just sped up the process — and carried him as a second lefty reliever. When Boone Logan went down with a bone spur in his elbow, Cabral became the primary lefty. He appeared in eight games and faced nine left-handed batters total. Six of the nine struck out, one flew out to center (Kelly Johnson), and two reached base (David Ortiz singled and was hit by a pitch). Logan is almost certainly leaving as a free agent this winter, and, if nothing else, Cabral put himself in the mix for a bullpen job next season with his September showing.

Matt Daley
I’m pretty sure the Yankees like Daley more than we realize. They signed the 31-year-old from Queens to a minor league contract two years ago and rehabbed him from shoulder surgery, then re-signed him to a new deal last winter. He threw 53.1 very effective innings across three levels in the minors (2.02 ERA and 1.88 FIP) before getting the call as an extra arm in September. Daley made seven appearances and threw six scoreless innings for New York, allowing just two hits and one hit batsman while striking out eight. Given how the bullpen imploded in September, he might have been the team’s most effective non-Mariano Rivera reliever down the stretch. I would not at all be surprised if Daley was on the Opening Day roster in 2014.

Huff. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Huff. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

David Huff
Yes, a player with a 4.67 ERA and 4.95 FIP in 34.2 innings for the Yankees is in the What Went Right post. Huff, 29, gets some slack because outside of a disastrous spot start against the Red Sox (nine runs in 3.1 innings), he was pretty damn solid in a swingman role (2.37 ERA and 4.15 FIP in 30.1 innings). His eight long relief outings included four of at least three full innings (including two of at least five full innings) with no more than one run allowed. In his Game 162 spot start, he struck out seven Astros in five scoreless innings. If nothing else, Huff landed himself in the conversation for some kind of Spring Training competition, either long man or lefty reliever. He does scare me though. I get a very Shawn Chacon-esque vibe. Maybe Huff has truly turned the corner — he credits pitching coach Larry Rothschild for fixing his mechanics — but a fly ball-prone soft-tosser in a small ballpark with no track record of big league success has serious disaster potential. This past season though, he was a rather important arm down the stretch.

Melky Mesa
Cherry-picking at its finest: Mesa led all Yankees’ rookies (hitters and pitchers) with 0.3 fWAR in 2013. He did that in exactly 14 late-July plate appearances, during which he had three singles, two doubles, one walk, and two strikeouts. Plus he played a strong outfield defense in his limited time. The 26-year-old Mesa did not get a September call-up because he suffered a severe hamstring injury in Triple-A and was unavailable. The Yankees released him to clear a 40-man roster spot for J.R. Murphy. Definitely not the way Melky2.0 wanted to end his season, but he was productive during the short time he wore pinstripes this summer, something you can’t say about so many of these spare part players.

Vidal Nuno
Since signing with the Yankees out of an independent league in 2011, Nuno has done nothing but prove people wrong. He has a 2.48 ERA and 4.93 K/BB ratio in 269.2 minor league innings since signing, and that performance (along with a standout Spring Training) earned him his first taste of the big leagues in late-April. Nuno, 26, held the Indians scoreless for five innings during a spot start in the second game of a doubleheader and followed with back-to-back starts of six innings and two runs against the Rays and Mets. Between three starts and three long relief appearances, the southpaw had 2.25 ERA and 4.50 FIP in 20 innings. He suffered a season-ending groin injury in early-June and was a non-factor in the second half, which was unfortunate because a) the Yankees needed the pitching help, and b) it would have been a great opportunity to Nuno. Regardless, he helped the team when he was on the mound and put himself in a position to win some kind of big league job in Spring Training.

Reynolds. I swear. (Mike Stobe/Getty)
Reynolds. I promise. (Mike Stobe/Getty)

Mark Reynolds
The Yankees showed interest in Reynolds last winter, after Alex Rodriguez‘s hip injury came to light, but they opted to sign the bigger name in Kevin Youkilis instead. Youkilis (predictably) went down with a back injury and New York scrambled for help at the hot corner for months. Eventually they were able to grab Reynolds off the scrap heap, after he’d been released by the Indians due to a dreadful June and July.

Initially expected to serve as a platoon partner for Lyle Overbay, the 30-year-old Reynolds soon took over the position on an everyday basis while mixing in a decent number of starts at third base. He even started a game at second when Robinson Cano needed a day to rest his hand following a hit-by-pitch. Reynolds hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat in pinstripes and a solo homer in his last, finishing his 36-game stint in pinstripes with six dingers and a .236/.300/.455 (105 wRC+) batting line in 120 plate appearances. It was exactly the kind of lift the bottom-third of the order needed. New York could re-sign Reynolds as a role player this winter — he’s open to returning — but so far they haven’t shown interest. As far as we know, anyway.

Brendan Ryan
It wasn’t until Derek Jeter‘s fourth DL stint that the Yankees found an adequate replacement. Ryan, 31, was acquired from the Mariners on September 10th, after it was clear the Cap’n would not be able to return from his latest leg injury. He started every game at shortstop the rest of the season, hitting an awful .220/.258/.305 (41 wRC+) in 62 plate appearances while playing elite defense. A few of the hits he did have were meaningful — leadoff single started a game-winning ninth inning rally in his second game with New York, and a day later he hit a solo homer against the Red Sox. Ryan was, without question, the team’s best shortstop this past season despite only playing 17 games in pinstripes thanks to his glove. That’s kinda sad. The Yankees have already agreed to re-sign him to a one-year deal worth $1-2M, protecting them in case Jeter has another injury-plagued season.

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Yankees call up five players as rosters expand

The rarely seen Cesar Cabral. (Star-Ledger)
The rarely seen Cesar Cabral. (Star-Ledger)

12:05pm: Mesa was giving his unconditional release, not designated for assignment. So even if he were to clear waivers, he is done with the organization. Mesa had tools, just sucks he never figured out how to make even halfway consistent contact.

11:16am: Nix was transferred to the 60-day DL and Mesa was designated for assignment to clear the two 40-man spots. Melky2.0 will be out of options next year and would have been a DFA candidate this winter. At least now he might sneak through waivers due to the injury.

10:22am: The Yankees have called up five players from Triple-A Scranton: IF David Adams, RHP Dellin Betances, LHP Cesar Cabral, RHP Brett Marshall, and C J.R. Murphy. RHP Preston Claiborne is expected to rejoin the club tomorrow, but OF Melky Mesa has a significant hamstring injury and will not be called up this month. Teams can carry up to 40 players on their active rosters as of today. It’s unclear if the Yankees are planning any more call-ups after Claiborne unless there’s an injury or something.

Adams, Betances, and Marshall were all up with New York earlier this season, so it’s no surprise they were brought back. The Adams and Betances call-ups are pretty straight forward — they’ll provide infield and bullpen depth. I wouldn’t expect Betances to see any kind of high or even medium leverage innings right out of the gate. Marshall is stretched out as a starter and since he’s now available as a long man, David Huff could move into a more traditional lefty specialist role alongside Boone Logan. That would be helpful down the stretch.

Cabral, 24, nearly made the team as a Rule 5 Draft pick out of Spring Training last year before fracturing his elbow. The job went to Clay Rapada instead. He has a 5.40 ERA (3.61 FIP) overall in 36.2 innings across various minor league levels since returning from the injury, but he has been better against same-side hitters (2.36 FIP and 34.7% strikeout rate) in a small sample. Cabral figures to see time as the third lefty specialist behind Logan and Huff. With Logan due to become a free agent this winter, Cabral could also be auditioning for a spot in next year’s bullpen a la 2008 Phil Coke.

The 22-year-old Murphy has hit .269/.346/.426 (~118 wRC+) with 12 homers in 468 plate appearances split between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton this year. He’s also thrown out 50 of 136 attempted base-stealers (37%). Yesterday we heard it was “very likely” he would be called up. Murphy, the team’s second round pick in the 2009 draft, will serve as the third catcher and doesn’t figure to play much as long as the Yankees remain in the wildcard race. He’ll catch bullpens on the side and soak up the whole MLB experience instead.

No word yet on how the team opened 40-man roster spots for Murphy and Cabral, but the Yankees have 60-day DL candidates in Jayson Nix (hand), Zoilo Almonte (ankle), and Travis Hafner (shoulder). Both Murphy and Cabral would have been Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, so the Yankees simply sped up the process and added them to the 40-man a few weeks early. All five call-ups are with the team and will be available for this afternoon’s game.

Cashman confirms Mesa won’t be called up due to injury

Via Chad Jennings: Brian Cashman confirmed Melky Mesa will not called up when rosters expand tomorrow because his hamstring injury is far too significant. The outfielder left a Triple-A Scranton game after running out a ground ball last week.

Mesa, 26, hit .261/.295/.452 (105 wRC+) with 13 homers and 13 steals in 332 plate appearances for the RailRiders this year while going 5-for-14 (.385) during a brief stint with the big league team a few weeks ago. Although the Yankees have five outfielders on their current roster, Mesa would have been a great pinch-runner/defensive replacement option in September. Real tough break for him too.

Yankees activate Curtis Granderson, and down Melky Mesa

As expected, the Yankees have activated Curtis Granderson off the 60-day DL in time for tonight’s game. He is in the lineup, batting fifth and playing left field. Melky Mesa was sent to Triple-A Scranton to clear a spot on the 25-man roster, and Thomas Neal was designated for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster.

Roster Moves: Almonte, Gonzalez, Mesa, Neal

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

The Yankees announced a series of (expected) roster moves today, so let’s round ‘em all up:

  • Zoilo Almonte has been placed on the 15-day DL. He suffered a left ankle sprain when he hit the base running out a ground ball last night. X-rays came back negative, though there is no timetable for his return.
  • Alberto Gonzalez has been designated for assignment. He went 3-for-25 (.120) after replacing Reid Brignac in late-June. The recently recalled Brent Lillibridge is the backup infielder for the time being.
  • Melky Mesa has been called up. He hit .249/.277/.424 (86 wRC+) with a 36.7% strikeout rate in 256 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton. Mesa recently came off the DL after missing a month with a shoulder problem. He was up with the team last September.
  • Thomas Neal as been called up as well. He was hitting .312/.387/.402 (122 wRC+) in 266 plate appearances for Triple-A Scranton. Neal was up with the team earlier this year, as you surely remember. Joe Girardi confirmed he will serve as the primary DH against left-handers.