King: Gary Denbo leaving Yankees to join the Marlins

Denbo. (NY Post)
Denbo. (NY Post)

According to George King, vice president of player development Gary Denbo is indeed leaving the Yankees to join Derek Jeter and the Marlins. Today is his last day with the Yankees. Denbo will be named Miami’s director of player development and amateur scouting, according to King. That sounds like a lot of responsibility. Director of player development and director of amateur scouting are two separate (and very demanding) jobs for pretty much every team.

This of course has been rumored for a while now. Jeter and Denbo go back a long way — Denbo was Jeter’s first managers in the rookie Gulf Coast League after he was drafted — and the two are very close. I had a feeling Jeter would try to lure Denbo to the Marlins, not only because of their relationship, but also because Denbo has done a great job in the farm system. His work speaks for itself.

Since replacing longtime player development head Mark Newman with Denbo in October 2014, the Yankees have gone from having an unproductive farm system to producing legitimate stars in short order. How much is a result of Denbo’s impact and how much is just the randomness of baseball? It’s hard to say, exactly, but it reflects very well on him.

I suppose the good news is that even though Denbo is leaving, he did help develop a new young core in his three years as the farm system head. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Luis Severino are all All-Star players and both Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres (and others) are knocking on the door too. Denbo is leaving behind a nice core.

There’s no word yet on who will replace Denbo, though that’ll happen soon enough. Keep in mind Denbo had plenty of assistants, so it’s not like the farm system will be rudderless in the interim. The Yankees could promote from within to replace Denbo — that’s how they replaced Billy Eppler two years ago — or grab someone from outside the organization.

Mark Feinsand reports the Marlins have not yet requested permission to talk to any other Yankees executives — there’s been talk special assistant Jim Hendry could join Denbo in Miami — though I have to think that’s coming eventually. I’m curious to see which Yankees prospects the Marlins target going forward. You know Denbo has some personal favorites in the system.

Saturday Links: Otani, Denbo, Judge, Sanchez, YES Network

(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)
(Atsushi Tomura/Getty)

The Yankees and Indians have an off-day today as the ALDS shifts from Cleveland to New York. The best-of-five series will resume with Game Three tomorrow night. Here are some links to check out in the meantime.

Otani dazzles in possible final start in Japan

Shohei Otani, who may or may not come to MLB this offseason, made what could be his final start for the Nippon Ham Fighters earlier this week. He struck out ten in a two-hit shutout of the Orix Buffaloes, and Jason Coskrey says dozens of MLB scouts attended the game. Otani finished the season with a 3.20 ERA in 25.1 innings and a .340/.413/.557 batting line in 63 games. He missed time with quad and ankle problems, hence the limited time on the mound.

Joel Sherman says the Yankees are “known to be extremely interested” in Otani, who, if he does come over this year, will come over under the old posting rules. That means the (Ham) Fighters will set a $20M release fee. MLB and NPB are currently renegotiating the posting agreement for other players going forward. The Yankees have roughly $2M in international bonus money to offer Otani based on my estimates, though if he comes over this year, it won’t be for top dollar. Basically no team has much international money to offer. Otani will go wherever he thinks is the best fit based on his own personal preferences. Good luck predicting that.

Denbo expected to join Marlins

Folks in baseball expect Yankees vice president of player development Gary Denbo to join Derek Jeter and the Marlins this offseason, reports Jon Heyman. Marlins general manager Mike Hill is expected to remain on, with Denbo coming over to head up their player development department, the same department he runs for the Yankees now. Denbo’s contract is up after the season, so he’s free to come and go as he chooses.

Jeter and Denbo are very close and go back a long away, and I figured Jeter would try to poach him once we found out he was buying the Marlins. Denbo has done a phenomenal job turning around the farm system and the Yankees will miss him, assuming they can’t convince him to stay. Who will take over the farm system? I have no idea. The Yankees will find someone. I’m curious to see which Yankees farmhands the Marlins try to acquire going forward. You know Denbo has some personal favorites in the system.

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

Judge had most popular jersey in 2017

The most popular player jersey this season, according to sales on MLB.com, belongs to Aaron Judge. Here is the press release. The average age of the top 20 players in jersey sales is 27, so that’s fun. Here’s the top five:

  1. Aaron Judge, Yankees
  2. Kris Bryant, Cubs
  3. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs
  4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers
  5. Bryce Harper, Nationals

Also in the top 20 jersey sales: Gary Sanchez. He ranked 15th in jersey sales overall and sixth among AL players, behind Judge, Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor, Mookie Betts, and Jose Altuve. Only two pitchers in the top 20, which is kinda weird. Kershaw is fourth and Noah Syndergaard is 19th. The people love dingers, I guess.

YES Network ratings up 57%

Not surprisingly, the YES Network’s rating were up a whopping 57% this season, the network announced yesterday. This season’s ratings were the best in five years. Primetime game broadcasts on YES had higher ratings than the primetime schedules of all other cable networks in New York, plus ratings for non-game broadcasts (pregame and postgame shows, etc.) were up as well. Ratings outside the city also increased substantially. Turns out if you put a very good and very fun team on the field, people will watch. Who woulda thunk it?

Saturday Links: Jeter, Postseason Schedule, Players Weekend

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

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game weekend series with the middle game later today. It’s a 4pm ET start. Here are some links and notes to check out until game time.

Jeter agrees to purchase the Marlins (again)

A few weeks after his agreement to purchase the Marlins with Jeb Bush fell through, Derek Jeter has another deal in place to buy the team, reports Barry Jackson. Jeter teamed up with rich dude Bruce Sherman and several other minority investors (including Michael Jordan) to buy the team. The sale price is $1.2 billion — that’s the second most ever paid for an MLB franchise, behind the $2 billion the Dodgers sold for a few years back — and Jeter is kicking in $25M.

Jackson says Sherman will be the “control person” while Jeter will run the business and baseball sides of the organization, so he’s going to have a lot of responsibility. The sale is not yet final — two other potential Marlins sales have already fallen through this year, so this isn’t a formality — but Jeter and Sherman do have all the money in place and everything else is order. Now MLB needs to give their approval and the other 29 owners have to vote. That’s going to happen at the quarterly owners meetings in October, apparently.

2017 postseason schedule announced

It’s getting to be that time of year. Earlier this week MLB announced the 2017 postseason schedule, and since the Yankees are in the race this year, this information is pretty damn relevant. Much better than being on the outside looking in like three of the last four years. Here is the full postseason schedule and here are the dates potentially relevant to the Yankees:

  • AL Wild Card Game: Tuesday, October 3rd
  • ALDS (both of ’em): Thursday, October 5th through Wednesday, October 11th
  • ALCS: Friday, October 13th through Saturday, October 21st
  • World Series: Tuesday, October 24th through Wednesday, November 1st

The regular season ends Sunday, October 1st, so there’s only one off-day between the end of the regular season and the AL Wild Card Game this year. That could cause some headaches for teams trying to line up their ace for that winner-take-all game. The NL has two off-days between the end of the regular season and the Wild Card Game this year.

Also, homefield advantage in the World Series is no longer decided by the All-Star Game. That’s good. I hated that. (Even though the AL won this year.) Now homefield advantage will go to the pennant-winner with the best regular season record. That’s how it should be, I think.

MLB releases Players Weekend jerseys

A few weeks ago MLB announced that, later this month, the first (annual?) Players Weekend will be held from August 25th to the 27th. The Yankees will be home playing the Mariners that weekend. Teams will wear unique uniforms (hats, jerseys, socks, etc.) and the players will be allowed to wear nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. It’s pretty awesome. Here are the Yankees:

yankees-jerseys

This is so great. All-Starlin! A-A-Ron! Head and Toe! Aaron Judge told Erik Boland he was originally planning to put “AJ” or “Judge” on his jersey, but Todd Frazier talked him into All Rise, so here we are. Love Judge, but he could use a little more personality. Maybe pimp a homer every once in a while. (Looking at you too, Brett Gardner. “Gardner” on the jersey? Really?)

Anyway, as someone who may or may not have already purchased KRAKEN 24 and SIR DIDI 18 shirts, I love this whole Players Weekend idea. It’s fun. Baseball’s supposed to be fun. I couldn’t be any more tired of hearing about tradition and the way things have always been. Give me Players Weekend, The Judge’s Chambers, Clint Frazier‘s bright red hair, finger points into the dugout, give me all of it.

Yankees have not pursued Granderson

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees have not pursued Curtis Granderson this month. He cleared trade waivers last week. The Yankees did try to acquire Jay Bruce from the Mets a few days ago, though that didn’t work out because the Mets wanted full salary relief. Granderson, like Bruce, is a left-handed power hitter, but he can only play the outfield. Bruce has some first base experience.

Granderson, 36, is in the final season of his four-year, $60M contract. He’s making $15M this year and it stands to reason the Mets will look to unload his salary at some point. Granderson is hitting .221/.327/.452 (105 wRC+) with 16 home runs overall this season, but since May 1st, he’s put up a .261/.384/.548 (143 wRC+) batting line with 15 of those 16 homers. The Yankees have an opening at designated hitter and could really use another lefty power bat, which Granderson would provide. Doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen though.

Scouting the Trade Market: Miami Marlins relievers

Ramos. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Ramos. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Due to recent events, the bullpen is going to be a hot topic between now and the July 31st trade deadline. The Yankees have lost far too many games at the hands of the bullpen the last few weeks, and as long as they’re in the postseason race, they’re going to look for ways to improve the roster. They could call some youngsters up. They could also look outside the organization. Odds are they’ll do both.

The Marlins are far out of a postseason spot and expected to sell before the trade deadline, making them a potential trade partner. They shipped Adeiny Hechavarria to the Rays a week or two ago, so yeah, the Marlins are open for business. In fact, they’re said to be scouting the Yankees’ farm system. Miami figures to market some of their pricier bullpen pieces before the deadline, and perhaps one or two of them are a match for the Yankees. Let’s take a look.

RHP Kyle Barraclough

Background: The 27-year-old Barraclough went from the Cardinals to the Marlins in the Steve Cishek trade three years ago. So far this season he has a 3.54 ERA (3.89 FIP) with 24.5% strikeouts and 14.7% walks in 40.2 innings. In parts of three MLB seasons Barraclough has thrown 137.2 innings with an 3.01 ERA (2.87 FIP). He’s settled in as a setup man for the Marlins.

The Stuff: Barraclough is a two-pitch reliever with a mid-90s fastball and a hard upper-80s slider. He has pretty consistently thrown 55% fastballs and 45% sliders as a big leaguer. Pretty straightforward guy. Barraclough gets ahead with the heater and tries to put hitters away with the slider.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Barraclough misses a ton of bats. A ton. Last year only Dellin Betances (126) and Andrew Miller (123) had more strikeouts among full-time relievers than Barraclough (113). That career 32.0% strikeout rate is no accident. Barraclough’s slider is a legit put-away pitch, and relievers who can make hitters swing and miss are the backbone of any successful bullpen. The pitch is so good he has a small platoon split (career .275 wOBA vs. .258 wOBA in favor of lefties). Also, Barraclough won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season, so he’d be a long-term buy. (At least as long-term as any 27-year-old slider happy reliever can be.)

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? With those strikeouts come a lot of walks. Barraclough’s career walk rate is 15.1% and it’s been high throughout his career, even in the minors, so this is just who he is. You can survive as a late-inning reliever with command issues (see: Betances, Dellin) though no one like free baserunners in the late innings of a close game. Also, Barraclough’s strikeout rate has dropped from 36.9% last year to 24.5% this year, which is a red flag. Lots of walks and fewer strikeouts generally isn’t a good combination.

RHP David Phelps

Background: Phelpsie! The Yankees traded Phelps to the Marlins three years ago, and initially he continued to do the swingman thing, then last season he moved into a full-time short relief role. The 30-year-old Phelps has a 3.68 ERA (3.53 FIP) with 26.4% strikeouts and 8.8% walks in 44 innings this year. In three years with the Marlins he has a 3.98 ERA (3.83 FIP) in 131 innings as a starter and a 3.06 ERA (3.11 FIP) in 111.2 innings as a reliever.

The Stuff: As a true one-inning short reliever, Phelps will average right around 95 mph with his two and four-seam fastballs and 91 mph with his cutter. He’s shelved his changeup entirely out of the bullpen and instead uses a low-80s curveball as his top secondary pitch. So it’s four distinct pitches out of the bullpen. A straight four-seamer, a running two-seamer, a cutter, and a curveball.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Phelps has found a home in short relief. He was okay as a swingman all those years, but when he can air it out for an inning or two at the time, Phelps can miss bats and be a weapon in the late innings. Plus he’d remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2018. It doesn’t hurt that he’s played for the Yankees before, so he knows the ropes.  You always wonder how guys are going to react when they first come to New York and all that. There’s no such worries with Phelps.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? There aren’t many reasons, really. Phelps still walks a few more guys than you like — how he got a reputation for being a strike-thrower with the Yankees, I’ll never know — and that’s about it. It is worth noting he’s not cheap. Phelps will earn $4.6M this season and probably something close to $7M next season, his final year of arbitration-eligibility before qualifying for free agency.

A.J. Ramos

Background: Ramos, 30, took over as Miami’s closer back in 2015. He has a 3.51 ERA (3.60 FIP) with 29.6% strikeouts and 12.7% walks in 33.1 innings this year, making this his worst season since breaking into the big leagues for good in 2013. His career numbers are much more impressive: 2.75 ERA (3.19 FIP) with 27.8% strikeouts and 12.6% walks in 321 innings.

The Stuff: Ramos is a three-pitch reliever with mid-90s fastball, a mid-80s changeup, and a low-80s slider. The slider is his go-to secondary pitch. Ramos will also cut and sink his fastball on occasion, and he even throws a curveball once in a while. He’s primarily a fastball-changeup-slider guy but there are more tools in the shed.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? Among Miami’s relievers, Ramos has the longest track record of missing bats, and only veteran sidewinder Brad Ziegler has more experience in the late innings. He’s been pitching high-leverage innings for a few years now and he’s shown he can handle them thanks to three pretty good pitches and the ability to keep the ball away from the fat part of the bat. Also, Ramos will remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2018, so he’s not a rental.

Why Should The Stay Away? The walk rate (career 12.6%) and general lack of ground balls (career 39.5%) are pretty scary, even though Ramos has not been home run prone in his career to date (0.48 HR/9). Still, walks plus fly balls is a less than ideal combination in Yankee Stadium. Also, Ramos is making $6.55M this year and could pull down upwards of $9M next season through arbitration. That’s what 89 career saves (and counting) will do for you. That’s pretty darn expensive. It’s not crazy to think Ramos might be a non-tender candidate after the season, so maybe he is a rental after all.

RHP Junichi Tazawa

Background: The Marlins gave the 31-year-old Tazawa a two-year deal worth $12M this past offseason, and so far he has a 5.87 ERA (5.97 FIP) with 18.4% strikeouts and 11.2% walks in 23 innings. That one isn’t working out too well. He’s been relegated to mop up duty the last few weeks.

The Stuff: All things considered, Tazawa’s stuff is relatively unchanged from the last few years. He’s still low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and upper-80s with his splitter, and he also throws a mid-70s curve.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? History suggests Tazawa is not actually this bad. He dealt with a rib injury earlier this season and that certainly could have negatively affected his performance. Tazawa is a buy low bounceback candidate, basically. Just last year he had a 4.17 ERA (4.23 FIP) with 26.0% strikeouts and 6.7% walks. That’s … better. Plus he knows the AL East from his time with the Red Sox.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? A lot of reasons, really. For starters, his performance has been terrible this year, and we can’t ignore that. His strikeouts are down and his walks are up, and hitters are squaring him up more than they have in the past. There’s also $7M left on his contract for next season, so he’s not cheap (by middle reliever standards) either. There is something to be said for buying low on a guy. I think steering clear of a reliever with a 4.45 ERA in 131.1 innings over the last three years is a pretty good idea no matter what the peripherals and track record say, and that goes double for dudes with a decent chunk of change coming their way.

RHP Nick Wittgren

Background: Wittgren, 26, is probably the guy you’ve never heard of in the Marlins bullpen. He has a 3.62 ERA (3.31 FIP) with 26.3% strikeouts and 4.6% walks in 37.1 innings this year, and that’s after a 3.14 ERA (3.67 FIP) with 19.7% strikeouts and 4.7% walks in 51.2 innings last year. The Marlins have themselves a nice little cheap, homegrown middle reliever.

The Stuff: The right-handed Wittgren is low-to-mid-90s with his fastball and he backs it up with a mid-80s changeup and a breaking ball right around 80 mph that sometimes looks like a slider and sometimes looks like a curveball. He throws both secondary pitches pretty regularly, so he is a true-three pitch reliever.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? I dunno, Wittgren is reasonably effective and he’s young and cheap with minor league options remaining, which makes him a decent depth piece in my opinion. He’s also shown improvement from last year to this year, namely in his strikeout rate. I don’t think Wittgren will one day be a shutdown high-leverage reliever or anything like that. Can he get outs in the sixth inning though? Sure, and the Yankees need a guy like that.

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? The biggest concern with Wittgren is his propensity to give up fly balls (career 36.5% grounders) and home runs (career 1.11 HR/9). He won’t beat himself with walks and he can miss enough bats to escape jams, so the home run risk is mitigated somewhat. Is another unspectacular reliever the solution to the Yankees’ bullpen woes? I mean, sure, it’s possible, but I don’t think Wittgren moves the needle a whole bunch.

RHP Brad Ziegler

Background: Miami tried to strengthen their bullpen with Tazawa and Ziegler over the winter and it hasn’t worked. Ziegler received two years and $16M and has a 6.52 ERA (4.29 FIP) with 12.3% strikeouts and 9.4% walks in 29 innings. He is still getting a ton of ground balls (64.6%), which has always been the Ziegler trademark. He’s a funky sidewinder who keeps the ball on the ground.

The Stuff: From that funky arm slot comes a low-to-mid-80s sinker, a mid-70s changeup, and a low-70s slider. Ziegler is the rare submarine pitcher with a changeup. The velocity seems alarming but that’s who he is. Ziegler’s been a mid-80s sinker guy for years. The deception and arm angle make it work.

Why Should The Yankees Want Him? As with Tazawa, Ziegler is a buy low bounceback candidate, though we don’t have to look back too far to see the last time Ziegler was very good. Just last season he had a 2.25 ERA (3.10 FIP) with 20.1% strikeouts, 9.0% walks, and 63.3% grounders in 68 innings for the Diamondbacks and Red Sox. Ziegler has been pitching in late-inning roles for a long time and he’s comfortable in any role. He’ll set up, close, middle relieve, whatever. Basically, any team looking at Ziegler is thinking his .382 BABIP won’t last and I want him on my roster when the correction comes. (Career .288 BABIP.)

Why Should The Yankees Stay Away? At 37 years old (38 in October), it’s entirely possible Ziegler has reached the point of no return and this is who he is now. The BABIP is way up and the strikeouts are way down, from 20.1% last year to 12.3% this year — to be fair, he had a 13.7% strikeout rate with a 1.85 ERA (3.44 FIP) in 2015 — and his walk rate keeps trending up. Ziegler’s margin for error seems to be shrinking. And he’s got $9M coming to him next season, which isn’t great.

* * *

Given the way the Marlins operate, my guess is they would love to unload their pricey relievers (Ramos, Ziegler, Phelps, Tazawa) and keep the cheap guys in their pre-arbitration years (Barraclough, Wittgren). Well, I guess every team would like to do that, right? The Marlins aren’t so unique in that regard.

I am kinda sorta intrigued by Ziegler as a buy low candidate. Phelps and Ramos are the headliners here though. They’re performing well and they come with an extra year of team control, even if it will be on the expensive side. The Yankees have reportedly contacted the Marlins about both guys already and that in no way surprises me. They’re going to call on every available reliever between now and the trade deadline out of due diligence.

Trade Deadline Rumors: Buyers, Hand, Maurer, Phelps, Ramos

Maurer. (Hunter Martin/Getty)
Maurer. (Hunter Martin/Getty)

The 2017 trade deadline is exactly three weeks away, which means the trade rumor mill is really going to start to heat up soon. Pretty much right after the All-Star break. Here’s the latest on the Yankees.

Yankees will be “careful buyers”

All the recent losing has complicated the Yankees’ deadline plans. A few weeks ago they were clear cut contenders with the motivation to buy. Now they’re on the postseason bubble — they are 3.5 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East and essentially one game up on a wildcard spot — and it’s unclear whether buying would be a smart move. During a YES Network interview yesterday (video link), Brian Cashman said the Yankees will be “careful buyers.”

“I think our interest would be buyers, but I think we’re gonna be careful buyers. We have a long-term plan that I think people are seeing excitement from. We’re definitely not gonna deviate from that. But also, part of that long-term plan is, in the short term, winning now and putting out the best effort possible, but not at the expense of what we feel can lead us to more championships … In the next three weeks, Hal Steinbrenner and myself and our entire staff will be trying to do a better job of legitimately plugging holes, if possible. So far I can tell you that sticker prices are pretty high and we’re saying no to a lot of (trades) that have currently been presented to us. But you keep working through it.”

One thing to keep in mind: Hal didn’t want to sell last year. He only gave the okay after Aroldis Chapman turned down a contract extension. I suppose the Yankees could sell again if they keep slipping in the standings, but the trade deadline is only three weeks away, and I don’t think they’ll fall that much. My guess is the Yankees will buy, but not buy big. Maybe a stopgap first baseman and some bullpen arms. I would be surprised if they trade a top prospect.

Yankees, Padres have talked Hand, Maurer

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees and Padres have talked about relievers Brad Hand and Brandon Maurer. San Diego did ask about Gleyber Torres recently but Sherman says it’s understood they’re not getting a prospect of that caliber for a reliever. One Padres official told Sherman the Yankees have enough pieces to do a deal even without their top prospects. “They had a real good system last year, and it has taken another step up this year,” said one executive.

Here’s my Scouting The Market post on Hand. I’ll refer you to that. As for Maurer, the 27-year-old has a 5.60 ERA (2.95 FIP) with 24.3% walks and 4.9% walks this year. He’s been hurt by a shockingly low strand rate (52.9%) and the fact he’s always been a bit more hittable than his upper-90s fastball and two mid-80s secondary pitches (slider, changeup) would lead you to believe. Maurer, like Hand, is under team control through 2019 as an arbitration-eligible player. I prefer Hand. I’ve had my fill of these “more hittable than his stuff would indicate” guys.

Yankees have asked about Phelps, Ramos

Phelpsie. (Matt Hazlett/Getty)
Phelpsie. (Matt Hazlett/Getty)

The Yankees have contacted the Marlins about righty relievers David Phelps and A.J. Ramos, reports Sherman. The Marlins are starting to sell off pieces — Adeiny Hechavarria was traded to the Rays a few weeks back — and as relievers with one year of control remaining and not cheap salaries, Phelps ($4.6M) and Ramos ($6.55M) are obvious trade chips. I think both will be moved before the deadline, but what do I know?

Phelps, 30, has a 3.68 ERA (3.54 FIP) with 26.4% strikeouts and 8.8% walks in 44 innings this year. He really broke out in a true short relief role last year — Phelps had a 2.31 ERA (2.75 FIP) out of the bullpen in 2016 — before the Marlins moved him back into the rotation out of necessity. The 30-year-old Ramos has a 3.51 ERA (3.60 FIP) with 29.6% strikeouts and 12.7% walks in 33.1 innings this season. He’s always been a cardiac closer. Ramos isn’t shy about putting guys on base, though because he misses so many bats, he can get out of jams more often then not. I don’t really have a preference here. I think the Padres guys would probably provide more bang for the buck.

Padres, Marlins scouting Yankees heavily

The Padres and Marlins are currently scouting the Yankees’ farm system, report George King and Clark Spencer, which obviously ties back into those Hand/Maurer and Phelps/Ramos rumors. King says the Padres have sent assistant general manager David Post to watch Triple-A Scranton recently. Spencer says the Marlins are simply “focusing heavily” on New York’s system. (And several other teams too.)

I’m kinda curious to know when Post was scouting the RailRiders because the Yankees have called up many of their best prospects within the last two weeks. Chance Adams and Miguel Andujar are still down in Triple-A, but others like Tyler Wade, Dustin Fowler, and Clint Frazier are all in the big leagues. Hmmm. Maybe the Padres will be really sold on Billy McKinney’s recently hot streak or something. Anyway, potential sellers are scouting the farm system of a potential buyer. News at 11.

The Yankees are reportedly interested in Martin Prado and Justin Bour even though neither of them can pitch

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

We’ve officially reached trade rumor season, folks. According to Bob Nightengale, the Yankees recently reached out to the Marlins to let them know they have interest in third baseman Martin Prado and first baseman Justin Bour. The Red Sox are after Prado as well. The Marlins shipped Adeiny Hechavarria to the Rays earlier this week, which is a pretty good indication they are open for business and ready to move veterans.

A nagging hamstring injury has limited Prado, 33, to 22 games this season, during which he’s hit .276/.297/.391 (79 wRC+). He returned to the lineup last Friday. Prado spent the second half of the 2014 season with the Yankees before being sent to Miami for Nathan Eovaldi, as I’m sure you know. The 29-year-old Bour is hitting .289/.364/.564 (140 wRC+) with 18 homers in 66 games this year. Who knew? Anyway, this is our first real trade rumor of the season, so let’s talk it out.

1. Does this rumor pass the sniff test? The always important first question. There are so many rumors out there these days that it’s important to keep things in perspective. In this case, yeah, I think the rumor makes sense. We know the Yankees have been looking for a third baseman. They also need a first baseman given Greg Bird‘s ongoing injury issues. The headline was a weak attempt at humor. The Yankees need bullpen help more than anything right now. That’s no reason not to pursue upgrades elsewhere on the roster though.

2. Prado is pretty darn expensive. Generally speaking, Prado is a solid hitter. Not a great hitter and not a terrible hitter. He was very good during his half-season with the Yankees and that seems to have left a lasting impression on many folks. It happens. That’s not who he is all the time though. Prado is more or less an average offensive producer at this point of his career:


Source: FanGraphsMartin Prado

I don’t dispute that Prado is a better player than Chase Headley, and apparently the Yankees don’t dispute it either, which is why they’ve shown interest in him. The potential hang-up here is Prado’s contract. The Marlins signed him to an extension last September and he’s owed $11.5M this year, $13.5M next year, and $15M the year after that. Paying 35-year-old Martin Prado a $15M salary in 2019 doesn’t sound fun.

The Yankees are trying to get under the luxury tax in the near future (i.e. 2018) and acquiring Prado would make that more difficult. I suppose the Marlins could eat some money to facilitate a trade, though that seems unlikely, not with the Red Sox after him as well. Besides, Jeffrey Loria is trying to sell the team, so the less money he has on the books, the better. They’ll want to move Prado’s entire contract, the same way they moved Hechavarria’s entire contract.

Headley is a sunk cost at this point. The Yankees owe him his $13M salary this year and $13M salary next year no matter what. Perhaps they could unload part of it in a salary dump after acquiring Prado, though they almost certainly won’t be able to get out of all of it. Between taking on Prado’s salary and Headley’s existing contract, the Yankees would end up paying something like $25M total for two okay-ish third basemen next year. Eh.

3. Bour is a really great fit. Bour, on the other, would really fit the Yankees both now and in the future. He’s a left-handed hitter with big pull power, and that always plays well in Yankee Stadium. Bour also draws plenty of walks (10.3%) and won’t strike out a ton (22.5%). That’s more or less what the Yankee were hoping to get from Bird this season, right? A .289/.364/.564 (140 wRC+) line with 18 homers at the almost halfway point and solid strikeout and walk numbers? I’d say so.

There are, however, two big drawbacks with Bour. For starters, he probably could use a platoon partner. His numbers against lefties this season are pretty good, actually (.340/.421/.740, 198 wRC+), but that’s a sample size issue. Bour’s career numbers against lefties (.261/.323/.438, 104 wRC+) tell a different story. And two, he’s very shiftable. Here is his spray chart, via Baseball Savant:

justin-bour-spray-chart

Bour has power to all fields, yeah, but when he doesn’t hit the ball over the fence, chances are he’s going to hit it to the right side of the field. Opponents will load up their defense on the first base side of second base. Bour is among the most shifted hitters in the big leagues and that spray chart tells you why. He’s a dead pull lefty.

The Yankees used to have several players like that in their lineup. It was a problem. Now they have none with Bird on the disabled list. Acquiring Bour and carrying one pull happy lefty is no big deal. It’s okay to have one guy like that in the lineup. Putting three or four guys like that in the lineup day after day can be an issue though. The Yankees aren’t there.

As I said a few weeks ago, the Yankees should consider acquiring a new first baseman and treating this almost as a rehab year for Bird. Let him rest as much as he needs and then give him a ton of Triple-A at-bats to get his timing back. Picking up a first baseman will eliminate any sense of urgency to get Bird back to the big leagues as quickly as possible. Remember, he’s coming off shoulder surgery too. It’s not just the ankle.

Bour could step in at first base for Bird this year, provide that left-handed thump, then stick around to serve as the designated hitter (and Bird insurance) going forward. He’s under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2020. This isn’t a rental. The Yankee are pretty short on left-handed power going forward. It’s Bird and Didi Gregorius, and that’s pretty much it. Most of their top prospects are right-handed hitters. Bour would help balance the lineup.

4. Are we heading for a Yankees-Red Sox bidding war? I suppose it’s possible for Prado. The Red Sox are desperate for third base help, and Dave Dombrowski is not one to take half-measures. He’s going to go get a third baseman and Prado is as good a candidate as anyone. The Red Sox don’t need a first baseman or a designated hitter, so a bidding war for Bour ain’t happening.

That all said, I can’t help but feel the Marlins may be using the Yankees to jack up the price for the Red Sox. Yeah, Prado would make the Yankee better, so there’s a fit, but his contract situation complicates things. The Marlins just need it to seem plausible though. Get the Yankees involved and try to get the Red Sox to pay move. And you know what? I bet Brian Cashman would happily go along with it.

The opposite could be true too, you know. The Marlins could be using the Red Sox to drive up the price for the Yankees. That isn’t quite as believable though. Boston is all-in right now. They’re a win-now team and it stands to reason they’d more aggressively pursue Prado given their third base hole. The Yankees are still focused on their youth movement and reluctant to trade prospects. Eh, whatever.

* * *

I like the idea of the Yankees picking up Bour given the first base situation, though I don’t love adding Prado. The Yankees would be adding another okay veteran third baseman on top of the okay veteran third baseman they already have, except this one is owed more money and under contract an extra year. There’s no harm in kicking the tires because hey, the Marlins could always decide to give Prado away, but that doesn’t seem likely. Bour’s a really good fit in my opinion. I don’t consider Prado enough of an upgrade to take on that contract.

Report: Derek Jeter part of ownership group with deal to buy Marlins for $1.3 billion

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

It looks like Derek Jeter‘s dream of being an owner is coming true. According to Barry Jackson, Jeter is part of an ownership group that has agreed in principle to purchase the Miami Marlins from Jeffrey Loria for $1.3 billion. There are still some details to work through, plus MLB and the other owners have to give approval, so the sale is not final.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is leading the ownership group and will be the “control person” while Jeter will have an “active role” with the franchise, according to Jackson. Sounds like a Magic Johnson situation. The Guggenheim Partners own controlling interest in the Dodgers, but Johnson owns a piece and is basically the face of the ownership group.

Loria has been looking to sell the team for months now and at one point reportedly had a $1.6 billion handshake agreement in place, but that fell apart due to political reasons. Loria purchased the Marlins for $158.5M back in 2002. He sold the Expos to MLB and bought the Marlins from John Henry, who then bought the Red Sox. It was essentially three sales at once.

Jeter has made it no secret he wants to one day own a team, and while he won’t have controlling interest in the Marlins, he has a piece of the pie. I have to say, I always figured Alex Rodriguez would buy into the Marlins. Not Jeter. The team is right in A-Rod‘s backyard. A-Rod buys the Marlins and Jeter buys the Rays. That’s how it’s supposed to work!

In all seriousness, it’s going to be kinda weird seeing the Cap’n promoting the Marlins, huh? What if he throws a ceremonial first pitch in a Marlins jersey? That’s going to be weird. I’m sure Hal Steinbrenner will love cutting Jeter and the Marlins a revenue sharing check too. That won’t be awkward at all.