2016 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Tuesday

(Jamie Squire/Getty)
(Jamie Squire/Getty)

The first day of the 2016 Winter Meetings came and went without a move for the Yankees. Two of their reported free agent targets, Rich Hill and Mark Melancon, signed with other teams. Now that Matt Holliday is on board as the DH, pitching is the top priority, and Brian Cashman is being open-minded. “From my perspective, I’m open-minded to anything. I think it’s in your best interest to always be that way,” said Cashman to Bryan Hoch.

On Monday we learned the Yankees are still pursuing both Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen, though they won’t go all out to sign them. Chapman, by the way, wants a six-year deal. The Yankees are also in the hunt for Luis Valbuena and a left-handed middle reliever. We’re again going to keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back throughout the day for updates. All time stamps are Eastern Time.

  • 9:30am: Despite their needs, it’s entirely possible the Yankees will not acquire a starting pitcher this offseason. “I think it’s less likely that we wind up with a starter. It’s a tough market to be finding one,” said Cashman. [Pete Caldera]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees have checked in on Royals closer Wade Davis and been in contact with former Royals closer Greg Holland. They’re in on many free agent relievers aside from Chapman and Jansen. [Jon Heyman, Brendan Kuty]
  • 9:30am: Cashman ruled out a run at Edwin Encarnacion, which should not be a surprise in any way. “Right now there’s not a fit because of our current setup,” said the GM. [Erik Boland]
  • 9:30am: The Yankees have fielded a “number of different concepts” involving Brett Gardner, though Cashman said none were compelling enough to complete a trade. [Hoch]
  • 10:26am: Among the other relievers the Yankees have reached out to this offseason are Brad Ziegler, Koji Uehara, and Mike Dunn. Dunn is a former Yankees prospect. [George King, Joel Sherman]
  • 10:28am: The Yankees are “intent” on avoiding huge contracts for players over 30. No surprise there. They’ve been operating that way for two offseasons now. [Heyman]
  • 11:32am: The Yankees “prepared to give” Chapman a five-year deal worth $80M. Chapman is their primary target (duh) and Jansen is the backup plan. [Heyman]
  • 12:13pm: Take this one with a grain of salt: the Yankees are reportedly “close to a deal” to acquire Gio Gonzalez for two prospects and possibly a third piece, according to Rich Mancuso. The deal is contingent on the Nationals getting Chris Sale, a la the Starlin Castro trade and Ben Zobrist last year. The Yankees have had interest in Gio in the past. This rumor does pass the sniff test, though I’d like to see some familiar names corroborate the report before fully buying in.
  • 12:41pm: For what it’s worth, Mark Feinsand says there’s no truth to the Gio rumor. Jayson Stark says the Nationals would make him available following a Sale trade, however.
  • 12:54pm: Jack Curry shot down the Gio rumor as well. Carry on.
  • 1:14pm: Chris Sale has been traded to the … Red Sox. Not the Nationals. Yoan Moncada, Michael Kopech, and two others are going to Chicago’s south side. [Ken Rosenthal]
  • 4:58pm: The Yankees have made contract offers to both Chapman and Jansen. “It’d be nice if somebody picks us at some point. If not, we’ll adjust,” said Cashman. [Hoch, Caldera]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Mailbag: Traded Prospects

Here’s a special one-question edition of the RAB Mailbag, but don’t worry, we’ll definitely get to some more throughout the course of the week.

Hey! Since many, many moves were made both prior to the season and during the season concerning movement of prospects, it doesn’t seem to have affected the farm system too much. Contrary to this, the farm system as a whole seems to have taken a giant leap forward, especially with the development of our young pitching corps. But I still wonder, how much better (in terms of subjective quality or actual ‘ranking’) would our farm system be if we still had all the players pre Javy-trade.

The Yankees have made several trades involving prospects over the last twelve months, most notably for Curtis Granderson, Javy Vazquez, Boone Logan, Lance Berkman, and Austin Kearns. As far as we know right now, the Kerry Wood trade only involves money. Here are the prospects that were dealt away in those moves, in no particular order: Austin Jackson, Arodys Vizcaino, Mike Dunn, Mark Melancon, Jimmy Paredes, and Zach McAllister. Ian Kennedy surpassed the rookie limit of 50 big league innings back in 2008, so technically he wasn’t a prospect at the time of the trade.

The best overall prospect with the highest long-term value traded away is Vizcaino, who posted a 2.22 FIP (2.74 ERA) in 85.1 innings split between Low-A and High-A this season before being shut down with a small ligament tear in his elbow that did not require Tommy John surgery. During one stretch from early-May to mid-June, he went 44 innings between issuing a walk. Baseball America ranked him the sixth best prospect in the South Atlantic League two weeks ago, saying he “shows a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96, a hammer curveball and excellent control … [h]is changeup continues to improve and could give him a third plus pitch.” It’s a frontline starter package, for sure. If he was still with the Yanks, he’d almost certainly be their top pitching prospect if healthy, but I’d probably dock him a bit for the injury and the uncertainty it brings. For sure, The Killer B’s (Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Brackman) would have another running mate, so perhaps we’d be calling them The Killer B’s Plus V.

The best immediate impact guy they traded was Jackson by far. He had a 3.6 fWAR season for the Tigers thanks to a slightly above average .333 wOBA combined with a strong +4.2 UZR in center. I have a hard time believing that Jackson would have made the Yanks out of Spring Training had the trade never gone down, simply because a starting outfield of Jackson, Brett Gardner, and Nick Swisher would have been very questionable back in April. He likely would have returned to Triple-A for at least a few weeks, and the Yanks would have brought in another outfielder, probably Johnny Damon now that I think about it. If he was still a Yankee prospect, he’d be their second best position player prospect behind Jesus Montero, but he’d only be in the middle of their top ten prospects behind Montero and The Killer B’s.

The other four guys were all second tier prospects with similar value. Melancon is  the best of the bunch as an MLB-ready strikeout reliever, and sure enough he pitched to a 3.19 FIP (3.12 ERA) with 9.87 K/9 and 4.15 BB/9 in 17.1 innings for Houston after the trade, good for 0.3 fWAR. Dunn spent most of the season in Triple-A but came up late in the year to post a 3.60 FIP (1.89 ERA) in 19 innings for the Braves, though his impressive 12.79 K/9 came with a hideous 8.05 BB/9. Paredes was one of the system’s better sleepers, a slick fielding middle infielder with some pop (.130 ISO this year) and lots of speed (50 steals, 82.0% success rate).

McAllister took a big step back before the trade, getting surpassed by several of the higher upside arms in the system throughout the summer. Before the trade he posted a 4.73 FIP (5.03) in 132.1 Triple-A innings after never having an FIP higher than 3.26 at any level in any season of his career. He also become exceptionally homer prone, giving up 19 in 24 starts after surrendering just 17 in the first 74 outings of his career. The numbers after the trade are from too small a sample to draw any conclusions from (4.08 FIP, 6.88 ERA, 17 IP).

There’s no question that the Yanks’ system would be considerably stronger had all of those trades never gone down, and that’s mostly thanks to Jackson and Vizcaino. Melancon and Dunn are solid depth pieces, Paredes and interesting low-level guy, but frankly McAllister had no place on a team like the Yankees and trade bait was almost certainly his ultimate future one way or the other. The Yanks certainly have a top ten system right now, but if you add a high upside arm like Arodys and a solid everyday centerfielder in Jackson (thanks to the benefit of hindsight, of course), it jumps into the top five, maybe even top three. Their depth would be improved greatly, and the cache of arms would be even deeper. For fun, here’s a rough top list of the ten best Yankee prospects had those trades never gone down…

  1. Jesus Montero
  2. Arodys Vizcaino
  3. Manny Banuelos
  4. Andrew Brackman
  5. Dellin Betances
  6. Austin Jackson
  7. Gary Sanchez
  8. Austin Romine
  9. Slade Heathcott
  10. Hector Noesi

Quibble about the order if you want, but the names are generally correct. No matter how you slice it, that’s a monster top ten.

Remember, prospects serve two purposes: the plug into the big league roster and trades. They were able to trade Vizcaino because of all the other high-upside arms they had in-house, and the reason they were able to acquire a power hitting centerfield with top notch defense like Granderson is because they had someone like Jackson to deal away. The other guys are just the cost of doing business, potentially useful pieces for almost certainly useful pieces. The farm system would be stronger with them, no doubt, but the big league team is stronger because they traded away, and that’s what matters.

Photo Credits: Jackson with the Honolulu Sharks of Hawaii Winter Baseball in 2007 via Kyle Galdeira, Jackson with the Tigers in 2010 via Mark Duncan, AP.

KLaw’s analysis of the Vazquez trade

As he does with ever major move, Keith Law gave his take of today’s Javy Vazquez trade, noting that the Yanks “could very well enter 2010 a better team on paper than they were at the same time before 2009.” That should scare the crap out of the rest of the league. KLaw acknowledges that Arodys Vizcaino is a fantastic prospect, but also adds that Melky Cabrera is a “fairly pricey for a fourth outfielder,” and that Mike Dunn still has a ton of work to do on his command.

It’s definitely a long term sacrifice for a short term gain, but the Yanks can afford to take such risks.

Yanks acquire Javy Vazquez for Melky, Dunn

Javy Vazquez

After an evening of rumors regarding an impending starting pitching trade, the Yankees have acquired Javier Vazquez from the Braves in exchange for Melky Cabrera. As Jon Heyman first reported the Yankees will also ship Mike Dunn and a prospect to Atlanta, and the Braves will send left-handed reliever Boone Logan to the Bronx. Joel Sherman reports that Arodys Vizcaino will be the prospect.

I first speculated last night via Twitter that Vazquez would be the Yanks’ target, and Joel Sherman’s sources told him as much this morning. Although many Yankee fans have bad memories of Vazquez’s time in New York, since being sold too low and too soon by the team, he has not made fewer than 32 starts in a season and has a K/9 IP of 8.7. Plus, this time around, he would not be expected to front the rotation.

Earlier Buster Olney reported that the Yanks had asked the Pirates about Paul Malholm, Zach Duke and Ross Ohlendorf. The Pirates though have not been too inclined to trade their young, cost-controlled arms, and Vazquez is a much better pick-up — especially at that price — than any of the Pittsburgh trifecta.

Yankee fans are already familiar with Vazquez, who spent the 2004 season in the Bronx. He made the All Star Team thanks to a 3.56 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP in 18 starts, however he slumped to a 6.92 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in the second half due to a tired shoulder. Joe Sherman says the Yanks are concerned about the heavy workloads CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte endured last season, and Vazquez will certainly provide protection for that: he’s made at least 32 starts and thrown at least 198 IP every season since 2000. Vazquez has been worth 21.3 wins over replacement over the last four years, which is nothing short of outstanding.

Logan, 25, is just a lefty specialist. He was actually dealt to Atlanta from the White Sox with Vazquez last offseason, and has held lefties to a .266-.333-.398 line against with his sidearm junk. Not great, but serviceable. From what I can tell, he’s out of options, and is arbitration eligible for the first time this year.

As much as it strengthens the team’s rotation, it also weakens their outfield. The leftfield situation currently looks like a Brett Gardner/Jamie Hoffmann platoon, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence. Whether the Yanks fill this void by going big (Matt Holliday), going medium (Johnny Damon), or going small (Eric Hinske) remains to be seen. Vazquez is owed $11.5M in 2010 (which the Yankees will pay) and will be a free agent after the season, so the Yanks’ payroll unofficially sits around $208M right now.

Photo Credit: John Bazemore, AP

Yanks, D-Backs, Tigers talking blockbuster

Updated 12:15 a.m.: It looks like Monday was a busier day for the Yankees than we thought. According to Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports, they discussed a three-way trade with the Tigers and Diamondbacks that would have sent Curtis Granderson to New York and Edwin Jackson to Arizona. Talks, however, reached an impasse. The D-Backs are pushing hard, but the deal “was rejected by at least one of the other two teams.”

I originally thought that team to be the Yankees, and Joel Sherman confirmed as much a few minutes ago. The Yanks thought the costs were too high, and the Tigers were lukewarm on their returns as well. Although the three-way talks are dead, the Yankees are still very much interested in Granderson, not least because their interest could drive Johnny Damon‘s price down.

So what then were the costs to this proposed deal? The Yankees would have lost Ian Kennedy, Mike Dunn, Phil Coke, and Austin Jackson in the trade and gotten back Granderson and “one or two prospects from the Diamondbacks.” The Diamondbacks would have sent the Tigers Matt Scherzer and another prospect or two for Edwin Jackson. So, even though they’d be losing two to four prospects in the deal, the Diamondbacks were the ones pushing for this. It made the situation a bit more interesting.

We can forget about Dunn and Coke, because they’re not the ones who were holding up this deal. I doubt Kennedy was, either. If the Yanks are the stalling party, it’s likely over Austin Jackson. He’s still developing, and his lack of power in 2009 is concerning, but he’s still a good prospect, probably the second best in the Yankees system. The Yankees are reluctant to deal him, and for good reason. If that power tool comes around, he could be a very good MLB center fielder.

Granderson is attractive for a number of reasons, as I outlined in this post. He’s trended downward since his breakout 2007 season, but as with Nick Swisher‘s 2008, 2009 could have just been a bad season for Granderson. As I noted, he hit way, way more fly balls than normal, which led to a lower BABIP and, accordingly, batting average. I can definitely see Granderson recovering to his 2008 form, which would be great news for the Yankees. He could instantly replace Johnny Damon in the outfield and in the two-hole.

Getting two prospects back from the Diamondbacks would have helped soften the blow of losing Jackson, but we still don’t know which prospects were under discussion. Without mentioning prospects, the Diamondbacks are getting both Kennedy and Edwin Jackson and giving up only Scherzer. Maybe both the Tigers and the Yanks get a B-prospect from the D-Backs. So is Granderson and a B-prospect worth Austin Jackson?

As with most rumors, I discussed this one with both Ben and Mike for a while before even starting to write. All three of us are on the fence. If the Yanks pulled the trigger, we’d welcome the new center fielder. If they didn’t, we’d maintain hope for Jackson. It’s nice not to be disappointed either way. But, gun to my head, I do the trade. I have faith that Granderson can recover, and while I do want to see Austin Jackson grow into his pinstripes, there are some situations where trading prospects makes sense. I can see this being one of those situations.

When Halladay is on…

Not much to say about last night’s game, so let’s cover it bullet-point style.

  • Joba made some good pitches, but he made a lot more poor pitches. The Pena error in the first hurt, but it’s not like Joba was cruising to that point. Aaron Hill’s double, just out of Eric Hinske’s reach, was well hit, and Adam Lind doubled on a very hittable fastball. There’s no way to sugar coat the six hits he allowed and two he walked. It’s massively disappointing.
  • I think PeteAbe says it well: “The idea was to see improvement and it wasn’t there. Don’t focus on the runs or the misplays in the field, focus on the quality of Toronto’s swings and that Joba had only four pitches that produced a swinging strike. Two were by past-his-prime Kevin Millar.”
  • I wonder if the offense was at all affected by the grueling first inning. Yes, Roy Halladay is excellent, but this is a team that had scored 57 runs over its past seven games. Perhaps, the saying goes, it was a market correction. Halladay did have an uncharacteristically poor August.
  • Nice piece of hitting by Ramiro Pena on a misplaced Roy Halladay curveball in the sixth. Figures that it was the Yanks only hit of the night.
  • I bolted after the fourth inning and went to see Extract. Funny flick, definitely up to Mike Judge’s standard. I’d say I enjoyed Ben Affleck’s character, but then it would be memorialized for all eternity on the Internets.
  • Anyway, came back and fired up the game archive. Jumped to the sixth to see Ramiro’s double, and then went to the bottom of the seventh to watch Mike Dunn’s debut. I wish I hadn’t. All I could think of was Harry Doyle. “Low, and he walks the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. How can these guys lay off pitches that close?”
  • Not only can we look forward to having Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher in the lineup today, but there’s a pitcher who might go more than four innings. Andy Pettitte against Brett Cecil tomorrow at one. I do like day games after tough losses.
  • Oh, and of course, magic number is down to good old O’Neill. Paul Byrd got hammered. Nice.

Dunn promoted, McAllister disabled

Lefty reliever Mike Dunn, who was added to the 40-man roster this past off-season, has been promoted to AAA reports Mike Ashmore. Looks like Paul Bush will leave Pennsylvania in favor of New Jersey. Dunn had a 3.71 ERA over 53.1 innings with the Thunder, striking out 76 while walking 32. He’ll try to keep those BB numbers down as he works his way closer to an invitation to the Bronx.

Meanwhile, Ashmore also informs us that RHP Zack McAllister has been placed on the DL. He doesn’t have any real details, and his frustration over the flow of information is palpable in his post. Can’t blame him. McAllister, who could be trade bait in the next few weeks, pitched a scoreless inning in the Eastern League All-Star game, though it’s said his velocity was only in the high 80s. That could have something to do with it.