Potential trade partners for Brett Gardner dwindling due to hot stove activity


The Yankees right now are very much open to trading pricey veterans for prospects. They sold big time at the deadline and continued selling in the offseason by sending Brian McCann to the Astros for two Single-A pitching prospects. The Yankees have reportedly dangled Brett Gardner and Chase Headley in trade talks this winter, and I’m sure they’d love to move Jacoby Ellsbury too, but, you know.

Two teams that stood out as obvious suitors for Gardner addressed their outfield needs last week. The Nationals traded for Adam Eaton and the Cardinals signed Dexter Fowler. Both clubs needed a defensively competent center fielder — Gardner plays left for the Yankees in deference to Ellsbury, but he could still handle center full-time, no problem — and a top of the order on-base guy. The Nats and Cards went in another direction.

Gardner is a good player, not a great one, and the two years and $23M left on his contract is not unreasonable. And besides, the Yankees have shown a willingness to eat money to facilitate trades. They did it with Carlos Beltran at the deadline and McCann a few weeks ago. Salary shouldn’t be a problem. The problem is finding a team that actually needs Gardner, a defense first outfielder with on-base skills. Here are the remaining potential trade partners I came up with.

Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)
Adam Jones needs some help. (Adam Glanzman/Getty)

Current Outfield: Adam Jones in center and Hyun-Soo Kim in left, with Joey Rickard and Rule 5 Draft picks Anthony Santander and Aneury Tavarez candidates for right. They also have the option of moving Chris Davis to right field and playing prospect Trey Mancini at first.

Why Would They Want Gardner? He’s a heck of a lot better than Rickard and the Rule 5 Draft kids — Santander has never played above High-A — and he’d give the O’s a legitimate leadoff hitter, something they really lack. Jones was their leadoff hitter most of this past season. Yeah. Also, the Orioles have an opening at DH, remember. They could put Gardner in left, Kim at DH (where he fits best), and stick with the kids in right.

So Are They A Fit? Yes with the caveat that they’re an AL East rival, and intradivision trades are rare. I don’t think that closes the door completely, it just makes it unlikely. For what it’s worth, Brian Cashman told Bryan Hoch he’d have no problem trading with the Orioles.

“If I can trade with the Red Sox and the Mets, I can trade with the Orioles. I can trade with anybody. If it’s in our best interest, whether it’s short- or long-term, it doesn’t matter what the other teams get. Does it make sense for us? If it happens to be them, I don’t really care.”

What do the O’s have to offer the Yankees for Gardner? Geez, beats me. Their farm system isn’t in great shape (here’s their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and I doubt they’d be willing to give up pieces from their big league roster. I’m sure the Yankees could find some combination of minor leaguers to make it work though.

Cleveland Indians

Current Outfield: Tyler Naquin in center and Lonnie Chisenhall in right. Brandon Guyer and Abe Almonte are expected to hold down left field until Michael Brantley returns from shoulder surgery.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Not too many reasons at this point. The Indians seem focused on adding a big middle of the order bat to share first base and DH with Carlos Santana, and I suppose if those plans go awry, they could circle back and import Gardner to be part of a rotating DH system. He’d give them a more traditional leadoff hitter too. They used Santana at leadoff most of last season, which was somewhat a waste of his power because he batted with fewer men on base.

So Are They A Fit? Nah, I don’t think so. Naquin had a nightmare postseason but a very good regular season, good enough to finish third in the AL Rookie of the Year voting and earn a starting spot in 2017. They’ll ride it out with Almonte and Guyer until Brantley returns, which could be as soon as April.

Detroit Tigers

Current Outfield: Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez on the corners, with Anthony Gose and JaCoby Jones in the mix for center. Tyler Collins could get a crack at the job too, though he’s best in a corner.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Gardner is much better than the group of players vying for Detroit’s center field job at the moment. Of course, the Tigers traded away Cameron Maybin earlier this winter, and they seem to be scaling back on payroll a bit. Salary dumping Maybin only to turn around and acquire Gardner would be a bit weird, don’t you think?

Of course, plans change, and the Tigers are looking at a more winnable AL Central right now. The Twins stink, the White Sox are selling, and the Royals might have to sell at the deadline since basically their entire core will hit free agency next winter. The Tigers won 86 games in 2016 despite going 4-14 (4-14!) against the Indians. What are the odds of that happening again? Small. Gardner would improve their chances in a much more winnable division.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe! I think the Yankees would have to eat money to make a trade happen, which I doubt would be a deal-breaker. If the Yankees ate money to trade Beltran and McCann, I’m sure they’d do the same for Gardner.

Oakland Athletics

Jake Smolinski was the A's everyday center fielder in the second half. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)
Jake Smolinski was the A’s everyday center fielder in the second half. For reals. (Stephen Brashear/Getty)

Current Outfield: Some combination of Khris Davis, Matt Joyce, Brett Eibner, and Jake Smolinski. Did you know Khris Davis hit 42 home runs in 2016? True story.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The A’s are in the market for a center fielder this offseason, it’s been reported everywhere, and they’ve most recently been connected to Jarrod Dyson of the Royals. Gardner is a very similar player (lefty hitting leadoff type with speed and defense) who happens to be much more expensive. But again, if the Yankees are willing to eat money, his contract may not be an obstacle.

So Are They A Fit? Maybe. The Athletics are a weird team that seems to be stuck between going for it and rebuilding. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they traded for an outfielder making $23M over the next two years despite losing at least 93 games the last two seasons. They’re weird like that.

San Francisco Giants

Current Outfield: Denard Span in center and Hunter Pence in right, with Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker slated to platoon in left. Gorkys Hernandez has a leg up on a bench job.

Why Would They Want Gardner? Left field is wide open. Williamson and Parker did an okay job as platoon partners while Pence was on the disabled list this summer — they hit a combined .230/.338/.402 with eleven homers in 278 plate appearances in 2016, but also struck out 28.5% of the time — though neither is a long-term building block. Williamson is the young one at 26. Parker turns 28 in three weeks.

Gardner would, at a minimum, give the Giants an above-average defender for that spacious left field at AT&T Park. In also guessing he’d outproduce a Williamson/Parker platoon at the plate over a full 162-game season. The Mark Melancon signing pushed San Francisco over the luxury tax threshold and they don’t want to go much higher, so Gardner’s contract could be an issue. Then again, the Giants are built to win right now, while Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner are still in their primes, and left field is a sore spot.

So Are They A Fit? Yes, definitely. The Giants have enough prospects to cobble together a trade package (here is their MLB.com top 30 prospects list) and the Yankees could eat money to make things work on San Francisco’s end with regards to the luxury tax. The Giants are a fit. A great fit. No doubt.

Seattle Mariners

Current Outfield: Leonys Martin in the middle with some combination of Seth Smith, Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, Mitch Haniger, and possibly even Danny Valencia in the corners.

Why Would They Want Gardner? As an alternative to that hodgepodge of platoon veterans and mid-range prospects slated for the corners. The Mariners are trying to win right now. I mean, they should be. Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz aren’t going to be this productive forever, so anything Seattle can do to improve their short-term chances qualifies as a good move in my book. Gardner represents an upgrade.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in theory, no in reality. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has said his team is too left-handed at the moment, which Gardner would only exacerbate. Also, they seem committed to playing those kids in the outfield. So while there is a fit on paper here, I don’t see it happening.

Texas Rangers

Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)
Mystery Rangers outfielder. (Rick Yeatts/Getty)

Current Outfield: Carlos Gomez in center, Shin-Soo Choo in right, and Nomar Mazara in left. Delino DeShields Jr. and Ryan Rua are the depth options.

Why Would They Want Gardner? The Rangers have no first baseman or designated hitter at the moment. Adding Gardner would allow them to slide Mazara over to right field, his natural position, and put Choo at DH full-time, which is where he belongs at this point. Texas has money and prospects to trade, plus an obvious opening for Gardner in the lineup and on the field.

So Are They A Fit? Yes. Whether the Rangers are willing to make a trade is another matter. They may prefer to hang on to their prospects and address those first base and DH openings through free agency. There are still plenty of those players available.

Toronto Blue Jays

Current Outfield: lol

Why Would They Want Gardner? Kevin Pillar is still the center fielder. That much is clear. But after losing out on Fowler, the Blue Jays have Melvin Upton, Steve Pearce, Ezequiel Carrera, and Dalton Pompey penciled in as their corner outfielders. That might be the worst outfield unit in baseball. Gardner would give them a legitimate left fielder and leadoff hitter, allowing them to slide Devon Travis lower in the order, in a run producing spot. That would be a big help considering they effectively replaced Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista with Kendrys Morales and Steve Pearce. I’m sure that’ll work out fine.

So Are They A Fit? Yes in the same way the Orioles are a fit. The Blue Jays could use Gardner, for sure, but to get him, they’d have to swing a rare intradivision trade. It’s not impossible. Just really tough to do. There’s a reason you don’t see them often. Everyone’s afraid of losing a trade to a division rival.

Yankeemetrics: How sweep it is [May 19-22]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Supernova sinks the A’s
Given the massive hole the Yankees had dug themselves into during the first month of the season, and coupled with their recent struggles in the Bay Area, this weekend’s trip to Oakland was foreboding.

Entering the series, the Yankees were 2-8 at the Oakland Coliseum since 2013, their worst road record against any AL team in that span. They’d lost four straight series in Oakland, their longest such streak since dropping 12 series in a row at the ballpark from 1985-91.

Not ideal. The Yankees buried that trend from the get-go with a much-needed win in the series opener on Thursday night.

Ivan Nova was a model of efficiency on the mound, firing 62 pitches in six innings while giving up just one run on four hits. His sinker was in peak form, averaging its most horizontal movement and second-best downward movement of the season. The A’s went 2-for-14 when putting a two-seamer in play, as he pounded the bottom of the strike zone with the pitch.

Nova is now 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in three starts this season and hasn’t allowed more than one run in any of those outings. The last Yankee to be unbeaten through his first three starts while giving up one run or fewer in each game was Kevin Brown in 2004.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Welcome back, Large Lefty
Breaking news: The Yankees finally put together a win streak of more than two games after beating the A’s, 8-3, on Friday night. The Astros are now the only team in baseball that hasn’t won at least three games in a row this season.

There were plenty of heroes for the Yankees, starting with their new (old) ace, Carsten Charles Sabathia. Pitching for the first time since going on the DL two weeks ago, Sabathia spun another gem with one run allowed and eight strikeouts in six strong innings. He’s now won back-to-back games, surrendering no more than one run in each outing, for the first time since 2011.

Sabathia wasn’t the only veteran that turned back the clock on Friday night. Thirty-nine-year-old Carlos Beltran went 3-for-5 with three doubles and three RBI to lead the Yankees’ latest offensive outburst.

Beltran is the oldest player in franchise history with three doubles in a game, and just the fifth guy in major-league history age 39 or older to hit three doubles and drive in three runs in a game. The four others are David Ortiz (2015), Tony Perez (1985), Pete Rose (1980), and Joe Judge (1933).

The Yankees continued their winning ways with a 5-1 victory on Saturday that gave them their first road series win of 2016, ending a streak of six straight winless series away from the Bronx. That was their longest such drought to begin a season since 1991.

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Thanks to a Blue Jays loss in Minnesota, the Yankees also climbed out of the basement in the AL East for the first time since April 23. That was their longest stretch in last place since spending the final four months of the 1990 season at the bottom of the division.

Masahiro Tanaka continued the Yankees’ recent stretch of terrific starting pitching as he went seven innings and allowed one run for his second win of the season. He’s now 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA in three career games against the A’s, and has allowed one earned run or fewer in each of those outings.

The only other Yankee since 1980 to win three straight starts versus the A’s without giving up more than an earned run in each game was Andy Pettitte (1997-2000).

Broom Broom
The Yankees capped off this successful West Coast swing with a 5-4 win, completing their first four-game sweep in Oakland since July 1979. They also avoided losing their fourth straight season series against the A’s, something that hadn’t happened in this rivalry since they dropped seven season series in a row to the Philadelphia A’s from 1908-14.

Consider the amazing turnaround that the Bombers have engineered in the past week. When the Yankees started this road trip, they were:

  • Without a win streak of more than two games … Done.
  • Without a road series win … Done.
  • Without a series sweep … Done.

And stuck in last place in the AL East … not anymore. With the win on Sunday, they’re now in third place, their highest rank in the standings since April 17.

Two players that had struggled mightily this season were surprise key contributors to the win. Michael Pineda, riding the longest losing streak of his career (0-5 in prior seven starts), tossed a quality start for his first victory since April 6. His 6.60 ERA entering Sunday was the highest among qualifiers in the AL and second-highest in the majors.

Mark Teixeira brought a .133 batting average against righties into this game, the worst among 286 players with at least 50 plate appearances versus right-handed pitchers this season. Also, he’d yet to record an RBI in his 48 at-bats with two outs this season, the most two-out at-bats without an RBI by any player.

So, of course, he delivered the game-tying hit in the sixth inning via a two-out RBI single off righty Jesse Hahn.

“Well, Suzyn, you know, you just can’t predict baseball!”

5/19 to 5/22 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

See? The Coliseum wasn't so bad before Mount Davis. (Baseball Feelings)
The Coliseum was pretty nice before Mount Davis. (Baseball Feelings)

The road trip continues with four games in Oakland. These days the ballpark is called the Oakland Coliseum. Overstock.com opted out of their naming rights deal in April. Regardless of what they’re calling the stadium, playing in Oakland has been a nightmare for the Yankees in recent years. They’re 2-8 at the Coliseum since 2013. Woof. The A’s swept three games at Yankee Stadium last month.

What Have They Done Lately?

Oakland just swept three games from the Rangers at home, and they’ve won their last four games overall. Prior to that they lost ten of 13. The A’s are 19-22 with -39 run differential overall. Only the Twins (-67!) have a worst run differential in the AL. Somehow they’re in third place in the AL West.

Offense & Defense

Thanks in part to their spacious ballpark, the A’s are averaging only 4.00 runs per game with a team 92 wRC+ this season. Pop-ups that land in the seats in other parks are outs in the Coliseum because of all that foul territory. There’s a reason the A’s have never had a batting champ since they moved to Oakland. Anyway, the Athletics have a ton of position players on the DL: 1B/OF Mark Canha (hip), IF Jed Lowrie (shin), OF Sam Fuld (shoulder), C Josh Phegley (knee), and IF Eric Sogard (knee). None are coming back this series.

Jump shot to celebrate a walk-off? A+ (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Jump shot to celebrate a walk-off? A+ (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Manager Bob Melvin builds his lineup around three players: RF Josh Reddick (129 wRC+), 3B Danny Valencia (180 wRC+), and LF Khris Davis (115 wRC+). Davis, who looked lost at the plate when these two clubs last met, has 12 homers in his last 25 games. Valencia has hit six homers in his last six games. Those three guys typically hit 3-4-5 with OF/DH Coco Crisp (91 wRC+) and CF Billy Burns (73 wRC+) batting first and second. That middle of the lineup is a dangerous group, no doubt about it.

1B Yonder Alonso (72 wRC+) and DH Billy Butler (48 wRC+) have been platooning at first base since Canha’s injury — yes, they’ve actually been playing Butler in the field — while IF Chris Coghlan (57 wRC+) and UTIL Tyler Ladendorf (-84 wRC+) are handling second base duties. The Yankees once drafted Ladendorf, you know. Thirty-fourth round back in 2006. Anyway, SS Marcus Semien (118 wRC+) and C Stephen Vogt (75 wRC+) are the regular shortstop and catcher, respectively. C Matt McBride and IF Max Muncy are the other bench players. Those two were just called up this week.

Overall, the A’s have a really weak team defense. In fact, they rank last in UZR (-18.2) and next to last in DRS (-22) so far this season. Take that for what it’s worth because it’s only May 19th. Reddick is an outstanding defender in right with a great arm, so don’t hit it his way. Burns can also go get it in center. The A’s are below average pretty much everywhere else on the field though, especially now that Crisp’s range has been sapped with age and Butler is playing the field.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday (10:05pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Kendall Graveman (vs. NYY)
Graveman, 24, came over from the Blue Jays in the Josh Donaldson trade and he has been as close to replacement level as it gets with the A’s. So far this season he has a 5.84 ERA (6.33 FIP) in seven starts and 37 innings. Both his strikeout (17.0%) and walk (8.5%) numbers are decent at best, and Graveman has managed to be extremely home run prone (2.43 HR/9) despite an above-average ground ball rate (51.2%). Righties have actually hit him harder than lefties. Graveman is essentially a low-90s sinker/upper-80s cutter/upper-70s curveball pitcher, plus he will throw a few mid-80s changeups per start. Unusual pitch mix. He held the Yankees to one run in 6.1 innings in the Bronx last month, back when the Yankees couldn’t score more than two runs in a game to save their lives.

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Friday (9:35pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (vs. NYY)
Last season Sonny Gray was a deserving All-Star who finished third in the AL Cy Young voting. This year he has 5.84 ERA (5.15 FIP) in eight starts and 44.2 innings. Egads. Jeff Sullivan noted Gray’s breaking ball has not been good this year, and, for what it’s worth, Gray told Jane Lee he thinks he picked up a mechanical flaw and made an adjustment in his previous start. We’ll see. So far this year he’s getting an average-ish number of strikeouts (18.9%) and a ton of ground balls (54.3%), but he’s walking too many (10.0%) and allowing a ton of dingers (1.61 HR/9). Gray has been a FIP beater in his relatively young career — 3.13 ERA and 3.51 FIP in 535.2 innings — because he gets a ton of infield pop-ups and weak ground balls. He’s historically had no platoon split at all. Gray uses low-to-mid-90s four-seamers and sinkers to set up his bread-and-butter low-80s curve. He’ll also throw some upper-80s changeups and mid-80s sliders. The Yankees did not see the 26-year-old Gray during the series in New York last month.

Saturday (4:05pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Sean Manaea (No vs. NYY)
Manaea, 24, came over from the Royals in the Ben Zobrist trade last year. Baseball America ranked him as the 48th best prospect in baseball coming into the season, and once his service time was sufficiently manipulated, the A’s called him up. Manaea has a 7.91 ERA (5.54 FIP) through four starts and 19.1 innings. Few walks (6.9%) and an average number of grounders (45.5%) are positives, but few strikeouts (14.9%) and a ton of dingers (1.86 HR/9) are negatives. In a super small sample righties have hammered Manaea while he’s dominated lefties. Manaea has three pitches: mid-90s four-seamer, upper-70s slider, and mid-80s changeup. He’s got a funky delivery and that slider is his go-to pitch:

Sean Manaea slider

Manaea’s chopped off all his hair since that game in the GIF by the way. Like so many young pitchers still finding their way in the big leagues, Manaea has good stuff but is also prone to losing the plate and working himself into trouble. He was just called up three weeks ago, so the Yankees didn’t see him when these two teams met in Yankee Stadium earlier this season.

Sunday (4:05pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Hahn (vs. NYY)
This game was supposed to be the A’s debut of right-hander Henderson Alvarez, who the team signed as a free agent over the winter while he rehabbed from shoulder surgery. Those plans have been scrapped because Alvarez came down with shoulder soreness following his last rehab start. Apparently the soreness is severe enough that he’s going to see Dr. Andrews. Yikes. That sucks. Big Hendo is one of the most entertaining pitchers in baseball.

So, with Alvarez down, Hahn jumps into the rotation. The 26-year-old has thrown 18.2 innings in three spot starts this season, allowing eight runs (seven earned) on 21 hits and seven walks. He’s struck out only six with a 57.6% grounder rate. Last season he had a 3.35 ERA (3.51 FIP) in 96.2 innings before coming down with a forearm problem. Hahn has very sharp stuff, with a mid-90s heater setting up his upper-80s changeup and trademark upper-70s curveball. The question is health. Hahn has a long and scary injury history. The Yankees didn’t see him last month when the A’s were in New York.

Bullpen Status

Last season the A’s went 19-35 (!) in one-run games in part due to a leaky bullpen. They overhauled the relief crew over the winter with some trades and free agent signings, which has given Melvin way more options in the late innings. He no longer has to hold his breath once the starter comes out of the game. Here’s his bullpen:

Closer: RHP Ryan Madson (1.93 ERA/3.59 FIP)
Setup: LHP Sean Doolittle (3.31/3.97) and RHP John Axford (3.18/3.87)
LOOGY: LHP Marc Rzepczynski (4.05/4.01)
Middle: RHP Ryan Dull (3.48/4.03) and RHP Andrew Triggs (3.38/2.48)
Long: RHP Fernandez Rodriguez (1.54/2.64)

Oakland’s bullpen is pretty well rested. Rodriguez threw 19 pitches and Triggs threw eight pitches yesterday. Madson and Doolittle threw 17 and 16 pitches on Wednesday, respectively. That’s all. For the status of the Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, head on over to our Bullpen Workload page.

Yankeemetrics: Nightmare on River Avenue [April 19-21]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

Bonus cantos is no bueno
Free baseball is a great thing most of the time – except if you’re a Yankee fan watching the team at the friendly confines. Following their 3-2 loss in extra innings to the A’s on Tuesday night, no team has more extra-inning losses at home since the start of last season than the Yankees (eight). This latest disaster was their first loss to the A’s in the 11th inning or later at Yankee Stadium since August 9, 2002.

What made this loss so deflating – aside from their continued inability to cash in on scoring opportunities – was that the Yankees wasted Michael Pineda‘s best start of the season. He delivered six strong innings, limiting Oakland to two runs while striking out seven. That lowered his career ERA against the A’s to 2.25 in four starts, the sixth-lowest by any pitcher with than many starts versus the A’s since his debut in 2011.

Johnny Barbato gave up the game-winning hit with two outs in the top of the 11th, ending a run of brilliance to start his rookie season. He had pitched at least one inning in each of his first five outings, allowing zero runs and no more than one hit in each game. The only Yankee in the last 100 years with a longer streak like that to begin his major-league career was Joba Chamberlain in 2007.

The definition of insanity is …
Well, at least the Yankees are consistent — a consistently bad and frustrating team right now, that is. The Yankees fell into last place in the AL East after losing to the A’s, 5-2, in the middle game of this three-game series. The last time they were in the basement of the division this late into the season (game No. 13 or later) was 2008.

They keep finding new ways to lose, adding boneheaded baserunning plays (no, Didi, no) on Wednesday night to the stable of offensive woes, lack of clutch hitting and defensive miscues that has defined this awful stretch of baseball in the past week.

Nathan Eovaldi‘s performance was marred by one bad inning, but otherwise he spun a bare-minimum quality start (6 innings, 3 earned runs) with seven strikeouts and had probably his best effort of the season. It was his seventh straight start striking out at least seven batters, tying the longest such streak in franchise history, done previously by CC Sabathia (2009, 2011), Mike Mussina (2003) and Ron Guidry (1978).

The most obscure statistical nugget of the game probably came from the visiting squad, when the A’s were forced to have pitcher Kendall Graveman bat cleanup after infielder Danny Valencia got injured and the A’s lost their DH. Graveman became the first starting pitcher to bat in a game at Yankee Stadium since the designated hitter rule was enacted in 1973.

Party like it’s 1990
If there is something deeper than rock bottom, the Yankees have hit it — and there’s no light at the end of this tunnel yet.

Despite scoring first in each of the three games in this series, the Yankees were swept by the A’s after dropping Thursday night’s contest, 7-3. It is the first time Oakland has swept the Yankees at Yankee Stadium since June 9-11, 2006. Their 5-9 record overall is their worst 14-game start since 2005; the only other season in the Wild Card era that they lost nine of their first 14 games was 1997.

Following the loss, the Yankees are now an unfathomable 2-7 when drawing first blood this season; last year, they won 75 percent of the games in which they scored first. They’ve held a lead in 12 of 14 games this season, yet have gone just 5-7 in those 12 contests. Their seven blown losses are tied with the Blue Jays and Braves for the most in the majors.

Once again a Yankee starter — this time Luis Severino — delivered a solid outing, yet the Yankees couldn’t capitalize on the strong pitching performance. This game marked the seventh time that a Yankee starter allowed three runs or fewer and the team lost the game, tied with the Twins for the most such games by a rotation this season.

The most shocking part of this loss, though, was that the supposed strength of this team — the almighty bullpen — proved to be a weakness (along with the perennially slumping offense). They surrendered five runs in three innings, and four of those scores came via home runs. The Yankees bullpen had faced 173 batters in the first 13 games and had yielded just one homer, tied for the fewest given up in the majors entering Thursday’s slate.

4/19 to 4/21 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics


The homestand continues this week with a three-game series against the Athletics. This is the first time the A’s have visited the Bronx in April since 2009. The Yankees are getting a bunch of home series against West Coast teams out of the way early, huh?

What Have They Done Lately?

Coming into the season, the Athletics were the one AL team that I thought had no chance to contend. They’ve gone 6-7 and have been outscored by six runs in the super early going. Oakland just wrapped up a six-game homestand, and they lost the first four games before rallying to win the last two. Yesterday was an off-day as they flew East.

Offense & Defense

Reddick. (Presswire)
Reddick. (Presswire)

Runs have been very hard to come by so far this season. The A’s are averaging only 2.85 runs per game with a team 77 wRC+, so they’ve been really struggling offensively. In fact, they’ve scored three or fewer runs in nine of their 13 games. Good gravy. Manager Bob Melvin has two injured players: IF Eric Sogard (knee) and OF Sam Fuld (shoulder). They’re both going to be out a while.

As always, the A’s have a lineup that is very heavy on platoons. The only constants are OF Josh Reddick (134 wRC+), 3B Danny Valencia (89 wRC+), and SS Marcus Semien (155 wRC+). Reddick and Valencia hit third and fourth, and after starting the season as the No. 9 hitter, Semien has seen some time in the two-hole of late. OF Billy Burns (96 wRC+) and OF Coco Crisp (61 wRC+) are sharing time in center field and at the leadoff spot.

UTIL Chris Coghlan (32 wRC+) has been sharing time at second base with IF Jed Lowrie (51 wRC+) and in left field with OF Khris Davis (21 wRC+). 1B Yonder Alonso (-21 wRC+) and 1B/OF Mark Canha (6 wRC+) are platooning at first, then you have DH Billy Butler (22 wRC+) soaking up at-bats. That was such a weird signing. Backup C Josh Phegley (154 wRC+) starts against lefties, so we probably won’t see him this series since CC Sabathia is not scheduled to start.

The A’s have an awful lot of underperforming players in the early going — again, they’re averaging 2.85 runs per game! — and I sure hope they don’t break out this series. Defensively, Melvin’s team is shaky pretty much everywhere but right field, where Reddick is a true stud with a rocket arm. Here is their runs saved projection visualization, via Sean Dolinar:

Athletics defenseIt’s weird, years ago the A’s were ahead of everyone when it came to the obsession with defense. They were the first team that was willing to accept a bad bat as long as it came with a good glove at positions that were traditionally offense-heavy, like left field and first base. These seem to have abandoned that. Weird.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Eric Surkamp (vs. NYY)
Remember back when the Yankees seemed to get shut down by every finesse lefty they had never seen before? That was a long time ago. Surkamp, 28, was once a pretty good prospect with the Giants, but injuries have derailed him the last few years. He has 66 total big league innings under his belt, including nine innings in two starts this year. Surkamp has allowed four runs on nine hits and five walks while striking out only three in those nine innings. He’s gotten a grounder on only 28.6% of balls in play too. Not a whole lot of data to look at. Surkamp, in typical crafty lefty fashion, works with an 88-91 mph four-seamer and a mid-80s cutter. An upper-70s curve is his main non-fastball, though he’s also thrown some low-80s changeups this year as well. Surkamp is in the rotation because fifth starter Felix Doubront blew out his elbow earlier this month and needed Tommy John surgery, and also because Henderson Alvarez is still working his way back from shoulder surgery.


Wednesday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Kendall Graveman (vs. NYY)
The 25-year-old Graveman came over from the Blue Jays in that ridiculous Josh Donaldson trade two offseasons ago. It looked lopsided at the time and looks even worse now. Graveman is a serviceable big league pitcher, one who owns a 3.90 ERA (4.42 FIP) in 131.2 innings, almost all of which came last year. He’s a ground ball (51.8%) and low walk guy (7.3%). Graveman doesn’t miss many bats (15.6%) and he can be homer prone (1.09 HR/9), but he has had close to no platoon split during those 131.2 innings. He’s essentially a low-90s sinker/upper-80s cutter/upper-70s curveball pitcher, which is an unusual combination. Very A’s like, I’d say. Graveman will throw a few mid-80s changeups per start, and he has a straight low-90s four-seamer for get-me-over pitches. His two starts this season have been solid: two runs in 5.1 innings against the White Sox, one run in six innings against the Angels.

Thursday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Rich Hill (vs. NYY)
Hill turned four dominant starts (1.55 ERA and 2.27 FIP!) with the Red Sox late last year into a one-year, $6M contract with the A’s. Good for him. The 36-year-old has a 4.15 ERA (3.26 FIP) in 13 innings across three starts this year, and he’s managed a 30.7% strikeout rate with a 52.9% grounder rate. His walk rate (8.1%) is about average. All throughout his career, even back in the day with the Cubs, Hill was always way more effective against lefties than righties. His pitching style is very unique. He throws his mid-70s curveball roughly 50% of the time, so more often than his low-90s four-seam fastball. Hill will drop down and throw his curve almost sidearm at times (GIF via Karl de Vries) …

Rich Hill curveball

… and last year he led all pitchers in curveball zone percentage, so he throws it for strikes. That pitch is his bread and butter. Hill will mix in a few mid-80s changeups as well, but really, he’s a curveball pitcher who throws some fastballs on occasion. Unusual. Not bad necessarily, just unusual.

Bullpen Status

The bullpen was a total disaster for the A’s last season. Their 4.63 ERA and 4.36 FIP were the third and fourth worst in baseball, respectively. Only a bunch of rebuilding clubs got worse relief work. So, in an effort to improve the bullpen, the A’s signed RHP Ryan Madson (three years, $22M) and RHP John Axford (two years, $10M), and traded stalwart swingman Jesse Chavez to the Blue Jays for setup man RHP Liam Hendriks. Here is the relief crew to date:

RHP Ryan Madson: 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 0 HR
LHP Sean Doolittle: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 5 K, 3 HR
RHP Liam Hendriks: 6 IP, 13 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 0 HR
RHP John Axford: 7.2 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 0 HR
RHP Ryan Dull: 7.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K, 0 HR (!!!)
RHP Fernandez Rodriguez: 8 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 0 HR
LHP Marc Rzepczynski: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 0 HR

Doolittle started the season as the closer, but then he started giving up dingers in bunches, so Madson has since stepped into the ninth inning. Hendriks and Dull have reversed roles with their performances; Dull’s seeing late-inning work and Hendriks is getting low-leverage innings. Rzepczynski is the left-on-left matchup guy.

Like I said, the A’s had an off-day yesterday, so their bullpen is coming in fresh. The Yankees were off yesterday too, so Joe Girardi‘s bullpen is in good shape. You should check out our Bullpen Workload page anyway.

The Rest of MLB [2016 Season Preview]


The new season is upon us. Opening Day is Monday, which means it’s time to wrap up our annual Season Preview series. As always, we’ll end the series with a quick look around the league. Some of this is serious, most of it isn’t. Enjoy.

Arizona Diamondbacks
Why They’ll Suck: The middle infield is a mess and their corner outfield defense is going to be pretty bad if Yasmany Tomas plays left everyday. Also, they’ll probably trade some good players to unload a bad contract again.
Bold Prediction: Shelby Miller actually pitches well. I have no idea why so many analysts think he’s bad.

Atlanta Braves
Why They’ll Suck: Because they are trying to suck. Rebuilding is just a nice way of saying tanking.
Bold Prediction: Nick Markakis beats his ZiPS projection and slugs .370.

Chicago Cubs
Why They’ll Suck: They’re going to strike out way too much. It’s also only a matter of time until someone gets bit by some wild animal Joe Maddon brings into the clubhouse.
Bold Prediction: Adam Warren is their best starter. Boom!

Chicago White Sox
Why They’ll Suck: They lost their leader, Drake LaRoche.
Bold Prediction: We find out Adam LaRoche was the one who complained about Drake LaRoche being in the clubhouse all the time.

Cincinnati Reds
Why They’ll Suck: Their rotation is Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, Jon Moscot, and John Lamb. No, wait, that’s the list of their injured starters. Now they have to turn to the B-team.
Bold Prediction: Joey Votto finally loses his mind, but in a polite, Canadian way. He’s already doing this between pitches:

Joey Votto

Cleveland Indians
Why They’ll Suck: In all seriousness, their entire starting outfield is either hurt (Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall) or suspended (Abe Almonte). They’re a Corey Kluber or Carlos Carrasco injury away from 85 losses. Beware.
Bold Prediction: Francisco Lindor leads all shortstops in WAR.

Colorado Rockies
Why They’ll Suck: The Rockies exist in a perpetual state of suck. Fun Fact: They have never once won a division title. They’ve finished as high as second place only three times in their 23 years of existence.
Bold Prediction: They finally trade Carlos Gonzalez. I’m thinking … Orioles.

Detroit Tigers
Why They’ll Suck: They’ve punted defense at the four corner positions and, inevitably, the relievers they acquired this winter will stink.
Bold Prediction: Justin Verlander bounces back and finished in the top five of the Cy Young voting.

Houston Astros
Why They’ll Suck: Karma for doing very little in the offseason outside of adding a new closer and fifth starter. The rebuild is supposed to be over.
Bold Prediction: Carlos Correa is more Alex Gonzalez than Alex Rodriguez.

Kansas City Royals
Why They’ll Suck: They replaced Johnny Cueto and Ben Zobrist with Ian Kennedy and Christian Colon. Like, on purpose.
Bold Prediction: Kennedy wins 18 games and Colon hits .310. Eff the Royals, man.

Los Angeles Angels
Why They’ll Suck: The Angels have surrounded Mike Trout with as little position player talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: Jered Weaver’s fastball hits 84 mph once or twice.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Why They’ll Suck: The Dodgers have surrounded Clayton Kershaw with as little pitching talent as possible in an effort to make him look even greater by comparison.
Bold Prediction: It becomes clear Yasiel Puig peaked early.

Miami Marlins
Why They’ll Suck: The fans and players are doomed to pay for Jeffrey Loria’s evil villian-ness. Fun Fact: They’ve never won a division title either. They’ve also never lost a postseason series.
Bold Prediction: Christian Yelich breaks out and puts up Andrew McCutchen numbers. I’m serious about that one.

Milwaukee Brewers
Why They’ll Suck: They’re another team that is going to suck on purpose. Before long they’re going to trade Jonathan Lucroy too.
Bold Prediction: Ramon Flores hits 15 dingers with a .350 OBP.

Minnesota Twins
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know, but I’m sure Twins fans will blame it on Joe Mauer.
Bold Prediction: Miguel Sano plays right field better than Torii Hunter did last year.

New York Mets
Why They’ll Suck: They’re still the Mets. Case in point: the recent Matt Harvey bladder story. Last year’s pennant didn’t change anything in that regard.
Bold Prediction: They have to trade for a starting pitcher at the deadline.

Oakland Athletics
Why They’ll Suck: No joke, I can name only one A’s starter (Sonny Gray) and one A’s infielder (Marcus Semien). Is Bobby Crosby still playing?
Bold Prediction: Josh Reddick gets traded for a holy crap package at the trade deadline. I’m thinking … Royals.

Philadelphia Phillies
Why They’ll Suck: Still reeling from the 2009 World Series, obviously.
Bold Prediction: Someone not named Maikel Franco or Ryan Howard hits a home run.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Why They’ll Suck: The baseball gods will not let John Jaso’s hair go unpunished.


Bold Prediction: Mark Melancon is traded at the deadline. I’m thinking … Dodgers.

St. Louis Cardinals
Why They’ll Suck: The Cardinals will never suck. The only thing they suck at is sucking. Their ace made four starts and their highest paid position player hit four home runs last season, and they still won 100 games. The Cardinals, man.
Bold Prediction: Three years after learning to play second base and one year after learning to hit for power, Matt Carpenter picks up pitching and saves 46 games.

San Diego Padres
Why They’ll Suck: I’m not entirely convinced the Padres exist at this point. Are we sure MLB still lets them into the league? What an amazingly nondescript franchise.
Bold Prediction: Someone throws the first no-hitter in franchise history. I’ll go with Colin Rea, who is a real player and definitely not someone I just made up.

San Francisco Giants
Why They’ll Suck: They buy into the “even year trend” a little too much and give Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner weeks off at a time this summer.
Bold Prediction: Bumgarner out-slugs the starting outfield.

Seattle Mariners
Why They’ll Suck: I don’t know how it will happen exactly, but they’ll suck. The Mariners are the Wile E. Coyote of MLB. Every time they looked poised for success, they crash into the mountain with a tunnel painted on the side of it.
Bold Prediction: Bob Cano mashes 30 taters and finishes in the top three of the MVP voting. I’m expecting a big year from Robbie.

Texas Rangers
Why They’ll Suck: They won’t suck. They’ll be just good enough to get thisclose to winning something meaningful before having it ripped away again. Think Game Six of the 2011 World Series, or the seventh inning of Game Five of last year’s ALDS. That’s how the Rangers roll.
Bold Prediction: Josh Hamilton leads the team in home runs.

Washington Nationals
Why They’ll Suck: They’re the NL version of the Red Sox. They have talent and everyone buys the hype. It should work! But it doesn’t.

Homer Simpson

Bold Prediction: Bryce Harper is even better this year.

Sherman: Yankees called about Donaldson last offseason

(Victor Decolongon/Getty)
(Victor Decolongon/Getty)

This is not surprising at all. According to Joel Sherman, Brian Cashman called Athletics GM Billy Beane about third baseman Josh Donaldson early in the offseason, but was told he would not be traded. It’s been reported over the last few months that other teams were told the same thing. Donaldson wasn’t available … and then suddenly he was.

Sherman says Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos called about Donaldson and basically wouldn’t take no for answer. He kept upping his offer until the A’s said yes. “Alex is and was certainly relentless. That is his personality. But we didn’t trade Josh to make Alex go away,” said A’s assistant GM David Forst.

Furthermore, Sherman says the Athletics did not shop Donaldson around after getting an offer they liked from Toronto. That seems … unwise. Don’t you have to try to get max value for a player of that caliber? The four-player package sent to Oakland in the trade — Brett Lawrie, Kendall Graveman, Sean Nolin, and prospect Franklin Barreto — looked light at the time and ridiculous now.

The Yankees needed a third baseman this past offseason and opted to re-sign Chase Headley, who’s had a poor year mostly because he suddenly forgot how to throw to first base. Alex Rodriguez can’t play the field anymore and the only other free agent third baseman on the market was Pablo Sandoval, who has been a total disaster with the Red Sox.

Of course, the Yankees could have kept Martin Prado at third base, but a) that means no Nathan Eovaldi, and b) Prado hasn’t been anything special this year either. Donaldson would have been an incredible pickup this winter. You don’t need me to tell you that. It’s hard to believe the A’s traded him for what they did. My guess is if they opened it up to the highest bidder, the Yankees would have priced out. So it goes.