First Domino Falls: Scott Kazmir traded to Astros

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

The first trade deadline domino has fallen. The Athletics have traded Scott Kazmir to the Astros for prospects right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham, both teams announced. The Yankees reportedly scouted Kazmir’s last start over the weekend. He’s from Houston, so I imagine he’s happy with the trade. Also, what a world, the Astros are buying.

Neither Mengden nor Nottingham were including in the Astros’ top 30 prospects in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook before the season, though they’ve both played well this summer, so I’m sure their stock was on the rise. I couldn’t tell you what an equivalent Yankees package would have been. Sorry. The prospects are too obscure even for a nerd like me.

The apparently light return could mean prices for a rental starter aren’t as high as expected — the market is flooded with available arms, after all, lots of options for buyers — or it could mean teams were scared off by Kazmir’s medicals. Remember he left his start against the Yankees with an injury just before the break. Either way, expect trades to pick up now.

Yankeemetrics: Hey now, you’re an All-Star (July 7-9)

(Getty)
(Getty)

No relief in the Bronx
A rock-solid, lock-down bullpen has been one of the few constants in what has mostly been a very streaky 2015 season for the Yankees. But Tuesday night followed a different script. Chasen Shreve and Dellin Betances each allowed a solo homer — a game-tying shot in the sixth inning and a tie-breaking blast in the 10th inning — as the Yankees suffered another painful loss in the series opener against the A’s.

For Betances, it was the seventh homer he’s allowed in his career and the first time he’s given up a home run in back-to-back appearances. Before surrendering Steven Souza’s longball on Sunday afternoon, Betances hadn’t been taken deep since August 13 last season. Then bam, wham, two in a row.

Lawrie’s go-ahead homer came on an 0-2 breaking ball, a situation that normally would be a near-automatic out for Betances. Before Tuesday, hitters were 1-for-39 with 31 strikeouts after going down 0-2 against the Yankees right-hander.

This loss was another one of the “you can’t predict baseball” variety. The A’s entered this game 0-6 in extra innings and 6-21 in one-run games this season, both of which were the worst marks in baseball. So, of course, they won a one-run game in the 10th inning against the Yankees.

Tex marks the spot
Mark Teixeira was a one-man highlight reel in Wednesday’s 5-4 win over the A’s, hitting two homers and making several fantastic defensive plays that likely saved the game for the Yankees.

He’s now got 17 homers against the A’s as a Yankee; since the A’s franchise moved to Oakland in 1968, the only Yankees with more homers against them are Roy White (18) and Tino Martinez (18). As of Thursday morning, Teixiera had been credited with 18 “out of zone” plays, the most among all AL first baseman this season.

CC Sabathia was not dominant but pitched well enough (5 1/3 IP, 2 R, 7 H) to earn his 95th win in pinstripes. That ties Ray Caldwell — who pitched for the Yankees from 1910-18 — for 17th place on the franchise all-time wins list. It was also his 212th career win, passing Billy Pierce for sole possession of 23rd place among left-handers in major-league history.

Andrew Miller allowed two runs in the ninth inning but still got the final three outs to seal the win. He’s now 18-for-18 in save opportunities, matching the second-longest streak to being a season in Yankee history. The only longer streak came in 2008, when Mariano converted his first 28 saves.

Gardy goes yardy
The Yankees won their final home game before the All-Star break, 6-2 over the A’s, thanks to an ace-like performance from Masahiro Tanaka on Thursday afternoon. Tanaka got into trouble in the second inning but then retired 18 of the final 19 batters he faced — the only guy to reach in that span was Billy Butler on a wild pitch/strikeout.

Both of the hits Tanaka allowed came off his fastball; the A’s went 0-for-19 with six strikeouts in at-bats ending in an off-speed pitch, including 0-for-11 against his splitter. Filthy. He now has three career games of at least seven innings pitched and two-or-fewer hits allowed. Since he joined the team last season, the rest of the Yankee pitchers have combined for one such game (Michael Pineda).

Tanaka shared the spotlight with Brett Gardner, who went 3-for-5, including his 10th homer of the season, and found out that he was named to his first All-Star Game (replacing the injured Alex Gordon). Gardner is just the fifth Yankee to hit at least 10 homers, 20 doubles and steal 15 bases before the All-Star break. The others? Johnny Damon (2006), Raul Mondesi (2003), Alfonso Soriano (2002) and Rickey Henderson (1986).

7/7 to 7/9 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

It’s the last series at Yankee Stadium before the All-Star break. The Athletics are on the East Coast and will be in the Bronx for three games starting tonight. The Yankees dropped three of four against the A’s out in Oakland back in May. That was not a fun series.

What Have The A’s Done Lately?

The A’s had an off-day yesterday and split a four-game set with the Mariners over the weekend. They went 4-6 on their just completed ten-game homestand. Oakland has one of the worst records in the league at 38-47, but they’ve been much better since June 1st (18-14) and do have a stellar +49 run differential. That 38-47 record is deceiving.

Offense & Defense

At 4.38 runs per game with a team 103 wRC+, the A’s are a tick better than the average MLB offense. They’re relatively healthy too. OF Coco Crisp is out with a career-threatening neck injury and UTIL Tyler Ladendorf is out following ankle surgery, but that’s it. The rest of the roster is healthy. Crisp’s injury sucks though. Hate to see a guy’s career end due to an injury.

Future Yankee Ben Zobrist. (Presswire)
Future Yankee Ben Zobrist. (Presswire)

Manager Bob Melvin has three excellent everyday players in C Stephen Vogt (145 wRC+), OF Josh Reddick (130 wRC+), and 2B Ben Zobrist (127 wRC+). Reddick has made some major approach adjustments and now his strikeout (10.6%) and walk (8.3%) rates are nearly identical. Also, if the A’s just want to leave Zobrist behind in New York when the series is over, that would be great.

OF Billy Burns (122 wRC+) is appropriately named because he’s super fast, and 3B Brett Lawrie (113 wRC+) is finally starting to live up to the hype. Maybe. Possibly. Probably not. SS Marcus Semien (99 wRC+) and DH Billy Butler (92 wRC+) are the other every players. C Josh Phegley (155 wRC+ vs. LHP) and 1B Ike Davis (120 wRC+ vs. RHP) are Melvin’s two top platoon weapons. 1B/OF Mark Canha (102 wRC+), OF Sam Fuld (75 wRC+), and IF Eric Sogard (69 wRC+) are also on the bench.

Depending on your choice of defensive metric, the A’s are either great defensively (+8 DRS) or terrible defensively (-23.9 UZR). Reddick, Fuld, Burns, Zobrist, and Lawrie are very good in the field while Semien is error prone. Canha and Davis are fine. Vogt and Phegley have combined to throw out more than one-third of attempted base-stealers and StatCorner says they’re average and above-average pitch-framers, respectively.

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (7pm ET): RHP Nathan Eovaldi (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (vs. NYY)
Gray, 25, recently dealt with a bout of salmonella, which caused him to miss one start and have another pushed back. He’s good to go tonight though. Womp womp. Gray has been one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, posting a 2.09 ERA (2.67 FIP) in 16 starts and 107.2 innings. Good strikeout rate (22.9%), great walk rate (6.1%), great ground ball rate (54.2%), great home run rate (0.42 HR/9), great success against righties (.228 wOBA), great success against lefties (.251 wOBA). Just all around great. Gray throws both two and four-seamers in the mid-90s and he uses them both equally. A hammer low-80s curveball is his out pitch, but he also throws mid-80s sliders and a handful of mid-80s changeups per start. The Yankees scored two runs in eight innings against Gray back in May. Hopefully the recent illness and long layoff means he’s off his game tonight.

Wednesday (7pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. OAK) vs. LHP Scott Kazmir (vs. NYY)
Audition? Kazmir is an impending free agent and figures to be traded before the deadline, and the Yankees have been connected to other rental arms like Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, and Jeff Samardzija, so I assume they’re in on Kazmir as well. The 31-year-old southpaw has a 2.56 ERA (3.24 FIP) in 16 starts and 98.1 innings with good to great peripherals across the board: 23.0 K%, 8.3 BB%, 46.0 GB%, and 0.64 HR/9. Righties (.279 wOBA) have had more relative success against him than lefties (.252 wOBA). Kazmir has reinvented himself since his arm injuries and is no longer the mid-90s fastball/wipeout slider guy was with the (Devil) Rays. He still throws the four-seamer and slider, but now operates mostly with a low-90s two-seamer and mid-80s changeup. It’s cliche as hell, but Kazmir is a pitcher now after being a thrower earlier in his career. The Yankees didn’t face him during the four-game series in Oakland earlier this year.

Chavez. (Presswire)
Chavez. (Presswire)

Thursday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (vs. NYY)
Chavez, 31, moved into the rotation a few weeks ago and has been excellent, pitching to a 3.20 ERA (3.09 FIP) in 95.2 innings spread across 14 starts and four relief appearances. His strikeout rate is just average (20.7%) while his walk (5.9%), ground ball (41.8%), and home run (0.66 HR/9) numbers are lower than the MLB average. Lefties (.317 wOBA) have a lot more success against Chavez than righties (.251 wOBA). Chavez is a bit of a kitchen sink guy, throwing five different pitches including four at least 16% of the time. He’s got low-90s two and four-seamers, an upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. The curve is the fifth pitch he uses fewer than 5% of the time. Chavez struck out six in eight scoreless innings against the Yankees in May.

Bullpen Status
Like the Yankees, the A’s were off yesterday, so their bullpen is as fresh as it’s going to get in early-July. Ex-Yankees farmhand RHP Tyler Clippard (3.78 FIP) is closing with LHP Drew Pomeranz (3.98 FIP) and RHP Edward Mujica (4.94 FIP) serving as the setup men du jour. LHP Eric O’Flaherty (4.52 FIP) recently came off the DL and will face tough lefties.

LHP Fernando Abad (5.62 FIP), RHP Evan Scribner (4.06 FIP), and RHP Fernandez Rodriguez (1.75 FIP) are the rest of the regular relievers. RHP Chris Bassitt (4.35 FIP) is the 13th arm and he started in place of Gray the last two times out. He started Sunday and will either be sent down for a fresh arm today or out of action the next two games. Head over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen and Athletics Nations and BeaneBall for the latest on the A’s.

Yankeemetrics: West Coast mess (May 28-31)

Can I get some help, guys? (Ben Margot/AP)
Can I get some help, guys? (Ben Margot/AP)

B.A.D.
As Mike wrote on Thursday night (actually Friday morning), the Yankees series-opening defeat was not just a bad loss, it was a Bad Loss. How Bad, really? Sure, the Yankees squandered a three-run lead to the team with the worst record in baseball … but that doesn’t even begin to explain the extent of the Bad-ness.

Entering the game, Oakland:
• was 0-5 on Thursdays this season;
• had lost its last 10 games started by a left-handed pitcher;
• was 2-15 in one-run games this season, on pace to be worst such record by any team in the modern era (since 1900);
• had lost last its 12 home games decided by one run, the longest such streak since the 1894 Cubs (not a typo)

CC Sabathia didn’t pitch as poorly as his numbers in the box score, but regardless fell to 2-7 with a 5.67 ERA in 10 starts this season. He is the first Yankee with seven losses before the team’s 50th game of the season since Tommy John in 1989.

The 46-year-old southpaw had an eerily similar line to Sabathia’s after 10 starts (and the 44th game of the season), with a 5.80 ERA and 2-7 record. He was released by the Yankees after that 10th start against the Angels on May 25, and wouldn’t pitch in another major-league game in his career. Welp.

No chance
Sometimes mismatches on paper turn out to be … mismatches on the field, too. And that’s exactly what happened on Friday night in the Yankees 6-2 loss to Sonny Gray and the A’s.

Sonny Gray, an early Cy Young candidate, held the Yankees to four hits over eight innings. He’s the first A’s pitcher to allow fewer than five hits in eight-or-more innings pitched against the Yankees since Mark Mulder on May 11, 2003.

If you’re looking for highlights, look no further than the bat of Brian McCann, who extended his streak of games with a homer to four. He is just the fourth Yankee catcher to hit a home run in four straight games, joining Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra and Mike Stanley.

Belting it
The Yankees snapped a four-game losing streak in Oakland with a come-from-behind win on Saturday night. Entering the game, they had lost 11 of their last 12 games at the Coliseum, their worst 12-game stretch there since 1989-91.

Carlos Beltran was the hero with his two-run homer in the sixth inning that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 4-3 lead for the Yankees. Before Saturday, Beltran had just three homers in 154 at-bats in Oakland, his lowest homer rate (one every 51 at-bats) at any ballpark he’d played at least 25 games.

McCann gave the Yankees the early 1-0 lead with a first-inning RBI single. It was his eighth straight game with a hit and an RBI, matching Allen Robinson (1946) and Yogi (1956) for the longest such streak by a Yankee catcher in franchise history.

One bad pitch
The Yankees wasted another strong outing by Adam Warren on Sunday afternoon, losing 3-0 to the A’s in the series finale.

Warren surrendered just two runs over seven innings, and his only mistake was a 1-1 fastball in the sixth frame that Stephen Vogt sent over the right field fence. He’s now got a 2.70 ERA in his last four starts, but the Yankees have won just one of those four games. Overall this season, Warren has six starts allowing no more than three runs without getting a win; the only AL pitcher with more such “hard-luck” starts is Baltimore’s Wei-Yin Chen (7).

Jesse Chavez put the Yankees’ bats on ice, holding them without a run over eight innings. He’s the first A’s pitcher to throw eight scoreless innings against the Yankees at home since Steve Ontiveros tossed a one-hit shutout nearly 20 years ago on May 27, 1995. Chavez also joined Vida Blue (1976) as the only pitchers to not allow a run or a walk with at least eight innings pitched against the Yankees in Oakland since the team moved to the west coast in 1968.

5/28 to 5/31 Series Preview: Oakland Athletics

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the first time this season, the Yankees will head west and play in the Pacific Time Zone. They open a seven-game trip with a four-game series against the Athletics in Oakland later tonight. The Yankees will make another West Coast trip at the end of June.

What Have The A’s Done Lately?

Let’s put it this way: this is not the A’s season. They just dropped two straight to the Tigers and lost two of three in the series. Before the two losses, they won three straight games for the first time this season. First time! Oakland has the league’s worst record (17-32) despite a not abysmal run differential (-5).

Offense & Defense

Overall, the Athletics are about a league average offensive club with a team 101 wRC+ and an average of 4.18 runs per game. They’re a little banging up offensively, with OF Coco Crisp (neck) and 1B Ike Davis (oblique) on the DL with long-term injuries. Crisp’s injury might be career-ending. 3B Brett Lawrie is also day-to-day with back tightness, though he did play yesterday.

I believe in Stephen Vogt. (Presswire)
I believe in Stephen Vogt. (Presswire)

The big names in manager Bob Melvin’s lineup are 2B Ben Zobrist (100 wRC+), DH Billy Butler (95 wRC+), and OF Josh Reddick (158 wRC+). Reddick’s been really good, Zobrist okay around a knee injury, and Butler a disappointment. Their best hitter is C Stephen Vogt (182 wRC+), a late-blooming 30-year-old the Rays gave up on last year. Vogt’s been the best hitting catcher in baseball so far this season. Go figure. SS Marcus Semien (124 wRC+) has been really good as well.

In addition to Lawrie (81 wRC+), the rest of the lineup includes OF Sam Fuld (61 wRC+) and OF Billy Burns (100 wRC+), two no-power speed guys. (Burns is very appropriately named.) 1B Max Muncy (116 wRC+) and 1B/OF Mark Canha (102 wRC+) are platooning at first base for the time being. C Josh Phegley (75 wRC+) will play against lefties and IF Andy Parrino (0-for-5) is the backup infielder. Reddick and Vogt are a force in the middle of the lineup. The rest of the offense … eh.

Regardless of metric, the A’s are one of the very worst defensive teams in baseball. They have both the most errors (50, ten more than anyone else!) and the lowest team UZR, so it’s no surprise they lead baseball with 30 unearned runs allowed. Reddick is excellent in right and Zobrist and Lawrie are strong at second and third, respectively, but that’s about it. Fuld and Burns can run a little but that hasn’t translated to great defense. Semien at short has been particularly ugly, which isn’t surprising because basically no one outside Oakland thought he could play short on an everyday basis. Put the ball in play and good things will happen against this defense.

Pitching Matchups

Thursday: LHP CC Sabathia (Career vs. OAK) vs. RHP Kendall Graveman (No vs. NYY)
Graveman, 24, came over in the Josh Donaldson trade and was my pick to win AL Rookie of the Year before the season. So, naturally, he has a 6.04 ERA (5.74 FIP) in five starts and 22.1 innings this year. Graveman was sent down to Triple-A for a few weeks but has since rejoined the team. He threw six shutout innings against the Rays last time out, which was his first start back from the minors. Graveman hasn’t missed many bats (12.2 K%) and he does walk people (10.3 BB%), which is usually a bad combination. His strong ground ball rate (49.4%) hasn’t helped him keep the ball in the park (1.21 HR/9). Lefties (.405 wOBA) have teed off against him too, moreso than righties (.328 wOBA). Graveman is a sinker pitcher, sitting right around 90 mph with the pitch. He’ll also throw a few upper-80s four-seamers and mid-80s cutters to keep hitters honest. Low-80s changeups and upper-70s curves are his two offspeed pitches. Graveman has thrown the sinker and cutter almost 80% of the time combined.

Friday: LHP Chris Capuano (Career vs. OAK) vs. RHP Sonny Gray (Career vs. NYY)
After a fine first full season as big leaguer last year, the 25-year-old Gray has taken a step towards ace-hood this year, pitching to a 1.77 ERA (2.60 FIP) in ten starts and 66 innings. His strikeout rate (23.6%) has ticked up, his walk rate has dropped (7.0%), and his ground ball rate (51.4%) has remained steady. Gray has been allergic to home runs (0.27 HR/9), but, even pitching his home games in Oakland, I don’t think that will last forever. He has a small platoon split — .245 vs .277 wOBA in favor of lefties — which has been true his entire career. Gray throws both two and four-seamers in the mid-90s and he uses them both equally. A hammer low-80s curveball is his out pitch, but he also throws mid-80s sliders and a handful of mid-80s changeups per start. Gray’s really good. Climbing towards the game’s elite. It’s worth noting Gray left his last start with an ankle contusion after being hit by a comebacker, but he threw a bullpen session a few days ago and is fine.

Hahn. (Presswire)
Hahn. (Presswire)

Saturday: RHP Nathan Eovaldi (Career vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Hahn (Career vs. NYY)
Hahn is well-traveled despite being only 25 years old. He was a sixth round pick by the Rays in 2010, then they traded him to the Padres in the Alex Torres/Brad Boxberger/Logan Forsythe deal during the 2013-14 offseason, then this past offseason the Padres shipped him to Oakland in the Derek Norris trade. Hahn has a 3.69 ERA (3.18 FIP) in nine starts and 53.2 innings for the A’s this year, and he’s done it mostly with few walks (5.3%) and lots of grounders (51.7%). He doesn’t strike anyone out (16.0%) and his homer rate (0.34 HR/9) is way low. Lefties (.331 wOBA) have hit him a lot harder than righties (.213 wOBA) this year. Hahn throws two fastballs but seems to prefer his low-90s two-seamer to his low-90s four-seamer. A big mid-70s curveball is his go-to breaking ball. He’ll also mid-80s changeups and sliders, but for the most part it’s the two fastballs and the curve.

Sunday: RHP Adam Warren (Career vs. OAK) vs. RHP Jesse Chavez (Career vs. NYY)
Chavez moved into the rotation when Graveman was sent down and he’s stayed there because a) Drew Pomeranz got hurt, and b) he’s been really good. The 31-year-old has a 2.44 ERA (2.83 FIP) in seven starts and four relief appearances with average strikeout (21.7%) and walk (7.3%) rates. Chavez doesn’t get grounders (38.7%), hasn’t given up homers (0.35 HR/9), and has been much more effective against righties (.211 wOBA) than lefties (.296 wOBA). That’s been true his entire career. Chavez is a bit of a kitchen sink guy, throwing five different pitches including four at least 15% of the time. He’s got low-90s two and four-seamers, an upper-80s cutter, a mid-80s changeup, and an upper-70s curveball. The curve’s the black sheep. That’s the fifth pitch he doesn’t use a ton.

Bullpen Status
Remember how I said the Athletics have an awful record despite a not so terrible run differential? That’s because the bullpen’s been horrible and blown a lot of late leads. In fact, Oakland is 2-15 (!) in one-run games. 2-15! That’s incredible. The bullpen as a whole has a 4.93 ERA (4.37 FIP), which is bad, though they did just get ex-closer LHP Sean Doolittle back off the DL. He missed the start of the season with a shoulder issue and made his first appearance of the season yesterday. He’s not yet closing; they’re easing him back into things.

Ex-Yankees RHP Tyler Clippard (4.38 FIP) has been he fill-in closer with RHP Evan Scribner (2.61 FIP) emerging as the regular setup man. RHP Dan Otero (4.26 FIP), who was a Yankee for about a minute back in 2013, is a workhorse middle reliever and LHP Fernando Abad (7.68 FIP) was Melvin’s only southpaw until Doolittle returned. RHP Fernando Rodriguez (2.32 FIP) and long man RHP Arnold Leon (4.77 FIP) fill out the rest of the bullpen. Scott Kazmir left yesterday’s start after three innings with a shoulder injury (ugh), so Melvin had to use Otero (50 pitches), Doolittle (14), Rodriguez (36), and Scribner (26). Their ‘pen isn’t too fresh. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen, then head over to Athletics Nation and BeaneBall for the latest and great on the A’s.

Scouting The Trade Market: Oakland Athletics

T-Clip. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
T-Clip. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

For the first time in the Billy Beane era, the Athletics are a truly awful team. They come into today with baseball’s worst record at 14-28 — they’ve never lost more than 88 under games under Beane and only six times have they lost more than 80 games since the took over as GM in 1998 — thanks in part to a dreadful 2-13 record in one-run games. Their bullpen has blown many leads so far this year and it’s sabotaged their season.

Depending on who you ask, Beane and the A’s may or may not be willing to trading away players soon. Joel Sherman says it could happen while Ken Rosenthal says not so fast. Given Beane’s history of being ultra-aggressive, my guess is he would start trading away players today if someone makes a good offer. The real question is whether other teams are willing to act without first giving their internal options a try.

Brian Cashman and Beane are reportedly close friends, but they don’t get together for trades very often. Just three in fact, with one being last summer’s Jeff Francis for cash swap. That doesn’t mean they’re unwilling to make trades with each other, of course. The A’s have some useful players they figure to market should they continue to fall out of the race, and a few of them are impending free agents who could help the Yankees down the stretch. Let’s look.

RHP Tyler Clippard

It’s kinda weird to think about the Yankees trading for a reliever, but Clippard is no ordinary reliever, he’s a workhorse late-innings guy any team would love to add to their staff. The 30-year-old righty has a 2.50 ERA (4.26 FIP) in 18 innings this season with some major decline in his underlying performance. Check it out:

K% BB% GB% IFFB% Soft% 1st Pitch Strike% FB velo
2012-14 27.8% 8.8% 31.4% 17.7% 20.5% 61.9% 92.2
2015 20.3% 10.8% 19.6% 12.1% 13.7% 58.1% 91.2

Clippard has always been very unique. In addition to striking batters out he has been an extreme pop-up pitcher, getting lots of soft contact in the air that results in easy outs. That 17.7% infield fly ball rate was easily the highest in MLB from 2012-14. (Kelvin Herrera was second at 14.9%). Clippard’s .228 BABIP in over 200 innings from 2012-14 is no fluke. It’s a direct result of all those pop-ups.

For whatever reason, Clippard is getting fewer pop-ups this season, and the combination of an ultra-low ground ball rate and lower than usual pop-up and soft contact rates indicate he’s giving up more scary fly balls. He’s also behind in the count more often based on his first pitch strike percentage. Between that and the mile an hour that’s gone missing from his fastball, it somewhat explains why his peripherals took a step back. Clippard’s had to come in the zone in hitter’s counts more often.

The question is whether this is a blip or a permanent thing. Clippard’s thrown a ton of high-pressure innings over the years — he leads all relievers in innings (411.1) and ranks 20th in leverage index (1.50) since 2010, so he’s pitched in a lot of stressful situations. The workload could finally be catching up to him now. Relievers are weird like that. They just start to go south without warning.

Clippard is owed $8.3M this year, so he’s not cheap, and he will become a free agent after the season. Beane could say he is willing to make Clippard the qualifying offer and thus wants something worth more than a supplemental first round pick in return, which is believable. Even if this diminished state is not a fluke, Clippard could still help the Yankees’ bullpen, which lacks a third option behind Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances.

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

LHP Scott Kazmir

It really feels like a matter of when Kazmir will get traded, not if. He’s another impending free agent — he’s owed $11M in 2015 and seems like a great qualifying offer candidate to me — and Kazmir should have big value now that he’s shown his success is no fluke following his improbable comeback. Remember, he was out of baseball entirely in 2012 due to arm problems.

Kazmir, 31, has a 3.08 ERA (3.75 FIP) in 49.2 innings this season while his peripheral stats are sorta all over the place. Some are trending in the right direction, some aren’t. Here’s the important stuff:

K% BB% GB% Soft% Hard% FB velo Whiff%
2013 24.1% 7.0% 40.9% 16.5% 32.8% 92.3 10.2%
2014 21.1% 6.4% 43.8% 15.6% 25.2% 90.9 9.4%
2015 23.7% 9.2% 45.5% 14.6% 23.4% 91.6 11.3%

The strikeout and swing-and-miss rates have held fairly steady yet Kazmir’s ground ball, soft contact, and hard contact rates keep getting better. Obviously it’s still early and this could (and probably will) even out as the season progresses, but teams won’t get a chance to see that before making a trade. That’s a risky thing about midseason trades — some percentage of the decision will be based on sample size performance.

Kazmir doesn’t have the wipeout slider he once did, injuries took that away, but he’s a more complete pitcher now, using two-seamers and changeups to keep hitters off balance rather than overpower them. The Scott Kazmir we watched shove all those years with the Devil Rays is long gone. He’s a much different pitcher now yet just as successful. His injury history is worrisome but the whole impending free agency thing removes long-term risk.

I get the sense Kazmir is going to be an extremely hot commodity at the trade deadline. He’s effective, doesn’t come with a big contract like Cole Hamels, and probably won’t require as big a prospect package as Johnny Cueto. Surely some of his success is O.co Coliseum aided — that’s a great place to pitch, fly balls go there to die — but not all of it. Kazmir’s a quality pitcher who would give the Yankees a big boost the same way he would most other teams.

UTIL Ben Zobrist

Zobrist. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Zobrist. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Zobrist was a really good player who was never quite as good as WAR made it seem — his ability to play just about every position, while valuable, screwed up the defensive metrics. Between his offense and his admittedly above-average defense, I think he was more of a 3-4 WAR player than a 5-6 WAR player like the numbers say, but that’s just me.

Anyway, Zobrist turns 34 next week and his age is starting to show up in his offense, particularly his power. He went from 40 homers and a .202 ISO from 2011-12 to 22 homers and a .125 ISO from 2013-14. Poof. Power’s gone just like that. Luckily, Zobrist is still a high-contact hitter who draws walks — about as many as he strikes out, in fact — so he still mustered a .273 AVG and a .354 OBP from 2013-14.

So far this year Zobrist is hitting .240/.304/.400 (93 wRC+) with the Athletics, but that’s only in 56 plate appearances. He jammed his knee sliding into a base in late-April and had to have it scoped. He’s expected back in a week or two. I imagine Beane and the A’s will showcase Zobrist for a few weeks to prove he’s healthy before moving him in a trade, where he figures to be in demand given his on-base ability, switch-hitter-ness, and versatility.

Unless they unexpectedly give up on Didi Gregorius, the only position where the Yankees could make an upgrade is second base, the position Zobrist has played more than any other in his MLB career. Even if he’s not as good as WAR says, Zobrist would be a huge upgrade on Stephen Drew at the plate and maybe even an upgrade in the field, but the first part is the most important. That’s even factoring in his disappearing power. The ability to hit for average and draw walks would be welcome.

* * *

The Yankees seem to prefer rentals for in-season trades, so the A’s are a natural trade partner. It’s very tough to get an idea of what it would cost to acquire Clippard, Kazmir, or Zobrist because Beane is so unpredictable though. This past offseason he went quantity over quality in the Josh Donaldson and Jeff Samardzija trades, targeting specific players to fill specific needs. Beane did the same when he traded Dan Haren and Gio Gonzalez as well. Every once in a while he’ll go for the big prospect (Trevor Cahill for Jarrod Parker) but not often.

Out of these three players, I’d say the Yankees would benefit most from Zobrist, then Kazmir, then Clippard. Clippard was one of the worst trades of the Cashman era but I don’t think acquiring him now makes it any better. Bullpen help is toward the bottom of the shopping list give the team’s internal options. Zobrist would be a clear upgrade at second base and Kazmir would help the rotation. I think the Yankees will wait to see how Masahiro Tanaka and Ivan Nova return from injuries before pulling the trigger on a trade for a starter though.

A Haiku for the Rest of MLB [2015 Season Preview]

Does Donnie like Haikus? Of course. (Presswire)
Does Donnie like haikus? Of course. (Presswire)

Opening Day is now only three days away. We’ve spent the last four weeks previewing the Yankees and the upcoming season, and yesterday we broke down the rest of the AL East. Today we’re going to wrap up our 2015 Season Preview series with a quick preview of the other 25 teams in baseball. After all, the Yankees are going to have to try to beat those teams this season too.

If you’ve come here looking for a serious preview post, you’re not going to get it. It’s Friday afternoon, Opening Day is right around the corner, and this year’s preview series is over. Instead, we’re going to have some fun and preview those other 25 teams in Haiku form. I encourage you to tell me how much my haikus suck and to make some of your own — pro tip: use the Haiku Counter to make sure you have the right number of syllables — and leave ’em in the comments. Enjoy.

Atlanta Braves
Traded their best bats
For a whole bunch of pitchers
They know scoring’s down?

Arizona Diamondbacks
Is Nuno their ace?
The answer just might be yes
Payback for ’01!

Chicago Cubs
Bleachers aren’t ready?
No prob, Bryant won’t notice
He’s in Iowa

Chicago White Sox
D-Rob and Melky
Back together in ChiTown
Growing ugly beards

Cincinnati Reds
Good enough to win?
Nah, not in that division
Can we have Cueto?

Cleveland Indians
Brantley is awesome
Kluber is really great
World Series pick? Eh

Colorado Rockies
Troy’s still a Rockie
Kyle Kendrick, OD SP?
Wait for ski season

Detroit Tigers
Miggy, Price, V-Mart
Lots of stars and real big names
Bullpen still a mess

Houston Astros
I don’t understand
You won “process World Series?”
That doesn’t exist

Kansas City Royals
Pennant last season
Volquez is replacing Shields?
For real? Yeah, for real

Los Angeles Angels
They have that Trout guy
I wish the Yankees had him
It’s Teixeira’s fault!

Los Angeles Dodgers
Kershaw is the best
Donnie Baseball gets his ring?
If not, just blame Puig

Miami Marlins
Paid Giancarlo
They’re going for it again
When’s next fire sale?

Milwaukee Brewers
They all hate Ryan Braun
But not as much as A-Rod
This team is boring

Minnesota Twins
Phil’s still homer prone
Nunez’s helmet still falls off
Just like the old days

New York Mets
Take back New York, huh?
Orange and blue like the Knicks
But with fewer fans

Oakland Athletics
Ballpark is ugly
Beane traded everyone again
What’s a Stephen Vogt?

Philadelphia Phillies
Rebuild? Finally!
Cole will be traded real soon
Then skip to next year

Pittsburgh Pirates
Cervelli pumps fist
McCutchen cut his dreads
A World Series team?

St. Louis Cardinals
Contender again
Such a boringly good team
Gets boring haiku

San Diego Padres
Kemp, Upton, Myers, Shields
But what about Yangervis?
Solarte Partay!

San Francisco Giants
The World Series champs
But it’s an odd number year
So no repeat then

Seattle Mariners
You can have Robbie
You are still stuck with Jack Z.
Yankees win the trade

Texas Rangers
Could this be the year
That Elvis Andrus will hit?
Hah, made myself laugh

Washington Nationals
Awesome rotation!
Future Yankee Bryce Harper
Has nice ring to it