Yankees acquire righty Matt Frawley from Pirates to complete Johnny Barbato trade

Earlier today the Yankees announced they have acquired right-hander Matt Frawley from the Pirates to complete the Johnny Barbato trade. Frawley is heading to Low-A Charleston. The Yankees designated Barbato for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Jordan Montgomery back in April.

Frawley, 21, was Pittsburgh’s 17th round pick last year. So far this season he has a 1.62 ERA (2.80 FIP) with 25.8% strikeouts and 3.2% walks in 33.1 innings, all out of the bullpen, in Low Class-A. He’s a low-90s fastball guy with an okay curveball. I guess that makes him a potential future Johnny Barbato?

This is the second time this year the Yankees have received a lower level arm in exchange for a reliever who had been designated for assignment. They acquired righty Yoiber Marquina from the Indians for Nick Goody last month, and now they received Frawley for Barbato. Usually teams settle for cash in these types of trades.

Yankeemetrics: Rocky road trippin’ (April 21-23)

(Getty)
(Getty)

The Bad, the Ugly and the Awful
Last year the Yankees went 3-7 on their road Interleague slate, tied with the Twins for the worst record among AL teams … and the trend continued into 2017 after dropping the series opener in Pittsburgh, 6-3, on Friday night.

All the momentum and confidence built up from a strong 8-1 homestand came to a screeching halt thanks to a mix of bad pitching (see below), sloppy defense (two unearned runs) and a lack of clutch hitting (0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and 11 men left on base).

CC Sabathia was knocked around early, allowing a lead-off homer on the third pitch he threw and another longball in the second frame, putting the Yankees in 4-0 hole after two innings. Although he settled down and was able to gut through three more innings without allowing another run, he still was tagged for his worst outing of the season.

For whatever reason, Sabathia’s fastball (sinker/cutter) velocity was down significantly from his first three starts, averaging 88.2 mph compared to 90.6 in his first three starts combined …

brooksbaseball-chart-1

… and stuff-wise, each of his fastballs had much less “ride” on Friday, averaging just 7.1 (sinker) and 1.3 (cutter) inches of horizontal movement compared to 11.9 (sinker) and 3.7 (cutter) in his first three starts.

brooksbaseball-chart-2
Unsurprisingly, the Pirates crushed Sabathia’s diminished hard pitches, going 5-for-14 with two homers when putting his fastballs in play. In his first three starts, batters hit .244 and slugged .317 against Sabathia’s sinker/cutter combo.

The Pirates did their best to give the Yankees a chance to win, committing three errors, while the Yankees weren’t credited with an official RBI on any of their three runs scored. It was just the sixth time in franchise history they scored as many as three runs in a game with zero RBI. The last time it happened was May 2, 1989 in a 5-3 loss to the Royals.

(Getty)
(Getty)

Love these Komeback Kids
The Yankees got back in the win column with their sixth comeback win of the season, this time erasing a 3-0 deficit after five innings and cruising to an 11-5 victory.

Starlin Castro ignited the first rally with a three-run homer in the sixth inning that knotted the score at 3-3. It was his 25th longball with the Yankees and the 12th one that either tied the game or gave the Yankees the lead – that’s three more than any other Yankee over the last two seasons.

Ronald Torreyes then followed with a two-run double to give the Yankees their first lead, 5-3, in the sixth. Torreyes finished with four hits and two RBI, giving him 13 RBI through the team’s first 17 games. The only other Yankee shortstops with that many RBIs this early into the season were Derek Jeter (1999, 2006) and Frankie Crosetti (1936).

After the Pirates came back to tie the score, Chris Carter delivered his first True Yankee Moment®, belting a tie-breaking, pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning – his first time going deep in pinstripes. He is just the fourth Yankee pinch-hitter with a go-ahead homer in an Interleague game, joining Travis Hafner (2013 vs Arizona), Eric Chavez (2012 vs Mets) and Clay Bellinger (2000 vs Braves).

Aaron Judge then put the icing on the cake, connecting for yet another moonshot deep into the left field bleachers at PNC Park. Statcast measured the blast at career-high 457 feet with an exit velocity of 115.6 mph. Since his debut on Aug. 13, 2016, he has hit three homers traveling at least 445 feet. In that span (and through Saturday), only Justin Upton could match Judge in 445-plus foot homers.

It was the sixth time in 2017 that Judge ripped a ball with an exit velocity of at least 115 mph, making the leaderboard of 115-plus mph batted balls this season through Saturday … well, pretty ridiculous:

  • Aaron Judge: 6
  • Joey Gallo: 2
  • Rest of MLB: 9

Supernova’d
As good as the Yankees have been in the Bronx, they’ve been just as bad away from the friendly confines. After dropping the rubber game on Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Yankees fell to 0-3 in road series this season.

Ivan Nova — in his first start against the Yankees since being traded away last summer — got some sweet revenge against his former team as he allowed one run in seven efficient innings. It was the ninth time in 15 starts (60%) with the Pirates that Nova gave up one earned or fewer; he did that in just 25 percent of his 118 starts with the Yankees.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Jordan Montgomery continued to show poise on the mound and a knack for pitching out of trouble in another impressive outing. Making his third career start, the 24-year-old rookie scattered seven hits across six innings, surrendering two runs. The Pirates had one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring against Montgomery, who has held batters to a .118 average (2-for-17) with a man on second and/or third in his three starts.

The Yankees had plenty of chances to win the game but repeatedly came up empty. Notably, they loaded the bases with one out in the ninth but Aaron Hicks struck out and then Pete Kozma grounded out to end the game.

This was not an ideal situation for Hicks: he is now 2-for-27 (.074) with the bases loaded in his career, the second-worst mark among active players (min. 25 at-bats). And Kozma is just a bad hitter: his .148 batting average overall since the start of 2015 is better than only two non-pitchers that have at least 100 at-bats in the last three seasons (Craig Gentry, .139 and Erik Kratz, .117).

4/21 to 4/23 Series Preview: Pittsburgh Pirates

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)
(Andy Lyons/Getty Images North America)

It would be difficult to call the Yankees first homestand anything less than a riveting success, considering their 8-1 record, strong offense, and terrific all-around pitching. They’ll take the show back on the road for the next six games, beginning with a three-game set against the Pirates in what might just be the nicest ballpark in Major League Baseball.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees hosted the Pirates for three games back in May of 2014, and took two out of three. They played a double-header that weekend, too, as the Friday night game was postponed due to inclement weather. A few points of interest:

  • Carlos Beltran had been placed on the disabled list the night before the series began, so Zoilo Almonte started all three games – he went 2-for-9 with a home run.
  • Eight of the pitchers who appeared for the Yankees are no longer with the team; that number is seven for the Pirates.
  • In the second game of the double-header, the Yankees played thirteen position players and four pitchers – only two (Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury) are still with the team.
  • The Yankees as a team were a strong 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the series, and scored three runs with two outs.

Injury Report

The Pirates are one of two teams (the Cubs are the other) that do not have any players on the disabled list. That being said, they will be without CF Starling Marte until July 18 at the earliest, as the 28-year-old was suspended for 80 games after testing positive for an anabolic steroid. While Marte had been in a bit of a slump to start the season, this is nevertheless a huge loss as he averaged 4-plus fWAR over the last four seasons; it will be interesting to see how they handle his absence going forward (their top prospect, CF Austin Meadows, is just a phone call away at Triple-A).

IF Jung Ho has yet to make his 2017 debut, as he is currently awaiting an appeal of his drunk driving conviction in South Korea, and has been unable to get his work visa as a result. The hearing isn’t until May 25 either, so his timetable to return is complete up in the air.

Their Story So Far

Marte’s suspension immediately became the story of the Pirates season, as he had already been placed firmly in the spotlight for taking over center-field duties from face-of-the-franchise Andrew McCutchen. They were viewed as a long shot to return to the playoffs in 2017 to begin with, and losing Marte is a serious blow to an offense that is already struggling immensely (80 wRC+, 3.3 runs per game).

Well that, and Ivan Nova somehow sporting a 2.25 ERA and 2.90 FIP despite striking out just 3.60 per 9 thus far (small sample size or not, that’s at least a little funny).

The Lineup We Might See

Prior to his suspension, Marte hit first or second in every Pirates game. In the games that he has not led off, Clint Hurdle has deployed three different hitters – and that has been his modus operandi, given that McCutchen is the only hitter that has not been moved around the lineup, batting third in every game. With that in mind, the Yankees will probably see a lineup that looks something like this:

  1. Adam Frazier, RF
  2. Josh Harrison, 2B
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF
  4. Gregory Polanco, LF
  5. David Freese, 3B
  6. Francisco Cervelli, C
  7. Josh Bell, 1B
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS

The Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): LHP CC Sabathia vs. RHP Tyler Glasnow

Glasnow was a consensus top-25 prospect heading into 2017, and it isn’t difficult to see why. The 6’8″ righty struck out 31% of the batters he faced between Double-A and Triple-A last year, on the strength of a fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a big breaking curveball that sits around 80 MPH. Both pitches have been graded as plus to plus-plus, and his change-up shows some promise, as well. As is to be expected from a gigantic pitcher with tremendous stuff, though, Glasnow has struggled with his mechanics and control, resulting in poor walk rates in the minors and even worse totals in the majors. If you look at his stuff, size, and numbers and think of Dellin Betances, I don’t think anyone would hold it against you.

Last Outing (vs. CHC on 4/15) – 5 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 7 K

Saturday (4:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Pineda vs. RHP Jameson Taillon

It almost feels like a miracle that Taillon is in the majors right now. The 25-year-old missed all of 2014 and 2015 as a result of Tommy John Surgery, complications from said surgery, and a hernia during recovery, and there were rumblings that his stuff would never fully recover. He earned a surprising call-up in June of last year, after making just ten starts in the minors, and proved that he belonged almost immediately. All told, he pitched to the following line as a rookie – 104 IP, 20.3 K%, 4.1 BB%, 52.4 GB%, 3.38 ERA, 3.71 FIP. That is a terrific line for most anyone, let alone a pitcher that barely touched a baseball the two previous seasons.

Taillon’s bread and butter is his two-seamer, which sits just under 95 MPH. He pounds the bottom of the strik.ezone with it, and commands it incredibly well. He also throws a mid-90s four-seamer, a low-80s curve, and a mid-80s change-up; that last pitch is inconsistent, which has led to some issues against left-handed hitters, who have hit .261/.306/.401 against Taillon.

Last Outing (vs. CHC on 4/16) – 7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K

Sunday (1:35 PM EST): LHP Jordan Montgomery vs. RHP Ivan Nova

Nova has made 14 starts with the Pirates, and has posted borderline absurd numbers. In addition to his 2.87 ERA (144 ERA+), Nova has a minuscule 0.8% walk rate (and staggering 20 K/BB), as he has walked just 3 batters in 84.2 IP. As per PITCHf/x, his pitch selection hasn’t changed all that much overall (though he has thrown more fastballs overall this year, it’s only three starts), nor has his velocity – so we’ll just have to chalk this one up to Ray Searage’s black magic.

The stuff is essentially the same as when we last saw Nova in pinstripes – a couple of low-90s fastballs, a low-80s curve, a mid-80s change-up, and a rarely used mid-80s slider. It’s his suddenly stellar command that has made all the difference in the world.

The Bullpen

The Pirates bullpen looks quite different this season, as three of their top-five most utilized relievers in 2016 (Mark Melancon, Jared Hughes, and Neftali Feliz) are no longer with the team. Longtime Pirate Tony Watson has taken over as the closer, with Daniel Hudson and Felipe Rivero handling the seventh and eight innings. The group currently has a 4.47 ERA, but that is heavily skewed by Antonio Bastardo’s 20.25 ERA.

Yankees Connection

Would it be hyperbole to call the Pirates Brian Cashman‘s favorite trading partner? The two teams have completed five trades since 2012, when the Yankees sent A.J. Burnett packing in exchange for Exicardo Cayones and Diego Moreno. Most recently, Johnny Barbato was sent to Pittsburgh in exchange for cash or a player to be named later. Beyond that, we have:

  • Francisco Cervelli, now in his third season as the Pirates starting catcher;
  • Chris Stewart, now in his third season backing up Cervelli (and his fourth season with the team);
  • The aforementioned Nova;
  • Gerrit Cole, who was drafted by the Yankees in the first round of the 2008 draft, but chose to attend UCLA instead.

Who (Or What) to Watch

The prospect lover in me is stoked to see Tyler Glasnow on Friday night, and you should be, too. He’s wild at times, but his stuff is simply incredible, and he’s one of the few prospects/rookies with a semi-legitimate claim at a top-of-the-rotation ceiling. It isn’t always pretty – but he’ll pop the radar gun, and buckle some knees.

Yankees trade Barbato to the Pirates for nothing in particular

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Earlier today the Yankees announced they have traded right-hander Johnny Barbato to the Pirates for cash or a player to be named later. I’d bet on cash. Barbato was designated for assignment last week to clear a 40-man roster spot for Jordan Montgomery. Does this count as the annual Yanks-Pirates trade?

Barbato, 24, came over from the Padres in the Shawn Kelley trade back during the 2014-15 offseason. He made the Opening Day roster last season and threw 13 mostly ineffective relief innings (7.62 ERA and 4.45 FIP). The Yankees planned to try Barbato, a career reliever, as a starter this season, but they needed the 40-man space.

Even with Barbato gone and Dietrich Enns (shoulder) on the minor league disabled list, the Yankees still have Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Chasen Shreve, Ben Heller, and Gio Gallegos sitting in Triple-A and on the 40-man roster. There’s no shortage of shuttle arms right now.

Pirates return Rule 5 Draft pick Tyler Webb to Yankees

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Another Rule 5 Draft pick player is back. The Pirates have returned left-hander Tyler Webb to the Yankees, both teams announced today. That means he cleared waivers. Webb is back with the Yankees as a non-40-man roster player, and the team has assigned him to Triple-A Scranton.

Webb, 26, was New York’s tenth round pick back in 2013. He’s pitched to a 3.61 ERA (2.91 FIP) with 26.3% strikeouts and 7.2% walks in 127 Triple-A innings the last two years. Although he’s spent most of his career as a reliever, the Yankees tried Webb as a starter last season, and he made a few spot starts and extended relief outings. I wonder whether they’ll have him try that again this year.

I thought Webb had a pretty good chance to stick as a Rule 5 Draft player because he’s left-handed, has a little something on his fastball, and has had success in Triple-A. Alas. He allowed four runs in 13 innings this spring while striking out eleven and walking one. The Pirates went with former Yankee Wade LeBlanc for their final bullpen spot over Webb. He would have had to remain on their 25-man big league roster all season.

Three of the four players the Yankees lost in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft have now been returned: Webb, Tyler Jones (Diamondbacks), and Caleb Smith (Cubs). The only one left is catcher Luis Torrens, who is in camp with the Padres and is reportedly the front-runner for their backup catcher’s job. He’s 20 years old and making the jump from Low-A to MLB, plus the history of Rule 5 Draft pick catchers is terrible, so I think he’s coming back at some point, sooner rather than later.

Cashman: Yankees getting two “legitimate” lower level prospects for Nova

(Justin K. Aller/Getty)
(Justin K. Aller/Getty)

Even after receiving ten prospects in their various trade deadline deals, the Yankees still have two more prospects coming to them. Ivan Nova was traded to the Pirates for two players to named later, and after the trade, Brian Cashman told reporters the Yankees will pick those players from a list after the season. They’ll spend the next few weeks scouting before making a decision.

Cashman appeared on Buster Olney’s podcast last week, and during that appearance he gave some more details about those players to be named. They’re going to be two “legitimate” prospects from the lower levels of the minors. Here’s what he said:

“We’re getting two prospects from Pittsburgh for Nova, so we have to pick from a list of players and evaluate those the remaining two months (of the season). We’ll be bouncing throughout lower levels of the Pirates’ system as we make that selection and add two more pieces that are legitimate prospects.”

I saw folks I trust on Twitter saying that, in a separate radio interview, Cashman said the Yankees will be picking from a list of four players who are among Pittsburgh’s 30 prospects. I can’t find that radio interview, but like I said, I trust those who were talking about it. Also, Rob Biertempfel says the two players are not on the 40-man roster.

So, if nothing else, this helps us narrow down the list of players. Two non-40-man roster players in the lower levels who are among the Pirates’ top 30 prospects. Top 30 prospects according to whom? Who knows. Maybe Baseball America, maybe MLB.com, maybe probably the Yankees’ internal evaluation of Pittsburgh’s system. Let’s stick with MLB.com’s list because it’s free. Here are the players who fit that criteria:

5. RHP Mitch Keller
6. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes
8. SS Cole Tucker
13. RHP Yeudy Garcia
17. LHP Stephen Tarpley
18. RHP Luis Escobar
20. RHP Gage Hinsz
21. 3B Kevin Kramer
25. LHP Taylor Hearn
27. RHP Dario Agrazal
28. OF Tito Polo

The Yankees did exceptionally well in their other trade deadline deals, though this is still Ivan Nova we’re talking about, so I doubt any of those first three guys are in play. Keller, Hayes, and Tucker are among the Pirates’ best prospects. Also, Hearn just came over in the Mark Melancon trade, so he’s probably off-limits too.

Based on all of that, that list of eleven players above has already been whittled down to seven: Garcia, Tarpley, Escobar, Hinsz, Kramer, Agrazal, and Polo. Personally, I really like Kramer and would be pretty thrilled to get him in the Nova deal. Really though, I’ll be happy with anyone with actual prospect value. That the Yankees are getting two players is just gravy.

Nova will be a free agent after the season and he’s not a qualifying offer candidate, so the Yankees didn’t have a ton of leverage in trade talks. His performance since returning from Tommy John surgery didn’t helped matters either. The Yankees were smart to trade Nova for whatever they could get rather than lose him for nothing after the season, and it sounds like they might actually get a pair of halfway decent prospects in return.

Yankees trade Ivan Nova to Pirates for two players to be named later

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

8:16pm: The Yankees have a list of players to choose from to complete the trade, according to Chad Jennings. They’re going to continue scouting those players in the coming weeks before making their picks.

4:21pm: The longest tenured homegrown Yankee is no longer a Yankee. A few minutes before today’s 4pm ET non-waiver trade deadline, the Yankees agreed to send right-hander Ivan Nova to the Pirates for two players to be named later. The team has since announced the trade, so it’s a done deal. Ivan joins his buddy Frankie Cervelli in Pittsburgh.

Nova, 29, will be a free agent after the season and there was basically no reason for the Yankees to keep him. He’s not a qualifying offer candidate and getting something, even two unexciting players to be named later, is better than losing him for nothing as a free agent after the season. Trading Nova was an easy call for the front office.

In 15 starts and six relief appearances this season, Nova pitched to a 4.90 ERA (5.09 FIP) in 97.1 innings. He has a 4.99 ERA (4.98 FIP) in 191.1 innings since coming back from Tommy John surgery last year, and he finishes his Yankees career with a 4.41 ERA (4.40 FIP) in 729 total innings from 2010-16. The second half of the 2011 season was his finest stretch in pinstripes.

The Yankees originally signed Nova for $80,000 as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic back in July 2004. Like I said, he was the longest tenured homegrown player in the organization, and the second longest tenured overall behind Alex Rodriguez. This must be tough for Ivan. He’s been a Yankee for a long, long time.

There’s no word on who the two players to be named later will be. They don’t have be named for six months, but chances are it’ll happen long before that. They could be legitimate prospects, they could be fringe minor leaguers, or they could be 40-man roster players who have to slip through trade waivers in August before being added to the deal. We’ll see.

As for replacing Nova in the rotation, that won’t be too tough. The Yankees have both Luis Severino and Chad Green on the big league roster and stretched out. Luis Cessa is stretched out in Triple-A as well. I’m not sure there’s a wrong answer here. My guess is Severino gets the first crack at Nova’s rotation spot.