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

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

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.

Ben Gamel traded to Mariners for two pitching prospects

(Photo via @SWBRailRiders)
(Photo via @SWBRailRiders)

The Yankees have started to clear up their outfield logjam. Ben Gamel has been traded to the Mariners for right-handed pitching prospects Juan DePaula and Jio Orozco, both teams have announced. Gamel either cleared trade waivers at some point this month, or was claimed by the Mariners this week.

Just yesterday Gamel was named International League MVP after hitting .308/.365/.420 (125 wRC+) with six home runs and 19 steals in 116 games for Triple-A Scranton. The Yankees have a ton of left-handed hitting outfielders and something had to give. Mason Williams and Jake Cave are at Triple-A too, and Dustin Fowler and Billy McKinney are next in line at Double-A.

Orozco, 19, is the better of the two prospects coming to the Yankees. Seattle was able to buy him away from Arizona as their 14th round pick in the 2015 draft. Orozco has a 4.07 ERA (3.51 FIP) with a 29.3% strikeout rate and a 7.4% walk rate in 48.2 rookie ball innings this year. MLB.com ranked him as the 19th best prospect in the Mariners’ system. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

His fluid arm action and clean delivery allow him to pitch to both sides of the plate with his 91-94 mph fastball, while his extension through the ball gives it some sinking action. Orozco’s curveball has above-average potential, thrown from an over-the-top slot with good arm speed, creating a 12-to-6 shape with depth, and he also shows good feel for a changeup, giving him the chance for three average-or-better offerings … Beyond the stuff, Orozco’s overall feel for pitching sets him apart from most pitchers his age.

The 18-year-old DePaula has a 3.07 ERA (2.98 FIP) with a 30.6% strikeout rate and a 6.4% walk rate in 41 rookie ball innings this season. He did not rank among MLB.com’s top 30 Mariners prospects, though Baseball America did have him 29th in Seattle’s system in their 2016 Prospect Handbook. Here’s what Baseball America had to say about DePaula:

De Paula was throwing in the mid-80s when he signed, peaking at 87 mph, but in his complete game he was still throwing 93 mph in the ninth inning. De Paula is a strike thrower even with his extra velocity, and he’s starting to grow into his lanky frame. He has a solid feel for his age with his ability to mix his fastball, curveball and changeup, and the Mariners are impressed by his early velocity gains. He has a clean arm, and aside from his youth, his biggest issue appears to be the development of his curveball.

For all his Triple-A success, Gamel’s trade value was limited. You needn’t look beyond last year’s Ramon Flores trade for evidence. Flores, a very similar lefty hitting Triple-A outfielder, landed the Yankees half a Dustin Ackley at last year’s trade deadline. They had to send another prospect (Jose Ramirez) to the Mariners to complete that trade.

The Yankees have a ton of depth at Gamel’s position and they still do, really. Rather than sit on the depth and do nothing with it, they sold high on Gamel — how much higher can you get than the day after he wins IL MVP? — and turned him into two interesting lower level pitching prospects. The move also clears a 40-man roster spot, which is kind of a big deal. The Yankees have a big crunch coming.

8/22 to 8/24 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

The West Coast road trip continues with three games in Seattle. This is a pretty huge series, you know. The Yankees are still trying to gain ground in the wildcard race and the Mariners are one of the five teams ahead of them. (Yes, five.) This series is a big chance to make up ground. The Yankees dropped two of three to the Mariners in Yankee Stadium way back in April. That was the fourth series of 2016.

What Have They Done Lately?

Things were going well for the Mariners until yesterday. They won 12 of their previous 15 games before blowing a three-run lead in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon. The bullpen gave up four runs to the rebuilding Brewers. Ouch. The Mariners are 66-57 with a +51 run differential overall. They’re six games back of the Rangers in the AL West and one game back of the Orioles for the second wildcard spot.

Offense & Defense

The Mariners are, for the first time in a long time, a really good offensive team. They’re averaging 4.71 runs per game with a team 108 wRC+. They also rank third in baseball with 172 home runs. How about that? The M’s are generally healthy as well. The only injured position player is backup C Steve Clevinger — he’s the guy they got from the Orioles for Mark Trumbo (oops) — who is out with broken hand. They don’t even miss him. Clevinger won’t be back this series.

Cruz. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Cruz. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Seattle hits all those homers thanks largely to their 3-4-5 hitters: 2B Robinson Cano (136 wRC+), DH Nelson Cruz (147 wRC+), and 3B Kyle Seager (138 wRC+). Those three can all mash. Lately LF Nori Aoki (90 wRC+) and UTIL Shawn O’Malley (92 wRC+) have been platooning in left field and the leadoff spot. OF Franklin Gutierrez (108 wRC+) and RF Seth Smith (111 wRC+) have been platooning in right field and the No. 2 spot in the lineup. Those guys generally make up the top of the lineup.

1B Adam Lind (90 wRC+) and UTIL Stefan Romero (48 wRC+) have been platooning at first base lately. Lind always seems to crush the Yankees, doesn’t he? C Mike Zunino (191 wRC+) and C Chris Iannetta (83 wRC+) share catching duties. SS Ketel Marte (71 wRC+) and CF Leonys Martin (93 wRC+) are the other regulars. The Mariners really put their bench to use. They have platoons in two of the three outfield spots, at first base, and behind the plate. There are no dead roster spots here.

Defensively, the Mariners are very good in center field and the three non-first base infield positions. Behind the plate as well. Iannetta and Zunino are both really good. The corner outfield spots and first base are sore spots regardless of who’s out there on a given day. Well, I shouldn’t say that. O’Malley is pretty good. The other guys are liabilities.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (10:10pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Cody Martin (No vs. NYY)
Martin, 26, went from the Braves to the Athletics to the Mariners in cash trades last year. He’s spent most of this season in Triple-A, where he has a 3.93 ERA (3.59 FIP) with good strikeout (23.2%) and walk (7.0%) rates in 103 innings. Martin has allowed five runs in 14.1 big league innings since being called up, striking out seven and walking three. Lefties have clobbered him (1.103 OPS) in very limited time. This season Martin is averaging about 89 mph with his four-seam fastball and a tick below that with his cutter, so he’s not a hard-thrower. A mid-70s curveball is his go-to secondary pitch, and he’ll also mix in some low-80s changeups. This isn’t someone who will blow hitters away.

Tuesday (10:10pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. TBA
The Mariners have not yet announced tomorrow’s starter as of this writing, though the expectation is young right-hander Taijuan Walker will be called up from Triple-A. The 24-year-old has had a rocky 2016 season (4.10 ERA and 4.88 FIP in 90 innings) and he’s also missed time with a foot injury. The team sent him down earlier this month to work on things. Before being sent down, Walker had very good strikeout (21.2%) and walk (5.3%) rates, but he didn’t get grounders (43.0%) or keep the ball in the park (1.90 HR/9). Righties have had more success against him than lefties, though in the past he had a tiny platoon split. Walker sits in the mid-90s with his fastball and he throws it a ton, often more than 70% of the time within a start. An upper-80s splitter is his primary offspeed pitch. He’ll also throw an upper-80s cutter and a mid-70s curveball. The Yankees did not face Walker when these two clubs met earlier this season.

Walker. (Scott Halleran/Getty)
Walker. (Scott Halleran/Getty)

If Walker does not start for some reason — the Mariners could decide he needs more work in the minors — then chances are ex-Yankee lefty Wade LeBlanc would get the ball. He has a 4.72 ERA (6.02 FIP) in 47.2 innings with Seattle this season. LeBlanc would be on three days’ rest tomorrow. The French David Huff threw 91 pitches Friday.

Wednesday (3:40pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (vs. NYY)
Last year Tanaka and Iwakuma became the first former NPB teammates to face each other in the big leagues. The two spent the 2007-11 seasons together with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. They’ll get a chance to face each other again later this week. That’s pretty cool. Iwakuma, 35, has a 3.78 ERA (4.21 FIP) in 25 starts and 157 innings this season, so he’s been rock solid as usual. His strikeouts (17.6%) and grounders (36.4%) are down, but he makes up for it by limiting walks (5.2%). Homers (1.26 HR/9) are an issue, but that’s been the case since the day he arrived in the big leagues. Iwakuma has a tiny platoon split because his knockout mid-80s splitter is a true equalizer. He sets it up with upper-80s four-seamers and sinkers, and he’ll also mix in a few low-80s sliders and low-70s curves. Iwakuma is definitely not a power pitcher. The Yankees scored four runs against him in seven innings back in April.

Bullpen Status

The Mariners have completely overhauled their bullpen through a combination of trades, signings, and call-ups this season. They have a new closer, a new setup man, and two new middle relievers. Here is the bullpen Servais is working with these days:

Closer: RHP Edwin Diaz (2.31 ERA/1.83 FIP)
Setup: RHP Arquimedes Caminero (3.35/4.38), RHP Steve Cishek (3.33/3.89)
Middle: RHP Drew Storen (5.77/4.80), RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (7.20/6.45), RHP Nick Vincent (4.01/4.32)
Long: LHP Vidal Nuno (2.76/3.91)

Cishek started the year as closer but has since lost the job. He, Vincent, and Nuno are the only holdovers from the Opening Day bullpen. Diaz was called up at midseason and is basically their Dellin Betances. He’s struck out 43.3% of the batters he’s faced as a big leaguer. Crazy. Caminero and Storen came over in minor trades and Wilhelmsen was signed after being released by the Rangers. Seattle traded him for Martin in the offseason.

Servais had to dip deep into his bullpen yesterday. Cishek (three pitches), Vincent (nine pitches), Caminero (16 pitches), Wilhelmsen (22 pitches), and Nuno (23 pitches) all pitched yesterday afternoon. Only Cishek pitched both Saturday and Sunday, however. Head on over to our Bullpen Workload page for the status of the Yankees’ bullpen.

Yankees claim Blake Parker off waivers from Mariners

(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
(Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

The Yankees have claimed right-handed reliever Blake Parker off waivers from the Mariners, the team announced. They say he’ll join the MLB roster once he reports to the team. That’ll probably happen tomorrow or the next day. I believe he has three days to report, officially.

Parker, 31, appeared in one game with the Mariners before being designated for assignment a few days ago. He had a 2.72 ERA (3.26 FIP) with a 37.3% strikeout rate and a 7.3% walk rate in 39.2 Triple-A innings before being called up by Seattle. Parker has a 3.63 ERA (3.63 FIP!) with 26.3% strikeouts and 7.3% walks in 74.1 career big league innings, almost all with the Cubs from 2012-14.

It’s worth noting Parker had elbow problems in 2012 and his velocity dipped big time from 2013-14, but it has rebounded this year and he’s again sitting in the mid-90s. He also throws a nasty curveball …

Blake Parker curveball

… and an occasional splitter. As far as scrap heap arms go, Parker is more interesting than most, but only if the velocity rebound is legit. He’s worth a look down the stretch. It’s not like the Yankees have anything interesting going on in middle relief anyway.

Even after adding Tommy Layne, the Yankees still have two open 40-man roster spots — they’ll get another one following Alex Rodriguez‘s final game Friday — so they won’t have to designate anyone for assignment to clear space for Parker. My guess is either Nick Goody or Chasen Shreve will get sent to Triple-A Scranton to clear a 25-man spot once Parker reports.

Let’s try to find a bad contract-for-bad contract trade for Jacoby Ellsbury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Jacoby Ellsbury is a problem. Following last night’s 1-for-3 game, he is hitting .263/.321/.383 (95 wRC+) with 4.8 WAR in two years and 13 games as a Yankee. He’s now 32 years old, his defense is kinda sorta slipping, and he is still under contract for another four years and 149 games. Ellsbury is talented and he could certainly turn things around, but yeah. Outlook not so good.

Trading Ellsbury is far-fetched. He’s owed roughly $110M through 2020, and very few teams can and will be open to taking on that much money. Did you see how long it took good outfielders like Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes to sign this past offseason? Ellsbury’s value is down well below those two. And oh by the way he has a full no-trade clause, so he can shoot down any deal. Not great, Bob.

Unless the Yankees eat a ton of money, which just isn’t happening, any Ellsbury trade would have to be a bad contract-for-bad contract trade. Those trades are surprisingly rare — straight salary dumps are much more common — but they do happen from time to time. At Ellsbury’s pay grade though? Forget it. It’s never happened at that salary. Moving Ellsbury in a bad contract-for-bad contract deal would be unprecedented. Not impossible, just unprecedented.

The number of teams with a similar bad contracts to trade are limited — there are lots of bad contracts out there, but few have over $100M remaining — and even fewer need a player like Ellsbury. Finding a match is tough. Here are four possible fits — I guess it’s five, but there’s no sense in listing the Red Sox and some ridiculous Pablo Sandoval scenario — for a bad contract-for-bad contract trade that sends Ellsbury elsewhere. The teams are listed alphabetically.

The Team: Los Angeles Angels
The Player: Albert Pujols
The Remaining Money: $165M through 2021

Does It Make Sense For The Angels? Oh yes. The Halos would shed more than $50M in future salary obligation and get a more dynamic two-way player. They could stick C.J. Cron at first base full-time, put Ellsbury in the leadoff spot and in either center or left field (Mike Trout has played a ton of left field), and then find a cheap DH. Angels GM Billy Eppler may have some lingering affinity for Ellsbury dating back to his time as Brian Cashman‘s right hand man.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? Nope. Even if the two teams finagle the money so the Yankees don’t take on any additional cash, New York would be acquiring the older and much more one-dimensional player. The last thing they need is another lumbering DH type on the wrong side of 35. Sure, they could stick Pujols at first base and let Mark Teixeira leave next offseason, then put Pujols at DH and Greg Bird at first when Alex Rodriguez retires the offseason after that, but yuck. This one doesn’t work for the Yankees at all. That Pujols contract is the worst contract in baseball.

(Denis Poroy/Getty)
(Denis Poroy/Getty)

The Team: San Diego Padres
The Players: Matt Kemp and James Shields
The Remaining Money: $117.75M through 2018 plus another $20.25M in 2019

Does It Make Sense For The Padres? It might! They’re currently rebuilding and looking to both shed money and add prospects. Ellsbury for the Kemp/Shields duo wouldn’t net them any prospects, but it would wipe almost $30M off the books, reduce their annual payroll through 2018, and also land them an upgrade in the outfield. Kemp has a degenerative condition in his hips and is a year or two away from being a first baseman or DH, and DHs do not exist in the NL. Ellsbury gives them the kind of speedy contact hitter who would ostensibly thrive in spacious Petco Park.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? Again: it might! Shields’ contract complicates things because he can opt-out after the season. If Shields opts out, the the Padres would actually end up taking on money in this trade because he would be walking away from $44M. I suppose the two sides could work out a conditional trade — if Shields opts out, the Yankees send a prospect or two over, or kick in more money — but when things start getting that complicated, bet against it happening.

If nothing else, Shields would give the Yankees an innings guy even though he’s dangerously close to a Sabathia-esque decline. Kemp would fit in decently. They could put him in left this year to replace Ellsbury, then put him and Aaron Judge in the corners next season since Carlos Beltran will be gone, and then put him at DH once A-Rod retires. Kemp would also add another righty bat. Would the Yankees take on money to move Ellsbury and take two declining players in return though? Seems unlikely.

Kemp alone would not work — the Padres owe him only $73M through 2019, so significantly less than the Yankees owe Ellsbury — so Kemp plus Shields it is. The Yankees would be taking on more money in the short-term, screwing up their plan to get under the luxury tax threshold, but the contracts would be off the books a year sooner. That’s not something that should be glossed over. They’d get out of the bad deal(s) sooner.

The Team: Seattle Mariners
The Player: Robinson Cano
The Remaining Money: $192M through 2023

Does It Make Sense For The Mariners? Yes if the only goal is shedding approximately $80M and three years worth of contract. No if the goal is improving the roster. Cano is a better player than Ellsbury, there’s no doubt about that, and the difference in the contract commitments is massive. Seattle doesn’t have a ready made second base replacement and they don’t really need another outfielder, so Ellsbury doesn’t fit their roster, at least not in the super short-term. Their motivation for a Cano-for-Ellsbury deal would be dumping all that money.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? No for a few reasons. One, that’s way too much money to take on. The Yankees had a chance to re-sign Cano and balked at that price. I personally would rather have Cano for ten years and $240M than Ellsbury for seven years and $153M, but that’s just me. Obviously the Yankees feel differently, otherwise Robbie would still be wearing pinstripes.

Two, the Yankees now have Starlin Castro at second base, so they don’t really need Cano. An Ellsbury plus Castro for Cano deal would be fun in an lolwtf way — it would also even out the money slightly — but c’mon. The Yankees aren’t going to add Castro to the trade and still take on $40M or so just to get rid of Ellsbury. Not happening.

In a vacuum where positions and things like that don’t matter, I’d trade Ellsbury for Cano in an instant. This ain’t no vacuum though. That stuff matters and neither player fits the roster of their would-be new team. Ellsbury for Cano seems like the kind of trade none of us would even consider had Cano not been a Yankee once upon a time.

The Team: Texas Rangers
The Player: Shin-Soo Choo
The Remaining Money: $102M through 2020

Does It Make Sense For The Rangers? Finally, a trade that seems remotely plausible. Ellsbury and Choo both signed seven-year contracts two offseasons go, and while Ellsbury received an additional $23M in guaranteed money, Choo’s deal was back-loaded, so the two are owed similar dollars from 2016-20. Bridging the gap between the $102M left on Choo’s deal and the $110M left on Ellsbury’s doesn’t seem like it would be a huge issue, right?

(Christian Petersen/Getty)
(Christian Petersen/Getty)

Rangers GM Jon Daniels has reportedly coveted Ellsbury for years, so I’m sure there’s still some level of interest there. The problem? The Rangers have a good young center fielder and leadoff hitter in Delino DeShields Jr., who is making close to the league minimum. Texas also has a top flight center field prospect in Lewis Brinson at Triple-A. They have options at that position, so it’s not a pressing need.

Either way, the Rangers will have a declining veteran outfielder making $20M+ a year through 2020 on their roster. The question is whether they prefer Choo or Ellsbury, who are very different players. Ellsbury is the two-way threat and Choo is the bat first guy. They both have their pluses and minuses. This would almost be like a change of scenery trade.

Does It Make Sense For the Yankees? I think so, even if the money is evened out. The Yankees need Choo’s offense — he’s hit .259/.360/.419 (114 wRC+) with the Rangers, including .276/.375/.463 (127 wRC+) in 2015 — more than they need Ellsbury’s two-way skill set. Choo slots in perfectly in left field in the short-term, then at DH in the long-term once A-Rod is gone. As with the Rangers, the Yankees are going to have a declining veteran outfielder making $20M+ a year on their roster no matter what. Would they prefer that player to be Choo or Ellsbury?

* * *

It goes without saying those four bad contract-for-bad contract trades above are all pretty unrealistic and very unlikely to happen. This just goes to show how tough it would be to move Ellsbury without eating a significant chunk of money. It’s not impossible, crazier things have happened, but his trade value is very low for the time being. And of course there’s the whole no trade clause thing.

My sense is the Yankees really like Ellsbury as a player and wouldn’t look to move him in a bad contract-for-bad contract deal. Their best course of action is to remain patient and hope he shakes off his slow start, and gets back to being the dynamic leadoff hitter he was prior to his knee injury last year. Ellsbury’s contract is really bad, and while trading him seems like a good idea, it’s very possible the best bang for all that buck will come from Ellsbury, not a declining player on another team’s roster.

Yankeemetrics: #RISPFAIL [April 15-17]

(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

It’s not what you want, Part I
The good news is that the Yankees created a ton of scoring chances on Friday night. The bad news is that they failed miserably in cashing in on those opportunities – and the result was a frustrating 7-1 loss to the Mariners in the series opener.

The Yankees put 13 guys on base overall and just one of them touched home plate – a solo homer by Brett Gardner in the first inning. It marked the first time they left 12-or-more men on base and scored only one run in a game since May 29, 2012 against the Angels.

They had at least one baserunner in seven of the nine innings and multiple guys on in the fourth, fifth and sixth frames. Yet, they couldn’t come up with the Big Hit ® as they went hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

Jacoby Ellsbury was the only Yankee starter that didn’t reach base, going 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. It was his 15th game in pinstripes with at least five at bats and zero hits, the most such games of any player on the team since his debut in 2014.

It’s not what you want, Part II
Another day, another three-plus hours of futility at the plate for the Yankees, who left a small navy of runners on base and lost 3-2 to the Mariners on Saturday afternoon.

They somehow managed to set a new level of offensive ineptitude for 2016, surpassing Friday’s debacle by going hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position again and this time stranding a whopping 14 baserunners.

It’s the first time in more than three decades that the Yankees have lost back-to-back nine-inning games while leaving at least 12 runners on base in each contest. The last time it happened was June 5-6, 1984 against the Red Sox.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the last major-league team to go 0-for-12 or worse with RISP in consecutive games was the Orioles in 1993.

CC Sabathia made his 200th start with the Yankees but it was a forgettable one. He was pulled in the fifth inning after allowing three runs on seven hits and with his pitch count at 95. Still, the milestone is a significant one for Sabathia, who also surpassed the 200-start mark with the Indians.

He is just the sixth pitcher in major-league history – and the second lefty – to have at least 200 starts and 1,000 strikeouts with two different franchises. The others in this club are Mike Mussina, Randy Johnson (the lone southpaw), Greg Maddux, Nolan Ryan and Jim Bunning.

Carlos Beltran did his best to spark the Yankees offense, driving in two runs while going 4-for-5 with two doubles and a homer. At the age of 38 and 358 days, he is the oldest player in franchise history to have a four-hit game that included at least three extra-base hits. He surpassed Babe Ruth, who was 38 years and 175 days old when he went 4-of-5 with two doubles and a triple against the Senators in 1933.

Do you believe in miracles?
Yes!

Brett Gardner’s RBI double in the third inning, which scored Jacoby Ellsbury from second base, snapped an ugly 0-for-30 streak with runners in scoring position by the Yankees that dated back to the Blue Jays series (Of course, that was their only hit in 11 at-bats with RISP during the game. But one hit is progress!)

The Yankees also broke their four-game losing streak, avoided the dreaded sweep against the Mariners, and had their best offensive output (four runs) since April 9 in Detroit.

A-Rod also joined the streak-breaking party in the second inning when he smoked the first pitch he saw into the left field stands for career homer No. 689. That ended a 19 at-bat hitless streak, which was two shy of the longest in his career (2002 and 2007). He entered the game with a .100 batting average this year, his worst mark through eight games played in any season during his career.

The Yankees got seven strong innings from Masahiro Tanaka, who is now 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA in four starts against Seattle. He kept the Mariners lineup off-balance all afternoon with his nasty splitter, which netted him five of his six strikeouts and 14 swinging strikes, the most he’s ever had in a game with that pitch. Thanks to his sinker-heavy approach, Tanaka generated a ton of soft contact and his 12 ground ball outs also were a career-high.

Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller sealed the win with another pair of ridiculously dominant performances as they each struck out the side in the eighth and ninth innings on 26 total pitches. The pair has recorded 33 outs this season, and 27 of them have been strikeouts.

Of the last 15 batters that Betances has retired, 14 have been via strike three. He’s now had four outings in a row with at least three strikeouts and no more than 1⅓ innings pitched. Betances is the only pitcher in major-league history to put together a streak like that — and it’s not even the first time he’s done it. He had a similar stretch May 26-June 1 last year.

4/15 to 4/17 Series Preview: Seattle Mariners

Bob Cano. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Bob Cano. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Following that disappointment of a road trip, the Yankees are returning home today for a nine-game homestand. It begins this afternoon with the first of three against the Mariners. Seems like they’re seeing Seattle much earlier than usual, no? I can’t remember the last time the Mariners were in the Bronx in April. (I looked it up. It was 2014, but at the very end of the month.)

What Have They Done Lately?

The Mariners have lost six of their first nine games this season, and prior to winning their last game, they had lost five straight. They’ve been outscored by six runs in those nine games. Seattle has scored three runs or fewer in six of their nine games. The more things change, eh?

Offense & Defense

Seattle has scored 32 runs in their nine games, and they rank 12th out of the 30 clubs with a perfectly league average 100 wRC+. They’re completely healthy on offense too. No one on the DL and no one even day-to-day at the moment. I’m going to do this thing with the ZiPS projections one last time because the season is still young.

2016 Stats to Date 2016 ZiPS
C Chris Iannetta
5-for-22 (.227), 1 HR, 0 SB, 4 BB, 7 K .215/.333/.358 (98 wRC+), 9 HR, 1 SB
1B Adam Lind
2-for-21 (.095), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 8 K .253/.326/.392 (99 wRC+), 11 HR, 0 SB
2B Robinson Cano
7-for-37 (.187), 5 HR, 0 SB, 3 BB, 7 K .287/.345/.447 (118 wRC+), 19 HR, 5 SB
SS Ketel Marte
5-for-29 (.172), 0 HR, 0 SB, 2 BB, 7 K .263/.307/.359 (86 wRC+), 5 HR, 22 SB
3B Kyle Seager
5-for-33 (.152), 1 HR, 0 SB, 6 BB, 8 K .257/.326/.438 (112 wRC+), 22 HR, 7 SB
LF Nori Aoki
10-for-36 (.278), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 4 K .269/.328/.352 (93 wRC+), 5 HR, 13 SB
CF Leonys Martin
8-for-27 (.296), 1 HR, 1 SB, 3 BB, 10 K .249/.299/.372 (86 wRC+), 8 HR, 22 SB
RF Nelson Cruz
8-for-35 (.229), 2 HR, 0 SB, 4 BB, 4 K .263/.327/.494 (126 wRC+), 31 HR, 4 SB
DH Franklin Gutierrez
3-for-15 (.200), 0 HR, 0 SB, 3 BB, 6 K .238/.294/.417 (97 wRC+), 11 HR, 2 SB
BENCH
C Steve Clevenger
0-for-7 (.000), 0 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 1 K .248/.300/.335 (77 wRC+), 4 HR, 0 SB
1B Dae-Ho Lee
3-for-13 (.231), 2 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 3 K N/A
IF Luis Sardinas
3-for-13 (.231), 2 HR, 0 SB, 0 BB, 3 K .235/.265/.295 (54 wRC+), 2 HR, 12 SB
OF Seth Smith
4-for-15 (.267), 1 HR, 0 SB, 5 BB, 3 K .245/.335/.414 (109 wRC+), 11 HR, 0 SB

Smith and Gutierrez actually platoon at DH. Why they’re not playing those two in right field and Cruz at DH, I’ll never understand. Seager enjoys hitting in Yankee Stadium. He’s 16-for-57 (.281) with four homers in 14 games in the big ballpark in the Bronx. I thought those numbers would be much better. Seager always seems to rake whenever the Mariners come to town.

Cano is off to a slow start in terms of batting average, but he already has five homers in nine games. Last year he didn’t hit his fifth homer until his 75th game. I’m telling you, Robbie’s going to have a huge year and finish in the top three of the MVP voting. Well, maybe not top three, the voting is weird as hell, but I think he’s going to have a monster bounceback season. He’s looked locked in since the start of camp.

New GM Jerry Dipoto focused on improving his team’s defense over the winter, though they remain a bit questionable overall. Cruz is a disaster in right and Lind/Lee is a DH at first base. The numbers do not love Cano at second, though after watching him all those years in New York, I’d be surprised if he’s suddenly bad there. Here is Sean Dolinar’s neat defensive visualization:

Mariners defense

I’m not sure I buy those numbers on Marte and Cano. Everything else passes the sniff test though. If anything, Seager is being underrated.

Pitching Matchups

Friday (7pm ET): RHP Luis Severino (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Nathan Karns (vs. NYY)
The Yankees saw a good bit of Karns last season, when he was with the Rays. Tampa traded the 28-year-old to the Mariners for Brad Miller and Logan Morrison — those two are a combined 4-for-58 (.069) so far this season — in the very first deal of the offseason. Karns had a 3.67 ERA (4.09 FIP) in 147 innings last season, though only his strikeout rate (23.4%) was above average. His walk (9.0%), grounder (41.8%), and homer (1.16 HR/9) numbers left something to be desired. He did have a negligible platoon split, however. Karns works with a 92-94 mph fastball, and his go-to offspeed offering is a low-80s power curve. He also throws a mid-80s changeup. Karns allowed four runs in five innings against the A’s last week, in his only start of the season to date.

Saturday (1pm ET): LHP CC Sabathia (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Felix Hernandez (vs. NYY)
Well would you look at that, Felix Hernandez is going to pitch against the Yankees. That guy never seems to miss a series against the Yanks. Felix, 30, actually has his worst season in several years last year, pitching to a 3.53 ERA (3.72 FIP) in 201.2 innings. His peripherals — he had a 23.1 K%, 7.0 BB%, 57.2 GB%, and 1.03 HR/9 — were very good in the grand scheme of things, but they were also his worst rates in years. Hernandez, who managed to lose a one-hitter on Opening Day (lol Mariners, lol), might actually be declining a bit. He’s still great, obviously. But there are some signs of slippage. These days he operates with a sinker right around 90 mph, and an array of secondary stuff that includes an upper-80s changeup, a mid-80s slider, and an upper-70s curveball. When he’s on, Felix is as good as it gets. I don’t care how many possible signs of decline exist. This dude is tough.

Felix. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Felix. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Sunday (1pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. SEA) vs. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (vs. NYY)
The 35-year-old Iwakuma seemed like a nice value free agent this past winter, but then the Mariners slapped the qualifying offer on him, and he failed his physical with the Dodgers, so that was that. Seattle took him back on a one-year contract with a pair of vesting options. Iwakuma had a 3.54 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 129.2 innings a year ago, and he did it with excellent walk (4.1%) and grounder (50.4%) rates. His strikeout rate (21.5%) was average, and his homer rate (1.25 HR/9) was very high considering he plays his home games in Safeco Field. Iwakuma has a small platoon split because his knockout mid-80s splitter is a true equalizer. He sets it up with upper-80s four-seamers and sinkers, and he’ll also mix in a few low-80s sliders and low-70s curves. Iwakuma is definitely not a power pitcher. He’s made two starts this year, allowing two runs in five innings and three runs in six innings, both against the Rangers.

Bullpen Status

Dipoto remade his bullpen over the winter, most notably trading away closer RHP Carson Smith (to the Red Sox for Wade Miley) and setup man RHP Danny Farquhar (to the Rays in the Karns deal). He filled in the gaps with some free agents and minor trades. Most notably, he dropped two years and $10M on ex-Marlins closer Steve Cishek, who was a reclamation project this offseason. Here are the bullpen.

2016 Stats to Date 2016 ZiPS
RHP Steve Cishek
5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K 3.50 ERA (3.14 FIP), 23.8 K%, 8.7 BB%
RHP Joaquin Benoit
2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K 3.28 ERA (3.73 FIP), 23.9 K%, 8.3 BB%
RHP Tony Zych
6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 10 K 3.51 ERA (3.23 FIP), 23.4 K%, 5.4 BB%
RHP Nick Vincent
5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K 3.22 ERA (3.07 FIP), 26.8 K%, 7.5 BB%
RHP Joel Peralta
4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K 3.82 ERA (3.46 FIP), 24.0 K%, 6.0 BB%
LHP Mike Montgomery
5 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K 4.63 ERA (4.43 FIP), 15.9 K%, 8.8 BB%
LHP Vidal Nuno
3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K 4.56 ERA (4.42 FIP), 19.2 K%, 5.9 BB%

The Mariners have yet to record a save this season. They’ve blown some saves, but they haven’t gotten a save yet. Cishek is the closer for the time being with Benoit setting him up. Zych is the young hard-throwing stud who everyone expects to be the future closer.

Neither Montgomery nor Nuno are a true left-on-left matchup guy. They’re both former starters who have been used as long men in the early going. Peralta spent all those years with the Rays, though his days of being an effective late-inning reliever are over. He turned 40 in March and gets by on guts and guile these days.

The Mariners had an off-day yesterday because they were traveling east from Seattle, so their bullpen is pretty fresh. Outside of Zych, there’s not much “wow” factor in this bullpen. Check out the status of Joe Girardi‘s bullpen at our Bullpen Workload page. The ‘pen is in good shape heading into the series.