2017 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Friday

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

The 2017 non-waiver trade deadline is 4pm ET next Monday, and already the Yankees have made one significant trade. They acquired Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox for three prospects (and Tyler Clippard) a week and a half ago. That one has paid dividends already. The Yankees have made two smaller trades (Tyler Webb for Garrett Cooper, Rob Refsnyder for Ryan McBroom) as well.

At the moment the Yankees are a half-game back in the AL East and 2.5 games up on a wildcard spot, so they’re very much in the race. Adding is the way to go. The White Sox trade answered any “buyer or seller?” questions. A starting pitcher is the obvious priority following Michael Pineda‘s injury, though another bat and a lefty reliever shouldn’t be ruled out either. We’re going to keep track of all the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so keep coming back for updates. All timestamps are ET.

  • 3:44pm: The Yankees had a scout (Brandon Duckworth!) on hand to watch Yu Darvish’s most recent outing, so if nothing else, they’re doing their due diligence. Darvish got hammered by the Marlins on Wednesday night (3.2 IP, 9 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 2 BB, 5 ). [George King]
  • 3:42pm: The Yankees have interest in Lance Lynn and the Cardinals have been scouting New York’s farm system. Lynn is a pure rental. Here’s my Scouting The Market post. [Derrick Goold]
  • 1:41pm: During talks with the Mets about Lucas Duda, the Yankees offered a similar relief prospect to Drew Smith, who the Mets acquired from the Rays in the trade yesterday. I wonder if that means Ben Heller or Jonathan Holder? Either way, since the Yankees were only offering a similar prospect, the Mets opted not to send Duda across town. [Sherman]
  • 12:00pm: Talks with the Athletics about Sonny Gray at an impasse because they’re asking for either Clint Frazier or Gleyber Torres, and the Yankees won’t include them in any deal. Oakland also likes Jorge Mateo, James Kaprielian, and Estevan Florial. Despite the impasse, the Yankees are still believed to be in the lead for Gray because they’re offering the strongest package. [Jon Heyman, Bob Klapisch]
  • 12:00pm: The Yankees are among the teams in the mix for Tigers lefty Justin Wilson. Tons of teams are after the former Yankee. I’d be surprised if the Yankees go all out to win a bidding war for Wilson after adding Robertson and Kahnle. [Anthony Fenech]
  • 12:00pm: The Yankees remain engaged with the Braves about first baseman Matt Adams, though a starting pitcher remains their priority. Atlanta is playing Freddie Freeman at third base in deference to Adams, which is crazy, but it’s not my problem. [Joel Sherman]
  • 12:00pm: There have been no recent talks with the Cubs about Bryan Mitchell. Chicago has liked him in the past and the Yankees are trying to clear up the back of their 40-man roster, though the two clubs haven’t touched base. [Sherman]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Yankeemetrics: We’re Going Streaking (April 14-16)

(Getty)
(Getty)

Comeback kids
Behind the improved pitching of Masahiro Tanaka, and the power of Starlin Castro and Austin Romine, the Yankees opened their 2017 Interleague slate on Friday night with a 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Cardinals. This was the Redbirds first visit to the new Yankee Stadium, making the Padres the only team that hasn’t visited the Bronx since 2009.

Masahiro Tanaka entered this matchup having allowed just one run in 21 innings (0.43 ERA) over three Interleague starts at Yankee Stadium. That was the lowest ERA in the majors by any pitcher with two career home Interleague starts … until the third batter of the game, Matt Carpenter, crushed a two-run homer to give the Cardinals an early 2-0 lead.

He settled down after that rocky first frame, retiring 10 straight at one point, before faltering again in the seventh. Tanaka has now given up 13 runs in three outings this season – a number he didn’t reach until May 10 last year in his seventh start of the 2016 campaign.

Castro quickly evened the scored with a two-run blast in the bottom of the first. It was Castro’s 11th game-tying or go-ahead homer in pinstripes, two more than every other Yankee since the start of last season.

Romine then delivered the eventual game-winner, a solo homer in the bottom of the second to put them ahead 3-2. It was the first time in his career he went deep to give the Yankees a lead.

(AP)
(AP)

Sabathia > Father Time
CC Sabathia produced a vintage performance in Saturday’s 3-2 Yankee victory, throwing 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball, while picking up his his 225th career win on Jackie Robinson Day. That moved him past Hall-of-Famers Jim Bunning and Catfish Hunter for sole possession of 66th place on MLB’s all-time wins list.

Sabathia also lowered his ERA to 1.47, the third-lowest of his career through his first three starts of a season; the only better marks were in 2011 (1.45) and 2005 (0.92).

The Yankees needed Sabathia’s masterpiece because their offense remained stuck in neutral for much of the game. They went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position, left 12 men on base and tied a franchise record with 17 strikeouts (done three times previously). Somehow, the Yankees are now 2-1-1 all-time when striking out 17 times in a game.

Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez was both utterly dominant and laughably wild at times on Saturday afternoon, finishing with one of the most bizarre pitching lines you’ll ever see: 11 strikeouts, eight walks, four hits, three runs allowed.

He’s the first pitcher to walk at least eight guys and fan at least 11 batters since Randy Johnson in 1993, and the first to do that against the Yankees since Bob Feller in 1937.

Even more ridiculous is that he did this all in just 5 1/3 innings. Martinez is the only pitcher in major-league history to have 11-or-more strikeouts and eight-or-more walks in a game and not make it out of the sixth inning.

Seventh Heaven
The Yankees completed the sweep of the Cardinals on Sunday with a convincing 9-3 win, extending their win streak to an MLB-best seven games. They now have two sweeps in two home series this season, after notching just three sweeps in 26 home series in 2016.

The victory also pushes their Yankee Stadium record to 6-0, the second time in the Wild Card era (since 1995) they’ve won their first six games at home. It also happened in 1998, a season that ended … yeah, pretty sweet.

(USA Today Sports)
(USA Today Sports)

Greg Bird broke out of his brutal season-opening slump in style, as he reached base in all four plate appearances with a home run, double, single and a walk (hey, a triple short of the cycle!).

Prior to his second-inning homer, Bird was hitless in his previous 20 at-bats, and had just one hit and a whopping 13 strikeouts in 30 trips to the plate this season. Entering Sunday, his batting average (.038), slugging percentage (.077) and OPS (.244) were each the worst among the 237 MLB players with at least 30 plate appearances this season.

Bird’s homer was his first since Oct. 1, 2015, making him the 10th different Yankee in 2017 to go yard. That’s tied with the Tigers, Rays and Brewers for the most players with at least one homer this season.

Chase Headley continued to swing a hot bat, pushing his batting average above .400 and notching his seventh multi-hit performance of the year. He’s the first Yankee third baseman since Bobby Murcer in 1969 to have seven multi-hit games this early into the season (first 12 team games), and joins Derek Jeter (2010, 2012) as the only Yankees at any position to do it in the last decade.

Michael Pineda followed up his near-perfecto with another excellent outing, showing a hint of the consistency that has so far eluded him during his Jekyll-and-Hyde career in pinstripes. It was just the second time as a Yankee that he pitched at least seven innings and surrendered no more than two runs in back-to-back games (also May 5-10, 2015).

4/14 to 4/16 Series Preview: St. Louis Cardinals

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images North America)

It still seems strange to host a National League team as early as April 14, but year-round interleague play has been the norm since the Houston Astros moved to the AL West in 2013. This won’t be quite so jarring, though, as the superior league’s rules will be in-play.

The Last Time They Met

The Yankees visited the Cardinals back in May of 2014, winning two out of three against the defending National League champions. Hiroki Kuroda and Alfredo Aceves picked up the wins, and David Phelps took the loss. A few interesting notes:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury batted third in all three games (and went 5-for-12 with 2 walks, 3 runs, 3 stolen bases);
  • Eight pitchers took the ball for the Yankees, and only two (Dellin Betances and Adam Warren) are still in pinstripes;
  • The first game was an extra innings affair, in which Alfonso Soriano drove in what proved to be the game-winning run;
  • Brian Roberts went 5-for-13 with 2 doubles, a walk, and 3 runs scored in the series.

Injury Report

The Cardinals currently have four pitchers on the disabled list, none of which will pitch this series – Alex Reyes, John Gant, Tyler Lyons, and Zach Duke. Reyes, a consensus top-10 prospect, is the biggest loss on this list as he was expected to be a fixture in the team’s rotation this season (and for many seasons to come). He’ll miss the entirety of 2017 following Tommy John surgery.

Their Story So Far

St. Louis is currently 3-6, and have been outscored by 14 runs (34 runs scored, 48 allowed) thus far. They aren’t hitting (their 72 wRC+ ranks 28th in the Majors), and their bullpen has been downright atrocious, with a worst-in-baseball 7.86 ERA. And there was also this tomfoolery:

(Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

That isn’t a trick of the light or a Photoshop job – that’s a ball sticking to Yadier Molina’s chest protector. It was a short-lived scandal, as the league cleared Molina and the Cardinals of any wrongdoing relatively expeditiously, but that bit of comedy has been the highlight of their season.

The Lineup We Might See

Mike Matheny utilizes a few platoons, most notably at 2B (Kolten Wong vs. RHP, Jedd Gyorko vs. LHP) and in the corner OF spots (Matt Adams vs. RHP, Stephen Piscotty vs. LHP). They also give their players regular rest, which has led to them utilizing six different lineups in eight games (excluding the pitcher). Adding in a designated hitter throws a further wrinkle into guessing what we might see this weekend. Excuses aside, it will probably look something like this against Masahiro Tanaka on Friday and Michael Pineda on Sunday:

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF
  2. Aledmys Diaz, SS
  3. Matt Carpenter, 1B
  4. Matt Adams, DH
  5. Yadier Molina, C
  6. Jhonny Peralta, 3B
  7. Stephen Piscotty, RF
  8. Randal Grichuk, LF
  9. Kolten Wong, 2B

And something like this against CC Sabathia on Saturday:

  1. Fowler, CF
  2. Diaz, SS
  3. Carpenter, 1B
  4. Peralta, 3B
  5. Molina, C
  6. Piscotty, RF
  7. Jedd Gyorko, 2B
  8. Grichuk, LF
  9. Adams, DH

The Starting Pitchers We Will See

Friday (7:05 PM EST): RHP Michael Wacha

Wacha struggled mightily in 2016, posting career-worsts in K/9, K%, BB/9, HR/9, ERA, and FIP, and spending time on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. While he has yet to live-up to the hype set by his NLCS MVP award as a rookie (2 GS, 13.2 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 13 K), he has otherwise been a solid cog in the Cardinals rotation for four-plus seasons. His biggest issue may well be staying healthy, but he’s still only 25-years-old.

He’s primarily a fastball/change-up guy, with a low-to-mid 90s fastball, low-90s cutter, and mid-to-high 80s change-up accounting for 90 to 95% of his offerings.

Last Outing (vs. CIN on 4/8) – 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 6 K

Saturday (1:05 PM EST): RHP Carlos Martinez

When Martinez first made his way to the show in 2013, it was as a reliever. And, despite his fantastic stuff and track record, there was always talk that his ultimate fate would be in the bullpen, as many believed that his 6’0″, 190 pound frame could not hold up to the rigors of full season in the rotation. Fast forward to today, and that sounds foolish at best as he produced 6.7 fWAR in 375 IP between 2015 and 2016 (along with a shiny 3.02 ERA). He keeps the ball on the ground (54.2% GB for his career) and racks up strikeouts (22.6 K%), and he’s still just 25.

Martinez throws a four-seamer and two-seamer, both in the mid-90s, a hard curveball in the low-to-mid 80s, and a mid-to-high 80s change piece. He picks up most of his strikeouts with the curve, though he also gets plenty of whiffs (15.4% last year, 21.6% in 2015) on his change-up.

Last Outing (vs. CIN on 4/9) – 5.0 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 3 K

Sunday (8:05 PM EST): RHP Adam Wainwright

If it seems as if Wainwright has been around forever, it’s probably because he kind of has. The 35-year-old has been in the Cardinals organization since 2003, having been acquired from the Braves alongside Jason Marquis in exchange for J.D. Drew. He began to show his age last season, posting the worst ERA of his career (4.62) by nearly a full run, as well as his worst FIP. There have been some suggestions that it was due to the rust from a lost 2015 season, but his ERA (4.49 to 4.79) and FIP (3.43 to 4.56) were much better in the first half. With a few surgeries and 2500-plus professional innings under his belt, it wouldn’t be shocking if this is who Wainwright is now.

Wainwright still works with three fastballs – a low-90s four-seamer, a low-90s sinker, and a mid-80s cutter – and a big breaking curveball. His velocity hasn’t dropped all that much, either, and he was never a hard-thrower.

Last Outing (vs. WAS on 4/10) – 4.0 IP, 11 H, 6 R, 2 BB, 3 K

The Bullpen

As I said above, the bullpen has been terrible thus far. The Cardinals currently have five relievers with an ERA over 6.00, including the $30 MM man Brett Cecil (13.50), and closer Seung Hwan Oh (9.64). The group has combined to allow six home runs in just 26.1 IP, and a lack of control (13 BB and 5 HBP) has only made matters worse. Their bullpen was middle-of-the-pack last year, and many of the pieces remain the same (Oh, Kevin Siegrist, Jonathan Broxton, Matt Bowman, and Trevor Rosenthal), and Cecil has essentially replaced the injured Zach Duke. One has to imagine that they’ll turn it around soon enough – let’s just hope it’s not this weekend.

Who (Or What) to Watch

Aside from Molina’s chest protector, of course.

Matt Carpenter is a personal favorite, as a player who is constantly reinventing himself. He didn’t make his professional debut until he was 23, and he was essentially a non-prospect (even as he decimated minor league pitching) right up until his rookie year. All that he has done since then is post a 132 wRC+ in 3000-plus big league plate appearances. Carpenter also retooled his approach after the 2014 season, with a bit more aggression and a larger uppercut in his swing, resulting in significantly more power without losing much of anything. And, just for fun, he stopped swinging at the first pitch of the game in 2016, swinging at just 13.4% of the first pitch in his plate appearances overall.

From the Yankees perspective, it might be fun to see how Matt Holliday reacts to playing his old team for the first time; though, it would’ve been a better moment if the series was in St. Louis.

Few potential landing spots remain for Chase Headley

(Norm Hall/Getty)
(Norm Hall/Getty)

So far this offseason has been about addition and subtraction for the Yankees. They added Matt Holliday and Aroldis Chapman to improve the roster, but also subtracted Brian McCann to continue their rebuilding transitioning effort. The McCann trade with the Astros cleared up some payroll space and also netted the team two high upside Single-A pitching prospects.

The Yankees are still in addition and subtraction mode, based on everything we’ve heard the last few weeks. They still want to add pitching, starters and relievers, but they’re also looking to trade veterans. Specifically Brett Gardner and Chase Headley, who are basically their last two tradeable veteran position players. The Dexter Fowler and Adam Eaton deals mean not many suitors exist for Gardner.

For Headley, the market is appears to be even more limited, which is kinda weird because it’s much harder to find decent third base help than it is decent corner outfield help. In theory, anyway. Justin Turner has re-signed with the Dodgers, taking by far the best free agent third baseman off the market. Luis Valbuena is all that remains at this point, and he’s coming back from hamstring surgery.

Brian Cashman said at the Winter Meetings last week that he has rejected trade offers for Headley, though we don’t know the nature of those offers. They could have been “we’ll give you this fringe prospect if you eat a bunch of money” non-offers for all we know. Or maybe there were no offers and Cashman was trying to drum up interest. Who knows? Here are the few potential landing spots I’ve identified for Headley.

Atlanta Braves

Adonis. (Michael Thomas/Getty)
Adonis. (Michael Thomas/Getty)

Current Third Basemen: Adonis Garcia and Sean Rodriguez

Why Would They Want Headley? The Braves are doing all they can to be somewhat competitive next season, when they open SunTrust Park. They’ve signed R.A. Dickey and Bartolo Colon as free agents, and traded for Jaime Garcia to beef up the rotation. Third base is another problem area. Rodriguez was signed to be a utility player, and Garcia, the ex-Yankees farmhand, was worth +0.9 fWAR and +0.2 bWAR in close to a full season of playing time in 2016, so yeah.

Headley is not all that expensive by today’s standards, plus I’m sure the Yankees are at least open to the idea of eating some of the $26M he’s owed the next two years, so he’d be another low risk short-term upgrade for the Braves a la Colon and Dickey and Garcia. Rio Ruiz, who I covered in a Scouting The Market post earlier this winter, is their top third base prospect and there’s a chance he won’t be a third baseman at all. Headley’s an easy upgrade for Atlanta.

So Are They A Fit? Yes. The doesn’t mean the Braves want to trade for Headley, necessarily, but he would fit their roster and current plan.

Boston Red Sox

Current Third Basemen: Pablo Sandoval and Brock Holt

Why Would They Want Headley? The BoSox traded their starting third baseman (Travis Shaw) and third baseman of the future (Yoan Moncada) this offseason, leaving them with short and long-term openings at the hot corner. Sandoval is coming back from major shoulder surgery and was terrible last time he played. Holt fits best as a part-time utility guy, not a full-time corner infielder.

So Are They A Fit? Nah. Not realistically. Even beyond the unlikelihood of a Yankees-Red Sox trade, the Red Sox are probably best off seeing what they have in Sandoval at this point. They owe him a ton of money and it’s not going away.

St. Louis Cardinals

Current Third Baseman: Jhonny Peralta

Why Would They Want Headley? The Cardinals were in on Turner before he re-signed with the Dodgers because they’re looking for ways to improve their infield, especially defensively. Peralta really struggled at the hot corner this past season after losing his shortstop job to Aledmys Diaz. Matt Carpenter is moving to first base full-time for defensive reasons, and Headley would be an upgrade over Peralta at the hot corner. Pretty easily at this point of Peralta’s career too.

Peralta. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
Peralta. (Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

So Are They A Fit? Yes, though I don’t think St. Louis is as gung-ho about adding a third baseman now that Turner is off the board. It seems like their thinking was “we can add Turner for just cash, and we’ve already given up out first rounder for Fowler, so let’s do it.” Trading pieces for Headley and then having to find a new home for Peralta might not be worth the trouble for the Cardinals.

San Francisco Giants

Current Third Baseman: Eduardo Nunez

Why Would They Want Headley? Like the Cardinals, the Giants dabbled in the market for Turner a few weeks ago, they were never as all-in as St. Louis. San Francisco has also reportedly considered a reunion with Sandoval, assuming they could get him from the Red Sox at an extremely discounted price. Third base help isn’t necessarily a top priority, though based on the rumors, the Giants do seem to be keeping an eye out for an upgrade over Nunez.

So Are They A Fit? Eh, maybe. The Giants are over the luxury tax threshold following the Mark Melancon signing, and they reportedly do not want to add significant payroll. That would stand in the way of a Headley trade, even if the Yankees ate some money. Also, left field is their biggest roster hole. If they’re going to take on dollars and go further over the luxury tax threshold, it’ll be for outfield help, not a marginal upgrade over Nunez at third.

* * *

Keep in mind trading Headley means the Yankees would have to come up with a replacement third baseman. They have plenty of outfielders to plug into left field should Gardner be traded, but they don’t have a ready made replacement third baseman. Ronald Torreyes and the recently signed Ruben Tejada would be the front-runners for the job. Maybe Rob Refsnyder too. Not great.

The Yankees are still trying to contend next season while continuing to get younger — you don’t sign a closer to an $86M contract and not plan on contending right away — and they’ll need competence at the hot corner themselves. Headley provides that. More than that, really, even if many fans don’t seem to want to admit it. If the Yankees can trade Headley for some prospects and salary relief, great. But they’ll likely be a worse team on the field afterwards, and based on their other offseason activity, that might not fly.

Trade Deadline Notes: Beltran, Royals, Nationals, Rangers

(Harry How/Getty)
(Harry How/Getty)

Thanks to last night’s win over the BoSox, the Yankees improved their postseason odds to … 5.2%. That’s not so good. Ownership still has not whether to buy or sell at the trade deadline according to Buster Olney, which is no surprise. I’m guessing they won’t make that decision until the very last moment. I just hope none of their top trade chips get hurt between now and then. Anyway, here are some miscellaneous trade notes.

Yankees, Royals talked Beltran

According to George King, the Yankees and Royals discussed a trade involving Carlos Beltran earlier this season. Apparently reliever Luke Hochevar’s name came up. The Royals are short on offense at the moment and they have a huge hole in right field, so while Beltran doesn’t fit their mold as a premium defender, he’d sure as heck improve their lineup. Remember, Kansas City tried to sign Beltran as a free agent two offseason ago.

Hochevar being part of trade talks is interesting if not a little weird. He’s a solid middle reliever (3.86 ERA and 3.83 FIP) and an impending free agent, but trading rental Beltran for a rental reliever makes no sense for the Yankees. I think Hochevar would have been part of the deal as a way to offset money on Kansas City’s end. (He’s making $6M total this year.) Beltran for Hochevar and a prospect or two seems like the final outcome there. There’s no word on whether talks were serious or are ongoing.

Yankees scouting Nationals, Triple-A affiliate

The Yankees spent the weekend scouting the Nationals’ Triple-A affiliate and will cover the big league team this week, reports Barry Svrluga. It’s hard not notice Washington will be calling up pitching prospect Reynaldo Lopez from Triple-A to make his MLB debut tomorrow night. Pitching prospects Austin Voth and A.J. Cole are currently with Triple-A Syracuse as well.

Lopez, who Baseball America ranked as the 48th best prospect in baseball in their midseason top 100, has long been speculated as a possible trade target for New York. That said, he didn’t pitch in Triple-A this weekend, so Yankees’ scouts in Syracuse didn’t see him. He threw an inning in the Futures Game in San Diego on Sunday. Voth and Cole pitched Friday and Saturday in Triple-A, respectively, for what’s it worth. The Nationals have interest in Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman, so it’s no surprise the Yankees are scouting their system. They’re scouting everyone’s system.

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

Rangers want Yankees to take on money in potential Miller trade

According to Jeff Wilson, the Rangers would like the Yankees to eat some money in a potential Miller trade. Miller is owed whatever is left of his $9M salary this season plus another $9M in both 2017 and 2018. That’s certainly very reasonable given his on-field production, but who knows what Texas’ financials look like. A $9M a year reliever may not be feasible to them.

Of course, given their financial might, the Yankees should be willing to eat money to facilitate any trade as long as it means a greater package of players coming back. It seems silly to pay someone as good as Miller to play elsewhere, but you know what? If it’s the difference between getting a very good prospect and an elite prospect, why not? The Yankees have the money. That’s a good way to leverage their financial firepower.

Cubs, others continue to scout Yankees

Yet another high-ranking Cubs official was at Yankee Stadium this weekend, presumably to scout their bullpen pieces, reports George King. They’ve now had three different scouts and pro scouting director Jared Porter watch New York’s end-game relievers in recent weeks. That ain’t routine coverage. The Cubs are getting multiple eyes on these guys because they want as much information as possible before getting serious about a trade.

King says the Braves, Rangers, Marlins, Cardinals, Nationals, Royals, and Giants have also been scouting the Yankees recently. I’m not quite sure what the Braves were doing there. Maybe they were checking guys out in the case the Yankees decide to buy or something? The other five clubs all make sense though. They’re all contending and they all have some kind of clear need New York may be able to address via trade. The deadline is exactly two weeks away.

The Rest of MLB [2016 Season Preview]

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joey Votto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homer Simpson

Bold Prediction: Bryce Harper is even better this year.

Recent free agent signings clear up trade possibilities for Brett Gardner

(Elsa/Getty)
(Elsa/Getty)

Over the last week, the two best unsigned free agent outfielders came off the board when Justin Upton signed with the Tigers and Yoenis Cespedes agreed to return to the Mets. Others like Alex Gordon and Denard Span signed a few weeks back, so, with Spring Training a little less than a month away, Dexter Fowler (tied to draft pick compensation) and Austin Jackson are the top available free agent outfielders.

The Upton and Cespedes signings took away two potential trade partners for Brett Gardner, though a trade with the Mets was never all that likely. I think Brian Cashman and Sandy Alderson would do a deal if they felt it improved their teams, but a crosstown trade might make the ownership groups a little queasy. No one wants to lose a trade to their geographic rival.

Anyway, with Upton and Cespedes (and Gordon and Span) off the board, the trade market for Gardner has become a little more clear. Gardner has been on the market all winter as the Yankees look for ways to land a young pitcher, though the crowded free agent outfield class complicated things. Now the free agent market isn’t so crowded. Here are the teams that could be in play for Gardner.

Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles did bring back Chris Davis recently, yet their outfield situation remains Adam Jones and some combination of Hyun-Soo Kim, Nolan Reimold, L.J. Hoes, and Rule 5 Draft pick Joey Rickard. And I guess Mark Trumbo too. There’s a clear fit for Gardner in Baltimore — the O’s could bat him leadoff and drop Manny Machado into a run-producing lineup spot — but the chances of a major Yankees-Orioles trade are tiny.

Chicago Cubs
The Cubbies have been after Gardner for a while — they originally wanted Gardner in the Starlin Castro trade — and they could still use a true center fielder and leadoff hitter. Chicago does have a full outfield at the moment (Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jorge Soler), though Soler’s name has popped up trade rumors, so a Gardner deal could rekindle those efforts. But, again, the problem with a Cubs trade all winter has been their lack of young pitching to offer. I’d argue the Yankees should focus on getting the best possible talent for Gardner regardless of position, but they’re focused on arms.

Chicago White Sox
Reports indicate the White Sox were in on both Upton and Cespedes in recent weeks, though they were not willing to extend their offer beyond three years. The ChiSox have added both Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie this offseason in an effort to fix one of MLB’s least productive infields, and they shouldn’t stop there. They’re not good enough to be AL Central favorites and not bad enough to rebuild. With Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, and Jose Abreu in their primes, the White Sox should continue adding in an effort to contend, and Gardner would be a massive upgrade over Avisail Garcia. Quintana or Carlos Rodon for Gardner isn’t happening, but could Erik Johnson? That’s the extent of Chicago’s pitching depth.

Cleveland Indians
The Indians, again. They talked to the Yankees about an outfielder for pitcher trade earlier this winter, though obviously nothing came of it. Cleveland has plenty of pitching to spare and they need outfield help — Michael Brantley will be out until at least May following shoulder surgery, so their outfield mix right now is Rajai Davis, Abe Almonte, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Collin Cowgill — so it seems like there should be a match. The problem? The Indians operate with a very strict budget and don’t have room for a $13M a year outfielder. The Yankees would have to pay down some of Gardner’s salary, which of course means they should expect more in return. The Tribe likely have their eyes on cheaper outfield options.

Los Angeles Angels
It never seemed like the Angels were going to make a serious run at Cespedes or Upton. They have a clear need for a left fielder — the currently have a Daniel Nava/Craig Gentry platoon planned, and yikes — and some pitching depth to spare, namely Nick Tropeano, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, and Matt Shoemaker. Some are more available than others, obviously. (Heaney’s close to untouchable, I think.)

Calhoun. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Calhoun. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

I think there’s a real possibility for an Angels trade right now. Angels GM Billy Eppler is said to be a big Gardner fan and the Halos really need both a leadoff hitter and another lefty bat. Gardner would push Kole Calhoun into a middle of the lineup spot. He’s a great fit for them, assuming it works financially. (The Angels want to stay under the luxury tax threshold and have about $12M in wiggle room.) I don’t think I would call a trade likely, but I do think if Gardner is dealt, the Angels are the favorite to land him.

St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals have a lot of outfielders (Matt Holliday, Tommy Pham, Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, Brandon Moss) but no true center fielder. Grichuk’s the most athletic of the group so he has the center field job by default. St. Louis doesn’t strike me as the kind of organization to make a knee-jerk reactionary move, but it’s tough to ignore all the improvements the Cubs made this winter, so the Cardinals could feel some pressure to keep pace. Gardner would solve a clear roster problem and the Cards have some young pitching to offer (Marco Gonzales, Tim Cooney). Money is no issue either — St. Louis bid big for Heyward and David Price, and were in the market for Chris Davis, yet they’ve only walked away with Mike Leake this offseason.

Washington Nationals
I’m not sure the Nationals are a possibility for Gardner following the Ben Revere trade. Yes, they made a run at Cespedes, so they’re still willing to add an outfielder, but Gardner and Cespedes are very different types of players. Washington might not want another left-handed hitting leadoff type with Revere on board. Never say never, but it appears the Nationals are no longer a match for Gardner following the Revere trade.

* * *

Keep in mind the Yankees are not the only team with a spare outfielder at the moment. The Dodgers would probably love to move Andre Ethier before he gains ten-and-five rights in April, plus the Rockies have four outfielders for three spots (Carlos Gonzalez, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Dickerson, Gerardo Parra). The outfield trade market is not limited solely to Gardner. Outfield needy teams have options.

Realistically, the Angels and Cardinals appear to be the best possible fits for Gardner. The White Sox, Cubs, and Indians are also potential suitors to a lesser extent. I still don’t expect the Yankees to trade Gardner before Spring Training, but at least now the trade market is a bit more clear with the big name free agents off the board. That also means there are fewer suitors, though there are still several clubs out there in need of outfield help.