Introducing the Yankees’ All-Revenge team

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Plenty of players throughout baseball, but particularly in the American League East, develop the reputation as Yankee killers. Certain guys just play especially well when opposite the pinstripes. Howie Kendrick with the Angels comes to mind. So does the mysterious contributions of Pedro Ciriaco with the Red Sox.

But there is a special breed of Yankee killer: The former Yankee turned Yankee killer. The group I call the All-Revenge team. The guys who the Yankees let go, trade or otherwise give up on and have turned into a thorn in their sides, a few meetings a year.

So I unveil the All-Revenge lineup, former Yankees who have turned their former employers into a most despised adversary. (Note: I chose to use only active players and focused on players who have performed well vs. NYY since leaving the team).

C: Russell Martin

Why does Martin make the team? Martin is perhaps the most obvious thanks to the 2015 division race. He left the Yankees after the team chose to let him walk and instead go with Chris Stewart and Francisco Cervelli as his immediate replacements. When Martin came back to the AL in 2015 and was in a race with the Yankees, he was ready to pounce.

Over the course of 16 games (13 starts) in 2015, he hit .300/.362/.660 vs. NYY, hitting five home runs with a whopping 18 RBI. Particularly stinging was a two-homer game in September followed up by a go-ahead walk in the 11th inning the next day. He followed that up with four homers, nine RBI and a much more modest .207/.319/.431 line in 2016. He also tried to fight Gary Sanchez last September and extract his pound of flesh from the Yankees. The Bombers held him in check this series, but he’s been a menace in the past.

Signature game: The two-home run game vs. the Yankees on Sept. 11, 2015 was a masterpiece for Martin. He singled home a run to knock Luis Severino out of the game, hit a solo home run off Andrew Bailey and then hit a two-run shot off Chasen Shreve that all but finished off the Yankees. Honorable mention goes to his two-homer game last Aug. 16, which included a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning off Adam Warren. I’ll take the first one because of the division race implications.

1B: Steve Pearce

Why does Pearce make the team? Pearce has played for every team in the AL East except the Red Sox and he has more home runs against the Yankees (10) than any other team except the Rays (10). Pearce has a solid .293/.397/.579 line vs. the Yankees, a tOPS+ of 152, which indicates he’s much better against the Yankees than vs. other teams.

The Yankees gave Pearce just 30 PA in 2012, and he’s had 148 PA to pay them back over the last four years, picking up 34 hits, 14 of which have gone for extra bases. Five of his 25 career HBP are from Yankees pitching. He does special damage at Yankee Stadium with seven home runs with a .338/.419/.692 mark.

Signature game: Pearce has a plentiful number of performances for this list. He had a go-ahead homer off Adam Warren in an Orioles win on Sept. 9, 2015. He almost single-handedly beat the Yankees with a three-hit game last Aug. 28 with a home run and two-run single off CC Sabathia and Warren, respectively. (Man, Warren’s getting beat down in these games). His four-hit, two-homer game Tuesday would be a surefire winner if the Jays had won.

But his most clutch anti-Yankee moment came Sept. 14, 2014, again with the Orioles. With the O’s trailing 2-1 in the ninth inning at Camden Yards on Sunday Night Baseball, Pearce lined a game-tying double off David Robertson. He’d come home to score on a walk-off double from All-Revenge team honorable mention Kelly Johnson.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

2B: Robinson Cano

Why does Cano make the team? Cano leads the rest of the All-Revenge team infield, which has had less experience facing the Yankees, having done so only in the last three seasons. However, Cano did quick work to get onto this list. He’s batting .324/.377/.479 vs. his former squad and has three home runs. His batting average jumps up to .363 when you take out his 3-for-16 struggles against Masahiro Tanaka

Signature game: His highest Win Probability Added in his first two seasons with the Mariners came against the Yankees. He had two two-run homers against Michael Pineda on July 18, 2015, knocking in all four runs during the Mariners’ 4-3 win over the Yankees. Both home runs came with the game tied and one-upped his former squad.

3B: Yangervis Solarte

Why does Solarte make the team? The No. 1 reason Solarte is here? There aren’t many third basemen to work with. Thanks to Alex Rodriguez for holding down the position for so long. Solarte still made a big impact in his three games vs. the Yankees last July. Six hits in 10 at-bats with two walks, a home run and two doubles. Batting .600 with a 1.767 OPS against a team, even in one series, still has merit.

Signature game: Even though the Padres lost, 6-3, Solarte had one of his four career four-hit games last July 3, scoring two runs and hitting a solo shot. Solarte turns 30 this July, so there’s a solid chance he gets more games to get further revenge for the Yankees trading him.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

SS: Eduardo Nunez

Why does Nunez make the team? Again, a lack of shortstops. But Nunez has still performed well. 15 hits in 48 at-bats vs. the Yankees. Only two extra-base hits, but one went for a home run. All of his 14 games against the Yankees were with the Twins, and now he’s playing a bevy of positions for the Giants.

Signature game: Nunez had a clutch double off the bench in 2014 but it came with the Twins already leading and Matt Daley in the game. He also had a two-hit game with a home run last June. But his top anti-Yankee moment came in a game where he went 1 for 4 with a walk in 2015. On Aug. 17, his one hit was lined off Bryan Mitchell‘s face, ending the rookie’s night early and turning the game into a bullpen affair. I get wanting revenge, but that was ugly!

Getting reacquainted (Getty Images)
Getting reacquainted (Getty Images)

OF: Melky Cabrera

Why does Cabrera make the team? If Martin isn’t the captain of the All-Revenge squad, Melky would do just fine in the role. He’s batting .302/.350/.527 in 198 plate appearances against his former club. He’s actually played more seasons out of NY (8) than with the Yankees (5) at this point. In 2014 alone, he faced the Yankees 15 times, had hits in all but two games and racked up six multi-hit games.

Signature game: Cabrera’s first ever series against the Yankees came in 2011 with the Royals and he helped KC win the series in the clincher on May 12 with a two-hit night. Both his hits went for extra bases, including an RBI double (before getting picked off second) and a home run off Ivan Nova in a 11-5 Royals win.

OF: Curtis Granderson

Why does Granderson make the team? Granderson is the one player on this list with experience playing vs. the Yankees both before and after coming to the Bronx. He had four HR and 15 extra-base hits vs. the Yankees during his Tigers days (not including the ’06 playoffs). He’s 12 for 46 with four home runs and eight walks since joining the Mets.

Signature game: In his second game vs. the Yankees since moving crosstown, Granderson came through big time. He went 2 for 3 with two walks, a home run, three RBI and two runs scored. This game (May 13, 2014) was highlighted by both Vidal Nuno and Zack Wheeler exiting early and Daisuke Matsuzaka outdueling Alfredo Aceves in the battle of the bullpens. 2014 was a weird time.

P.S. If I was willing to include pre-Yankee days, this is the obvious winner.

OF: Austin Jackson

Why does Jackson make the team? Capping off the list is a player who never actually played for the Yankees. Jackson was a top prospect but was traded for the man above him on this team, never giving him a chance to don the pinstripes. In 158 plate appearances over 37 games against his ex-organization, he has a respectable .289/.361/.444 batting line with nine doubles, two triples and three home runs. Not to mention five stolen bases. In classic Jackson fashion though, he does have 48 strikeouts.

Signature game: Flash back to mid-August 2013, when Jackson was center fielder for the AL Central-winning Tigers. He led off an Aug. 10 game vs. Phil Hughes with a triple and scored, then later hit a solo dinger in the top of the fifth, helping knock Hughes out of the game. The Tigers would go on to win 9-3 after Jackson drew a walk and scored later in the game.

Disagree with a player making the team? Have someone else in mind? Or suggestions about current pitchers who have made good on their sweet sweet revenge against the Yankees? Let me know. The All-Revenge team can change series to series with one or two standout performances or with a trade. But for now, this is the lineup that prevails.

What Went Wrong: McGehee & Pearce

The Yankees went into the season thinking Andruw Jones was going to be their designated left-handed pitching masher, and for the first half of the season he was. Things went horribly wrong for Jones in the second half, and when coupled with Alex Rodriguez‘s hand injury in late-July, the Yankees were suddenly very light on right-handed power and thus susceptible to lefty pitching. They acquired two players to help fill that void, neither of whom worked out.

(Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Casey McGehee
Acquired from the Pirates for Chad Qualls (!) just prior to the trade deadline, the 30-year-old McGehee brought with him a track record of hitting southpaws and an 86 wRC+ in 293 plate appearances for Pittsburgh. He bounced between first and third bases in his first few starts with New York, and he actually hit well early on: 6-for-21 (.286) with three doubles, three walks, and the team’s third longest homer of the season. McGehee looked like a shrewd deadline pickup, but instead things fell part.

He went 2-for-22 (.091) with six strikeouts and no walks in his next seven games, and fell so out of favor that the Yankees sent McGehee all the way down to Low-A Charleston. It was a procedural move that allowed the team to recall him sooner than the usual ten days. All told, McGehee hit just .151/.220/.264 (28 wRC+) in 59 plate appearances with the Yankees, including 7-for-37 (.189) against lefties.. He was obviously left off the postseason roster, and after the season he elected free agency after being removed from the 40-man roster.

(Charles Wenzelberg/NY Post)

Steve Pearce
The Yankees originally signed Pearce way back at the end of Spring Training, and he spent two months absolutely mashing in Triple-A (173 wRC+). Pearce exercised an opt-out clause in his contract in early-June, forcing the Yankees to either release him or trade him to a team willing to place him on their 25-man big league roster. A few days later he was dealt to the Orioles for cash, but nearly three months after that he was back in pinstripes — the Yankees acquired Pearce from the Astros for cash after Houston claimed him off waivers from Baltimore earlier in the summer.

Pearce, 29, made his debut with the team as the cleanup hitter against the Blue Jays on August 28th, and he responded by scoring the winning run on a walk, wild pitch (move to second), ground out (move to third), and sacrifice fly. Pearce hit a two-run homer against the Orioles two weeks later, but that was pretty much it. He hit .160/.300/.280 (66 wRC+) in only 30 plate appearances with the team, including a 4-for-24 (.167) mark against southpaws. The Yankees designated Pearce for assignment when Brett Gardner came off the DL in late-September, and the Orioles subsequently claimed him off waivers. That was that, neither he nor McGehee contributed much to the team’s cause in 2012.

Orioles claim Steve Pearce off waivers

Via Mark Feinsand, the Orioles have claimed Steve Pearce off waivers from the Yankees. New York designated the right-handed hitting first baseman for assignment when they activated Brett Gardner off the 60-day DL last week.

Pearce, 29, had a 65 wRC+ in 30 plate appearances for the Yankees after they acquired him from the Astros. They had previously traded him to the Orioles for cash back in early-June. Dan Connolly confirmed that Pearce will not be eligible for Baltimore’s playoff roster even though he was in their organization earlier this season.

Yankees activate Gardner & Aardsma; designate Pearce & Thomas

The Yankees have activated both Brett Gardner and David Aardsma off the 60-day DL. Although Gardner has been taking batting practice and whatnot, I assume he will be limited to pinch-running and late-game defense duties from here on out. Aardsma is unlikely to see any meaningful innings.

To clear spots on the 40-man roster, both Steve Pearce and Justin Thomas were designated for assignment. Casey McGehee can hit lefties just as well (probably better, actually) as Pearce, but he offers more versatility and big league/pennant race experience. That last part probably doesn’t matter much. I thought the Yankees would keep Thomas as the third lefty for the final week of the season, but I guess Cory Wade built up enough good will last year and earlier this season to keep his job.

Yankees re-acquire Pearce, designate Laird

(Bob Levey/Getty Images)

The Yankees have re-acquired Steve Pearce from the Astros for cash, the team announced. Brandon Laird was designated for assignment to clear room on the 40-man roster. No word on how they’ll get Pearce onto the 25-man roster just yet, but I wonder if they’ll be able to wait until tomorrow so they could just option David Phelps to the minors (following tonight’s start) before recalling him when the rosters expand in September. He wouldn’t miss a start thanks to Thursday’s off-day.

Joel Sherman first reported that they were close to bringing Pearce back to serve as a right-handed bat off the bench during the stretch drive. The outfielder/first baseman spent the first half of the season playing for Triple-A Empire State before exercising an opt-out clause in his contract in early-June. The Yankees traded him to the Orioles for cash rather than let him walk as a free agent, then Houston eventually claimed him off waivers from Baltimore.

Pearce, 29, has hit .254/.333/.396 (93 wRC+) in 158 big league plate appearances this season after destroying the Triple-A level (173 wRC+). He’s done a much better job against lefties than righties both this year (120 vs. 80 wRC+) and throughout his career (120 vs. 60 wRC+). Small sample size warnings apply through, the guy only has 679 career plate appearances in the show. Most of his time with the Astros and O’s was spent in the two corner outfield spots, though he has a ton of first base experience as well. Pearce has even played a little third base from time to time.

The 24-year-old Laird really didn’t have anywhere to go with the Yankees. He’s having a decent season repeating Triple-A (98 wRC+), but otherwise is a .256/.295/.409 career hitter in nearly 1,200 plate appearances at the level. Laird had a nice July but the Yankees opted to temporarily recall Ramiro Pena before acquiring Casey McGehee when Alex Rodriguez got hurt. That was a pretty clear indication that Laird had no future in the organization. I suspect he’ll either be traded away in a minor deal or claimed off waivers.

The Yankees have posted a solid 106 wRC+ against southpaws this year, down considerably from last season’s MLB-best 123 mark. Part of that decline has been Andruw Jones‘ inability to repeat last year’s success against lefties (92 vs. 151 wRC+) and Robinson Cano‘s suddenly drastic platoon split (71 wRC+ vs. LHP and 189 vs. RHP). The September schedule loaded with intra-division games (as usual), so the Yankees will see an awful lot of David Price, Matt Moore, Jon Lester, Wei-Yin Chen, Joe Saunders, Ricky Romero, and J.A. Happ down the stretch. Having a spare right-handed bat will definitely come in handy.

Yankees trade Steve Pearce to Orioles for cash

The Yankees have traded Triple-A first baseman Steve Pearce to the Orioles for cash, the team announced. The 29-year-old was the best hitter on the club’s top farm system affiliate (.438 wOBA) after signing a minor league deal at the end of Spring Training. The Yankees don’t need the cash obviously, the trade is more about freeing up a roster spot for the now healthy Russell Branyan, who’s played a handful of games at High-A following back issues.

Chances are Pearce had a June 1st opt-out clause in his contract. Usually the team is given 48 hours to respond after the player triggers an opt-out, so the Yankees traded him for some cash rather than call him up or lose him for nothing. That’s all speculation on my part though.

Update: That’s exactly what happened according to Chad Jennings. Pearce triggered an opt-out in his contract and the Yankees were obligated to let him go to a team willing to put him on their 25-man active big league roster.

Minor League Notes: Pearce, Double-A, DePaula

Rafael DePaula is officially in the house. Also needs to straighten that front foot out.

Got some miscellaneous minor league notes to pass along…

  • The Yankees have signed Steve Pearce to a minor league deal. Pearce, 28, was once a big prospect for the Pirates but never got it going in the show. He’s a first base/corner outfield type with some right-handed pop. Only 5-foot-11 too. Pearce is a depth pickup, but I have to wonder what this and the Jack Cust signing means for the fed up Jorge Vazquez. [Josh Norris & Chad Jennings]
  • The Double-A rotation to open the season will be Shaeffer Hall, Graham Stoneburner, Brett Marshall, and Josh Romanski. The fifth starter is still being decided, and I have to think Craig Heyer is at least in the conversation. [Norris]
  • Rafael DePaula will start the year in Extended Spring Training, unsurprisingly. He hit 94 during workouts today. [Josh Norris]
  • Corban Joseph has been shut down with some kind of shoulder injury, likely putting him in jeopardy of missing the season opener. The Triple-A squad has enough infielders to survive the loss, but you obviously don’t want to see him get hurt. Kyle Higashioka will also miss about a month with a shoulder problem. [Chad Jennings]
  • The following low-level minor leaguers have been released: LHP Gavin Brooks, RHP Noel Castillo, RHP Cory Cowsert, RHP Joaquin Hinojosa, RHP George Isabel, RHP Ronny Marte, LHP Danny Martinez, and RHP Yobanny Reyes. I liked Brooks as a sleeper back in the day, but injuries ruined him. [Mike Ashmore]

[Photo via Josh Norris]