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.

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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]