Yankeemetrics: Deep in the heat of Texas (July 27-30)

Over the hill but still raking. (Getty Images)
Over the hill but still raking. (Getty Images)

Al’s birthday bash
Alex Rodriguez certainly has a flair for the dramatic, eh? A-Rod celebrated his 40th birthday in style with a homer in the sixth inning of Monday’s 6-2 win over the Rangers, etching his name in the record books once again.

It was the sixth homer he’s hit on his birthday, the most birthday dingers by any player in MLB history. The solo shot also gave him 16 career RBI on his birthday, tied for the third-most all-time, behind only Lou Gehrig (17) and Al Simmons (19).

He is just the sixth player in baseball history to homer on his 40th birthday, joining the quintet of Chipper Jones, Tony Phillips, Wade Boggs, Joe Morgan and Bob Thurman, and is the oldest Yankee to go deep on his birthday.

A-Rod is also now a member of an even more exclusive group of major-league players to hit homers in their teens, 20s, 30s and 40s — Rusty Staub, Gary Sheffield and Ty Cobb are the only others to do that. Will he become the first to also do it in his 50s? LOL.

Although A-Rod stole the headlines with his birthday blast, Didi Gregorius was the real offensive star of the night, breaking out for a career-high four RBI and his first home run against a left-handed pitcher as a major-leaguer. Before the home run, his 264 career plate appearances vs. lefties without a homer were the third-most among active players.

”It didn’t suck”
Yeah, I think that quote from Chris Young pretty much sums up Tuesday’s 21-5 shellacking of the Rangers. There’s so much statistical awesomeness from this game, let’s just get right to the Yankeemetrics.

The game obviously did not start well for the Yankees, who were down 5-0 early as spot starter (and thankfully DFA’d) Chris Capuano allowed five runs on three hits and five walks before being removed with two outs in the first inning. With that performance, Capuano became the only Yankee starter in last 100 years to allow at least five runs and five walks in less than one inning pitched.

Remember when the Yankees couldn’t score on the road and couldn’t put together big comebacks? Ha! Of course, the Yankees then exploded for 11 runs (and somehow no home runs) in the second inning, their highest-scoring frame since putting up a 12-spot on the Orioles in the bottom of the first on July 30, 2011.

The Yankees knocked Rangers starter Martin Perez out of the game before he could record an out in the second inning, which somehow made Capuano not even the worst starting pitcher in this game. It was the first time that both starters pitched one inning or fewer and allowed at least five runs in a Yankee game since April 23, 1932 against the Philadelphia A’s. The starters that day were Gordon Rhodes for the Yankees and Rube Walberg for the A’s.

The Rangers then turned to Wandy Rodriguez to stop the bleeding, but the Yankees showed no mercy and tagged him for another seven runs. Like Perez, he got just three outs, making this first time in the last 100 years that two pitchers have lasted an inning or fewer and allowed at least seven runs in the same game against the Yankees. In fact, the only other team to do that since 1914 was the Blue Jays on Sept. 28, 2000 against the Orioles.

Sure, the offensive highlights were fun and all. But the MVP of this game was Diego Moreno, who cleaned up Capuano’s mess in the first inning and tossed 5 1/3 innings without allowing a run or a hit. He’s the first Yankee reliever to pitch at least five hitless innings since Bob Shirley on Sept. 21, 1986 against the Tigers, and the first to do that and get the win since Tom Morgan in 1956 against the Indians.

So, in the end, the Yankees scored 21 runs after being down 5-0, the most unanswered runs they’ve scored in any game since August 12, 1953 against the Senators.

Finally, because many of you have asked, let’s cap it off with this gem from the Elias Sports Bureau: the Yankees are the first team in MLB history to allow the first five (or more) runs of game and then score 21 or more unanswered runs.

Back to reality
The Yankee bats were humbled by the Rangers in the third game of their four-game series, scoring just two runs on eight hits in the 5-2 loss.

Tuesday’s outburst was the 17th time in franchise history they scored 21-or-more runs, but Wednesday was just the second time that they failed to score more than two runs in their next game. It also happened July 25, 1999 when they beat the Indians 2-1, one day after they crushed them 21-1.

If there was anything positive that came out of the game, it was probably the debut of pitcher Caleb Cotham. The former fifth-round pick struck out four and walked none in 1 2/3 scoreless innings. The only other Yankee in the last 100 years to not allow a run or a walk and strike out at least four guys in his first career major-league game was Stan Bahnsen in 1966. Bahnsen would go on to win the Rookie of the Year award in 1968.

Tex hot, CC not
For the first time since the first week of July, the Yankees have an official losing streak. They lost again on Thursday night on a game-ending single by Josh Hamilton in the bottom of the ninth inning, their first walk-off loss against the Rangers since Sept. 11, 2010.

CC Sabathia’s decline is really hard to watch. He turned in yet another poor outing in this game, one that included three homers over five innings pitched. Two of those longballs were by left-handed batters, the first time he allowed multiple homers to lefties in a single game since Aug. 12, 2011.

Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead with his 25th homer of the season in the first inning, the 10th time in his career he’s reached that milestone. The only other switch hitters in MLB history with 10-or-more seasons of at least 25 home runs are Eddie Murray (12), Chipper Jones (10) and Mickey Mantle (10).

Tex wasn’t finished after that blast, though, giving the Yankees a 6-5 lead with another solo homer in the seventh. This was his 40th career multi-homer game, tied with Jones for the second-most all-time among switch-hitters; the only guy with more is Mantle (46).

2015 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Thursday

Price. (Harry How/Getty)
Price. (Harry How/Getty)

We are now just one day away from the 2015 non-waiver trade deadline. The Yankees have not yet made a move but I expect them to do something by 4pm ET tomorrow. They need pitching — I’m not sure how much more obvious it could be at this point — and a new second baseman sure would be cool too. Don’t be fooled by the six-game lead in the AL East, there are holes on the roster.

Late last night, Cole Hamels was traded to the Rangers in an eight-player deal, taking arguably the best available pitcher off the board. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we learned the Tigers are making David Price and their other rental players available, which is significant because Price would look wonderful in pinstripes. We’ll again keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here. Talk about all of ’em in this open thread.

  • 2:50pm ET: Not only do the Yankees not want to trade top prospects, they are hesitant to trade guys like Adam Warren and Bryan Mitchell as well. The sense is they will add a reliever to deepen the bullpen. Warren could then be a candidate to return to the rotation. [Joel Sherman]
  • 2:47pm ET: The Mariners plan to keep impending free agent Hisashi Iwakuma. He’s a favorite of ownership and they could always re-sign him in the offseason. The Yankees had not been connected to Iwakuma but he seemed like a logical fit. (Masahiro Tanaka‘s teammate in Japan!) [Jeff Passan]
  • 2:23pm ET: The Yankees are “poised to strike” and are in on all the available arms. That … really doesn’t tell us anything new. The Yankees are typically a club that waits until the last minute to make trades, however. The Martin Prado and Stephen Drew deals were announced after the deadline last year.[Ken Rosenthal]
  • 2:01pm ET: The Yankees are on the “periphery” of the Yovani Gallardo race. He is very available and a bunch of teams are in the mix. Gallardo is still scheduled to start against the Yankees tonight. [Heyman]
  • 12:50pm ET: David Price is heading to the Blue Jays for a package of top prospects, including Daniel Norris and Anthony Alford. So scratch him off the list.
  • 12:06pm ET: The Blue Jays appear to be “closing in” on a trade for David Price according to multiple reports. Toronto hasn’t been to the postseason since 1993 and they acquired Troy Tulowitzki a few days ago. The chips are firmly in the middle of the table.
  • 10:07am ET: The Yankees are considering among Mike Leake‘s most likely landing spots at this point. They’re also a candidate to acquire Jeff Samardzija should the surging White Sox decide to move him. Special assistant Jim Hendry drafted the righty when he was Cubs GM and Larry Rothschild was Samardzija’s pitching coach in Chicago for a few years. [Heyman]
  • 9:30am ET: The Yankees are one of four serious contenders for David Price, along with the Dodgers, Giants, and Blue Jays. All four clubs are in talks with the Tigers. [Jon Heyman]
  • The Yankees discussed Dustin Ackley with the Mariners. Ramon Flores and Ben Gamel came up but Seattle wanted more — I believe it was Flores or Gamel, not both — so talks stalled out. For whatever reason the Yankees have been after Ackley for years. [Mark Feinsand]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Hamels off the board: Cole heading to Rangers

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

The race for Cole Hamels appears to be complete. Multiple reports say the Rangers have either acquired Hamels from the Phillies or are on the verge of doing so. Four prospects are heading to Philadelphia in the deal, it appears. There is also some cash involved and possibly other players going to Texas.

According to Baseball America’s 2015 Prospect Handbook, the Rangers are sending their preseason No. 3 (C Jorge Alfaro), No. 5 (OF Nick Williams), and No. 13 (RHP Alec Asher) prospects to the Phillies as well as non-top 30 prospect RHP Jerad Eickhoff. A comparable Yankees package is something like Gary Sanchez, Mason Williams, Bryan Mitchell, and an extra arm. Ballpark. Not a perfect comparison.

The Yankees have been connected to Hamels for weeks and months now, but, according to Mark Feinsand, they never pursued him aggressively. Given their reluctance to trade top prospects, I guess that’s not surprising. The Phillies have reportedly been asking for Aaron Judge and/or Luis Severino in return.

Hamels is lined up to start tomorrow but I doubt he does given the travel and all that. The Yankees probably won’t see him. Either way, Hamels is now off the board along with Scott Kazmir and Johnny Cueto. Maybe Mat Latos too. David Price, Mike Leake, Ian Kennedy, and Hisashi Iwakuma are the top available starters now.

Update: Apparently it’s a six-for-two trade. The Rangers are getting Hamels and lefty Jake Diekman (and cash) for Alfaro, Williams, Asher, Eickhoff, right-hander Jake Thompson, and left-hander Matt Harrison. Thompson was ranked as the team’s No. 2 prospect before the season. He was their Luis Severino.

7/27 to 7/30 Series Preview: Texas Rangers

Adrian Beltre Elvis Andrus

The road trip continues with a four-game series in Texas. The Yankees and Rangers have a lot of recent history (2010 ALCS) and not-so-recent history (1996, 1998, 1999 ALDS), which of course means nada this week. The Rangers swept three games from the Yankees in Yankee Stadium back in May in dominating fashion — they outscored them 30-15 in the three games. Yikes!

What Have The Rangers Done Lately?

The Rangers got clobbered by the Angels yesterday but did win two of three in the series. They’ve won four of their last five overall and are 5-4 since the All-Star break. Texas is 47-50 overall with a -28 run differential. They are 7.5 games back of the Astros in the AL West and 4.5 games of the Twins for the second wildcard spot.

Offense & Defense

The Rangers have a bit of an offensive disconnect — they average 4.36 runs per game, which is above the 4.21 AL average, by they also have a 95 wRC+ as a team. Weird. They’re without several players because of injury, including IF Jurickson Profar (shoulder), 1B Kyle Blanks (Achilles), C Carlos Corporan (thumb), and ex-Yankee OF Antoan Richardson (back). Corporan (45 wRC+) could return this series but the other guys are out long-term.

Odor. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Odor. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Rookie skipper Jeff Banister builds his lineup around three left-handed hitters: 1B Prince Fielder (150 wRC+), 1B/DH Mitch Moreland (129 wRC+), and 2B Rougned Odor (124 wRC+). Odor had a miserable start to the season (35 wRC+), got sent to the minors in early-May, returned in mid-June, and has raked since (146 wRC+). Those are the club’s three big bats, and the speedy OF Delino DeShields Jr. (110 wRC+) has done a nice job setting the table.

OF Shin-Soo Choo (95 wRC+) and OF Josh Hamilton (89 wRC+) aren’t having much impact and 3B Adrian Beltre (83 wRC+) is having his worst season since leaving the Mariners. Getting old sucks. SS Elvis Andrus (69 wRC+) and OF Leonys Martin (54 wRC+) offer little at the dish, ditto UTIL Adam Rosales (77 wRC+) and UTIL Ryan Rua (61 wRC+). C Robinson Chirinos (104 wRC+) and C Tomas Telis (48 wRC+) are the catching tandem.

The Rangers have a surprisingly weak defense. Martin is outstanding in center and Beltre is still very good at third, though he’s no longer the elite gloveman he was for most of his career. Odor is very good as well. Andrus has a reputation for strong defense but has slowed down the last year or two. Fielder, Choo, Hamilton, and Moreland are liabilities in the field. Chirinos won’t shut down the running game (24.3% caught stealing rate) and he’s a below-average pitch framer, so says StatCorner.

Pitching Matchups

Monday (8pm ET): RHP Ivan Nova (vs. TEX) vs. LHP Matt Harrison (vs. NYY)
It’s pretty remarkable the 29-year-old Harrison has made it back to the big leagues. He made just six starts the last two years due to ongoing back trouble, including spinal fusion surgery last June that could have ended his career. Harrison has been able to work his way back and this will be his third start off the DL. He threw six scoreless innings last time out after allowing six runs in four innings in his first start. At his peak, Harrison was a big time ground ball pitcher who didn’t walk or strike out many. Now? Who knows. PitchFX says he was sitting in the 85-88 mph range with his sinker in his first two starts after living in the low-90s before his injury. Harrison also throws mid-70s curveballs and changeups right around 80 mph. Previous stats and scouting reports don’t mean too much after an injury like that.

Tuesday (8pm): TBA vs. LHP Martin Perez (vs. NYY)
Like Harrison, Perez returned from major injury not too long ago, though he was out with regular ol’ Tommy John surgery. The 24-year-old will also be making his third start since coming off the DL — Perez allowed three runs in five innings first time out and four runs in six innings last time out. Before getting hurt last year, he had a 4.38 ERA (3.70 FIP) with a great ground ball rate (52.7%) but below-average strikeout (16.9%) and walk (9.2%) rates. Perez has sat in the low-90s with both his two and four-seam fastballs in his first two starts, and in the mid-80s with both his slider and changeup.

As for the Yankees, they’re using a spot sixth starter tomorrow to give the rest of the rotation an extra day of rest. Luis Severino (started Friday) and Bryan Mitchell (started Saturday) are not candidates for this game because they recently started for Triple-A Scranton. Diego Moreno is tomorrow’s scheduled starter for the RailRiders, though he hasn’t been stretched out yet. Chances are we’ll see a bullpen game with Adam Warren and Chris Capuano each throwing 50 pitches or so. I bet Nick Goody will then get sent down Wednesday in favor of a fresh long man, maybe Mitchell, who only threw 65 pitches Saturday. Shouldn’t be a huge deal to bring him back on short rest.

Lewis. (Tom Pennington/Getty)
Lewis. (Tom Pennington/Getty)

Wednesday (8pm ET): RHP Masahiro Tanaka (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Colby Lewis (vs. NYY)
Lewis, 35, made his big injury comeback two years ago. He has a 4.49 ERA (3.82 FIP) in 20 starts and 126.1 innings so far this year. The only thing he does exceptionally well is limit walks (4.8%). His strikeout (18.3%), grounder (35.4%), and homer (1.07 HR/9) rates are all worse than the league average. Lefties (.320 wOBA) have hit him a bit harder than righties (.293 wOBA) this year. An upper-80s fastball is what Lewis uses to set up his mid-80s changeup, low-80s slider, and mid-70s curveball. He uses the slider more than the changeup and curveball combined, hence the platoon split. The Yankees scored five runs in 6.2 innings against Lewis when these teams met in May.

Thursday (8pm ET): RHP Michael Pineda (vs. TEX) vs. RHP Yovani Gallardo (vs. NYY)
The trade deadline is this coming Friday and Gallardo, an impending free agent, is a candidate to be moved, so I guess that means he may not actually start this game. We’ll just have to wait and see. Gallardo, 29, has a 3.19 ERA (3.69 FIP) in 21 starts and 121.1 innings this year with below-average strikeout (16.1%) and walk (8.9%) rates but above-average ground ball (50.1%) and homer (0.59 HR/9) rates. Lefties (.304 wOBA) have hit him harder than righties (.282 wOBA). Gallardo uses his two and four-seamers equally and both sit in the 90-92 mph range. A hard upper-80s slider — it’s almost like a cutter, but the break is bigger — is his main secondary pitch. He’ll also mix in a few mid-70s curveballs and very rarely throws his mid-80s changeup. The Yankees pushed two runs across in six innings against Gallardo a few weeks ago.

I’m not sure who would start Thursday should Gallardo get traded, but LHP Wandy Rodriguez seems like a safe bet, unless, of course, he gets traded as well. Rodriguez was bumped to the bullpen recently when Harrison and Perez returned from the DL.

Tolleson. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)
Tolleson. (Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Bullpen Status
The Rangers have baseball’s worst bullpen with a 4.59 ERA (4.47 FIP), so the old “wait out the starter then go to town on the relievers” strategy will work against this club. Closer RHP Shawn Tolleson (3.19 ERA/3.32 FIP) has been solid and these days RHP Tanner Scheppers (5.45/5.58) and RHP Keone Kela (3.24/2.94) are setting him up. Scheppers has the job out of reputation, Kela out of production.

RHP Anthony Bass (4.35/3.66) is the long man and LHP Sam Freeman (3.32/3.52) is the matchup lefty. RHP Spencer Patton (6.46/6.19) and Wandy (4.22/4.08) round out the bullpen. Ex-Yankee RHP Ross Ohlendorf (3.52/5.67) is out with a groin strain and is expected to be activated this week. Patton figures to go down to Triple-A to clear a roster spot for Rock ‘n Rohlendorf. Bass, Freeman, Patton, Kela, and Wandy all pitched yesterday. Check out our Bullpen Workload page for the status of New York’s bullpen and then check out Lone Star Ball for updates on the Rangers.

(GIF via Buzzfeed)

Scouting The Trade Market: Texas Rangers

Gallardo. (Presswire)
Gallardo. (Presswire)

As the trade deadline draws closer and closer, the Rangers are falling further and further back in the race. They won last night but have lost three of five since the All-Star break and 18 of their last 25 games overall. Yikes. That’s dropped Texas to nine games back in the AL West and six games back of the wildcard spot. FanGraphs gives them the lowest postseason odds in the AL at 3.0%. (The projection systems hate their roster, I guess.)

The Rangers are in neither buy nor sell mode — Evan Grant writes they are in “opportunist” mode, looking for ways to improve the roster. I’m pretty sure that’s a nice way of saying they’re selling. Texas has some awful contracts on the books — it’s a stars and scrubs roster, though several of the stars are playing like scrubs — and not a ton of trade chips, but they do have some rental arms to peddle. Do any make sense for the Yankees? Maybe! Let’s look.

RHP Yovani Gallardo

Gallardo is easily the most marketable rental player on the Rangers, and he’s having quite the walk year: 2.91 ERA (3.68 FIP) with career best ground ball (50.8%) and home run (0.61 HR/9) rates. His walk rate (8.7%) is identical to his career average and his strikeout rate (16.2%) is a career worst. As I noted in the mailbag last week, Gallardo has gradually been trading strikeouts for ground balls over the years (graph doesn’t include his most recent start over the weekend):

Yovani Gallardo K GB

The strikeouts for grounders things is the kind of adjustment you usually see an older pitcher make, not a guy yet to turn 30. It’s weird. Usually a decline in strikeouts is a red flag, but this has been going on so long I have to think it is at least somewhat intentional. Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather have the strikeouts than ground outs, but Gallardo has found a way to make it work.

Beyond his performance this year, Gallardo has also been very durable the last few seasons, throwing at least 180 innings each year since 2009. He’s also had a minimal platoon split because of his five-pitch repertoire. There’s a little something for everyone:

% Thrown Avg Velocity Whiff % GB%
Four-Seamer 31.5% 91.7 5.4% (6.9% MLB AVG) 42.4% (37.9% MLB AVG)
Sinker 22.2% 91.7 4.6% (5.4%) 60.2% (49.5%)
Slider 29.0% 88.6 10.3% (15.2%) 48.2% (43.9%)
Curveball 12.6% 80.0 10.6% (11.1%) 61.1% (48.7%)
Changeup 3.9% 86.1 6.8% (14.9%) 54.6% (47.8%)

The swing-and-miss rates are comfortably below-average across the board while the ground ball rates are well-above-average. That fits into the whole “trading strikeouts for grounders” thing. Gallardo’s probably not going to get you a swing-and-miss at key moments — runner on third with less than two outs, etc. — which is an issue and limits him to a mid-rotation guy.

Gallardo played a half-season with CC Sabathia back in 2008, so the Yankees have some access to firsthand knowledge of him as a teammate and a clubhouse guy, though it was a long time ago. People change. At the end of the day, Gallardo is a rental starter pitching well in his walk year because he gets grounders and can neutralize lefties. His durability and affordability ($6.5M through the end of the season) are pluses as well. He’s not Johnny Cueto or David Price, but Gallardo belongs in the second tier of rental starters alongside Scott Kazmir and Jeff Samardzija.

What Would It Take?: Ken Rosenthal says the Rangers are currently listening to offers for Gallardo, for what it’s worth. Considering recent trades involving similar rental pitchers, it appears it will take a package of three pretty good prospects to land Gallardo, or perhaps two prospects with one being a high-end guy. Matt Garza was traded for four prospects two years ago, including Mike Olt, who Baseball America ranked as the 22nd best prospect in the game before the 2013 season. I do think Gallardo is a qualifying offer candidate, so the Rangers have no reason to take back something worth less than a supplemental first round pick. Gallardo’s not going to come as cheap as, say, Mike Leake or Ian Kennedy.

Magic Wandy. (Presswire)
Magic Wandy. (Presswire)

LHP Wandy Rodriguez

The 36-year-old Rodriguez is at the tail end of his career and it’s hard to think he has much trade value. He was released at the end of Spring Training, remember. So far Wandy has a 4.07 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 84 innings with Texas, though both his strikeout (18.3%) and ground ball (41.9%) rates are below-average. Not a good combination! Especially when your walk (8.9%) and homer (0.96 HR/9) rates aren’t great either.

The Yankees already have a version of Wandy Rodriguez on the roster in Chris Capuano. They’re extremely similar as finesse lefties who can soak up some innings and pitch at a slightly below league average rate. Do they really need two guys like that? Nah. Rodriguez doesn’t have much appeal beyond being a warm body who can take a rotation spot in case of injury. I’m sure the Rangers are open to trading him. There’s just not much of a reason for the Yankees to bring Wandy in.

What Would It Take?: Roberto Hernandez, the pitcher formerly known as Fausto Carmona, was traded for two players to be named later last summer. The two players were ranked by Baseball America as the No. 22 (2B Jesmuel Valentin) and No. 29 (RHP Victor Arano) prospects in the Dodgers’ system before the trade, and both were down in rookie ball at the time of the deal. Wandy shouldn’t cost more.

Rua. (Presswire)
Rua. (Presswire)

UTIL Ryan Rua

Off the board? Yep. Fill a need? Potentially! Rua, 25, is a right-handed hitting utility guy with experience at the three non-shortstop infield positions as well as left field. (He came up as a third baseman, primarily.) Most of that experience is in the minors — Rua has only 47 games and 172 plate appearances of big league experience, during which he’s hit .251/.273/.401 (82 wRC+). That includes a 43 wRC+ in 63 plate appearances this year. (He missed two months with a broken bone in his heel.)

The Rangers came into the season expecting to use Rua as the right-handed half of a left field platoon, but his injury threw a wrench into things, and now he is a seldom-used bench player. In fact, he has only 18 plate appearances this month. Rua is a career .291/.368/.476 (121 wRC+) hitter in Triple-A, including .327/.364/.558 (.374 wOBA) against lefties. Baseball America (subs. req’d) ranked him as the eighth best prospect in Texas’ system before the season. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

Rua is an offensive-oriented prospect who has plus power and can take the ball out of the park to all fields. He starts his swing with a leg kick, keeps his weight back and his head still. Rua can get long to the ball, with some concerns about his ability to hit good offspeed pitches, but his swing is fluid, and he squares up the ball frequently … He’s surprisingly athletic for his body type, though he’s a below-average runner and adequate-at-best defender wherever he goes, making the routine plays at third base with an average arm.

The Yankees are said to be looking for a right-handed bat, which Rua is, though there’s no guarantee he’ll actually hit Major League pitching. He has good minor league numbers, the scouting report is decent enough, and he offers some versatility. As an added bonus, Rua has at least two and possibly all three minor league options remaining. He seems like a potentially useful depth player. Not a star, probably not even a starter, but maybe a platoon bat or a guy off the bench.

Thanks to those minor league options, the Yankees would be able to stick Rua in Triple-A until rosters expand on September 1st, then use him as an extra platoon bat in the final month of the season. He still has five years of team control remaining, though that’s not a huge deal with players like this. What are the odds Rua hangs around long enough to play all five of those years with one team? I dunno, Rua just seems like a possible fit given the team’s positional needs and interest in adding a righty bat.

What Would It Take?: I’m not sure there’s a good way to approximate this. Players like Rua are often traded as part of packages for MLB players — they’re the guys who go to the team that is selling, not the other way around. Juan Francisco was traded for an MLB ready reliever (J.J. Hoover) a few years ago. That’s the best reference trade I can come up with.

Saturday Links: Castro, A-Rod, Draft, Ibanez, Heredia

Starlin ... and Manny! (Presswire)
Starlin … and Manny! (Presswire)

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game series later tonight. So, until then, here are some spare links I had lying around to hold you over.

Start the Starlin Castro rumor mill

According to Jon Heyman, several executive are speculating the Yankees will pursue Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro due to his connection to Jim Hendry, currently a special assistant with New York who was the Cubs GM when the team signed (and called up) Castro. Just to be clear, Heyman is passing along speculation, not a hard rumor that the Yankees are pursuing Castro.

Anyway, I wanted the Yankees to acquire Castro in the offseason to play shortstop, so of course he is hitting .249/.282/.323 (63 wRC+) on the season. (Reminder: Don’t ever listen to me. I’m awful.) Castro is still only 25 though, and he did hit .292/.339/.438 (115 wRC+) just last year, so it’s not like there’s nothing to like here. There’s about $43M left on his contract through 2019 with a club option for 2020.

Castro is seen as a change of scenery guy — the Cubs surely want to put Addison Russell at short — but he’s not a shortstop, his defense is terrible, so maybe the Yankees look at him for second base. If so, the move would probably wait until the offseason. I doubt they’d throw him to the wolves defensively and make him learn second on the fly a la Stephen Drew last year. Either way, my guess is we’ll hear lots more about the Yankees and Castro in the coming weeks and months.

The real cost of A-Rod‘s 3,000th hit ball

Last week, the Yankees agreed to donate $150,000 to Pitch In For Baseball in exchange for Alex Rodriguez‘s 3,000th hit baseball. Noted ballhawk Zack Hample caught the ball and leveraged it into a big fat donation for a charity he supports. Good for him. Of course, there’s much more to this story. Hample told Shawn Anderson the Yanks gave him a ton of other stuff in exchange for the ball as well:

“The Yankees have given me all the things they initially offered, such as meeting A-Rod, doing a press conference at Yankee Stadium, being interviewed live during the game on TV and the radio, and receiving signed memorabilia and free tickets, including tickets to this year’s Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Cincinnati.” Hample told The Hall exclusively. “I will also have opportunities to write for Yankees Magazine, get a special behind-the-scenes tour to the most restricted areas of the stadium that no one in the public gets to see, get to meet the players, and more. There are certain things I’ve been asked not to talk about, so I need to respect that.”

Geez, that was one mighty valuable baseball, huh? Give Hample props for holding out for the donation rather than taking all that cool free stuff and running. That’s probably what I would have done.

2015 Draft signing updates

Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)
Morris. (Indiana Daily Student)

The signing deadline for the 2015 draft is next Friday, and the Yankees recently signed both UC Santa Barbara C/RHP Paddy O’Brien (24th round) and Indiana RHP Christian Morris (33rd). Morris announced his signing on Twitter while O’Brien is currently listed on the Rookie GCL Yanks2 roster. No word on their bonuses but I assume they didn’t receive more than the $100,000 slot for picks after the tenth round. O’Brien was a catcher in college who the Yankees are apparently going to try on the mound because he has a strong arm.

By my count the Yankees have signed 33 of their 41 draft picks, which is an unusually large number. Teams usually sign something like 25-30 picks each year. The Yankees will make it 34 of 41 when they sign UCLA RHP James Kaprielian (1st) next week — Jim Callis backed up Heyman’s recent report and says Kaprielian will get an overslot bonus in the $3M range — which I’m confident will happen. The Yankees have a bit more than $3M to spend before getting hit with penalties and there’s nowhere else to spend it — the late-round overslot candidates probably aren’t going to sign at this point — so that money either goes to Kaprielian or Hal Steinbrenner.

Rangers sign Andy Ibanez

Earlier this week the Rangers signed free agent Cuban infielder Andy Ibanez to a minor league contract worth $1.6M, reports Jeff Wilson and Jesse Sanchez. Ibanez, 21, was cleared to sign way back in February but took his sweet time picking a team. The Yankees had him in Tampa for a private workout in May and were reportedly interested, though they were unable to offer him anything more than $300,000 once the 2014-15 international signing period ended a few weeks ago. Ibanez is a light hitting second baseman who was expected to get upwards of $15M, though it sounds like teams didn’t value him that highly. You have to think he would have topped $1.6M easily if clubs felt he was as good as the public scouting reports.

Cuban OF Guillermo Heredia cleared to sign

According to Ben Badler and Jesse Sanchez, 24-year-old Cuban outfielder Guillermo Heredia has been unblocked by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and declared a free agent by MLB, so he can sign with any team at any time. Heredia is not subject to the international spending restrictions because of his age, so the Yankees and any other team can offer him any amount.

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 lbs., Heredia is considered a good defensive center fielder with speed and a strong arm. Badler (subs. req’d) ranked him as the 11th best prospect in Cuba last August and said he has “similarities to a righthanded-hitting version of Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley,” which isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement these days. Heredia will work out for scouts soon.

Yankeemetrics: May 22-24 (Rangers)

Garrett Jones: Yankees new sixth starter? (Elsa/Getty Images)
Garrett Jones: Yankees new sixth starter? (Elsa/Getty Images)

Bad Mike
Nine runs? Check.
Three home runs? Check.
You’d think that would be enough offense to win a game, right? Wrong.

The Yankees descent towards mediocrity picked up steam on Friday night in a 10-9 loss to the Rangers. It was the first time the Yankees lost a game at home when they scored at least nine runs and hit three-or-more homers since Sept. 19, 1996 vs Orioles. (At this point, it’s hard to see this season ending the same way that season did.)

Most of the damage was done against Michael Pineda in a seven-run third inning. He is the first Yankees pitcher to allow at least seven runs in an inning against the Rangers since David Wells on May 6, 1998 in Texas, and first to do it at Yankee Stadium since Andy Hawkins on May 8, 1989.

The Rangers are quickly becoming Pineda’s kryptonite. He is now 0-3 with a 5.04 ERA in four starts vs. the Rangers, his worst record against any team and also his second-highest ERA against any team he’s faced more than twice.

Garrett Jones did his best to spark a Yankees rally, hitting a three-run pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning to cut the deficit to two runs. It was the first time a Yankee hit a pinch-hit homer against the Rangers since Don Baylor on July 11, 1985.

Rock bottom
Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse … Saturday afternoon happened.

An embarrassing 15-4 loss, punctuated by another third-inning implosion, and the Yankees had their fifth straight loss. This time the Yankees gave up a whopping 10 runs in the third inning, their most allowed in a single frame since April 18, 2009 against the Indians.

Combined with Friday’s seven-run third inning, it’s the first time the Yankees had back-to-back games allowing at least seven runs in an inning since playing an interleague series in Colorado in June 2002. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, before this weekend, the Yankees had never given up seven-or-more runs in an inning in consecutive games at Yankee Stadium — the old or new version.

CC Sabathia didn’t make it out of that third frame, giving up nearly as many runs (6) as outs recorded (7). He’s now lost his last six starts at Yankee Stadium, matching the longest such losing streak by any Yankee in the last 100 seasons. Four other Yankees in that span dropped six starts in a row in the Bronx: Red Ruffing (1931), Sam McDowell (1973-74), Orlando Hernandez (2000) and Phil Hughes (2013).

It gets worse, though. Sabathia’s ERA is 9.42 during the six-start losing streak, and he is the only pitcher in the group listed above to have also allowed at least four runs in each of the six starts. Welp.

Garrett Jones came in to get the final two outs of the ninth inning (and didn’t allow a hit or a run!), sparing another wasted bullpen arm in this pointless game. The only other Yankee position player to pitch in a game against the Rangers was Rick Cerone on July 19, 1987 in a 20-3 loss at Texas.

It’s not what you want
The slide continues, and where it ends, nobody knows.

The Yankees lost the Sunday night series finale, extending their season-high losing streak to six games, their longest in a single season since May 11-16, 2011. They’ve won just once in their past 11 games, their worst 11-game stretch in nearly 20 years — since they went 1-10 in an 11-game span from May 23-June 3, 1995.

The Rangers completed a rare sweep in the Bronx, winning every game in a series of three-or-more games at Yankee Stadium for just the second time since the team moved to Texas in 1972 (it also happened May 16-18, 2003).

The Yankees simply couldn’t stop giving up hits (and runs) against the Rangers, surrendering a total of 40 hits in the series. It’s the first time they’ve ever been swept in a series of three-or-more games at Yankee Stadium, allowing at least 12 hits in each game.