Hot Stove Notes: Cecil, Cespedes, Napoli, Holliday, Moss

Cecil. (Elsa/Getty)
Cecil. (Elsa/Getty)

One week from today the 2016 Winter Meetings will begin at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, DC. Will MLB and the MLBPA agree to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement before then? I sure hope so. The current CBA expires Thursday. If they don’t hammer out a deal, the baseball world could come to a standstill. Anyway, here are some miscellaneous bits of hot stove news.

Yankees had interest in Cecil

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees were in on lefty reliever Brett Cecil before he signed with the Cardinals last week. St. Louis gave him a four-year deal worth $30.5M. Goodness. Sherman says the Yankees never did make Cecil a formal offer, though they did talk parameters with his representatives. What they player wanted, what the team was willing to do … that sort of that stuff.

Cecil, 30, had a 3.93 ERA (3.64 FIP) in 36.2 total innings around a lat injury this past season. He had stellar strikeout (28.7%) and walk (5.1%) rates, though lefties managed a .254/.310/.364 batting line against him. You’d like your primary southpaw reliever to do a little better than that against same-side hitters. Although the Yankees didn’t present Cecil with an offer, their interest shows how seriously they’re looking for bullpen help. It’s not just to the top guys like Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. They’re zeroing in on the second tier free agents too.

Cespedes not in Yankees’ plans

The Yankees are not planning to pursue Yoenis Cespedes even though they have checked in with his representatives, reports Christian Red. Cespedes is arguably the best overall free agent on the market and he figures to land a hefty contract. The Yankees checked in just because they check in with everyone. It’s due diligence. How else are you going to find out whether a free agent is interested enough in your team to take a discount?

Cespedes, 31, hit .280/.354/.530 (134 wRC+) with 31 home runs for the crosstown Mets in 2016. The Yankees, who were one of the worst offensive teams in baseball this summer, could certainly use a bat like that in their lineup. They’re also trying to get under the luxury tax threshold at some point soon, plus they have a ton of talented outfield prospects in the upper minors, so a pricey corner outfielder is not a pressing need. It’s worth making the call to check in. Spending huge on Cespedes doesn’t seem wise at this point in time though.

Yankees have checked in with several bats

In addition to the usual cast of characters (Cespedes, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, etc.), the Yankees have also checked in on other free agent bats like Mike Napoli, Brandon Moss, Matt Holliday, and Dexter Fowler, reports Jon Heyman. Napoli, Moss, and Holliday are all short-term DH candidates — or at least they should be — while Fowler figures to be more of a long-term addition.

With Brian McCann gone, the Yankees suddenly have an opening at DH for a big veteran bat. They’re said to be interested in a reunion with Carlos Beltran. If the Yankees are going to spend on a free agent bat, I would greatly prefer a short-term contract. Short-term as in one year. Napoli, Beltran, Holliday, and Moss make more sense for the Yankees right now than Cespedes or Encarnacion. Remember, the Yankees are still paying Alex Rodriguez. I’m not sure how eager they are to commit big money to another DH at the moment.

Hot Stove Notes: Jansen, Melancon, Cespedes, Bautista

Kenley. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)
Kenley. (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty)

Yesterday afternoon the GM Meetings wrapped up in Scottsdale and everyone headed home to really get down to offseason business. This week we learned the Yankees have already been in touch with Aroldis Chapman’s people, have some interest in Kendrys Morales, and have identified a possible trade partner for Brian McCann. Here are some more bits of news and notes from the GM Meetings.

Yankees willing to eat money to move McCann

According to Jeff Passan, the Yankees have expressed a willingness to eat up to half the $34M left on McCann’s contract to facilitate a trade. The catch: they want better young players in return. That’s usually how this works. I said yesterday I hope the Yankees are open to eating some money in exchange for a better return, and it appears they are willing to do just that. Hooray.

Yankees reached out to Jansen, Melancon

In addition to Chapman, the Yankees reached out to the representatives for both Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon this week, reports Brendan Kuty. The Yankees are said to be targeting a top free agent reliever this winter, and those two along with Chapman are by far the best available. Jansen received a qualifying offer and will cost a draft pick. Chapman and Melancon will not. They were ineligible for the qualifying offer after being traded at midseason.

There’s been some talk we could see the first $100M reliever this offseason — Jonathan Papelbon’s $50M deal with the Phillies is still the largest contract ever given to a reliever, so we’re talking about doubling that — but I don’t think that will happen. I don’t think teams are ready to commit that much to a 65-inning pitcher, even if they are 65 high-leverage innings. Andrew Miller‘s postseason usage is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Once we get further away from that and people remember relievers don’t get used like that all the time, contract expectations will change.

Yankees planning to talk to Hill

Amazingly, the best free agent starter on the market this year is journeyman southpaw Rich Hill, who reinvented himself two years ago by raising his arm angle and moving to the extreme third base side of the rubber. Brian Cashman told Kuty he intends to reach out to Hill, who pitched out of the bullpen for the Yankees in September 2014, at some point soon.

“I can’t remember if I have (reached out to him) or not. Let’s put it this way. I will be reaching out to Rich’s agent if I haven’t yet. I have a to-do list I’m working through,” said the GM. Hill will be 37 in March and he hasn’t thrown more than 120 innings since 2007, but the market is so light on starting pitching that he’s going to end up with a three-year contract. When healthy this year, Hill pitched like an ace (2.12 ERA and 2.39 FIP). The Yankees need pitching too, so checking in on the best available starter only makes sense.

Yankees have checked in on Cespedes, Bautista

(Adam Hunger/Getty)
(Adam Hunger/Getty)

The Yankees have reached out to free agent sluggers Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Bautista, reports Jon Heyman. Both guys would give the team some much-needed middle of the order thump, but Cashman downplayed their interest and chalked it up to due diligence. “I’m open to anything. But as of right now, we’re going to let the kids take a shot. Our current focus is to let the kids try to take the job,” he said.

Bautista and especially Cespedes are true impact bats who change the entire complexion of the lineup. The Yankees could use a hitter like that! Right now, given the team’s current situation, spending big on a corner outfield bat over 30 doesn’t seem like the best idea. If they were ready to win right now, then yes, sign one of those guys. But the Yankees aren’t. They’re right to prioritize the kids, especially with Aaron Judge arriving this past season and Clint Frazier not far behind.

Yankees in on Logan

Blast from the past: The Yankees are among the teams interested in lefty Boone Logan, according to Joel Sherman. Right now Tommy Layne is New York’s top lefty reliever, and he’s followed on the depth chart by guys like Richard Bleier and Chasen Shreve. Eh. I don’t blame the Yankees at all for looking at the bullpen lefty market. Here’s 2016 Logan vs. 2016 Layne:

IP ERA FIP AVG/OBP/SLG vs. LHB K% vs. LHB BB% vs. LHB GB% vs. LHB
Logan 46.1 3.69 3.23 .139/.222/.255 33.6% 7.6% 60.6%
Layne 44.2 3.63 3.93 .214/.310/.261 20.8% 9.9% 51.6%

The question really isn’t whether Logan is better than Layne. It’s whether Logan is better than Bleier and Shreve and James Pazos. Those guys. I don’t love the idea of carrying two lefty specialists in the bullpen, especially with a rotation that doesn’t pitch deep into games, but it is doable. My guess is Logan gets more money elsewhere and the Yankees are just kicking the tires out of due diligence.

Teams calling on Andujar

The Yankees are getting phone calls and receiving trade interest in third base prospect Miguel Andujar, reports Kuty. “I get a lot of compliments on him from other clubs, a lot of teams asking me about him. He’s going to be a big leaguer,” said Cashman. I’m guessing Andujar is not the team’s only prospect generating trade interest. The Yankees have many quality players in their system at the moment.

Andujar, 22 in March, is currently hitting .309/.400/.392 (122 wRC+) with more walks (nine) than strikeouts (seven) through 16 Arizona Fall League games. He broke out with a .270/.327/.407 (108 wRC+) batting line and 12 home runs in 137 games split between High-A and Double-A during the regular season. Andujar is the closest thing the Yankees have to a third baseman of the future, and while I certainly wouldn’t make him off-limits in trade talks, I am excited to see him take another step forward in 2017.

Heyman: Yanks not expected to pursue Yoenis Cespedes this offseason

(David Banks/Getty)
(David Banks/Getty)

You knew this was coming at some point. According to Jon Heyman, the Yankees are not expected to pursue Yoenis Cespedes as a free agent this offseason. Apparently part of it may have to do with his representatives at Jay-Z’s Roc Nation. I guess the Yankees don’t have too good a relationship with them. Maybe that dates back to talks with Robinson Cano a few years ago?

Cespedes, 30, hit .291/.328/.542 (135 wRC+) with a career-high 35 home runs in 159 games split between the Tigers and Mets this year. It was his best all-around season since coming over to MLB by a decent margin. Cespedes had a good but not great .251/.298/.446 (106 wRC+) line from 2013-14, after all. I wouldn’t bank on the 2015 version being the real Cespedes going forward, but that’s just me.

The Yankees may or may not spend big on a free agent this winter, but, if they do, it’s hard to think they’d do it for another over-30 outfielder. They already have three of those making big money in Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Brett Gardner. Jason Heyward would be a different story because he’s so young, but Cespedes? I’m not sure that makes sense.

Of course, the Yankees could always trade Gardner to clear a spot for someone like Cespedes, and they do desperately need the right-handed power, so in that respect he would fit the lineup. But again, they’d be committing huge money — Cespedes is going to wind up with $150M or so, I think — to guy on the wrong side of 30. Seems like the Yankees want to stop doing that.

Cespedes and Heyward are the two biggest free agent outfielders this winter, along with Justin Upton. After them, the best of the bunch is probably Dexter Fowler. The Yankees would have no trouble finding a suitor for Gardner — would you rather trade for Gardner or give Fowler five years and $75M or so? — to clear a spot for someone else. Is there a way to trade Gardner and improve the team without handing out a nine-figure contract? I’m not so sure.

2015 Trade Deadline Open Thread: Wednesday

Samardzija. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Samardzija. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Just three days left now. The 2015 non-waiver trade deadline is this Friday at 4pm ET, and while the Yankees have not yet made any moves, I’m sure they will at some point in the next few days. Pitching is a bit of an issue — I’d rather not see Chris Capuano make another spot start — and second base could use an upgrade as well. Maybe another righty bat too.

On Monday and Tuesday we learned the Yankees are engaged in the pitching market, both starters and relievers. They had conversations with the Reds about Johnny Cueto before he was traded to the Royals, and they were also in the hunt for Ben Zobrist before he joined Cueto in Kansas City. Final offers for Cole Hamels are reportedly due today as well. We’ll keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here.

  • 7:04pm ET: The Mat Latos trade from earlier is currently on hold because of someone’s medicals. Not necessarily Latos’. So he could, in fact, still be an option for the Yankees. [Wittenmyer]
  • 4:33pm ET: The Yankees will indeed talk to the Tigers about David Price. They remain unwilling to part with top prospects — the Phillies against asked about Aaron Judge and Luis Severino — but I’m sure at least part of that is just posturing. [Heyman]
  • 4:31pm ET: The Phillies had a scout watching Ivan Nova on Monday. The Yankees did discuss Cueto with the Reds during Johnny Cueto talks, so it stands to reason he would be available for Cole Hamels as well. [Mark Feinsand]
  • 3:32pm ET: The Tigers called teams today to tell them they are “rebooting” and willing to listen on David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and others. I certainly expect the Yankees to make a run at Price. [Stark]
  • 2:56pm ET: If the Phillies do indeed trade Cole Hamels, it is unlikely to happen today. Any trade would have to wait until Thursday or even Friday as the Phillies mull over offers. [Jayson Stark]
  • 2:23pm ET: The Padres requested shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo in trade talks about Craig Kimbrel, but the Yankees said no. New York is willing to eat the entire $28M left on Kimbrel’s contract, but they won’t surrender top prospects. [Jon Heyman]
  • 11:24pm ET: Mat Latos is apparently off the board. The Marlins are reportedly trading the right-hander (and others) to the Dodgers for prospects. Earlier this week we heard the Yankees had some interest in Latos. [Gordon Wittenmyer]
  • 9:30am ET: The White Sox still have not given any indication they will trade Jeff Samardzija. They Yankees have had their eye on him for a few weeks now. The ChiSox are now only 3.5 games back of a wildcard spot, so they might hold on to Samardzija and go for it, knowing they’ll get at least a draft pick for him after the season. [Jerry Crasnick]
  • The Reds are fielding offers for Aroldis Chapman but are not devoted to trading him because he’s under team control next season. They moved Cueto because they were going to lose him to free agency. The Yankees are said to be open to adding another high-end reliever. [Buster Olney]

Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.

Getting beat by Yoenis Cespedes

(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

If you didn’t stay up late enough to catch the end of the game last night, the Yankees suffered a walk-off loss to Athletics when Brandon Moss singled off Cody Eppley with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth. Yoenis Cespedes scored the winning run and started the rally with a solid line drive single to center, his fourth hit of the game. He also hit a two-run homer off Freddy Garcia in the series opener and so far has gone 6-for-8 during these two games.

Cespedes has been molten hot since coming out of the All-Star break, going 17-for-29 (.586) with two doubles and three homers in the seven games. He’s been terrorizing everyone lately, not just New York. I do want to make a point about how the Yankees have been pitching to him these last two days, however. With some help from Texas Leaguers, here’s a look at the location of the pitches he’s swung at during this series (all plots are from the catcher’s perspective)…

That’s an awful lot of pitches — I unofficially count eight — right out over the plate and down the middle. You don’t need to know much about baseball to understand why he’s mashed against the Yankees when you see where these pitches have been. Furthermore, here are the pitches he didn’t offer at and instead took for a called strike (or ball)…

More pitches in the happy zone, he just didn’t bother to swing at these. Cespedes has seen 31 pitches in his nine plate appearances against the Yankees and approximately a dozen of them have been over the heart of the plate, at the middle of the zone and below. If you’re unconvinced this is a problem, check out his run value heat map courtesy of Baseball Heat Maps

You can read the nuts and bolts of what this graphic means right here, but in English the heat map shows that compared to the league average batter, Cespedes does most of his damage on pitches … wait for it … over the heart of the plate and at the middle of the zone and below. The darker the green (or red), the more damage he does on pitches in that location. Up-and-away is another happy zone. Combine this hitter with the pitches he’s been getting and well, you get a guy who’s gone 6-for-8 in the first two games of a four-game set.

Now I don’t think the Yankees have been intentionally pitching Cespedes over the plate like this; both Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova were pretty shaky with their command these last two nights. Eppley lives down in the zone with his sidearm sinker and he just caught too much of the plate. These guys just have to do a better — much better, really — job of pitching the A’s slugger on the edges of the zone or even outside of it. Cespedes has swung at exactly one-third of the pitches he’s seen outside of the zone this year, the 43rd highest rate among the 203 hitters with 240 plate appearances. He’s a bit of a hacker and will expand the zone, but so far the Yankees haven’t given him anything to chase this series.

The problem now is just the team’s pitching staff and timing. Phil Hughes is pitching tonight and he’s a fastball-curveball guy, not someone who can run a slider away from a righty. Maybe that new 11-to-5 curveball can do the trick. CC Sabathia is starting tomorrow and he’ll have to rely on changeups away to Cespedes. Hiroki Kuroda is probably best equipped to deal with a guy like this, but he’s not scheduled to start this series. Garcia and Nova can bust out sliders to right-handers but they didn’t do a very good job of it in the first two games. Even if the Yankees can’t get Cespedes to chase those breaking balls off the plate, they have to get the ball out of the middle of the zone. They’ve given him entirely too many good pitches to hit.

Mystery Team Strike Again: Cespedes agrees to join A’s

According to more reports than I care to count, free agent Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has agreed to a four-year, $36M contract with the Athletics. He still needs to pass a physical and secure a visa, but those are considered just formalities. The Yankees were rumored to be hot after Cespedes earlier this offseason, but that talk eventually died down. I have a hard time thinking they would have beat that offer anyway.

Report: Yoenis Cespedes is now a free agent

Via Ben Badler, MLB has informed teams that 26-year-old Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is now a free agent. He recently established residency in the Dominican Republic, which was step one of the process. By now you’ve seen the Michael Bay-esque promotional video (both of them), though I still prefer 19-year-old Jorge Soler at the point, based on the little bit we know. Cespedes went 5-for-35 with no walks and ten strikeouts in winter ball, which isn’t all that surprising given his long layoff. He did hit a homer though, which you can see right here.