Yankees add Austin, Burawa, Pinder, Williams to 40-man roster; sell Zelous Wheeler’s right to team in Japan

Bye Zelous. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Bye Zelous. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

The Yankees have added outfielder Tyler Austin, right-hander Danny Burawa, right-hander Branden Pinder, and outfielder Mason Williams to the 40-man roster, the team announced. Today was the deadline to set the 40-man for the Rule 5 Draft and all four players would have been eligible. The Yankees have also sold utility man Zelous Wheeler‘s rights to the Rakuten Golden Eagles in Japan. There are currently 38 players on the 40-man roster, meaning New York can select up to two players in the Rule 5 Draft.

Adding Austin to the 40-man was the only no-brainer of the bunch. He had a huge second half with Double-A Trenton this summer and continued to rake in the Arizona Fall League. He played through a bone bruise in his wrist almost all of last year and again earlier this year, but it appears he’s over it and had gotten back to where he was when he was one of the team’s top prospects a year or two ago. Austin figures to open the 2015 season with Triple-A Scranton and could get called up at some point. If nothing else, he should be a September call-up.

Burawa is a pure reliever and has some of the nastiest stuff in the system with a mid-to-high-90s fastball and a vicious slider. He does have control problems (13.2% walk rate the last two years) and had to be demoted from Triple-A Scranton to Trenton this summer, but the Yankees have had some success figuring these guys out, with Shane Greene being a primary example. Pinder is another pure reliever whose stuff isn’t as electric as Burawa’s, but he had an excellent season in 2014. He is primarily a fastball-slider guy. Both Burawa and Pinder are expected to open 2015 with the RailRiders and could make their MLB debuts later in the season.

Williams both is and isn’t a surprising addition to the 40-man roster. Surprising because he’s been flat out terrible for two years running now — he hit .223/.290/.304 (66 wRC+) in 563 plate appearances with the Thunder this past season — and there are reports of major maturity and work ethic issues. Those guys usually aren’t rewarded with 40-man spots. It’s unsurprising because Williams is a top flight defender in center field and has high-end tools. He was arguably the organization’s top prospect two years ago. The Yankees are obviously hoping he grows up a bit and unlocks some of his potential.

Among the players the Yankees opted not to protect from the Rule 5 Draft are first baseman Kyle Roller, left-hander Matt Tracy, and right-handers Mark Montgomery and Zach Nuding. All three pitchers could get selected. Montgomery’s stuff has gone backwards the last two years but his slider still misses bats. Nuding throws hard and Tracy is both breathing and left-handed. As a reminder, any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must remain on his new team’s active 25-man roster all season, or be placed on waivers and offered back to his old team before going to the minors.

As for Wheeler, the Yankees didn’t sell his rights to Rakuten — Masahiro Tanaka‘s former team — without his knowledge or out of the blue. Almost always in these situations, the player asked the team for permission to pursue a job overseas and has a contract lined up with a new club. Wheeler presumably did that and the Yankees let him go as a courtesy while also pocketing a little extra cash. Win-win for everyone.

Update: The Yankees received $350,000 for Wheeler’s rights, according to Mark Feinsand.

Francisco Cervelli traded to Pirates

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Jon Heyman reports that the Yankees have traded Francisco Cervelli to the Pirates. They’ll get back relief pitcher Justin Wilson. The team has since announced the trade in a press release.

Wilson is a hard-throwing lefty reliever. He sits mid 90s with his fastball, which he favors heavily. Pitchf/x has him with a two-seamer around the same velocity, as well as a cutter that sits around 90.

I’m not going to pretend to know more about the guy than his stat sheet indicates. The excellent Pirates blog Pirates Prospects sums up Wilson’s 2014 thusly:

Wilson had a rough season, struggling more with his control and getting hit a little harder, although he still allowed only a 220/320/323 line. He had a tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time: opponents had a .755 OPS against him in high leverage situations, compared to .568 in medium and .622 in low leverage situations. (He was better in high leverage situations in 2013, so, no, this doesn’t mean he isn’t “clutch.”) Hurdle became increasingly reluctant to use him in high leverage situations later in the season and he also had much shorter outings on average. He continued to pitch without regard to left- or right-handed opponents and, in fact, had a mild reverse platoon split. Wilson threw fastballs over 90% of the time, possibly in part due to being behind in the count a lot.

Wilson still has excellent stuff and, despite his control problems, wasn’t at all easy to hit in 2014. He has two options left, but the Pirates showed no inclination to send him to the minors. There’s no reason to think he can’t bounce back and be a dominant reliever again in 2015.

So a hard-throwing lefty reliever with some upside, who can face both lefties and righties? Sounds pretty good as a project. He also has only two years of service time, so won’t be arbitration eligible until next off-season.

Mike made a Boone Logan comp: lefty with good stuff but struggles to command his pitches. That could work. Logan had his rough spots but was mostly a success.

Cervelli has shown promise in limited action the last few years, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy at all. With Austin Romine (also frequently injured) out of options, it was inevitable that the Yankees would ship off a catcher this off season. Nice to see them get back a chance at a decent mid-inning reliever who could blossom into a setup man.

Yankees sign lefty Jose De Paula to one-year deal

(MLB.com)
(MLB.com)

The Yankees have signed left-hander Jose DePaula to a one-year contract, the team announced. Joel Sherman says De Paula will earn $510,000 at the MLB level and $175,000 in the minors, and confirmed he has one minor league option remaining. The Giants designated De Paula for assignment in June and he became a minor league free agent after the season. The Yankees now have 36 players on the 40-man roster.

“He is a hard-throwing lefty. He can be a starter if he stays healthy. He has been a Four-A guy to this point, but he does have upside,” said one executive to Sherman.

De Paula, 26, spent last season in Triple-A with the Giants, where he had a 4.21 ERA (4.36 FIP) in 51.1 innings spread across ten starts and six relief appearances. His season ended in late-July due to an oblique strain. He had a 3.86 ERA (2.57 FIP) in 74.2 Double-A innings as a starter with the Padres in 2013 while battling shoulder tendinitis. San Francisco claimed him off waivers from San Diego last winter. Here are De Paula’s career stats:

Year Age AgeDif Tm Lev Aff ERA G GS IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP H9 HR9 BB9 SO9 SO/W
2007 19 0.1 Padres FRk SDP 2.44 14 13 66.1 52 27 18 0 21 78 1.101 7.1 0.0 2.8 10.6 3.71
2008 20 -0.2 Padres Rk SDP 3.57 13 13 53.0 61 30 21 2 9 56 1.321 10.4 0.3 1.5 9.5 6.22
2009 21 -0.3 Eugene A- SDP 2.79 2 2 9.2 9 4 3 0 2 10 1.138 8.4 0.0 1.9 9.3 5.00
2010 22 0.4 Fort Wayne A SDP 3.27 20 14 85.1 71 33 31 7 20 69 1.066 7.5 0.7 2.1 7.3 3.45
2011 23 -0.2 Lake Elsinore A+ SDP 5.22 26 23 112.0 129 81 65 4 37 87 1.482 10.4 0.3 3.0 7.0 2.35
2013 25 0.5 San Antonio AA SDP 3.86 14 14 74.2 84 42 32 3 11 57 1.272 10.1 0.4 1.3 6.9 5.18
2014 26 -0.8 Fresno AAA SFG 4.21 16 10 51.1 55 28 24 5 16 41 1.383 9.6 0.9 2.8 7.2 2.56
7 Seasons 3.86 105 89 452.1 461 245 194 21 116 398 1.276 9.2 0.4 2.3 7.9 3.43
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/12/2014.

De Paula spent the entire 2012 season on the restricted list after it was revealed he was older than originally believed. Baseball America ranked him as the 26th best prospect in the Giants’ system in their 2014 Prospect Handbook, calling him a potential back-end starter who could pitch in any number of roles. Here’s a snippet of their scouting report:

DePaula works at 90-91 mph with an easy arm action and plenty of late tailing, sinking action, topping out near 95. Control never has been an issue, and scouts regard his secondary pitches as average to a tick above. He throws a mid-70s curveball with plus rotation and big vertical break. He has gained feel for his changeup in recent years, and the mid-80s pitch shows enough fade to be effective.

The Yankees obviously like De Paula quite a bit if they put him on the 40-man roster — he’s never pitched in MLB and would have been eligible for the Rule 5 Draft in December had they signed him to a minor league deal — though it remains to be seen whether they will continue to let him start or try him in the bullpen. Low cost, left-handed, has an option left … makes sense to me. Adding cheap pitching depth is never a bad move.

Update: Yankees re-sign Chris Young to one-year deal

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Sunday, 10:51am: The Yankees have officially announced the deal. There are now 35 players on the 40-man roster.

Saturday, 7:44pm: It’s a one-year deal worth $2.5M with incentives that could push the total value to $6.325M, according to Buster Olney and Bob Nightengale. There’s no option for 2016 or anything like that. Perfectly reasonable contract for the role.

6:19pm: The Yankees have made the first of what figures to be many moves this offseason by securing a fourth outfielder. They have a contract agreement in place to bring Chris Young back, according to Sweeny Murti. The deal is pending a physical. Earlier on Saturday we heard the two sides had mutual interest in a reunion. No word on the contract terms just yet, but it’s safe to assume it’s a one-year deal.

Young, 31, hit .282/.354/.521 (146 wRC+) with three homers in 23 games with the Yankees in September. They grabbed him off the scrap heap after the Mets released him at midseason. He hit .205/.283/.346 (81 wRC+) with eleven homers in 111 games with the Amazin’s. Young is an extreme fly ball hitter (28.6% ground ball rate from 2013-14) and that doesn’t lend itself to high batting averages, but he does have some pop (.171 ISO from 2013-14), will work a walk (9.2 BB%), and won’t strike out an exorbitant amount (22.0 K%).

Although he just started playing the corner outfield spots last season, Young has rated as an average or better defender the last few years. He can play center field on everyday basis if necessary but will likely see most of his time in right field next year, replacing Carlos Beltran in the late innings. Young has some power, can steal some bases, and plays good defense, so does a little bit of everything. He’s a flawed player, no doubt about it, but that’s why he’s going to be a fourth outfielder and not a starter.

Because both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner are left-handed hitters, a right-handed hitting fourth outfielder makes sense. Beltran has also been much better against lefties these last few years as well. Young credited departed hitting coach Kevin Long for his big September — “I’ve been able to find some things here that can carry me for years to come,” he said to Dan Barbarisi at the end of the season — so there’s at least some hope the improvement was real and not small sample size noise.

Signing a fourth outfielder isn’t the most exciting “first move of the offseason” in the world, but it was a move that had to be made at some point. The Yankees are more or less done with the outfield now and can focus on their infield, particularly shortstop. Martin Prado‘s flexibility allows them to pursue either a second or third baseman. Pitching is also on the offseason agenda as well. That goes without saying every offseason.

Yankees re-sign Andrew Bailey, 13 others become minor league free agents

No photos in Bailey in a Yankees uniform anywhere. (Presswire)
No photos in Bailey in a Yankees uniform anywhere. (Presswire)

Via Chad Jennings: The Yankees have re-signed right-hander Andrew Bailey to a new minor league contract after declining his option earlier this week. He missed all of 2014 following shoulder capsule surgery and had several setbacks during his rehab. The option was believed to be worth $2M or so. No word if the new contract includes an option for 2016. If he ever gets healthy, Bailey figures to get a chance to help the bullpen next summer.

Thirteen other players became minor league free agents, according to Matt Eddy. The most notable are SwP Pat Venditte, LHP Jeremy Bleich, LHP Nik Turley, 3B Scott Sizemore, SS Carmen Angelini, and OF Zoilo Almonte. As you may have already seen, Kiley McDaniel wrote the Yankees have frustrated other clubs by spending big (relatively) on minor league free agents these last few years — that’s how they landed Yangervis Solarte — and I expect that to continue this offseason.