Archive for Transactions
Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees have signed utility man Yangervis Solarte to a minor league contract. I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training since Rosenthal says he will compete against Eduardo Nunez, Dean Anna, Corban Joseph, and Scott Sizemore for a bench job in camp.
Solarte, 26, has hit .282/.323/.404 (~91 wRC+) with 23 homers in 1,145 plate appearances for the Rangers’ Triple-A affiliate these last two years. He’s been a super-sub thoughout his career and he played at least 20 games at second, third, short, and left field over the last two seasons. Solarte has never played in the big leagues and he’s likely at the very bottom of the infield depth chart.
The Yankees have added to their infield depth. The Kens (Rosenthal and Davidoff) report the team has signed infielder Scott Sizemore to a minor league contract that I assume includes an invitation to Spring Training as well. He passed up two guaranteed Major League offers to sign with New York according to Joel Sherman.
Sizemore, 29, showed some promise with the Tigers and Athletics back in 2011, hitting .245/.342/.399 (109 wRC+) with 11 homers and a 12.4% walk rate in 429 plate appearances. He has played only two games these last two years after tearing and re-tearing his left ACL. Sizemore, who has primarily been a second and third baseman throughout his career, is expected to be ready in time for camp.
The Yankees need a third baseman in the wake of Alex Rodriguez‘s suspension and Sizemore is as good a candidate for the job as anyone currently in the organization. He would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2016 and effectively replaces David Adams as a right-handed hitting second/third baseman who has shown promise with the bat. Could be a nice little signing if Sizemore gets healthy and shows his 2011 production was not a fluke.
1:16pm: According to his Twitter feed, the Yankees have cut ties with Vernon Wells. Buster Olney says he was designated for assignment. The Yankees need 40-man roster space for both Brian Roberts and Matt Thornton and this clears one spot. Wells, 35, hit .233/.282/.349 (70 wRC+) last season and although he would have counted as $0 against the luxury tax in 2014, the team still owes him $2.4M in real dollars. The Angels owe him $18.6M.
Via Matt Eddy: The Yankees have signed right-hander Bruce Billings to a minor league contract. I’m not sure if he received an invitation to Spring Training. The 28-year-old had a 4.31 ERA (3.96 FIP) in 148.1 innings for the Athletics’ Triple-A affiliate last summer. He’s been at that level for four years now. Billings has four big league appearances to his credit, allowing ten runs in seven innings for the Rockies and A’s back in 2011. He’ll be counted on to soak up innings for Triple-A Scranton this summer.
The Yankees have also re-signed righty Yoshinori Tateyama to a minor league deal, according to Eddy. They acquired him from the Rangers for cash in the middle of last season. Tateyama, 38, had a 1.70 ERA (2.18 FIP) in 42.1 innings for Triple-A Scranton after the trade. He has 61 innings of big league experience, posting a 5.75 ERA (4.54 FIP) for Texas from 2011-12. Tateyama’s fun to watch because hes a sidearmer who throws a screwball. Here’s proof. I don’t think either he or Billings will have much of a chance to see time with the Yankees in 2014 unless something goes horribly, horribly wrong. They’re (deep) depth moves.
The Yankees have re-signed right-hander Matt Daley to a minor league contract, reports Matt Eddy. I assume he received an invitation to Spring Training as well. Daley was non-tendered earlier this month, but soon thereafter we heard the team had interest in retaining him as a non-40-man roster player.
Daley, 31, allowed two hits and zero walks while striking out eight in six scoreless September innings this past season. The Queens native was awesome in the minors, pitching to a 2.02 ERA (1.88 FIP) in 53.1 innings at three levels after returning from shoulder surgery. Daley has a 4.38 ERA (3.65 FIP) in 86.1 career big league innings, all with the Yankees and Rockies. The Bombers originally signed Daley soon after the surgery two offseasons ago and rehabbed him.
As of right now, the only players guaranteed to be in the bullpen next year are David Robertson, Shawn Kelley, and the recently signed Matt Thornton. The Yankees obviously like Daley, otherwise they wouldn’t have signed him after the surgery and helped him rehab for two years. Depending on how the rest of the offseason shakes out, he could compete against kids like Dellin Betances and Jose Ramirez for a bullpen spot in camp.
Via Chris Cotillo: The Cubs have claimed right-hander Brett Marshall off waivers from the Yankees. Chicago has since announced the move. Marshall, 23, had been designated for assignment last week to clear a 40-man roster spot for Carlos Beltran. He had a disappointing 5.13 ERA (4.62 FIP) in 138.2 innings for Triple-A Scranton in 2013, though he did make his big league debut over the summer. I ranked him as the team’s 13th best prospect prior to the season but his stock has dropped.
Three weeks after agreeing to terms, the Yankees have finally announced the signing of Carlos Beltran to a three-year contract. He already revealed on Twitter he will wear #36. The press conference is scheduled for tomorrow at 11am and you’ll be able to watch on YES.
To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the Yankees designated right-hander Brett Marshall for assignment. The 23-year-old had a disappointing 5.13 ERA (4.62 FIP) in 138.2 innings for Triple-A Scranton this past season. He made his big league debut and allowed six runs in 12 innings across three appearances. I’m thinking he’ll slip through waivers. We’ll see.
Jack Curry of YES reports that the Yankees have signed left-handed reliever Matt Thornton to a two-year, $7 million contract. It might seem as though he replaces Boone Logan, who recently signed a three-year deal with the Rockies, but Thornton probably isn’t the setup man we saw the past few years in Chicago. Today his value is more as a lefty specialist.
A former first-round pick (Seattle in 1998), Thornton struggled upon promotion to the big leagues. In Spring Training 2006 the Mariners swapped him for fellow first-round disappointment Joe Borchard. The White Sox easily got the better of that deal, as Thornton blossomed into an effective reliever who worked his way into late-inning roles.* From 2008 through 2010 Thoronton threw 200 innings with a 2.70 ERA, which amounted to the third-highest bWAR in that time frame among relievers (Mariano Rivera, of course, was first).
*White Sox GM Rick Hahn, then the assistant GM, spoke to a room of FanGraphs writers in 2010; Mike and I were both in the audience. In talking about why Thornton succeeded in Chicago after failing in Seattle, Hahn said that they didn’t try to make Thornton into a pitcher he wasn’t. Paraphrased, Hahn said, “He told us he wanted to throw the ball as hard as he could right down the fuckin’ middle, so we let him.” It sure seemed to work.
In recent years Thornton has slipped quite a bit. At a time when strikeout rates have risen his has fallen, from a peak of 12 per nine in 2010, to 6.2 per nine last year. That production dip has come mostly against right-handed hitters. After holding them to a .254 wOBA in 2010, he grew worse in each of the last three years, all the way to a .370 wOBA against righties in 2013. It is pretty apparent now that Thornton is a lefty-only guy, making him a bit less versatile than Logan, who played more of a full-inning setup role during his final two years in New York.
Through the years Thornton has remained durable, serving just two DL stints since suffering a herniated disc all the way back in 2003. The first was for forearm soreness in 2010, which is always cringe-worthy. Obviously he’s avoided the dreaded Tommy John Surgery that often follows such a diagnosis. His other stint was last summer, with an abdominal strain. They happen, though it can’t be encouraging. The Yanks will need Thorton at full strength to make a difference.
This signing will not end the Yankees’ search for bullpen help. Joel Sherman notes that they also want to add a late-inning reliever. Given the risk with the Thornton signing, they might prefer Joaquin Benoit to the injured Jesse Crain. Who knows: maybe they’ll go nuts and sign both. But whatever the case, as with Roberts, Thornton is a complementary signing. They still have a ways to go, even as far as bullpen construction goes.
Yankees fans might remember the Brian Roberts in the video above, but that’s not the Brian Roberts the Yankees signed today. According to Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees have agreed to a one-year deal with Roberts, worth $2 million plus incentives. That’s a relatively low-risk deal, giving them a potentially serviceable player without the commitment required to sign Omar Infante*. But in order for this to work, the Yankees need to spend in a few more areas.
*I’ve seen a lot of people asking why the Yankees didn’t match or trump the Cardinals’ offer for Mark Ellis. Who’s to even say the Yankees even knew the Cardinals made Ellis an offer? The Cardinals are the class of MLB right now. If I were the 37-year-old Ellis and the Cardinals offered me $5 or so million, I might take it without looking elsewhere.
An infield consisting of Mark Teixeira plus some rotation that includes Roberts, Derek Jeter, Brendan Ryan, and Kelly Johnson just isn’t going to get the job done. Given his injury history it’s doubtful Roberts can play an everyday role. Limited to part-time duty, the Yanks would need someone else to cover reps at second. If that’s Johnson, they’ll need someone to cover reps at third. Adding Eduardo Nunez to this rotation does little to bolster it, so outside help is still necessary.
When word broke last night, Rosenthal said that a Roberts signing doesn’t mean the end of the Yankees’ infield pursuit. They could still add Mark Reynolds, he says, a player who seems to fit in that he provides right-handed power and can play third base — though “play” is a relative term here. His defense at third has always been suspect, and that’s not likely to get better as he ages. But in the short-term, the Yankees could do a lot worse.
The wild card here is Alex Rodriguez. Asked to guess, I still think he gets a 50-game suspension, which would give the Yankees another decent option in that infield rotation. Then again, A-Rod hasn’t exactly been a bastion of durability in the last few years. Joe Girardi will have to manage both him and Roberts carefully in order to keep them on the field (and A-Rod not clogging the DH slot). If A-Rod is suspended, the Yankees absolutely should look into other options. Rosenthal mentions Mariners 2B Dustin Ackley, though he’s another reclamation project. The options do seem thin at this point.
If the Yankees are going to get by with low-cost fliers in the infield, they have to spend elsewhere in order to fortify other weaknesses. If they sign two relief pitchers — Joaquin Benoit and Jesse Crain would work — and also Masahiro Tanaka, they could be in decent shape. In other words, spending money to fill three of four needed positions, while taking a flier on the other, isn’t such a bad deal. But with the flier coming first, we have to hope that they do spend the money on those other needs.
As for Roberts himself, it’s difficult to expect much at this point. At 36 years old, and with his injury slate, he’s not going to come close to his numbers from his late 20s. Even if you give him a break and don’t count his first games back from a hamstring injury last year, he still hit only .253/.321/.404 in his final 252 PA. That’s probably better than what the Yanks would get from in-house options Dean Anna, Jose Pirela, and Corban Joseph. It might also be better than Omar Infante. But it’s not a given that Roberts can reproduce these numbers. Even if he can, it won’t be over 600 PA. His replacement could drag down the second base situation.
It’s hard not to feel bad for Roberts at this point. From 2007 through 2009 he played in 470 of 486 possible games, producing a 114 OPS+ and stealing 120 bags. In 2010 he missed 91 games with an abdominal strain. The next year he suffered a concussion that he says he didn’t truly recover from until some time in late 2012. Even when he came back in mid-2012, before he underwent surgery to repair his hip labrum, he says he didn’t feel 100 percent. Even when he did feel like himself in 2013, he tore a hamstring tendon, requiring surgery that caused him to miss 79 games.
Perhaps Roberts can make it through 400 PA this season without issue. We’ve seen it before. But to count on it is not sound strategy. If this move makes them more comfortable spending money on two relievers and a starter, it could work. They’ll need another cost-effective infield move to make it work, but it still could work. But by itself, this move still leaves the Yanks wanting.
The Yankees lost five total players in this morning’s Rule 5 Draft, most notably Double-A RHP Tommy Kahnle. He was taken by the Rockies with the fourth overall selection. In a nutshell, New York receives a $50k fee and Kahnle must now stick on Colorado’s active 25-man roster all of next season. If he doesn’t, they’ll have to place him on waivers and then offer him back to the Yankees before being able to send him to the minors.
Kahnle, 24, was the team’s fifth round pick in the 2010 draft, out of Lynn University in Florida. They gave him $150k to turn pro. Kahnle had a 2.85 ERA (3.85 FIP) with a ton of strikeouts (11.10 K/9 and 28.8 K%) and a ton of walks (6.75 BB/9 and 17.5 BB%) in 60 innings for Double-A Trenton this summer. He throws very hard, regularly running his fastball up to 97-98, but he lacks a good offspeed pitch and his control is shaky at best. The Yankees offered him in trades for Alfonso Soriano and Michael Young before the deadline earlier this year.
The four players the Yankees lost in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft are OF Ravel Santana (Astros), RHP Mikey O’Brien (Reds), RHP Felipe Gonzalez (Pirates), and converted infielder RHP Kelvin Castro (Marlins). Santana is the big name here because he was once one of the team’s very best prospects. Injuries — most notably a shattered ankle in 2011 and a broken arm in 2013 — have hampered his development. The 21-year-old had a 157 wRC+ with the Rookie GCL Yankees in 2011, an 83 wRC+ with Short Season Staten Island in 2012, and then did not play in 2013.
The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. The players do not have to stick on a certain roster all year, they simply become their new team’s properly. The Astros essentially purchased Santana from the Yankees for the $12k fee. Same applies to the other three guys taken in the minor league portion.
The Yankee left several other interesting relief arms — RHP Chase Whitley, RHP Danny Burawa, and LHP Fred Lewis, specifically — exposed in the Rule 5 Draft, but none were selected. The Bombers have a full 40-man roster and were not able to make a pick themselves. The full Rule 5 Draft results can be seen here.