Looking at potential landing spots for Jacoby Ellsbury

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

For the very first time, I went into this offseason believing the Yankees would make a serious effort to move Jacoby Ellsbury. They’re going to have to eat money to do it, but that money is a sunk cost anyway. Either the Yankees pay Ellsbury and keep him on the roster, or they pay him to play elsewhere so they can put the roster spot to better use. Any savings are a bonus.

Aaron Hicks started in center field in the postseason and Brian Cashman made it clear a few weeks ago the Yankees plan to keep Hicks in center field next year. Brett Gardner and Aaron Judge aren’t going to be unseated in the corners, plus Clint Frazier is knocking on the door. Then the Yankees went out and traded for Giancarlo Stanton over the weekend, knocking Ellsbury further down the depth chart. Here is that outfield depth chart, which I think is better explained through tiers than a straight 1-6 ranking.

  • Tier One: Judge and Stanton
  • Tier Two: Gardner and Hicks
  • Tier Three: Ellsbury and Frazier

Ellsbury is at best fifth on the outfield depth chart and I am very willing to hear arguments that he’s really sixth behind Frazier. Point is, Ellsbury is getting pushed out, so it’s no surprise reports from the Winter Meetings indicate the Yankees are willing to eat half the $68M left on his contract to trade him. Will that be enough? Would Ellsbury get three years and $34M as a free agent? Probably not, but start by saying you’ll eat half, then go from there.

Ken Rosenthal floated the idea of the Yankees attaching prospects to Ellsbury in a trade, which I hate. Giving up prospects to rid yourself of a bad contract when you’re the richest team in the sport doesn’t sit well with me. This all started because the Yankees a) gave Ellsbury that ridiculous contract in the first place, and b) are adhering to the luxury tax threshold, thus voluntarily throwing away the financial advantage that comes with playing in New York.

Anyway, attached prospects or not, moving Ellsbury will not be easy given his production and contract, plus the whole no-trade clause thing. His market is very limited. How limited? Let’s look. Here are the teams that most stand out as potential Ellsbury suitors. (Given the way these things usually go, this means Ellsbury will be traded to a team not listed in this post at all.)

Arizona Diamondbacks

Current Outfield: A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, Yasmany Tomas

The D’Backs are likely to lose J.D. Martinez to free agency, and the new front office doesn’t seem particularly fond of Tomas, which is why I traded Ellsbury to Arizona in my offseason plan. I thought maybe there would be a fit, especially since Ellsbury and D’Backs manager Torey Lovullo were together on the 2013 Red Sox. (Lovullo was bench coach that year.) There’s a connection to Lovullo, an open outfield spot, and the D’Backs are good enough to contend, which might be enough to convince Ellsbury to waive his no-trade clause.

Chicago Cubs

Current Outfield: Jason Heyward, Albert Almora, Ben Zobrist, Kyle Schwarber

Zobrist has declined — he hit .232/.318/.375 (82 wRC+) in 2017, you know — Almora is a platoon player, Heyward is a younger version of Ellsbury, and Schwarber runs around the outfield like he has a full diaper. There’s also the connection to Theo Epstein and the rest of his front office crew, who drafted and developed Ellsbury back in the day. The Cubs are likely to lose Jon Jay, a left-handed hitting center fielder, to free agency. If the Yankees eat enough money — or kick in a pitching prospect, which the Cubs desperately need — would the Cubbies be interested in Ellsbury? I don’t think it would take much convincing to get him to waive his no-trade clause to join Chicago.

Cleveland Indians

Current Outfield: Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall, Bradley Zimmer, Brandon Guyer (Jason Kipnis?)

There’s a decent chance Brantley will spend more time at DH than in the outfield going forward given his injury problems the last two years, meaning Edwin Encarnacion will have to play first base. The Indians showed they’re willing to play Kipnis in the outfield despite his inexperience, so they could end up with Kipnis-Zimmer/Guyer platoon-Chisenhall in the outfield and Brantley at DH. Adding another outfielder isn’t an absolute necessity, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea. And, obviously, there’s the Ellsbury-Terry Francona connection from Boston. As always, the question with Cleveland is money. They don’t have much of it, so how much would the Yankee have to eat to make it happen?

Houston Astros

Current Outfield: George Springer, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Jake Marisnick

A long shot, for sure. Springer and Reddick are locked into two of the three outfield spots and Gonzalez was too good last season to bump out of the lineup for Ellsbury. Marisnick is younger, cheaper, and better defensively than Ellsbury as well, so Ellsbury wouldn’t even fit as a reserve player. I have to think Ellsbury would okay a trade to the defending World Series champions, but the Astros don’t need him.

New York Mets

Current Outfield: Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Lagares, Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto (rehabbing from shoulder surgery)

Could you imagine the reaction if the Mets took on Ellsbury — essentially the Yankees’ scraps — after the Yankees traded for Stanton? It would be ugly, and for that reason I don’t think it would happen. Even the shameless Wilpons would consider the optics terrible, even though adding another center field capable outfielder wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. Would Ellsbury waive his no-trade clause to stay in New York? Something tells me he won’t even have to think about it.

San Francisco Giants

Current Outfield: Denard Span, Hunter Pence, Jarrett Parker, Mac Williamson

This past season Giants outfielders hit .253/.311/.374 (79 OPS+) with 38 home runs in a little over 2,000 plate appearances, if you can believe that. It’s no wonder why they were in on Stanton. Ellsbury’s defense would fit well in spacious AT&T Park, though I get the sense the Giants, who ranked dead last in MLB with 128 home runs in 2017, want a bigger bat. Maybe they’d take on Ellsbury on a secondary piece? Sign Jay Bruce or someone like that first, then trade for Ellsbury and a small piece of his contract for depth? An Ellsbury-for-Jeff Samardzija bad contract swap doesn’t make any sense for San Francisco since they need pitching too. Also, the Giants did lose 98 games this year. I’m not sure Ellsbury would waive his no-trade clause to join a team that far away from contention, despite their recent World Series titles. Stanton sure didn’t.

Texas Rangers

Current Outfield: Nomar Mazara, Delino DeShields Jr., Shin-Soo Choo, Willie Calhoun

That is a sneaky bad outfield. Choo and Calhoun would both be a full-time DH if they were on separate teams, but since they’re on the same team, one has to play the outfield, and that’s not good. Both DeShields and Mazara are young enough and talented enough to stay in the outfield full-time going forward. A Choo-for-Ellsbury bad contract swap makes sense for Texas — they’d be able to put Calhoun at DH and upgrade their outfield defense — but doesn’t help the Yankees at all. They’re looking to clear the roster spot for a younger player and save money, not rearrange the furniture with another bad contract. I don’t see much of a fit here, even before considering whether Ellsbury would waive his no-trade clause to join the Rangers.

Toronto Blue Jays

Current Outfield: Kevin Pillar, Steve Pearce, Teoscar Hernandez, Ezequiel Carrera

Goodness. That outfield. The whole intra-division thing complicates a potential trade, though I don’t think the Yankees would be afraid to dump Ellsbury on an AL East rival. I think they’d do it if that’s their best option. Would the Blue Jays take on Ellsbury in a salary dump? Would Ellsbury sign off on a trade to that sinking ship in Toronto? Despite the desperate need for outfield help north of the border, I don’t see the Blue Jays as a realistic fit for Ellsbury.

Washington Nationals

Current Outfield: Bryce Harper, Adam Eaton, Michael A. Taylor, Brian Goodwin

Jayson Werth’s contract just expired, but the Nationals don’t really need an outfielder to replace him because the guys who replaced Werth when he was on the disabled list this year (Taylor and Goodwin) were way better than him. The Nationals dried up as a potential Ellsbury landing spot as soon as they acquired Eaton last year. I think Ellsbury would okay a trade to Washington should a deal be worked out, plus the Nationals are a haven for unwanted Scott Boras clients, so I can’t completely rule them out as a possibility. I just think it’s unlikely.

* * *

Rebuilding teams like the Athletics, Padres, Phillies, Reds, Royals, Tigers, and White Sox would very likely be interested in trading for Ellsbury as long as a good prospect(s) is attached. Take on, say, $5M a season and get a prospect(s)? Why not. What caliber of prospect? Well, that’s up for debate. The Twins ate $4M or so to trade Jaime Garcia to the Yankees and they ended up with Zack Littell and Dietrich Enns, but that was $4M. We’re talking about eating $5M or so with Ellsbury each year for the next three years, so $15M total.

The bigger issue with that sort of trade is why in the world would Ellsbury agree to go to a rebuilding team? The solution could be releasing him. As a condition of accepting the trade, Ellsbury could ask his new team to release him, allowing him to sign anywhere for the prorated portion of the league minimum. The Yankees clear a roster spot and part of Ellsbury’s contract, the rebuilding team gets a prospect(s) for taking on some cash, and Ellsbury gets to pick his next team and offer his services at a dirt cheap price. A win-win-win? Not sure I’d go that far. But it could work.

Like I said, I don’t love the idea of attaching prospects to Ellsbury to unload the contract, but that may be the Yankees’ only choice, unless one of those clubs listed above decides Ellsbury is worth a couple million bucks and trading a non-prospect or two. I do think the Yankees are very motivated to move him right now though, especially after the Stanton trade. Perhaps they believe they have a deep enough farm system that trading a prospect or two to free up cash at the MLB level is worthwhile.

Yankees lose Mike Ford, five others in 2017 Rule 5 Draft

Ford. (NY Times)
Ford. (NY Times)

The Winter Meetings came to a close this morning with the 2017 Rule 5 Draft, baseball’s mechanism for helping players stuck in the minors get a chance at the big leagues. As expected, the Yankees lost several players in the Rule 5 Draft. That’s usually what happens when you have a deep farm system. There aren’t enough 40-man roster spots for everyone.

Here are the full Rule 5 Draft results. Here are the players the Yankees lost in the Major League phase:

  • Braves: RHP Anyelo Gomez
  • Mariners: 1B Mike Ford
  • Orioles: LHP Nestor Cortes and RHP Jose Mesa Jr.

I’m surprised Ford was picked, despite his strong minor league numbers. The 25-year-old hit .270/.404/.471 (144 wRC+) with 20 homers and way more walks (94) than strikeouts (72) this season, mostly at Double-A. Ford is only the fourth full-time first baseman picked in the Rule 5 Draft over the last two decades. I guess the Mariners will see whether he and Ryon Healy can be a productive first base platoon going forward.

The three pitchers getting selected was not a surprise. Gomez is the most notable and best prospect of the bunch. The soon-to-be 25-year-old has an upper-90s fastball and a very good changeup, and this past season he broke out with a 1.92 ERA (2.19 FIP) and 31.0% strikeouts in 71 innings at four levels. Cortes has always posted great minor league numbers, though he’s a finesse southpaw who rarely cracks 90 mph with his heater. Joe Table II has okay stuff and started to put it together this year. RHP J.P. Feyereisen and RHP Cale Coshow were among those Rule 5 Draft eligible but not selected.

As a reminder, players selected in the Rule 5 Draft must spend the entire 2018 season on their new team’s active 25-man roster, or be placed on waivers and offered back to their old team. Most Rule 5 Draft players are offered back, usually before the end of Spring Training. I think Gomez has by far the best chance of sticking among the four players the Yankees lost today. The O’s do have a history of riding it out with Rule 5 Draft players no matter how poorly they perform, however, so perhaps Cortes and/or Mesa will stick.

In the minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the Yankees lost depth C Sharif Othman (Marlins) and converted infielder RHP Yancarlos Baez (Twins). The Yankees selected OF Junior Soto from the Indians as well. The 20-year-old hit .172/.208/.408 (67 wRC+) in 52 Low-A games last season. Soto was a big deal as an international free agent years ago — he signed for $600,000 in 2013 — but things haven’t worked out. The Yankees are taking a flier because why not?

The minor league phase of the Rule 5 Draft works differently than the Major League phase. Players lost in the minor league phase do not have to be offered back and there are no roster rules. They’re just gone. So, after all that, the Yankees lost six players (Ford, Gomez, Cortes, Mesa, Baez, Othman) and added one (Soto). The four Major League phase guys could all end up coming back at some point. Pretty much business as usual at the Rule 5 Draft.

2017 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Thursday

Machado. (Justin Berl/Getty)
Machado. (Justin Berl/Getty)

The Winter Meetings come to an end today and, really, they’ll be over before lunchtime. The Rule 5 Draft is this morning and everyone heads home after that. The Yankees will undoubtedly lose some players in the Rule 5 Draft. That tends to happen when you have a strong farm system. There’s a good chance Nestor Cortes, Anyelo Gomez, and J.P. Feyereisen will hear their names called today. Bryan Hoch says the Yankees won’t make a Rule 5 Draft pick themselves. They’re focused on adding pitching.

“We are accessing all opportunities and see if we can land a plane,” said Brian Cashman to Andrew Marchand yesterday. “Right now, we are circling the airport. We are waiting for clearance on the runway. That is not from ownership. That means that we’ve got the signal that it is a safe landing spot, that we are comfortable with it, excited by that. We have enough gas in that tank that we can keep circling for awhile.”

The Yankees were connected to basically every young controllable starting pitcher Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. That includes Gerrit Cole, Michael Fulmer, Danny Duffy, Patrick Corbin, you name it. Starting pitching is clearly the priority right now, even over an infielder. We’ll again keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors here, though I can’t promise much activity today. Keep check back for updates anyway. All timestamps are ET.

  • 3:14pm: The price of starting pitching is too damn high, according to the Yankees. Seems like general offseason machinations to me. We want this guy but price is too high, rinse and repeat. [Heyman]
  • 10:10am: The Yankees have checked in on Machado but have no expectation of Orioles owner Peter Angelos approving a trade. Angelos hates the Yankees. I think he’s sooner keep Machado and lose him as a free agent than trade him to the Yankees. [Jon Heyman]
  • 9:41am: Contract talks with CC Sabathia have moved at a slow pace. The Yankees are focused right now on adding a younger pitcher and are talking with multiple teams. [Jack Curry]
  • 9:00am: The Orioles are “moving aggressively” in Manny Machado trade talks and the Yankees are among the teams to make an offer. O’s GM Dan Duquette said the club is open to trading Machado to the Yankees, though I’m going to have to see it to believe it. The White Sox have emerged as the frontrunner for the time being. Would they trade for Machado then flip him to the Yankees?. [Bob Nightengale, Ken Rosenthal, Rich Dubroff]
  • 9:00am: The Pirates are “gathering names” of young Yankees players who could be included in a trade for Cole. In addition to Cole and Fulmer, the Yankees are also looking at Chris Archer. An intra-division trade would be tough. [Bill Brink]

(Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.)

Wednesday Night Open Thread

For all intents and purposes, the Winter Meetings are over. The Rule 5 Draft will be held in the morning and that’s it, everyone flies home afterward. The Yankees won’t make a Rule 5 Draft pick tomorrow according to Bryan Hoch. No surprise there. They handled some business this week by introducing Giancarlo Stanton and unloading Chase Headley‘s salary. Also, Aaron Boone held a press conference yesterday and discussed all sorts of stuff. Here’s a transcript if you’re interested.

Here is tonight’s open thread. The (hockey) Rangers and Islanders are both playing tonight, and there are a few college basketball games on as well. Talk about those games, the Winter Meetings, or anything else here as long as it is not religion or politics.

2017 Winter Meetings Open Thread: Wednesday

Machado. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Machado. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

The first two days of the Winter Meetings have been pretty eventful for the Yankees. On Monday they introduced Giancarlo Stanton with a press conference in Orlando. Then yesterday they salary dumped Chase Headley (and Bryan Mitchell) on the Padres. What will today bring? I’m not sure. All I know is the Yankees have been popped up in an awful lot rumors this week.

“We all know we have a stated desire to upgrade our starting pitching,” said Brian Cashman to George King yesterday. “We have more flexibility today than prior to (the Headley trade). We did it with knowledge that we have some hungry, talented, and inexperienced kids ready to prove they can take that next step. But at the same time there might be some opportunities that might exist via free agency or trade.”

On Monday and Tuesday the Yankees were connected to basically every possibly available starting pitcher, including Gerrit Cole, Danny Duffy, and Michael Fulmer. Also, we learned they touched base with Todd Frazier after the Headley trade. We’ll again keep track of the day’s Yankees-related rumors right here, so make sure you check back often for updated. All timestamps are ET.

  • 2:08pm: The Yankees are “possibly” in the mix for Eduardo Nunez. I figured this was coming at some point. They need help at second and third bases and Nunez can play either. Not well, but he can stand there. [Heyman]
  • 2:02pm: Right now the Yankees are focused on adding a starting pitcher and Todd Frazier is on the back-burner. He could be someone they pursue more aggressively if they shed more money. [Sherman]
  • 1:57pm: The Yankees are one of ten teams on Ian Kinsler’s no-trade list. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’d reject a deal to New York, of course. Would he want something (i.e. an extension) in exchange for waiving the no-trade clause though? [Sherman]
  • 1:47pm: Jabari Blash, who came over in the Headley trade, may wind up with a team in Japan. I get the sense he is not long for the 40-man roster either way. [David Waldstein]
  • 10:50am: In addition to Patrick Corbin, the Yankees have also talked to the Diamondbacks about infielder Brandon Drury. The 25-year-old hit .267/.317/.447 (92 wRC+) this season while playing second, third, and left field. [Sherman]
  • 9:43am: Hoping for a Michael Pineda reunion? Well, don’t. He’s inked a two-year deal worth $10M with the Twins, the team announced. They’ll rehab him in 2018 and hope he can help in 2019.
  • 9:00am: The Yankees are among the teams interested in Manny Machado, who is available. Those involved say a trade is unlikely, however. I can’t imagine Orioles owner Peter Angelos would okay a trade sending Machado to the Yankees. [Buster Olney, Joel Sherman]
  • 9:00am: The Yankees are still talking to CC Sabathia about he a reunion. He did meet with the Blue Jays yesterday though, a few days after meeting with the Angels. Hmmm. [Jon Heyman, George King]

(Reminder: Your trade proposal sucks.)

Scouting the Trade Market: Michael Fulmer

(Justin Edmonds/Getty)
(Justin Edmonds/Getty)

Within the last week the Yankees have added the reigning NL MVP, traded away their starting second and third basemen, and freed up some payroll space under the $197M luxury tax threshold. It’s been a busy few days. And the Yankees aren’t done either. Yesterday’s Chase Headley salary dump was so very clearly a precursor to something else. The Yankees cleared that $13M in salary obligation so they could use it elsewhere.

Starting pitching was a priority coming into the winter and, even after these busy few days, it remains a priority. Luis Severino, Masahiro Tanaka, Sonny Gray, and Jordan Montgomery are a quality top four. The best top four in the AL East, I’d say. But the fifth spot is open and the Yankees might want to handle that top four carefully given their big 2017 workloads. There’s even talk the Yankees could acquire two starting pitchers this offseason, not just one.

One name floating around over the last 24 hours or so is Tigers righty Michael Fulmer, who beat out Gary Sanchez for the 2016 AL Rookie of the Year award, not that I’m still bitter or anything. The Tigers are dreadful — they went 64-98 in 2017 and went 13-41 of their final 54 games, if you can believe that — and they’re just now starting their rebuild, so keeping Fulmer means hoping he stays healthy the next few years before they’re ready to contend. That’s risky.

The Yankees certainly have the prospects to trade for Fulmer — “There are a handful of teams out there that have the players to do it,” said Tigers GM Al Avila to Jason Beck earlier this week about the possibility of a trade — plus they have the motivation. He’s good, he’s young, he’s cheap, and he’s under control for a while. Fulmer would help the Yankees win now and later. Let’s break him down as a trade candidate, shall we?

Current Performance

Fulmer’s sophomore season was not quite as good as his 2016 debut, though he was still effective and a quality starting pitcher. Here are the overall numbers the last two seasons:

IP ERA FIP K% BB% GB% HR/9 RHB wOBA LHB wOBA
2016 159 3.06 3.76 20.4% 6.5% 49.1% 0.91 .295 .276
2017 164.2 3.83 3.67 16.9% 5.9% 49.2% 0.71 .268 .292
Total 323.2 3.45 3.71 18.6% 6.2% 49.2% 0.81 .281 .284

Very good overall. Fulmer is more of a ground ball guy that a strike out guy, and while the Yankees tend to seek out pitchers who can get both, I think they’d be willing to bet on Fulmer being able to increase his strikeout rate going forward through various tweaks and pitch selection changes, things like that. His quality of contact rates held steady from 2016 to 2017:

2016 hard contact rate: 30.4% (31.4% league average)
2017 hard contact rate: 30.0% (31.0% league average)

2016 soft contact rate: 19.2% (18.8% league average)
2017 soft contact rate: 18.1% (18.9% league average)

2016 average exit velocity: 87.0 mph (87.7 mph league average)
2017 average exit velocity: 85.7 mph (86.6 mph league average)

The biggest difference between 2016 Fulmer and 2017 Fulmer is strand rate. He had a 79.0% strand rate in 2016 and a 65.6% strand rate in 2017. The league average is 72.6%. Strand rate is a pitcher skill but only to a certain degree. A lot of is tied to sequencing and general baseball randomness. Sometimes you give up a walk, a bloop, and a blast. Others you give up a blast, a bloop, and a walk.

Strand rate can fluctuate wildly from year-to-year, like it did for Fulmer. Chances are his true talent strand rate is somewhere between 2016 and 2017, which would put him at basically the league average. The decline in strikeout rate could certainly explain the strand rate drop to some degree — fewer strikeouts means more balls in play, and inevitably more hits falling in — but a 3.5 percentage point drop in strikeout rate and a 13.4 percentage point drop in strand rate? Nah. The strikeout rate doesn’t explain all that.

The tools are there for Fulmer to be successful and he has been successful in his MLB career to date. He doesn’t walk many batters and he gets an above-average number of ground balls. That’s a pretty great starting point for a guy who doesn’t turn 25 until March. Fulmer did strike out hitters at a below-average rate in his two seasons, though not so far below-average that it’s a big red flag. It’s not like he was running a 10.6% strikeout rate like Ty Blach, you know?

Current Stuff

Fulmer is a no nonsense pitcher. He throws everything hard. His four-seamer and sinker both sit in the mid-90s, and both his slider and changeup sit in the upper-80s. He’s not unlike Severino in terms of velocity. Everything is hard. And Fulmer throws all four pitches regularly.

michael-fulmer-pitch-selection

That pitch mix is why Fulmer has had success against both righties and lefties in his career. He has a quality slider for righties and a quality changeup for lefties, and there’s plenty of velocity on the two fastballs for everyone. Here’s some video from his past season, just so you can see what Fulmer’s stuff looks like:

Given his fastball velocity and the way he likes to bury his slider and changeup in the dirt, I can’t help but wonder whether Fulmer would be able to increase his strikeout rate by climbing the ladder with two strikes and getting hitters to chase heaters up at eye level. Here are the pitch locations of all his swings and misses in 2017:

michael-fulmer-whiffsMost of Fulmer’s swings and misses came on sliders and changeups down in the zone. There aren’t many on fastballs up in the zone or even up and out of the zone. Fulmer generally pounds the bottom of the strike zone with everything, hence the ground balls. There’s something to be said for elevating and changing eye levels though. The Red Sox helped Rick Porcello win a Cy Young (lol) by getting him to elevate his heater, so there is precedent for acquiring a talented young Tigers pitcher, making that adjustment, and reaping the rewards.

Injury History

Fulmer does have a bit of an injury history, including a pair of elbow surgeries. Neither was Tommy John surgery though. Here are his injuries:

  • 2013: Surgery for a torn meniscus in his knee.
  • 2014: Surgery to remove a bone spur from his elbow after the season.
  • 2017: Missed a week with shoulder fatigue, then missed two weeks with elbow irritation, then had season-ending ulnar nerve transposition surgery in early-September.

I suppose the good news is Fulmer’s elbow is structurally sound. They ran all the tests when his elbow starting barking and everything came back clean. The ulnar nerve transposition surgery means they literally moved a nerve to a different spot to avoid irritation. Jacob deGrom had the same procedure last offseason and was ready for Opening Day, and had a great season. Fulmer is expected to ready for Spring Training. Still though, there are a few too many arm injuries in there for such a young guy.

Contract Status

The Tigers called Fulmer up late last April, which was late enough to push his free agency back a year, so that’s cool. He is under team control for another five seasons, so through 2022. Fulmer will be a Super Two — he’ll be arbitration-eligible for the first time next year — so his arbitration years will be more expensive than usual, but the most important thing is those five years of control. You’re getting this guy for five seasons before he can become a free agent.

Also, Fulmer has two minor league options remaining, so he can be sent to Triple-A, if necessary. Then again, if you trade for him and need to send him down, something went wrong. You don’t want to have to use those options.

What Would It Take?

Acquiring five years of a young and very good starting pitcher is going to cost you, no doubt. You’re not getting Fulmer for some 40-man roster scraps, even with him currently on the mend from elbow surgery. Not too many guys like Fulmer get traded, so I had a tough time coming up with trade benchmarks. I found two.

  • Max Scherzer: Traded with a lefty reliever (Daniel Schlereth) for Ian Kennedy and Edwin Jackson in a three-team deal way back in the day. This was a few years before he became three-time Cy Young award winner Max freaking Scherzer.
  • Michael Pineda: Traded for a top five global prospect (Jesus Montero) with some other players (Vicente Campos and Hector Noesi) involved. You remember this trade.

I’m not sure those trades help us much. Then Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik was supposedly fixated on getting Montero. He went to the Yankees asking for Montero, and the Yankees named their price. The Yankees didn’t go to Zduriencik asking for Pineda. Simple supply and demand will control Fulmer’s market. The more teams in the mix, the more expensive he’ll be.

Avila will surely ask for Gleyber Torres. That’s what I’d do. Ask for Gleyber, see what happens, and if you have to negotiate down from there, so be. The Giancarlo Stanton trade likely makes Clint Frazier very available. Can the Yankees build a trade package around Frazier and some lesser secondary pieces? Or will the Tigers push for that strong secondary piece, like Justus Sheffield or Chance Adams? Whatever they want, it’ll hurt. Guys like Fulmer should be hard to get.

Does He Make Sense For The Yankees?

For sure. Fulmer is young, he’s very good, and he’s under control for five more years. Five more years! He’s also received positive reviews for his work ethic and competitiveness throughout his pro career. The arm injuries are an obvious red flag, though at least his recent elbow woes are not structural, and involve a procedure with recent precedent for a pitcher quickly coming back at full strength (deGrom).

I get the decline in strikeouts is a concern, though I think that is something can be solved with tweaks to Fulmer’s pitch selection and approach, namely using that fastball up in the zone more often. His power stuff is great. The tools to get strikeouts are there. It’s just a matter of a young pitcher gaining experience. That sort of thing. Fulmer is not a Nathan Eovaldi type who throws hard and gets hit hard. He’s been quite successful doing what he’s been doing.

Now, the elephant in the room is the brawlgame with the Tigers this summer. That all started when Fulmer drilled Sanchez in the third game of a three-game series in which Sanchez was whacking monster home runs all over the park. Was it intentional? Maybe not. But it sure seemed fishy. If the Yankees were to make a trade for Fulmer, I would think they’d go to Sanchez first, and see what he thinks. If there’s a grudge there, it might be a problem.

The J.D. Martinez, Justin Verlander, and Justin Upton trades were widely panned this summer because pundits did not believe the Tigers received enough, especially for Martinez and Verlander. Will Avila try to make up for that by knocking it out of the park with an Fulmer trade, or is there is a disconnect somewhere? Do the Tigers value their players less than everyone else, or are they overrating everyone else’s prospects? Does anyone know anything or anything, or all we all just faking it?

If nothing else, Brian Cashman and the Yankees have shown they are pretty excellent dealmakers these last few years. They came out on the wrong end of the Eovaldi trade. There’s no doubt about that. But look at all the other trades they’ve made. Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller, Chapman again, now Stanton. If the Yankees deem Fulmer worth pursuing, I trust Cashman & Co. to make a good trade.

Yankees re-sign Erik Kratz to a minor league deal, probably

Kratz isn't here to play, he's here to party. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)
Kratz isn’t here to play, he’s here to party. (Gregory Shamus/Getty)

The Kratzken is back. The Yankees have re-signed journeyman catcher Erik Kratz to what I assume is a minor league contract, his representatives at JMG Baseball announced. He was on the roster as the third catcher in September after coming over in a cash trade with the Indians. The Yankees outrighted him and he elected free agency after the season.

Kratz, 37, went 2-for-2 with a double in September and is the all-time franchise leader with a 2.500 OPS (min. two plate appearances). True story. Kratz hit .270/.359/.472 (132 wRC+) with 13 homers in 86 Triple-A games before the trade. He is a career .203/.250/.366 (63 wRC+) hitter in the big leagues, though 24 homers in 649 plate appearances is pretty cool.

My guess is the Yankees are penciling Kratz in as Kyle Higashioka‘s backup with Triple-A Scranton next year, though I suppose it is possible he will get a chance to wrestle the big league backup job away from Austin Romine. Kratz traveled with the Yankees throughout the postseason even though he wasn’t on the roster. He must’ve made a nice impression.