Buying at the trade deadline [2017 Season Review]

Without the 2017 deadline, there's no thumbs down! (Getty Images)
Without the 2017 deadline, there’s no thumbs down! (Getty Images)

In 2016, the Yankees sold at the trade deadline, signaling time for a rebuild. A year later? The tables had turned with the Yankees as buyers looking to bolster a club already in playoff contention.

Through two big deals and a few smaller ones, Brian Cashman was able to give the Bombers an extra boost they needed for the stretch run, October and beyond.

July 19
Yankees receive: Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle
White Sox receive: Blake Rutherford, Tyler Clippard, Ian Clarkin and Tito Polo

In one move, the Yankees solved multiple problems. Need another corner infielder in case Greg Bird doesn’t come back? There’s Frazier. Need to bolster the bullpen that’s gotten slightly overused? Robertson and Kahnle. It was a perfect move.

It did cost the Yankees, but not irreparably. They had to deal Rutherford just a year after drafting him in the first round. While he has plenty of potential, he’s yet to show any power. Clarkin and Polo likely wouldn’t have been protected in the Rule 5 draft, so they were expendable (Clarkin was added to the White Sox’ 40-man, Polo was not after getting hurt in the Arizona Fall League).

And somehow Tyler Clippard got himself traded to the Astros and won a World Series ring. Go figure.

We’ve already written about Frazier, D-Rob and Kahnle‘s respective impact in our season review series, but each has potential impact beyond this season. Robertson is under contract for 2018 while Kahnle won’t be a free agent until 2021. That’s a lot of value, even if the Yankees don’t re-sign the ToddFather.

As far as 2017, they each filled their roles to a tee. Frazier fixed the Yankees’ last hole in the lineup and brought energy to the club (Thumbs Down!). Robertson and Kahnle were studs down the stretch and in the postseason.

July 30
Yankees receive: Jaime Garcia
Twins receive: Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell

Garcia represented a fill-in for the Yankees’ rotation, an extra arm to allow Jordan Montgomery to throw fewer innings in the second half. As a rental, there was no expectation of him sticking around and it’s not like the Yankees expected him to start in the postseason.

He ultimately gave the Yanks 37 1/3 kinda-sorta average innings over eight forgettable starts before throwing 2 2/3 innings in ALDS Game 1. Remember that outing? He wasn’t bad, walking two and striking out three while absorbing eight outs.

Enns made two appearances for the Twins, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits over four innings. He was probably getting DFA’d or outrighted in the offseason, so he was highly expendable.

Littell less so. The 22-year-old righty acquired for James Pazos had a remarkable year between High-A and Double-A in 2017. Between the Yankees’ and Twins’ organizations, he threw 157 innings, struck out 142 and had a 2.12 ERA while going 19-1.

He is a new member of the Twins’ 40-man roster. He may not have made the Yankees’ roster this offseason, but he could be someone the Yanks regret dealing.

Playoff Sonny (Abbie Parr/Getty)
Playoff Sonny (Abbie Parr/Getty)

July 31
Yankees receive: Sonny Gray and International Bonus Pool Money
Athletics receive: Dustin Fowler, James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo

This deal made all the sense in the world. Getting 2.5 years of Gray for three prospects, two of whom were injured and one likely blocked.

Who knows if Kaprielian can stay healthy at this point? He has the stuff to pitch in the majors if he ever does stay on the mound, but that’s seeming less and less likely. Fowler had a pretty bad knee injury and the Yankees had Clint Frazier, not to mention Gardner, Judge, Hicks and Ellsbury in the majors (and now Giancarlo!).

Mateo seemed to have broken out after reaching Double A Trenton, but he was blocked by plenty of outfielders, just like Fowler.

So the Yankees dealt from a position of strength and added Gray, who had two playoff starts after a solid end to the season. He had some homer issues, but he’s still a good middle-of-the-rotation starter for the Yankees and much more affordable than similar arms on the current free-agent market. Even with the strong potential of all three players given up, it’s a deal the Yankees should make every time.

The other trades

– While the Yankees picked up bonus money in the Gray deal, they also dealt two possible Rule 5 picks for extra money in July. They dealt RHPs Matt Wotherspoon and Yefry Ramirez to the Orioles for a lot of Baltimore’s pool as the O’s don’t really wade into the international market.

Considering the fact that Shohei Ohtani is now a Los Angeles Angel, these moves didn’t quite work out. The Yankees can still use some of the pool on other prospects, including the few remaining ex-Braves, but they couldn’t reel in the big fish of the international market and are left holding a little too much bonus money. Oh well.

– In exchange for Rob Refsnyder, the Yanks acquired Double A first baseman Ryan McBroom in mid-July. Refsnyder had been DFA’d and McBroom was a non-prospect. He did fill a hole as depth after the team had run through multiple first basemen in the majors. McBroom had previously hit some homers against the Trenton Thunder, so it was good to get him out of the opposing dugout.

– Along the same lines as the McBroom deal, the Yankees dealt LHP Tyler Webb for Garrett Cooper. Cooper filled in for Chris Carter/Greg Bird for a month or so before going down with injuries. Webb gave up a grand slam on literally his first pitch with the Brewers. Seriously!

– Lastly, at the waiver deadline, the Yankees acquired Erik Kratz from the Cleveland Indians to be their depth catcher. He had two hits in two at-bats, produced 0.1 WAR and mostly rode the bench before being outrighted off the roster this offseason.

2018 Outlook

For next year, the Yankees still have Gray, Kahnle and Robertson as well as, to a lesser extent, McBroom and the bonus pool money. McBroom is hitting over .400 in Mexico right now!

But at the 2017 deadline, Cashman acquired a starter and two late-inning relievers for 2018. He has plenty of prospects left if he wants to add further at next season’s deadline.

As for the prospects traded away, it’ll be nice to see what Fowler can do in the majors this year. The rest of the prospects dealt are either further away from the show or are unlikely to even reach the majors in 2018. Regardless, monitoring their development from afar will be a pleasant side gig for Yankees fans.

Yankees trade Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith to Marlins

King. (@tKinger14 on Twitter)
King. (@tKinger14 on Twitter)

The Yankees have made another trade as they continue their 40-man roster purge. Tonight they traded Garrett Cooper and Caleb Smith to the Marlins for pitching prospect Mike King and an undisclosed sum of 2017-18 international bonus money, the team announced. This trade plus the Nick Rumbelow trade and Ronald Herrera trade give the Yankees six open 40-man roster spots before they have to protect players from the Rule 5 Draft.

King, 22, was selected by Miami in the 11th round of the 2016 draft out of Boston College. He threw 149 innings this season, all at Low Class-A, where he had a 3.14 ERA (3.97 FIP) with 17.8% strikeouts and 3.5% walks. did not rank King among the top 30 prospects in the Marlins system, which is arguably the worst in baseball. Here is a snippet of Baseball America’s pre-2016 draft scouting report (subs. req’):

The 6-foot-3 righthander doesn’t have overwhelming stuff, but he commands an upper 80s fastball with sink, touching 92 mph. King mixes in a short-breaking slider that is difficult to square up but not an above-average offering. He pitches to contact but is a plus competitor and has above-average command.

The Yankees have had a lot of success getting their pitching prospects to add velocity in recent years. If King adds a few ticks to his heater, he could be really interesting given his slider, command, and competitiveness. Also, a move to the bullpen could be in the cards. King could move real quick as a reliever.

The international bonus money is the more notable addition here because it means more money for Shohei Ohtani, should he come over. It had been reported the Yankees already maxed out their bonus pool — teams are allowed to trade for an addition 75% of their original pool ($4.75M for the Yankees) — but apparently not. Maybe they’re maxed out now? Hmmm.

Both Cooper and Smith were up-and-down depth players for the Yankees this summer. Cooper, 27 next month, hit .326/.333/.488 (113 wRC+) in 13 games as a fill-in first baseman. That includes a four-hit game against the Blue Jays. The Yankees acquired Cooper from the Brewers for Tyler Webb at midseason. He didn’t receive a September call-up, which was a pretty good indication his 40-man roster spot would be jeopardy.

Smith, 26, spent most of the season in Triple-A. He had a 7.71 ERA (5.62 FIP) in 18.2 big league inning spread across two starts and seven relief appearances. The Marlins hired farm system head Gary Denbo away from the Yankees a few weeks ago, and he is no doubt very familiar with Smith. I wonder if he’ll get a chance to crack their rotation next year. Either way, both Smith and Cooper figure to get better opportunities with the Marlins than they would’ve with the Yankees, so good luck to them.

Update: Buster Olney says the Yankees received $250,000 in international bonus money from the Marlins, and are now maxed out. It was reported earlier this month they had $3.5M in available international bonus money to offer Ohtani, so now it’s $3.75M.

The big trade with the White Sox is having a huge impact so far this postseason

(Al Bello/Getty)
(Al Bello/Getty)

Later tonight, the Yankees will again play another elimination game as they meet the Indians in Game Five of the ALDS. The Yankees were down 0-2 in this series once upon a time. They won Games Three and Four at home to force tonight’s winner-take-all Game Five. I’m sure the Indians are feeling some pressure right now. The Yankees? No one expected them to win anyway. This is all gravy.

The Yankees are one win away from the ALCS for many reasons, including their starting pitching performances in Games Three and Four. Greg Bird has been especially productive so far this postseason, ditto Aroldis Chapman out of the bullpen. You don’t get to where the Yankees are right now by leaning or one or two guys. It takes a team effort to get here and the many folks have contributed to the team’s success.

Through five postseason games so far, one thing is pretty clear: the Yankees don’t get to Game Five of the ALDS without making that big trade with the White Sox in July. The trade that sent Tyler Clippard and three prospects, most notably 2016 first rounder Blake Rutherford, to Chicago’s south side for Todd Frazier, David Robertson, and Tommy Kahnle. That was a pretty fun night. The news of the trade broke, and we all waited for the games to end so it could be made official. Remember that?

Immediately after the trade, Robertson rejoined the bullpen Circle of Trust™ and Frazier stepped in as the everyday third baseman, pushing Chase Headley to first. Kahnle never really had a set role during the regular season aside from the guy who pitches when the top relievers aren’t available for whatever reason. All three guys helped the Yankees get to the playoffs, and they’ve all contributed in the postseason, especially Robertson and Kahnle.

  • Frazier: Had three hits in ALDS Game Two and also opened the scoring with a double against Trevor Bauer in Game Four on Monday.
  • Kahnle: Five innings of no effs given relief. 15 up, 15 down. That includes 2.1 innings in the Wild Card Game and a two-inning save in ALDS Game Four.
  • Robertson: He’s allowed one run in 5.1 innings so far. Most notably, Robertson threw 3.1 innings of hero ball in the Wild Card Game last week.

When the Yankees acquired Robertson and Kahnle, they brought them in to supplement what was already a strong bullpen … on paper. Chapman struggled basically all year prior to September, and Dellin Betances hasn’t been able to stop walking people. Robertson and Kahnle went from luxury pieces — as if there is such a thing as too many good relievers — too essentials, Robertson in particular.

Frazier is, quite clearly, a flawed hitter. He hits for a low average and pops up a lot — those two things are very related — but he also draws walks and can hit for power, and he improved the third base defense as well. And, on top of that, Frazier has been a Grade-A clubhouse dude. He seems to genuinely love playing in New York and everyone with the team seems to love having him around. Frazier joined the Yankees and fit right in.

To me, the key to the White Sox trade was the fact the Yankees gave up basically nothing off their big league roster. Moving Clippard in the trade was essentially addition by subtraction because he was so bad. These were three immediate upgrades to the roster. Robertson replaced Clippard. Kahnle replaced Chasen Shreve, who was sent to Triple-A. Frazier replaced Ji-Man Choi, who was designated for assignment and eventually sent to Triple-A.

For all intents and purposes, the Yankees turned three revolving door roster spots into quality MLB players with this one trade. They also told the guys who were already here that hey, we believe in you, you’re good enough to win, and we’re going to get you the help we need. First base was a problem, so they got Frazier and moved Headley to first. The bullpen was a problem, so they got two high-strikeout arms. All without moving a player who was helping them win games.

Sure, Rutherford could rebound from his down season and become a future All-Star and No. 3 hitter. Ian Clarkin could develop into a mid-rotation starter and Tito Polo could stick in the league for a decade as a fourth outfielder. There’s always the risk that you’re trading away a quality player(s) and end up regretting up. Every trade is a calculated risk. The Yankees were willing risk Rutherford’s long-term potential for the immediate impact of Frazier, Kahnle, and Robertson, and there’s zero chance they regret it right now.

Keep in mind the big trade with the White Sox was not a pure rental deal. Frazier will be a free agent after the season, but Robertson is under contract next year and Kahnle is under team control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2020. That was part of the appeal. The trade helps now and later. And right now, the three players acquired in the trade are having an impact in the postseason, especially Robertson and Kahnle. This deal is a major reason why the Yankees are one win away from the ALCS.

Revisiting the MLBTR Archives: August 2012

Andruw & Pearce. (Rob Carr/Getty)
Jones & Pearce. (Rob Carr/Getty)

We’re a few weeks into August now, but better late than never, right? It’s time for another edition of our MLBTR Archives series, in which we look back at all the Yankees-related rumors and transactions from five years ago. On the morning of August 1st, 2012, the Yankees were 60-43 and 5.5 games up in the AL East. They had, however, lost nine of their previous 12 games.

The Yankees made two trades at the 2012 trade deadline, adding Ichiro Suzuki and Casey McGehee. They didn’t address their rotation even though CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte had spent time on the disabled list, and others like Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia earned demotions. August transactions are typically small and August rumors are usually retrospective. We usually hear a lot about what could have happened at the deadline rather than what might happen now. Anyway, time to jump back in time to August 2012.

August 1st, 2012: Minor Moves: Jack Cust, Dewayne Wise

The Yankees have also released outfielders Colin Curtis and Ray Kruml according to Collins. The 27-year-old Curtis hit .186/.250/.288 in 64 plate appearances with New York in 2010.

At one point the Yankees had Ray Kruml and Austin Krum in the farm system. Don’t ask me why I remember that. Both have been out of baseball for a while.

Curtis, meanwhile, is best remembered for his mid-at-bat pinch-hit home run a few years back. Brett Gardner was tossed for arguing balls and strikes, Curtis replaced him and inherited an 0-2 count, and socked his only career MLB home run off Scot Shields (!).

The Yankees released Curtis in 2012, he spent the rest of that season in an independent league, and that was that. Out of baseball since. I could have sworn I remember seeing something saying he’s started coaching at the college level, but I can’t seem to find anything now. I could be completely wrong.

August 2nd, 2012: Yankees Designate Ramiro Pena For Assignment

The Yankees have designated Ramiro Pena for assignment according to the transactions page at The move cleared room on the roster for the recently-acquired Casey McGehee.

Rakin’ Ramiro was always a personal fave because he could play the hell out of shortstop, though he couldn’t hit at all. Before getting called up for the first time, his best minor league season was a .266/.330/.357 line with Double-A Trenton in 2008. Pena cleared waivers and went to Triple-A, and has been bouncing around the minors ever since. He actually returned to the big leagues with the Giants last year, hitting .299/.330/.425 in 30 games as bench bat. Who knew? Ramiro is currently hitting .216/.256/.243 in limited time for the Hiroshima Carp in Japan.

August 4th, 2012: West Notes: Giants, Chavez, Dodgers, A’s

Before the trade deadline, the Giants offered Nate Schierholtz to the Yankees in an effort to land veteran Eric Chavez, according to Buster Olney of (via Twitter).  The Giants presumably pursued Chavez prior to acquiring Marco Scutaro, who has been plugged in at third base.  Chavez, 34, is hitting .269/.332/.486 with ten homers on the year.

Interesting! I do not remember this. Chavez was in the middle of a ridiculous season — he hit .281/.348/.496 with 16 home runs in 2012 — and the Yankees couldn’t really afford to trade him because Alex Rodriguez was banged up and they needed the help at third base. The Yankees were a first place team in 2012, remember.

Schierholtz was a personal favorite, so much so that I once wrote a post saying the Yankees should trade for him so he could take over right field once Nick Swisher left as a free agent. Schierholtz hit .257/.321/.407 with 21 home runs for San Francisco in 2012, including .287/.360/.466 against righties. Seemed like a potentially dangerous lefty platoon bat.

The Yankees never did acquire Schierholtz, obviously. The Giants traded him to the Phillies in the Hunter Pence deal at the 2012 trade deadline, then Philadelphia non-tendered him after the season. He bounced from the Cubs to Nationals to the Rangers to the Tigers after that. Detroit released Schierholtz from their Triple-A roster last year and he’s been out of baseball since.

August 13th, 2012: Yankees Sign Derek Lowe

MONDAY: The Yankees have officially announced the signing in a press release and say they will use Lowe out of the bullpen. Their 40-man roster is now full.

Few signings have felt more inevitable over the years. Lowe was terrible for the Indians in 2012, throwing 119 innings with a 5.52 ERA (4.49 FIP), so they released him at midseason. The Yankees needed a long reliever and they’re a sucker for ex-Red Sox players, so they picked him up as soon as Cleveland cut him loose. In his first game as a Yankee, Lowe recorded a four-inning save. You can watch it here. (For whatever reason YouTube embedding is disabled.)

Lowe wound up throwing 23.2 innings with a 3.04 ERA (3.77 FIP) for the Yankees that year. He was on the postseason roster too, though that didn’t go very well (three runs in two innings). Lowe signed with the Rangers after the season, allowed 13 runs in 13 innings in 2013, then got released. He announced his retirement a few weeks later.

August 13th, 2012: Yankees Sign Two Nicaraguan Lefties

The Yankees have signed Nicaraguan left-handers Corby McCoy and Luis Garcia, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America.

Neither McCoy nor Garcia ever made it out of the Dominican Summer League. McCoy threw 91.1 innings with a 4.43 ERA from 2013-16 while Garcia had a 6.27 ERA in 51.2 innings from 2013-14. Nicaragua is not exactly a baseball hotbed — Dennis Martinez is far and away the best of the 14 big leaguers to come from Nicaragua — but teams continue to try to make inroads in the country. It’s a long process. For every Dennis Martinez there are hundreds of Corby McCoys and Luis Garcias.

August 19th, 2012: AL East Notes: Yankees, Red Sox, Hughes

Yankees GM Brian Cashman will soon have to decide where they stand on Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, who are both set to hit free agency after next season, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  When asked about how he views the two long-term, Cashman responded, “That is stuff I can’t answer at this stage. It is a two-way street. It is a negotiation for two sides. So it is all for another day.”

We’re all guilty of this, myself included. We look ahead and try to figure out where a guy fits long-term far earlier than necessary. In 2012, Hughes had a 4.19 ERA (4.56 FIP) in 191.1 innings and looked like a potential keeper. Then he threw 145.2 innings with a 5.19 ERA (4.50 FIP) in 2013 and that was that. There was talk about re-signing Mark Teixeira last year, and look how that turned out. General rule of thumb: unless you’re talking about an elite performer in his prime, don’t worry about re-signing someone until the decision has to be made.

August 21st, 2012: AL East Notes: Pettitte, Torrealba, McClure

Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte hasn’t ruled out the possibility of pitching again in 2013, writes Chad Jennings of the Journal News. “I definitely can’t tell you right now that I would say there’s no way I’m going to play,” Pettitte said. The 40-year-old left-hander, who signed a one-year, $2.5MM minor league contract in March, is currently rehabbing a broken ankle he suffered in late June and hopes to return before the season’s over.

Pettitte did indeed return late in 2012 and he did indeed pitch in 2013. That ankle injury, which was suffered when he was hit by a comebacker, was one of the reasons Pettitte decided to return in 2013. He felt he hadn’t gotten it all out of his system. Pettitte threw 185.1 innings with a 3.74 ERA (107 ERA+) in 2013. Here’s the full list of 35-and-older pitchers who threw 185+ innings with a 107 ERA+ or better in their final seasons within the last half-century:

  • Andy Pettitte: 107 ERA + in 185.1 innings in 2013
  • Mike Mussina: 131 ERA+ in 200.1 innings in 2008

That’s all. The Yankees have had some really impressive farewell seasons recently, huh?

August 27th, 2012: Yankees Acquire Steve Pearce

The Yankees have acquired Steve Pearce from the Astros for cash considerations, the teams announced. Pearce, who played for the Yankees’ Triple-A team earlier this year, will provide New York with a right-handed bat for the final month of the season.

Good ol’ Steve Pearce. I know I’ve written about his 2012 travels several times in previous MLBTR Archives posts, but it’s worth dropping it in here again:

  • March 27th: Released by the Twins.
  • March 29th: Signed minor league deal with the Yankees.
  • June 2nd: Traded to the Orioles for cash.
  • July 28: Claimed off waivers by the Astros.
  • August 27: Traded to the Yankees for cash.
  • September 29: Claimed off waivers by the Orioles.

Pearce played 12 games with the Yankees that season, went 4-for-25 (.160) with a homer, then went to the Orioles. Did he really play 12 games with the Yankees? Seems like ten too many. Pearce has managed to carve out a nice little career for himself since that wild 2012 season. He’s hitting .271/.345/.470 with 12 homers in 77 games for the Blue Jays this year. I was hoping the Yankees would sign him for the Chris Carter role, but alas.

August 27th, 2012: Yankees Designate Brandon Laird For Assignment

The Yankees have designated corner infielder Brandon Laird for assignment, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The move creates roster space for Steve Pearce, who was acquired from the Astros today.

Back when the Yankees didn’t have much of a farm system, Laird was one of their better prospects even though he had questionable plate discipline and wasn’t much of a third base defender. His big year was 2010, when he hit .281/.336/.482 with 25 home runs in 138 games for Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. Laird played eleven games for the Yankees in 2011 and went 4-for-21 (.190) with four singles.

The Yankees dropped Laird from the 40-man roster in 2012, the Astros grabbed him on waivers, and he hit .198/.248/.406 with six homers in 46 games for Houston during their 2012-13 tank seasons. Laird is still active, you know. He’s in his third year as Shohei Otani’s teammate with the Nippon Ham Fighters. He’s hitting .234/.316/.495 with 29 homers this season, and has 102 home runs in three years with the (Ham) Fighters. Hit 39 last year. Huh.

August 28th, 2012: Dodgers Inquired On Sabathia, Teixeira

The Dodgers called the Yankees to inquire about the possibility of trading for CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports. The Yankees told the Dodgers they had no interest in moving either player despite their substantial contracts (four years and $99MM remain on Sabathia’s deal; four years and $90MM remain on Teixeira’s deal).

Now this I remember. This came out three days after the big Dodgers-Red Sox blockbuster that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett (and Nick Punto!) to Los Angeles for salary relief and two pitching prospects that didn’t amount to much (Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa). Apparently the Dodgers asked about Sabathia and Teixeira first, and were told no.

The Yankees and Red Sox were in very different places at the time. The Red Sox were in the middle of a disastrous last place season and looking to unload Gonzalez and Crawford, both of whom had worn out there welcome. The Yankees, meanwhile, were a first place team and both Teixeira (.251/.332/.475 with 24 homers) and especially Sabathia (3.38 ERA and 3.34 FIP) were key contributors.

The Yankees could have freed up a lot of payroll with that trade, assuming Teixeira and Sabathia would’ve agreed to waive their no-trade clauses, which was far from a given. What would they have done with that free cash? I’m not sure. The notable free agents during the 2012-13 offseason: Michael Bourn, Zack Greinke, Josh Hamilton, Edwin Jackson, Anibal Sanchez, Nick Swisher, and B.J. Upton. Only Greinke’s deal worked out.

Given what we know now, yeah, the Yankees should’ve unloaded Teixeira and Sabathia. It was not nearly as clear cut back then. Sabathia was still an ace, Teixeira was still productive, and the Yankees were a bonafide contender. And even if they had unloaded them, I’m not sure 2013-16 would’ve been much better anyway. They could have turned around and spent the money on Hamilton and Jackson, and no thanks.

The Yanks may have claimed Marco Estrada on trade waivers, which could mean a few different things

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

It appears the Yankees may have been a little busy on the trade waiver market the last few days. According to Jon Morosi, Blue Jays right-hander Marco Estrada was claimed on trade waivers recently, and Gideon Turk heard from a source who “implied heavily” the Yankees are the claiming team. For what it’s worth, Chris Cotillo hears the claiming team was an AL East club, so yeah.

Real quick trade waivers primer: players who get claimed can only be traded to the claiming team, and players who go unclaimed can be traded anywhere. Since Estrada has been claimed by someone, the Blue Jays now have 48 hours to either trade him to the claiming team, pull him back and keep him, or dump him on the claiming team as a straight waiver claim. Jon Heyman says Toronto isn’t interested in letting him go, so they’ll likely pull him back.

Estrada, 34, will be a free agent after the season, and so far this year he has a 5.09 ERA (4.54 FIP) in 139.2 innings. That’s not close to the 3.30 ERA (4.28 FIP) he put up from 2015-16. Estrada had been pitching better of late before getting smacked around by the Rays last night (six runs in 4.1 innings). The fact he pitched last night is a pretty good indication the Blue Jays will keep him. They wouldn’t have risked an injury if trade talks were serious. Anyway, let’s talk this Estrada business out, shall we?

1. Why would the Yankees claim him? Two possible reasons, assuming the Yankees were indeed the claiming team. One, they kinda need pitching. They have four starters on the disabled list right now: Masahiro Tanaka (shoulder), CC Sabathia (knee), Michael Pineda (elbow), and Luis Cessa (rib cage). Sabathia is expected back this weekend and Tanaka shortly thereafter, but still. There’s never a bad reason to add pitching depth. Estrada hasn’t pitched well, but he’s familiar with the AL East and that performance means he might’ve come cheap.

And two, the Yankees are blocking another team from getting Estrada. Claiming him on trade waivers means the Blue Jays can’t trade him to any of the Yankees’ top postseason competitors, specifically the Red Sox and all those teams in the wildcard race. Maybe they don’t want him to go to the pitching needy Astros so they don’t have to worry about facing him in October. Estrada making it all the way to the Yankees on trade waivers means all the teams behind them in the wildcard race passed, however. Still, now those teams don’t even have a chance to acquire him. Any clubs that need pitching will have to look elsewhere.

My guess is, if the Yankees did indeed win the claim for Estrada, they made it with the intention of blocking him from going elsewhere. I don’t think they really want him, even with all the pitching injuries. The Red Sox are without David Price for who knows how long, Doug Fister has been getting hit hard, and Eduardo Rodriguez has been on-and-off the disabled list all year. Basically every team in the wildcard race needs a starter too, so yeah. I think the Yankees were making sure Estrada didn’t go to one of their pitching needy competitors. That’s all.

(Bob Levey/Getty)
(Bob Levey/Getty)

2. So much for payroll being “frozen.” Now, that all said, you don’t claim a player on trade waivers unless you’re willing to take on his contract. You have to be prepared in case the other team decides to salary dump the player as a straight waiver claim. It happened to the Yankees with Jose Canseco in 2000. They claimed him to block him from going to the Red Sox and boom, the (Devil) Rays dumped him in their laps as a waiver claim.

Estrada is owed the remainder of his $14.5M salary this season, which works out to roughly $4M or so. For the Yankees to make the waiver claim, they have to be okay with that $4M hitting their payroll. Remember, they pay an extra 50% on every dollar right now due to the luxury tax, so that $4M is really $6M to the Yankees. Hal Steinbrenner has reportedly informed Brian Cashman payroll is “frozen” for the rest of the year, though the Estrada claim would suggest otherwise (ditto the Jay Bruce trade rumors). They’re willing to take on money.

3. Would it make sense to claim other pitchers too? Sure. I mean, it depends on the pitcher, but yeah. The Yankees might’ve been more comfortable claiming Estrada than other pitchers because he’s not that expensive, and because they know he can pitch in the AL East. Other impending free agent pitchers who could be trade waiver targets include, uh, Andrew Cashner and Jhoulys Chacin? Maybe Scott Feldman? There’s not much out there. Estrada is (probably) the best of a bad lot, and if the Yankees did indeed claim him, now no one else can get him.

4. What about claiming other players? Sure, again, and it depends on the player, again. The Yankees could still use another bat, particularly a left-handed hitter, yet they declined to claim Bruce or Curtis Granderson. An infielder who could play second base would be another possible target. A backup catcher? Yeah, that’d work, though the Yankees sure do seem to love Austin Romine. Ultimately, trade waiver claims are made on a case-by-case basis. You don’t just claim every starter because you’re willing to claim Marco Estrada, you know? I’m sure the Yankees will consider every available bat and hey, maybe they’ve claimed a few already.

* * *

The Yankees have not made a significant August trade in several years now — their last notable August deal was getting Chad Gaudin from the Padres for cash in 2009 — and at this point, there’s little reason to expect that to change. They didn’t get Bruce and they’re reportedly uninterested in Granderson. Greg Bird and Starlin Castro are on the mend, and those seem like the bats the Yankees will add for the stretch run.

We don’t know for sure whether the Yankees actually claimed Estrada on trade waivers, but the signs do point in that direction, and it does make sense. They were likely blocking him from going to another team, and if the Blue Jays decided to stick the Yankees with the remainder of his contract, they’d take him because they have four starters on the disabled list. Yeah, the money might be inconvenient, but it’s not a deal breaker. Ultimately, the Blue Jays figure to keep Estrada, and I’m sure that’s what the Yankees expected all along.

Sunday Links: Walker, Best Tools, Bullpen, Food Safety

Random photo is random. (Rich Schultz/Getty)
Random photo is random. (Rich Schultz/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox will wrap up their three-game weekend series with the ESPN Sunday Night Game later today. The game should end sometime Monday morning. Anyway, here are some bits of news and notes to check out.

Yankees, Mets had Walker deal

More Yankees-Mets trade deadline drama. According to Mike Puma, the Yankees and Mets agreed to a Neil Walker trade prior to the trade deadline, but the Yankees backed out due to medical concerns. Puma says the Mets believe the Yankees used the medical concerns as an excuse to back out after finishing the Sonny Gray trade. Hmmm. Walker returned from a partially torn hamstring a few days before the trade deadline and had back surgery late last year.

Walker, 31, was traded to the Brewers last night and is hitting .264/.339/.442 (107 wRC+) with ten home runs in 299 plate appearances this season. Although he’s primarily a second baseman, the Mets also used Walker at first and third bases. He’s an impending free agent and the Yankees would have presumably used Walker at second base until Starlin Castro returned, then shifted him into a utility role. Eh, whatever. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a little sick of this Yankees-Mets drama.

Baseball America’s best tools survey

One of my favorite features of the year is Baseball America’s annual best tools survey. They poll managers and coaches and scouts about the best tools and players in their leagues, from MLB all the way down to Low-A. Here’s where the various Yankees ranked:

Bell, the longtime big leaguer, is in his first season managing High-A Tampa after spending 2013 as the Pirates hitting coach and 2014-15 as the Reds bench coach. I’m curious to see what the Yankees do with him going forward. If Bell is a highly regarded managerial prospect as the survey suggests, either the Yankees are going to have to move him up the ladder, or they’ll lose him to an organization that will move him up.

Also, must be a down year for relievers in the Sally League, huh? Lane, who has since been promoted to High-A Tampa, is a 23-year-old former tenth round pick, and a sinker/slider lefty with middling velocity and a low arm slot. A classic left-on-left matchup profile. He’s got really good numbers this year, throwing 57 innings with a 1.26 ERA (2.26 FIP) and strong strikeout (27.1%) and walk (6.7%) rates. Not sure he’s much of a prospect though.

Yankees top ZiPS bullpen projections

Not surprisingly, the Yankees sit atop the ZiPS bullpen projections for the rest of the season, so says Dan Szymborski. Projections don’t really mean anything, of course. They’re not predictions. They’re more like an estimate of talent level. Anyway, here’s what ZiPS has to say about New York’s new-look bullpen:

Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman was already one of the best, if not THE best, one-two relief punch in baseball. Now you add in David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle, the latter possibly the most underappreciated player acquired this deadline. Even Adam Warren has been lights-out, with a 1.97 ERA/2.69 FIP. Not to mention the team’s remaining big acquisition: Adding the complete absence of Tyler Clippard.

The bullpen before the Robertson/Kahnle trade: 3.39 ERA (3.33 FIP). The bullpen since the Robertson/Kahnle trade: 2.09 ERA (2.64 FIP). That 3.39 ERA (3.33 FIP) before the trade is a little deceiving too, because Jonathan Holder and especially Clippard had become wholly unreliable. They started the season well before crashing hard. The Yankees needed to fix their bullpen at the trade deadline, and they did exactly that. Too bad the starters are all getting hurt and the offense has since gone in the tank.

Yankees lagging in food safety rankings

Earlier this week Tanner Walters, using public inspection records, compiled ballpark food safety rankings. How clean are the facilities, is everything stored properly, so on and so forth. Yankee Stadium ranks 21st among the 28 parks in the rankings (data wasn’t available for Progressive Field or Comerica Park), and ranking 21st among 28 teams seems not good? From Walters:

Yankee Stadium led the league with critical violations (62% of its stands), and an infestation of flies highlighted the inspections from late July in the Bronx. Inspectors handed out citations at over a dozen food entities around the ballpark for observation of flies and improper vermin-proofing. The city doesn’t give detailed observations in its reports, but nearly a quarter of the stadium’s violations came from improper maintenance for non-food surfaces. Last year, even without a fly problem, Yankee Stadium would have finished in the same spot in our rankings. The ballpark had fewer overall violations but more that were critical, mostly from the restaurants and suites.

Kinda gross! Even with recent improvements, the concessions at Yankee Stadium lag big time in quality and selection behind the rest of the league — the concessions at Citi Field are so much better it’s not even funny, and it’s not just Shake Shack — and apparently they’re lacking in cleanliness and proper food safety too. Yuck.

Saturday Links: Jeter, Postseason Schedule, Players Weekend

(Rich Schultz/Getty)
(Rich Schultz/Getty)

The Yankees and Red Sox continue their three-game weekend series with the middle game later today. It’s a 4pm ET start. Here are some links and notes to check out until game time.

Jeter agrees to purchase the Marlins (again)

A few weeks after his agreement to purchase the Marlins with Jeb Bush fell through, Derek Jeter has another deal in place to buy the team, reports Barry Jackson. Jeter teamed up with rich dude Bruce Sherman and several other minority investors (including Michael Jordan) to buy the team. The sale price is $1.2 billion — that’s the second most ever paid for an MLB franchise, behind the $2 billion the Dodgers sold for a few years back — and Jeter is kicking in $25M.

Jackson says Sherman will be the “control person” while Jeter will run the business and baseball sides of the organization, so he’s going to have a lot of responsibility. The sale is not yet final — two other potential Marlins sales have already fallen through this year, so this isn’t a formality — but Jeter and Sherman do have all the money in place and everything else is order. Now MLB needs to give their approval and the other 29 owners have to vote. That’s going to happen at the quarterly owners meetings in October, apparently.

2017 postseason schedule announced

It’s getting to be that time of year. Earlier this week MLB announced the 2017 postseason schedule, and since the Yankees are in the race this year, this information is pretty damn relevant. Much better than being on the outside looking in like three of the last four years. Here is the full postseason schedule and here are the dates potentially relevant to the Yankees:

  • AL Wild Card Game: Tuesday, October 3rd
  • ALDS (both of ’em): Thursday, October 5th through Wednesday, October 11th
  • ALCS: Friday, October 13th through Saturday, October 21st
  • World Series: Tuesday, October 24th through Wednesday, November 1st

The regular season ends Sunday, October 1st, so there’s only one off-day between the end of the regular season and the AL Wild Card Game this year. That could cause some headaches for teams trying to line up their ace for that winner-take-all game. The NL has two off-days between the end of the regular season and the Wild Card Game this year.

Also, homefield advantage in the World Series is no longer decided by the All-Star Game. That’s good. I hated that. (Even though the AL won this year.) Now homefield advantage will go to the pennant-winner with the best regular season record. That’s how it should be, I think.

MLB releases Players Weekend jerseys

A few weeks ago MLB announced that, later this month, the first (annual?) Players Weekend will be held from August 25th to the 27th. The Yankees will be home playing the Mariners that weekend. Teams will wear unique uniforms (hats, jerseys, socks, etc.) and the players will be allowed to wear nicknames on the backs of their jerseys. It’s pretty awesome. Here are the Yankees:


This is so great. All-Starlin! A-A-Ron! Head and Toe! Aaron Judge told Erik Boland he was originally planning to put “AJ” or “Judge” on his jersey, but Todd Frazier talked him into All Rise, so here we are. Love Judge, but he could use a little more personality. Maybe pimp a homer every once in a while. (Looking at you too, Brett Gardner. “Gardner” on the jersey? Really?)

Anyway, as someone who may or may not have already purchased KRAKEN 24 and SIR DIDI 18 shirts, I love this whole Players Weekend idea. It’s fun. Baseball’s supposed to be fun. I couldn’t be any more tired of hearing about tradition and the way things have always been. Give me Players Weekend, The Judge’s Chambers, Clint Frazier‘s bright red hair, finger points into the dugout, give me all of it.

Yankees have not pursued Granderson

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees have not pursued Curtis Granderson this month. He cleared trade waivers last week. The Yankees did try to acquire Jay Bruce from the Mets a few days ago, though that didn’t work out because the Mets wanted full salary relief. Granderson, like Bruce, is a left-handed power hitter, but he can only play the outfield. Bruce has some first base experience.

Granderson, 36, is in the final season of his four-year, $60M contract. He’s making $15M this year and it stands to reason the Mets will look to unload his salary at some point. Granderson is hitting .221/.327/.452 (105 wRC+) with 16 home runs overall this season, but since May 1st, he’s put up a .261/.384/.548 (143 wRC+) batting line with 15 of those 16 homers. The Yankees have an opening at designated hitter and could really use another lefty power bat, which Granderson would provide. Doesn’t sound like it’s going to happen though.