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.)

Michael Pineda: Flashes of promise before Tommy John surgery [2017 Season Review]

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

Going into the 2017 season, Michael Pineda had one year left on his contract and had an opportunity to earn himself a lot of money with a strong year. Even if he maintained his previous performance, his high strikeout and low walk rates likely would have convinced a team to give him a significant multi-year deal.

But unfortunately, his season is the story of what can go wrong, even with his numbers improving.

Near-perfect opener

The Yankees have had a wide array of pitchers start their home opener in recent years. You have the aces like Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia. You have the duds who take the ball due to injuries like Carl Pavano. Somewhere in the middle is Pineda.

He was coming off a weak start in Tampa Bay and was facing the exact same Rays squad. The Yankees had received almost exclusively mediocre starting pitching through their first six games and their 2-4 record reflected the so-so expectations for the team going into the season.

And with all that, Pineda came out and damn near threw a perfect game. He recorded 20 straight outs to start the game before an Evan Longoria double broke things up.

Before October, it may have been the loudest Yankee Stadium got this season. The crowd was into Pineda’s game. Really into it. Martha Stewart got into it, too. Clapping for strike three, applauding him after each inning and then handing him a standing ovation after the first hit.

It goes without saying, but it was the best Pineda has looked in pinstripes. Even better than the 16 strikeout game against the Orioles. He had supreme command of both his fastball and slider and rode them hard for 7.2 innings. He gave up two hits, but the last one, a Logan Morrison solo home run, effectively knocked him out of the game.

The win was the second of seven straight for the Bombers and kicked off a tremendous start to the year for Pineda.

Promising couple months

While Opening Day was his best outing of the season, it wasn’t unique for Pineda’s start to 2017. It’s easy to forget after he missed the second half, but he was one of their best pitchers for the first two months.

Six of his first 10 starts were quality starts. No more than four earned runs in any of the 10 games, three earned or fewer in nine of 10. At the end of May, he had a 3.32 ERA and looked the part of it. He hadn’t allowed more than six hits in an outing since his Apr. 5 game vs. Tampa Bay and had gone six innings or more in eight of his starts.

His home run issues were popping up again. He’d allowed long balls in eight of his first 10 outings and gave up six in five May starts. Perhaps part of his success was fool’s gold as nine of his 11 homers were solo shots and other two came with only one man on base. Still, with an elevated strikeout rate and the home run environment around baseball, there was room for optimism that he’d returned to his 2012/2014 form.

Some duds and an injury

Things took a turn in June. Pineda allowed five or more runs in four of his final seven starts. Nine homers in that span. His strikeout rate dipped and his walk rate rose.

And the hits went way up. Pineda’s first 59.2 IP of the year: 50 hits. Last 36.2: 53. Batters hit .335/.365/.538 off him in that span. Once the calendar had flipped from May, it appeared that hitters were taking the ball off a tee from him.

He still somehow beat the AL Champs in Houston, albeit with plenty of hard contact not falling in, while pitching a superb game against Boston. But the Angels, Rangers and Blue Jays got to him in abundance.

Pineda’s season came to an end when he allowed five runs (three homers) in three innings against the Blue Jays on July 5. Reports came soon after that he would undergo Tommy John surgery, which ended his season. It’s unclear how much his late-season performance was a result of his elbow injury and how much was worse pitching. Guess we’ll never know, but I bet at least some of it was. It’s tough to maintain consistency with your elbow hurting.

Pineda finished his season with a 4.39 ERA, 1.9 home runs per nine and a 4.38 K/BB rate. Basically, a typical Pineda line. But for a second there, it looked like we’d get something different.

2018 Outlook

Hitting free agency right after undergoing Tommy John surgery is never an ideal scenario. Pineda is likely looking for a two-year deal, perhaps with the second year being an option. If he’d continued his first couple months, his always promising peripherals would have led to tens of millions on the free agent market. Some team would have bet on him keeping it up. Instead, he’ll have to settle for a deal worth less than $10 million perhaps.

With the Yankees contending in 2018 and looking to get under the luxury tax, Pineda’s time with the Yankees is almost certainly over. Assuming he doesn’t return (or go back to Seattle), all four players in the Michael Pineda-Jesus Montero deal will no longer be in the Yankees or Mariners systems. What a strange ride it’s been since that trade.

The qualifying offer will be set at $18M this offseason, which doesn’t mean much to the Yankees

(Stephen Brashear/Getty)
(Stephen Brashear/Getty)

According to Buster Olney, teams have been informed the qualifying offer will be worth approximately $18M this offseason, possibly $18.1M. In that range. The qualifying offer is a one-year deal set at the average of the top 125 salaries in baseball. Make a free agent the qualifying offer, and you get a draft pick when he leaves. Simple as that.

For the Yankees this year, the qualifying offer is essentially meaningless. Not one of their impending free agents is a qualifying offer candidate. Here’s the list:

CC Sabathia
Matt Holliday
Todd Frazier (not eligible for the qualifying offer because he was traded at midseason)
Michael Pineda

That’s it. Pineda blew out his elbow earlier this month and needed Tommy John surgery, and since he’s going to spend just about all of next season rehabbing, there’s no reason to make him the qualifying offer. Right now Pineda is looking at a little one or two-year “rehab and prove yourself” contract a la Nathan Eovaldi last year. He’d accept the qualifying offer in a heartbeat. I’m not sure the Yankees would have made Pineda the qualifying offer even before his elbow game out.

The Yankees could very well have interest in retaining Sabathia beyond this season, though not at an $18M salary. Bartolo Colon signed a one-year deal worth $12.5M last winter. That’s probably Sabathia’s price range. Not $18M. Holliday is on a one-year deal worth $13M this year. Make him the qualifying offer and he’d take it. Frazier and any other rental the Yankees bring aboard isn’t eligible for the qualifying offer. All pretty simple, right? Right.

That all said, the Yankees do have one qualifying offer candidate this year: Masahiro Tanaka. If he opts out after the season, the Yankees could and should make him the qualifying offer. Tanaka would be walking away from three years and $67M by opting out. He’s not going to accept a one-year deal worth $18M. And you know what? Even if he did take the qualifying offer for some weird reason, good! I’d take him back on a one-year deal in a heartbeat.

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement changed the free agent compensation rules pretty dramatically. All first round picks are protected now, and what you give up to sign a qualified free agent and what you receive when you lose a qualified free agent are tied to your team’s payroll. Here’s the bucket the Yankees fall into this coming winter:

  • Sign a qualified free agent: Forfeit second and fifth highest draft picks, plus $1M in international bonus money.
  • Lose a qualified free agent: Receive a compensation draft pick after the fourth round.

It’s pretty straightforward for the Yankees because they’re going to pay luxury tax this year. Things are much more complicated for teams that do not pay luxury tax. That’s where the Yankees hope to be next season, under the luxury tax threshold. So, if Tanaka does opt-out and reject the qualifying offer, the Yankees would get a dinky draft pick after the fourth round. Not much, but better than nothing.

Game 92: Stay in Postseason Position

The last 30 games in picture form. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
The last 30 games in picture form. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Here is the very simple math: with a loss tonight, the Yankees will fall out of postseason position for the first time since April 13th, the day of the ninth game of the season. The Yankees are 9-21 in their last 30 games — that’s their worst 30-game stretch since going 8-22 in late-May/early-June of 1995 — and the Twins are a half-game back of the second wildcard spot. A loss tonight means the Twins will be a half-game up.

The Yankees are in the middle of a collapse. It would feel a heck of a lot worse if it were happening in September, but it’s a collapse. Over the last 30 games they’ve gone from four games up in the division to barely hanging on to the second wild card spot. Every day it seems something new goes wrong. One day it’s the offense. The next day the bullpen melts down. The day after that the starter gets rocked. This is as ugly a stretch of baseball as I can remember. Find a way to squeeze out a win tonight and go from there. Here is the Twins’ lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. LF Clint Frazier
  7. 3B Chase Headley
  8. 1B Garrett Cooper
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    RHP Luis Cessa

It rained in Minneapolis for much of the afternoon, though it’s supposed to stop in time for the game. There is no more wet stuff coming tonight either, so once they get this one started, they should have no trouble finishing it. Tonight’s game will begin at 8:10pm ET and you can watch on WPIX locally and ESPN nationally. Try to enjoy the game.

Roster Move: Bryan Mitchell was sent down to get Cessa on the roster, the Yankees announced. I thought maybe they’d send down Caleb Smith instead, but nope. Smith remains. The middle innings lefty role is a land of opportunity right now.

Injury Updates: As expected, Michael Pineda (Tommy John surgery) and Greg Bird (ankle) had their surgeries today. Everything went fine. Bird released a statement saying he intends to play again this year. You can read it here.

Update: Michael Pineda will have Tommy John surgery

(Brian Blanco/Getty)
(Brian Blanco/Getty)

Monday: Pineda will indeed have Tommy John surgery, the Yankees announced. He was examined today by Reds team doctor Dr. Timothy Kremchek, who agreed with the initial diagnosis and recommended surgery. Pineda will go under the knife tomorrow. Kremchek will perform the procedure in Cincinnati.

Friday: The rotation situation just got a little more dire. Brian Cashman announced this morning that Michael Pineda has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow and Tommy John surgery has been recommended. He is going for a second opinion, which every pitcher does in this situation. Either way, Pineda’s season figures to be over.

This is the second straight year the Yankees have lost a starting pitcher to a blown out elbow in the second half. Last year Nathan Eovaldi shredded his elbow in August and needed his second career Tommy John surgery. I suppose the silver lining here is the timing. The Yankees still have time to act before the trade deadline. They didn’t with Eovaldi.

Pineda, 28, started his Yankees career with a major injury (shoulder surgery) and seems likely to end it with another major injury (Tommy John surgery). He is due to become a free agent after the season and the timing of this injury is just terrible for him. It’s going to cost him millions. He’s looking at a short-term “rehab and prove yourself” deal now.

Since coming over from the Mariners, Pineda has thrown 509 innings with a 4.16 ERA (3.65 FIP) for the Yankees. That includes a 4.39 ERA (4.65 FIP) in 96.1 innings this season. The Yankees came out ahead in the trade because Jesus Montero was so awful for Seattle, though Pineda never did become the top of the rotation force they envisioned.

As for the rotation going forward, Cashman said Luis Cessa will make a start next week and Chance Adams is an option as well. I imagine pitching well in Sunday’s doubleheader would buy Bryan Mitchell another shot too. Pineda hasn’t been great, but losing pitching is never good. I feel terrible for the guy considering the timing too. We’ll always have those strike ’em outs, Big Mike.

Game 89: Let’s Play Two

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Between yesterday’s 16-inning affair and today’s doubleheader, the Yankees and Red Sox are going to play (at least) 34 innings of baseball in about 34 hours this weekend. Pretty crazy that the All-Star break ended three days ago and the pitching staff is already overworked. Baseball can be a real jerk like that sometimes.

Anyway, the Yankees are an Aroldis Chapman blown save away from winning the first two games of this series, but that cuts both ways. The Red Sox are a Craig Kimbrel blown save away from winning the first two. As poorly as the Yankees have played these last few weeks, these two teams always seem to be evenly matched when they meet. It’s weird but also kinda fun and puke inducing. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup for Game One:

  1. CF Brett Gardner
  2. 3B Chase Headley
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. LF Clint Frazier
  7. C Austin Romine
  8. 1B Ji-Man Choi
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP CC Sabathia

It is a lovely day for two games in Boston. Nice and sunny with temperatures right around 80. Not a bad day to spend 18 innings at the park. This afternoon’s game will begin shortly after 1pm ET. You’ll be able to watch on YES locally and TBS nationally. Enjoy the game.

Roster Moves: As expected, the Yankees have reinforced the bullpen for today’s doubleheader. Bryan Mitchell is up as the 26th man, and both Domingo German and Caleb Smith have been called up as well. Jonathan Holder and Ben Heller have been sent down. Joe Girardi said they might make more moves between games depending how things go. Neither Holder nor Heller deserve to be sent down after last night’s performances, but that’s the way it goes with young relievers. Michael Pineda (elbow) was transferred to the 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot for Smith, who will be the 12th player to make his MLB debut with the Yankees this season whenever he gets into a game.

Game 87: The Start of the Second Half

(Presswire)
(Presswire)

Welcome to the first day of the rest of the season. The All-Star break is over and we’re officially into the dog days of summer. The Yankees begin a four-game set with the Red Sox in Fenway Park tonight. Best case scenario is they leave this series with a half-game lead in the AL East. Worst case scenario is they leave 7.5 games back. A few too many things have been playing out to the worst case scenario for my liking lately.

The Yankees return from the All-Star break with a 45-41 record and a healthy +98 run differential, though they’re also 7-18 in their last 25 games, which is pretty darn awful. They haven’t won a series or back-to-back games or more than a month now. Hopefully everyone got their heads clear during the break and the second half serves as a fresh start. The Yankees could really use one. Here is the Red Sox’s lineup and here is the Yankees’ lineup:

  1. LF Brett Gardner
  2. C Gary Sanchez
  3. RF Aaron Judge
  4. DH Matt Holliday
  5. SS Didi Gregorius
  6. 1B Garrett Cooper
  7. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
  8. 3B Chase Headley
  9. 2B Ronald Torreyes
    LHP Jordan Montgomery

It is cloudy, cool, and humid in Boston this evening. There is rain in the forecast, though not until later tonight. It shouldn’t be a problem unless the game goes to extra innings or something. Tonight’s game will begin at 7:10pm ET and you can watch on YES locally and MLB Network nationally. Enjoy the game.

Injury Updates: In case you missed it earlier, Michael Pineda has a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament and Tommy John surgery has been recommended. He will get a second opinion first … Greg Bird (ankle) has been diagnosed with inflammation in his os trigonum, which is essentially an extra bone in his ankle. He received another cortisone shot, and if that doesn’t work, he may need surgery. The surgery comes with a 6-8 week rehab timetable, meaning he could be back for September … Starlin Castro (hamstring) will play another minor league rehab game tonight, and could return as soon as tomorrow depending how he feels.

Roster Moves: Welcome back, Matt Holliday and Jordan Montgomery. Holliday (illness) was activated off the disabled list and Montgomery was called back up. He didn’t even miss a start … Pineda was placed on the 10-day DL, allowing the Montgomery to return before his ten days in the minors were up … Rob Refsnyder was sent down to clear a roster spot for Holliday … welcome to the big leagues, Garrett Cooper. He’s been added to the roster following yesterday’s trade. He essentially takes Tyler Webb‘s 25-man and 40-man roster spots. This will be Cooper’s MLB debut. Next time the Yankees need a 40-man spot, they’ll slide Pineda to the 60-day DL.