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Pablo Sandoval is playing out his age-27 season as one of the game’s better third basemen. Barring a last-minute run at an extension, he will enter the open market as one of the most desirable position players available. Though he doesn’t provide as much value at the plate as he did in the earlier part of his career, and is a below-average baserunner, Sandoval has produced consistently at a well-above-average rate with the bat and the glove. (And did I mention that he just turned 28 a little over a month ago?) Of course, he comes with questions of conditioning, though Sandoval reported in good shape this spring and has seemingly carried that positive vibe through the season. He should have a number of suitors awaiting him if he tests the market.
With a seller’s market awaiting him, it is hard to see Sandoval taking any sort of discount to re-up with San Francisco. But the club kept Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum off the market with late-breaking extensions last year, and GM Brian Sabean has recently given expression to the club’s oft-noted penchant for retaining its own players. (Of course, he also noted that difficult decisions will need to be made, and added that payroll will be an issue.) Sandoval is a highly marketable player for a large-market team that lacks an obvious replacement. He has spent his entire career with the Giants, and there are plenty of reasons to think that the Giants will look to make a run at him (whether through an extension or via free agency).
So, the question is simple: will Sandoval be back in San Francisco next year, or will he find a new home?
It’s been a quiet day on the transactional front, so a poll seems in order. Looking ahead at free agency, one of the more interesting situations involves the Orioles’ crop of pending free agents. The club has several key pieces of the lineup set to reach the open market: Nick Markakis, Nelson Cruz, and J.J. Hardy. But the question remains whether some or all will receive qualifying offers.
MLBTR’s Steve Adams took a look at Markakis as a possible free agent back in May, noting that the 30-year-old’s hot start could lead to a significant turnaround in value. While he has not maintained that pace, Markakis has put up a .278/.339/.387 slash that constitutes better-than league-average production. Defensive metrics are not in love with his glove, but credit him with improvements over recent seasons. Also aiding Markakis as he looks ahead to a new deal is the fact that the upcoming free agent market appears rather thin in the corner outfield, especially in younger options. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently suggested, the club could pay him a $2MM buyout on his $17.5MM mutual option but still make him the QO.
Cruz, meanwhile, has done nothing but rake since joining the O’s on a one-year, $8MM pact. That deal cost the club a compensation pick, but looks like a bargain in hindsight. Cruz leads the league with 39 long balls and has slashed a robust .262/.331/.532 triple-slash in 596 plate appearances. But looking forward, he is 34 years old and is a limited defensive player (though he has rated out as an approximately average corner outfielder in limited action this year). On the other hand, even if Baltimore would rather not pay Cruz $15MM next year, might the qualifying offer be worth it? Having missed his chance to cash in on a multi-year deal last year, Cruz could well be motivated to take another crack at a player’s market. And if he does take the offer, that seems an attractive-enough rate for a single season commitment.
Then there is Hardy, who is quite an interesting player in his own right. The shortstop continues to create immense value with the glove while delivering league-average offense. Though his power numbers have taken a big step back this year, Hardy has managed to compensate with a higher batting average and on-base percentage. (Though he has ridden a career-high .332 BABIP, Hardy has also raised his line-drive percentage this year.) All said, the 32-year-old is almost certainly the best shortstop on the upcoming market, if one views Hanley Ramirez as a third baseman at this point. Just look at these current season, three-year, and five-year comparisons to fellow soon-to-be free agents Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Stephen Drew. It still seems somewhat hard to imagine that Baltimore will let him reach the open market without restriction, especially given that the long-anticipated move of Manny Machado to shortstop could once again be delayed (and would, in any event, simply open a hole at the hot corner).
So, which players are likely to receive a qualifying offer from the O’s? (Select all that apply.)
Though trades completed after the expiration of the non-waiver period generally lack the marquee appeal of their predecessors, August swaps can have wide-ranging impact — as the blockbuster of 2012 amply illustrates. This year, most of the heavy lifting was done during July, but that doesn’t mean that the more recent set of trades (and straight waiver claims) will go without meaning.
So, MLBTR readers: which of the following dozen players will, in your opinion, be the most impactful addition for their new club? (Players listed in alphabetical order by last name, randomized in poll; links go to the relevant transaction.)
Gordon Beckham, INF, Angels — Beckham has not hit well this year — or, really, for much of his career — but is just 27 and can play around the diamond.
Jonathan Broxton, RP, Brewers — One of the game’s most effective set-up men this year, Broxton will be Milwaukee’s for 2015 as well, at a $9MM price tag.
Kevin Correia, SP, Dodgers – Injury flare-ups created a need for innings, but Los Angeles decided to add at the back of the rotation rather than giving up top youngsters.
Alejandro De Aza, OF, Orioles – Though he has had a down year, De Aza appears to be a solid reserve piece and comes with control for next year (though he is a possible non-tender).
Adam Dunn, DH, Athletics — Dunn can still mash, especially against righties, and his bat will be nice to have handy in a now-likely play-in game.
Roberto Hernandez, SP, Dodgers — See above re Correia.
Kelly Johnson, INF, Orioles — With Manny Machado down for the year and second base still a weakness, Johnson is an obvious fit.
Josh Outman, RP, Yankees — Apparently missing Thornton somewhat, New York added the lefty-killer and will have the chance to control him for 2015.
Geovany Soto, C, Athletics — Catcher didn’t seem likely to become a need for Oakland, but Soto could be a good get to plug a late-arising hole.
Matt Thornton, RP, Nationals — Thornton represented the lefty specialist that Washington wanted, and he has been lights out since being nabbed.
Jacob Turner, SP, Cubs — The only non-contender acquisition on this list came about when the Marlins tired of waiting for the 23-year-old’s promise, and his lack of options required an ill-timed DFA.
Josh Willingham, OF, Royals — After a quiet non-waiver deadline, Kansas City made its move to add the still-productive veteran hitter.
We’ve heard a lot of reports recently on Cuban outfielder/infielder Rusney Castillo, who drew most every team in baseball to a showcase before embarking on a series of individual workouts. It remains to be seen, of course, just how good Castillo will be at the major league level. But scouting reports have ranged from solid to fairly glowing (being compared to Ron Gant, for example, is not faint praise).
Rumor has it that, having shown some big tools in his showcase, Castillo could land as much as $50MM in a six-year deal. On top of his ability, Castillo’s appeal lies in the fact that he is expected to be ready for an MLB roster spot virtually right out of the gate and that teams can acquire prime years without sacrificing draft compensation or young talent. That is hardly unprecedented — just this winter, the same was true of Jose Abreu — but Castillo holds special intrigue since he could have near-immediate impact on a postseason race. (Of course, as Joel Sherman recently noted, quick visa work will be necessary to make that possible.)
For those reasons, there is no shortage of plausible landing spots for Castillo. Looking back through the MLBTR archives, 11 teams have been connected with him in some manner beyond simply attending the showcase. (The Orioles and Twins were also said to have interest, but not at his expected price tag.) Ben Badler provides a breakdown of some of the possible fits here. So, will Castillo sign with one of those clubs, or will a mystery team emerge?
Major League Baseball owners yesterday elected MLB COO Rob Manfred as the successor to Bud Selig and next commissioner of baseball. While Manfred’s vote technically passed unanimously, there was a pronounced split for much of the day. Reportedly, 22 of the 30 teams were in favor of Manfred for much of the day, but it took quite some time for a 23rd team — said by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports to be the Nationals — to give Manfred the final vote he required. At that point, the remaining seven teams altered their vote as “an olive branch for posterity” (to use the words of the L.A. Times’ Bill Shaikin), knowing that their preferred candidate had no chance to win anyhow.
That preferred candidate was Red Sox chairman Tom Werner, although Werner wasn’t the only other finalist to give a presentation to owners yesterday. Joining Werner and Manfred was MLB executive vice president of business Tim Brosnan, though he appeared to be the first of the three to withdraw from consideration.
All three had their merits. Manfred has resided over labor negotiations and can boast 19 years of peace between MLB and the MLBPA, and he also has worked tirelessly to implement the current drug testing system in addition to spearheading last year’s Biogenesis investigation. Werner, whose background was in television before jumping to the baseball world, was believed by his supporters to possess the necessary knowledge to bolster MLB’s television ratings and revitalize interest in baseball among the youth of the United States and Canada. Brosnan’s business acumen was his strongest selling point, though he looked to be a distant third place behind his competitors not long after the announcement of the three finalists. (Of course, all three had their flaws as well, and MLBTR readers can get a brief rundown of each candidate in this piece from USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.)
Prior to the announcement of the three finalists, other candidates for the position had included Giants president Larry Baer, Disney chief executive Bob Iger, Braves chairman Terry McGuirk, Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman and former Yale University president Richard C. Levin.
Manfred has long been rumored to be the preferred successor of retiring commissioner Bud Selig, and in the end, the seemingly likeliest option wound up getting the nod. Manfred will become just the 10th commissioner of the league and presumably will hold this post for a considerable amount of time. Should baseball fans be happy about the outcome of the election? Let’s find out how the MLBTR universe feels…
Players will change hands in August, but the path to a deal is trickier. Last year, the names moved included established big leaguers like Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, Justin Morneau, David DeJesus, Kurt Suzuki, Michael Morse, and John Axford.
The Phillies have fielded a good bit of criticism from those (myself included) who feel that the team has lacked a strategy for divesting themselves of some aging veterans and beginning to move the club forward. But, it is equally clear that the team should have ample opportunity to put together deals over the coming month. Though the players available to be brought back in return could potentially be somewhat limited by the August trade rules, that is less of a barrier for the younger talent that Philly will likely pursue. And perhaps the team will find itself with a bit more leverage relative to the rest of the market since it still holds all its chips (and since injuries or other developments can always intervene to increase need).
Philadelphia has reportedly already sought waivers on essentially all of the veterans that it could consider dealing. It seems likely that most will clear waivers completely, and even those that might not (e.g., Cole Hamels) could be claimed by teams that would be interested in realistically discussing a trade. Even after his injury took Cliff Lee out of the running, the club has plenty of pieces that would be great adds for contenders — if they can navigate the tricky vesting clauses, buyouts, and no-trade provisions that lie within many players’ contracts.
I thought it would be interesting to gauge the sentiment of MLBTR readers as to how active embattled Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will be in the weeks to come. Will he surprise everyone and aggressively move several players? Or continue to hold onto his veterans unless he is overwhelmed by an offer?
Your options for filling out the poll (honor system applies!):
1) Select “No Player Will Be Traded”
— OR –
2) Select One Or More Player(s) Who You Think Are Likely To Be Traded
This just had to happen. Yesterday’s deals not only changed the context for earlier summer trades, but reshaped rosters around the game. For purposes of this poll, let’s focus on the teams that were looking to upgrade their current MLB roster.
Here are the moves that contenders made yesterday, by team:
- Tigers get David Price; give up Drew Smyly, Austin Jackson, Willy Adames
- Mariners get Austin Jackson, Chris Denorfia; give up Nick Franklin, Abraham Almonte, Stephen Kohlscheen
- Marlins acquire Jarred Cosart, Enrique Hernandez, and Austin Wates; give up Colin Moran, Jake Marisnick, Francis Martes, and comp draft pick
- Braves get James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio; give up Victor Caratini
- Yankees get Martin Prado, Stephen Drew; give up Peter O’Brien, Kelly Johnson
- Nationals get Asdrubal Cabrera; give up Zach Walters
- Orioles get Andrew Miller; give up Eduardo Rodriguez
- Athletics get Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes, Sam Fuld; give up Yoenis Cespedes, comp draft pick, Tommy Milone
- Cardinals get John Lackey, Corey Littrell; give up Joe Kelly, Allen Craig
- Brewers get Gerardo Parra; give up Mitch Haniger and Anthony Banda
So, which of these teams made the wisest addition(s) yesterday, given team need and the price they paid?
In what’s becoming a bit of a tradition on these slow Saturday nights, let’s take a break from the inaction to consider which All-Stars might find themselves in a new home between now and the end of August. I see no reason to restrict our attention to only the non-waiver trade deadline. We’ve already seen one All-Star – former Cubs starter Jeff Samardzija – traded.
For this exercise, I’ve included most players from the basement teams. I’ve left out a few like Yu Darvish, Starlin Castro, and Anthony Rizzo since they seem to be part of their club’s long term plans. We’re left with a nine player list. Please select all candidates you believe will be dealt or pick the “none” option if you think everyone will stay put.
David Price – TAM: The Rays top starter has been the elephant in the room since the previous trade deadline. Now may be the best time for the Rays to deal Price – his value will diminish as he approaches free agency. The 28-year-old is club controlled through 2015. Given the price paid by the Athletics for Samardzija, the Rays will want a top prospect like Addison Russell included in any deal.
Tampa Bay is still trying to claw their way back into the AL East (10.5 games out of first) and Wild Card race. They also figure to contend next season, so they could opt to hang onto their star. For his part, Price is trying to firewall his teammates from the rumors.
Kurt Suzuki – MIN: With few catchers on the trade block, Suzuki should receive plenty of attention. The 30-year-old backstop has never drawn rave reviews on his defense. He’s a bit undersized for a catcher, and it’s been hypothesized that his short stature affects his ability to frame pitches. Per StatCorner’s Catcher Report Suzuki has ranked last defensively (many catchers have been worse on a per innings basis).
It’s Suzuki’s bat that has brought him to the Midsummer Classic. Suzuki performed decently at the plate over his first three major league seasons before sliding into obscurity over four seasons. He signed a one-year, $2.75MM deal with the Twins for the 2014. The Cardinals and Orioles are liable to be most interested since both teams have lost their star backstop but don’t need a replacement beyond the 2014 season.
Adrian Beltre – TEX: Rangers manager Ron Washington told Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports that Beltre was absolutely not available. Considering the star third baseman is 35 years old, the Rangers may want to rethink that position. It comes down to a basic question, will Texas rebuild or retool for a 2015 run? If competing in 2015 is seen as a long shot, then the club should maximize their return on Beltre. He’s signed through 2015 with a voidable option for 2016 based on plate appearances.
Alexei Ramirez – CWS: Ramirez has provided adequate offense and defense at the hardest position on the diamond since coming over to the White Sox from Cuba. The 32-year-old is signed through 2015 with a $10MM club option ($1MM buyout) for 2016. Several contenders could use middle infield help, including the Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers, Athletics, Mariners, Reds, and Giants.
Koji Uehara – BOS: The latest rumor has the Red Sox hoping to retain Uehara through 2015. He’s only signed through the end of this season, so that would require a one year extension – potentially via a qualifying offer. If the club instead decides to cash in on the Japanese veteran, they’ll need to wade into a well-supplied reliever market. It could be hard to get enough of a return to make a trade worthwhile. However, Uehara would be the top closer available, which could push a team like the Tigers to focus their attention.
Chase Utley – PHI: The fringe hall of famer has temporarily put concerns about his knee to rest. His power is definitely in decline, but he remains a useful hitter with a 122 wRC+. Ever since 2005, he’s quietly been one of the best defensive second baseman per Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR). The 35-year-old has full no-trade protection, and he’s hinted he would use it to remain with the Phillies. As such, our speculation could be moot.
Troy Tulowitzki – COL: Tulo could find himself a frequent guest of the MLBTR pages over the next couple weeks. The 29-year-old MVP candidate is signed through 2020. He’s guaranteed roughly $124MM including a $4MM buyout on the 2021 season ($15MM club option). According to Jon Heyman, he gave his “subtle blessing” for a trade. In public comments, he’s also played up his desire to play on a winning team without coming right out to say he would welcome a trade. For his part, Rockies owner Dick Monfort would like to keep Tulowitzki.
Miguel Montero – ARI: The Diamondbacks are expected to deal a lot of pieces over the trade season, but Montero probably won’t be one of them. Montero, who turned 31 three days ago, has bounced back from a disappointing 2013 season. He’s signed through 2017 for roughly $44MM.
Montero has turned in a solid offensive season as the club’s regular cleanup hitter, although he remains impotent against left-handed pitching. The same defensive metrics that rank Suzuki worst in baseball consider Montero to be the best, which could make him a potential long term solution for a team like the Blue Jays.
Daniel Murphy – NYM: The Mets have reportedly held no fresh negotiations involving Murphy. The 29-year-old second baseman is club controlled through 2015. While he hits for a high batting average, he doesn’t reach base enough to be an ideal top of the order batter, nor does he feature the power of a prototypical RBI man. His offensive profile, coupled with tepid reviews of his defense could account for the lack of related trade rumors. He’s posted 2.7 fWAR this season, so he’s valuable even if it comes in an atypical package.
With the calendar approaching July, trade deadline rumors will soon begin to convert into actual deals. Last season, the first bullet – at least the first to include a starting pitcher – was fired on July 2nd, when the Cubs dealt Scott Feldman to the Orioles. With two notable assets, the Cubs are once again in position to strike first blood. However, they aren’t the only club with a pitcher on the market.
Plenty of teams would like to a starter. Earlier today, Yankees GM Brian Cashman mentioned a desire to acquire a pitcher in the next few weeks, according to Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. Virtually every contender could benefit from an additional starter. While needs vary by team, the market has the full gamut of options available.
David Price, Rays, 3.63 ERA, 2.99 FIP, 10.45 K/9, 1.02 BB/9: By ERA, Price is having one of the worst seasons of his career. Based on his peripherals, he’s having a career year. Most teams employ a fully realized analytics department, so don’t be surprised if they are comfortable buying Price’s elite command and control profile. The 28-year-old is club controlled through 2015, so he’ll be especially appealing to teams that see themselves as contenders next season. Alternatively, he could make an interesting asset to re-trade, like Cliff Lee circa 2009.
Jon Lester, Red Sox, 3.14 ERA, 2.84 FIP, 9.25 K/9, 2.29 BB/9: Lester, 30, is in the midst of his finest season. He’s a free agent at the end of the 2014, and as Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hypothesized, he’ll probably refuse to open negotiations until after the season. The Sox may decide it’s time to cash in on Lester and open a spot in the rotation for Rubby De La Rosa. Lester should be most appealing to teams that want to go all in this season.
Cliff Lee, Phillies, 3.18 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 8.07 K/9, 1.19 BB/9: The dark horse in this particular competition, Lee is currently on the disabled list with an elbow injury. He’s on pace to return sometime around the All Star break. Any club would be happy to acquire the ace – his contract is another matter. He’s owed the balance of $25MM this season, another $25MM next season, and he has a $27.5MM club option for 2016 that vests with 200 innings thrown in 2015. Given his recent injury and cost, the Phillies can’t hope to receive much in return. Unless they’re facing a budget crunch, they might be better off trading him at a later date. He may be available in August.
Bartolo Colon, Mets, 3.67 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 6.88 ERA, 1.25 FIP: Those who wander the dark corners of the internet may have seen rumors of Colon’s availability. The premise is simple: the Mets are in a position to sell and Colon is a 41-year-old veteran who isn’t helping the team win today. The reason he probably won’t be dealt is because he’s viewed as a helpful mentor to the club’s young staff. The Mets entertain hopes of contending in 2015, and Colon’s veteran presence could be the difference. He’s a weird target for a club hoping to reach the playoffs in 2014. He doesn’t feature the kind of skill set teams like to see in their playoff starters, i.e. dominating stuff. His best talent is not walking anybody.
Jeff Samardzija, Cubs, 2.53 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 8.48 K/9, 2.71 BB/9: Samardzija, 29, is the poor man’s Price, if by “poor man” you mean the guy with the premium Mercedes rather than the elite Aston Martin. Like Price, he’s club controlled through 2015, which makes him a perfect target for teams with a multi-season playoff window. And like several other pitchers on this list, he’s having a career season.
Jason Hammel, Cubs, 2.98 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 8.50 K/9, 1.84 BB/9: Last season, the Cubs signed Feldman and later parlayed him into a useful reliever (Pedro Strop). Hammel has been even better than Feldman was last season, but a shaky track record and expiring contract will probably keep his price down. Feldman wasn’t the most interesting starter on the trade market last season, yet he was still the first to go. Will Hammel follow suit? Theo Epstein’s Cubs have a precedent of acting early.
Brandon McCarthy, Diamondbacks, 5.11 ERA, 3.88 FIP, 7.53 K/9, 1.56 BB/9: McCarthy, 30, certainly has the worst ERA of the bunch, yet his peripherals are highly desirable. He’s allowed twice as many home runs as expected, which is why his xFIP (FIP adjusted for a normal home run rate) is 2.92. You can count on several clubs being aware of the excellent peripherals. Somebody will take a shot. The Diamondbacks are dead in the NL West and reportedly need to shed payroll. McCarthy earns $9MM this season.
Ian Kennedy, Padres, 4.01 ERA, 2.92 FIP, 9.67 K/9, 2.35 BB/9: Speaking of NL West clubs trying to shed payroll, the Padres are reportedly looking to cut costs. Kennedy is one of several veteran Friars on the block. He’s entering his final season of arbitration eligibility, which makes him the true poor man’s Price/Samardzija. The 29-year-old Scott Boras client is probably best suited for clubs with a large home park due to a slight tendency towards fly balls.
Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies, 4.78 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 6.70 K/9, 3.93 BB/9: The 33-year-old pitcher is unlike the others on the list. With the alternatives, there’s at least some kind of possibility for near-elite performance. De La Rosa’s best quality is an ability to eat innings. He’s a free agent at the end of the season and he’s earning $11MM. Teams should find him the cheapest pitcher of those featured…with reason.
A number of players have made big contributions so far this season despite only signing a one-year deal or a minor-league deal this past offseason. Here’s a list of every player who fits that description and who’s produced more than 1 fWAR heading into today’s action. That cutoff excludes a few players clearly having productive seasons (such as Ervin Santana, Joba Chamberlain, Francisco Rodriguez and Emilio Bonifacio), and it excludes the possibility that the newly-signed Stephen Drew will make a big impact in Boston. But it’s as good a cutoff point as any, restricting us to players currently on pace to post seasons of around 3 WAR. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
In April, MLBTR’s Jeff Todd asked you to rank one-year deals in the $4MM-$8MM range. We now have more data on players signed to those deals, plus more information about no-risk minor-league signees we might have overlooked in April, so now is a good time to revisit last year’s free-agent class to see which low-risk deals are netting the most value.
Nelson Cruz, Orioles, $8MM plus roster bonuses. The Orioles also gave up the No. 55 overall pick in next week’s draft. Cruz has hit .315/.383/.675 in 230 plate appearances so far this season. He left today’s game with a hand injury, but he’s hit brilliantly for Baltimore so far, piling up an incredible 20 home runs.
Juan Francisco, Blue Jays, minor-league contract. The Jays signed Francisco after the Brewers dropped him in late March, and he’s hit a remarkable .275/.365/.596, with nine home runs in his first 126 plate appearances.
Jason Hammel, Cubs, $6MM. Hammel has pitched 71 1/3 terrific innings so far thanks to excellent control — he’s only allowing 1.9 BB/9. Hammel’s 2.78 ERA likely isn’t sustainable, but it doesn’t need to be for him to provide the Cubs with great value for $6MM.
Aaron Harang, Braves, minor-league deal, $1MM. Harang’s resurgence with Atlanta has been nothing short of amazing — last year it looked like his days as a productive big-leaguer might be over, but this year he has a 3.29 ERA with peripherals to match (9.7 K/9, 2.6 BB/9). The Braves also got two more solid pitchers in Santana and Gavin Floyd on one-year deals last offseason.
Michael Morse, Giants, $6MM. Morse’s poor defense limits his value, but it’s almost impossible not to be an asset when one hits .295/.351/.574. Morse is a big reason the Giants currently have the best record in baseball. His slugging percentage so far is 92 points above his career total.
A.J. Pierzynski, Red Sox, $8.25MM. Pierzynski has produced 1.1 WAR this season while hitting .288/.318/.417 in 174 plate appearances, accumulating much of that value in a recent 10-game hitting streak. He has not, however, won good reviews for his handling of the Red Sox’ pitching staff.
Yangervis Solarte, Yankees, minor-league contract. Solarte has been a highlight of an unsettled Yankees infield, playing decent defense at both third and second while hitting .299/.369/.466. That’s not bad for a 26-year-old who had never played in the big leagues before this season. The Yankees also can control his rights for several more years beyond this one if they choose.
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