New York Yankees Rumors

New York Yankees trade and free agent rumors from MLBTradeRumors.com.

Cafardo On Roster Size, Cueto, Moncada, Maddon

Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe opines baseball needs to expand its roster and suggests a 28-man limit with 25 eligible on game day. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney told Cafardo there have been discussions about roster expansion, but nothing has advanced. There are obstacles with increased salaries and insurances costs, but those issues, according to Cafardo, are outweighed by the 162-game schedule becoming too much for a player’s body to handle. Cafardo also proposes baseball convene a panel of players who avoided the disabled list throughout their careers to determine if there are any patterns to their remaining healthy.

In other items from Cafardo’s Sunday Baseball Notes column:

  • According to one GM, Johnny Cueto “will get a Max Scherzer deal” if the Reds right-hander can put together a 15-20-win season. Cueto ranks fifth on MLBTR’s 2016 Free Agent Power Rankings list.
  • The Yankees were given the opportunity to top the Red Sox‘s $31.5MM offer to Yoan Moncada, but declined. “We scouted him extensively for years,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said. “I feel we put him through the highest level of scouting and medical evaluation. I just wasn’t comfortable offering what we actually offered ($25MM), let alone going any higher.
  • For now, the Red Sox will play Moncada at second base, but his eventual position will depend on Boston’s needs in the next couple of years.
  • The tampering allegation made by the Rays over the Cubs‘ hiring of Joe Maddon is still alive.
  • The Red Sox are showcasing Jemile Weeks, likely ticketed for Triple-A, as a super utility player and may be able sell fairly high on him with the Tigers one of the teams in the market for such a player.

 


East Notes: Izturis, Marlins, Valdespin, Pineda

Prior to the start of Sunday’s game against the Rays, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters, including MLBTR’s Zach Links, that second baseman Maicer Izturis is progressing slowly from his strained groin injury.  “He was told [not to take part in] any activity for ten days, I would definitely think he’ll be out [for Opening Day],” Gibbons said. Izturis was in competition for the starting second base job, which is likely now down to one or more of Devon Travis, Ryan Goins, and Steve Tolleson, as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisolm writes. This year is an important one for the veteran Izturis, who at age 34 is entering the final guaranteed season of his contract with plenty to prove. (Toronto holds a $3MM option over him for next year.)

Here’s more from the east:

  • “Numerous teams” have been inquiring about Marlins pitching, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro tweets. We heard talk yesterday that lefties Brad Hand and Andrew McKirahan were drawing interest.
  • Infielder/outfielder Jordany Valdespin has come a long way since his oft-contentious stint with the Mets and has a legitimate chance to make the Marlins Opening Day roster, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports. The 27-year-old, who says his attitude turned after being told by his mother it was time to “grow up,” split last year between the bigs and Triple-A with Miami.
  • Yankees starter Michael Pineda is drawing rave reviews this spring, as George A. King III of the New York Post writes. Of course, the big question with Pineda is shoulder health. He was effective last year despite working in the low 90s, but this spring is said to be pushing his fastball back toward the mid-90s level that he deployed as a breakout rookie.

AL East Notes: Steinbrenner, Tillman, Matusz, Norris

Yankees owner and managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner covered a number of topics in a recent chat with Bill Madden of the New York Daily News. Among other things, Steinbrenner credited the front office with having “better drafts of late,” naming prospects Greg Bird, Rob Refsnyder, and Aaron Judge as some of the players to show promise. He also addressed the team’s offseason spending, which — while still substantial — was not as extraordinary as it has been at times in the past. Steinbrenner noted that the team still put out a lot of money on the international market even as it missed on Yoan Moncada. He also gave some thoughts on the team’s future intentions in free agency: “I’m not saying we’ll never give another seven-year contract, but going in you know you’re probably only going to get three-four good years out of it. It remains my goal to get under that $189 million (luxury-tax threshold), but it’s not going to happen for at least two more years when these big contracts we have expire. But I’ve continued to say you shouldn’t need $200 million to win a championship.”

Here are some more links from the AL East:

  • The Orioles continue to discuss contractual matters with starter Chris Tillman even after agreeing to an arbitration salary for 2015, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. President of baseball operations Dan Duquette said earlier this year that the sides have “mutual interest” in an extension. MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth recently examined his extension case.
  • Meanwhile, Orioles lefty Brian Matusz has seen his name come up in trade rumors. After tossing four scoreless frames today, he acknowledged the chatter, as MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli reports. Matusz is still hoping to line up a starting role, but says he is most focused on providing value in any capacity. “I mean, it’s no secret. I’m well aware of talks and things going on,” said Matusz regarding the possibility of a deal. “But for me all I can control is what I can control. To be able to go out and pitch and get extended and throw all four pitches and mix. Be able to pitch my game is really what it’s all about.”
  • Young lefty Daniel Norris seems to have all but established himself as the Blue Jays‘ fifth starter, Brendan Kennedy of the Toronto Star reports. While veteran Marco Estrada is still considered part of the competition, Kennedy says that it would take a major change to move Norris out of the role now. Both Norris and fellow youngster Aaron Sanchez would stand to put themselves on track to hit arbitration eligibility in 2018 before qualifying for free agency in the 2021 season, if they can hold onto their big league roster spots for all or most of 2015. (Norris 29 days of big league service at present, while Sanchez has 69 days.)


AL Notes: Starling, Capuano, Rollins

The career of 2011 No. 5 overall pick Bubba Starling hasn’t gone according to plan, but the Royals remain patient with the now-22-year-old, Alan Eskew writes for Baseball America (subscription required). “He’s got the type of body and athleticism that will be able to play for a long, long time,” says assistant GM J.J. Picollo. “So whether he gets to the big leagues at 24, 25, 26—that’s not really a factor because he’s going to be able to play for a long time.” Starling hit .218/.304/.338 while striking out 150 times in 549 plate appearances for Class A+ Wilmington in 2014. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • Once Chris Capuano recovers from a quad strain, he’ll be a serviceable pitcher who provides the Yankees with flexibility, Mike Axisa of River Ave Blues writes. Capuano will miss the start of the season and might not have a rotation spot waiting for him when he returns, but he can also pitch out of the bullpen, as he did last season for the Red Sox and once did on occasion for the Brewers. Axisa suggests Capuano might work well in a swingman role. As a pitcher who can work in a variety of roles without worries, he could provide reasonable value on his $5MM contract.
  • Among the players the Mariners sent to minor-league camp today were lefties Lucas Luetge and Rafael Perez. That leaves David Rollins, a Rule 5 pick from the Astros, in competition with Joe Saunders and Tyler Olson to join Charlie Furbush as the Mariners’ second lefty out of the bullpen, as Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times tweets. Rollins has pitched well so far in Spring Training, striking out seven batters and walking none in his first 6 1/3 innings.

AL East Notes: Red Sox, Craig, Wieters, Bailey, Tanaka

Here’s the latest from the American League East:

  • The Red Sox risk losing a chance to acquire Cole Hamels of the Phillies by waiting to deal for him, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. While it is too early to judge the team’s current rotation, results — and, perhaps more importantly, reviews from rival scouts — have been less than promising.
  • Meanwhile, the Red Sox are still “trying to find a trade partner” for first baseman/outfielder Allen Craig, per Cafardo. He notes that the club has assigned several “top pro scouts” to watch the Giants, Padres, and Cubs recently, though it is not entirely clear that all of those clubs could match up on Craig.
  • Orioles catcher Matt Wieters will be shut down for about a week after experiencing tendinitis in his surgically-repaired right elbow after his first stint behind the dish, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Manage Buck Showalter said that he does not see the news as a setback, and indicated that the move was made as an exercise of caution. Wieters’ ability to return to his usually sturdy work with the mask on is critical not only to the team’s hopes this year, but also to his free agent case after the season.
  • Reliever Andrew Bailey made his return to competitive action today for the Yankees, with Chad Jennings of the LoHud Yankees Blog tweeting that Bailey’s fastball sat in the low 90s in his inning of work. Meanwhile, Masahiro Tanaka continued to show strong form this spring, as Jennings further reports. If both of those arms can prove healthy and effective, the club’s run prevention efforts will obviously receive a significant boost. While Tanaka pitched much of last season before being shut down with a partial UCL tear, Bailey has not thrown a big league pitch since 2013 and represents pure upside for New York.

AL Notes: Santiago, Sabathia, Iannetta

Blue Jays infielder Ramon Santiago will miss approximately ten weeks with a broken collarbone, GM Alex Anthopoulos told reporters, including MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm (via Twitter). The 35-year-old, 13-year big league veteran had been in the mix for a utility role with Toronto.

Here’s more from the American League:

  • Veteran Yankees hurler C.C. Sabathia worked in the low 90s today with his fastball, a scout tells Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). Feinsand notes that Sabathia is well ahead of his build-up last year, which turned out to be by far his worst season as a professional. New York would be grateful if Sabathia could simply produce as a league-average starter, though the former Cy Young winner obviously has greater upside than that even at age 34.
  • Angels backstop Chris Iannetta is working to improve his receiving this spring, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports. Iannetta says he was surprised to find that his framing numbers were sub-par. “I get really good reviews from umpires in what I do and how I work, and I see some discrepancies,” Iannetta said. “It’s disappointing. So my goal is to get as good as I can. Be in the top five, top 10, try to get better, see what the guys who do really well are doing mechanically.” Iannetta discusses in some detail how he approaches the dark art of manipulating balls into strikes, which has only recently been reduced to numbers (and translated into runs and wins). If he can show improvement in that department this year, Iannetta could have broad appeal as a free agent next winter given his above-average bat.

AL East Notes: Cash, Closers, Jaso

The Rays are considered leaders in analytics, so perhaps it’s no coincidence they hired former catcher Kevin Cash, writes Michael Kolligian of MLB.com. Former catchers account for 12 of the last 19 World Series winning managers. Joe Torre is responsible for four of those victories. While there are a number of confounding variables, former catchers are always popular managerial candidates. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • While most teams are quick to name a closer, the Yankees are taking a wait-and-see approach, writes Andrew Simon of MLB.com. New York has two excellent but unproven options in right-hander Dellin Betances and southpaw Andrew Miller. Selecting a closer could come down to bullpen composition, said manager Joe Girardi. “I think it’s affected by possibly losing someone out of your bullpen to a starting role. That changes things. So we’ve got to figure that out first, then we put the rest of it together.” To me, this means that Miller is more likely to close if Adam Warren earns a gig in the rotation. Betances provided great value in multi-inning appearances last season. If Warren returns to the pen, the Yankees may prefer Miller to be available for tough left-handed hitters.
  • The trickle down effect from Marcus Stroman‘s season-ending injury could cause the Blue Jays to roster a third left-handed reliever, writes Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com. With Stroman out, prospect Aaron Sanchez is likely to make the rotation with lefty Brett Cecil filling in as the closer. Southpaw Aaron Loup is also expected to make the roster. Jeff Francis and Colt Hynes are internal options for the third lefty role. Externally, Cardinals reliever Sam Freeman and Nationals pitcher Xavier Cedeno were connected to the Mets earlier this evening.
  • John Jaso suffered two concussions in the last two seasons that have put his career in jeopardy, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. Presently, Jaso feels fine, but he’s unsure if he can catch. Per Jaso, “if they were to say, ‘Here, catch tomorrow,’ I don’t know. That’s the scary part. Like I don’t know if I could take one, take 40 foul tips, what it would be…What I do know is that the longer I have between episodes, the stronger I’ll be. It’s letting the brain heal all the way again. You might think it’s gone, you might think you are all right, but it’s still there.

Central Notes: Rosen, Robertson, Rodriguez

The Indians announced that former star third baseman Al Rosen died last night. He was 91. “He was an inspiration to us all and had a special presence, strength and intellect,” says Indians president Mark Shapiro, calling Rosen’s competitiveness and toughness “legendary.” Rosen hit .285/.384/.495 over a ten-year big-league career spent entirely with the Indians. His best season came in 1953, when he hit .336/.422/.613, won the AL MVP award and missed a Triple Crown by one point of batting average. Injuries ended his playing career early, but he went on to become president and chief operating officer of the Yankees (1978-79), then became president and GM of the Astros (1980-85) and Giants (1985-92). Here are more notes from the Central divisions.

  • The White Sox paid $46MM for closer David Robertson, but they weren’t planning on spending heavily on a closer if they didn’t get him, Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune writes. Robertson was the specific player they wanted, and if they hadn’t gotten him, they would have developed a closer internally. “I still feel strongly that we have a very solid track record in terms of that development, whether it’s (Bobby) Jenks or (Sergio) Santos or (Addison Reed) or whomever else through the years, like Keith Foulke before that,” says GM Rick Hahn. “And that’s going to continue to serve us as we build out the bullpen from the back in front of David.”
  • Reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who officially signed with the Brewers Saturday, turned down more money elsewhere to return to Milwaukee, Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel tweets. His decision to sign with the Brewers was primarily about his comfort with pitching for them, not about finances, he says. 2015 will be the fifth consecutive season in which Rodriguez will have spent at least part of the year with the Brewers.

Yankees Release Mat Gamel

Here are today’s minor moves from around the game:

  • The Yankees have released corner infielder Mat Gamel barely a week after it emerged they were signing him to a minor-league deal, according to the International League transactions page. The former top Brewers prospect was attempting a comeback after missing the last two seasons with ACL tears. The last season in which he saw significant action was 2011, when he hit .310/.372/.540 in 545 plate appearances for Triple-A Nashville. He received a total of 269 plate appearances in the big leagues from 2008 through 2012.

Offseason In Review: New York Yankees

The Yankees rebuilt their infield and bullpen this winter, yet depth could still be an issue given their several veterans with injury histories.

Major League Signings

Notable Minor League Signings

Trades And Claims

Notable Losses

Needs Addressed

While there was some question as to whether or not the Yankees would be willing to go to four years to re-sign Chase Headley, the team indeed brought him back on a four-year, $52MM contract to solidify the hot corner.  Headley will provide New York with outstanding third base defense, and the team obviously hopes that playing in Yankee Stadium will get his bat back on track — the .262/.371/.398 slash line and 119 OPS+ that Headley posted over 224 PA as a Yankee last season is a good step in that direction.MLB: Chicago White Sox at New York Yankees

In Didi Gregorius, the Yankees have addressed their hole at shortstop while still giving themselves flexibility for a future move should they feel Gregorius isn’t a long-term solution.  Gregorius hasn’t shown all that much either at the plate (career 84 wRC+) or in the field (-3.3 UZR/150 at shortstop) during his brief career, yet it’s important to note that he’s had only 724 MLB plate appearances and he’s entering his age-25 season.  He isn’t even arbitration-eligible until next winter, though assuming he accumulates a full year of Major League service time this season, Gregorius will have an extra year of arbitration eligibility due to him as a Super Two player.

Going into the offseason, the consensus was that the Yankees would address their infield by acquiring an everyday second or third baseman, with the versatile Martin Prado then playing the other position.  Instead, Prado was shipped out to the Marlins as part of the multi-player deal that brought Garrett Jones and Nathan Eovaldi to the Bronx.  Jones has an .811 OPS against right-handed pitching over his career, and with Yankee Stadium’s infamous short right field porch, Jones could provide some nice pop off the bench and also spell Mark Teixeira at first or Carlos Beltran in right field.

Eovaldi injects some youth and, perhaps just as importantly, durability into New York’s rotation, as the 25-year-old righty tossed 199 2/3 innings for Miami last season.  Almost any hurler would be challenged by moving from pitcher-friendly Marlins Park to hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, especially one who doesn’t strike out many batters like Eovaldi (career 6.28 K/9), though he’s working on a splitter to try to miss more bats.

With David Robertson off to the White Sox, the Yankees replaced one ace reliever with another as they signed Andrew Miller.  It remains to be seen whether he or Dellin Betances will get the lion’s share of saves (or if they split the job), but however it shakes out, New York owns one of the most imposing one-two bullpen punches in the game.  Miller was the most high-profile of several bullpen acquisitions for the Yankees, as they also added right-hander David Carpenter and lefties Chasen Shreve and Justin Wilson in separate deals with the Braves and Pirates.  Between Miller, Shreve and Wilson, the Yankees greatly improved their left-handed relief depth, which has been an issue in recent years.

Questions Remaining

Between Masahiro Tanaka‘s slightly torn UCL, Michael Pineda‘s long history of shoulder problems and C.C. Sabathia‘s recent knee injuries, the Yankees are going into the season crossing their fingers for good health from the top of their rotation.  Compounding the problem, the re-signed Chris Capuano will start the year on the DL, robbing the club of its favorite for the fifth starter role.

Despite all these durability issues, the Yankees did little to address their rotation’s depth.  Eovaldi will essentially serve as a replacement for Shane Greene, who enjoyed a nice breakout year in 2014 but was sent to the Tigers as part of the Gregorius deal.  Swingman David Phelps was traded to Miami, and the Yankees didn’t re-sign either Hiroki Kuroda or Brandon McCarthy (though they looked into bringing McCarthy back, albeit only on a two-year deal).

This isn’t to say, however, that GM Brian Cashman hasn’t been actively looking for rotation upgrades.  The Yankees have seemingly come the closest of any team to acquiring Cole Hamels from the Phillies, though as CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman subsequently reported, the two sides weren’t actually very close to working out a deal.  Since the chance remains that any of all of Tanaka/Pineda/Sabathia could be healthy and productive, the Yankees will likely continue to play the waiting game until a move becomes essential.  I would expect the Yankees to eventually aggressively pursue Hamels or any other high-priced aces (especially those who are pending free agents) at midseason in order to fill any clear holes that might emerge in the rotation.

Second base remains an unsettled position for New York, as while Stephen Drew was re-signed on a one-year, $5MM deal, it’s hard to know what to expect from the veteran given his sub-replacement level performance in 2014.  Drew’s lengthy free agent stint and lack of a Spring Training could certainly be extenuating circumstances, yet as Drew enters his age-32 season, it’s unclear to what extent he’ll be able to bounce back.  Drew may not get a lot of time to prove himself, as prospects Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder are waiting in the wings if Drew continues to struggle.  Prado’s trade was something of a surprise given that he hit so well for the Yankees last season and his versatility was a boon on a team with so many injury and depth concerns.  If Drew or the rookies can’t handle second base and/or Eovaldi struggles, questions will be asked about why Prado had to be moved.

Prado’s departure could be an even bigger issue if Headley struggles.  While he did well in his short time in the Bronx, the Yankees have now committed $52MM to a player entering his age-31 season who has battled some recent injuries and been showing signs of decline at the plate.  I can’t be too critical of the Headley deal given his solid track record or the lack of other available third base options this offseason, yet his signing doesn’t exactly make third base a worry-free zone for the team.

Like third base, shortstop is also still far from a certainty.  Gregorius hasn’t been able to hit left-handed pitching at all, and it’s worth noting that two teams (the D-Backs and Reds) have to some extent already passed on Gregorius as their “shortstop of the future.”  If Gregorius doesn’t play well, the Yankees don’t have much depth at short aside from Brendan Ryan, barring a scenario where Drew moves back to shortstop and Pirela or Refsnyder takes over at second.

No discussion of the 2015 Yankees is complete without the obligatory mention of Alex Rodriguez‘s return.  Even if Headley falters, it’s hard to see A-Rod getting significant time back at third given that he’s been slated for (at best) a part-time role as a DH and backup first baseman.  Between Jones and the several full-time veterans the Yankees can rotate through the DH spot on rest days, the team has already protected itself against the possibility that Rodriguez may not be productive given his age, injury history and long absence from the game.

The Yankees signed 10 of Baseball America’s top 28 international prospects from the 2014-15 signing class, far exceeding their signing bonus limit and resulting in a punishment of not being allowed to sign any international prospect for more than a $300K bonus over each of the next two signing periods.  With this looming restriction in mind, it may come back to haunt New York that the club was unable to land two of the higher-profile international prospects of the last few months — Yoan Lopez and Yoan Moncada, who respectively signed with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox.  Missing out on Moncada was particularly hurtful for the Yankees, given that they were one of the finalists for the Cuban phenom and that he signed with their Boston arch-rivals.

Deal Of Note

While Miller will likely end up getting some save opportunities this season, he can still boast about landing the largest contract ever given to a reliever without any closing experience.  It’s no surprise that the Yankees had to go to four years and $36MM to land the southpaw given that he had perhaps the widest market of any free agent this winter — a reported 23 teams showed some degree of interest in Miller’s services.  In fact, the Yankees had only the second-largest deal on the table, as Miller turned down a four-year/$40MM offer from the Astros.

Committing four years to any reliever is a risk, especially since Miller has only been an effective bullpen arm since 2012 (as a lefty specialist) and he’d never posted a BB/9 of less than 4.5 prior to last season.  This said, Miller was so dominant in 2014 that if he has turned the corner, he’s as good as any reliever in baseball.

It could be argued that the Yankees didn’t need to spend so much on a big bullpen arm given Betances’ presence, though Betances himself has less than two seasons as a full-time reliever.  In a way, Betances and Miller are acting as each other’s security blankets; if one takes a step back this season, the Yankees will still have the other to stabilize the closer’s job.

Overview

After spending over $500MM on free agents in the 2013-14 offseason, this winter was a much quieter one for New York (though spending “only” $100MM on free agents counts as quiet only by Yankees standards).  There was speculation that the Yankees would pursue one of the major free agent starters — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, James Shields — this winter, though nothing much developed on that front.

It’s worth noting that signing Scherzer or Shields would’ve cost the Yankees a first round draft pick, and after their free agent splurge last year, the team didn’t seem keen on again limiting its draft pool.  In fact, the Pinstripers are now up an extra pick for the 2015 draft due to the compensatory pick they’ll receive for Robertson signing elsewhere and saw the fourth-largest increase in their draft pool of any team from 2014 to 2015.

In my Yankees Offseason Outlook piece from last October, I predicted the team could be more active on the trade market than in free agency this winter, under the logic that the Yankees could use their financial resources more wisely by acquiring high-priced veterans (i.e. their midseason deals for Prado, McCarthy and Headley last year) from rebuilding teams.  In some ways, that proved to be correct since the team filled more holes via trades than they did via free agents, though most of New York’s trade acquisitions weren’t veterans, but rather younger players like Gregorius, Eovaldi, Wilson, Carpenter and Shreve who all carry several years of team control.

As noted earlier about Gregorius, having controllable players gives the Yankees the flexibility to rather easily move on in the case of a downturn in performance.  These players could also possibly become trade chips themselves should the Bombers pursue more high-profile upgrades later in the season.

These kinds of moves for young talent are necessary given how much money New York has tied up in expensive veterans.  Between Teixeira, Sabathia, Rodriguez, McCann and Beltran, the Yankees will pay $100.125MM in 2015 to five players who combined for 2.7 fWAR in 2014.  Various injuries (and, in A-Rod’s case, his suspension) obviously played a role in that low fWAR total, yet it’s almost impossible to imagine that all five will be totally healthy and productive this season.  The Yankees are accounting for this to some extent, though even they can only plug so many holes; if Tanaka’s UCL issues worsen, or Pineda’s shoulder acts up, or if injuries strike Headley, Drew, Miller, etc., then the season will start to resemble a war of attrition with the disabled list, much like the team’s 2013-14 campaigns.

The lack of a clear favorite in the AL East certainly gives the Yankees a path to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.  They’ll just need to rely on a lot of good health, a few breakout performances and a few returns to form from established players to manage it.

Image courtesy of Andy Marlin/USA Today Sports Images