New York Yankees Rumors
The Rockies have traded utility infielder Reid Brignac to the Yankees, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman adds (via Twitter) that the Rockies will receive $75,000 cash in the deal. Brignac was designated for assignment by the Rockies on Thursday.
Brignac, 27, has made versatility his calling card. As MLBTR's Mark Polishuk recently explained, Brignac has been trusted to man both middle infield positions, as well as third base and the corner outfield, at the big league level. He has not done much with the stick in his career, however, posting a lifetime .228/.270/.321 line.
For a Yankees team that continues to be hit with new injuries, Brignac will provide flexibility. He joins a middle-infield mix headlined by Robinson Cano but otherwise featuring less-than-inspiring names like Alberto Gonzalez and Jayson Nix. Brignac follows third baseman Chris Nelson as a Rockies castoff that ended up in New York this year. He will hope to stick longer than Nelson, who only wore pinstripes for 37 plate appearances.
While the Blue Jays may be the only AL East team currently under .500, the club is 7-3 in their past 10 games, and injured shortstop Jose Reyes may return sooner than expected. The club was a major mover last offseason, but additions such as Reyes, R.A. Dickey, and Josh Johnson have been unable to provide much of an impact. Here is a look at today's news out of the ultra-competitive American League East..
- Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com notes that the Yankees now have players making a total of $97MM currently on their disabled list. Andy Pettitte became the latest high-priced Yankee to head to the DL, as Vidal Nuno will be promoted in his place.
- Travis Ishikawa has extended the opt-out in his contract with the Orioles, tweets Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The 29-year-old first baseman is currently batting .304/.383/.504 over 154 PA with Triple-A Norfolk.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner commented on contract talks with second baseman Robinson Cano to David Lennon of Newsday on his way out of the MLB owners meetings today in Manhattan, saying, "We've had several conversations with [agent] Brodie [Van Wagenen], just as we did with [former agent] Scott [Boras] and a lot of it is procedural. But we're going to continue in the weeks to come to work through things and try to come to an agreement." Steinbrenner later added, "We want him to end his career here." Cano has sat atop our 2014 Free Agents Power Rankings since the beginning. More on the Yankees:
- Can a team with a $228MM payroll earn the designation "scrappy?" Steinbrenner used that adjective, expressing admiration for the Yankees' young players and cheap veterans that have allowed them to successfully weather injuries to key players so far. As for getting below the $189MM luxury tax threshold next year, Steinbrenner said, "The math works to me if the young kids do their job. It has to happen. And I've been saying that for over a year now -- that's the goal we're going to push for. But again, I'll reiterate what I always reiterate, which is we're always going to field a championship-caliber team. That's what the fans expect. That's what we expect. It's going to happen. Not going to win every year. Nobody ever does. But we're going to do what we can to field the best team we can."
- "We're going to sit down and figure out what to do when this season ends, hopefully the beginning of November," said Steinbrenner in regard to manager Joe Girardi and his expiring contract.
- Yankees outfielder Brennan Boesch says he left his agent, Scott Boras, and returned to his old agent, Van Wagenen of CAA, according to David Waldstein of the New York Times on May 1st. Boesch will be arbitration eligible for the first time after this season and can hit the open market after the 2015 season. Stay on top of the representation for over 1,000 players with MLBTR's agency database.
- "He’s a good guy and I think he can be a really good player, too. He’ll be back. I just wanted to let him know that it’s up to him," Yankees infielder Jayson Nix told Waldstein, recounting a conversation with the recently-designated Chris Nelson.
- The shift from center to left field shouldn't damage Curtis Granderson's free agent value much, opined multiple executives in speaking with Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. Granderson isn't concerned, saying, "Not an issue for me at all. Just want to help this team in any way I can. If they need me to go back to shortstop like I did in high school, I’ll do that."
Catching depth throughout baseball is thin. When I rolled out my Top 100 Prospects list at FanGraphs in March, I had only four catchers included in that ranking: Travis d'Arnaud of the Mets, Mike Zunino of the Mariners, Austin Hedges of the Padres, and Gary Sanchez of the Yankees. Baseball America's list featured the same four backstops. Baseball Prospectus also had that same quartet, followed by two more names in Jorge Alfaro of the Rangers and Christian Bethancourt of the Braves.
As witnessed by the lists, it's an accomplishment for any organization to have one good catching prospect in a minor league system, let alone two. The New York Yankees organization is enviable in that regard. Sanchez, 20, has been a mainstay on the top prospects lists since he signed out of Venezuela in 2009 as a 16-year-old amateur free agent. He showed up as high as 42nd overall on the three lists mentioned above, and no lower than 57th. The offensive-minded catcher has impressive offensive skills, including plus raw power. His ascent through the Yankees system can be best described as slow and steady.
Signed the same year as Sanchez, J.R. Murphy was selected out of the high school ranks in the second round of the amateur draft and he's just beginning to receive the attention he deserves. A front office contact who is familiar with the catching prospect told MLBTR that Murphy "was signed as a player [people] thought would hit and might be able to catch."
The 22-year-old prospect has flashed offensive potential in the past with good control of the strike zone, gap power and the ability to hit for a respectable average -- but inconsistency has been his downfall at the plate. So far this year, the Florida native is hitting .308 with 12 extra base hits, as well as 16 walks and 17 strikeouts in 28 games.
During the early stages of his pro career, Murphy struggled with receiving the ball and throwing out runners, while also dabbling with the idea of playing third base. He turned the corner in his development behind the plate in 2012 with his success rate at gunning down base runners jumping to more than 30 percent for the first time. So far in 2013, he's just shy of throwing out 50 percent of baserunners while playing at Double-A, one step ahead of his fellow catching prospect.
The talent evaluator who spoke with MLBTR said the Yankees organization thinks very highly of Murphy. "Due to his diligence, ability and the focused hard work of our coaches, he has become a defensive plus. He is on track to become a quality major league catcher," he said. "He receives the ball well and is an above-average thrower. He has the intelligence and game awareness to manage a game at the major league level."
Currently in his fifth pro season, Murphy will need to be added to the 40-man roster by the November deadline to be protected from the annual Rule 5 draft. If added, he'll be granted three option years that will allow him to be shuttled between the majors and the minors during that time frame.
The 10th overall selection in the 2008 amateur draft, Jason Castro's career development has been slowed by trips to the disabled list. In fact, he lost the entire 2011 season to a serious knee injury. Perhaps hampered by the lost playing time, the Astros' starting catcher's offense has not developed as hoped. Still just 25, the Stanford alum has time to jump-start his bat, but Houston has accumulated some solid catching depth in the past year.
Acquired last year from Toronto in a 10-player deal that sent J.A. Happ and two other pitchers to Toronto, catching prospect Carlos Perez has enjoyed the change of scenery. After spending five years in Rookie ball and Low-A ball with the conservative Blue Jays player development program, the Astros loosened the reins on the young player and he responded favorably. In less than a year, the 22-year-old Venezuela native reached Triple-A and is hitting above .300 while playing steady defense. Houston will almost certainly want to protect him prior to this year's Rule 5 draft at the Baseball Winter Meetings.
Tyler Heineman flew under the radar a bit as an eighth round draft pick out of the University of California, Los Angeles in 2012. Since signing, though, he's done nothing but hit. The switch-hitter posted a .352 batting average with 26 walks and 12 strikeouts in 55 games during his short-season debut last year. Jumped all the way to High-A to open 2013, Heineman has hit .329 with just eight strikeouts in 23 games.
Not flashy and with below-average power, the catching prospect shares a similar profile to that of seven-year big leaguer Ryan Hanigan of the Reds. The big challenge for the backstop is to continue polishing his defensive skills to meet the high standards set at the big league level. Time is on Heineman's side as he doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster until after the 2015 season, which would then buy him three option years.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays opened the 2012 season with the most impressive collection of catching depth in baseball with J.P. Arencibia at the major league level and a plethora of impressive prospects including d'Arnaud, Yan Gomes, Perez, A.J. Jimenez, and Santiago Nessy. Since midway through the 2012 season, Toronto has traded away d'Arnaud (Mets), Gomes (Indians) and Perez (Astros) in an effort to improve the pitching depth at the big league level.
The two remaining catchers have the talent to be considered among the club's Top 10 best prospects. Unfortunately, both have also been bitten by the injury bug. Jimenez blew out his elbow during the 2012 season and underwent Tommy John surgery. The club has been cautious with him in 2013 and he's already missed a little time after experiencing soreness in his surgically-repaired elbow. Nessy received his first full-season assignment in 2013 and was off to a respectable start before suffering a concussion while trying to breakup a double play at second base. He has plus raw power and has made huge strides on the defensive side of his game.
Prospect Tidbits: Seattle's Zunino was considered the cream-of-the-crop when it came to eligible catching prospects in the 2012 amateur draft. Fast forward to 2013 and the University of Florida alum has already reached Triple-A. Two other highly-drafted catchers from 2012 are making names for themselves with solid play so far this season.
Perhaps the hottest hitter in the South Atlantic League, the Mets' Kevin Plawecki (drafted 35th overall) is currently hitting .374 through 35 games in Low-A ball. He's also flashed power with 25 of his 49 hits going for extra bases. If he keeps up this pace, a promotion to High-A or Double-A should be in the cards. Rockies catching prospect Tom Murphy (third round) has appeared in only 24 games thanks to a brief visit to the disabled list, but he's hitting .357 with 17 of his 30 hits going for extra bases. Like Plawecki, Murphy is probably too advanced at the plate for Low-A ball.
Another 2012 draft pick, Josh Elander, attracted attention as a second- or third-round talent as a college catcher but questions surrounding his ability to stick behind the dish caused him to slide to the sixth round where he was nabbed by the Atlanta Braves. After catching briefly in 2012, the prospect was moved out from behind the plate and has played 31 games in left field in 2013. The move has certainly agreed with his offense, as he's hitting .314 with an above-average power output.
Here's the latest out of the American League East..
- Whether you like the Yankees spend-heavy ways or not, you have to give General Manager Brian Cashman a great deal of credit, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. While detractors could call the Bombers lucky for finding diamonds in the rough such as Travis Hafner, Vernon Wells, and Lyle Overbay, it's difficult to write off similar success Cashman has had in the two years prior with unheralded acquisitions.
- Despite his resurgence in New York, Vernon Wells still says that he plans to retire after next season when his seven-year, $126MM contract expires, writes Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. When Morosi noted that the allure of playing for the Yankees has kept Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte in the game past age 40, Wells laughed and said, “I think Mariano is sticking with his plan this time, so I’ll go with that.”
- Despite the club's recent slide, Red Sox manager John Farrell says that this is not the time for a shakeup, writes Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.
- Here's more on the Red Sox from earlier today.
Nelson, 27, was acquired from the Rockies for a player to be named later or cash following a DFA from Colorado. In 10 games for the Yankees, Nelson hit just .222/.243/.278 with 11 strikeouts and one walk in 37 plate appearances. The former first round pick had a strong showing at the dish in 2012 when he hit .301/.352/.458 with nine homers.
The 26-year-old Adams has had an up and down journey throughout his minor league career. Once a key component in a potential trade for Cliff Lee, he found himself released earlier this season as a result of frequent injuries. He was re-signed to a minor league deal and is set to make his Major League debut after hitting .316/.407/.490 with three homers for Triple-A Scranton this season.
As Curtis Granderson gets set to return to the Yankees lineup, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes that the club surprisingly doesn't need him. The strong play of Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and Travis Hafner has given the offense a major boost in the absence of Derek Jeter, Kevin Youkilis, and others, putting them atop the division with a 24-14 record. Here's more from the American League East..
- Jair Jurrjens will make his Orioles debut against the Rays on Saturday to fill in for the injured Wei-Yin Chen, sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The pitcher posted a 3.14 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 across eight starts in Triple-A and had an opt out date of June 15th. The Orioles can open a 40-man roster spot for Jurrjens by transferring Brian Roberts to the 60-day DL, notes Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com.
- More and more teams are realizing that it makes sense to gamble earlier lock up young players for the long-term and Joel Sherman of the New York Post thinks the Yankees need to reconsider their policy of going year-to-year. The Yankees are trying to lower their payroll and one way to do so is to gain cost certainty with deals like the one Anthony Rizzo received from the Cubs.
- Blue Jays president and CEO Paul Beeston isn't ready to give up on the team this season, writes Chris Toman of MLB.com. He also isn't ready to give up on the coaching staff. "We started out at 12-24 and made a managerial change, but we're not going to do that right now," Beeston said. "I think you look back at 1989 and just look back at what can be after what was. I think we have a very good team and a better team than our record."
- Speaking of Toronto, the Blue Jays are the leaders to sign Venezuelan shortstop Yeltsin Gudino, writes Ben Badler of Baseball America. Gudino is a well-rounded talent who has also received serious interest from the Rangers and A's in the past.
- Kubatko ran Carlos Zambrano's name past someone in the Orioles organization and got a less-than-enthusiastic response based on the pitcher's past behavior and baggage.
- Rizzo's absence is being felt in the Red Sox organization as the club has long-term questions at first base, writes Alex Speier of WEEI.com.
The July 2nd international signing period is less than two months away. Every team had a $2.9MM bonus pool for 2012-13, but as Baseball America's Ben Badler outlined here, the 2013-14 pools "will be tiered based on reverse order of 2012 major league winning percentage." The Astros, Cubs, and Rockies each have at least $4.2MM to spend, plus teams can trade for additional money. The Twins, Indians, Marlins, and Red Sox each have more than $3MM to spend, while the Royals and Blue Jays are close to that figure. Badler has the latest on ten prospects who are expected to sign for at least $1MM apiece.
- The highest bonus is likely to go to Dominican outfielder Eloy Jimenez, potentially $2.6-2.8MM with the Cubs as the "heavy favorite." The Cubs are also the frontrunners to sign one of the top Venezuelan players, shortstop Gleyber Torres.
- Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers "might be the best hitter on the international market," writes Badler. He's the primary target of the Red Sox. Another contender for the best bat is third baseman Luis Encarnacion, who is most likely to sign with the Phillies.
- The Yankees are the most likely suitor for Leonardo Molina, perhaps the best athlete in the class. He can sign when he turns 16 on August 1st. The Yankees' preliminary bonus pool is reportedly $1,877,900.
- The biggest raw power belongs to Dominican outfielder Micker Zapata, who has been connected to the White Sox and Padres.
- Badler's article has much more information, so be sure to give it a click and a read.
When players with significant Major League experience settle for minor league contracts, it's commonplace for these deals to contain opt-out clauses. If the player hasn't been added to the 25-man roster by a certain point, he can exercise the clause and seek employment with another organization. Such clauses aren't always made publicly available, but here's a list of some of the pitchers who have known opt-out dates that are nearing...
- Chien-Ming Wang, Yankees: Wang can opt out of his contract on May 31. In five starts spanning 31 2/3 innings at Triple-A thus far, the 33-year-old has a 2.84 ERA, 4.3 K/9 and 1.1 BB/9. The Yankees have said they don't feel Wang's minor league success will translate to the Majors just yet, as they want him to rely more on his breaking pitches than just his sinker.
- Tim Stauffer, Padres: Stauffer can opt out of his deal "around June 1," according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune. He appeared in just one game for San Diego before needing season-ending surgery but posted a 3.24 ERA in 341 1/3 innings for the Friars from 2009-11. So far in Triple-A, the 30-year-old has a 3.16 ERA, 8.0 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in 42 2/3 innings.
- Sean O'Sullivan, Padres: Currently Stauffer's rotation-mate, O'Sullivan has the same opt-out clause in his contract (near June 1) despite being just 25 years of age. O'Sullivan has a 4.19 ERA, 8.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 43 innings for Triple-A Tucson. He's had a rough time in the Majors, however, as evidenced by his 6.13 ERA in 193 2/3 big league innings.
- Jeremy Bonderman, Mariners: Bonderman's opt-out date is June 1, tweets ESPN's Buster Olney. Still just 30 years of age, Bonderman has been solid for Triple-A Tacoma. He's pitched to a 3.70 ERA, 5.4 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in eight starts spanning 48 2/3 innings. Olney feels Bonderman will opt out if he's not called up in the next couple of weeks, and I'm inclined to agree.
- Jair Jurrjens, Orioles: Jurrjens has an opt-out date of June 15. After a drastic fall from grace in the Braves organization, the 27-year-old has looked sharp at Triple-A Norfolk in 2013. He's compiled a 2.62 ERA, 5.8 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in seven starts spanning 44 2/3 innings.
All of the pitchers listed here have pitched well enough that they could make a case for helping a Major League team with a struggling rotation. It seems likely that by mid-June, each could force his way onto a Major League roster, even if it's with a new organization. If you see a notable omission with a known opt-out date, speak up in the comments section.
The home run by the Athletics' Adam Rosales that never was on Wednesday could become the shot heard around the world in the debate over instant replay. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle are both advocating for a five-man umpiring crew. Haudricourt rebuts arguments that it is too expensive to add a fifth umpire or too time consuming to expand replay noting MLB is an $8B industry and the discussions over blown calls waste more time than a replay. Slusser supports a fifth umpire to monitor games from a booth in the press box and a neutral crew in New York of perhaps three people to have access to all available replay angles and make the final call on all video reviews. John Shea, Slusser's colleague at the Chronicle, doesn't believe expanded replay will help immediately because, until umpires are better held accountable for their errors, you cannot trust the people overseeing the system. Let's review the news from the American League East:
- Wei-Yin Chen left today's game with what the Orioles are calling a strained right oblique although the lefty hopes it is only a cramp and will be evaluated on their off day, tweets Britt Ghiroli of MLB.com. The Orioles have several in-house options, if Chen lands on the disabled list, tweets CSNBaltimore.com's Rich Dubroff, including Jair Jurrjens, who has a June 15 opt-out clause. Jake Arrieta, another possible in-house candidate, did not make his scheduled start in Triple-A today because of a tender shoulder, reports Roch Kubatko of MASN.com (via Twitter).
- The Yankees will soon face some tough decisions regarding roster spots and playing time as several of their injured players are nearing a return to action, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
- The Blue Jays will remain patient with Ricky Romero because of the $23.1MM guaranteed the left-hander through 2015, even if it is just to make him attractive in a trade, according to the Toronto Star's Richard Griffin. That patience will be further tested by Romero's dismal debut at Triple-A Buffalo yesterday: six runs allowed on ten hits with five walks, a balk, and a wild pitch in 3 2/3 innings. "I guess it’s a little disappointing to see those numbers but I know he’s still working hard and I still think he’s on the right path,” Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker told Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.