Rosa, 25, appeared in one MLB contest this year with the Yanks — his first as a professional. He spent most of the season in the upper minors, pitching to a cumulative 4.18 ERA with 7.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 in 103 1/3 innings. Clearly, the New York organization didn’t view him as a significant near-term contributor.
The Yankees announced today that they have claimed righty Jake Barrett off waivers from the Pirates. Fellow right-hander Ben Heller was shifted to the 60-day injured list while he continues to recover from Tommy John surgery.
Barrett already spent the offseason bouncing between rosters; now he’s doing so again to open the season. He’ll start things off at Triple-A with the New York organization, where he’ll represent a depth option should a need arise in the big league pen.
As we’ve now discussed several times in recent months, Barrett is looking to rediscover the form he showed back in 2016, when as a 24-year-old rookie, he gave the Diamondbacks 59 1/3 innings of 3.49 ERA ball with nearly a strikeout per inning. He’s posted a 5.03 ERA in 34 big league innings since that time and spent most of 2018 at Triple-A, pitching to a 2.87 ERA with 11.3 K/9 and 4.9 BB/9 over 53 1/3 innings.
Yankees right-hander Ben Heller underwent Tommy John surgery yesterday, according to a team media release. Dr. Christopher Ahmad performed the surgery, and Heller also had a bone spur removed from his throwing elbow as part of the procedure. Heller will now miss all of the 2018 season and most of the 2019 season recovering from the surgery, as per the usual 12-15 month timeline for TJ patients.
It’s a very tough blow for Heller, who was emerging as one of the many promising young arms in the Yankees’ system. Originally a 22nd-round pick for the Indians in the 2013 draft, Heller came to New York as part of the Andrew Miller trade package in July 2016 and made his MLB debut that same season. Heller tossed 18 Major League innings in 2016-17, to go along with a strong minor league career that saw him post a 2.76 ERA, 12.1 K/9, and a 3.42 K/BB rate. All but one of Heller’s 197 career minor league appearances came out of the bullpen, as his upper-90s fastball and solid slider made him a very intriguing relief prospect.
Heller was already on the 60-day DL due to the bone spur issue, which unfortunately proved to be the harbinger to a much more serious problem once doctors examined his arm. The Yankees had planned to send Heller down to Triple-A, though the transaction was voided when he was placed on the DL. As a result, Heller will continue to earn Major League service time for the entire season as he recovers from the Tommy John surgery.
The Yankees announced that they’ve claimed outfielder Trayce Thompson off waivers from the Dodgers. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, New York transferred righty Ben Heller from the 10-day disabled list to the 60-day DL. The Dodgers had designated Thompson for assignment last week.
Thompson, 27, gives the Yankees some outfield depth with each of Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier and Billy McKinney currently on the disabled list. The brother of NBA star Klay Thompson, Trayce has spent the past two seasons with the Dodgers organization after being acquired from the White Sox in the three-team trade that sent Todd Frazier from Cincinnati to Chicago.
[Related: Updated New York Yankees depth chart]
While Thompson logged a respectable .249/.322/.469 slash through his first 397 plate appearances between the Sox and Dodgers, he struggled to a .122/.218/.265 line in a tiny sample of 55 PAs last year in the Majors. His struggles weren’t confined to the big leagues, either; in 369 plate appearances in the hitter-friendly Triple-A Pacific Coast League, he hit just .212/.269/.363.
Thompson will give the Yankees a player who can handle all three outfield spots and has had some success both in the Majors and at Triple-A, even in light of his 2017 struggles. It remains to be seen if he can stick with the Yankees in the long term, however. He’s out of minor league options, so when some combination of Hicks, Ellsbury, Frazier and McKinney comes off the DL, it’s possible that Thompson could again find himself exposed to waivers.
The Pirates announced today that right-hander Joe Musgrove has been placed on the 10-day disabled list due to a muscle strain in his right shoulder. Righty Clay Holmes, who’d previously been returned to Triple-A after serving as the 26th man for yesterday’s doubleheader, has been recalled. (Holmes’ optional assignment needn’t be for the typical 10-day minimum, as he’s replacing an injured player.) As MLB.com’s Adam Berry notes, the move seemed somewhat curious at first, as Musgrove had said he felt good physically not long before the announcement. But testing ended up revealing a strain, leading to the roster move.
Musgrove’s DL placement is retroactive three days, so he can be activated on April 9. In his place, the Pirates could turn to one of Steven Brault or Tyler Glasnow to start in Musgrove’s place on Thursday. At present, it doesn’t seem that the injury is serious. Musgrove was slowed by some shoulder troubles in Spring Training, so it seems the Bucs are just being cautious early in the season. Pittsburgh will also need to evaluate shortstop Jordy Mercer, who exited after jamming his finger into the bag when diving back to first on a pickoff attempt. The Pirates, so far, have only said that Mercer left the game with right hand/finger “discomfort.”
Some more injury news from around the league…
- The Nationals recalled catcher Pedro Severino from Triple-A and placed Matt Wieters on the disabled list with a “mild left oblique strain.” Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post first reported today that Wieters was dealing with some type of injury and that Severino was headed to Atlanta in the event that Wieters needed a DL stint (Twitter links). Janes noted that Wieters didn’t take batting practice yesterday on his off day and “looked uncomfortable” throwing the ball back to the mound when catching warm-up pitches between innings for Nats starters. Both Wieters and Severino are coming off down seasons in 2017, as is Washington’s current backup, Miguel Montero.
- The Mariners are leaning toward placing Nelson Cruz on the 10-day disabled list so they can have a full bench for their upcoming interleague series, manager Scott Servais said today in an appearance on Brock & Salk on 710 ESPN in Seattle (Twitter link via 710’s Brent Stecker). Cruz suffered an ankle injury when slipping on the dugout steps after a two-run homer over the weekend and had an MRI, though the results of that test haven’t been announced yet.
- Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has progressed to the point where he’s been cleared to resume catching drills, tweets MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro. However, Frisaro cautions that Realmuto will probably still require “a few more weeks” before he’s able to return from the lower back injury that landed him on the disabled list to open the 2018 campaign. Chad Wallach, Tomas Telis and Bryan Holaday have been doing the catching in Realmuto’s absence.
- The Yankees announced today that they’ve voided right-hander Ben Heller’s optional assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and instead placed him on the Major League 10-day disabled list with a bone spur in his right elbow. There’s no immediate timetable provided for Heller’s return, though he’ll benefit from being on the MLB disabled list instead of the minor league DL, as he’ll now gain big league service time (and be paid the pro-rated portion of the league minimum) while sidelined.
The Indians have dramatically fortified their bullpen as they look to further pad their lead on the American League Central, announcing on Sunday morning the acquisition of left-hander Andrew Miller from the Yankees in exchange for outfield prospect Clint Frazier, minor league left-hander Justus Sheffield and minor league right-handers Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen.
Miller, 31, has been one of baseball’s most dominant relievers for the third year in a row, but the 2016 season has been arguably his best. He’s pitched to a lights-out 1.39 ERA with a 77-t0-7 K/BB ratio and a 52.9 percent ground-ball rate in 45 1/3 innings. He’s earning $9MM this season and in each of the next two to come — a highly reasonable price for a pitcher that has shown his level of dominance late in games. That he’s controllable for another two campaigns beyond 2016 undoubtedly made this deal more palatable for the Indians, who have a deep enough farm system to make this move without gutting their entire pipeline of prospects. However, the price that looks to have been paid is unequivocally steep, as Frazier is widely regarded as one of the top 25 or so best prospects in the game, and Sheffield has worked his way onto a number of top 100 rankings as well.
While future iterations of the Indians may suffer down the line if Frazier and Sheffield reach their ceilings, Cleveland holds a 4.5 game lead over the American League Central division and has definitively announced itself to be in win-now mode. Cleveland reportedly had an agreement in place with the Brewers to acquire Jonathan Lucroy, but that move was blown up when Lucroy exercised his no-trade clause to nix the deal. Whether or not the Indians can pull off another major acquisition, they have filled one clear need on their roster with a top-of-the-market upgrade as they push to capture their first World Series title since 1948.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have seemingly become reluctant deadline sellers, now trading two-thirds of what was one of the most dominant late-inning trios Major League history. Dellin Betances will step into the ninth inning for the Yankees, who have parlayed their investments in Miller and Chapman into a slew of intriguing prospects. The Yankees’ farm system is now teeming with top-tier talent, positioning them well for the future either by allowing them to develop a number of core young players or put together a package for controllable, impact talent at the Major League level.
Frazier, 21, is one of the game’s most highly touted outfield prospects and draws rave reviews for his exceptional bat speed. He was recently promoted to Triple-A after hitting .276/.356/.469 with 13 homers and 13 steals in 391 plate appearances against much older competition at Double-A Akron. He rated 21st on Baseball America’s midseason list of the game’s top 100 prospects, 24th on MLB.com’s same version of that list, 26th on Baseball Prospectus’ midseason top 50 and 34th on Keith Law’s midseason top 50 at ESPN.com. He’s playing center field right now, but he may have to eventually move to a corner spot, where his bat will still play. Frazier draws positive reviews for his plus raw power and improving plate discipline. His walk and strikeout rates have improved significantly since his debut in pro ball, and given the fact that he’s already in Triple-A, he could be an option for the Yankees as soon as next season if his development doesn’t stall at the top minor league level.
Sheffield, 20, is currently holding his own against much older competition in the Class-A Advanced Carolina League. He’s worked to a 3.59 ERA with 8.8 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 with a 45 percent ground-ball rate in 19 starts this season, spanning a total of 95 1/3 innings. Cleveland selected Sheffield with the 31st overall pick in the 2014 draft, and he currently rates 69th on BA’s midseason top 100 and 95th on MLB.com’s version of the list. Sheffield’s fastball has some sink to it and sits in the 92-93 mph range, occasionally reaching as high as 96 mph, per MLB.com. He’s a bit undersized at 5’10”, but most scouting reports on Sheffield peg him as a potential mid-rotation starter with a potentially plus curveball and a developing changeup.
Both Heller and Feyereisen could help the Yankees’ bullpen in the near future, tweets MLB.com’s Jim Callis. Heller rated as the Indians’ No. 30 prospect, per Callis and colleague Jonathan Mayo, He’s currently pitching at Triple-A after posting a dazzling 0.55 ERA with 12.7 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9 in 16 1/3 Double-A innings to open the season. The 24-year-old Heller has had continued success since moving up a level, logging a 2.49 ERA with a 25-to-7 K/BB ratio in 25 1/3 innings. Heller’s fastball sits in the upper 90s and can touch 100 mph, and his slider draws above-average reviews from Callis and Mayo. The 23-year-old Feyereisen is currently pitching in Double-A, where he’s compiled a 2.23 ERA with a 56-to-20 K/BB ratio in 40 1/3 innings out of the bullpen. Though he’s averaged 4.5 walks per nine innings this season, control hasn’t been a major issue for him in past seasons.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that Miller had been traded to Cleveland (Twitter link). ESPN’s Buster Olney reported that Frazier, Sheffield and two others were in the deal (links to Twitter). FanRag’s Jon Heyman reported the inclusion of Heller and Feyereisen (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.