- With Todd Frazier now in pinstripes, the Yankees intend to work Chase Headley in at first base, manager Joe Girardi told reporters including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (Twitter link). The switch-hitting Headley will pair with new addition Garrett Cooper for the time being, though that duo doesn’t promise to deliver the kind of offensive output that might be hoped for from the position. It remains to be seen whether the Yankees will continue to dabble in the market for first basemen.
The Yankees announced that they’ve designated infielder/outfielder Rob Refsnyder and first baseman Ji-Man Choi for assignment in order to clear space on the roster for last night’s acquisitions of Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle. A third 40-man spot wasn’t needed, as Tyler Clippard went to the White Sox in the trade as well. However, the Yankees did option left-hander Chasen Shreve to clear a 25-man spot.
[Related: Updated New York Yankees depth chart]
The 26-year-old Refsnyder generated a fair bit of optimism among Yankees fans as he rose through the system, but he’s never gotten an extended big league look due to questions about his defense. He’s appeared in 94 games across the past three seasons, logging time at second base, first base and in the outfield corners, but his bat has produced just a .241/.312/.332 output through 240 plate appearances. Those questions about his defense always made him more of a favorite among Yankee fans than in prospect rankings, but Refsnyder does carry a solid .292/.372/.424 batting line through 1244 career PAs at the Triple-A level.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that he’s gotten the sense that enough other clubs are intrigued by Refsnyder’s contact skills that the Yankees will be able to trade him before his DFA window expires. (The new CBA changed that allotted window from 10 days to seven days.) The return isn’t likely to be much, but he’s optionable for the remainder of the season, which could appeal to some clubs in need of bench depth.
Choi tallied just 18 PAs in his brief big league tenure with the Yankees but made them count, slugging a pair of homers and a double in his six games in pinstripes. That impressive showing notwithstanding, he’s a career .181/.279/.386 hitter in 147 PAs between the Halos and Yanks, though like Refsnyder he does come with an impressive Triple-A track record. Through 851 PAs at that level, Choi has raked at a .300/.391/.462 clip. He has one option year remaining after the 2017 season, which could be appealing to clubs on the hunt for depth pieces, but he’s also cleared waivers in the past and came to the Yankees on a minor league deal this past January.
- Rosenthal also tweets that one reason the Yankees shifted course and acquired Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle from the White Sox is due to the high asking prices they encountered when seeking rotation upgrades. The Yanks are still on the lookout for starting pitching upgrades — both rental pieces and controllable assets, he adds.
The White Sox and Yankees have agreed to a blockbuster deal that will send Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to New York in exchange for outfield prospect Blake Rutherford, left-handed pitching prospect Ian Clarkin, outfield prospect Tito Polo and veteran right-hander Tyler Clippard. The White Sox have formally announced the deal.
While Frazier has been primarily a third baseman in his career, he does bring 740 innings of experience at first base to the table. That’s a clear area of need for the Yankees, who have seen injuries ruin the seasons of Greg Bird and Tyler Austin, while offseason acquisition Chris Carter has been twice designated for assignment and now cut loose back to the open market. The Yankees could deploy Frazier at first base with regularity or put him at third and slide Chase Headley across the diamond, where even his modest production would be an upgrade.
The 31-year-old Frazier is set to hit free agency at season’s end, and while his production this year hasn’t been up to par, he’s turned things on since the the calendar flipped to June. Over his past 37 games, Frazier has batted .234/.361/.508 with nine homers and eight doubles. For a Yankees team that has seen its first basemen bat a collective .208/.295/.391, even Frazier’s overall .207/.328/.432 batting line represents a marked improvement, but if he can sustain his recently increased production, it’ll be a particular boon for manager Joe Girardi’s lineup.
And, in fact, there are plenty of signs that point to some positive regression for Frazier. The slugger has upped his walk rate to a career-high 14.3 percent in 2017 while also cutting his strikeout rate by more than three percent — from 24.5 percent in 2016 to 21.2 percent in 2017. Beyond that, Frazier has cut his infield-fly rate and seen increases in his line-drive and hard-contact rates. As such, it stands to reason that he could continue to improve upon a .214 batting average on balls in play that is currently the second-worst mark among all qualified Major League hitters. Frazier is earning $12MM in 2017, and there’s about $4.92MM of that sum remaining on his contract.
Robertson, of course, is a known commodity to the Yankees. The righty spent the first seven years of his career in the Bronx, working to an excellent 2.81 ERA with 12.0 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9. Most of his career in New York was spent setting up for future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, but Robertson thrived in the ninth-inning spotlight in his final season with the Yanks (following Rivera’s retirement), setting him up to sign a four-year, $46MM contract that was at the time one of the five largest contracts ever inked by a reliever.
Now 32 years of age, Robertson is halfway through the third year of that contract and is in the midst of his best season with the Sox. Through 33 1/3 innings on Chicago’s South Side, Robertson has worked to a 2.70 earned run average with 12.7 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and an even 40.0 percent ground-ball rate. Like Frazier, Robertson is still owed $4.92MM of a $12MM salary this season. He, however, is signed through next year and is set to earn $13MM in 2018.
As for Kahnle, the 27-year-old was also once property of the Yankees, having risen through their minor league ranks before eventually making his big league debut in Colorado. The flamethrowing righty has long displayed a propensity for missing bats, but he’s taken that skill to new heights in 2017 while also dramatically slashing his walk rate. Through 36 innings in 2017, Kahnle has posted a ridiculous 15.0 K/9 rate to go along with a 41.1 percent grounder rate. The resulting 2.50 ERA looks impressive on its own, but metrics like FIP (1.47), xFIP (1.63) and SIERA (1.62) all feel that he may actually be unfortunate to be sporting an ERA even that high.
Further adding to Kahnle’s value is that he very much comes with long-term potential. If this proves to be a breakout rather than an aberration, he’d be controllable through the 2020 season via the arbitration process. Kahnle entered the year with just over two years of big league service time, so he’ll wrap up the 2017 campaign with three-plus years of service and be arbitration-eligible for the first time.
Adding Robertson and Kahnle to a bullpen that already features both Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances gives the Yankees a powerhouse relief corps to work with not only in 2017 but also through at least 2018, after which Robertson will be eligible for free agency. That group will be joined by an excellent multi-inning weapon in the form of Adam Warren as well as 26-year-old Chad Green, who is in the midst of his own breakout season — one that closely resembles that of Kahnle (1.75 ERA, 12.3 K/9, 2.5 BB/9 in 36 innings). Chasen Shreve is in the midst of a solid season and seems likely to stick as a left-handed option.
Clippard’s inclusion in this deal is primarily a means of offsetting some of the salary that the Yankees are taking on. Signed to a two-year, $12.25MM deal prior to the start of the 2016 season (by the D-backs), Clippard was a solid midseason pickup for New York last year but has struggled to a 4.95 ERA this year thanks to a recent spike in his home run rate. He’s still owed about $2.5MM of this season’s $6.125MM salary, so his inclusion will negate about a quarter of the $9.85MM that the Yankees are adding to their 2017 payroll in acquiring Frazier and Robertson. He’ll also give the ChiSox a veteran option at the back of a very inexperienced bullpen.
Clippard’s inclusion may have helped sway the Yankees into parting with a bit more in a what is essentially a three-player package that is headlined by Rutherford. The 20-year-old Rutherford was New York’s first-round pick in 2016 (No. 18 overall) and is off to a .281/.342/.391 start with Class-A Charleston. While those numbers don’t immediately jump out, he ranked as the game’s No. 36 overall prospect on Baseball America’s midseason update less than two weeks ago.
Rutherford entered the year as MLB.com’s No. 30 overall prospect, though his unspectacular start to the season may well cause that ranking to dip a bit. (He did not, for instance, rank on the midseason Top 50s of ESPN’s Keith Law or Baseball Prospectus.) Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo noted that he has the potential to hit for average and power, though their report notes that he’s likely to end up in an outfield corner — probably left field due to an arm that is more average than great.
The Yankees dealt from an area of depth in moving Rutherford, as Aaron Judge has cemented himself in right field, while Clint Frazier is doing his best to cement himself as a big leaguer right now. Beyond that, Aaron Hicks is controlled through 2019, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner both remain under contract, and the team is obviously hoping for a full recovery from Dustin Fowler, who suffered a severe knee injury in his MLB debut.
Clarkin, meanwhile, ranked 19th in a stacked Yankees farm system this winter, per Callis and Mayo, while ESPN’s Keith Law had him 13th. peg him as a possible mid-rotation starter if all goes according to plan, praising a fastball that sits 90-93 mph and reaches 95 mph. Clarkin commands the pitch well, and Baseball America gives him a chance to have an above-average curveball. He’s repeating Class-A Advanced and has impressed with a 2.61 ERA, 7.1 K/9, 3.1 BB/9 and a 53.7 percent ground-ball rate. With 175 1/3 innings under his belt in High-A, the former first-round pick (No. 33 overall, 2013) could conceivably be in line for a promotion to Double-A this summer.
Polo, 22, is hitting .298/.358/.446 with five homers, 13 doubles, seven triples and 25 steals through 316 plate appearances between Class-A Advanced and Double-A this season. The former Pirates farmhand went to the Yankees as part of last season’s Ivan Nova trade with Pittsburgh but didn’t crack the team’s top 30 prospects this offseason.
Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago first tweeted that the Yankees were the “closest” team to landing this trio. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports said a deal was “very close” (on Twitter). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reported that Rutherford was the headliner (on Twitter). Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported that Clarkin was in the deal (Twitter link). MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported that the White Sox would take back Clippard and his contract (also via Twitter). Sherman added that there was no additional cash changing hands. Levine tweeted that there was a fourth player in the deal.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Yankees have reached out to their New York City rivals to express interest in first baseman Lucas Duda and reliever Addison Reed, per Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (via Twitter). We’ve heard plenty of chatter about this possible connect, particularly with regards to Duda, it’s notable that the sides are now in conversation.
Both Mets veterans are pending free agents who figure to be available at the trade deadline this summer. With the Yankees still firmly in the postseason hunt in the American League, and the Mets all but buried in the N.L., it’s easy to see the reason for the contact. Still, it’s always notable when these two clubs look to line up, given how rarely they do business with one another.
Duda seems an entirely sensible rental piece for the Yanks, who are also looking at other alternatives to address the team’s needs at first base. He remains an underappreciated offensive force; setting aside his injury-shortened 2016 season, Duda has consistently been over thirty percent better than the league-average hitter (by measure of wRC+) since the start of 2014.
And though Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances represent a fearsome late-inning duo, Reed would upgrade any bullpen. He’s likely to draw much wider interest than Duda, who is limited to playing first base (or functioning as a DH). Reed, 28, owns a 2.04 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 since coming to New York late in 2015 as a reclamation project.
It seems all but inevitable that the Mets will be looking to move both players, who are earning reasonable but hardly bargaining salaries ($7.25MM for Duda, $7.75MM for Reed). The Mets may well put an emphasis on adding pieces that can contribute to the team in the relatively near future, given the organization’s stated inclination to attempt to rebound right back into contention next year. With several holes opening around the roster, GM Sandy Alderson could see merit in that approach, or he could seek to build up the team’s prospect war chest by pursuing higher-upside younger talent.
- There’s still a wide market for Phillies reliever Pat Neshek, per Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (Twitter link). Among the teams in pursuit are the Brewers, Rays, and Yankees, but it seems there’s no favorite at the moment. While Tampa Bay has been tied mostly to southpaws, the team is also interested in righties such as Neshek, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick noted today on Twitter.
TODAY: Bird released a statement through his agent, saying that he is hopeful that the procedure will finally resolve what had been an “increasingly frustrating” situation with his ankle. He also expressed a determination to return to the majors this season.
YESTERDAY: Yankees first baseman Greg Bird will undergo surgery on his right ankle, manager Joe Girardi told reporters including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch (via Twitter). Per the skipper, Bird will be down for at least six weeks while recovering, but it isn’t clear just how soon he’ll again represent an option at the major league level.
While the news isn’t promising for New York, it had been anticipated by this point. Bird has struggled with ongoing ankle issues for much of the year, and was recently diagnosed with os trigonum syndrome. The organization will obviously take the long view here and hope the young slugger can fully put the ankle woes behind him.
Notably, the 24-year-old will continue accruing MLB service time for the duration of his DL stint — as he has been all year. He will have over two full years of service on his ledger at season’s end, even though he has played in just 65 total games in the majors.
This post was originally published on the evening of Tues., July 18, prior to the announcement of the trade.
9:59pm: Levine tweets that there are four players going to the White Sox in the deal. Sherman adds that the fourth player will be another prospect, so it doesn’t seem as though anyone else on the big league roster is in the deal.
9:27pm: MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand tweets that the White Sox would indeed take Clippard’s contract back in the trade as a means of offsetting some salary. Sherman tweets that there will be no cash considerations exchanging hands. Clippard is earning $6.125MM this year in the second season of a two-year, $12.25MM pact. About $2.5MM of that sum is still owed to the veteran reliever, so he’ll offset roughly one quarter of the nearly $10MM the Yankees are adding to the payroll by taking on the salaries of Robertson and Frazier.
9:04pm: Heyman tweets that the two teams are hoping to finalize a deal tonight, suggesting that well-regarded but lower-level prospects will likely be headed to the ChiSox in return.
8:01pm: The Yankees are indeed “pushing hard” for that trio, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post, though he notes that the deal is not yet at the finish line.
7:52pm: The Yankees are “very close” to a deal with the White Sox that would bring Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to New York, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (on Twitter). Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago first tweeted that the Yankees were the “closest” team to landing that trio.
Notably, Frazier was announced as a healthy scratch by the White Sox tonight. A move to grab all three of those players would obviously be a significant upgrade for the Yankees’ roster, particularly the bullpen, but would also be important in that it’d keep Frazier (and possibly Robertson) away from the division-rival Red Sox. Boston was reportedly in talks with Frazier within the past hour, and there were some rumblings connecting Robertson to the BoSox as well.
While Frazier has been primarily a third baseman in his career, he does bring quite a bit of experience at first base to the table. That’s a clear area of need for the Yankees, who have seen injuries ruin the seasons of Greg Bird and Tyler Austin, while offseason acquisition Chris Carter has been twice designated for assignment and now cut loose back to the open market.
The 31-year-old Frazier is set to hit free agency at season’s end, and while his production this year hasn’t been up to par, he’s turned things on since the the calendar flipped to June. Over his past 37 games, Frazier has batted .234/.361/.508 with nine homers and eight doubles. For a Yankees team that has seen its first basemen bat a collective .208/.295/.391, even Frazier’s overall .207/.328/.432 batting line would be a marked improvement, but if he can sustain his recently increased production, it’d be a particular boon for manager Joe Girardi’s lineup.
The Yankees and Athletics are discussing possible trade scenarios involving first baseman Yonder Alonso, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi. There’s no indication, at this point, that a deal is particularly likely to materialize, though it’s easy to see how the teams could line up.
Indeed, the potential match between Oakland and New York has long been speculated. But a firm connection had not previously been established. The former has had eyes on the latter’s farm system of late, Ken Rosenthal reported yesterday on Twitter, suggesting that the sides could see a potential path to a swap of some kind.
As both reporters noted, it seems that righty Sonny Gray would also make for a sensible target for New York, though it is unclear at this point whether he has been the focus of any discussions between the organizations. There’ll be loads of competition for Gray, but he would help fill a need both now in the future for the Yanks.
It’s quite a different situation with regard to Alonso, who has morphed into an offensive force this year. There are several other quality first basemen who’ll likely be available — Lucas Duda of the Mets and Matt Adams of the Braves perhaps representing the most obvious options — and few contenders that have a clear need at the position. That seems to leave the Yankees in rather a strong bargaining position.
- As many as 10 teams are still in the mix for Marlins righty David Phelps, tweets Nightengale. Phelps is indeed an attractive trade chip, though it’s unlikely that all 10 of those clubs are expressing serious interest and making competitive bids to acquire him. Nightengale names the Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Cubs, Rockies, and Rangers as the chief pursuers of Phelps.