New York Yankees – MLB Trade Rumors 2019-07-18T04:34:11Z WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Poll: Aroldis Chapman’s Opt-Out Clause]]> 2019-07-18T01:09:29Z 2019-07-18T01:09:29Z Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Wednesday morning that Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman will become one of the most notable names on the free-agent market in the offseason. Chapman still has two years and $30MM left on the five-year, $86MM contract he signed entering 2016, but a source told Rosenthal the left-hander is “one million percent” likely to exercise his opt-out clause and revisit the open market in a few months. Chapman subsequently denied the report, but the still-great fireballer does seem like a realistic candidate to outdo the remainder of his current contract in free agency. MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes expects Chapman to opt out, having ranked the Cuban flamethrower sixth in his most recent list of potential free agents.

There may be an argument for Chapman to stay put, though, if you consider the less-than-ideal trip to free agency fellow longtime standout closer Craig Kimbrel took this past season. Kimbrel, thanks in part to a qualifying offer, went until early June without a contract before finally signing with the Cubs. But Kimbrel showed real signs of decline in 2018, and despite that, the 31-year-old still signed a three-year, $43MM contract worth a substantial amount more than what’s left on Chapman’s pact.

Chapman, who will turn 32 next February, remains a game-ending force. The former Red and Cub has lost a bit of velocity this season, but he’s still throwing near 100 mph. He’s also the owner of a 2.45 ERA/2.09 FIP with 13.01 K/9, 2.95 BB/9, a 45.8 percent groundball rate and 25 saves in 29 chances across 36 2/3 innings this year. Neither lefties nor righties have done much to solve Chapman, who has yielded a .257 weighted on-base average/.263 expected wOBA in 2019.

Not only has Chapman thrived again this year, but no other reliever would offer a better track record than him in free agency. Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen could opt out of the two years and $38MM left on his contract, but he has been more vulnerable than usual this season. Giants closer and impending free agent Will Smith has been tremendous this year, though he can’t match Chapman’s long-term excellence. Meanwhile, Chapman’s teammate Dellin Betances has enjoyed a phenomenal career as a setup man, yet multiple injuries have prevented him from pitching at all this season. The rest of the impending free-agent class doesn’t approach Chapman.

If there’s one factor that could significantly tamp down Chapman’s earning power, it’s a qualifying offer. Teams didn’t want to cough up a massive amount of money and surrender a draft pick for Kimbrel or starter Dallas Keuchel, two stars who sat without a job until last month. Chapman would also have a QO and draft compensation hanging over his head, as there’s no chance the Yankees would allow him to leave without getting something in return. But it’s improbable that would be enough to stop Chapman from giving free agency another whirl during the upcoming winter. What do you expect him to do?

(Poll link for app users)

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Yankees Acquire Terrance Gore]]> 2019-07-17T20:01:25Z 2019-07-17T19:52:38Z The Yankees announced today that they have acquired speedy outfielder Terrance Gore from the Royals. The deal sends cash considerations back to Kansas City.

Gore will not land on the New York 40-man, per the announcement. It seems that the deal was struck after he cleared waivers. Gore was designated for assignment recently.

The 28-year-old will open his tenure with the Yanks at Triple-A. No doubt he’ll wait there until the club has a need for a stolen-base threat and defensive specialist.

Gore, who swiped 13 bags this year in 37 games, will make for an intriguing potential postseason roster weapon for the Yanks. The fleet-footed baserunning expert has appeared in nine playoff games, logging five steals, despite taking just 19 total regular-season MLB plate appearances before the current season.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Aroldis Chapman Refutes Report That He Expects To Opt Out After Season]]> 2019-07-17T19:36:20Z 2019-07-17T19:23:54Z 2:34pm: Chapman made clear to reporters today that he has yet to make any such decision, as’s Bryan Hoch was among those to report on Twitter. He says he has not even yet discussed the matter and calls it “completely false” to suggest he has decided to opt out.

2:23pm: A confidant of Yankees lefty Aroldis Chapman says that the star reliever is “one million percent” likely to exercise his opt-out clause and return to the open market at the end of the season, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link).

It’s not really surprising to hear such a stance from the 31-year-old fireballer. He is owed another $30MM over two years on the contract he inked to return to New York after the 2017 season. But as MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes wrote just yesterday, in ranking Chapman sixth among pending free agents, it seems reasonable to think he could secure a rather significantly larger contract on the open market — even given that he’ll certainly be forced to reject a qualifying offer and carry the burden of draft compensation if he opts out.

True, Chapman is exhibiting a typical velocity reduction at this stage of his career. But in his case that means he’s averaging 98.2 mph with his four-seamer — good for fourth among all qualified relievers in baseball. Chapman is also still sitting in triple-digits (second in baseball) with a two-seam offering that he has gone to more than ever.

It is notable that Chapman carries only a 12.7% swinging-strike rate, lower than any of his single-season marks. But he’s still carrying an excellent 2.45 ERA with 13.0 K/9 and 2.9 K/9. Notably, that walk rate is much better than Chapman’s typical 4+ rate. His first-pitch strike rate sits at 63.2%, a personal high.

Some might point to the Craig Kimbrel contract as reason for Chapman to think twice. But that’s an odd interpretation, particularly considering that the latter has not (to this point, at least) shown the kinds of worrying signs that Kimbrel did in his platform season. Kimbrel also could have landed a larger deal had things shaken out differently in the way his market situation unfolded. Oh, and the contract he did sign? He ultimately took down $43MM over three seasons, the first of which he only played in the second half. That’s clearly a better deal for a relief pitcher of this age than Chapman’s remaining 2/30.

Chapman also won’t face immense competition from the remainder of the free agent market. Kenley Jansen seems less likely to opt out, as he’s not only owed more ($38MM) over the two years of his deal but has shown more worrying declines in velocity and some key peripherals. Otherwise, Will Smith does provide interested teams with another high-end lefty reliever to consider, but he lacks Chapman’s long track record of consistent dominance. And it isn’t as if both can’t find hefty paydays.

For the Yankees, a Chapman opt-out would create some interesting choices. The club would certainly have internal alternatives, even with Dellin Betances (who’s still working towards his season debut) also set to test the open market. Veterans Zack Britton and Adam Ottavino have experience in the ninth, while Tommy Kahnle and Chad Green have the kind of stuff that teams like to see in that spot. It’s possible the Yanks could look into Smith and explore the trade market. And as Dierkes noted in his writeup on the top pending free agents, it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where the Yanks forestall an opt-out by adding to the existing contract — or simply beat the rest of the market to bring the power southpaw back to the Bronx.

Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Health Notes: McCann, Castillo, Polanco, Severino]]> 2019-07-16T18:00:35Z 2019-07-16T18:00:35Z Veteran Braves backstop Brian McCann hasn’t yet decided on his future but feels great in the present, he tells David O’Brien of The Athletic (subscription link) as part of a lengthy and entertaining chat. The 35-year-old backstop would say only that “we’ll see what happens” when pressed on his intentions for playing beyond the current campaign. It certainly seems like a tempting proposition for McCann, who says he “feel[s] amazing” after undergoing knee surgery last year. While he has had some ups and downs at the plate this season, McCann carries a solid .257/.328/.427 batting line over 198 plate appearances and has been an excellent value for the Braves at $2MM. His ongoing knee health seems to bode well for the organization down the stretch.

More on a few health situations from around the game …

  • The White Sox announced today that they have activated catcher Welington Castillo. He ended up missing about a month with an oblique strain. It remains to be seen how the Chicago org will allocate playing time, but odds are James McCann will continue to receive the lion’s share of the duties behind the dish. Castillo could conceivably be moved later this month, if only because teams will be looking to stash depth in advance of the single trade deadline, but he won’t hold much appeal given his ugly .196/.289/.364 slash. The veteran backstop is also earning a hefty $7.25MM this year and is owed a $500K buyout on a $8MM club option for 2020. The White Sox may also just hang tight and see if their club can make a surprise run at a Wild Card slot.
  • Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco won’t bounce back to the majors quite as quickly as had been hoped. As Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette writes, Polanco was pulled from a rehab contest with left shoulder tightness. For now, the club only intends to give him a brief rest without interrupting the rehab assignment. As Mackey notes, the timing is of some consequence to the Bucs. The club is in a tough spot as the trade deadline approaches, having slipped into the NL Central cellar. It’s arguably positioned to sell a left-handed-hitting outfielder regardless of what else it does — highly paid pending free agent Corey Dickerson seems a particular candidate — but it’ll be tough to pull the trigger on a deal if there’s uncertainly regarding Polanco’s availability.
  • As expected, Yankees righties Luis Severino and Dellin Betances resumed throwing yesterday, as’s Bryan Hoch reports. Indications are that all went well for both hurlers in limited sessions, designed only to begin reintroducing their strained lats to the rigors of the MLB mound. Severino told reporters that he’d be willing to work back in a relief capacity if that’s the organization’s preference. While that’d bring him aboard quicker, it probably isn’t the optimal outcome for a club that has a need for quality rotation pieces and can probably afford to be patient.
Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Multiple Teams Showing Initial Interest In Robbie Ray]]> 2019-07-16T13:45:27Z 2019-07-16T13:45:35Z TODAY: You can add the Brewers to the stack of club’s showing initial interest in Ray, Morosi tweets. It seems safe to presume that just about every organization with a rotation need will at least take a look at the southpaw.

YESTERDAY, 10:25pm: The Yankees are also among the teams interested in Ray, Jon Heyman of MLB Network tweets. Considering they’ve historically liked Ray, that’s not surprising.

4:48pm: Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray is one of the top rotation targets on this summer’s trade market. The Arizona organization will have to decide whether the time is right to cash in on the southpaw, who’s earning $6.05MM in 2019 and can be controlled via arbitration for one more season beyond the present.

The Astros and Phillies are two of the teams showing “recent interest” in Ray, according to’s Jon Morosi. It’s unsurprising to see this particular connection; both of those organizations is in obvious need of starting pitching and already pursued Ray over the offseason. No doubt other organizations are also taking a look at Ray in anticipation of the Snakes entertaining offers.

At this point, it’s unclear just how the Arizona organization will behave at the deadline. The club itself does not fully know, GM Mike Hazen has indicated. Final decisions will surely come down to details that aren’t yet known: where exactly are the Snakes in the Wild Card standings? And what package of young talent can they achieve for Ray and others?

The ’Stros and Phils are surely interested in gaining an understanding not just of what kind of pieces the D-Backs would want, but how inclined they are to pursue a deal in earnest. While the Houston organization will surely be in on rental assets, it has reasons to prefer controllable arms. It makes much more sense for the Philadelphia club to focus on the latter class, given its recent struggles.

It’ll certainly be interesting to see how negotiations progress on Ray. He’s a particular target for strikeout-loving teams — so long as they can live with his walk issues and a few more long balls than might be preferred. Since the start of his breakout 2017 campaign, Ray has thrown nearly four hundred innings of 3.47 ERA ball with 12.0 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 along with 1.3 dingers per nine. Though the best run of results came at the front end of that time period, by most measures Ray has been much the same pitcher throughout. There were some health hiccups last year, but he has stayed on the mound this season. All things considered, Ray is quite an appealing target for the right contender.

The situation is made all the more interesting by the D-Backs’ own circumstances. Both Hazen and CEO Derrick Hall have made clear the organization isn’t looking for anything close to a full rebuild. That’s not to say that they wouldn’t be interested in highly talented but far-off prospects, but the Arizona org is not going to punt on the present entirely. That stance promises to impact the sort of deal structures that are pursued. The Snakes acquired talented players at or near the majors — Luke WeaverCarson Kelly, and Andy Young — in last winter’s Paul Goldschmidt deal, which could provide something of a model for a Ray swap.

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Report: No Untouchables In Yankees’ Farm System]]> 2019-07-16T02:33:35Z 2019-07-16T02:21:58Z The first-place Yankees are aiming for a championship this year, and it seems they’re prepared to pay steep prospect prices at the July 31 trade deadline in order to increase their chances. The team has no “untouchable” players in its farm system, Ken Davidoff of the New York Post reports.

No Yankees prospect has generated more hype lately than right-hander Deivi Garcia, whom they promoted to Triple-A ball last week. The 20-year-old Garcia is now the youngest player at the minors’ highest level, Davidoff notes. Garcia’s elevation to Scranton came in response to a great season-opening performance at Double-A Trenton, where he posted a 3.00 ERA/2.18 FIP with 14.49 K/9 against 4.41 BB/9 in 10 starts and 51 innings. Although he’s just 5-foot-9, Garcia’s tremendous early season showing helped earn him a 29th-place ranking in the midseason top 50 list ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required) just released.

General manager Brian Cashman said last week Garcia could be a factor on the Yankees’ roster down the stretch, but he wouldn’t be off limits in a deal, Davidoff suggests. The goal would be to acquire a controllable rotation piece in any swap involving Garcia, it seems. On the other hand, the Yankees “certainly wouldn’t” trade Garcia for Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner or another rental, per Davidoff. The same obviously goes for Mets righty Zack Wheeler, as Andy Martino of relays, but it may be a different story for controllable fireballer Noah Syndergaard. The Yankees have shown interest in Syndergaard, reports Martino, who points out the Mets sent special assistant Omar Minaya to scout Garcia’s Triple-A debut Monday. With that said, there’s little optimism the crosstown rivals will come together on a trade this month, Martino adds on Twitter.

Meanwhile, outfielder Estevan Florial – the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect in the most recent team rankings at, FanGraphs and Baseball America (subscription required) – would be movable “in the right deal,” Davidoff writes. Unlike Garcia, the 21-year-old Florial hasn’t enjoyed a banner 2019 season in the minors. Currently at the High-A level after fracturing his right wrist in the spring, Florial has hit .229/.282/.359 (91 wRC+) with four home runs in 142 plate appearances.

In fairness to Florial, the injury may have a role in his underwhelming production this year. Moreover, Florial entered the season as a consensus top 100 prospect, so it stands to reason he’s someone who would interest other teams in trade talks. The Yankees generally aren’t short on enticing minor leaguers, according to a rival talent evaluator who spoke with Davidoff.

“It’s a really good system,” the evaluator said. “They certainly have the pieces to be aggressive.”

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Luis Severino, Dellin Betances Cleared To Begin Throwing Programs]]> 2019-07-14T15:24:47Z 2019-07-14T15:24:17Z Injuries have prevented star Yankees right-handers Luis Severino and Dellin Betances from pitching in 2019, but that could change in the coming weeks. Severino and Betances have been medically cleared to begin throwing programs Monday, per reports from Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News and James Wagner of the New York Times.

The 25-year-old Severino proved himself as one of the game’s top young starters from 2017-18, which led the Yankees to award him a four-year, $40MM extension this past February. The club shut down Severino because of shoulder inflammation in early March, though, and discovered at the beginning of April that he had a Grade 2 lat strain. The expectation then was that Severino would debut in May, which was eventually pushed back to July and then August.

Severino began a throwing program before his latest shutdown, but general manager Brian Cashman revealed he did so before undergoing an MRI. Cashman expressed disappointment in the Yankees for letting Severino start throwing without first going through a more thorough examination. However, now it seems the hard-throwing Severino truly is on the way back.

While Severino was the ace of the Yankees’ staff over the previous two years, he’s far from certain to reprise that role in 2019. Cashman suggested Friday that Severino could max out as a 75-pitch hurler and/or work from the Yankees’ bullpen when he returns in “six or more weeks.” Regardless, Cashman’s sure to continue scouring the trade market for starters leading up to the July 31 deadline.

Like Severino, Betances came into 2019 hoping to build on a recent stretch of outstanding production. Instead, though, the 31-year-old reliever’s season – which happens to be his last under team control – hasn’t gotten off the ground. A bone spur in his shoulder and then a lat injury have prevented Betances from further making a case for a sizable offseason payday. They’ve also robbed the Yankees of their best setup man, though their bullpen has still held its own en route to the AL’s top record (61-33).

Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Aroldis Chapman On Upcoming Opt-Out Decision]]> 2019-07-14T13:48:24Z 2019-07-14T13:45:20Z Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman is one of several prominent major leaguers who will have a chance to opt out of his contract after the season. Unlike a lot of his peers, there’s seemingly a realistic shot Chapman will vacate the remainder of his deal.

The Cuban fireballer briefly discussed his future with Ken Davidoff of the New York Post during this week’s All-Star festivities, saying through an interpreter: “Honestly, I haven’t been thinking about that at all because through these years, I’ve dealt with some injuries. So the concentration and the focus was to stay healthy this year and try to have a good season. It hasn’t even crossed my mind.”

Chapman’s in his second go-around with the Yankees, who acquired the superstar left-hander for a fairly underwhelming package of players from the Reds in December 2015 amid troubling domestic violence allegations. The league suspended Chapman for the first 30 games of 2016, but he came back to dominate on the mound with New York that year. The Yankees weren’t surefire contenders when the summer rolled around, though, and Chapman was on the cusp of free agency. Consequently, they traded him to the Cubs in a win-win deal. The Yankees landed middle infielder Gleyber Torres, then an excellent prospect and now a terrific 22-year-old major leaguer. The Cubs, with Chapman’s help, won their first World Series in 108 years.

Fresh off his championship with the Cubs, Chapman rejoined the Yankees heading into 2017 for a five-year, $86MM payday. That’s still the largest guarantee ever awarded to a reliever. Chapman will have another two years and $30MM left on his contract after this season, but considering the way he has pitched, the soon-to-be 32-year-old could try his hand in free agency again.

Now a six-time All-Star, Chapman has avoided injuries in 2019 and recorded a matching 1.82 ERA/1.82 FIP with 12.98 K/9, 3.12 BB/9 (one of the lowest walk rates of his career) and a 45.2 percent groundball rate over 34 2/3 innings. Chapman has racked up 24 saves in 27 tries in the process, giving him 260 on 290 tries in his career. Adding to Chapman’s appeal, Statcast regards him as elite or close to it in strikeout percentage, hard-hit rate, exit velocity against, expected batting average against, expected slugging percentage and expected weighted on-base average.

If you’re looking for negatives, Chapman’s K/9, although hefty, is the second-worst mark of his career. Meanwhile, Chapman’s swinging-strike percentage (12.3) is a personal low, merely above average and far less than his lifetime figure (16.8). A drop in four-seam velocity has possibly contributed to Chapman missing fewer bats, though his 98 mph heat remains plenty imposing, and the 99.9 average on his sinker – a pitch he uses just over 10 percent of the time – is jaw-dropping.

All things considered, Chapman has a legitimate case to head back to the open market, where he’d again be the most proven closer available. Unlike his previous trip to free agency, though, Chapman would surely come with a qualifying offer attached. The Yankees wouldn’t simply let him walk for nothing.

Dylan A. Chase <![CDATA[Maybin Participates In Running, Drills Saturday]]> 2019-07-14T03:39:49Z 2019-07-14T02:13:21Z
  • Well-traveled Yankees outfielder Cameron Maybin has already had an eventful season thus far in 2019. After being cut by the Giants in the wake of a mid-spring DUI arrest and subsequently bouncing to the Indians Triple-A affiliate, Maybin was acquired by an injury-stricken Bombers team that was in sore need of outfield reinforcement. Though he provided superlative offensive performance in his first 42 games in pinstripes (138 wRC+), he hasn’t appeared in a game since suffering a calf injury on June 21st. According to Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News, though, Maybin was running and participating in drills at Yankee Stadium today before the team’s game against the Blue Jays. No word has been given on a rehab date or possible return timeline for Maybin, but the club would certainly welcome back another outfield option given the current status of slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
  • ]]>
    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Yankees To Activate Luke Voit; Latest On Stanton, Betances]]> 2019-07-13T05:36:11Z 2019-07-13T05:35:30Z The Yankees will activate first baseman Luke Voit from the 10-day injured list Saturday, Bryan Hoch of tweets. The club cleared room for Voit on Friday by optioning infielder Breyvic Valera to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

    It’s not apparent from looking at the Yankees’ major league-best 58-31 record, but long-term injuries to core players have haunted them all season. Voit, however, is returning to their lineup in short order after going to the IL on July 2 (retroactive to June 30) with an abdominal strain. Before that, Voit was continuing his emerge as one of the majors’ best offensive first basemen with a .280/.393/.509 line and 17 home runs in 349 plate appearances. The Yankees primarily relied on Edwin Encarnacion and DJ LeMahieu at first in Voit’s absence.

    Unfortunately for New York, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton won’t return to its lineup in the near future. Stanton, who has dealt with a series of injuries this year and played in just nine games, went back to the IL on June 26 with a PCL strain in his right knee. At the time, general manager Brian Cashman cast doubt on the possibility of Stanton returning in July. Stanton still hasn’t resumed baseball activities, according to Hoch, so a July return does indeed look out of the question. The Yankees have gotten through Stanton’s latest injury with the aid of a hot streak from his replacement in left field, Brett Gardner.

    While the Yankees’ offense has barely had Stanton this season, the team’s bullpen hasn’t gotten a single pitch from right-hander Dellin Betances. The four-time All-Star setup man first dealt with a bone spur in his shoulder before suffering a lat injury, though there is progress to report: Betances is slated to begin a throwing program Monday, per Hoch. The solid season-long performances of Adam Ottavino, Zach Britton and Tommy Kahnle have helped the Yankees build a sturdy bridge to closer Aroldis Chapman even without Betances.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Brian Cashman On Yankees’ Search For Rotation Help]]> 2019-07-12T16:53:41Z 2019-07-12T16:53:41Z If there was any doubt that the Yankees are in the market for starting pitching — not that there should have been — general manager Brian Cashman was candid about his team’s pursuit of rotation help in an appearance on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter links, with audio).

    “Yeah, we’re going to target starting pitching, and then if not, continue to try to reinforce the bullpen,” said Cashman. “But the bottom line is just trying to add quality to what we already have. … Houston’s going to get better. Tampa’s going to get better. Boston’s going to get better. Minnesota’s going to get better Oakland’s going to get better. … They’re going to add to their area [of need]. A lot of the players in the mix are in the similar category of quality, so there’s going to be a number of choices out there.”

    Cashman noted that the Yankees are in a perhaps beneficial position, having both Luis Severino and Dellin Betances hopefully returning to the club in 2019 as a fallback in the event he is “not able to comfortably match up with somebody” in a trade. That said, the GM also conceded that he expects Severino to need “six or more weeks” before he’s ready to return (Twitter link via’s Bryan Hoch).

    Cashman also acknowledged that 20-year-old right-hander Deivi Garcia, recently promoted to Triple-A, is “pushing himself into the mix” as an option to help at the big league level. The diminutive Garcia, listed at just 5’9″ and 163 pounds, breezed through Double-A opposition with a 3.00 ERA, 14.3 K/9, 4.4 BB/9, 0.35 HR/9 and a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate in 51 innings of work prior to his promotion.

    Asking prices across the board have been high early in July, as one might expect, and the number of rental starters who are ticketed for free agency at season’s end outweighs the number of controllable names on the market. That won’t lead the Yankees to do anything rash, it seems. Cashman plainly stated that the organization wouldn’t move Garcia — ranked this week as the game’s No. 25 and No. 29 prospect by Baseball Prospectus and ESPN, respectively — for a rental player. The Yankees are already known to be averse to moving Clint Frazier in such a deal, and that line of thinking presumably applies to the organization’s other top prospects as well.

    Over the past few weeks, the Yankees have been connected to most of the top trade candidates on the market, including Madison Bumgarner (link), Trevor Bauer (link), Zack Wheeler (link) and Marcus Stroman (link).

    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[The Constant Gardner]]> 2019-07-12T01:21:37Z 2019-07-12T01:19:13Z Raise your hand if you thought Brett Gardner would lead Yankees outfielders in fWAR at the All-Star break. Weeks-long, injury-forced absences to starting outfielders Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks helped Gardner ascend to the top of the heap in the season’s first three-plus months, but the long-productive 35-year-old has been legitimately good yet again. With 2.1 fWAR through 323 plate appearances, Gardner is tied for 46th among all qualified position players, having notched the same total as Juan Soto, Anthony Rizzo, Josh Donaldson and others. He’s also continuing to make a case as one of the most valuable Yankees ever in the eyes of that metric, which places him 24th among the storied franchise’s all-time position players.

    Even though Gardner is enjoying his latest quality season, there is a chance it’ll be the last in pinstripes for the soon-to-be free agent and career-long Yankee. The club brought Gardner back last offseason for $7.5MM after declining its $12.5MM option over him. At that point, Gardner didn’t look as if he’d be in line for his typical amount of playing time. The team had Judge, Stanton and Hicks, after all, and while they (especially Stanton) have each sat out significant time this year, all three will reprise starting roles next season. The club could also have Edwin Encarnacion, Miguel Andujar (yet another 2019 injury case), Clint Frazier (if he’s still with the organization by then) and an out-of-options Mike Tauchman further clouding the outfield and/or DH mix.

    Of course, if you’re Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, there are more important matters at hand than worrying about 2020. He can map out Gardner’s future then. As of now, Cashman’s choice to retain Gardner last winter has proven to be a shrewd decision for a team that has jumped out to the American League’s leading record (57-31).

    A roughly league-average offensive player since his career started in 2008, Gardner has posted a 109 wRC+ so far this year. If the season ended now, it would go down as the fourth-best figure of his career. Gardner’s more conventional output – his triple-slash line – checks in at .246/.328/.470. While Gardner has usually derived a sizable portion of his offensive value from his ability to get on base, having done so at a .343 lifetime clip, he’s one of countless major leaguers whose uptick in power has ruled the day in 2019.

    Gardner has already piled up 15 home runs, six fewer than the high-water mark of 21 he hit in 2017, with a .225 ISO that comes in 90 points above his career mean. Unlike many other hitters, though, Gardner hasn’t needed to sell out for power by upping his strikeouts. In fact, Gardner has gone down on strikes a meager 15.5 percent of the time – his lowest since 2009 – and is tied with Mike Trout for the game’s eighth-ranked swing-and-miss rate (5.3 percent). Plus, having walked in better than 10 percent of trips to the plate, Gardner’s 0.66 BB/K ratio almost doubles the league average (0.37).

    Gardner’s sturdy output this year has come in spite of a .248 batting average on balls in play, down 59 points compared to his .307 lifetime BABIP. Still one of the majors’ fastest runners, Gardner looks like a good bet on paper to see his BABIP skyrocket. That’s not a lock, though, if Gardner’s new approach holds up. He’s hitting more fly balls and fewer ground balls/line drives than usual. That’s not conducive to a high BABIP, and it’s worth noting that hitting the ball out of the park doesn’t count toward the stat.

    The question is whether Gardner’s newfound power is here to stay. The fact that he’s pulling the ball at a career-high rate and going opposite field at a personal-low percentage bodes well in that regard. Furthermore, FanGraphs indicates Gardner’s hard-hit rate is his highest since 2012. It also may help that the left-handed Gardner plays his home games at Yankee Stadium, but the venue surprisingly has been a difficult one for lefties to amass HRs at this season, according to Baseball Prospectus. For his part, Gardner has been better on the road (114 wRC+) than at home (102) this year, though he has totaled eight of his homers in the Bronx. Historically, Gardner has offered league-average or better numbers both home and away.

    Sticking with Gardner’s history, he has typically been usable, albeit unspectacular, versus same-handed pitchers (88 wRC+). But they’ve stifled Gardner this season, having limited him to a woeful .206/.260/.324 (53 wRC+) in 73 PA. Moreover, Gardner has been far from great in general in the estimation of Statcast, which puts his expected weighted on-base average (.314) significantly below his real wOBA (.339). It also indicates his expected slugging percentage, hard-hit rate, exit velocity and expected batting average are all worse than mediocre.

    Elsewhere, however, Gardner remains a defensive and base running stalwart in spite of his advanced age. In almost 700 innings divided between left and center, he has accounted for 4 Defensive Runs Saved and a 3.8 Ultimate Zone Rating. And while Gardner’s no longer the 40-steal threat he once was, the speedster has swiped eight of 10 bags this year and rated as one of FanGraphs’ top base runners.

    The overall package has almost always been effective for Gardner, who has quietly been one of the Yankees’ greatest draft picks in recent memory after going in the third round in 2005. Fourteen years later, Gardner remains a legitimate major league regular and someone who could help the franchise to the second World Series title of his career this fall. Whether Gardner will stay with the lone organization he has ever known once its season ends will be one of the Yankees’ main questions when the offseason rolls around.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Yankees, Second-Rounder Josh Smith Agree To Terms]]> 2019-07-10T20:07:25Z 2019-07-10T20:07:25Z The Yankees have agreed to a deal with No. 67 overall draft pick Josh Smith, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). The now-former Louisiana State shortstop will sign for his full slot value of $967,700.

    Smith, 21, hit .346/.433/.533 with nine home runs, 17 doubles, a pair of triples and 20 stolen bases in his junior season at LSU. Entering the draft, he was ranked by Fangraphs as the No. 53 prospect available, while Baseball America tabbed him 68th and listed him at No. 76. Smith doesn’t draw plus grades for any single tool but has average or above-average rankings across the board. He’s listed at 5’10” and 175 pounds, and most reports give him a chance to stick at shortstop even though some believe a move to second base is ultimately in his future. Smith had been the only unsigned pick among the Yankees’ selections in the draft’s first 10 rounds.

    Steve Adams <![CDATA[Sabathia Interested In Front Office Role With Yankees Following Retirement]]> 2019-07-09T21:36:44Z 2019-07-09T21:36:44Z CC Sabathia has already made clear that the 2019 campaign will be his final season as a Major Leaguer, but the likely Hall of Famer isn’t ready to step away from baseball entirely. In chatting with reporters today (Twitter links via Newsday’s Erik Boland and’s Brendan Kuty), Sabathia revealed that he hopes to land a front office position with the Yankees after his playing days are complete.

    “I definitely want to be around the Yankees for years to come,” said Sabathia. Kuty notes that Sabathia has been in general manager Brian Cashman’s ear about a potential special assistant role.

    Sabathia would hardly be the only retired big leaguer to take such a position in a team’s front office. Within the past year and a half, the Yankees themselves have hired Carlos Beltran (link) and Andy Pettitte (link) as special advisors to the baseball operations department, for instance. Such roles are often fairly nebulous — at least so far as in duties that are specified to the public — and they typically aren’t full-time commitments. But it’s common for former players in such roles to serve as an instructor for the team and its minor leaguers during Spring Training, visit minor league affiliates throughout the season and in some instances weigh in on roster and/or player development matters.

    The 38-year-old Sabathia’s final season has been a solid effort — one that has seen the big lefty cross some notable milestones along the way. In addition to tossing 76 2/3 innings of 4.03 ERA ball with 8.4 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9, Sabathia has collected his 250th Major League victory, recorded his 3,000th career strikeout and surpassed the 3500-inning mark at the MLB level.

    Jeff Todd <![CDATA[Sonny Gray Reflects On Yankees Tenure]]> 2019-07-09T16:33:53Z 2019-07-09T16:33:53Z Reds hurler Sonny Gray isn’t bitter about his tenure with the Yankees, but that doesn’t mean he’s in denial about his struggles there. As Ken Davidoff of the New York Post writes, the 29-year-old All-Star values his time in New York precisely because of the difficulties he faced.

    Gray says his experience with the Yanks was “absolutely” a positive one, even though he ended up being left off the postseason roster on the heels of a brutal regular season (4.90 ERA in 130 1/3 innings).

    “I think everyone kind of knows that New York wasn’t a great fit for me, place for me, last year,” says Gray. “It just didn’t seem to work out, for whatever reason. But looking back, I wouldn’t change one thing about it.”

    Quite often, parting transactions leave at least one involved party with hard feelings. Not so here. Gray facilitated the three-team deal that delivered him to Cincinnati by agreeing to a three-year extension (plus option). That contract now appears to be quite an appealing one for the Reds, who also acquired lefty Reiver Sanmartin in the deal. But it also wasn’t a bad bit of security for Gray to achieve at the time, particularly given his wavering output in two of the three preceding seasons.

    On the other side of the swap, the Yanks got some nice parting gifts. Outfielder Josh Stowers came aboard when the club shipped former Reds prospect Shed Long straight to the Mariners, who have already received big-league contributions from Long. And the New York organization just used the comp pick it received from the Cincinnati club to select southpaw TJ Sikkema. (The original deal to acquire Gray from the A’s also hasn’t stung the Bronx Bombers — not yet, at least.)


    Gray says he’s stronger for the difficult experience. He certainly has bounced back with aplomb, slinging 90 1/3 innings of 3.59 ERA ball with 10.3 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9. By most metrics, he’s much the same pitcher as before. But Gray seems to be squeezing more out of his tools, inducing much less hard contact (33.9% after surrendering 39.5% last year, per Statcast) and generating a career-high 27.8% K rate despite continuing to sport similar swinging-strike marks.