- Jay Bruce’s contract contains partial no-trade protection against eight teams, and the octet on Bruce’s list hasn’t changed since the offseason, James Wagner of the New York Times writes. The eight teams in question are the Athletics, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Phillies, Rays, Twins, and Yankees. The Mets outfielder isn’t likely to be targeted by many of those teams anyway, be it for financial reasons, fit reasons or because at least three of those clubs are looking like deadline sellers themselves.
- The Yankees are one of the many teams interested in Marlins relievers AJ Ramos and David Phelps, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports.
- The Yankees have already been linked to Padres reliever Brad Hand, but Sherman reports that closer Brandon Maurer’s name has also come up in talks between the two teams. Maurer has a 5.60 ERA over 35 1/3 IP for San Diego this year but he has been victimized by a inordinately low 52.9% strand rate. ERA indicators (2.95 FIP, 3.56 xFIP, 3.31 SIERA) and his peripheral numbers (8.92 K/9, 5.00 K/BB rate) paint a much more positive view of his 2017 performance. San Diego had interest in Gleyber Torres prior to his Tommy John surgery, though officials from the Padres and other teams believe that the Yankees’ farm system is deep enough that they’ll be able to make deals without moving any of their top prospects.
Scouts from the Yankees, Orioles, Royals, Angels, Blue Jays and Cardinals were in Colorado watching White Sox left-hander Jose Quintana pitch on Saturday, according to Scott Merkin of MLB.com. Some of those teams likely don’t have the prospect capital to assemble a package for the on-the-block Quintana, so observing his outing may have been due diligence in certain cases (or those clubs could’ve been on hand to scout other players). Regardless, Quintana didn’t disappoint, striking out 10 over 5 1/3 innings, after which he indicated that his preference is to remain with the White Sox. At the same time, Quintana acknowledged that the decision is up to team brass. “Absolutely. I want to stay here,” he said.“But they know what’s the best for us, so I just try to do my job and that’s it.”
The Padres’ David Post, who’s a special assistant to general manager A.J. Preller, has been following the Yankees’ Triple-A team in Scranton Wilkes/Barre, reports George A. King III of the New York Post. There’s a sense in the industry that Post is doing so because the Yankees are interested in coveted Padres reliever Brad Hand, according to King.
This isn’t the first recent connection between these teams, as the Padres contacted the Yankees about their No. 1 prospect, Triple-A infielder Gleyber Torres, in June. It remains difficult to imagine the Yankees moving the highly regarded Torres, though, despite the fact that he underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last month.
While Torres is unable to take the field and other touted youngsters in outfielder Clint Frazier and utilityman Tyler Wade are currently in the majors, the Yankees still have a couple intriguing pieces at the Triple-A level. Right-hander Chance Adams, Baseball America’s 56th-ranked prospect, and third baseman Miguel Andujar jump to the fore. The 22-year-old Andujar, who got a brief taste of major league action last month, is the Yankees’ ninth-best prospect, per MLB Pipeline.
The Yankees also have enticing prospects at lower levels, so it’s possible the Padres could ask for youth from both Triple-A and elsewhere if the two discuss Hand. While that’s merely speculation, it is easy to see why the Yankees would want to upgrade their bullpen. Their relievers rank an impressive sixth in the majors in ERA and seventh in fWAR, but the group has been instrumental in a 7-17 skid that has seen the Yankees drop from first place in the AL East to 3.5 games back in the division and only a game up in the wild-card race.
Longtime relief aces Aroldis Chapman and Dellin Betances haven’t been their usual lights-out selves, and fellow established veteran Tyler Clippard has pitched more like a DFA candidate than someone capable of handling high-leverage innings. Hand looks worthy of taking the ball in key situations, though, considering he’s in the midst of his second straight excellent season. The 27-year-old southpaw ranks fourth among relievers in innings (47) and has registered a 2.30 ERA, 11.49 K/9, 2.49 BB/9 and a 48.6 percent ground-ball rate. Hand, a first-time All-Star, has also dominated hitters from either side of the plate, having held lefties to a .192/.300/.365 line and righties to an even weaker .203/.262/.293.
Hand’s production indicates his presence would be a boon to any contender’s bullpen this season, and with two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining, he’d be more than a Band-Aid. Of course, those factors – not to mention his cheap salary ($1.375MM) – will make Hand one of the majors’ most in-demand players around the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Given that they’re in a full rebuild, the Padres will probably cash in Hand for prospects in the coming weeks, but it’s not so easy to believe that the Yankees will end up with him. General manager Brian Cashman is only a year removed from giving up the since-re-signed Chapman and arguably the best left-handed reliever in baseball, Andrew Miller, in deals to boost his farm system. As effective as Hand has been, the idea of Cashman reversing course 12 months later and surrendering high-end youth for a reliever seems improbable.
- The Royals, Red Sox and Yankees are among the teams that have scouted Phillies reliever Pat Neshek, according to Cafardo. They join the Nationals as clubs with known interest in the right-handed Neshek, who is likely on other bullpen-needy teams’ radars, too. The 36-year-old Neshek joined the Phillies last offseason in a salary-dumping deal with the Astros, but the $6.5MM man should warrant a much stronger return at the deadline. An impending free agent, Neshek is in the midst of his second All-Star season, having logged a 1.31 ERA, 8.91 K/9 and 1.31 BB/9 over 34 1/3 innings.
- The Red Sox and Yankees have checked in on Marlins third baseman Martin Prado, as Bob Nightengale of USA Today previously reported, but Cafardo relays that Boston and New York have concerns over the 33-year-old’s contract. Prado is due roughly $34MM through 2019, which is problematic for both teams because they’re trying to stay under the $197MM luxury tax threshold. As such, the Red Sox and Yankees have asked the Marlins to eat some of the money on Prado’s deal. Injuries have limited Prado to just 123 plate appearances this season, and he has hit a meager .282/.309/.402. Nevertheless, both the Sox and Yankees admire his “leadership, hustle, and devotion to the game,” writes Cafardo. The Bombers are already quite familiar with Prado, of course, as he spent the second half of the 2014 campaign in the Bronx.
- The Yankees announced that outfielder Mason Williams has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Williams, 25, has seen brief MLB action in each of the past three seasons. But he was struggling badly on the year at Triple-A, posting a .252/.298/.296 batting line over 251 plate appearances.
Here’s the latest out of Miami:
- With the team set to be sold at some point in the near future, the Marlins appear to be lining up for some significant moves at the deadline. As Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports, the Fish appear to be targeting a few organizations in particular as they look to shop their biggest contracts. Marlins scouts are taking a hard look at the systems of the Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Rockies, and Cubs, per the report. Whether that’s based upon demand coming from those organizations or instead Miami’s own interest in certain prospects isn’t entirely clear; obviously, plenty of other teams will likely end up engaging with the Marlins in what is shaping up to be an interesting deadline period.
- Miami is not concerned about righty Edinson Volquez, Spencer also notes. Though he experienced left-knee discomfort in his most recent start, skipper Don Mattingly suggested the veteran will be ready to go after the All-Star break. He could well be one of the players dangled in trade talks over the next few weeks.
- The less-than-straightforward Marlins sale process remains in flux as the organization prepares to host the All-Star Game. Bidding groups led by Tagg Romney, on the one hand, and Derek Jeter, on the other, have each run into issues, according to a report from Claire Atinson, Ken Davidoff, and Josh Kosman of the New York Post. In fact, the Romney group may even have pulled out of the process altogether, per the report. Jeter’s group, meanwhile, no longer has the backing of one key investor. That could place a third bidder, Jorge Mas, in position to make a deal. But it’s also possible that Jeter could try to “convince MLB to push back a decision date … possibly to the end of the season in October,” sources tell the Post.
- Mas has attempted to get the Marlins to agree to an exclusive negotiating window, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag, but that has yet to occur. Still, the report suggests, the process could be only weeks away from completion. While Mas is said to be in the driver’s seat, Heyman hears that the Romney-led group may still be involved.
- The Yankees have released left-handed reliever Tommy Layne, tweets Conor Foley of the Times-Tribune. New York designated Layne on June 10, after which it outrighted him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Layne was solid over 6 2/3 innings at Triple-A, as he yielded two earned runs on four hits and two walks. He hasn’t fared well at the major league level this year, though, with a 7.62 ERA, 6.23 K/9 and 5.54 BB/9 over 13 frames.
- The Blue Jays have traded infielder Jonathan Diaz to the Yankees, Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo announced (on Twitter). This will be the second stint with the Yankees organization for the 32-year-old Diaz, who was in Scranton last season. The majority of Diaz’s professional career has been spent with the Toronto organization, which selected him in the 12th round of the 2006 draft, though his initial major league action came with the Red Sox in 2013. He then returned to the Jays and cracked their roster for brief periods in both 2014 and ’15. In all, Diaz has collected 65 major league PAs and batted .145/.242/.164. He owns a .226/.341/.291 line in 2,314 PAs at Triple-A.
With lefty-swinging spring training masher Greg Bird and powerful right-hander Chris Carter, the Yankees appeared to have a promising first base tandem on hand at the outset of the season. Instead, the position has been an utter disaster throughout 2017 for the playoff-contending Bombers, whose first basemen entered Wednesday with a putrid .175/.271/.331 batting line and the majors’ second-worst fWAR (minus-1.2).
Bird hit a ghastly .100/.250/.200 in 72 plate appearances before going on the disabled list with a foot injury at the beginning of May. The 24-year-old hasn’t played since, and there’s a real chance he won’t return at all this season. Meanwhile, after clubbing a National League-leading 41 home runs with the Brewers last year, Carter has batted a weak .201/.284/.370 with eight homers in 208 PAs with the Yankees, who added him on a $3.5MM deal in February. The 30-year-old’s output has been so poor that the Yankees have booted him off their 40-man roster twice since late June, including on Tuesday. Now in DFA limbo, it’s possible Carter won’t put on a Yankees uniform again.
With the Bird-Carter duo having flopped and injuries having limited Tyler Austin to 15 PAs, the Yankees are down to Ji-Man Choi at first base. In his first taste of major league action last year, Choi hit a non-threatening .170/.271/.339 in 129 trips to the plate with the Angels. While the 26-year-old homered in his Yankees debut Wednesday, there’s nothing to suggest that the offseason minor league signing is capable of holding down a regular job in the majors, especially for a team with playoff hopes. So, with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline approaching, New York is probably going to have to find an established first baseman over the next three-plus weeks. Fortunately for Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, there shouldn’t be a shortage of attainable options.
Yonder Alonso, Athletics: The out-of-contention A’s are open to dealing Alonso, who’s enjoying a career year as an impending free agent. Previously a disappointment at the plate, the former top prospect bought into the fly ball revolution over the winter and has since produced a fantastic .283/.377/.575 line with 19 homers in 276 PAs this season. As a lefty-swinger with a 50 percent fly ball rate (up from 32.6 percent between 2010-16), the 30-year-old is an obvious fit for Yankee Stadium and its short porch in right field.
Lucas Duda, Mets: Another left-handed hitter, the slugging Duda has a longer track record than Alonso and is in the midst of another fine season (.249/.359/.548 with 14 HRs in 231 PAs). On paper, he makes plenty of sense for the Yankees, but would the Mets help their crosstown rivals strengthen their roster for a playoff run? The Queens-based club is reportedly open to moving players on expiring contracts, and Duda is among several of its veterans scheduled to hit free agency in the offseason.
John Jaso, Pirates: Jaso doesn’t offer the upside of either Alonso or Duda, but the 33-year-old has still logged respectable offensive numbers throughout his career. That includes the current season, in which Jaso has posted a .251/.330/.467 line 188 PAs. Jaso has packed more of a punch than usual this year, having recorded a .216 ISO (his career high is .180) and seven homers, putting him on pace to surpass the personal-best 10 he hit in 2012. Like Alonso, Jaso’s hitting more fly balls (48 percent, up from a career 34 percent), so it seems he’d also benefit from a move to Yankee Stadium.
Brandon Belt, Giants (signed through 2021): Belt, 29, is in the first season of a five-year, $72.8MM contract, which is an eminently reasonable deal when you consider what he has accomplished during his career. Nevertheless, the last-place Giants might listen to offers for Belt, who has been one of their few bright spots this season. While Belt’s numbers have taken steps backward this year, he has still put up an attractive .235/.343/.464 line with 16 long balls in 353 trips to the plate. Considering Belt’s track record and affordable contract, San Francisco should be able to acquire a solid prospect haul if it actually does move him. Whether the Yankees would be willing to part with multiple quality prospects for a first baseman is unclear, but the idea of Belt going from a ballpark that suppresses left-handed power to one that accentuates it is intriguing.
Justin Bour, Marlins ($552,500 salary this year; arbitration eligible through 2020): The left-handed, hulking Bour calling Yankee Stadium home is also enticing, and the Bombers have shown interest in him this year. As is the case with Belt, Bour’s combination of productivity and affordability would make him a fairly expensive target. Unlike in previous seasons, the Marlins have given Bour a legitimate chance to play against same-handed pitchers this year, and he hasn’t disappointed. Overall, Bour has slashed .285/.361/.546 with 18 homers and a .261 ISO in 280 PAs.
Jose Abreu, White Sox ($10.825MM salary this year; arbitration eligible through 2019): Acquiring both Abreu and left-hander Jose Quintana from the White Sox would take care of two needs at once for the Yankees, whose rotation could use a short- and long-term upgrade. Quintana would provide that, while Abreu would lock down first and/or designated hitter through 2019, but reeling in the pair would cost a prospect bounty. Chicago would presumably ask a lot just for the 30-year-old Abreu, who has been an adept hitter since coming over from Cuba prior to the 2014 season. The righty’s at .290/.340/.512 with 16 HRs and a career-best 16.7 percent strikeout rate across 362 PAs this year.
Matt Adams, Braves ($2.8MM salary this year; arbitration eligible through 2018): The Braves surrendered very little when they acquired Adams from the Cardinals in late May, but the 28-year-old has since hit an outstanding .290/.337/.594 in 169 PAs. The lefty has been so good that the Braves are experimenting with longtime first baseman and franchise cornerstone Freddie Freeman at third base as a way to keep Adams’ bat in the lineup. The 40-42 Braves remain well out of a playoff spot, though, so it would behoove them to listen to offers for Adams in the coming weeks and see if they can flip him for more than they gave up. Adams’ track record shows he’s more of a decent hitter than a great one, but even average production from first would be a sizable improvement over what the Yankees have gotten from the position this year.
Tommy Joseph, Phillies (not arbitration eligible until after the 2019 season): With big-hitting first base prospect Rhys Hoskins trying to force his way to the majors, Joseph might not be a Phillie for much longer. Whether the 25-year-old would be a worthwhile target for the Yankees is up for debate, though. The Yankees may already have a Joseph of their own in the soon-to-return Austin, another righty-hitting 25-year-old. As such, trading assets for Joseph might not make be logical from their standpoint. While Joseph is more established than Austin, the former hasn’t been anything special in the big leagues. He’s batting a so-so .245/.303/.442 through 304 PAs this year. Of course, in fairness to Joseph, his output has been far better than the numbers Yankees first basemen have compiled in 2017.
After beginning the year an AL East-best 38-23, the Yankees have dropped 16 of 22 to fall to 44-39. They’re now second in their division, a lofty 4.5 games behind the Red Sox, and only have a one-game lead on a wild-card spot. First base has been one of the major reasons for the Yankees’ recent downfall, so they’ll have to do something in the coming weeks to improve an area that has been a black hole all season. With no obvious in-house solutions (no, they’re not going to move towering right fielder and AL MVP front-runner Aaron Judge to first), there’s a good chance one of the above names will end up in the Bronx by month’s end.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- It seems there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty surrounding Yankees first baseman Greg Bird. As Bryan Hoch of MLB.com writes, GM Brian Cashman says that Bird’s longstanding ankle issue could end up requiring exploratory surgery. That possibility is just that at present, however, as Bird himself suggests that he’s in no rush to go under the knife. Cashman noted that the organization is doing everything it can to determine the cause of the ongoing pain Bird is experiencing. Given his questionable status, among other factors, the team seems to have a rather obvious deadline needs at first base.
- Whatever happens at first, the Yankees do not seem presently inclined to make drastic changes across the diamond, as MLB.com’s Matthew Martell writes. “Who do you want me to play there?” Cashman said when pressed about the status of third baseman Chase Headley. “Headley’s our third baseman. Sorry you don’t like it.” There’s probably still room for the team to consider alternatives in the trade market, of course, though a significant upgrade may be tough to find. Headley owns a serviceable .255/.347/.373 batting line, right in line with his work since landing in New York, and has generally rated as a steady enough defender. He’s also owed $13MM this year and next.