- Luke Voit is on pace to be activated for the start of the Yankees’ series with the Rays on Tuesday, New York manager Aaron Boone told ESPN’s Marly Rivera (Twitter links) and other reporters. Voit has yet to play this season after undergoing knee surgery in late March.
- It isn’t yet clear if Rougned Odor could also be joining the Yankees soon, as Boone wasn’t sure if Odor will be immediately activated after the minimum 10 days. Odor hit the IL due to a left knee sprain back on May 5, and is at least making good progress in recovery, Boone said, noting that Odor was taking grounders.
The Yankees hope to finally have the 2020 AL home run king in their lineup by early next week, per Lindsey Adler of the Athletic (via Twitter). Luke Voit has yet to make his debut this season, and the Yankees are struggling to find production at first base. Jay Bruce logged -0.3 fWAR before retiring, and Mike Ford has a 42 wRC+ in 38 plate appearances. DJ LeMahieu has started the most games at first this year, but that means pulling him from the keystone where neither Tyler Wade (76 wRC+) nor Rougned Odor (83 WRC+) have made much of an argument for keeping the position. Besides, even if Wade has enough glove to allow his subpar bat at second, the Yankees might need LeMahieu elsewhere…
- Gio Urshela’s knee is healing nicely, but he’ll probably have at least another day and maybe two before returning to the lineup, per Greg Joyce of the New York Post (via Twitter). The Yankees brought up Miguel Andujar to help cover in the meantime, though it was interesting that manager Aaron Boone deployed LeMahieu at third while starting Andujar at first. LeMahieu made an error that helped open the floodgates for the Nationals in the Yankees’ 11-4 loss on Friday. Regardless, DJL is back at the hot corner again today with Ford at first.
- Zack Britton, meanwhile, will throw a simulated game next week, but he can’t be activated from the injured list until the end of May at the earliest, per Adler. The Yankee pen has been one of their high points so far this season, leading the Majors by a mark of 2.1 fWAR. They’re also tied for ninth in usage with 121 bullpen innings. Regardless, everyone needs more bullpen help, and Britton’s long been one of the best.
Andujar arrives as insurance for starting third baseman Gio Urshela. An MRI on Urshela’s knee came back without any structural damage, so he’ll be day-to-day for now, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com (via Twitter). Urshela has once again proven himself to be a reliable bat for the Yankees. He’s slashing .287/.342/.455 with four home runs across 111 plate appearances, producing 0.7 bWAR.
Andujar himself has struggled to stay healthy. This spring he dealt with carpel tunnel syndrome in his wrist, though it hasn’t appeared to bother him so far. The minor league season is just three days old, but Andujar has already knocked three home runs while going 6-for-13.
As for Abreu, the 25-year-old right-hander made two appearances this season, both coming in the first half of April. He was placed on the roster just two days ago when Rougned Odor went to the injured list. Abreu will likely join the starting rotation in Triple-A.
- The Yankees placed infielder Rougned Odor on the 10-day injured list this afternoon. He’s dealing with a left knee sprain. Right-hander Albert Abreu was recalled to take his place on the active roster. Odor, acquired from the Rangers at the beginning of the regular season, hasn’t offered a whole lot offensively in the early going. He’s hitting just .164/.271/.361 over his first 70 plate appearances with New York. To his credit, Odor has massively improved upon his strikeout and walk rates from recent seasons though.
11:34 am: O’Day will be shut down from throwing for a few weeks, manager Aaron Boone told reporters (including Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News).
9:15 am: The Yankees are placing righty reliever Darren O’Day on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to April 30, with a right rotator cuff strain, the team announced. Fellow righty Michael King has been recalled from the alternate training site in a corresponding move.
New York signed O’Day to bolster their already-strong bullpen over the winter. The submariner enjoyed a pair of highly-productive seasons with the Braves from 2019-20 and has continued to pitch well (albeit not quite at his Atlanta level) in New York. O’Day has made ten appearances and worked nine innings, allowing three runs on eight hits (including a homer) and a pair of walks with nine strikeouts. The team did not provide a timetable for his potential return.
With O’Day on the shelf, the Yankees bring back King, who has gone back-and-forth between Yankee Stadium and the alternate training site over the past two seasons. Altogether, King has compiled a 5.22 ERA/4.42 SIERA over 39.2 MLB innings. The 25-year-old has yet to allow a run through eleven frames of long relief this year, but his ordinary strikeout and walk rates (21.4% and 9.5%, respectively) are virtually unchanged from last season.
The Yankees are off to a 12-14 start, but that underwhelming performance hasn’t been the fault of the bullpen. New York relievers have league-best marks in ERA (2.24), SIERA (2.90) and K% minus BB% (22.7 points).
- Yankees first baseman Luke Voit could make his 2021 debut as early as May 11, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com relays. In the meantime, Voit – who underwent left knee surgery in late March – will start a rehab assignment at Double-A next week. The Yankees’ offense has improved since an ice-cold start to the season, but there’s no doubt the unit is better with a healthy Voit. The 30-year-old slugger led the majors with 22 home runs over 234 plate appearances last season and slashed .277/.338/.610 (152 wRC+).
April 29: Sanchez is still evaluating his options and will throw a four-inning bullpen on Friday, Rosenthal tweets. He wants to build up to the 100-pitch mark before he signs anywhere.
April 28: Sanchez is planning to sign this week and could settle on a team as early as tomorrow, reports Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link).
April 23: The Yankees, Phillies, Marlins, Tigers, Diamondbacks and Blue Jays were among the teams at Sanchez’s showcase this morning, Heyman tweets.
April 21: Sanchez will throw yet another bullpen session for teams this Friday, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman. He worked out for clubs in the offseason and reportedly turned down a couple offers, opting instead to see how health-and-safety protocols played out. He then worked out for teams early in the season but suffered the aforementioned finger laceration midway through his bullpen.
April 20: Free-agent righty Anibal Sanchez has been working out for clubs around the league and is drawing interest from several of his former employers, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. The Braves, Nationals and Marlins have all looked into Sanchez, whose last bullpen session was truncated by a laceration on his middle finger that ought to have healed up by now. There’s interest from a couple of AL clubs as well, per Rosenthal.
Interest from any of the clubs linked to Sanchez this morning makes plenty of sense, given the pitching situations on each of the three. The Braves have recently placed Max Fried and Drew Smyly on the injured list, where they’ve joined Mike Soroka, whose recovery timeline recently hit a setback. None of the injuries is thought to be especially long-term, but the team’s depth has been tested early on.
The Nationals placed Stephen Strasburg on the injured list this week and have watched as left Patrick Corbin has been crushed by opposing lineups (15 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings). Last night’s rough start from Joe Ross only added fuel to the fire, sending the team’s collective rotation ERA to a disastrous 6.24 that ranks last among all big league teams. Currently, Max Scherzer is the only Nats pitcher who has started more than one game and has an ERA south of 5.00.
Meanwhile, Marlins righties Sixto Sanchez and Elieser Hernandez have dealt with injuries early in the 2021 season. They’re also carrying a pair of Rule 5 right-handers, Zach Pop and Paul Campbell, who have been hit hard in their first exposure to big league pitching.
Sanchez, 37, didn’t sign over the winter and is coming off a rough 2020 showing. The veteran right-hander was tagged for a 6.62 ERA in 53 innings with the Nationals last summer, although he’s only a season removed from 166 innings of 3.85 ERA ball during his first season with Washington.
Gary Sanchez gave Yankees fans hope when he launched a pair of homers in the season’s first two games, but he’s batting just .146/.281/.167 in 57 plate appearances since that time and is currently mired in a 2-for-28 slump. In light of those struggles, Yankees skipper Aaron Boone acknowledged last night that Kyle Higashioka will see increased playing time at the expense of some of Sanchez’s starts (link via the New York Post’s Dan Martin).
Boone declined to name Higashioka the new starter and said decisions on who’ll start behind the plate will be made on a “day-by-day” basis, but he made clear that Higashioka has “earned more playing time.” Higashioka has already drawn the start in four of Gerrit Cole’s five appearances this season, so it seems fair to assume that pairing will continue. Corey Kluber also had his best start of the season last night with Higashioka behind the dish, so perhaps that’ll set the tone moving forward. There’s no concrete definition of how playing time will be divided up, but at the very least fans ought to expect closer to even timeshare for now. Boone noted that he’s already spoken to Sanchez about Higashioka receiving increased playing time.
Of course, while Sanchez’s struggles are likely the primary driver of this shift in playing time, it also has to be emphasized that Higashioka has put himself into position for an increased role. He’s out to a strong start in 2021, hitting .320/.414/.880 with four homers and a pair of doubles through 29 trips to the plate.
The power may seem like a sudden development for the 30-year-old Higashioka, but that’s really not the case. He hit .250/.250/.521 with four homers in 48 plate appearances last year, and back in 2019 his ISO (slugging minus batting average) of .250 highlighted plenty of pop as well. Since Opening Day 2020, Higashioka is slashing .274/.312/.644 in 77 plate appearances.
Higashioka’s batted-ball profile gives some optimism that this isn’t a total small-sample fluke, too. Statcast credits him with 10 barreled balls in those 77 PAs dating back to 2019 and 13 in 134 PAs dating back to 2020. He’s being credited with a barrel in 9.7 percent of his plate appearances dating back to ’19 and 12.9 percent since the start of the 2020 season; either would rank among the game’s very best over a full season. It’s unlikely that Higashioka is going to continue to make premium contact at quite such a high level, but those results certainly merit a larger opportunity — particularly when his counterpart is struggling to this extent.
From a defensive standpoint, Higashioka is the superior of the two and is generally regarded as a plus defensive option. He’s drawn strong framing marks and positive totals in Defensive Runs Saved each season since 2018 in a limited workload, though his career 20 percent caught-stealing rate is below the league average of around 27 percent. Sanchez, to his credit, is at a hefty 32 percent in that regard, but he’s more prone to passed balls and draws inferior framing ratings to Higashioka. Catching coordinator Tanner Swanson told reporters yesterday that Higashioka’s defensive skills are “elite.”
The shuffle in playing time only further shines a spotlight on what has been a mounting issue for the Yankees for years. Sanchez’s ceiling is obviously an All-Star caliber slugger, but he’s been maddeningly inconsistent — to the point that the Yankees mulled whether to trade him or even perhaps non-tender him this past offseason. They opted to tender him a contract and eventually agreed to a one-year deal that pays Sanchez $6.35MM for the 2021 season. He’d be arbitration-eligible for a third and final time this winter, but the early shuffle behind the dish seems like a portent for greater change down the road.
If Higashioka struggles with an increased workload or goes down to injury, Sanchez may yet be given another opportunity to snap out of his current swoon and recapture his 2019 form. But if Higashioka proves capable of handling a larger role and/or Sanchez continues to struggle, the questions about Sanchez’s future will only grow louder. At the very least, taking a closer look at Higashioka now gives the Yankees more information on how to address the catcher position moving forward. Higashioka is controlled through 2024 via arbitration. Sanchez is scheduled to become a free agent after the 2022 season.
The Yankees have traded outfielder Mike Tauchman to the Giants for left-handed reliever Wandy Peralta, Jack Curry of the YES Network reports. New York will also receive a player to be named later, the team announced.
This deal sends the 30-year-old Tauchman back to the National League West, where the former 10th-round pick played with the Rockies from 2017-18. Tauchman was unable to establish himself in Colorado, which traded him to the Yankees for lefty Phillip Diehl shortly before the 2019 season.
At first, the Tauchman pickup looked like a steal for the Yankees, as he appeared in 87 games as a reserve in his initial year with the team and slashed a terrific .277/.361/.504 with 13 home runs, six steals and 2.6 fWAR over 296 plate appearances. Tauchman blended that offensive performance with great work among all three outfield positions, combining for 19 Defensive Runs Saved in the grass.
While the 2019 version of Tauchman was a gem, his production and playing time have significantly dwindled since then. Tauchman did appear in 43 games and total 111 PA last season, but he failed to hit a homer, batted a below-average .242/.342/.305 and essentially broke even in the field with zero DRS and a minus-2.2 Ultimate Zone Rating. Meanwhile, fellow Yankees outfielders Aaron Judge, Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks and Brett Gardner each recorded far superior production, which helped lead Tauchman to fall out of favor.
With Judge, Frazier, Hicks and Gardner returning, Tauchman became an afterthought for the Yankees this year. So far, he has picked up a meager 16 trips to the plate and batted .214/.267/.286 without a homer. Now, the out-of-options Tauchman will provide versatile depth in a Giants outfield that has used Mike Yastrzemski (though he’s currently dealing with a mild oblique issue), Austin Slater, Alex Dickerson, Mauricio Dubon and Darin Ruf, among others, this season. Tauchman won’t reach arbitration for the first time until the upcoming winter, so he could be a multiyear piece for the Giants if he performs to their liking this season.
Peralta, 29, started his career in 2016 with the Reds, who lost him on waivers to the Giants late in the 2019 campaign. Despite 95-96 mph fastball velocity and a career 50.4 percent groundball rate, Peralta has typically had trouble keeping runs off the board. Through 192 2/3 innings, including 8 1/3 this season, Peralta has recorded a 4.72 ERA/4.58 SIERA with unspectacular strikeout and walk percentages of 18.5 and 10.8, respectively.
Peralta still has a minor league option remaining, though he’ll only be eligible for arbitration one more time. For now, Peralta will give the New York organization a third southpaw relief option behind closer Aroldis Chapman and Lucas Luetge. The Yankees have had to go this season without key lefty setup man Zack Britton, who’s on the mend from arthroscopic elbow surgery and probably won’t return until the summer.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The Yankees suffered their 13th loss in 22 games Monday, falling 4-2 in Baltimore, but manager Aaron Boone did issue some positive injury updates beforehand (Twitter links via Marly Rivera of ESPN). First baseman and 2020 major league home run king Luke Voit is ramping up his activities as he works back from knee surgery. Left-handed reliever Zack Britton, who’s recovering from the arthroscopic elbow surgery he underwent in March, is slated to begin throwing from the mound at the end of the week. Based on the three- to four-month timeline the Yankees provided when Britton went under the knife, he won’t rejoin their bullpen until June or July. Meanwhile, righty Clarke Schmidt – who’s also on the mend from elbow trouble – has begun a throwing program, which is “going well,” per Boone.