I hope everyone had a relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving holiday. It was a quiet week in Yankeeland, but there was one small story I wanted to go back and touch on before we pressed on into the heart of the offseason.
Last week Joel Sherman reported that the Yankees had “let teams know Ivan Nova is available” in a trade if they were interested. This is noteworthy for two reasons. One, the Yankees are on the record as being in the market for starting pitching this offseason and Nova is a starting pitcher, and two, Nova really wasn’t good this past season and hasn’t been anything special in his MLB career. The idea of teams lining up to make the Yankees a trade offer after finding out he’s available is borderline laughable.
Sherman’s report went on to explain that the Yankees are looking for starters with more years of team control remaining, something that Nova does not have. The 2016 season will be his final arbitration year before free agency and the Yankees must be hoping they can move him for somebody who will be around a little longer rather than keep him next year and then lose him for nothing.
And therein lies the real story in this report. This isn’t about the Yankees trying to add more cost-controlled starting pitching in 2016 so much as it’s about the Yankees’ plans for Nova in 2016 and beyond. What this report tells me is that the Yankees not only don’t see Nova as part of their starting rotation plan next year, but they also aren’t planning on re-signing him after next year. They’ve already started the process of moving on from Nova and they’d rather trade him now and get something back that they need than hold onto him next year as a redundant, unnecessary part of the roster.
That organizational mindset is spelled out in Sherman’s report. He takes special care to point out that the Yankees “are not selling low on Nova” and then rattles off all the positively spun things that could be used to up his trade value in talks. He’ll be healthier next year, he’ll be motivated, he’s cost-efficient in his final arb year, and he’s still in his physical prime at age 29. All of those things are or could be true, but if they’re all true then why are the Yankees trying to trade the guy? He’s a young, cost-controlled starting pitcher and they have said they’re looking for young, cost-controlled starting pitchers. The only reason they would be looking to move him is if they were selling low.
So take the report however you want, but the truth is that Nova has been inconsistent in his Yankee tenure and he’s lost the position he once held as an important piece of the team’s future plans. By my count he’s the 7th starter on the current 40-man roster, and if the Yankees think they can turn their 7th starter into a better starter, that’s something they should pursue. Nova isn’t going to bring that kind of return back on his own, but I could see a scenario or two in which he’s part of a multiple player package that brings back a better young starter.
The Brett Gardner trade rumor train keeps rolling down the offseason tracks, gathering speed as it goes. Via Jon Morosi, the Yankees are one of several teams talking to the Cleveland Indians about putting a trade together involving an outfielder and one of Cleveland’s starting pitchers. As Morosi points out, the Indians are dangerously light on quality MLB outfielders right now and won’t have Michael Brantley at the start of next season. They also have a very deep starting rotation, with 6 legit big league starters in the mix.
If the Yankees are involved and the trade revolves around Cleveland acquiring an outfielder, of course it’s going to be Gardner whose name comes up. There’s no way Cleveland would even entertain the idea of taking on Jacoby Ellsbury‘s contract. But Gardner would be a good fit for them thanks to his well-rounded offensive skill set and ability to play center field.
With the Yankees openly looking to add more starting pitching, any of Cleveland’s young starters would be a good fit. Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco are the big prizes. Yankee players and fans should be very familiar with Carrasco after his 2 stellar outings against them in a 10-day span this past August. But the team could also take interest in the potential of younger guys like Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar. One thing worth noting about all 4 of those pitchers- they all had home run problems last year.
The other teams mentioned in Morosi’s report were the Dodgers and the Blue Jays, and to be honest the Dodgers are probably a better trade partner than the Yankees here because of their depth. They could offer Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, or Scott Van Slyke. The Yankees can offer Gardner and Aaron Judge. It’s not a bad option to pursue to add more starting pitching without spending “too much” money, but at first glance I’d call this a longshot for the Yankees.
Looks like I didn’t miss too much over the weekend. The one new rumor with some juice that came out last night comes to us courtesy of The Post and concerns both the Yankees and the Mets and their respective plans to pursue Ben Zobrist this offseason.
Via Dan Martin and Ken Davidoff, the Yankees are unlikely to go hard after Zobrist because of his expected price tag. The exact quote from the report says “the Yankees aren’t willing to spend as much as Zobrist likely will receive”, and that the Mets will make “a strong push” for Zobrist to address their multiple roster needs. That information comes from the always reliable unnamed “industry sources”. They’re better than just regular unnamed sources because they’re definitely in the industry, you see.
All jokes aside, this report makes sense to me. The MLBTR projection for Zobrist was 3 years/$51 million, this report mentions 4/$60 mil as a possibility, and I’ve already said I don’t see the Yankees going all in on Zobrist for those types of commitments. They have players in-house who they are seemingly comfortable with handling second base, they’ve got a crowded outfield, and they have greater needs elsewhere. Giving a 4-year deal to a 35-year-old also doesn’t fit the current roster building plan, even if that 35-year-old is very versatile.
In a vacuum, I’d love to have Zobrist on the team next year. He would provide flexibility and depth all over the roster and make it easier to move Brett Gardner, who is probably the team’s best chance to get more young, cost-controlled MLB players back in a trade. It’s strange to accept money as the reason for the Yankees passing on a player who fits their needs, but that’s the new model with ownership. If they’re waiting for more money to come off the books before spending big again, it makes sense that they’d bypass Zobrist and focus their attention elsewhere.
Very busy day for Hipster Cash yesterday. He started off by clearing a 40-man spot and kept the trade momentum rolling with an out-of-nowhere swap with the Twins that netted him at least his Chris Young replacement. Here’s a full recap of yesterday’s activities.
– The second trade was the big one. The Yankees acquired outfielder Aaron Hicks from the Twins for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy. This trade, while unexpected, followed a pattern Cash has established recently of dealing from positions of depth to acquire young MLB players with lots of team control remaining. Murphy really came into his own in 2015 as Brian McCann‘s regular backup, and like Francisco Cervelli before him he will now get the chance to expand into a regular starting role. Hicks steps into Young’s righty platoon outfield role for now, but Cash did say the Yankees see him as an everyday player.
– Naturally this ramped up the speculation on Brett Gardner‘s future with the club. When asked about the possibility of trading Gardner now, Cash said ““I have been hit on Gardy over the years quite often, and he hasn’t gone anywhere. I value Gardy a great deal. … He’s not an easy get.” (via Chad Jennings)
– In other hot stove rumor news, Ken Rosenthal reported the Diamondbacks as one of multiple teams that have asked about Andrew Miller. These 2 teams have hooked up on trades before and Rosenthal pointed out the match in potential trade chips, so this makes sense.
– Via Mark Feinsand, the Yankees might “make a serious run” at lefty free agent pitcher Wei-Yin Chen this offseason to give their rotation some balance. Chen is coming off a solid year and has been a reliable mid-rotation guy since coming to the Majors in 2012. He’s also reportedly seeking a 5-6 year deal and will cost any non-Baltimore team that signs him their 1st round draft pick. He’s a good pitcher, but I don’t see the Yankees going that hard for him at the cost of the pick and that many years.
Here’s the other new story I alluded to in the previous recap post. According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees and Mariners have “discussed” a potential trade involving Brett Gardner. This comes as the latest example of the “Brian Cashman is open to anything” storyline that’s been gaining strength over the last week or so.
Sherman’s report is quick to state that the discussions are in the early stages and no specifics have been mentioned by either side, but there is a good fit and logical reason for both sides to pursue this. The Mariners need to be competitive now and Gardner is the perfect type of top-of-the-order table setter they need in front of their big hitters. Jerry DiPoto is the new GM in Seattle and has always liked Gardner. From the Yankees’ side, Gardner is arguably their most trade-able main roster piece as an above-average player with a reasonable contract. With Ellsbury locked in, Beltran coming off the books after next season, prospects waiting in the wings, and some intriguing FA outfield options, Gardner is the best chance for them to move a piece while also helping another area of roster need.
The report mentions “high-end starting pitching” with team control as the desired return for the Yankees, and while Seattle is unwilling to discuss right-hander Taijuan Walker, the same does not hold true for lefty James Paxton. The 27-year-old pitched to a 3.90 ERA/4.31 FIP split in 67.0 MLB innings in 2015, but has battled injury problems on and off for the past few years.
Stove’s gettin’ hotter. It’s definitely worth watching where this rumor goes over the rest of this week and in the weeks to come leading up to the Winter Meetings. Gardner is one of the core members of the Yankees now and a well-known leader in the clubhouse. Losing him would be tough, but it would also create more opportunities for young players to step in and could bring a good return to bolster the rest of the roster.
Second base was a problem position for the Yankees this past season. They struggled to find production early from Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan, seemingly waited too long to jettison Drew in favor of better options, and didn’t get much consistent positive value from the position until very late in the year when Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder got hot and took over as the new platoon. According to Jon Heyman’s latest report, that late season SSS boost may have influenced the Yankees’ plans for next season.
In Heyman’s most recent “Inside Baseball” piece for CBS, he reported that the Yankees are “leaning toward going with Refsnyder and Ackley next year”, which was something that drew a lot of conversation late in the regular season when they were both hitting. On the surface, this looks like an easy decision to make for a team not looking to add payroll. Ackley hit .288/.333/.654 in his 57 Yankee plate appearances and he’s a former top prospect with lefty power potential. Refsnyder hit .302/.348/.512 in 47 MLB PA and .271/.359/.402 in Triple-A.
Of course, there’s always more to the story when it comes to the Yankees, and Heyman’s piece alludes to that by mentioning the team’s interest in free agent to be Ben Zobrist and former Yankee Martin Prado. There are going to be plenty of good FA options at second this offseason, and Cash is no stranger to going to the trade market to pick up what he needs at a weak position. Regardless of what way they’re leaning, the Yankees are never going to limit their opportunities to address an area of need and they’re never going to tip their hand as to what their offseason plans are.
The truth is that this “leaning toward” report doesn’t mean all that much just yet, but it certainly could and I don’t think it means nothing. At the very least, the Yankees have a decent backup plan for second next year if nothing materializes for them on the FA or trade markets. That’s already a better plan than they had for second base coming into this season and that’s a plus for next year’s team.
We’re down to mere hours now. We’ll follow the latest developments here as the day progresses and break in with any actual trade news if and when it happens.
– The Yankees are in heavy on relievers today, with both Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman‘s names coming up multiple times. They were reportedly working on a deal for Kimbrel last night, but talks continue to stall based on the Yankees’ willingness to include Jorge Mateo in a deal.
– Also via Heyman, they may be shifting their focus to Miami’s Carter Capps if they can’t get anything done for the other 2. He’s the dude with the jump delivery.
– Precious little out there right now connecting the Yankees to any starters. They lost another target last night when the Giants acquired Mike Leake from Cincy.
– Dustin Ackley will join the team today in Chicago and there’s still the matter of clearing a roster spot for him. Drew, Ryan, or Jones seem like the most likely candidates to go, but stay tuned.
** UPDATE 12:41 PM ** – Cubs get Dan Haren. Wasn’t really connected to the Yankees but he is another starter off the board.
** UPDATE 1:19 PM ** – As first reported by Mark Feinsand, the Yankees have designed Garrett Jones for assignment to clear a roster spot for Dustin Ackley. Looks like Ackley is going to take over that role of matchup utility guy that Jones had been holding. Probably means Drew and Ryan stay at second.
** UPDATE 3:05 PM ** – The deadline has passed and the Yankees did not make any additional moves. OK.
2 big stories today related to the Yankees. Neither involves them making any trades.
– The first was the Blue Jays acquiring David Price from the Tigers for a package of prospects. It sounds like the haul was a good one, better than what the Rays got for him last year, and this was a move the Jays had to make if they want to make a serious playoff run. Yanks get to hold onto all their top prospects (for now) and still get a shot to sign Price when he hits the FA market.
– The second, and more important, was the announcement that Michael Pinedahas been scratched from his scheduled start tonight. He has since been diagnosed with a Grade I forearm strain and put on the DL, and CC will start tonight’s game on regular rest. This type of injury could put Pineda out until mid-September, so the need for the Yanks to add a starter has increased as far as I’m concerned, Severino or no Severino.
– Via Ken Rosenthal, the Yanks are “poised to strike” and are in on “all available arms”. Not much different than we’ve heard all along, although they’ve yet to get seriously involved with anybody.
It’s been mostly quiet on the Yankee trade deadline front for the last few days. They’re connected to almost everybody in some capacity, but don’t seem to be seriously involved with anybody. Hopefully there’s another behind-the-scenes deal being worked on. It would be puzzling and disappointing to see the deadline pass without them making at least 1 move. Here’s the latest:
– As first reported by Jack Curry, the Yanks designated Chris Capuano earlier today. That decision was almost surely driven by his abysmal performance last night and the fact that the Yanks have a ton of Triple-A depth arms. The newest one getting called up tonight is righty Caleb Cotham, and Diego Moreno will get to keep his roster spot after his splendid relief outing.
– The big story from yesterday was the Royals trading for Ben Zobrist. Zobrist was a known target and would have been a perfect fit for the Yankees’ needs, but it doesn’t sound like they were ever seriously in contention for him.
– Now the primary second base target appears to be Martin Prado, although there has been little indication the Marlins are actively shopping him. I don’t think Prado is great, but I think he’d be the type of pickup the Yankees would look to make. Upgrades the infield, adds more defensively flexibility, and can still hit left-handed pitching pretty well.
– David Price is still a hot commodity and Bob Nightengale made him hotter with his report earlier that the Yanks, Dodgers, and Blue Jays are all “poised to have an all-out bidding war of prospects” to land Price. That looks, sounds, and smells like fake pot stirring to me. If it’s not, I’m OK with it. Price is the type of difference-making starter the Yankees should be willing to trade their top prospects for if he’s available.
– In more realistic rotation upgrade options, the Padres are reportedly “flooding the market” with their starters according to Jayson Stark. I would have no problem with the Yanks acquiring Shields, Cashner, or Ross if they could do it without giving up any of their top guys, but I expect that would be almost impossible to do.
– And via Jon Heyman, the Yankees said no to the Padres’ request for Jorge Mateo as part of the Craig Kimbrel trade negotiations. Hard to say whether I agree with that or not without knowing the other players involved in the talks.