Yanks acquire elite Reliever for Stretch Run…
I am not sure how I felt when I first heard that trade negotiations were heating up between the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles. In 2016, there was not a more dominant reliever in baseball than Zach Britton. He was 2-1 with 47 saves and was virtually unhittable with 0.54 ERA (giving up only four earned runs in 67 innings pitched). He struck out 74 batters and was only touched for one home run. He thrust his name in the arena of elite closers, but then the last couple of years have been injury-filled. After accumulating 120 saves between 2014 and 2016, he has only 19 this year and last. By comparison, the interim closer for the O’s, Brad Brach, has 29 saves for 2017 and YTD 2018.
When healthy, there are not too many pitchers better than Britton. Plus, he’s a lefty so that’s huge plus for Yankee Stadium. Hopefully this means that Chasen Shreve’s days are numbered. When Britton returned from the DL, he was generally effective although his ERA was torched by a bad outing in Atlanta on June 22nd when he gave up 4 runs on 5 hits while recording only a single out. But in July, he’s been his dominant self, allowing no runs over 7 innings and striking out 13. He shut down the Yankees for an inning on July 10th (the two-homer game by former Oriole Manny Machado), picking up the win on the walk-off single by Jonathan Schoop. He struck out the last two Yankees he faced (Miguel Andujar and Greg Bird).
I am in favor of the Britton trade, but I think I was as grateful he wasn’t traded to the Houston Astros or the Boston Red Sox as I was with the thought of him restoring the three-headed beast in the bullpen that has been missing since the Yankees traded away Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in 2016 (with no offense to David Robertson, who remains one of my favorite Yankees).
Yesterday must have been weird for Britton. His team was playing the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards in Baltimore. When the game started, Britton and the Orioles were 42 ½ games behind the Red Sox in the AL East Standings. By the time the rain-delayed game ended, Britton had gained 37 ½ games on the Red Sox, thanks to his new Pinstripes. Britton first became aware of the potential Yankees trade during the rain delay when he was met with countless messages and texts on his cell phone so it must have been bittersweet for him to watch his teammates defeat the Red Sox when play resumed. Part of me wished that the O’s had brought Britton out one last time (nothing better than to see him defeat the Red Sox), but the Orioles were not going to risk potential injury to jeopardize the trade. So Brad Brach came in to close it out and nearly blew the game in the rain-marred 9th inning. But in the end, he left the game-tying and -winning runs stranded on base by inducing the great Mookie Betts to hit into a game-ending double play. The win allowed Britton to walk away from Camden Yards on a positive note.
So, welcome to the New York Yankees, Zach Britton! Whether your stay is only for a few months or long-term should you decide to sign with the Yankees in the off-season, we are glad to have you. With Chapman’s knee issues, I am sure that there will be save opportunities for you. Looking forward to watching you send AL hitters home frustrated with that deadly sinker.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Rich Schultz)
As for the guys the Yankees gave up, the one I probably hated to see leave the most was Cody Carroll. I’ve liked the reliever for the last few years but the loaded Yankees pen has kept him at Triple A. Although he has been assigned to the O’s Triple A club in Norfolk, there’s no doubt he’ll soon be making his Major League debut for his new club. Former Yanks like Richard Bleier and Yefry Ramirez (the winner pitcher in Baltimore’s win over the Red Sox yesterday) have done very well for the Orioles and I expect no less from Carroll. The headliner was Dillon Tate who has restored his stock as a quality prospect this year after once being selected fourth overall in the 2015 MLB Draft by the Texas Rangers. Tate, acquired in the trading deadline deal that sent Carlos Beltran to the Texas Rangers two years ago, may turn out to be a fine middle-of-the-rotation starter or a good setup reliever but he was never going to get that opportunity in New York. There are too many better guys in front of him. Josh Rogers has been a nice left-handed starter for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders but I agree with one Yankees beat writer that labeled him as a “poor man’s Jordan Montgomery”. With so many players needing protection from the Rule 5 Draft in December, I have no problem clearing the board of some of the fringe prospects. The fact the Yankees got an elite reliever without giving up a player from the cream of their prospects is incredible. The Yankees paid more for Britton than the A’s paid for Mets closer Jeurys Familia but it was worth it. Casey Stern’s famous quote (“Prospects are cool…Parades are cooler”) is very appropriate in this situation. If the Yankees win the World Series, I am not going to worry about future damage that Tate, Carroll and Rogers may do to the Yankees just like Cubs fans do not regret the trade that sent the very talented young Gleyber Torres to the Yankees.
There’s now less than a week to go to the non-waivers trading deadline next Tuesday. I still fully anticipate a trade for a proven starter although I do not feel the Yankees will be making any surprise stealth moves to acquire premium starters like Jacob deGrom or Madison Bumgarner. At this point, I probably feel more strongly than ever that J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays has a future in the Bronx. Given the Yankees are responsible for the full pro-rated balance of Britton’s one-year deal, I think they’ll tread lightly for luxury tax avoidance purposes. So, Happ makes more sense to me than Cole Hamels even though the latter has the better post-season resume. Although Happ has generally been awful for his last few starts, he held the Orioles to 1 run on 4 hits over 5 innings in his most recent start, striking out 9. He has shown the ability to beat the Astros and Red Sox so I’d have no qualms about adding him to the rotation. Zach Britton represents huge insurance and protection for Happ’s addition.
Lost in the Britton trade was the dominating performance of Masahiro Tanaka last night as the Yankees took down the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-0. Tanaka pitched a complete game shut-out, giving up only three hits and avoiding his usual obligatory home runs. He walked a batter and struck out 9 while throwing 105 pitches and lowering his season ERA to 4.09. After watching Luis Severino fall down against the Rays the night before, the Yankees needed a solid effort from Tanaka and they got it.
Photo Credit: Getty Images (Mike Ehrmann)
The win allowed the Yankees (64-35) to pick up a game on the Red Sox (71-32). The Yankees are 5 games behind the Red Sox entering play today and they are 5 games up on the Seattle Mariners in the AL Wild Card Standings.
I haven’t heard yet when Britton will join his new team but I think it would be foolish to make him travel to Tampa, Florida for today’s game, particularly given its early start time. The Yankees bullpen is rested and they can afford to wait a day for Britton’s arrival. Therefore, I’d send Britton to New York in anticipation of Thursday’s game against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. It would give Britton a breather to adjust to the change and to make temporary living accommodations. I’ve wondered if third base coach Phil Nevin will give up #53 for Britton. It’s not like he is married to the number. I guess we’ll soon find out.
Luis Cessa (1-1, 3.00 ERA) makes his return to the Yankees today for the start in the series finale with the Rays. He’ll be opposed by former (and maybe future?) Yank Nathan Eovaldi (3-4, 4.26 ERA). The Yankees are expected to activate Gleyber Torres before today’s game. It will be interesting to see the roster move made to open a spot for Torres. Cessa’s spot was opened by last night’s demotion of Giovanny Gallegos to Triple A. The most likely guy to join him with the RailRiders is Tyler Wade although Brandon Drury could certainly be an option if he needs a stint on the DL following his hand injury yesterday. Test results on the hand were negative but Drury’s hand is bruised and he could miss a few days. A short stint on the DL might be good for him. Inevitably, I see the road coming to an end for Neil Walker but I don’t expect to see his name on the transactions wire today. Getting Torres back might be the single greatest “acquisition” the Yankees make this month. The Yankees have done a much better job winning with Gleyber’s name in the lineup than not so his presence is tremendous for the team.
Today is a great day for a Yankees victory. Cessa, please make it happen. Go Yankees!
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Blue Jays 7, Yankees 5…
I was hoping for better results last night with Big Mike on the mound. The Yankees tried a valiant comeback with a couple of two-run home runs but it was not enough.
The Yankees were in an early hole when the Blue Jays scored three runs off Pineda in the first. Josh Donaldson homered with one out and no one on. After getting Joey Bats for the second out, Pineda walked Kendrys Morales. That brought up Justin Smoak, who is having a breakout year at age 30. Unfortunately, Smoak smoked the ball to right center and I was having visions of Pineda from years past.
The Blue Jays picked up a couple of more runs in the third and fourth innings to lead 5-0 when the Yankees began their comeback in the sixth. Gary Sanchez led off with a single and Aaron Judge followed with his 18th homer. It ended Francisco Liriano’s start. Reliever Danny Barnes walked Matt Holliday on a 3-2 count and the next batter up, Starlin Castro, brought the Yankees to within a run at 5-4 with a homer to right center.
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The Blue Jays came right back in the bottom of the sixth when Donaldson hit his second homer of the night, a solo shot.
The Yankees scored a run in the seventh when Matt Holliday doubled to score Aaron Judge who had walked in the previous at-bat. But again, the Blue Jays answered in the bottom of the frame. After Justin Smoak reached first on an error charged to Chris Carter (Yankees challenged the play and lost), Troy Tulowitzki doubled to push Smoak to third. Devon Travis then hit a sac fly to score Smoak, bringing the score to 7-5.
From there, the Yankees were unable to mount any threats against the Blue Jays bullpen and it was game over.
It was a disappointing start by Michael Pineda (6-3). He went five innings, giving up 10 hits and 5 runs. He walked 3 batters while only striking out one. He was unable to overcome that first inning breakdown when he allowed the two home runs. Of course, it didn’t help that neither Jonathan Holder nor Adam Warren were able to deliver clean innings.
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The Yankees (31-21) remain in first place in the AL East, but the Baltimore Orioles did pick up a game and leap frogged Boston with a 3-2 win over the Red Sox. The Orioles are 2 1/2 games back, while the Red Sox remain 3 games behind. The Blue Jays may be in last place but they are just 5 1/2 games behind the leaders. The only division that is tighter is the NL Central where the first place Milwaukee Brewers lead the last place Pittsburgh Pirates by only four games. It must be nice to be a Houston Astros or Washington Nationals fan with double digit leads over their closest competitors. One day, it will be our time to shine.
Odds & Ends…
The rumors of Gleyber Torres to the Bronx seem to be picking up steam. I don’t think he’s ready yet, but reports are indicating that we could see Torres as early as next month. There’s no doubt the kid has maturity beyond his years and is a special talent, but I feel that he is an asset for opening in Spring 2018. The lackluster play of Chase Headley, of course, is forcing acceleration of the plan. At AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Torres is currently batting .212 (7-for-33). In last night’s 7-5 win over the Toledo Mud Hens, Torres was 1-for-4 with a single and a run scored. Two of his outs were by strikeout, and he walked once. He was charged with a fielding error, his fourth at AAA.
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It appears that ultimately this may come down to a choice between Tyler Austin or Torres. If Torres is called up, Headley becomes the backup first/third baseman. If Austin comes up, he backs up Greg Bird at first, with Ronald Torreyes remaining the primary backup at third for Headley. None of these scenarios bode well for Chris Carter. We still have the potential problem at first (what if Bird continues to struggle when he returns) but there’s clearly some difficult decisions looming on the horizon.
Austin was 1-for-4 (single) for the RailRiders yesterday.
All he does is friggin’ win. The story of Chance Adams is amazing. In a short time, he’s become a minor league legend. Since being drafted in the fifth round in 2015, he’s 23-3 with 1.96 ERA in 34 games started covering 220 2/3 innings. He has struck out 248 batters. In the 2015 MLB Draft, current Yankees pitching prospect Dillon Tate was the fourth overall selection by the Texas Rangers. Adams wasn’t chosen until 149 picks later. 2015 was the year the Yankees chose James Kaprielian as their first round choice. We know the talent that Kaprielian possesses but staying healthy has been another matter. Before the Yankees took Adams, they chose two other pitchers after Kaprielian…Jeff Degano and Drew Finley. In a do-over, I think you’d take Adams over any of the three or four if you threw in Tate. I still have high hopes for Kaprielian, but there is so much to be excited about Adams. I liked the quote from AA-Trenton Thunder manager Bobby Mitchell, “He is just a big leaguer in the making”. The finished product is probably not too far away.
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In AAA transactions on Friday, the RailRiders released LHP Jason Gurka. Gurka was signed as a minor league free agent in December 2016. He appeared in a few Spring Training games, but wasn’t going to be an arm for consideration at the big league level. For the RailRiders, he was 0-0 with 5.40 ERA in 16 2/3 innings. He did strike out 20 batters so I am sure that he’ll get a look by another organization. Best of luck to him.
Have a great Saturday! Go Yankees!
All Quiet on the Eastern Front…
It has been a very quiet end of the year for the Yankees. There were rumors of the Yankees talking with the Chicago White Sox about Jose Quintana and David Robertson but they quickly lost legs. While the Yankees need starting pitching, I agree that it is best not to raid the newly stocked farm system. It is a risk to bet on prospects over an established major leaguer, but while Jose Quintana is a good pitcher, he’s not Chris Sale. Given Chicago’s desire for top prospects in return, it just does not make sense. Quintana will not be a 2017 difference maker.
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I still believe the Yankees are better served by identifying an undervalued young starter with potential. Sure, that’s every team’s wish but the Yankees have the scouts and resources to uncover the hidden gems. It is harder to pitch in New York than it is in, say, Pittsburgh, but for some guys, the main stage brings out their full potential.
The New York Mets’ Noah Syndergaard was once just a prospect included in a trade (when the Mets dealt knuckleballer R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays). I think that trade has worked out very well in favor of the Mets. It also brought them starting catcher Travis D’Arnaud. The 2012 trade was a risk for the Mets given Dickey was the reigning NL Cy Young winner, but he has never been as good as he was in 2011 and the other guys sent to Toronto are after thoughts (Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas).
The Yankees are not going to win the World Series in 2017. The current blueprint puts the Yankees on the path to World Series contention in two to three years. They have the time to develop frontline starters so why not take a chance on some other team’s “Jake Arrieta”. The Chicago Cubs saw something in the former Baltimore Orioles hurler and it has paid off quite handsomely for them.
I have high hopes for the Yankees young pitching prospects. James Kaprielian heads the list, but I haven’t forgotten or given up hope for Ian Clarkin. Jordan Montgomery and Dietrich Enns are other homegrown prospects that come to mind. The first young starters that will be given the chance to crack the rotation next season are the obvious ones…Luis Cessa and Chad Green. There’s also the hope that Luis Severino restores the promise that he showed in 2015 and is not just another failed starter that succeeds in the pen. Trade acquisitions Justus Sheffield, Dillon Tate, and Albert Abreu also hold promise.
If Severino is successful and just one of the young prospects stands out in the Spring, the rotation that already includes Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia does not look so bad. It might not be ‘Chris Sale-David Price-Rick Porcello-Eduardo Rodriguez’ worthy, but the foundation is being laid for future success. It will be imperative for the Yankees to re-sign Tanaka should he opt out of his contract following the season, but Sabathia’s departure as he plays out the final year of his contract will continue to create opportunity for the young prospects. Michael Pineda is a case by himself. He is either a really great starter or a disaster. If he can ever hold the focus on the former, the pitching staff will be significantly improved.
Next season, young players like Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Tyler Austin, and Greg Bird will play prominent roles for the Yankees. If any are not successful, there is another wave of young players waiting for their opportunities at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or Trenton. It is inevitable that we’ll see outfielder Clint Frazier at some point in the season, even if it is just a September call-up. I don’t want to lose this talent in the farm system for the chance on a pitcher which always seems to be the biggest risk in baseball. Gleyber Torres has already shown that he has that “it” factor even if he is still a few years away from the Bronx. Stay the course. GM Brian Cashman’s blue print so far has been successful. He has turned what was one of the worst farm systems a few years ago to one of the best. They have the talent and depth in the system to make quiet but effective trades without sacrificing the organization’s best.
2017 may not be a banner year for the team but clearly the light is visible at the end of the tunnel. Now is not the time for the Ghost of Steinbrenner Past to raise its ugly head. Young Hal seems to have a plan and one that will soon yield fruit. Patience. Stick to the plan…