Things are looking down for Masahiro Tanaka, who has been rocked his past two starts.
We can forgive the Yankees for casting an uneasy gaze toward the weekend, where Masahiro Tanaka will make his biggest start of the season. Actually, considering the black cloud that’s hovering over the Japanese right-hander, facing the Rays in a division showdown might be the crossroads moment of his Bronx career.
Obviously it’s too early to say the Yankees’ summer is on the line; far from it. But questions about Tanaka’s place in the rotation and whether he can lead the Bombers to the playoffs are very much in play. He’s in the middle of a severe dip in performance that team officials are at a loss to explain.
Tanaka, who blew a 6-0 lead to the Astros on Saturday, has allowed 11 earned runs in his past 10 innings, including 17 hits and four walks. In Houston, the former ace coughed up three home runs. Tanaka looked like he was in shock, although hiding behind that Texas hold ’em stare, it’s hard to ever know what he’s really thinking.
Clearly, Tanaka is working with diminished stuff. The only question is whether he’s hurt or if the problem is due to a lack of “feel” as he puts it. The answer might be found in both explanations.
Although the Yankees insist Tanaka is healthy – that is, his elbow is stable with the same partial tear of the UCL – he’s uncomfortable finishing his pitches.
Whether that’s physical (unable to generate arm speed) or psychological (he’s afraid to) is moot. Either way, Tanaka no longer dominates at-bats as he did early in 2014.
This much is certain: Tanaka is once again deemphasizing his four-seam fastball. He threw 18 on Saturday and didn’t get a single swing-and-miss. He averaged 92.7 mph – not bad, but not enough to keep hitters off his secondary pitches. On the same day in Flushing, Matt Harvey threw 44 fastballs, two- and four-seamers, and generated exactly three whiffs. Afterward, he explained how strange his arm feels with a new ligament and that pitching after a major injury “is a lot [tougher] than I thought” even though the doctors say he’s healthy.
Tanaka’s troubles aren’t as severe as Harvey’s before Tommy John surgery – not yet, anyway. But there are parallels that cannot be ignored: With a ligament that’s less than 100 percent, Tanaka is no longer a sure bet to anchor the rotation.
Question is, who can fill that role? Until Tanaka gets straightened out, assuming he does, the Yankees can only hope Ivan Nova’s 2015 debut was a beacon of hope. Otherwise the menu is disturbingly lean. CC Sabathia is shot, and Michael Pineda, as effective as he (mostly) is, has already thrown more innings this season than the last three combined.
That’s goes a long way in explaining why the Yankees are 13th in the American League in starters’ ERA and 24th in the big leagues. And that brings us to the surprising Rays, who have been everything the Bombers have not been this summer: blessed with a highly efficient rotation (tops in the AL with a 3.11) but 13th in runs scored.
The Rays weren’t supposed to be anyone’s problem in 2015, but not only have they outperformed expectations, their pitching is about to become exponentially better with Matt Moore, recovering from Tommy John surgery, due to come off the disabled list Thursday.
In a division race that’s impossibly tight and equally difficult to predict, every series – OK, every game – matters. That’s why Tanaka’s next start against the Rays becomes a mini-referendum. Who is he and what does he mean to the Yankees? Is this a slump or the rumblings of an oncoming storm? The answers might be right around the corner.
The solution, including a trade for Cole Hamels, might be on the way, too.
Over the last few seasons the Yankees have focused on rental players at the trade deadline while doing their long-term shopping in the offseason. That isn’t always the case — Martin Prado had two and a half years left on his contract at the time of the trade last year — but that definitely seems to be their preference. Hal Steinbrenner already confirmed rentals are the plan this summer as well.
Earlier this week we heard the Yankees have “sworn off” trading their top prospects for rentals, and that’s all well and good, but every team says that this time of year. If the Tigers offer David Price forLuis Severino, are the Yankees really going to say no to that? Probably not. Anyway, the Yankees have some needs heading into the trade deadline as always (righty reliever, second base, etc.), so let’s sort through their trade chips to see who may and may not be dealt this summer.
The Untouchables, Sorta
The Yankees rarely trade players off their big league roster at the trade deadline, and, when they do, it’s usually a Vidal Nuno or Yangervis Solarte type. Not someone who was a key part of the roster. I think Dellin Betances is the team’s best trade chip right now — best as in he’d bring the largest return by himself — but they’re not going to trade him for obvious reasons. Same with Michael Pineda and, yes, even Didi Gregorius.
Among prospects, Severino and Aaron Judge are the closest to untouchable, and I don’t think they should be completely off the table. They’re very good prospects, not elite best in baseball prospects, and the Yankees should at least be willing to listen. (I suspect they are.) Does that mean they should give them away? Of course not. The Yankees would need a difference-maker in return, likely a difference-maker they control beyond this season.
Alright, now let’s get to the prospects who might actually be traded this summer. We have to start with the outfielders. The Yankees have a ton of them. You could argue too many, though I won’t. Just this season the Yankees have had Mason Williams, Slade Heathcott, and Ramon Flores make their big league debuts. Judge was just promoted to Triple-A Scranton, where the Yankees also have Ben Gamel and Tyler Austin. Jake Cave is with Double-A Trenton.
That’s a lot of outfielders! Obviously some are more valuable than others, especially with Heathcott (quad) and Williams (shoulder) on the DL, but that’s a legitimate surplus the Yankees can use in a trade(s) at the deadline. Judge is the big prize here, though he’s supposedly untouchable. My guess is healthy Williams and Flores have the most trade value out of everyone else because teams could realistically plug them right onto their MLB roster. The Yankees are in position to trade a young outfielder or two while still having enough depth for themselves.
The “Blocked” Prospects
Prospects who don’t necessarily fit into a club’s long-term plans are prime trade bait. Gary Sanchez sure seems likely to be made available this summer assuming he returns from his bruised hand reasonably soon. (He was hit by a foul tip last week.) The Yankees value defense behind the plate very highly. They’ve made that clear. Sanchez, while improving slowly and steadily, isn’t much of a defender at all. The bat is more projection than results — 108 wRC+ in just over 800 Double-A plate appearances from 2013-15 — which isn’t uncommon for a 22-year-old.
Sanchez is still only 22 but he is also in his second minor league option year, meaning he has to stick in MLB or be exposed to waivers come the 2017 season. That’s still a long way away in the grand scheme of things. Long enough for his defense to improve to the Yankees’ high standards? Probably not. It’s not impossible, just unlikely. As with Jesus Montero and Peter O’Brien before him, Sanchez seems very likely to be dealt no matter how promising his bat appears simply because it doesn’t look like he’ll be a good catcher and doesn’t really have another position.
Eric Jagielo is blocked but not really — the Yankees did just sign Chase Headley to a four-year contract, but Jagielo probably won’t stay at third base long-term anyway. He might be headed for left field or, more likely, first base. And, if that is the case, Jagielo’s future impacts Greg Bird, a true first base prospect. Mark Teixeira‘s contract will expire after next season and ideally one of these two will step into to replace him at first. It’s easy to say the Yankees should look into their crystal ball, decide whether Jagielo or Bird will be the first baseman of the future and trade the other, but that’s not realistic. Either way, Jagielo and Bird shouldn’t be off-limits in trade talks.
Coming into the season, I would have said prospects like Ian Clarkin, Domingo German, Ty Hensley, and Luis Torrens fit into the “candidates to be traded” group for different reasons. Maybe even Jacob Lindgren too. They’ve all since suffered significant injuries. German and Hensley both had Tommy John surgery, Torrens had shoulder surgery, and Lindgren had a bone spur taken out of his elbow this week. He might be back in September. German, Hensley, and Torrens are done for the year.
Clarkin has not pitched in an official game this year because of some kind of elbow problem. He was shut down with tendinitis in Spring Training and reportedly pitched in an Extended Spring Training game back in May, but we haven’t heard any updates since, and he hasn’t joined any of the minor league affiliates. (Extended Spring Training ended a few days ago.) It’s hard not to think the worst in a situation like this. Clarkin and these other guys are still eligible to be traded, but injured non-elite prospects usually don’t have much value. The Yankees are better off holding onto them and hoping they rebuild value with a healthy 2016.
Not As Valuable As You May Think
Like the fans of the other 29 teams, we overvalue the Yankees’ prospects. We’re not unique. Everyone does it. Rob Refsnyder? He’s slightly more valuable than Tony Renda, who New York just acquired for a reliever who had been designated for assignment. An all-hit/no-glove prospect pushing a .750 OPS at Triple-A isn’t bringing back a whole lot. Think Pete O’Brien without the power.
Jorge Mateo? He’s loaded with ability. He’s also 20 and in Low-A, so three years away from MLB, give or take. The further away a player is from MLB, the less trade value he has. Same deal with Miguel Andujar and Tyler Wade. These guys absolutely have trade value. Just not as a centerpiece in a significant deal. They’re second or third pieces in a big deal, headliners in a smaller deal.
Miscellaneous depth arms fit here as well. Jose Ramirez, Tyler Webb, Branden Pinder, guys like that. They’re all interesting for different reasons and hey, they might have some MLB value for a few years, but they’re basically throw-ins. And no, lumping two or three good prospects together doesn’t equal one great prospect. Most teams already have prospects like the guys in this section in their farm system. They aren’t game-changers in trade negotiations.
Straight Cash, Homey
The Yankees’ single greatest trade chip is their payroll and their ability to absorb salary. That helped them get Prado at the trade deadline last year, for example. Or Bobby Abreu years ago. Whether Hal Steinbrenner is willing to take on substantial money to facilitate a trade is another matter. I mean, I’d hope so, especially for a rental player who won’t tie down future payroll when the team tries to get under the luxury tax threshold again. The team’s ability to take on big dollars separates them from most other clubs in trade talks. Their financial might is absolutely valuable when talking trades.
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Even if the Yankees do make Severino and Judge off-limits — all indications are they will — I think they have enough mid-range prospects to acquire upgrades at the trade deadline. Not huge ones, we can forget all about Cole Hamels and Johnny Cueto is Severino and Judge are off the table, but Sanchez, Jagielo, and the various outfielders will generate some interest. Finding a match will be more difficult than scratching together tradeable prospects, which was an issue for New York for several years in the mid-2000s.
For at least the second straight start, the Yankees had a scout watching Reds right-hander Mike Leake over the weekend, according to George King. They sent a different set of eyes too — last time out Jeff Datz scouted Leake and this time it was Brandon Duckworth. Leake struck out seven and allowed two hits in seven shutout innings against the Marlins on Friday.
The Yankees have been scouting Leake as well as Reds ace Johnny Cueto in recent weeks, which makes perfect sense. The Reds are bad and both Leake and Cueto are impending free agents. They’re very much on the trade block and, at the very least, the Yankees need to do their due diligence beforehand. Cueto’s an ace and would help any rotation. I’m not sure how Leake helps New York right now. I looked at both in our recent Scouting The Market post.
Meanwhile, according to Jon Heyman, the Yankees have “sworn off” trading their top prospects for a rental player at the trade deadline. That is something every single team says every year at the trade deadline, without fail. There’s little to gain by saying you’re open to trading top prospects. Leake shouldn’t require top prospects anyway, but Cueto would. Aces don’t come cheap. Not even rental aces.
I do believe the Yankees are sincere with their unwillingness to trade top prospects for a rental, at least moreso than previous years. They’ve given a lot of young players a chance this season. Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ramon Flores, a gaggle of relievers … we’ve seen the Yankees dip into their farm system for help quite often this year. In recent years they’d always jump out and pick up some scrap heap guy to plug a roster hole.
Basically everyone in the organization has said the Yankees intend to incorporate more young players going forward and their actions so far this season back that up. Does that mean top prospects should be off-limits in trade talks? Of course not. Sometimes a deal is too good to be true. But I think guys likeAaron Judge and Luis Severino are as close to untouchable as it gets for a Yankees prospect.
It’s an understatement to say ballhawk Zack Hample, who caught Alex Rodriguez’s 3000th hit last week, has a big decision to make.
Should he give the ball knocked into the Yankee Stadium bleachers back to the Yankees slugger or make some serious cash off it?
He recently told our Brendan Kuty he was offered “all kinds of memorabilia. Bats, jerseys, signatures, the chance to meet A-Rod, the chance to be on the YES Network, to have my own press conference, tickets, Legends tickets.” TMZ added that YES Network offer included multiple appearances the rest of the 2015 season and a “‘sizeable’ donation” to a charity that Rodriguez will match.
But what could the ball be worth if he sold it to a collector or auction house? The Post reported it’s “upwards of $200,000.” Yowza.
So what would you do in that scenario? Take the stuff, the cash or keep it?
The Yankees continue to track Reds pitcher Mike Leake. After having scout Jeff Datz watch Leake pitch last week the Yankees sent scout Brandon Duckworth into Cincinnati Friday night to see the right-hander face the Marlins.
Leake sure put on a show by tossing seven scoreless innings, allowing two hits and striking out seven in a 5-0 Reds victory. Leake, 27, is eligible for free agency at the end of the season. In 14 games, he is 4-4 with a 4.35 ERA.
With Ivan Nova due off the disabled list — possibly as soon as next week — it would appear the Yankees have a surplus of starters, but other teams believe they are in the market for a starter.
Nova, coming back from Tommy John surgery, threw five innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday night and, judging from the numbers, wasn’t sharp in what could have been his final minor league rehab outing. He allowed five runs on seven hits and walked two in seven innings.
Yankees center fielder Mason Williams was forced out of Friday’s 7-2 win over the Tigers due to a jammed right shoulder. He suffered the injury diving back into first base in the fifth inning and stayed in the game, but was replaced by Chris Young in the sixth.
Williams was examined by Dr. Chris Ahmad, but no tests were scheduled. Still, his availability for Saturday is in question.
“It’s not the first time, it’s happened before,’’ said Williams, who has had surgery on the left shoulder. “It’s usually a couple of days. Right now [the shoulder] feels just tired, feels like my arm is 1,000 pounds.’’
“The shoulder popped out and then back in,’’ manager Joe Girardi said. “You have to wait and see.’’
What was on the bottom of Jacoby Ellsbury’s shoes represented progress to Girardi.
“I think he looked better. He used his spikes to hit in the dirt today and that’s how he got hurt [last month]. I thought he swung the bat well and I thought he ran a lot better,’’ Girardi said of Ellsbury’s afternoon workout. “He is definitely progressing the way you want. I am not sure exactly what the schedule is [Saturday], but I was pleased with what I saw today.’’
Ellsbury hasn’t played since leaving a game on May 19 with a sprained right knee. There was hope that Ellsbury could return before July but that looks doubtful. Barring a setback, Ellsbury could return before or after the All-Star break (July 13-16).
The Yankees are 15-12 without Ellsbury, who was the team’s best player before going on the DL.
Struggling right-handed reliever Chris Martin was sent to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and right-handers Bryan Mitchell and Branden Pinder were elevated from the same club, while righty reliever Sergio Santos was placed on the DL.
Mitchell, 24, appeared in three big league games (one start) last season when he was 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA. This season he is 4-5 with a 2.79 ERA in 13 starts. In 67 ²/₃ innings he has allowed 54 hits and fanned 54. Mitchell’s weakness has been control and he has issued 34 walks.
Martin was 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA in 18 appearances.
Santos appeared in two games and worked three innings. This is Pinder’s second stint with the Yankees. He was 0-0 with a 2.16 ERA in six games. He allowed one hit in pitching the ninth inning Friday.
Andrew Miller hopes to be cleared to begin throwing this weekend
“I have been hooked up to every machine they have, been doing a lot of soft tissue stuff. I saw Dr. Ahmad and hopefully [throw] this weekend. That’s the plan,’’ Miller said.
Miller, who is a perfect 17-for-17 in save situations and has a 1.03 ERA in 26 games, hasn’t pitched since June 9 due to a strain of the left flexor forearm muscle.
NEW YORK — The Yankees, holding on to a 9-4 lead in the ninth inning Thursday night, were not in danger of losing the game.
Even with reliever Chris Martin—shaky of late with a 14.73 ERA in his last four games—pitching with one out and two runners on base.
Why, then, did manager Joe Girardi have closer Dellin Betances warming up in the bullpen? Might there have been a better option than Betances, given that any time a team’s regular closer doesn’t have to pitch, it’s usually best to let him rest?
“Not if it’s 9-7,” Girardi said after the game.
A reporter submitted that it was only 9-4, though.
“Well, OK, so the next guy gets a hit and it’s 9-5,” Girardi said. “And so we’re only one hitter away from the tying run, and that’s what you don’t want in that situation.”
But how about the wear and tear on getting Betances loose?
“Well if I don’t bring him in and we lose the game, how’s that wear and tear?” Girardi said. “Not too good. I’d be crucified.”
But if going by that same logic, then it might have made sense to bring in Betances (a righty) in the eighth inning to pitch to the right-handed hitting Giancarlo Stanton, the league leader in home runs (25), who not long prior had planted one in the left field seats off starter CC Sabathia.
Instead, Girardi let reliever Justin Wilson (a lefty) pitch to Stanton, who induced a ground ball to first base to end the inning.
Derek Jeter didn’t have to cope with cyberbullying while growing up, but he’s aware enough of the issue that his Turn 2 Foundation announced a partnership Thursday morning with an app designed to fight it.
“None of us can relate to this social media frenzy going on — it wasn’t when we were in school,” Sharlee Jeter, Derek’s sister and the president of Turn 2, said in an interview. “For Derek, social media is kind of a foreign world — he’s said it many times.
“But he knows how powerful it is, how it’s consumed our youth. I’m not sure I would’ve been able to handle that kind of bullying and abuse when I was younger and I came from a wonderful home. You have outside forces now even penetrating into your safe home.”
Using Stop!t, kids can anonymously report bullying, said Todd Schobel, the company CEO who launched the app last year. “They can take a screen shot of the incident and, within seconds, hit a button and it goes to school administration,” Schobel said. “It’s a picture, so there’s no he-said, she-said. They can get in front of a crisis before it get out of control.”
Jeter was not available for interviews, but he said in a statement: “The Turn 2 Foundation is dedicated to helping young people reach their full potential, and bullying is an obstacle that stands in the way of that for too many. By working with Stop!t, we hope to empower both bystanders and victims to put an end to bullying. This is a critical step in creating a clear path to academic and personal success for all students, and sends a message that bullying in any form is unacceptable.”
Sharlee Jeter said that the kids involved in Turn 2’s Jeter’s Leaders program often bring up bullying and cyberbullying as “one of the major topics they’ve wanted to be educated on and bring an end to. This aligned with our mission.” Jeter’s Leaders will serve as anti-bullying ambassadors in their schools, she said.
Derek Jeter, who will turn 41 later this month, has been busy in retirement with, among other things, publishing ventures. Asked how her brother is enjoying his post-playing career life, Sharlee Jeter says, “He loves it.
“He’s been non-stop for a really long time, really focused on baseball, which was a great thing. That’s how he is. He is keeping busy with everything.
“It’s a big change, but he’s not missing a beat in trying to do what he’s always done throughout his career, which is giving back. He’s retired from baseball, but his legacy lives with what he does through the foundation and this is a prime example.”
MIAMI — Any hope the Yankees had of getting Jacoby Ellsbury back from the disabled list before July 1 vanished Tuesday. Now, manager Joe Girardi has his fingers crossed the center fielder and leadoff hitter returns before the All-Star break.
“I sure hope so,’’ Girardi said of Ellsbury being able to come back before the July 13-16 break.
The Yankees are 12-11 since Ellsbury suffered a sprained right knee May 19 in Washington, which means they haven’t bottomed out without him — even though when injured he was easily the Yankees’ best player with a .324 (48-for-148) average and a .412 on-base percentage.
The plan called for Ellsbury to work out with the Yankees prior to the two games against the Marlins, then, if he felt good, go to Tampa and continue working at the minor league facility and eventually play in minor league rehab games. That plan has been shelved.
“He is not quite ready, so he will go home with us,’’ Girardi said. “He is not where we want him to be physically, so we are not going to risk it. He is not running 100 percent, and obviously that is important.’’
When Ellsbury was injured the conservative estimate was he would miss a month. That date is Friday and obviously it’s going to take longer for him to return. What the Yankees don’t know is how much longer.
“It’s going slower than we thought it might,’’ Girardi said. “I said earlier in this trip that our hope was, you always get a little excited that things would move faster but it just didn’t.’’
Ok here it is pure and simple , the fans have finally done it , they finally stepped over the line and made the All Star game a joke , and in my opinion they no longer deserve the right to decide who starts the game .
This ballot box stuffing isn’t new , I remember a station in my area about 10 years ago giving people instruction on the air on how they should vote , they were telling them that each online email address would be allowed 25 votes , so they were telling the people to get as many different addresses as they could and vote 25 times each on every one .
But this year it’s finally over the top , we have a bum leading the ballots to play second , his own team is considering demoting him to the pines.
Here’s my solution on how to fix this nonsense so we’ll never be in this embarrassing position again.
To start off with the players should vote and decide who starts , they are the guys in the trenches and they know first hand who’s deserving and who isn’t .
I won’t totally leave the fans out though even though they deserve to be ignored .
I’d let the fans vote for the non starters , but NOT Online where any fool can vote a hundred or more times .
I’d have them vote by ballot , they could get them in stores and fill them out and mail them in to Major League Baseball, and I don’t mean a hand full of ballots , make it be known that only one ballot at a time can be mailed in and if you mail in more together all over 1 will be ripped up , if you want to vote again you will need to get another ballot and mail it separately .
Let’s see how many of these idiots will vote 100 times when it’s costing them for a stamp each vote.
This is really the only logical method , the fans made a joke of the game and now it’s time to fix it so it will never happen again.
The Yankees may have a rotation that appears to be set on paper, but the idea of dealing for one of baseball’s best pitchers may be too good to pass up.
The Post reported the team sent a scout to Chicago to watch Cincinnati Reds pitchers Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, both of whom are free agents by the end of 2015.
Cueto would be a huge upgrade — he finished second in National League Cy Young voting last season and posted a 2.85 ERA along with 82 strikeouts in 85.1 innings this year. Leake could be a fine back-of-the-rotation addition after he posted 214.1 innings in 2014.
But with Ivan Nova heading back to the rotation soon, is there room for another starter? That’s the question GM Brian Cashman will have to answer heading into July, though any team would salivate over acquiring a pitcher like Cueto. And in the uber-tight AL East race, the Yankees will be competing hard with four other teams looking to upgrade.
Here’s what the Yankees might have to give up according to the Post:
“Any team talking to the Yankees would have to ask for right-hander Luis Severino and/or outfielder Aaron Judge, but it’s not likely the Yankees would part with their two top prospects for a rental. However, the Reds have scouted the Yankees’ system and players such as outfielders Ramon Flores and Mason Williams and pitcher Bryan Mitchell might be attractive as part of a package.”