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Andrew Miller named American League’s top reliever — October 29, 2015

Andrew Miller named American League’s top reliever

By Chad Jennings

Andrew Miller

Apparently the Yankees had the best reliever in the American League this season, and it wasn’t Dellin Betances.

Before Wednesday’s second game of the World Series, Yankees’ closer Andrew Miller was named the Mariano Rivera Award winner as the best relief pitcher in the American League. Former Yankees prospect Mark Melancon, now the Pirates’ closer, was presented the Trevor Hoffman Award for the National League.

John Ryan Murphy, Andrew MillerDespite missing a month with a strained forearm, Miller finished tied for third in the A.L. with 36 saves. He was third among all Major League relievers in strikeouts and second in opponents’ batting average.

Given a full season, he might have reached 40 saves in his first year as a full-time closer.

Miller and Melancon were chosen as winners by a nine-member panel of elite former relievers, including Rivera and Hoffman who were in Kansas City for the presentation.

But a case could be made that Miller was not even the best reliever on his team, or the best American League reliever at Kauffman Statdium on Wednesday.

Betances pitched the most innings and had the most strikeouts of any reliever in baseball this season. He had the second-best relief ERA behind Royals closer Wade Davis, who had the lowest opponents’ batting average in the Majors and the lowest WHIP in the American League.

Miller, in a way, was a combination of Betances and Davis.

He had the power and strikeout numbers of Betances (without the high walk rate), along with Davis’s ability to avoid base runners (but with a far higher strikeout rate and significantly more saves).

In the National League, Melancon was the Major League leader with 51 saves in 53 opportunities; both the highest number of saves and the highest conversion rate. The Yankees traded Melancon to the Astros for Lance Berkman in 2010. After a one-year stop in Boston, he’s emerged as one of the game’s top relievers in Pittsburgh, first as an All-Star setup man and now as an award-winning closer.

Masahiro Tanaka’s latest surgery casts further doubt on Yankees’ pitching — October 21, 2015

Masahiro Tanaka’s latest surgery casts further doubt on Yankees’ pitching

Masahiro Tanaka

New York Yankees starting pitcher Masahiro Tanaka removes his cap as he leaves the mound in the fifth inning of the American League wild card baseball game against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium in New York,

By Ryan Hatch

We learned Tuesday afternoon that Yankees‘ ace (right?) Masahiro Tanaka had surgery on his right elbow to remove a bone spur that had, apparently, existed since his days playing in Japan.

It’s the middle of October. Even if he skipped all of 2016 spring training (which the Yankees pointed out to say Tuesday that he won’t), Tanaka isn’t going to be required to throw a meaningful pitch until early April next year. That’s over five full months away. There is noneed to freak out.

But is this how the Yankees want to start the off-season? Especially considering the rotation finished 2015 with right-handerNathan Eovaldi out with elbow inflammation, lefty CC Sabathia in rehab, right-hander Michael Pineda a question mark,Ivan Nova ineffective, Luis Severino still brand new to the league, and Adam Warren maybe sliding into a starter’s role?

Tanaka, though perhaps not convincing anyone he’s worth $155 million, was at the very least reliable in the last four months of the 2015 season, missing just 10 days toward the end of the year because of a strained hamstring suffered when laying down a bunt in a National League park.

He finished this season with a 3.51 ERA in 24 starts, maybe good enough as a No. 3 starter on a championship team, or an ace on an average team, which the Yankees proved to be.

But this is Tanaka’s third major issue with his arm since signing that lucrative deal with the Yankees before the 2014 season. (The recovery time is six weeks.) First was the scariest, the torn ulnar lateral ligament suffered midway through ’14 that kept him out for more than two months. Then earlier this season when he had wrist tendinitis and a forearm strain that caused him to miss 41 days.

Now this. Again, perhaps Tanaka’s fine, and this is nothing more than a minor setback, but his arrival to spring training with more scars and sores is becoming routine. And it casts further doubt on a rotation that already looks mightily suspect.

Maybe they sign hard-throwing free agent righty Jeff Samardzija to sure up those doubts. But Samardzija is 30 with a 4.96 ERA and allowed the most hits in the American League this season. Is that someone you want to hand a longterm contract to?

The Yankees, barring trade, will field largely the same lineup next season, as well as the same starting pitchers. Tanaka’s latest injury only dampens what little optimism may have existed to begin with.

Five lessons the Yankees can learn from the ALCS — October 16, 2015

Five lessons the Yankees can learn from the ALCS

by: Chad Jennings

A baseball sits on the field as members of the Toronto Blue Jays watches take batting practice  baseball's American League Championship Series Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 in  Kansas City, Mo. The Toronto Blue Jays will face the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 tomorrow. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
A baseball sits on the field as members of the Toronto Blue Jays watches take batting practice baseball’s American League Championship Series Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015 in Kansas City, Mo. The Toronto Blue Jays will face the Kansas City Royals in Game 1 tomorrow. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

The Yankees aren’t playing in this year’s American League Championship Series, but as it gets started tonight in Kansas City, there are a few things worth watching as the Yankees prepare for next season. They can find some answers in terms of building a roster and considering potential free agent targets. A few things to watch for during this series between the Royals and Blue Jays.

1. The impact of Ben Zobrist
As the Yankees survey the free agent market, Zobrist is surely going to stand out as one of the possibilities that best fits their roster. He’s a switch hitter who can play second base and move to other positions whenever the Yankees need depth elsewhere. In some ways, he’s a perfect fit for their current situation. He brings some right-handed balance, some security at second and some depth throughout the lineup. But he also turns 35 in May and might require a three-year deal. Is that really worth the investment? Great fit, but how much does he have left?

2. The possibility of David Price and Johnny Cueto
At the trade deadline, the Yankees chose not to give up the prospects necessary to land one of the top starting pitchers on the market. Now they have to decide whether Price or Cueto is worth a contractual investment. Going to take a lot of money and a lot of years to get either one of those guys, but it might be worth it to add an impact starter at the top of the rotation. Price, Tanaka and Severino would be quite the trio. If the Yankees are going after either one of them, they’re going to banking on the idea of them stepping up in a series like this.

3. The depth of a championship bullpen
With Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Justin Wilson, the Yankees went into the postseason with three go-to relievers, two of whom are among the very best in the game. But their bullpen was awfully thin beyond those three, especially with the likelihood of Adam Warren back in the rotation. The Royals and Blue Jays also lean heavily on two or three relievers. The Royals have Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera and Ryan Madson. The Blue Jays lost Brett Cecil but still have Roberto Osuna and Aaron Sanchez. Are three relievers enough to win a seven-game series? Do the Yankees need to go after another proven relief arm, or can they take the chance on a young guy stepping up to play a key role?

4. The value of home runs
Really, this isn’t a very fair comparison. The Blue Jays hit the most home runs in baseball, and with huge power threats in the middle of the order, they scored the most runs in the game and clearly have the game’s most dangerous lineup. The Royals, on the other hand, hit the second fewest home runs in the American League, but they stole the second-most bases and had the second-best batting average (tied with the Blue Jays). Can the Royals really beat the Blue Jays if they can’t match their raw firepower?

5. The importance of a bench
Depth is obviously a good thing for many reasons, mostly because it provides alternatives to fill in for injuries or replace disappointing performers. But should a bench be treated as an important part of winning game to game, or is it only a method of building depth (more or less the same as a Triple-A roster)? In the division series, the Royals didn’t have a single bench player get more than one at-bat. The Blue Jays had Justin Smoak in a platoon role, but otherwise only Dioner Navarro got more than one at-bat without being an everyday guy.

Will 2016 Yankees spend freely on the free-agent market? — October 15, 2015

Will 2016 Yankees spend freely on the free-agent market?

by Wallace Matthews

NEW YORK — There is no question that the 2015 Yankees were a better team than the 2014 Yankees. There are, however, many lingering questions The reason, of course, is a simple one: The Yankees are committed to players at seven of their eight field positions for next year, as well as at DH.

The only place in which they have any roster flexibility is at second base, where they started with Stephen Drew and ended up using a platoon of Dustin Ackleyand rookie Rob Refsnyder, and maybe at starting pitcher, where there are injury and effectiveness concerns with Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova, as well as the personal struggles of CC Sabathia.

Here are, in our estimation, the leading candidates the Yankees might possibly pursue at both positions:


Howie Kendrick

Age: 31. 2015 stats: .295-9-54, .746 OPS

Not much of an upgrade over the Ackley/Refsnyder platoon.

Daniel Murphy

Age: 30. 2015: .281-14-73, .770.

Probably the most attractive option out there following an impressive NLDS.

Sean Rodriguez

Age: 30. 2015: .246-4-17, .642.

If you hated Drew’s offense, get a load of Rodriguez’s numbers.

Chase Utley (has vesting options for 2016-17-18)

Age: 36. 2015: .212-8-39, .692.

Strictly a bench player these days. Pass.

Ben Zobrist

Age: (34). 2015: .276-13-56, .809

A good second choice if Murphy can’t be had.


Johnny Cueto

Doug Fister

Scott Kazmir

David Price

Jeff Samardzija

Jordan Zimmermann

There’s no sense in getting too worked up over any of these pitchers, since the Yankees’ policy over the past few years has been to shy away from long-term deals for starters, especially those in their 30s, having been burned on the Sabathia deal, and potentially, the Tanaka deal.

One scenario that is possible is that the Yankees will package a couple of players, perhaps a Refsnyder along with an Adam Warren and — dare we say it? — aBrett Gardner, to acquire a top-flight pitcher or second baseman already under contract. That, of course, would open up an outfield spot, which could put them in the hunt for someone like Yoenis Cespedes.

It all depends, of course, on owner Hal Steinbrenner’s willingness to add to an already bloated payroll that is committed to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltranfor another year, and Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez for two more years. The fact that Steinbrenner long ago trash-canned his proposed $189 million payroll limit is an indication that for the right player, the Yankees will be willing to spend.

What to do with Rob Refsnyder? — October 14, 2015

What to do with Rob Refsnyder?

By Chad Jennings

New York Yankees second baseman Robert Refsnyder takes the relay throw from left fielder Brett Gardner before putting the tag on Pittsburgh Pirates' Sean Rodriguez at second base during a spring training exhibition baseball game in Bradenton, Fla., Thursday, March 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
New York Yankees second baseman Robert Refsnyder takes the relay throw from left fielder Brett Gardner before putting the tag on Pittsburgh Pirates’ Sean Rodriguez at second base during a spring training exhibition baseball game in Bradenton, Fla., Thursday, March 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

During these early days and weeks of the offseason, and it’s worth looking at a few players without clear roles heading into next season. Since we started today by looking at the possibility of staying in-house at second base, here’s a young second baseman who spent most of the year crowded out of a roster spot only to have the situation change so drastically that he was in the starting lineup for the wild card game. What should the Yankees do with him next year?

Rob Refsnyder
Second baseman
24 years old

Has options remaining, not yet arbitration eligible

This year: Spent most of the season in Triple-A where he made a bunch of errors early and his for a surprisingly low batting average late. In the middle he made a four-game cameo in the big leagues, but he didn’t get another real look in the Majors until late September when he quite suddenly became the team’s regular second baseman against lefties.

A few possibilities for next season:

Refsnyder1. Everyday second baseman in New York
Hard to think the Yankees would go into spring training planning to go this direction, but they might go into spring training believing this to be a possibility. See how Refsnyder does against both lefties and righties down in Tampa, and if he results are encouraging, give him the full-time job with Dustin Ackley and Brendan Ryan — or a Ryan-type backup shortstop — serving as true bench/utility players.

2. Platoon second baseman in New York
Basically the exact same role we saw at the end of this year with Refsnyder playing second base against lefties and Ackley playing second base against righties. It wouldn’t have to be a strict platoon role for Refsnyder, who could certainly get some turns against right-handed pitchers whenever Ackley is needed as either a backup first baseman or to give one of the outfielders a day off. The Yankees got very good offensive production out of this combination down the stretch.

3. Sent back to Triple-A
If the Yankees sign a guy like Ben Zobrist or make a trade for a guy like Martin Prado — both purely speculative scenarios — I have to think Refsnyder would return to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to wait for an opportunity. Given the age and lingering health concerns on this roster, there’s some logic in filling second base with someone who can play other spots if necessary, knowing Refsnyder could come up and handle second if/when the new second baseman has to play elsewhere.

4. Trade bait to upgrade at second base (or elsewhere)
Since last offseason, the Yankees seem to have been actively opening opportunities for young players. They didn’t trade away top prospects at the trade deadline. They acquired young players last winter. They looked internally to replace injured players during the season. If that’s going to remain the strategy going forward, then the Yankees already have an open window for Refsnyder to take his shot at second base. That said, if the job is this wide-open and they’re still not sold on Refsnyder, they might be better off — and Refsnyder might be better off — with a trade that sends Refsnyder elsewhere and gives the Yankees someone Joe Girardi will actually be comfortable using regularly.

What’s next? The first week of the Yankees’ early offseason — October 12, 2015

What’s next? The first week of the Yankees’ early offseason

By Chad Jennings

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman addresses the media about New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia, who told the club he is checking himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center and therefore will miss the playoffs, before a workout day Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, for Tuesday's American League Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman addresses the media about New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia, who told the club he is checking himself into an alcohol rehabilitation center and therefore will miss the playoffs, before a workout day Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, for Tuesday’s American League Wild Card game at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Last week, everything ended. This week, it’s time to move on.

In the Yankees’ clubhouse after Tuesday’s wild card elimination, Brian Cashman said he had already scheduled his pro scouting meetings to begin evaluating the farm system, the Major League roster, the free agent market and potential trade partners. It should take a while for the hot stove to really heat up, but it’s time to start looking ahead.

A few things for the Yankees to consider and accomplish in the coming days, weeks and months.

Yankees Rays Baseball• Settle on a big league coaching staff
This might not be the top priority, but it might be one of the first things settled. There’s every indication that Joe Girardi’s job is safe. Hard to know what the team has in mind with the coaching staff. “You’ve got a feel for what you might want to do with it going forward,” Cashman said. “But again, those conversations now take place with your manager, take place with your coaches, take place with your ownership and then obviously whenever you’re settled moving forward, we’ll let you know.”

 Set a new front office hierarchy without Billy Eppler
When the Angels found their new general manager, the Yankees’ general manager lost his right-hand man. While the Yankees front office has plenty of experienced evaluators and trusted advisers, it might take a while for the group to get used to a world without Eppler involved in the meetings and the decision making. Even if new titles are handed out and someone officially replaces Eppler, it might take a bit longer for the system to fully adjust.

• How many Rule 5 eligible prospects need 40-man protection?
The Yankees already put Rob Refsnyder, Greg Bird, Nick Goody and James Pazos on the roster during the season, so those four are already protected. Jake Cave, Ben Gamel, Rookie Davis, Tony Renda and Johnny Barbato are among the other notable Rule 5 eligible players who are worth consideration. Brady Lail, Tyler Webb, Aaron Judge and Eric Jagielo are among the upper-level guys who aren’t Rule 5 eligible yet.

 Open 40-man roster spots through DFA or non-tender decisions
Most the Yankees’ arbitration-eligible players are obviously going to be given contract offers. Perhaps their most notable non-tender candidate is Ivan Nova, but the team has reportedly already decided to tender him a contract offer as well. The Yankees really don’t have many pending free agents — Chris Young, Stephen Drew and Chris Capuano are the biggest names — which means they’re going to have to open some 40-man spots some other way.

Brendan Ryan Is there enough infield depth to let Brendan Ryan go?
Ryan’s contract includes a mutual option for 2016. It’s $2 million if the team picks it up and $1 million if Ryan picks it up. Even if the Yankees don’t pick up their half and Ryan does pick up his, the team would still have to decide whether they want to carry Ryan or designate him to open a roster spot. If the Yankees aren’t going to bring Ryan back, they’ll have to find someone to replace him. There’s not another big league shortstop under team control except Didi Gregorius.

• Find some right-handed balance for the lineup
Chris Young is about to be a free agent. That means the Yankees are about to lose one of their key right-handed bats who provided significant help against left-handed pitchers. Alex Rodriguez, Rob Refsnyder and John Ryan Murphy hit from the right side — Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley are switch hitters — but the Yankees could certainly use some more right-handed balance. If they don’t bring back Young, the Yankees will have to find at least one right-handed hitter somewhere. Bonus points if that right-handed hitter can play a bunch of positions.

 Does the pitching staff have enough depth? Enough high-end arms?
Answering this question involves multiple evaluations. It requires looking internally to decide whether the Yankees really trust in the health and dependability of Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Luis Severino. It involves analyzing the bullpen options to decide whether these young guys can reliably handle the middle innings. It also involves checking what’s available on the free agent and trade markets. Getting a handle on this pitching staff isn’t going to be easy. A lot of variables involved including health, age and inexperience.

 Look for creative ways to upgrade everywhere and anywhere
This one should go without saying, but it’s especially true this winter. Without any obvious positions wide open — even second base has two pretty good internal candidates — the Yankees can’t just target one position and set an easy priority. If the Yankees are going to upgrade their everyday lineup, it’s going to require some roster shuffling and possibly trading away pieces of the big league roster to upgrade elsewhere. The Yankees could take their chances with what they already have, but they have to at least look for ways to improve without banking on bounce-back seasons.

 Put someone new in the Triple-A manager’s office
This one might not seem like a big deal, but with Dave Miley not returning to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees have to find someone new to put in charge of the day-to-day decision making in Triple-A. Miley had this job for a long time, and he was awfully good at it. He was popular with both the veteran players serving as depth and with the younger players showing long-term promise. That’s a tough combination. They Yankees now have to fill a key role that’s been in steady hands for long, long time.

Yankees ‘still like’ Ben Zobrist, Martin Prado, report says — October 9, 2015

Yankees ‘still like’ Ben Zobrist, Martin Prado, report says

By Brendan Kuty

With second base a need going into 2016, theYankees still have their eyes on a pair of well-regarded targets.

The Yankees “still like” the Royals’ Ben Zobrist, who will become a free agent, and the Marlins’ Martin Prado, according to a report from CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman.

From the report:

Second base was a rough spot this year, but it appears the Yankees are leaning toward going with Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley next year. They do like both Ben Zobrist and Martin Prado, who provide the type of versatility they loves (sic), as (the New York Post’s) Sherman also reported …

Refsnyder, a rookie, got an extended look and even a Wild Card game start against left-handers late in the season. Ackley, who hits righties well, started to play second base around the middle of September when Stephen Drew went down for the season with a concussion.

The Yankees turned down a deadline deal that would have landed them Zobrist from the A’s in exchange for an Adam Warren-Refsnyder package, general manager Brian Cashman has said.

And the Yankees traded Prado to Miami in a five-player deal that netted them Nathan Eovaldi last offseason.

Cashman looks back at trade deadline with no regrets — October 7, 2015

Cashman looks back at trade deadline with no regrets

By Chad Jennings

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman listens to a question as he talks with reporters during the Rule 5 draft at the baseball winter meetings on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman listens to a question as he talks with reporters during the Rule 5 draft at the baseball winter meetings on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

The Yankees’ best month was July. They went 17-7 that month, won four of five leading into the All-Star break, then won nine of 11 immediately after the break. It was in late July that the Yankees started the stretch during which they scored 90 runs in 10 games. It was on July 27 that they pushed their division lead to a season-high seven games. That’s probably when the Yankees looked their strongest.

Four days later, the trade deadline came and went without the Yankees making a move any bigger that the relatively small deal for Dustin Ackely.

We can now look back at that as some sort of tipping point. The Yankees simply weren’t very good after the trade deadline. Beginning August 1, they played to a sub-.500 record and lost control of the American League East to the reloaded Blue Jays.

Looking back on it now, does Brian Cashman have any regrets about his approach to the deadline?

“No, I don’t have any regrets,” Cashman said. “There was nothing that presented itself after the fact that I said, ‘I could have done it.’”

Here’s the way Cashman broke down his approach at the deadline:

Dustin AckleySECOND BASE

This was the position that most clearly could have been upgraded. Stephen Drew was still hitting below .200 at the time, and Brendan Ryan — despite his early success against right-handers — was a known quantity as a light-hitting utility man. The Yankees could have gone after an upgrade at the position.

The trade market was pretty thin at second base, but Ben Zobrist was available.

Cashman said he tried to get Zobrist, but the Athletics’ asking price was both Rob Refsnyder and Adam Warren. The Yankees weren’t willing to meet that demand, and Zobrist wound up with the Royals.

“The only second baseman we explored on was Zobrist and he got traded to Kansas City,” Cashman said. “It was going to cost me Warren and Refsnyder, (the) combination. I was like, I’m not going to do that for a three-month rental.”


Naturally a team always looks for opportunities to upgrade offensively. In some ways, the Yankees did that with Ackley. While he might have been a similar hitter to Garrett Jones — who he replaced — Ackley was more versatile, meaning he could bring his left-handed bat to most positions (that proved important after Drew had his concussion problems).

But why not add a bat beyond Ackley? Why not find some other right-handed slugger or a new option for the top of the order?

“I didn’t have any place to put anybody,” Cashman said.

At the time, Mark Teixeira was still healthy and every other position except second base was filled by someone on a multi-year contract (or, in the case of the shortstop position, filled by a relatively young player showing signs of life). The Yankees already had outfielders, a second baseman, a power-hitting catcher and a first baseman waiting in Triple-A.

“I’d be piling guys on top of guys that didn’t have a place to play,” Cashman said.

Luis SeverinoROTATION

Throughout baseball, rotation upgrades were popular deadline deals this season. Every other American League playoff team made a trade for a starting pitcher: David Price in Toronto, Johnny Cueto in Kansas City, Scott Kazmir in Houston and Cole Hamels in Texas. The Yankees, though, added no one to the pitching staff.

“We had Severino coming,” Cashman said. “I couldn’t have traded for a pitcher — unless his name was David Price — who could have given us better performance than Severino.”

The Yankees did promote Severino immediately after the trade deadline, and he was remarkably valuable. He almost certainly would have started Game 1 of the division series had the Yankees won last night. At the deadline, Nathan Eovaldi was healthy, Masahiro Tanaka was back from the disabled list, Ivan Nova was still pitching well, and Michael Pineda’s injury was expected to be a short-term thing (which it was).

After the deadline, Tanaka stayed healthy, CC Sabathia got much better and Severino was terrific, but those three couldn’t make up for Eovaldi’s injury, Pineda’s inconsistency and Nova’s total downfall.


Although bullpen help wouldn’t seem to be a priority for a team that already had Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller dominating the late innings, the Yankees saw the bullpen as the best way to upgrade their pitching staff. They didn’t want to pay the prices for a rotation rental, so they went looking for relievers.

“We tried to improve the bullpen,” Cashman said. “Made some significant offers to guys out there that were turned down.”

Among those offers was a potential blockbuster for Craig Kimbrel. Jon Heyman reported that the Yankees were willing to include top shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo in a Kimbrel deal, but the Padres turned it down. Instead, the Yankees kept shuttling relievers back and forth from Triple-A.

Cashman said he thought Bryan Mitchell in particular would stick and emerge as a key piece of the bullpen, but Mitchell simply wasn’t the same after that line drive hit him in the face. None of the other young, back-and-forth relievers really solidified a spot either.


After the deadline passed, the Yankees ran into some fresh injury problems. Most significantly, Eovaldi’s elbow developed some inflammation and Teixeira broke his leg on a foul ball. At that point, in a way, the Yankees first-half success was actually a problem.

“Unfortunately, after the trade deadline, 75 percent of the population of quality players got taken off the board with claims because we were in first place by seven games (and had lower waiver priority),” Cashman said. “When we started having our injuries hit — Eovaldi, Tex, CC’s knee, Mitchell’s broken nose, Tanaka had a hammy — there was nowhere to run outside of Scranton to try to plug the holes.”

Severino, Greg Bird and eventually Rob Refsnyder became key pieces of the puzzle after the trade deadline, but call-ups couldn’t fix every problem.

Scandal Erupts in Unregulated World of Fantasy Sports — October 6, 2015

Scandal Erupts in Unregulated World of Fantasy Sports


A major scandal is erupting in the multibillion-dollar industry of fantasy sports, the online and unregulated business in which players assemble their fantasy teams with real athletes. On Monday, the two major fantasy companies were forced to release statements defending their businesses’ integrity after what amounted to allegations of insider trading, that employees were placing bets using information not generally available to the public.

The statements were released after an employee at DraftKings, one of the two major companies, admitted last week to inadvertently releasing data before the start of the third week of N.F.L. games. The employee, a midlevel content manager, won $350,000 at a rival site, FanDuel, that same week.

“It is absolutely akin to insider trading,” said Daniel Wallach, a sports and gambling lawyer at Becker & Poliakoff in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “It gives that person a distinct edge in a contest.”

The episode has raised questions about who at daily fantasy companies has access to valuable data, such as which players a majority of the money is being bet on; how it is protected; and whether the industry can — or wants — to police itself.

The leagues have been swelling in popularity, their advertisements blanketing football game broadcasts.

The industry has its roots in informal fantasy games that began years ago with groups of fans playing against one another for fun over the course of a season. They assembled hypothetical teams and scored points based on how players did in actual games.

But in recent years, companies, led by DraftKings and FanDuel, have set up online daily and weekly games based on a similar concept in which fans pay an entry fee to a website — from 25 cents to $1,000 — to play dozens if not hundreds of opponents, with prize pools that can pay $2 million to the winner. Critics have complained that the setup is hardly different from Las Vegas-style gambling that is normally banned in the sports world.

On Monday, DraftKings and FanDuel released a joint statement that said “nothing is more important” than the “integrity of the games we offer,” but offered few specifics about how they keep contests on the level.

A spokesman for DraftKings acknowledged that employees of both companies had won big jackpots playing at other daily fantasy sites. Late Monday, the two companies temporarily barred their employees from playing games or taking part in tournaments at any other site; they already had prohibited their employees from playing on their own company sites.

“Both companies have strong policies in place to ensure that employees do not misuse any information at their disposal and strictly limit access to company data to only those employees who require it to do their jobs,” the statement said. “Employees with access to this data are rigorously monitored by internal fraud control teams, and we have no evidence that anyone has misused it.”

Industry analysts said the episode could leave the leagues open to further criticism that they are too loosely regulated.

“The single greatest threat to the daily fantasy sports industry is the misuse of insider information,” Mr. Wallach said. “It could imperil this nascent industry unless real, immediate and meaningful safeguards are put in place. If the industry is unwilling to undertake these reforms voluntarily, it will be imposed on them involuntarily as part of a regulatory framework.”

Already, there has been intensifying discussion on social media and among lawmakers over whether daily fantasy games are pushing the boundaries of an exemption in a 2006 federal law that has allowed them to operate. The law prohibited games like online poker but permitted fantasy play, deemed games of skill and not chance, under lobbying from professional sports leagues. The games are legal in all but five states.

But because Congress did not foresee how fantasy sports would explode, one member, Representative Frank Pallone Jr., Democrat of New Jersey, recently requested a hearing to explore the relationship between fantasy sports and gambling. “I really think if they had to justify themselves at a hearing they wouldn’t be able to,” Mr. Pallone said in a recent interview.

The data that DraftKings acknowledged was released by its employee, Ethan Haskell, showed which particular players were most used in all lineups submitted to the site’s Millionaire Maker contests. Usually, that data is not released until the lineups for all games are finalized. Getting it early, however, is of great advantage in making tactical decisions, especially when an entrant’s opponents do not have the information at all.

A spokeswoman for DraftKings said that Mr. Haskell simply made a mistake and that the company was certain he did not use the information improperly. She declined to go into specifics about the safeguards or the company’s auditing policies.

Representatives of both companies acknowledged that many employees of daily fantasy companies were players first and had continued to compete on other sites. Ben Brown, a founder of Daily Fantasy Sports Report, was first to disclose that Mr. Haskell had posted the information. Mr. Brown also said a FanDuel employee with access to its internal data, Matthew Boccio, had played on DraftKings; a FanDuel spokeswoman confirmed that.

“There’s a significant amount of crossover,” said Chris Grove, an industry analyst and editor of legalsportsreport.com. “The nature of the industry is so specialized and so new that, at the speed which they grew, they relied heavily on the player population.”

Many of these employees set the prices of players and the algorithms for scoring. In short, they make the market.

As daily fantasy sports has blossomed into a multibillion-dollar industry in the past year, DraftKings and FanDuel have become cherished sponsors of M.L.B. and N.F.L. franchises.

Eilers Research, which studies the industry, estimates that daily games will generate around $2.6 billion in entry fees this year and grow 41 percent annually, reaching $14.4 billion in 2020. So high are the potential financial rewards that DraftKings and FanDuel have found eager partners in N.F.L. teams, even as league executives remain staunch opponents of sports betting.

Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys and Robert K. Kraft of the New England Patriots have stakes in DraftKings, which recently struck a three-year deal with the N.F.L. to become a partner of the league’s International Series in Britain, where sports betting is legal. In addition, DraftKings has tapped hundreds of millions of dollars from Fox Sports, and FanDuel has raised similar amounts from investors like Comcast, NBC and KKR.

Adam Krejcik, a managing director at Eilers Research, said early missteps were often part of booming growth in a new and often misunderstood sector like daily fantasy sports. He said whether Mr. Haskell, the DraftKings employee, made an innocent mistake or not, the damage was done.

“Certainly does not look good from an optics standpoint, and it strengthens the case for additional oversight and regulation,” he said.

Mr. Grove, of legalsportsreport.com, said this may be a watershed moment for a sector that has resisted regulation but now may need it to prove its legitimacy.

“You have information that is valuable and should be tightly restricted,” Mr. Grove said. “There are people outside of the company that place value on that information. Is there any internal controls? Any audit process? The inability of the industry to produce a clear and compelling answer to these questions to anyone’s satisfaction is why it needs to be regulated.”

Yankees carry three catchers, eight relievers for wild card —

Yankees carry three catchers, eight relievers for wild card

By Chad Jennings

New York Yankees watch from behind the batting cage during a workout day Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, for Tuesday's American League Wild Card game against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
New York Yankees watch from behind the batting cage during a workout day Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, for Tuesday’s American League Wild Card game against the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees have set their roster for tonight’s game (as a reminder, they can change this if they advance to the division series). They ultimately decided to carry three catchers and two starting pitchers as relievers.

Catchers: Brian McCann, John Ryan Murphy, Gary Sanchez
Infielders: Greg Bird, Dustin Ackley, Rob Refsnyder, Didi Gregorius, Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan
Outfielders: Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner, Carlos Beltran, Chris Young, Rico Noel, Slade Heathcott
Designated hitter: Alex Rodriguez
Starter: Masahiro Tanaka
Bullpen: Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, Justin Wilson, Adam Warren, Bryan Mitchell, James Pazos, Ivan Nova, Luis Severino

Luis SeverinoSome interesting choices here:

The third catcher: For one game, teams can carry a short pitching staff and an unusual bench. I don’t think there was much doubt Noel would make the roster, and Heathcott brings speed, defense and a solid left-handed bat. The interesting decision was carrying a third catcher, specifically choosing less experienced Sanchez (who has a bigger bat) ahead of Austin Romine (who’s actually caught in the big leagues before).

The three starters: Obviously Tanaka is the only starting pitcher tonight, but the Yankees also have Nova and Severino in the bullpen. Hard to say, though, how many innings they can give after each started a game on Saturday. Probably can’t get more than two or three innings out of them. The true long man tonight might be Warren.

The third right-hander: Not counting Nova and Severino, the bullpen has only three right-handed relievers. Betances (obviously), Warren (of course) and Mitchell (who gave up a home run on Sunday and hasn’t looked good for a while now). I assume Mitchell gets the nod because he can give multiple innings if this game goes into extras. He got the nod over Andrew Bailey, Caleb Cotham, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder.

The third lefty: There was no doubt Miller and Wilson would be in the bullpen, but the Yankees wanted a third lefty. They settled on Pazos ahead of either Chris Capuano or Chasen Shreve. Pazos has pitched well, but he’s actually been much better against righties than lefties. If CC Sabathia were available, I wonder if he would have been the go-to left-on-left option.

The other second baseman: I suppose what’s interesting about this decision is that it isn’t very interesting (or surprising) that Refsnyder is on the roster. Go back three weeks, and I don’t think anyone would have expected Refsnyder to be in the mix. Now there’s a good chance he’ll be not only on the roster but in the lineup.

Rob RefsnyderThere are still some decisions to be made:

Who’s at second? I assume it’s Refsnyder, but it could be Ryan and it could be Ackley. Refsnyder has been the regular against lefties the past two weeks, but would Girardi be tempted to go defensive in this game?

Who’s in left? I assume it’s Young, but it certainly could be Gardner (and some would say it should be Gardner). Young, though, has good numbers against Keuchel. Also, if Young is in the lineup, is Gardner the one who sits or is it Ellsbury?

Who’s catching? I assume it’s McCann, but Murphy has been excellent in the second half and would give the Yankees another right-handed hitter against Keuchel (who’s incredible against lefties).

What are the bullpen roles? How quickly will the Yankees go to the Big 3? Could you ask each one to give four outs and let Wilson come into the game to start the sixth? If Tanaka fall apart for some reason, how quickly would Girardi go to either Warren or Severino? What’s Mitchell’s role? Is he here just to eat innings if the Yankees get a huge lead to save the reset of the arms?

What’s the lineup going to look like? If I have to guess, this would be it:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Chris Young LF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Chase Headley 3B
Greg Bird 1B
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Didi Gregorius SS