The LoHud Yankees Blog

A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

What was the biggest factor in Blue Jays’ surge past Yankees?

Edwin Encarnacion; Russell Martin;  Brain McCann

If you flip your television over to FS1 right now, you’ll the Blue Jays doing what the Yankees couldn’t do: They’re hosting Game 1 of the American League Division Series. That could have been the Yankees if they’d held onto the seven-game division lead they had at the end of July. But, as we’re all aware, the Blue Jays took completely control of the division after the trade deadline. The quick-and-easy analysis is that the Blue Jays big moves for Troy Tulowitzki and David Price turned the tide, but were those moves really the difference makers?

Troy Tulitowitzki, Kevin PillarHere are the six players the Blue Jays acquired at or near the trade deadline:

1. Troy Tulowitzki  — This was stunning opening salvo, but Tulowitzki was largely a disappointment both in terms of production and playing time. He wound up hitting just .239/.317/.380 while playing just 41 games because of that weird back injury suffered at Yankee Stadium. During the same time frame, Didi Gregorius hit .276/.335/.393 while playing in 63 games. Ultimately, the Yankees were better off sticking with their own shortstop.

2. LaTroy Hawkins — Included in the Tulowitzki deal, Hawkins was the Blue Jays’ first attempt to add bullpen depth. His WHIP and strikeout rate were each worse in Toronto than they’d been in Colorado, but he had a 2.76 ERA and didn’t let any inherited runners score. His WHIP with the Blue Jays was basically the same as Branden Pinder’s and Caleb Cotham’s, but Hawkins also handled a lot of late-and-close situations and kept runs off the board. Can’t necessarily say the same for the Yankees’ young relievers.

3. David Price – This is when the Blue Jays went all in by giving up their version of Luis Severino to land Price. The former Tigers’ ace went 9-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 10.5 strikeouts per nine. He was incredible. A week after the Blue Jays traded for Price, the Yankees called up Severino, who went 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 8.1 strikeouts per nine. Severino was great. Price was better.

4. Mark Lowe – A relatively under-the-radar acquisition from Seattle, Lowe added more depth to the late innings and pitched to a 0.84 WHIP upon getting to Toronto (that’s basically the same as Andrew Miller’s WHIP but without nearly the same strikeout rate). Despite allowing so few base runners, Lowe had a 3.79 ERA that was the product of three bad games. Otherwise, he was terrific.

5. Ben Revere – Adding some left-handed balance to the lineup and giving the team a new leadoff hitter, Revere was excellent with a .319/.354/.381 slash line with the Blue Jays. He filled a need in Toronto. I suppose the closest the Yankees came to something similar was finally letting Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder takeover at second base down the stretch.

6. Cliff Pennington – After the deadline, the Blue Jays made a small trade to add light-hitting Pennington for some additional infield depth (Devon Travis was and still is hurt). Pennington wound up playing quite a bit when Tulowitzki was hurt and he hit .160/.270/.280. The Yankees got better than that out of Brendan Ryan. The Blue Jays wound up needing Pennington. The Yankees wouldn’t have.

Blue Jays Yankees BaseballIn the end, I’m not sure the Blue Jays’ biggest moves — for Tulowitzki and Price — were the biggest factors in making the Blue Jays so much better than the Yankees in the second half. They made a difference, but in an attempt to rank the most important factors in making the Blue Jays better in the second half, I think I’d put them in this order.

1. The Blue Jays stayed productive in the middle. Carlos Beltran was terrific late in the year, and Greg Bird was a big boost to the Yankees’ offense. Otherwise, after the trade deadline Mark Teixeira got hurt, Brian McCann hit .199/.312/.398, and Alex Rodriguez hit .191/.300/.377. No chance the Yankees were going to trade for someone to replace one of those three, and each one hit a wall of some sort. For comparison, here’s what the Blue Jays’ big hitters did after the trade deadline: Edwin Encarnacion hit .344/.434/.749, Jose Bautista hit .283/.403/.624, and Josh Donaldson hit .301/.393/.602. The Blue Jays run producers stayed productive. The Yankees did not.

2. The Blue Jays got better at the top. No way the Yankees would have traded for Revere as a replacement for either Gardner or Ellsbury, but he so thoroughly outplayed them down the stretch, that he certainly made a big difference in making the Blue Jays so much better. After the trade deadline, Ellsbury hit .227/.277/.324 and Gardner hit .203/.288/.290. The Yankees lineup would have been much better off with Revere’s .319/.354/.381 in the leadoff spot.

3. The Blue Jays bullpen got deeper. The Yankees tried to make a trade for an impact reliever, including a significant offer for Padres closer Craig Kimbrel. Ultimately, though, they added no one to the bullpen and then had no way to make up for Chasen Shreve’s sudden decline, Adam Warren’s move back into the rotation, and Bryan Mitchell struggling after that line drive to the face. The Blue Jays didn’t trade for a huge name reliever, but both Hawkins and Lowe pitched well and made the Toronto bullpen quite a bit deeper than the Yankees’ bullpen.

4. The Blue Jays added a Cy Young winner. I have a hard time saying the Blue Jays’ trade for Price was the biggest difference maker in the division. He was a huge help in Toronto, but Severino was a big help in New York. He might not have kept pace with Price, but if you’re comparing rotation upgrades, Severino kept the gap relatively small. Price, though, did win three of four starts against the Yankees, and the Blue Jays won nine of his 11 starts overall. I don’t think Price was the single biggest difference maker, but he was incredibly good. Did his job and then some.

5. The Blue Jays stayed healthy (and got help off the disabled list). Obviously the Blue Jays did face one massive injury late in the season when Tulowitzki went on the disabled list, but he hadn’t been nearly the impact player the team envisioned, and that injury came on the same day that the Blue Jays brought Marcus Stroman back into their rotation. In terms of health, the Blue Jays essentially swapped Tulowitzki for a guy who won each of his four starts down the stretch while pitching to a 0.96 WHIP. The Yankees, on the other hand, lost their cleanup hitter to injury, lost their wins leader to injury, and briefly lost their ace to injury. The one key player they got off the disabled list was Michael Pineda, who pitched to a 5.48 ERA after his return.

6. The Blue Jays gained an insane amount of confidence. As a team with a lot of veterans in the lineup — and as a team with a lot of players who learned from Derek Jeter to hide their emotions — the Yankees don’t show their confidence in the same way a team like the Blue Jays or Astros might show it. I’m not sure the Yankees lost confidence when the Blue Jays made their trade deadline splash, but I’m sure the Blue Jays’ confidence jumped to a new level. They were very nearly out of the race at that time, but beginning with Tulowitzki’s arrival, the Blue Jays became a bunch of scrappy fighters who clearly believed they could knock the Yankees out of first place. The Yankees, on the other hand, kept falling apart.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 8th, 2015 at 5:04 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Ten Yankees with undetermined roles for next season

Yankees Blue Jays Baseball

Yes, it’s pretty easy to take these current Yankees and piece them together into a 2016 lineup, bench, rotation and bullpen. Barring something unusual, it feels like a team without much wiggle room heading into the winter and through spring training.

But of course there is still plenty of uncertainty. Here are a few Yankees who enter this offseason not sure what they’ll be doing next year. What role are they going to play, what level will they be assigned, and how much of an impact will they make?

Greg Bird, Kurt SuzukiGreg Bird
Big leagues or Triple-A
Given an opportunity late in the season, Bird did everything he could do to prove he’s ready to play in the Major Leagues. He wasn’t perfect, but he was awfully good. Question is, with Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez under contract, can the Yankees find a spot for Bird on the big league roster, or will he have to return to Triple-A and wait for at-bats to present themselves?

Adam Warren
Reliever or starter
Late Tuesday night, Brian Cashman made it clear that he believes in Warren as a starting pitcher. But the situation is more complicated than simply believing Warren can handle the job. Given many other rotation options — most of whom have no relief experience — will the Yankees use Warren as a starter or lean on him to provide a trusted arm out of the bullpen? If the Yankees aren’t going to start Warren, are they better off trading him?

Rob Refsnyder
Everyday, platoon or minors
So many possibilities of Refsnyder coming out of spring training next season. He could win everyday second base at-bats, could be a platoon starter against lefties, or he could be back in a Triple-A to keep improving at the position. His role might depend entirely on who the Yankees acquire this winter and what they make of Dustin Ackley as a second baseman.

CC Sabathia
Starter or reliever
The last two months of the regular season showed that Sabathia is still capable of being a quality big league starter. Perhaps he can’t give the innings he used to give, but he just pitched to a sub-3.00 ERA over an extended stretch. Is it better for the Yankees, though, to try Sabathia in a relief role in an effort to limit his workload, trying to keep him healthy and effective while pitching at max effort? Lots of rotation alternatives are already in place.

Brian McCann, Chasen ShreveChasen Shreve
Breakout or bust
For five months, Shreve was excellent. As of September 5, he was legitimately one of the better relief pitchers in baseball, capable of handling lefties and righties, and capable of pitching multiple innings at a time. He wasn’t getting huge leverage situations, but he was really good. After September 8, though, Shreve was so bad the Yankees left him off the wild card roster. So was this a breakout season and means Shreve will be a go-to reliever next year, or was this a five-month hot streak for a guy who’s destined to shuttle back and forth from Triple-A?

Aaron Judge
Sooner or later
Judge didn’t hit much in Triple-A this season, and Cashman said on Tuesday that he does not expect Judge to be a big league option out of spring training. Question is, what would it take for Judge to change Cashman’s mind? And even if he does return to the minors, how quickly could Judge put himself in line for a call-up and a key role in the big leagues?

Brendan Ryan
Bench player or free agent
I get it, light-hitting Ryan doesn’t excite anyone. But the Yankees need a backup shortstop, and good luck finding one of those who’s going to provide a lot of offense. Ryan has a mutual option for 2016, which means he could be back as either a $2 million or $1 million utility man. He can play every infield position and he hit .283/.321/.453 against lefties this season. If he doesn’t come back, the Yankees are going to have to find someone to replace him.

J.P. Arencibia, Slade HeathcottSlade Heathcott
Role player or redundancy
In almost every way, Heathcott looks like a perfect fourth outfielder who could play his way into a more substantial role. He has some speed, he plays strong defense at three positions, and his bat has a little bit of pop. He’s a nice player when he’s healthy. Problem is, the Yankees have two more expensive and proven versions of Heathcott already on the roster. Is there a big league role for him next year, or is Heathcott strictly an injury replacement?

Jacob Lindgren
Impact reliever or Triple-A depth
Surprisingly easy to forget about his guy after he went a few months without pitching because of elbow surgery. Assuming he’s healthy, though, Lindgren could almost immediately become a key reliever next season. The Yankees tried to give him an extended look in the middle of the season, but he wasn’t effective (possibly because of the elbow issue). He could also become just another guy who shuttles back and forth from Triple-A.

Eric Jagielo
Second half bat or just another guy
A lot of prospects build some early buzz in the minors and never play a significant role in the Majors. In the case of Jagielo, he was off to a strong offensive start in Double-A this year before he landed on the disabled list, needed surgery and missed the rest of the season. If he’s healthy next year, could Jagielo follow Bird’s path to be a second-half option at third base and first base (third base in particular since the Yankees don’t really have anyone behind Chase Headley), or is he going to be just another guy still working out the kinks in the minors?

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 8th, 2015 at 12:15 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Looking ahead: Almost entire Yankees roster under contract next year

Chasen Shreve

It’s going to be several weeks before the Yankees begin actively working on a roster for next season, but already they have almost everything in place. In reality, the Yankees could do absolutely nothing this winter and still have all the necessary pieces for a full 25-man roster in 2016. This is what the Yankees have under contract for next season.

(C) Signed to a multi-year contract
(A) Arbitration eligible
(P) Pre-arbitration, still making close to the minimum

Didi GregoriusLINEUP
C Brian McCann (C)
1B Mark Teixeira (C)
2B Dustin Ackley (A)
3B Chase Headley (C)
SS Didi Gregirous (A)
LF Brett Gardner (C)
CF Jacoby Ellsbury (C)
RF Carlos Beltran (C)
DH Alex Rodriguez (C)

Unless the Yankees get bold an creative by trading Gardner — who’s contract would make him pretty valuable on the open market — there’s not a lot of wiggle room here. The team could go after a more dependable second baseman, but the combination of Ackley and Rob Refsnyder showed a lot down the stretch. Gregorius was basically as good as the Yankees could have hoped in his first full season as a full-time starter, and the others have contracts that make trades seems unlikely if not impossible. It is entirely possible this will be the Yankees’ starting nine on Opening Day 2016.

C John Ryan Murphy (P)
INF Brendan Ryan (C)*
2B Rob Refsnyder (P)
OF Slade Heathcott (P)

This probably won’t be the Yankees’ bench on Opening Day, but each one of these guys  should be a candidate. Murphy makes sense to return as the backup catcher, and Refsnyder could win some sort of job either as a platoon second baseman or as an everyday second baseman. Ryan has a mutual option, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be back (though he would fit as a right-handed alternative to Gregorius who can backup at the other infield positions). Heathcott’s done a nice job when given playing time, but as a left-handed hitter, he doesn’t really fit the Yankees need to bring some right-handed balance. If Ryan doesn’t come back, the Yankees most obvious offseason holes might be a backup shortstop and right-handed outfielder.

C Gary Sanchez
1B Greg Bird
2B Tony Renda
INF Jose Pirela
OF Mason Wiliams
OF Aaron Judge
OF Ben Gamel
OF Jake Cave

The Yankees should have every position but shortstop covered in Triple-A next season. Everyone listed here has an option for next season. Renda, Gamel and Cave are each Rule 5 eligible and seem to be strong candidates for 40-man spots. Judge is not Rule 5 eligible, but I doubt the Yankees would hesitate to add him if he’s raking next season and could help in New York. Three of the four outfielder listed here are left-handed like Heathcott, so the team could very easily try to trade away some of that redundancy.

Luis SeverinoROTATION
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (C)
RHP Luis Severino (P)
RHP Michael Pineda (A)
RHP Nathan Eovaldi (A)
LHP CC Sabathia (C)
RHP Ivan Nova (A)

Six starters for five spots. This is to say nothing of Adam Warren, who might actually be a better rotation option than some of the guys listed above. For now, though, it seems safest to label these six as obvious rotation candidates because none has significant experience in the bullpen. When you add Warren, Chase Whitley an Bryan Mitchell there are nine pitchers who started games for the Yankees this season and are under contract for next season. That’s a good amount of rotation depth heading into the winter, enough that the Yankees could use some of that depth on the trade market.

LHP Andrew Miller (C)
RHP Dellin Betances (P)
LHP Justin Wilson (A)
RHP Adam Warren (A)
LHP Chasen Shreve (P)
RHP Bryan Mitchell (P)
RHP Branden Pinder (P)
RHP Chris Martin (P)

Eight pitchers for seven spots. What I listed are all the under-team-control relievers who made at least 20 big league appearances this season. If Warren isn’t in the rotation, I think you have to consider the top five to be favorites for next year’s bullpen (Shreve’s late-season decline came after five impressive, breakout months). These are certainly not the only bullpen candidates heading into this winter (plenty of the guys listed below as bullpen depth could also push for Opening Day jobs), but these were the most-used relievers this season, and they’re all still under team control.

SP Chase Whitley
SP Diego Moreno
SP Brady Lail
RP Jacob Lindgren
RP James Pazos
RP Nick Goody
RP Nick Rumbelow
RP Caleb Cotham
RP Johnny Barbato

With the exception of Lail, everyone on this list is either already on the 40-man roster or needs to be added this offseason to avoid Rule 5 draft exposure. Some of these guys could be DFA if the roster gets tight — which it will — but for now, they’re all under team control as additional pitching depth (worth noting that Mitchell, Pinder and Shreve also will have options remaining next season and could go to Triple-A as well). Question isn’t whether the Yankees have pitching depth, it’s whether that depth is going to make a step forward to become anything more than up-and-down space fillers.

Associated Press photos



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, October 8th, 2015 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Cervelli now guiding the Pirates into their own wild card game

Mark Melancon, Francisco Cervelli

As the Cubs and Pirates get ready for tonight’s National League wild card game — it starts at 8:08 ET on TBS — it’s hard not to notice all of the familiar names on the Pittsburgh roster.

The Cubs have Austin Jackson on their bench, but the Pirates have Mark Melancon in the bullpen, Chris Stewart on the bench, A.J. Burnett in the rotation (assuming they advance) and even tonight’s starter, Gerrit Cole, was originally drafted by the Yankees but refused to sight.

And then, of course, there’s Francisco Cervelli.

The longtime Yankees backup was traded to Pittsburgh in the offseason for Justin Wilson, and it was a trade that worked very well for each team. Cervelli thrived in an everyday role and is hitting fifth for the Pirates tonight. He hit .295/.370/.401 for the year, which is remarkably similar to the slash line he put up in 49 games with the Yankees last year.

Francisco Cervelli, Ivan NovaI’m not sure the Yankees lost faith in Cervelli. They simply committed to Brian McCann and decided to give the backup job to someone younger — and generally healthier — in John Ryan Murphy, who also had a nice year in a part-time role.

If you’re the Pirates, I think you’d rather have a productive everyday catcher than a good left-handed reliever. If you’re the Yankees, I think you’d rather have Wilson (1.13 WHIP) and Murphy (.734 OPS) than have Cervelli making roughly the same amount of money as those two combining while blocking Murphy and getting fewer than 200 at-bats.

That trade’s a good win-win.

During his time with the Yankees, it was hard not to like Cervelli, and today The Players’ Tribune published a story from Cervelli detailing the lessons he learned during his time with the Yankees. He tells a good story about Mariano Rivera, praises Derek Jeter’s influence, and leaves no doubt about the impact of mentor Jorge Posada. From Cervelli’s piece:

Jorge believed it was a catcher’s duty, his actual duty, to be the hardest-working guy on the team. And he put the time in to follow through on that belief.

And as patient as Jorge was with his pitchers, he was ten times more patient with me. He took my education seriously. It wasn’t something that he had to do, but he did it. I lucked out, in a very real way, to be able learn from him — to be able to learn from all of them. It was an incredible experience.

I have no idea how these Players’ Tribune stories work, but if these really are Cervelli’s unedited words, then they’re pretty good, complete with a strong kicker at the end of the story: “We just want to play more baseball. And why not? We’re getting pretty good at it.”

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 at 8:00 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Yankees reportedly planning to bring back arb-eligible Ivan Nova

Ivan Nova

The Yankees’ most significant free agents this winter are Stephen Drew, Chris Young and Chris Capuano (and maybe Brendan Ryan depending on a mutual option). That doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room unless the Yankees designated some player for assignment or non-tender some guys who are arbitration eligible.

For now, it seems at least one of those arb-eligible players will be getting a contract.

According to Joel Sherman, the Yankees plan to tender a contract offer to Ivan Nova, who will be in his final season of arbitration eligibility. Nova will likely get a modest raise from his current $3.3 million contract.

In his first year back from Tommy John surgery, Nova pitched well out of the game. Through his first seven starts the 28-year-old had a 3.10 ERA. Through his next seven starts, though, Nova’s ERA was 7.46 with five loses, which prompted the Yankees to pull him from the rotation. His final three starts were a mixed bag: One good start, one bad start, one so-so start.

With Nova back under contract, the Yankees will have a long list of rotation options for next season with Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi. That’s to say nothing of Bryan Mitchell, Chase Whitley, possibly Brady Lail and potentially Adam Warren, who got a rotation endorsement from Brian Cashman last night.

“Warren did a great job for us,” Cashman said. “He’s a starter.”

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 at 6:07 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

After breakout year, Bird could be odd man out next season

Twins Yankees Baseball

When most of the Yankees’ lineup fell flat in the second half, Greg Bird was an exception. The 22-year-old first baseman showed up in August to play a relatively minor part-time role, then he stepped into the everyday first base job after Mark Teixeira was hurt, and Bird delivered a .261/.343/.529 slash line.

The only Yankee with a higher OPS through at least 100 at-bats was Mark Teixeira.

Bird’s emergence should be a good sign going forward — and it is — but finding an immediate place for him next season is tricky. He was drafted as a catcher, moved to first base in his first full season of pro ball, and there’s no indication the Yankees see him as a viable possibility at third base or an outfield corner.

“If Tex is healthy, and A-Rod is healthy, right now I don’t foresee him playing another position,” Brian Cashman said. “So that would create a problem.”

Hard to believe the Yankees might send one of their best young hitters back to Triple-A, but Bird really is blocked at the two positions he can play.

“From Day One here it’s just been about doing my job, whatever that is,” Bird said. “Whatever my job is next year. I’ll worry about that then.”

Four things to keep in mind:

Greg Bird, Kurt Suzuki1. How long would it take to switch? Even if Bird were to learn a new position, what are the chances he would have it figured out well enough to play at a Major League level out of spring training? Rob Refsnyder began learning a new position three years ago, and the Yankees still were not sold on him defensively until the very end of this season (and he opened this season with a ton of errors in Triple-A). By the time Bird learn to play right field or third base, Teixeira’s contract might be finished (and it’s not like third base and the outfield corners are wide open either).

2. First base and DH depth is a good thing. Certainly there’s little guarantee that Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez will stay healthy and productive throughout next season. Even when they were healthy this year, the Yankees still found ways to use Bird as a backup and occasional starter at each position. Could be that the Yankees can get creative with some sort of Bird, Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams and Jose Pirela shuttle to take at-bats in spurts.

3. The guys in front of him can hit. It’s worth remembering that Bird is 22 years old with 34 games of Triple-A experience. It’s not like he has nothing else to learn. And it’s not like he’s giving up his at-bats for two non-factors. Teixeira is a better defender and had a higher OPS and slugging percentage this year. Rodriguez was the team’s top home run hitter and especially good in the first half. Worth having an alternative in place? Of course. Worth completely bailing on those two hitters? Not at all.

4. In one more year, first base is wide open. Teixeira’s contract ends after next season. That means first base will be wide open relatively soon (and as mentioned before, first base might be available sooner than another position. If Bird goes down to Triple-A and crushes the ball, making it clear he’s a better option in the big leagues, the Yankees would surely have an easier time making that swap once Teixeira’s in his final year anyway. Not much to lose there. For now, though, there’s little indication that Teixeira needs a replacement right away. If Teixeira has another standout season next year, the timing for Bird could be perfect.

Associated Press photo



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 at 3:05 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Cashman looks back at trade deadline with no regrets

Brian Cashman

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 left-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.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 at 11:36 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Cashman: “That team that we saw earlier wasn’t the team that finished”

Brian Cashman

Standing in the middle of the Yankees’ clubhouse last night, Brian Cashman had his tie pulled just slightly loose and the top button of his shirt undone. He looked tired, not from the long night but from the slow months that made last night inevitable.

“There were periods of time this year when this team looked like it had a chance to do some serious damage in October,” he said. “But that team that we saw earlier wasn’t the team that finished.”

Jacoby EllsburyThat team that finished really wasn’t equipped for a long run through the postseason.

Nathan Eovaldi’s elbow inflammation and CC Sabathia’s alcohol treatment left the rotation short-handed. The bullpen had grown thin beyond the top three, and it might have gotten thinner had Adam Warren been used as a starter again. The lineup was no longer intimidating without Mark Teixeira in the middle and without Brett Gardner or Jacoby Ellsbury getting on base at the top.

Truth was, despite all the hand wringing about whether Gardner or Ellsbury should have been on the bench last night, chances are either one would have gone 0-for-4 and deserved those boos that Gardner heard after his final out.

Of course there was some hope that the team might suddenly turn it around. They did, after all, score the second-most runs in baseball. There was hope that the table setters would get one base again, that someone in the middle of the order would hit the ball out of the park, that Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino could lift the rotation, and that the bullpen could lean on its Big Three in the late innings.

But that hope could not logically reach the point of expectation.

“I can’t say you’re ever confident flipping the switch,” Cashman said. “You always believe your guys are going to go ahead and tonight’s the night you’re going to go get it going. Today’s a new day, and you’re going to get it going back to what you saw the first four months of the season. But it just never happened. … I didn’t know what to expect from this club (last night). I thought hopefully we could turn it on and now it’s a new season and we would kind of reset that button mentally, physically, emotionally. Didn’t happen. And that’s probably a credit to Dallas Keuchel, but it’s also more reflective of how we’ve recently been playing baseball.”

So what to do going forward?

There might not be an easy solution because almost everyone is still under contract. There is no massive amount of money coming off the books or some wide-open position to fill.

Dustin AckleyIf you count Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder as the second basemen, then the entire regular lineup is signed through next year. Of the 10 pitchers who started a game this season, nine are still under team control for next season. Same is true for every key reliever.

“I know what we’re capable of,” Cashman said. “I also know we’ve had some guys toward the back end of the season here not perform up to what we know they’re capable of doing. … We weren’t getting Ellsbury and Gardner, (who were) the dynamic duo on the front end, that dynamic changed completely on the back end. And then everybody through the lineup outside of Beltran, Bird and Didi, I think everybody else collectively went into a slump and just weren’t getting consistent success. Ackley came back and resuscitated some things in September for us as well, so he was swinging the bat well, and Ref came in and did some nice things the last 15 days of September, but for the most part, we really struggled to get some consistency with the lineup 1 through 9. That was a radical change from earlier and the big bulk of our season.”

Last winter, Cashman got creative on the trade market by moving several pieces of the Major League roster. He gave up a young starter to get a young shortstop. Gave a young catcher for a young reliever. Gave a veteran infielder and a young-ish pitcher for a veteran first baseman and an even younger pitcher. Gave up a prospect for two relievers, and gave a reliever for another prospect.

Perhaps this winter will bring more of the same, but Cashman said last night that he considers Alex Rodriguez to be nothing more than a designated hitter going forward, he doesn’t know if there’s a spot for Greg Bird when Teixeira is healthy, and it’s doubtful Aaron Judge will be ready to help the big league team out of spring training. In other words, wiggle room might be limited.

So Cashman enters the offseason — much earlier than he would have liked — with a roster that looked like a legitimate contender for one part of the season, and then looked like a lost cause for the other part.

“Am I comfortable with those guys moving forward? Yeah,” Cashman said. “Do I recognize that we have to find ways to improve ourselves at the same time and continue to find more weapons for Joe Girardi to utilize and this coaching staff to fall back on? The answer to that is yes, too.”

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Postgame notes: “We just ran out of time”

Astros Yankees Baseball

Brett Gardner just stood there and watched for a little while.

He watched a young Astros team leap and laugh. He watched them celebrate on the Yankees infield, with the Yankee Stadium facade high overhead, while the Yankees themselves slowly made their way to the clubhouse.

“At that moment,” Gardner said. “You almost want to blink a couple times, wake up and that not be the reality. You want a couple more cracks at it or even one more inning. We just ran out of time.”

Or maybe they didn’t run out of time.

The way this season was going, the last thing the Yankees needed was more time. They didn’t need to keep lurching forward with this vanishing offense and these diminishing hopes. What they needed was to go back in time. Go back to the first four months of the season when they were one of the great surprise stories in baseball. Go back to when Alex Rodriguez looked young again, and the top of the order was getting on base, and Mark Teixeira was a force in the middle of the order.

Jason Castro, Carlos BeltranNot so long ago, the Yankees were the scrappy underdogs proving everyone wrong.

By the time they slipped away into an all-too-sudden offense, they were simply overmatched.

“No excuses,” Rodriguez said. “I think the team just hit a wall, collectively, and that’s rare because usually some guys get hot, some guys get cold. It seemed like all of us hit the wall at the same time.”

Gardner said he liked the Yankees’ chances tonight. He said that if he’d gone into this game knowing the Astros were going to score only three runs, he would have been confident the Yankees’ lineup could do better than that. To the very end, Gardner was expecting that return to form.

But to some extent, that’s a guy who’s missing the forest for the trees. Gardner was in the thick of it, perhaps seeing it all too close and taking it too personally. He knows he’s better than he showed in the second half, so why not expect better in his one-game playoff?

From outside the dugout, Brian Cashman saw things differently. He saw things with some measure of practical objectivity.

“Us holding them to three runs would be enough?” Cashman said. “I can’t say that with the way our offense is going. We’re either going to put runs up on the board or we’re not. We’re going to swing the bats better than we have recently or we’re not. Tonight was more reflective of what our team has looked like especially in September, from mid-August on.”

Throughout the Yankees late-season fall from first place in the division, to the wild card leaders, to backing into tonight’s home field advantage, Joe Girardi always pointed to the fact Toronto got insanely hot in the final two months. And that much was true.

But it was also true that the Yankees played below .500 after the first of August.

The Blue Jays took off in one direction, and the Yankees went the other direction. Need more time? No. What the Yankees needed was to start over, and that simply didn’t happen. They got off track a long time ago. Tonight they simply reached the end of their road.

“Even with two outs in the ninth inning,” Gardner said. “I keep thinking we’re going to get a couple guys on base and make some magic happen.”

Astros Yankees Baseball• Two runs in five innings isn’t a bad start, but it’s not what the Yankees were hoping to get out of Masahiro Tanaka. “I don’t think I was able to meet any expectations obviously for the fans and for myself,” Tanaka said. “I still feel that I have a lot more that I need to give. I’ll try not to forget this bad moment that I’m having right now. I’ll try to turn this into a positive for the future.”

• Why pull Tanaka after just 83 pitches? “I took him out after five innings because our 7, 8, 9 guys were as good as anyone in the league,” Girardi said. “I knew we really couldn’t afford to give them any more runs the way Keuchel was pitching. I looked at those at-bats. Rasmus had hit a home run. Next hitter hit a ball to 380 feet to right-center his first at-bat. And then he gave up a home run to Gomez. I just felt like it was time to turn it over to the bullpen which has been a shutdown bullpen all year long for us, those guys.”

• Any problems with the way Girardi managed this game? “I thought he managed today’s game perfectly,” Cashman said. “Everything he tried to do was to keep us in, and the bullpen did keep us in for the most part. It just, you can’t win a game if you don’t score any runs. Tanaka wasn’t at his best, but again, we just couldn’t seem to square up anything hard against Dallas.”

• Of the 27 home runs Tanaka allowed this season (counting the postseason), 21 came with the bases empty. His three walks tonight matched a season high.

Astros Yankees Baseball• The Yankees were shut out in a posteason game for the 23rd time in franchise history. They have faced a left-handed pitcher in four of their past five postseason shutouts (Keuchel tonight, Cliff Lee in 2010, Kenny Rogers in 2006 and Johan Santana in 2004).

• In the sixth inning, the had two on for Rodriguez. That’s when A.J. Hinch went to the mound but ultimately stuck with Keuchel who threw a first-pitch cutter that Rodriguez lifted to center field for a routine fly ball out. “Got a pretty good pitch to hit,” Rodriguez said. “Put a decent swing on it and hit it right to Carlos Gomez. … I’m just looking for a pitch right in that box, and it was in that box, and I took a swing at it. Stayed inside of it, and right at ‘em.”

• Girardi on that at-bat: “I thought that was going to be the moment for us that was going to turn it around, but it didn’t.”

• In the leadoff spot, Gardner went 0-for-4 and was booed off the field in the eighth inning. Any regrets about not playing Jacoby Ellsbury instead? “Like I said before, it was a tough decision,” Girardi said. “And Gardy’s body of work against lefties this year was better than Jake’s. And if it doesn’t work, obviously I’m going to be questioned about it. Does Jake hit three home runs and it’s 3-3? I don’t know, but we didn’t solve Keuchel the whole year.”

Alex Rodriguez, Jason Castro• Here’s Cashman on the decision to keep Ellsbury on the bench: “That was reflective of Dallas Keuchel and reflective of how Chris Young has performed against lefties more so than anything else. We as an organization had a tough decision to make picking between Gardy and Ellsbury, and Gardy got the nod. He had the better season and so we went with Gardy.”

• Greg Bird and Didi Gregorius — two lefties — had two of the Yankees’ three hits (Carlos Beltran had the other). Bird’s came in his first postseason at-bat. It was also the first postseason hit for Gregorius. … Chase Headley made his postseason debut. According to Elias, he was one of five active Major Leaguers to appear in at least 1,000 career games without playing in the postseason. The others are Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Lind and Alex Rios (which means that list is going to change again in a couple of days). … Six Yankees made their postseason debut tonight: Bird, Gregorius, Headley, Tanaka, Dellin Betances and Rob Refsnyder.

• Final word can go to Girardi: “How would I describe the year? I think probably the easiest way to describe the year is I’m extremely proud of what these guys did and how hard they fought day in, day out, and how they came together as a team with all the question marks that we had in Spring Training, yeah, it stinks to lose. I mean, that’s the bottom line, and it leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but I’m extremely proud of the guys in that room.”

Associated Press photos



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 at 1:44 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Shut out: Yankees go down quietly in season-ending loss

Alex Rodriguez

The boos started a little before 11 p.m. That’s when Brett Gardner rolled over a ground ball to first base. It was routine out in the middle of the eighth inning, and there was a growing sense that Yankee Stadium had seen this game before.

The Yankees’ lineup wasn’t doing nearly enough, their starting pitcher was long gone, and this season of surprising hope and possibility was coming to a predictable and disappointing end.

Alex Rodriguez had said the Yankees were underdogs. This was why.

In Tuesday’s must-win wild card game against the upstart Astros, the Yankees were held to just three hits in a 3-0 loss that ended their season. The Astros will advance to face the Royals in the division series. The Yankees will begin piecing together how a terrific first half went so very wrong after the trade deadline.

A .500 record in August. A .500 record in September. One win in their final week of the regular season. And now a three-hit shutout in the team’s first postseason game since 2012.

Chase Headley, Mashiro TanakaIt didn’t help that the Yankees were facing Dallas Keuchel, the Astros lefty widely considered the front runner for the American League Cy Young Award. With two on and two outs in the sixth, Astros manager A.J. Hinch went to the mound but ultimately stuck with Keuchel to face Alex Rodriguez. The first pitch of the at-bat was over the plate at 87 mph. It looked hitable, and Rodriguez took a hack, but the ball went harmlessly to center field to end the inning.

It was the first time since the first inning that the Yankees had put a runner into scoring position, and they once again couldn’t capitalize. That much was nothing new. Since September 1, the Yankees’ .218 average with runners in scoring position was the second-worst in baseball. The finished the season averaging slightly more than 3.1 runs per game in their final two weeks. Before that, they’d averaged slightly less than 4.9 runs this season.

Facing Keuchel was not the solution to the Yankees’ offensive woes. The potential Cy Young winner delivered six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts, one walk and three hits. It was perhaps his worst start against the Yankees this year. All told, Keuchel pitched 22 scoreless innings against them Yankees this season.

Home plate umpire Eric Cooper also seemed to do the Yankees no favors. ESPN Stats and Info reported that five of his first 18 called strikes against the Yankees were actually balls. But a rough strike zone surely doesn’t account for all of the Yankees offensive disappointment. Three singles and three walks accounted for their only base runners, and they didn’t do any better against the Astros’ pen than they did against their ace.

The Yankees’ own ace couldn’t keep pace. Manager Joe Girardi had opened the game with $153-million center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury on the bench, and after just five innings he lost faith in $155-million ace Masahiro Tanaka. Pitching in exactly the kind of setting the Yankees imagined when they lured him out of Japan with baseball’s largest international free agent contract, Tanaka struck out the first two batters of the game, but he allowed a first-pitch home run to Colby Rasmus in the second inning and a first-pitch home run to Carlos Gomez in the fourth.

By the time Tanaka got his final out of the fourth, Yankees lefty Justin Wilson was already getting loose in the bullpen. And after a 1-2-3 fifth – Tanaka’s first truly dominant inning since the first –Girardi turned the game over to his most trusted relievers for the final four innings. Tanaka had thrown just 83 pitches and allowed just two runs, but he’d uncharacteristically walked three and both Rasmus and Gomez were due up in the sixth. Wilson retired each of them. Dellin Betances wound up allowing an insurance run in the seventh, but at that point, the damage was done.

And really, so was the Yankees’ season.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 at 11:15 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Sponsored by:





    Read The LoHud Yankees Blog on the go by navigating to the blog on your smartphone or mobile device's browser. No apps or downloads are required.


Place an ad

Call (914) 694-3581