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

Archive for the ‘Misc’

Looking back at Yankees’ past Rule 5 protection decisions11.24.15

Ivan Nova

For those of us who follow prospects and enjoy the process of player development, Rule 5 protection decisions always feel like a big deal. Unproven players are either added to the 40-man roster or left at risk of landing elsewhere, and those choices are not taken lightly.

But the impact of those choices isn’t always particularly significant.

On Friday, the Yankees chose to protect Ben Gamel, Johnny Barbato and Rookie Davis. Those left Jake Cave, Tony Renda and Miguel Andujar exposed. Are any of those decisions going to matter?

Recent history suggests a mixed bag.

Here are the players the Yankees protected in the past six offseasons. Of course, many players are protected mid-season — Adam Warren, for example, was called up mid-season and thus was never specifically “protected” from the Rule 5 — but here are the guys who were singled out for Rule 5 protection in recent seasons. Several names on this list might not be familiar at all. Plenty of them never sniffed the big leagues.

Mason Williams2014
Protected: Branden Pinder, Mason Williams, Danny Burawa, Tyler Austin
Yankees taken in the Rule 5: None

As I remember it, Austin was basically a slam dunk for Rule 5 protection last winter. Pinder and Burawa made sense as hard-throwing relievers with potential to win a big league job, and Williams was the curious choice because he was coming off a bad Double-A season. One year later, Austin has passed through waivers unselected, Burawa has been claimed off wavers, Pinder has a decent amount of big league experience, and Williams is coming back from injury with at least part of his prospect status restored. Half of the guys added to the 40-man last winter for Rule 5 protection have already been removed.

Protected: Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, Gary Sanchez, Slade Heathcott, Jose Campos
Yankees taken in the Rule 5: Tommy Kahnle

Perhaps it’s a product of the Yankees’ improved farm system that this group from 2013 really does seem poised to have a potentially significant impact in New York. Already Greene has pitched well for the Yankees before being used to acquire Didi Gregorius. Mitchell, Sanchez and Heathcott each played for the Yankees this year and could compete for a job in spring training. The Yankees chose to leave a few relievers exposed to the Rule 5 draft in 2013, and the Rockies took Kahnle, who actually stuck and spent the full season on the Colorado roster. For a while, he looked like one who got away, but last week he was designated for assignment.

Manny Banuelos2012
Protected: Manny Banuelos, Jose Ramirez, Ramon Flores, Brett Marshall, Francisco Rondon, Nik Turley
Yankees taken in the Rule 5: None

This group definitely felt significant at the time, but it hasn’t played out that way. Banuelos needed Tommy John surgery and wound up traded for a couple of relievers. Ramirez and Flores got some big league time, but they were packaged in a trade for Dustin Ackley. Marshall got a very little bit of big league team, but he wound up claimed off waivers. Rondon and Turley — both pitchers — faded away quickly, with Turley thrown off track by an injury. Of course there’s still some chance that Banuelos will live up to his lofty potential, and both Flores and Ramirez could get a look in spring training, but expectations were higher. Ultimately, the impact of this group will be tied to the players they helped acquire via trade.

Protected: David Phelps, David Adams, Zoilo Almonte, D.J. Mitchell, Corban Joseph
Yankees taken in the Rule 5: None

At the time, I’m not sure anyone would have said with much certainty that Phelps would have — by far — the most significant big league career of this bunch. All of the guys the Yankees protected in 2011 were pretty legitimate prospects, but Adams and Almonte in particular failed to live up to expectation when they finally got a shot in the big leagues. Ultimately, Phelps looks like he’ll have a lasting career in one role or another, but the other guys (after each getting to the big leagues) have faded from the radar. Mitchell was used to trade for Ichiro Suzuki, so he had some impact. The Yankees actually had two 2011 Rule 5 draft picks in 2012 spring training — potential long man Brad Meyers and lefty Robert Fish — but neither made the team.

Dellin Betances2010
Protected: Dellin Betances, Brandon Laird, Melky Mesa, Ryan Pope
Yankees taken in the Rule 5: George Kontos, Lance Pendleton

One huge name here, obviously. Betances was a long way from the pitcher he is today, but the Yankees protected him because of his potential. The rest of this group is pretty underwhelming. Laird and Mesa each got a little bit of big league time, but neither had much of an impact. Kontos and Pendleton were each returned to the Yankees, and each one pitched in pinstripes that next season (Kontos was ultimately traded to the Giants, where he’s emerged as a pretty good middle reliever). Technically, Mesa was added to the roster earlier than the rest to keep him from reaching free agency, but he was effectively protected from the Rule 5 in the process.

Protected: Ivan Nova, Eduardo Nunez, Austin Jackson, Hector Noesi, Kevin Russo, Romulo Sanchez, Reegie Corona
Yankees taken in the Rule 5: Zach Kroenke, Kanekoa Texeira

In 2008, the Yankees left Nova exposed to the Rule 5 and lost him momentarily. They got him back when he proved not quite ready to win a job in the Padres’ bullpen. The Yankees then protected him in 2009, and Nova made his big league debut the following season. Ultimately, this 2009 group of protected players is pretty significant. Nova is still with the Yankees, Nunez had a fairly long run as a utility man, Jackson and Noesi were each pieces of huge trades, and Russo and Sanchez got some time in New York. As far as impact, this Rule 5 protection group was more significant than most. Kroenke and Texeira each got some big league time — Kroenke was actually taken in the Rule 5 draft in both 2008 and 2009 — but neither had a particularly long Major League career. (By the way, you might remember that the top pick in the 2009 Rule 5 draft was an outfielder named Jamie Hoffmann, who was traded to the Yankees and tried to win a job in spring training only to be returned).

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Yankees didn’t want Cano’s contract then; why would they want it now?11.23.15

Robinson Cano, Salvador Perez

Because we’re not used to reading or hearing these sort of comments on the record, it was pretty jarring to hear Andy Van Slyke truly rip into Robinson Cano late last week.

“Robinson Cano was the single worst third-place, everyday player I’ve ever seen… for the first half of a Major League Baseball season,” the former Mariners’ first-base coach said in a radio interview. “He couldn’t drive home Miss Daisy if he tried. Couldn’t do it. He couldn’t get a hit when it mattered. He played the worst defense I’ve ever seen at second. I mean, I’m talking about the worst defensive second baseman ever, I’ve ever seen in 20 years in the big leagues.”


Much less jarring was the line in John Harper’s recent column noting that Cano would like to get out of Seattle, where the situation is clearly a mess. Hard to be surprised by that idea considering the notion of Cano regretting his chosen destination — with a lot of money to help ease his concerns — was floated from the very minute he signed with the Mariners.

Jacoby EllsburyNaturally, there have been some trade ideas floated involving a Cano for Jacoby Ellsbury swap, but those suggestions have always seemed to be more conversation starters than actual possibilities. This afternoon, Andrew Marchand outlined five reasons such a swap is highly unlikely. 

I’ll add one other reason: Cano is still signed through 2023, and that’s not going to change.

Two years ago, the Yankees were unwilling to sign Cano through his 40th birthday. They were willing to top the Mariners’ offer in terms of average annual value, but they wouldn’t match the Mariners’ 10-year commitment. They stopped at seven years, meaning they stopped at Cano’s age-37 season. With Cano off the table, the Yankees gave Jacoby Ellsbury a seven-year deal that runs through his age-36 season (with a team option for Ellsbury at age 37).

Even at the time, Yankees officials acknowledged in one-on-one conversations that it would be difficult to replace Cano’s production in the short-term. What kept them from signing him was their concern about the long-term. They weren’t willing to take on those final three years.

To make a deal for Cano at this point would be to take on the long-term risk without as much of the short-term advantage. If the Yankees didn’t want to have Cano on the books through his 40th birthday two years ago, why would they be more willing to do so today when they no longer have the benefit of his age 31 and 32 seasons?

Cano is one year older that Ellsbury, and his contract runs three years longer. Ellsbury’s deal ends at age 36; Cano’s ends at age 40. Ellsbury’s contract looked like a mistake this year, but Cano’s contract doesn’t exactly look like a good one going forward.

Associated Press photos

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Sanchez, Fowler stand out among Yankees’ prospects in Fall League11.23.15

Gary Sanchez

The Arizona Fall League has come an end, which means the end of updates about Gary Sanchez hitting a bunch of home runs in the desert. The eight Yankees’ prospects assigned to the AFL played for the Surprise Saguaros, who lost in the championship game. Here’s a final update on the Yankees prospects who just wrapped up a few weeks in Arizona.

SanchezGary Sanchez
A White Sox outfielder named Adam Engel hit .403 and led the Fall League in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. If not for a slash line like that, Sanchez surely would have won the league’s MVP award. He led the league with seven home runs and 55 total bases, and he was tied for the league lead with 21 RBI. Sanchez was terrific, building on the kind of minor league season the Yankees had been waiting to see. Not only has Sanchez earned rave reviews for his improved defense and maturity, but his bat is starting produce numbers that line up with the scouting reports.

Dustin Fowler
Center fielder
A Fall League assignment was a challenge for 20-year-old Fowler, and he was chosen by Jim Callis as one of the breakout players from the championship game. “He concluded his breakout Fall League performance by going 2-for-3 with a walk, including a no-doubt home run off a 97-mph Nick Burdi (Twins) fastball to leadoff the ninth,” Callis wrote. “… Fowler has plus speed and center-field skills, solid hitting ability and arm strength, and interesting power potential.” Fowler got more playing time late in the Fall League season, to the point that he was chosen to play center field in the title game. Finished seven-for-seven stealing bases.

WadeTyler Wade
Second baseman/shortstop
Primarily a shortstop in the regular season, Wade wound up spending roughly three-quarters of the Fall League playing second base. He made four errors at second (none at short), but most reviews suggest he should be a fine defender in the end. Wade’s another really young Yankees choice for the Fall League, and while he didn’t hit much, he did have nearly as many walks (6) as strikeouts (7). From his third game on, he walked six times and struck out only four times.

Tyler Austin
Outfielder/first baseman
Had slightly better numbers — but pretty close to the same — in the Fall League last year. Austin hit for some power, drew more walks than any of the other Yankees position players in the league, and he got quite a bit of time at first base. This wasn’t a huge performance to make anyone forget about Austin’s disappointing regular season, but it was another reminder that in his best moments, Austin can hit (and he hit .318/.400/.545 against Fall lefties). He had a hit in nine of his last 10 games, then had another hit in the title game. Still needs a good 2016 to get back on the big league radar.

MiLB: AUG 06 - Brevard County Manatees at Tampa Yankees (LoMoglio)Ian Clarkin
Left-handed starter
5.84 ERA, 1.95 WHIP, 17 K, 24.2 innings
Injury kept Clarkin sidelined throughout the regular season, so his Fall League assignment was all about making up for lost time. Results were most secondary, especially considering Clarkin was extremely young for the assignment. The numbers were more or less what you’d expect from a young kid who hadn’t pitched all year. He walked a lot of guys — especially early — but he had a one-walk, five-strikeout performance in his final Fall League start. Clarkin made six starts to get at least a little work in this year and suggest he could be healthy enough to try to get back on track next year.

Chaz Hebert
Left-handed starter
4.40 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, 12 K, 14.1 innings
Pitched mostly in relief in the Fall League, working often as kind of a piggyback reliever behind Clarkin. Of his 12 strikeouts, seven came in his first two outings. After that, Hebert actually walked more than he struck out. Lefties also hit .300 against him (but with now power), while righties hit .226 (but with a .452 slugging percentage). Clearly the performance wasn’t enough for the Yankees to put him on the 40-man roster for Rule 5 protection. Hebert was better in the regular season, and he’ll look to build off that next year to really put himself more firmly on the radar.

AcevedoDomingo Acevedo
Right-handed reliever
2.25 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 11 K, 12 innings
This is a 21-year-old with a huge fastball, and although he’s been a starting pitcher throughout the minor leagues, he worked as a reliever during his stint in the Fall League. He pitched in seven games. Six of them were scoreless outings with two walks and nine strikeouts. In the other outing, Acevedo was charged with three earned runs on a home run, a hit batter and a walk (two of the runs scored after he left the game). In his final outing, Acevedo pitched two hitless innings with four strikeouts. This is the kind of kid who could have a real breakout next season. Big, big arm.

Tyler Webb
Left-handed reliever
5.84 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 12 K, 12.1 innings

Getting a few innings to make up for an injury during the regular season,Webb was terrific in most of his nine Fall League outings. In two of his appearances, Webb allowed a total of seven earned runs on eight hits and three walks. In his other seven outings, he was charged with one run on five hits and no walks. In his final outing, he struck out five in 2.1 innings. Lefties hit just .200 against him (though they did have a .400 slugging percentage because of three extra-base hits). Could be a big league option at some point next year, but obviously he’s one of many left-handed relievers in the mix.

Associated Press photo

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A closer look at the Yankees’ Rule 5 protection decisions11.23.15

Gamel (Farmer)

On Friday, the Yankees made their Rule 5 protection decisions. Three eligible prospects were protected. Another, Vicente Campos, was added to the 40-man roster earlier in the offseason to keep him from becoming a minor league free agent (and by adding him, the Yankees effectively protected Campos from the Rule 5 draft as well).

It’s worth noting that several upper-level prospects including Aaron Judge, Brady Lail, Eric Jagielo, Tyler Wade and Tyler Webb are not yet Rule 5 eligible, and so there was absolutely no reason to put them on the roster at this time.

Here’s a quick look at the prospects the Yankees chose to protect, as well as a few notable names left exposed.


BarbatoJohnny Barbato
Relief pitcher
Why he was protected: In short, because he almost certainly would have been selected in the Rule 5 draft. He’s a relief pitcher who put up very good numbers in both Double-A and Triple-A this year. Probably would have been a September call-up if the Yankees weren’t already so overloaded with right-handed relievers.
Why it might have been unnecessary: Same reason the Yankees didn’t bring Barbato up in September: they have plenty of similar pitchers already in place. Even if Barbato were lost in the Rule 5 draft, the Yankees might not have missed him. Even with last year’s success, Barbato’s not a slam-dunk prospect. Plenty good enough to be prime Rule 5 fodder, but that doesn’t mean he’ll have a meaningful career. And the Yankees are overloaded with solid right-handed relief prospects.

DavisRookie Davis
Starting pitcher
Why he was protected: Heading into this season, Davis was kind of a sleeper prospect. He might have been most recognizable because of his 80-grade baseball name. This season, though, Davis pushed his stock significantly higher with improved strikeout and walk rates. He now looks like one of the better rotation prospects in the organization, and he seemed like the system’s best bet for Rule 5 protection.
Why it might have been unnecessary: Because he made just five Double-A starts last year and may very well open next season back in Double-A. In other words, he’s probably not quite ready to keep a spot on a big league roster. His upside made it hard for the Yankees to take that chance, but he’s more likely to be a big league option in 2017 than in 2016.

GamelBen Gamel
Why he was protected: Left-handed hitter with a little bit of speed, little bit of power, solid contact and on-base skills, an ability to play all three outfield spots and terrific Triple-A numbers? Gamel would have been a perfect Rule 5 candidate with a legitimate chance to stick as a fourth outfielder. He went unselected in last year’s Rule 5 draft, but he showed himself to be a very different player this year. Surely some other team would have given him a chance if he were available this winter.
Why it might have been unnecessary: Two reasons: Gamel could regress to a level far below this year’s production, and even if the Yankees were lose him, they might not miss him given their left-handed outfield depth. Gamel looks like a more bat-first version of Slade Heathcott and Mason Williams. Do the Yankees really need another outfielder from that mold? Is Gamel really the guy who had a .830 OPS in Triple-A this year, or the guy who had a .648 OPS in Double-A last year?


AndujarMiguel Andujar
Third baseman
Why he was left unprotected: He’s too young, too inexperienced and too limited to think he could really make a big league roster out of spring training. Andujar has upside, for sure, but he’s coming off a so-so season in High-A and he’s basically limited to third base. He made second-half strides, but that’s not enough to think he’s ready for the Majors.
Why it might have been a mistake: Talent matters, and Andujar has talent. His upside is that of an everyday third baseman, so if he were to actually stick as a Rule 5 pick, the Yankees would lose a legitimate, high-end prospect. Hard to picture that happening at this point, but if a team drafts him, the Yankees will holding their breath a little bit.

AustinTyler Austin
Why he was left unprotected: It wasn’t all that long ago that Austin cleared waivers, suggesting no team is interested in giving him a 40-man roster spot, much less a 25-man roster spot. At this time last year, the Yankees protected Austin from the Rule 5, but he had an underwhelming Triple-A season (so underwhelming that he was demoted to Double-A and taken off the 40-man roster). This year did little to suggest he’s a big league hitter at the moment.
Why it might have been a mistake: At his best, Austin has a pretty potent right-handed bat, and the Yankees could use a hitter like that. If a team wants to put him back at third base, he could have a shot to stick as a four-corners utility man. His numbers in Triple-A suggest it might be a reach to think he could stick in the big leagues, but his best stretches in past seasons suggest the potential for impact.

CaveJake Cave
Why he was left unprotected: A combination of performance, redundancy and a tight roster. Cave stands out as the kind of guy who might have been protected if the 40-man weren’t so crowded (the Yankees have protected lesser prospects in the past). As it is, Cave’s solid-not-great Double-A numbers suggest he’s not a big leaguer right now. Even if a team takes a shot on him, the Yankees might not miss him because of their left-handed outfield depth.
Why it might have been a mistake: Even though his Double-A numbers weren’t great, Cave can still do a little bit of everything, which profiles pretty well for a possible fourth outfielder. Because of his current skill set and potential, it’s not at all difficult to imagine a team giving Cave a look in spring training. He’s a legitimate Rule 5 candidate, just a question of whether he can actually stick and whether the Yankees would actually miss him.

EnnsDietrich Enns
Relief/starting pitcher
Why he was left unprotected: Injury threw his development off track a little bit, and he’s coming off a year in which he pitched just 58.2 innings, none of them above High-A. The Yankees currently have at least six left-handed relievers ahead of him in the big league pecking order — Miller, Wilson, Shreve, Lindgren, Pazos, Webb — so even if Enns were to to stick with another team, the Yankees might not regret leaving him off the roster.
Why it might have been a mistake: Even with the Yankees’ bullpen depth, it’s not a good thing to lose a young pitcher with the potential for a legitimate big league career. And if Enns can stay healthy and build off this season — even though it was at a low level, he really was terrific this year — he could stick around as a big league lefty. He’s worked as both a starter and a reliever, so there’s some versatility that could be appealing.

MiLB: MAY 03 Flying Tigers at YankeesChaz Hebert
Starting pitcher
Why he was left unprotected: Not to dismiss him, but at the moment Hebert’s just not an organizational standout. He quietly had a nice year in High-A (with a few spot starts in Triple-A), and the Yankees rewarded him with a spot in the Arizona Fall League, but Hebert still needs a bigger breakout season to really push himself onto the big league radar.
Why it might have been a mistake: This is a left-handed starting pitcher who just had a nice year, and he’s shown enough to warrant a spot in the Fall League, which suggests the Yankees were at least considering him as a possibility for a roster spot. Even if Hebert’s not a big name, it’s not like the Yankees are overcrowded with left-handed rotation prospects. Could be a decent Rule 5 candidate as a long-man who could serve as a second bullpen lefty.

RendaTony Renda
Second baseman
Why he was left unprotected: Could be a versatility issue above all else. Renda is a pretty decent infield prospect — the Yankees got him from the Nationals in the mid-season David Carpenter trae — but he has very little experience at any position other than second base, which probably limits his ability to actually stick as a Rule 5 pick. He’s also coming off a good-but-not-great year in Double-A.
Why it might have been a mistake: With Jose Pirela gone and Eric Jagielo coming back from injury, the Yankees don’t have a ton of upper-level infield prospects. If the Yankees lose Renda, they’ll be even thinner in the infield. On-base skills make him a decent prospect, especially at a position like second base where a team could show some interest in a low-risk Rule 5 possibility. Renda’s not a huge prospect, but he has some potential, and he gives the Yankees depth where they’re otherwise thin.

CulverCito Culver/Dante Bichette Jr.
Why they were left unprotected: Because they just haven’t been very good. These were the Yankees’ top draft picks in 2010 and 211, but Culver’s been absolutely nothing but a defender while Bichette’s bat has shown up in infrequent bursts. Culver lost his everyday shortstop job in Double-A this year, while Bichette was demoted from Double-A to High-A. These are notable omissions only because they were such high picks, not because they were strong candidates for protection.
Why it might have been a mistake: Most likely, this won’t be a mistake. It really would have been stunning to see the Yankees protect either of these players. They’re worth mentioning, though, because they were such high draft picks, and if some team actually roles the dice and gets legitimate production — taking a chance on Culver’s glove, for example — the Yankees could watch one of their top picks finally come to life elsewhere. Again, though, the chances of a team actually taking Culver or Bichette in the Rule 5 seems very low, which says a lot about their underwhelming numbers.

Photo from the Scranton Times-Tribune

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So, what did I miss?11.23.15

Rays Yankees Baseball

So, I spent the past week in Dublin and Paris. It was an unforgettable trip for many reasons, but the whole thing was booked during the summer, and we nearly cancelled the Paris leg after the attacks a week earlier. Glad we went, though. It was unnerving to see such a military presence on the streets, but there was a definite sense of kindness and solidarity throughout the city. Anyway, that was my past week, and here’s some of the Yankees stuff I missed:

Brett GardnerBrett Gardner trade rumors haven’t gone away
For reasons outlined on this blog several times, it looks like Gardner will be the Yankees’ most talked about trade chip this winter. Often through raw speculation, and occasionally through sourced reports, Gardner has already been linked to several potential trade partners including the Mariners, Indians and Cubs. This past week, it was the Cubs who came front and center with the possibility of a Gardner-for-Starlin-Castro trade. Mark Feinsand reported that the Yankees are not interested in such a swap, but it’s the kind of possibility that’s likely to come up time and again. At some price, Castro seems like a decent fit for the Yankees because he could play second base in the short term, and because the Yankees have been active in trying to buy low on fairly young players like him. Gardner is a valuable trade chip who’s vaguely expendable and could bring back pitching (hence the connections to Seattle and Cleveland, two teams with pitching to give).

The market for closers gained more traction (Andrew Miller could be in the mix)
Before I left, there were already rumors of teams showing trade interest in Miller. It doesn’t seem the Yankees are actively shopping him, but they’re not hanging up the phone if his name comes up (part of Brian Cashman’s ongoing “open to anything” policy). Well, the closer market has been active already this offseason. Last week, the Tigers traded for Francisco Rodriguez, and that was after the Red Sox gave a substantial prospect package for Craig Kimbrel. It seems the Royals’ success – and possibly the Yankees’ bullpen success as well – has pushed some teams to prioritize building relief depth and dominance. Aroldis Chapman and Mark Melancon are also said to be on the trade market, and Darren O’Day has been one of the most discussed free agents at this point. If the market is high on closers, the Yankees could see that as a chance to sell high on Miller. For now, it seems more of an interesting possibility than a definite inevitability.

The Yankees settled their coaching staff
When we learned that neither Jeff Pentland nor Gary Tuck would return next season, I think every single Yankees beat writer I spoke to had the same reaction: they’re going to make Alan Cockrell the hitting coach, bring up Marcus Thames from Triple-A to be the assistant, and bring back Mike Harkey for the bullpen. It was the most obvious way to go — fit perfectly with familiar faces the organization likes and trusts — and that’s exactly what happened. A few weeks ago, the Yankees announced the Cockrell and Thames promotions, and early last week they announced the hiring of Harkey and the return of everyone else. Clearly none of this comes as a surprise.

Chase WhitleyChase Whitley was claimed off waivers
Lack of wiggle room of the 40-man roster could be a problem for the Yankees all winter. It came back to bite them last week when Whitley was claimed by the Rays. The Yankees had decided to protect three prospects from the Rule 5 draft, and they had only two roster spots open. Someone had to go, and the Yankees tried to sneak Whitley — recovering from Tommy John — through waivers. It didn’t work. He was claimed, and the Yankees lost a bit of rotation depth that still has options going forward. The past two years, Whitley’s best stretches were terrific, but he was still looking for the consistency to stick on the big league roster full-time. Can’t stress enough what a great guy he is. Casualty of roster restrictions. Cost the Yankees some depth.

Three prospects were protected from the Rule 5 draft
With Whitley off the roster, the Yankees filled their only open spots by protecting outfielder Ben Gamel, starting pitcher Rookie Davis and reliever Johnny Barbato from the Rule 5 draft. Among the most notable prospects left unprotected are Jake Cave, Tony Renda and Miguel Andujar. If only because I really enjoy prospect news, I’m sure I’ll end up writing more about this later in the afternoon. For now, I’ll say only that Davis is the one player I thought would definitely be protected (his prospect stock rose too much last season). Gamel and Barbato stood out as the Rule 5 eligibles who had the best chances of actually sticking on a big league roster. With several others — most notably Cave — the Yankees are rolling the dice a little bit, either because of similar players already in place or because it’s hard to imagine the prospect in question being ready to make a big league team out of spring training.

Handful of Yankees appeared on BBWAA award ballots
My awards vote this year was for Manager of the Year, and I chose A.J. Hinch over Jeff Banister (I thought it was pretty much a toss-up, but I gave Hinch credit for mixing and matching quite a bit and for keeping a young roster from being overwhelmed late in the year). Of course, no Yankees player won any of the major awards, but Joe Girardi did get a couple of first-place votes for Manager of the Year. I was surprised to see him at the top of some ballots, but I didn’t have a problem with him finishing top five overall. Until September, I still thought Girardi would be on my ballot somewhere, just couldn’t vote for him ahead of Hinch, Banister and Paul Molitor after the second-half collapse (though I don’t think Girardi did a bad job). Miller and Dellin Betances got a few down-ballot votes for Cy Young, while Brian McCann, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez each got a Top 10 vote for MVP. I would not have put a Yankees pitcher Top 5 if I had a Cy vote. Not sure about MVP – haven’t researched it enough – but my gut feeling is that I wouldn’t have had a Yankees player on that ballot either.

David Ortiz announced next season will be his last
I’m curious to see how baseball will react to this one next season. The longtime Red Sox designated hitter announced he will retire at the end of the 2016 season, and while I’m sure Ortiz get some sort of farewell tour, I have a hard time thinking it will be as celebrated as Mariano Rivera’s. Surely it won’t be as celebrated as Derek Jeter’s. That’s not to knock Ortiz, who’s been a heckuva hitter for a long time and just might be a Hall of Famer — haven’t put in nearly the work to make a truly informed decision, but my initial thought is that Edgar Martinez has to go in ahead of Ortiz, but again, I haven’t checked the numbers so I could be wrong — I just think baseball’s response will be different. He’s a fascinating player and a huge personality, and I think the Yankees will and should do something for his final series at Yankee Stadium, I just don’t think his farewell is comparable to Jeter or Rivera.

Rich HillWait a second, Rich Hill got how much money?
Have four starts ever earned a player as much money as Hill seems to have earned himself at the end of this season? The guy’s career was basically finished, but he came out of independent ball this season, signed a minor league deal with the Red Sox, pitched well in Triple-A, got some late-season starts when Boston’s big league rotation grew incredibly thin, and last week he cashed in with a one-year, $6 million deal with the Athletics. Whoa! I thought Hill might get a big league deal, but I had no clue he would get that kind of money. Made me think back to last year’s $5 million deals with Chris Capuano and Stephen Drew. Each one looked bad throughout the year, but man, teams are really willing to give significant money if they can avoid a multi-year commitment. Good luck to Hill, who was a very nice guy during his brief Yankees stint a couple of years ago. Would be pretty cool to see a guy like that live up to a contract like that.

Yogi Berra was awarded the President’s Medal of Freedom

Very cool news for the beloved Yankees’ icon. It was announced last week that Berra will received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is given at the President’s discretion to recognize “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.” Here’s Hal Steinbrenner’s statement on the news: “On behalf of the entire Yankees organization, we congratulate the family of Yogi Berra for his inclusion among upcoming recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. This honor is a fitting tribute to a man who not only represented the sport of baseball with unequaled dignity and humor, but exemplified the best virtues of our country through his military service and compassion for others. His life was truly the embodiment of the American dream.”

There were, of course, a few odds and ends
Former Yankees’ prospect Ramon Flores was on the move again, this time traded from the Mariners to the Brewers in a small deal. Flores is out of options, so the Brewers will have to either carry him on the big league roster or pass him through waivers. … Another former Yankees’ prospect, hard-throwing Tommy Kahnle, was designated for assignment by the Rockies. He was the last Yankees’ prospect lost in the Rule 5 draft, and he initially stuck with a strong rookie season in Colorado. Walked too many guys this year, though. … Two other former Yankees’ prospects, relievers Cesar Vargas and Andury Acevedo, signed a Major League deals with the Padres and Cubs. Always interesting to see career minor leaguers get Major League contracts. The Yankees gave one last winter to Jose De Paula, who actually wound up pitching in the big leagues this season before being designated for assignment. … According to Baseball America’s latest minor league transactions, the Yankees have signed right-hander Jhony Brito and catcher Francisco Diaz to minor league deals. Almost certainly nothing more than organizational depth.

Associated Press photos

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Random thoughts in the middle of November11.14.15

Brian Cashman

A few random thoughts on this Saturday in the middle of November.

• First, a heads up that I won’t be around for the next week. I’m heading out of town for vacation and won’t be back on the blog until Monday. I know the newspaper has some guys on call to handle Yankees news while I’m gone, but I don’t know whether they’ll be blogging or just writing for the paper. Either way, I’ll be back Monday to jump back into the regularly scheduled programming. As a reminder, this next week is when the BBWAA Awards will be announced, and this coming Friday is the deadline for players to be protected from the Rule 5 draft.

Hicks• I like the Aaron Hicks trade mostly because John Ryan Murphy was trapped in a backup role, much like Francisco Cervelli was last winter. The Yankees traded him for a young player who still shows signs of upside and can immediately fill an important role off the bench (Chris Young got 318 at-bats last year; Murphy got 155). If Hicks takes a step forward, he gives the Yankees far more possibilities than if Murphy had taken a step forward. Does Hicks mean the Yankees should definitely trade Brett Gardner? He might make it a little bit easier, but he’s not yet a dependable replacement in left field, so trading Gardner would still require some other move to fortify the outfield unless the Yankees wanted to simply cycle through young left-handed hitters in hopes one of them sticks.

• Speaking of that trade, it’s easy to be impressed by Gary Sanchez these days. By all accounts, he’s matured significantly while showing real improvements behind the plate. Clearly the Yankees are more convinced than ever that he can be a big league catcher. But I still don’t think he should or will break camp with the big league team next season. He played just 35 games in Triple-A last season, and there’s something to be said for finishing off his development and maximizing his team control by having him at least open next season back in the minors. As the season goes along and Brian McCann could use a little more rest, then give Sanchez a couple of starts a week and let him start learning at the big league level. A year and a half as McCann’s apprentice, and the roles could reverse for the final year of McCann’s contract when Sanchez would still be making the minimum.

• Heading into next season, I have no clue what to make of these guys: Bryan Mitchell, Nick Rumbelow, Branden Pinder, Nick Goody, James Pazos and Jacob Lindgen (and to some extent, Caleb Cothem, Johnny Barbato and Tyler Webb as well). Because of those first five months, Chasen Shreve is a little more established than the other young relievers in the system, but the six guys listed here are almost interchangeable in terms of who best fits at the top of the pecking order for big league bullpen jobs. Lindgren probably stands out as having the highest upside (though you could make a case for Mitchell). With so much uncertainty, it’s great to have so many candidates, but at some point the Yankees are going to have to choose which ones they trust the most.

• Which contract would the Yankees most like to get rid of right now? Alex Rodriguez because of his age, second-half decline and two years remaining? CC Sabathia because of his injuries, his rough first four months, and his two years remaining? Jacoby Ellsbury because he’s replaceable with Gardner, put up ugly numbers most of this season, and still has five years remaining? Carlos Beltran and Mark Teixeira are not particularly problematic contracts because they expire after next season, and each one showed he could still hit this season. Chase Headley’s contract is troubling after such a bad year, but the Yankees also have absolutely no one to replace him at third base right now. So if you could dump one, who would it be: Rodriguez, Sabathia or Ellsbury? They’re each troubling in their own ways.

Didi Gregorius• Several defensive metrics suggest Didi Gregorius really should have won the Gold Glove at shortstop. He was rocky in the beginning, but he was reliable and often incredible later in the year. After seeing the price the Angels paid for Andrelton Simmons, the Gregorius trade looks like even more of a steal. I just wonder if the Yankees can build a strong defensive outfield around him. Mark Teixeira’s contract runs out after this season, Rob Refsnyder and Dustin Ackley aren’t great defenders at second, and Chase Headley was weirdly error-prone this year (with offense-first Eric Jagielo coming up as the closest third base prospect on the horizon). It’s really hard to find a high-end, two-way player, and the Yankees are certainly finding that during their infield makeover.

• I’m not sure it’s perfect, but I like the qualifying offer system. I like that it puts part of the decision in the players’ hands. You could definitely argue that it’s not ideal for the players — turning down a qualifying offer certainly adds some baggage on the open market — but seeing a guy like Colby Rasmus accept one this year makes me think it’s working just fine. Sure, Rasmus could have gotten a multi-year deal elsewhere, but making $15.8 million for one season is pretty great, and obviously Rasmus thinks it’s worthwhile compensation. Same for Matt Wieters, who was not hitting the open market at an ideal time and now gest a huge one-year deal before getting another crack at free agency next season. I think it’s worthwhile to find some way to compensate teams that can’t afford their best free agents, and this system seems much better than the old method. If baseball can improve it, great, but for what it is, I like it.

• Looking ahead to Rule 5 decisions, the possibilities I’m most curious about are Rookie Davis, Johnny Barbato, Ben Gamel and Tony Renda. Miguel Andujar is a really nice prospect, but I find it hard to believe he could stick on a big league roster. Jake Cave is also a nice prospect, but he wasn’t overwhelming in Double-A and I think the Yankees could afford to risk losing him given the other left-handed outfielders already in place. Davis has emerged as a standout, so I think he’ll be protected. The others, I’m not so sure about. Barbato was great this year, but he’s also just one of many right-handed arms in the upper levels. Renda is kind of the opposite, he was solid this season, but he’s much more in-demand given the Yankees’ lack of upper-level infield depth. Gamel could be expendable, but he also put up overwhelming Triple-A numbers and would surely be taken in the Rule 5 as a terrific fourth outfield candidate. The protection candidates aren’t necessarily a high-profile group, but they’re a very interesting group.

• Speaking of those Rule 5 guys, the 40-man roster is really tight at this point. There are two spots open, and Austin Romine is no longer an easy DFA possibility (in fact, he might be the front runner for a big league bench job). If the Yankees can’t make another move or two in the next week, what’s the easiest way to open a 40-man spot? Designated Caleb Cotham? Release Domingo German in hopes of re-signing him (the old Slade Heathcott/Vicente Campos trick)? Beyond those two, I’m not sure there’s a way to open a roster spot without making it hurt a little.

• As usual, Brian Cashman pulled off that Hicks trade without so much a whisper of it going public ahead of time. It’s amazing he’s able to regularly pull that off in this market. Going forward, it’s hard to know what exactly he’ll do — he has no real obvious moves, but there are many directions he could go — but I don’t think he’s finished. While the Yankees could take this current group of players and have a perfectly legitimate Opening Day roster, I just don’t think they’re going to lay low the rest of the winter. We’re going to be blindsided again. That’s my guess.

Associated Press photos

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MLB considering rule changes for slides at second base11.13.15

Joe Torre

The Associated Press filed two different stories about potential rule changes involving slides at second base. I’ve kind of mashed them together for one story about potential rule changes. Here’s the combination of the two stories from Ron Blum:

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — After watching Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada carried off the field with a broken leg during the playoffs when the Dodgers’ Chase Utley upended him, Major League Baseball is examining whether to adopt a rule eliminating slides not directly at bases on force plays.

The discussion comes two years after MLB banned home-plate collisions. Central baseball officials spoke with teams and the rules committee met at this week’s annual gathering of general managers. There will be more talk at next month’s winter meetings and consultation with the players’ association.

“We don’t want to have guys carried off the field,” Joe Torre, MLB’s chief baseball officer, said this week. “Obviously, you can’t lose sight of what the game is about. You don’t want somebody just not trying to get to second base and not trying to keep the inning going. It’s a thin line that you have to walk, and that’s why it’s really tough to put pen to paper.”

Packed Postseason BaseballAlso, with more runners called out on slides when they pop up off a base as fielders keep tags on them, Major League Baseball plans to review the issue during the offseason. Since the start of expanded video review for the 2014, more runners have been called out after fielder’s press their gloves against them, hoping they will come off the base for a split second during or after their slide.

“I’ve talked to a number of managers about that, and in a lot of ways they feel it’s unfair,” Torre said. “And yet when you’re dealing with replay and dealing with technology, it is what it is. If there’s a separation and his glove, the ball is on the runner, you can’t ignore that.”

Slo-motion instant replay has allowed the video review umpire at Baseball Advanced Media in New York to discern when a runner comes off a base for an instant. Before expanded review in 2014, the runner almost always was safe in those instances.

“We are going to talk about that, because there’s been a lot of inquiries about — is there any way we can sort of tweak the rule to keep that from happening?” Torre said. “A lot of times you’re really negating good baserunning, where a guy slides in there and he’s popping up.”

A rule restricting take-out slides at second base could have a safety impact similar to the rule protecting catchers from unnecessary collisions. MLB said the number of days catchers were unavailable to play due to contact at home plate dropped 62 percent from 2011-13 to 2014-15.

The current rule covering slides into second base says it is “deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base.”

A new rule would be more restrictive, with the goal of emulating the results of the home plate change.

“It makes sense to extend it to second base and give the fielder the protection that they deserve when they’re trying to make a play,” said Dan Duquette, the Baltimore Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations.

He suggested MLB adopt the rule used in amateur and college baseball, which also is being tested in this year’s Arizona Fall League. NCAA baseball rules state on a force play “a runner must slide on the ground before the base and in a direct line between the two bases.”

Torre said a change in replay rules that may start next year would allow umpires to use video review to place baserunners on fan interference calls.

Associated Press photos

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Rasmus, Wieters, Anderson accept qualifying offers11.13.15


Greinke USAT

Today was the deadline for players to accept or decline qualifying offers. Here’s the list. And, of course, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone in Paris right now. Unthinkable.

Wei-Yin Chen
Chris Davis
Ian Desmond
Dexter Fowler
Yovani Gallardo
Alex Gordon
Zack Greinke
Jason Heyward
Hisashi Iwakuma
Howard Kendrick
Ian Kennedy
John Lackey
Daniel Murphy
Jeffrey Samardzija
Justin Upton
Jordan Zimmermann

Brett Anderson (Dodgers)
Colby Rasmus (Astros)
Matt Wieters (Orioles)

Marco Estrada (two-year deal with Blue Jays)

Associated Press photo

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Yankees announce spring schedule: Pitchers and catchers report February 1811.13.15

Yankees Spring Baseball

Only three months to go.

The Yankees today announced their spring training schedule, with pitchers and catchers reporting on February 18. The team will hold its first workout on February 19, position players are scheduled to report on February 24, and the first full-squad workout will be February 25. Here’s the exhibition schedule, which opens at home against the Tigers on March 2.

Including in the schedule is a two-day trip to the east coast of Florida to play the Marlins and the Mets. The Yankees will finish spring training with a two-day trip to Miami to once again play at Marlins Park.

Spring schedule

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State of the organization: Right field11.13.15

Carlos Beltran

Continuing to look through the Yankees’ organization position by position, we’ll move into right field where the Yankees just might have timed things pretty well. They have one veteran in the final year of his contract, and they have a high-end prospect who might be a year away from taking over the position. Question is whether the veteran has one more good year in him, and whether the prospect is going to live up to his lofty expectations.

BeltranCarlos Beltran
Signed through 2016
April was rough, but from the first of May through the end of the season, Beltran hit .295/.357/.505 this year. He was arguably the team’s most consistent and best all-around hitter through most of the year. Yes, his outfield defense was awful. At this stage of his career, he’s best used as a designated hitter, but that’s not an option as long as the Yankees are unwilling to use Alex Rodriguez in the field. The Yankees need offense, and Rodriguez and Beltran are two of their better hitters, so Beltran has been confined to right field to keep his bat in the lineup. With one more year on his contract, Beltran is lined up to play right field again next season. If he keeps hitting like he did in the final five months of this season, his bat should make up for his glove (both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference had him as roughly a 1.0 WAR player despite his defense and horrible April). The Yankees have Aaron Hicks to provide strong defense in the late innings, but Beltran is still in place to be the right field starter.

JudgeNext in line
Aaron Judge
If Beltran can hold down the right field fort for at least the first half of 2016, the Yankees just might have timed his contract perfectly. Get another half season or full season out of Beltran, and the Yankees’ top position prospect just might be ready to takeover the position for the foreseeable future. Judge turns 24 in April. He hit .284/.350/.516 in Double-A this year, then he got to Triple-A and ran into his first sign of adversity with an underwhelming .224/.308/.373 slash line. Those 228 Triple-A at-bats suggest Judge isn’t a finished product, but the rest of his career suggests he has potential to be a solid defender with power and a good approach at the plate. He’s even played a little center field and stolen a handful of bases. Hicks seems set as the immediate backup, Dustin Ackley can also play the position, and there are others minor leaguers who could fill in — Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel, maybe Tyler Austin — but Judge seems to be the Yankees’ future in right.

JacksonDeeper in the system
Jhalan Jackson
Judge is one of the Yankees’ most promising draft picks of the past five years. Michael O’Neill was a third-round pick in 2013 and Austin Aune was a second-round pick in 2012, but neither one has taken off as a power-first right fielder,. The position really belongs to Judge within the Yankees’ system. Coming up from the bottom, though, the team does have 2015 seventh-round pick Jackson and 2014 international investment Juan De Leon. Each one has the potential to hit for significant power. Jackson hit .266/.338/.452 in Staten Island this season. He’s far from a sure thing, but he has enough power potential to take notice. De Leon hit just .226/.344/.366 in the Dominican Summer League, but he just turned 18, so he’s a long way from being a finished product. He’s listed some places as a center fielder, but the Yankees kept him in right this season. Could make his U.S. debut next year.

AustinWorth consideration
Tyler Austin
At this point, it’s pie-in-the-sky to think of Austin as anything other than a wild card possibility for the Yankees. Even when he’s put up good numbers, he’s had plenty of doubters, and now he’s coming off a season in which he hit just .235/.309/.311 in Triple-A, got demoted to Double-A and lost his spot on the 40-man roster. There was a time when both Baseball America and ranked him as one of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball, so it’s hard to ignore Austin completely. His best stretches have been impressive, and if he can get some traction and some momentum, he could hit his way back into the mix. For now he’s just a guy trying to stay on the radar and prove he’s still worth consideration as a possible big league option at some point.

RefsnyderOne big question
Would the Yankees be willing to take a chance with an out-of-the-box possibility?
It’s easy to look at the way the Cubs have used Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant — putting two young guys without much outfield experience into the outfield in the big leagues — and wonder if the Yankees might be able to do something similar. Could Greg Bird learn right field on the fly? Could Rob Refsnyder move back there occasionally just to give the Yankees a backup and a little more versatility? For now, it seems unlikely the Yankees would be willing to make such changes. By the time Bird got comfortable in the outfield, first base might be available, and the team seems committed to Refsnyder focusing exclusively on second base. With Ackley and Hicks in place, the Yankees have a couple of backup outfield options already in place for the big league roster, with plenty of minor league alternatives providing depth. If injuries pile up and options get thinner, would the Yankees consider some out-of-the-box possibilities?

Associated Press photo

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