The LoHud Yankees Blog

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

After early offseason moves: The Yankees 25-man roster as it is today

Jacoby Ellsbury

Last week, the Yankees got busy clearing spots on their 40-man roster. This week, they started making changes to immediately impact on the active roster for next season. By trading away Jose Pirela and John Ryan Murphy, the Yankees removed two options from their bench. By acquiring Aaron Hicks, the team at least replaced Chris Young and perhaps opened the possibility of trading another outfielder later in the offseason.

With some early changes in place, here’s a look at what the Yankees 25-man roster might look like at the moment. Using only the players currently in place, the Yankees could field a team that looks something like this on Opening Day.

Mark TeixeiraLINEUP
C Brian McCann
1B Mark Teixeira
2B Dustin Ackley
3B Chase Headley
SS Didi Gregorius
LF Brett Gardner
CF Jacoby Ellsbury
RF Carlos Beltran
DH Alex Rodriguez

Depth chart: The Yankees bench will provide the day-to-day depth, but there will long-term depth — the in-case-of-injury depth — waiting in Triple-A, and it’s significant. Greg Bird at first base. Gary Sanchez at catcher. Aaron Judge in the outfield. Those three have little chance of winning bench spots out of spring training (maybe Bird if the Yankees can afford such a defensively limited part-timer — but they’re still significant pieces of the puzzle.

Platoon possibilities: This past season, the Yankees had a full-time platoon in the outfield, at second base, and to some extent at catcher (most of John Ryan Murphy’s starts came against lefties). The Yankees could absolutely use those three platoon situations again next year. Aaron Hicks already fits as a possible platoon outfielder, a right-handed catcher of some sort makes obvious sense, and Rob Refsnyder could be a platoon player at second base (if he hits his way into regular at-bats, Refsnyder could free Ackley to be more of a utility man).

Room for improvement: It’s not out of the question that these will be the lineup regulars out of spring training. Improving upon this group will require either making a significant trade — getting a team to take on a bad contract; maybe swapping Gardner for a pitcher and signing another outfielder — but most of these players seem fairly set with no-trade clauses or contracts that are tough to move. Could add a second baseman, but anything else requires another move.

Brendan RyanBENCH
C Austin Romine
SS Brendan Ryan
OF Aaron Hicks
2B Rob Refsnyder

One big decision: With Murphy out of the picture, the Yankees have a choice to make behind the plate. McCann is clearly set as the starter, but who plays the backup role? The more exciting choice would be power-hitting prospect Gary Sanchez — and that does seem possible — but if I have to guess right now, I’d guess someone else takes that job for a month or two while Sanchez gets a little more time in the minors (to finish his development and add a year of team control). If Sanchez is going back to Triple-A for a little while, the current backup option would be Romine.

One open spot: If the Yankees don’t make another move and head into the season with their current roster, they’ll have three bench spots set with a backup catcher, a backup shortstop and Hicks playing the role of fourth outfielder. That would leave one open spot. With Jose Pirela gone, the most logical in-house options for that open spot would seem to be Refsnyder, Slade Heathcott and Greg Bird. Of those three, Refsnyder would have the most obvious role to play as a right-handed platoon second baseman.

Room for improvement: Because of their versatility, guys like Ben Zobrist or Martin Prado would give the Yankees a few more options for their bench. As it is, they’re somewhat limited by the lack of versatility among their regulars (that makes it harder to carry a guy like Bird on the bench). If the Yankees sign a regular second baseman, Ackley could move into a utility bench role. For now, though, the Yankees still have Ryan as their only backup option on the left side of the infield.

Luis SeverinoROTATION
Masahiro Tanaka
Luis Severino
Michael Pineda
Nathan Eovaldi
CC Sabathia

Picking the top five: The Yankees are returning more than five starting pitchers. If it stays this way with no trades or signings that affect the rotation, who would be the most likely to break camp in the Opening Day rotation? Tanaka and Severino are no-brainers. Pineda and Eovaldi are probably pretty close to locks because of their age and potential. At this point, my guess is Sabathia would be the fifth starter out of camp just to see if he can build on his strong second half (though I’m not sure the leash would be as long as it was his past season).

Depth in place: Beyond these five, the Yankees also have Adam Warren, Ivan Nova and Bryan Mitchell returning. They also have Chase Whitley working his way back from Tommy John surgery and Brady Lail coming off a good Double-A season. That’s decent depth for this time of year, and it’s worth wondering whether the Yankees will use that depth to make a trade, to fill their bullpen or to simply give themselves options heading into spring training.

Room for improvement: This is a rotation with depth and potential, but it’s also a rotation loaded with concerns about health and performance. Are the Yankees willing to spend the money necessary to significantly upgrade the top of the rotation with a guy like David Price? If not, would they trade someone and sign a second-tier free agent like Jeff Samardzija, Mike Leake or Scott Kazmir? How good or bad would this rotation be if it went unchanged?

Dellin BetancesBULLPEN
Andrew Miller
Dellin Betances
Justin Wilson
Adam Warren
Chasen Shreve/Jacob Lindgren
Nick Rumbelow/Branden Pinder
Ivan Nova/Bryan Mitchell

Four for now: If the Yankees don’t put Warren back in their rotation — and don’t trade him to improve elsewhere — they presumably have four bullpen spots locked up. Miller and Betances obviously reprise their roles in the late innings, Wilson did more than enough to keep his status as the seventh-inning guy, and Warren gives the bullpen significant versatility by being able to fill almost any role. As top four options to start the offseason, those four are awfully good.

Plenty of options: Need another left-handed reliever? How about Shreve or Lindgren or James Pazos? Need another righty? How about Rumbelow or Pinder or Nick Goody? Want another sixth-starter candidate who can be a long man and whose stuff might play up in short stints? How about Nova or Mitchell or Chase Whitley when he’s ready. That’s to say nothing of Caleb Cotham and Tyler Webb and Johnny Barbato, all of whom could be big league options next season. Young depth is not a problem at the moment.

Room for improvement: Despite being strong in the late inning last season, the Yankees still seriously considered a mid-season trade for a big-time reliever. Shortening games from the back seemed one way to help the rotation, and it’s an idea the Yankees could explore again this offseason. Perhaps they revisit the idea of trading for Craig Kimbrel or make a push to sign Tyler Clippard or Darren O’Day. The Yankees’ bullpen could be a strength as it is, but he could be even stronger with one more big arm.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Friday, November 13th, 2015 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Thursday notes: Eppler wastes little time making splash with Angels

Billy Eppler

Former Yankees assistant general manager Billy Eppler wasted no time making a splash with the Angels. Here are the basics from Greg Becham of The Associated Press:

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Atlanta Braves have traded shortstop Andrelton Simmons to the Los Angeles Angels for shortstop Erick Aybar and top pitching prospects Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis.

The Braves also get $2.5 million, while the Angels get minor league catcher Jose Briceno in the trade announced Thursday night.

Andrelton SimmonsSimmons is arguably the best defensive shortstop in baseball, winning the Gold Glove in 2013 and 2014. He was named the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year on Wednesday, offsetting his mediocre offensive skills with spectacular work in the field.

Aybar has been the Angels’ starting shortstop since 2008 and a key player in Anaheim for a decade, making the AL All-Star team in 2014. He has been dependable in the field and at the plate, but will be a free agent next winter.

“We are extremely excited to acquire an impact shortstop and one that fits our championship standards,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. “Andrelton provides us up the middle foundation at a premium position for years to come. To know we have a player with Andrelton’s talents, drive and competitiveness at such a young age signed through 2020 is a vital step in adding to our core group.

“I have had the opportunity of watching Erick Aybar from afar, and have great respect for his contributions to the Angels. He can do great things on both sides of the baseball and contributed to a winning atmosphere with the Angels for many years. This is one of those transactions where each organization will benefit in both the short and long term.”

A few other quick notes from today:

• Former Yankees third baseman Scott Brosius has been hired as the hitting coach for the Mariners’ Triple-A team. Brosius spent the past eight years as a college manager.

• According to Ken Rosenthal and others, Colby Rasmus is going to be the first player to accept a qualifying offer. No one accepted in the first three years of the qualifying offer system. Rasmus was not remotely a good fit for the Yankees, so this doesn’t mean much for them, but it’s interesting for the game as a whole.

• The Simmons trade is obviously the big move of the day, but the Mariners also made a pretty big acquisition, getting reliever Joaquin Benoit from the Padres. This is the Mariners’ second fairly significant deal of the offseason. They previously traded shortstop Brad Miller to the Rays in a deal centered around starter Nate Karns.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 8:55 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Brian McCann wins Silver Slugger Award

Rays Yankees Baseball

Even with the shift, Brian McCann has won the American League’s Silver Slugger Award at catcher. It’s McCann’s sixth career Silver Slugger and his first with the Yankees.

Reaching a new career-high with 26 home runs and tying a career-high with 94 RBI, McCann finished the season with a .232/.320/.437 slash line. His .756 OPS was the third-highest among A.L. catchers who had at least 250 at-bats this season (that’s including Stephen Vogt, who started 89 games at catcher and another 26 at first base and DH).

McCann’s OPS was still as high as .812 on September 8, but he had just one extra-base hit in his final 75 at-bats of the season.

This is McCann’s first Silver Slugger since 2011.

Associated Press photo



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 6:53 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Winter ball updates: Sanchez has Girardi’s attention

Gary Sanchez

Gary Sanchez has just 35 games of Triple-A experience, and until yesterday he was blocked by long-term contract (Brian McCann) and a good young backup catcher (John Ryan Murphy), but the Yankees were certainly taking notice of what he was doing in the Arizona Fall League.

“I’m watching,” Joe Girardi said on Tuesday. “My thought is it will be McCann and Murphy (in the big leagues next season), but who knows what’s going to happen in the offseason; what you decide to do?”

SanchezThat was, of course, one day before the Yankees sent Murphy to Minnesota and a trade that certainly made it easier to envision Sanchez playing a role at some point next season.

“The young man (Sanchez) had a really good year, made a lot of improvements,” Girardi said. “(He has) played extremely well in the Fall League, off the charts, so I mean it’s something that we’re going to look at. It’s something that if you have an everyday catcher, you have to weigh the idea: do you want him to play once or twice a week (as a backup) or do you want him to continue to develop his traits (in the minors)? That’s something we’ll have to look at.”

Named Fall Stars Game MVP over the weekend, Sanchez is hitting .299/.329/.649 through 18 games in Arizona. On the day of the Murphy trade, Sanchez hit his league-leading seventh home run. He had a double this afternoon.

Sanchez’s performance closely resembles that of Greg Bird in last year’s Fall League. Bird was also name Fall Stars MVP and went on to win MVP of the league. Sanchez is making a case for doing the same.

A few more Yankees notes from around winter ball:

MiLB: MAY 03 Flying Tigers at Yankees• Sanchez wasn’t the only Yankees prospect in the Fall Stars Game. Overshadowed left-hander Chaz Hebert was also chosen, and he pitched a scoreless fourth inning to get the win. He struck out one. Hebert is Rule 5 eligible this winter, and he’s mostly pitched well in Arizona, although yesterday he walked four in 2.1 innings. He’s walked guys a lot more often than he did during the regular season, but in a typically offense-heavy league, Hebert has held opponents to a .189 batting average.

• Still playing primarily second base in Arizona, Tyler Wade on Tuesday had his first two-hit game since the Fall League opener. He was hitting second this afternoon — and getting a rare start at shortstop — when he was pulled from a game for an unknown reason in the third inning. Wade had walked and advanced to second on a fly ball in the top of the third, then he was replaced on defense to start the bottom of the inning. No clue what that’s about. He’s hitting .220/.313/.268.

• Continuing to get his first official game action of the year, Ian Clarkin made his fifth Fall League start on Tuesday and again went four innings. This time he allowed two runs on four hits with three walks. He’s gone exactly four innings in four of his five starts (went 4.1 in the other start). He’s also walked three in four of his five starts, and he’s struck out two in four of his five starts. He’s really, really young for this league. He’s just there to get innings, and he’s getting that.

• Left-handed reliever Tyler Webb allowed five runs in his past two Fall League appearances (four of them in a mess of an outing last Wednesday). He allowed one run yesterday and has an 8.31 ERA, but he’s held lefties to a .200 batting average with one walk. Righties have hit .364 against him.

Acevedo• The other Yankees pitcher in the Fall League is the young fireballer Domingo Acevedo. He pitched two scoreless innings on Monday with two hits, no walks and two strikeouts. He’s pitched five times in Arizona, and four of those have been scoreless and walkless. He’s struck out seven through 8.1 innings.

• After spending a little more than a week playing nothing but the outfield corners, Tyler Austin was back at first base Tuesday, then left field yesterday, then back to first base today. He doubled twice on Wednesday, his first extra-base hits since October 28. Austin already has seven steals in 17 games in Arizona. He had eight steals in 73 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.

• As planned, Dustin Fowler isn’t playing a ton the Arizona Fall League, but he’s making the most of his chances. In his past two games, Tuesday and today, Fowler was the team’s leadoff hitter. He reached base three times on Tuesday and had two hits today. He’s pretty young and inexperienced for the league, but he’s hitting .326/.356/.442 through 11 games. He’s played both left field and center field, and he’s 6-for-6 stealing bases.

• With a three-hit game on Saturday — and a 2-for-11 in his three games since then — Ben Gamel is now hitting .268/.337/.427 in Venezuela. Weird thing is, he still doesn’t have a hit against a lefty. Gamel is hitting .423/.458/.673 in 52 at-bats against right-handers. He’s hitting .000/.139/.000 in 30 at-bats against lefties. His splits were pretty much even in Triple-A this year, but for whatever reason he hasn’t hit lefties at all this winter.

Mitchell• Yesterday was Bryan Mitchell‘s third Puerto Rican winter ball start. He went 4.2 innings with one run on three hits and three walks. The game was rained out in the bottom of the fifth — a half inning after Mitchell exited — so he was one out away from a weird complete game. Through 13.1 innings, Mitchell has a 2.70 ERA with 11 strikeouts and five walks. It’s helpful that he’s getting a few more innings.

• Through 19 at-bats in Puerto Rico, Cito Culver has two hits. The former top Yankees draft pick is hitting just .105/.150/.105 while playing primarily third base. He’s played shortstop twice and made an error each time. Pro ball just hasn’t gone very well for Culver.

• Saturday was Jaron Long‘s first Venezuelan Winter League start in a week and a half. He allowed eight hits but only two runs through four innings. Through five starts, Long has a 2.28 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. Pretty good winter ball debut.

• Kind of a weird winter for reliever Mark Montgomery. He’s pitched in 11 games. In two of them, he was charged with a total of six earned runs with five walks. In the other nine appearances, he’s allowed just one earned run and walked none through eight innings. In those eight good outings, he’s struck out 12.

Associated Press photo of Sanchez


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 5:20 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Aaron Hicks and the ongoing promise of something better

Aaron Hicks

From his first-round draft selection, to his disappointing Major League debut, to his caught-off-guard trade to the Yankees, Aaron Hicks’ entire baseball career has been built around the potential for so much more.

He’s big and fast and strong, and he’s supposed to be better than a .225 hitter with not enough home runs and too many demotions to the minor leagues. Hicks is supposed to be a star. He knows it, and the Yankees still see it.

“A young, exciting talent,” general manager Brian Cashman said after Wednesday’s trade. “We think he’s an everyday player.”

For the Hicks, the challenge is just as it’s always been: figuring out how to make that happen.

“I’m feeling confident that I can hit big league pitching,” the 26-year-old said in a conference call this afternoon. “And that I’m developing into good Major League hitter.”

HicksDeveloping is the key word, because Hicks isn’t there yet. Not completely. Not the way the Twins and now Yankees believe he could be. This season was Hicks’ third with considerable at-bats in the big leagues and he hit .256 with 11 home runs after opening and spending much of the first half in Triple-A.

“I think the bottom line was he didn’t perform particularly well,” Twins manager Paul Molitor told reporters after Hicks was sent to minor league camp at the end of spring training.

Tangibly, that’s been the story of Hick’s big league career. He might be defined by his potential, but his results have been underwhelming.

Drafted 14th overall in 2008, Hicks was ranked four times by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus as one of the top 100 prospects in all of baseball. He was called to the big leagues straight from Double-A in 2013 but hit just .192. The next year, he was eventually demoted from the Majors back to Double-A.

At the time, the Twins publicly questioned Hicks’ preparation. They said there were times he didn’t even know the starting pitcher he would be facing on a given day. Hicks momentarily abandoned switch hitting out of frustration.

“I wanted to help my team win,” he said. “I felt like I wasn’t in a position (to do that), and it was one of the low times of my career. It helped push back up once I went back down to Double-A. Rod Carew actually called me and told me, what the heck am I doing giving up switch hitting? It’s a blessing, and that I should go back and work harder at it and learn from my mistakes. And he was right. I learned from my mistakes, and I’m happy that I was able to change that.”

Hicks has resumed hitting from the left side of the plate, but he was still much better from the right side in 2015. The Yankees believe that, at the very least, Hicks can help them as a right-handed platoon outfielder. But again, there’s potential for more, and Hicks has implemented a leg kick to help with his timing. He’s found that with better timing, his pitch recognition has improved.

Aaron Hicks“I learned I was never on time as a hitter,” he said. “Being a hitter, you have to know what the difference is between being on time and not being on time. Once I started doing the leg kick, I realized I’d never known what being on time was. I started doing the leg kick, and seeing the ball a lot better, seeing pitches out of the pitchers’ hands a lot easier. It was a big confidence booster, and I started making strides. … I’m actually working on being more of an aggressive hitter to take advantage of certain talents and being able to control the strike zone all over the place. I just want to be able to get better in my preparation as far as getting ready for pitchers.”

Hicks gave credit to veteran Torii Hunter for helping him mature off the field and take a more business-like approach to the game itself this season.

“(Being called out by the Twins) made me realize how much preparation … is key to being successful in the big leagues,” Hicks said. “If you don’t know who the starting pitcher is, it’s kind of tough to prepare for that. I think it made me a stronger player, a better player.”

There it is again, the promise for something better. It’s a promise that has followed Hicks out of high school, though the minor leagues and all the way to the Majors. It’s a promise that will follow him to Yankee Stadium.

“The team that just traded for me as confidence in me,” Hicks said. “And I think with me right now, just go there and try to make my way to just try to play. Just trying to play. Whatever they want me to do, just do it, and to know my role and help this team win.”

Associated Press photo


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 2:28 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

State of the organization: Left field

Indians Yankees Baseball

Jumping back into our series looking through the Yankees’ organization position by position, let’s move to a position that changed a little bit yesterday. The Yankees are still committed to a long-term contract in left field, but they also just traded for a player who could step into left field should the Yankees make another big trade in their outfield. Are the Yankees going to stick with their homegrown guy, or did yesterday’s trade set the stage for something bigger?

GardnerBrett Gardner
Signed through 2018; team option for ’19
After an all-star first half, Gardner’s production began to slip in July and it fell off completely in August. He hit .203/.288/.290 the final two months of the season, and he finished the season with a .259/.343/.399 slash line, which is more or less in line with his career numbers (he maintained last year’s home run improvements). Last spring, the Yankees signed Gardner to a four-year, $52-million extension which kicked in this season. That makes him a pretty good bargain in the current market. His yearly salary is less than a qualifying offer, and Chase Headley is making more per year. The contract makes Gardner pretty valuable on the trade market, and the Yankees can afford to trade him because they also have Jacoby Ellsbury and other young left-handed outfielders. Brian Cashman has had success trading valuable pieces of the big league roster, and he could look to do the same with Gardner, or he could hang onto one of the farm system’s real success stories of the past decade?

Hicks1Next in line
Aaron Hicks
The Yankees’ first big move of the offseason was to trade John Ryan Murphy to Minnesota for switch-hitting Hicks, a former high first-round draft pick who’s shown significant yearly improvements through his big league career but still hasn’t lived up to his early hype. Hicks is a bit of gamble because his production has never matched his tools, but he’s also just 26 years old and the Yankees gave up a player who was trapped in a backup role in their organization. At the very least, Hicks shows significant potential as a platoon option because he hit .307/.375/.495 against lefties last season, but Brian Cashman has said the Yankees believe he can be an everyday player. For now, Hicks fits the roster as a replacement for Chris Young. If there’s an injury or another trade, Hicks could get an opportunity to play more often. If he still can’t hit righties, the Yankees have no shortage of young left-handed options for left field.

VidalDeeper in the system
Carlos Vidal
The Yankees’ current left fielder was a center fielder throughout the minors, and that’s not particularly unusual. Big league left fielders can emerge from any number of positions in the minors, so looking for the Yankees’ organizational depth at the position requires at least some consideration of several other positions. This year’s 13th-round draft pick, Trey Amburgey played primarily left field in rookie ball and Staten Island, and he hit .346/.399/.523, so he’s worth noting as a lower-level guy who’s already in place at the position. That said, the Yankees have some center field depth, and many of those players could end up in left field under the right circumstances. Dustin Fowler is playing a decent amount of left field in the Arizona Fall League, and I’m listing Vidal because he’s a pretty decent young outfielder who hit .303/.389/.492 in Pulaski this season and eventually could be forced to left field if the Yankees have center field covered. Plenty of deeper-in-the-system guys could end up in left field. Have to give it some time to see how things shake out.

GamelWorth consideration
Ben Gamel
Gamel is one of the the more interesting players in the Yankees’ system largely because of the circumstances surrounding his breakout season. He is not considered a Top 10 organizational prospect, but he had perhaps the best year of anyone in the system. Long considered kind of a sleeper prospect, Gamel finally broke out with a .300/.358/.472 slash line in Triple-A. He started the year as kind of a fourth outfielder with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and he became the team’s MVP. But what should the Yankees make of it? Gamel is still just 23 years old, he’s never put up numbers quite like this, and he’s Rule 5 eligible this offseason. Is he worth protecting with a 40-man spot? Is he worth considering ahead of Slade Heathcott or Mason Williams on the big league depth chart? While Gamel can play center field, he’s played mostly left field through his minor league career, so he could fit as an immediate fit with a little bit of speed, a little bit of power, and some defensive versatility playing all three outfield spots. The Yankees are overloaded with left-handed outfielders. Where should Gamel fit in that discussion?

EllsburyOne big question
Are the Yankees gearing up for another trade?
Two things Cashman said after yesterday’s trade for Hicks: He acknowledged the trade could make it easier to make another deal, but he also said the trade wasn’t designed to set up something bigger. It’s pretty easy to see how Hicks could fit on a roster with the Yankees’ other outfielders — he basically replaces Young while offering more potential if he’s needed as an everyday replacement — but it’s also pretty easy to imagine the Yankees rolling the dice with Hicks plus a young outfielder (Heathcott? Gamel? Williams?) if they can find legitimate trade value for either Gardner or Ellsbury. Trading Ellsbury is difficult because of his no-trade clause and the money attached to his contract. Gardner’s name, though, has been mentioned as a trade chip for more than a month now. Simply freeing his salary doesn’t do much because the Yankees would have to spend more money just to replace him, but the Yankees could use Gardner to plug another hole, opening left field for either an internal candidate or a major free agent acquisition. Right now, the Yankees have a left fielder signed to a multi-year deal, but is Cashman’s creative roster maneuvering going to change that situation in the next few weeks?

Associated Press photo



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 11:22 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

A year later: Looking back at the Cervelli-for-Wilson trade

Justin Wilson

One year ago today, the Yankees made their first major move of a busy offeseason.

It was last November 12 that Francisco Cervelli was traded to the Pirates for Justin Wilson. It was an early indication of Brian Cashman’s plan to use Major League players as trade chips, and it began a series of trades that significantly changed the big league roster.

At the time, the Yankees had too many catchers and not enough left-handed relievers. In the short term, the deal has worked incredibly well for each team. Cervelli became a good everyday player in Pittsburgh, while Wilson became a go-to seventh-inning reliever with the Yankees.

“I think one of our strengths of our team was our bullpen,” Joe Girardi said. “Cervy, if he was here, he would have gotten playing time, but then again, Brian McCann would have been our everyday catcher. So, I think it worked out well for both clubs. Justin Wilson was extremely important to us and was a big part of our strength. We felt if we had the lead after six innings, we were going to nail it down. And it wasn’t necessarily I couldn’t just shuffle those guys and put them in any order; they all did the job. So, it worked out well for both clubs.”

Here are the numbers.


Wilson: 3.10 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.7 K/9, 74 games, 1.4 bWAR

His strikeouts went up a little bit, and he cut down on his walks quite a bit. Just like in Pittsburgh, Wilson was able to get both lefties and righties out (left-handed hitters actually had a higher OPS against him than right-handed hitters). His emergence basically made up for the disappointment of David Carpenter, and he gave the Yankees a three-headed monster in the late innings. Wilson appeared in just as many games as Dellin Betances, so his workload was significant.


Cervelli: .295/.370/.401 in 130 games, 3.1 bWAR

It’s not that the Yankees didn’t know Cervelli could hit like this. He hit .278/.348/.381 during his career in New York, and he hit .301/.370/.432 in his final season with the Yankees. He’d proven he could play at the big league level. But I’m not sure the Yankees knew Cervelli could hold up through 510 plate appearances. He had just 362 plate appearances in his past four seasons, and although some of that was because he was playing a backup role, some of it was because Cervelli really couldn’t stay healthy (he had a suspension in there as well).

John Ryan MurphyGiven the choice between a good seventh-inning reliever or an everyday catcher with a .370 on-base percentage, I imagine every team would prefer the catcher. For the Yankees, though, those weren’t the options. Had Cervelli stayed with the Yankees, he wouldn’t have played nearly as often as he did with the Pirates. He would have been a backup, getting roughly a third of the at-bats.

In reality, this two-player deal had a third important component.

John Ryan Murphy: .277/.327/.406 in 67 games, 0.5 bWAR

By trading Cervelli, the Yankees not only acquired Wilson, they also opened playing time for Murphy, who was terrific against lefties (.266/.314/.456) and got better as the season went along (.308/.368/.487 in the second half). At 24 years old, Murphy proved himself as a legitimate big league backup with potential to be an everyday guy in the future.

And 364 days after trading Cervelli, the Yankees traded Murphy.

Finding another team that valued their backup catcher as a potential everyday option, the Yankees again showed faith in their catching depth — especially the improvements of Gary Sanchez — and swapped Murphy for another young player with upside, this time acquiring outfielder Aaron Hicks. That trade for Hicks wouldn’t have happened had Murphy not had an opportunity to play, which wouldn’t have happened had the Yankees not traded Cervelli to open the playing time.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Thursday, November 12th, 2015 at 9:00 am. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Notes and links on Day 3 of the GM Meetings: Cashman talks trades

John Ryan Murphy, Alex Rodriguez

Pulling a couple of quotes from The Associated Press, plus one passed along by a friend down in Florida, here’s Brian Cashman talking about today’s Yankees trades:

On the role of Aaron Hicks next season
“A young, exciting talent. We think he’s an everyday player. … At the very least, he provides us what we were getting from Chris Young the last two years, and at the very most he provides us a lot of flexibility depending on how the winter transpires.”

On the possibility of now trading Brett Gardner
“I have been hit on Gardy over the years quite often, and he hasn’t gone anywhere,” Cashman said. “I value Gardy a great deal. … He’s not an easy get.”

On trading Jose Pirela for Ronald Herrera
“It was a straight out roster deal. We got a prospect that is a performer, 20-years-old from Venezuela. He’ll drop into our Florida State League Tampa team or our Trenton Thunder team depending on how his spring training goes. He’s a four-pitch mix, strike thrower and for a 40-man roster guy in Pirela. I’ve got some roster crunches with some protection issues as well as some anticipated signing guys off the free agent or trades. Just a continuization of cleaning up my roster. I’m just trying to find a match with people on some of the guys at the back of my 40 and so we found one with San Diego. He’s a starter.”

And here are a few notes and links on this third day of the GM Meetings:

Andrew Miller• Ken Rosenthal reports that the Diamondbacks have talked to the Yankees about the availability of Andrew Miller, though it’s unclear whether those discussions have lead to anything meaningful. Could be little more than checking on the price tag. The Yankees and Diamondbacks have made a handful of swaps recently, so there’s some history there. Would be interesting to see what kind of deal it would take for the Yankees to move Miller.

• Mark Feinsand quotes a source saying the Yankees are considering a run at free agent starting pitcher Wei-Yin Chen. Feinsand also says Chen is seeking a deal of at least five years, “though six isn’t out of the question given the need for pitching around the league.” Chen turns 31 in July.

• From Rhett Bollinger, here’s the Twins’ assistant general manager talking about Aaron Hicks: “It was tough to part with him because he started to turn the corner last year, especially maturity-wise.” And here’s the assistant GM’s comment on John Ryan Murphy: “We think he’s going to hit. He’s got some power and he has a strong arm behind the plate.”

• Buster Olney says Darren O’Day is a pretty popular free agent this early in the offseason. Olney says O’Day already has offers on the table and will begin speaking with individual managers pretty soon. If the Yankees want another go-to late-inning reliever, O’Day could be a strong fit coming off a terrific four-year stretch and a career-best strikeout rate in 2015.

• Outfielder Franklin Gutierrez has re-signed with the Mariners. Back from injury, Gutierrez put up surprisingly good numbers this season, including a .973 OPS against lefties. Could have been seen as a possible right-handed outfield solution for the Yankees, but that situation might have been resolved with today’s trade for Hicks.

• The Braves have re-signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski. He almost certainly would not have been a fit for the Yankees, though I do wonder if the Yankees will eventually add some sort of veteran catcher — at least on a minor league deal — just to give themselves some short-term insurance behind the plate.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 at 8:32 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Cashman’s new go-to move: Acquiring big league talent with upside

Brian Cashman

In the past 12 months, Yankees’ general manager Brian Cashman has developed a signature touch on the trade market.

Reluctant to trade minor league prospects, and hesitant to add more aging veterans, Cashman has in the past year used existing pieces of the Major League roster to acquire young players who haven’t yet lived up to their potential in the big leagues.

That’s what he did in acquiring shortstop Didi Gregorius last offseason. It’s also what he did in a move for starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, in a mid-season swap for second baseman Dustin Ackley, and to some extent in the trade for reliever Justin Wilson.* It’s what Cashman did today in a deal to acquire Aaron Hicks.

Two years ago, Cashman stuck to the old game plan of spending heavily on the free agent market. In the past year, he’s invested heavily in Andrew Miller and Chase Headley, but he’s mostly reshaped his team through the trade market, using expendable young talent to acquire other young talent. So far, the strategy has been a success.

Justin WilsonNovember 12, 2014
Pirates get: Francisco Cervelli
Yankees get: Justin Wilson

At the time, Cervelli was expendable because of young catching depth in the Yankees’ system, and Wilson was a former fifth-round pick with a couple of uneven years in the big leagues. It was a trade that worked well for each side as Cervelli stayed healthy and thrived in Pittsburgh, John Ryan Murphy stepped in and played well in New York, and Wilson emerged as a strong seventh-inning reliever for the Yankees.

December 5, 2014
Tigers get: Shane Greene
Yankees get: Didi Gregorius

At the time, Greene’s value was at an all-time high after a standout second half, and Gregorius was a former Top 100 overall prospect who had yet to stick as an everyday shortstop in the big leagues. The Yankees gave Gregorius the job without much competition, and he thrived in the second half while Greene fell flat after a red-hot start in Detroit. It took a three-team deal to get it done, but the Yankees might have found a long-term answer at short.

December 19, 2015
Marlins get: David Phelps, Martin Prado
Yankees get: Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones, Domingo German

At the time, Phelps was basically an Adam Warren-type while Prado was a good fit who was deemed replaceable at the right price. Jones and German were secondary elements — a veteran role player and a prospect — for the prize off Eovaldi, a then 24-year-old former Top 100 prospect who’d been solid but not exceptional in four big leagues seasons. Prado and Phelps were each useful and versatile players for Miami, but Eovaldi began to shine in mid-June, going 9-1 with a 3.43 ERA in his final 14 starts.

Dustin AckleyJuly 30, 2015
Mariners get: Ramon Flores, Jose Ramirez
Yankees get: Dustin Ackley

At the time, Flores and Ramirez had a little bit of big league time and they were going to run out of options at the end of the year (meaning they were basically big leaguers or bust going forward), and Ackley was a former second-overall draft pick who had disappointed offensively since making a pretty good first impression as a rookie. Flores got hurt before he could get in a big league game with Seattle, Ramirez pitched five times for the Mariners, and Ackley became an impact hitter down the stretch for the Yankees. With two more years of team control, Ackley could play a lasting role either as a second baseman or a utility man.

November 11, 2015
Twins get: John Ryan Murphy
Yankees get: Aaron Hicks

At this time, Murphy is an emerging backup catcher who could prove himself as an everyday option if given the chance, and Hicks is a former No. 14 overall draft pick whose numbers have improved year-by-year at the big league level. With the Twins, Murphy should have a better opportunity for regular playing time and a better chance to win an everyday job. With the Yankees, Hicks can immediately step in as a platoon player, and he could win everyday opportunities if he continues the improvement he’s shown in Minnesota.

* Just because it might come up: Dealing a prospect in the Manny Baneulos trade and acquiring a prospect in the Shawn Kelley trade weren’t quite the same thing. In each one, Cashman clearly focused on acquiring young talent instead of veteran talent, but those trades weren’t he the same idea of trading a piece of the big league roster for a young-but-still-developing player on another team’s big league roster.

Associated Press photos



Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 at 5:33 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Five quick thoughts on the John Ryan Murphy for Aaron Hicks trade

John Ryan Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury

Well, this isn’t the blog post I expected to be writing today. The Yankees just traded a young, popular, cost-controlled catcher to the Twins for a young, emerging, cost-controlled outfielder. John Ryan Murphy is gone. Aaron Hicks has arrived. The trade has immediate implications for the big league roster, and it could have a lasting impact well into the future. A few quick thoughts on the Murphy-for-Hicks swap:

Hicks1. Murphy has everyday potential, but maybe not with Yankees
Throughout the minor leagues, Murphy made such defensive strides that he wiped out the idea that he was strictly a bat-first catcher who might have to play elsewhere. Given his first Opening Day opportunity, he made further strides at the big league level, finishing the year with a .308/.368/.487 slash line in the second half. He is, at the very least, a good young backup, but he really could become a big league regular kind of like Francisco Cervelli. With the Yankees, though, Murphy was blocked in every direction. He had Brian McCann’s contract in front of him with Gary Sanchez’s bat coming up behind him. Even if Murphy were going to reach his potential, there was always a chance the Yankees would not be able to take advantage of it. They sent Murphy to a team that can give him a better opportunity.

2. Hicks brings right-handed platoon with potential for more
One year before the Yankees took Murphy in the second round, the Twins took Hicks with the 14th overall draft selection. He has long been touted for his five-tool potential, but he’s fallen short of those lofty expectations up to this point. That said, Hicks has gotten noticeably better year after year, and this season he hit .307/.375/.495 against lefties. At the very least, it seems Hicks is ready to replace Chris Young as the Yankees’ right-handed platoon outfielder. If he continues to develop, he could play his way into something even more. In the short-term, he fits as a role player, but he just turned 26 and has four years of team control. This swap could be as simple as the Yankees deciding a backup catcher is easier to find than a young, switch-hitting outfielder with plenty of team control.

3. This trade could impact other trade possibilities
An immediate reaction to the Yankees trading for an outfielder: this makes it easier to trade Brett Gardner. Yes, it certainly does. If the Yankees believe Hicks can be an everyday player — and Brian Cashman has said as much — then they could swap Gardner (or Jacoby Ellsbury, if possible) for either a pitcher or a second baseman or a money-saving prospect. Hicks makes that possibility a little easier, but it doesn’t make it a sure thing. It’s pretty easy to imagine Hicks fitting on a roster with Gardner, Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. Makes it easier to trade Gardner, but doesn’t necessarily make it inevitable. The deal also impacts another Yankees trade chip, because it likely makes it more difficult to trade Sanchez. The Yankees could have dealt Sanchez and committed to a McCann/Murphy combination for the foreseeable future. Now, trading Sanchez would leave the Yankees thin behind the plate.

4. Sanchez is suddenly in the big league mix (but so is Romine)
The Yankees just traded a catcher, and they also happen to have a high-end catching prospect who made massive strides this season and got to the big leagues for the first time. He also happens to be currently crushing the ball in the Arizona Fall League. Trading Murphy clearly makes it easier for Sanchez to get to the big leagues early next season, perhaps as early as Opening Day. Cashman said today that he’s open to that idea, but he’s not committed to it. The Yankees still have Austin Romine on their roster, and he’s a reliable defensive catcher who has some big league experience and had a bit of a bounce-back year in Triple-A this season. He’s suddenly back in the picture as a backup possibility should the Yankees decide Sanchez needs a little bit more minor league seasoning.

5. It feels a lot like last offseason already
Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the Yankees trading Cervelli for Justin Wilson. In the past year, Cashman has shown a willingness and ability to make unexpected trades using pieces of the big league roster. He’s also shown a willingness to take a shot on players who are still young and haven’t yet lived up to their potential in the big leagues. That’s what he did with Didi Gregorius, it’s what he did with Nathan Eovaldi, it’s what he did with Dustin Ackley, and now it’s what he’s doing with Hicks. Murphy is a year and a half younger than Hicks, and Hicks has one less year of team control, so this move on its own doesn’t make the Yankees younger. But it does open the possibility to get younger if Hicks replaces Young and Sanchez replaces Murphy.

Associated Press photos


Posted by:Chad Jenningson Wednesday, November 11th, 2015 at 3:12 pm. InMisc with Comments Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

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