Running on Empty?

One of the unstated reasons the Yankees might try to add a starter, any starter, between now and the deadline is that both Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery are probably going to face innings limit problems in the future.

With 65 games left, each starter should get approximately 13 starts if healthy. Through 19 starts, Severino has thrown 120.2 innings. He threw 160 in 2015 and 150 in 2016. Montgomery has thrown only 101 innings so far and threw 140 last year.

Now the Yankees aren’t about to announce the innings limits for these guys and this is guesswork only. But most teams use a percentage for the jump from year to year, 20 to 30 percent seems to be the usual range. Using those numbers, Severino could go as high as 195 innings with Montgomery clocking in at 180. That would leave both with a cap of about 75 more innings.

That would be more manageable, but still would require the Yankees to juggle their spots and probably skip them at least once or twice the rest of the way. That’s why I think they are going to hone in on a starter over the next week and use a six-man rotation more than once the rest of the way.

Mission Impossible?

I started writing this Saturday. In the interim, this came out which is the same idea essentially. I’m still posting mine because it contains a specific idea.

If I’m Brian Cashman, I am trying to figure out how to send Jacoby Ellsbury somewhere else. The simple truth is that he is currently their fourth-best, healthy, outfielder. When Aaron Hicks is healthy, he will slip to 5th. By next spring, I am pretty sure he will rank even lower than that. This contract is a disaster and an easy way to improve the Yankees is to move past it.

There are three big obstacles in the way of that:

1- The Yankees owe him $68-million between his salary from 2018 through 2020 and his 2021 option buyout.

2- He has a no-trade clause.

3- The Yankees aren’t about to eat $68-million dollars, but trading him for another bad contract doesn’t make sense unless the position is one of need- ie. not the outfield.

Based on that, I think the Yankees should call the Giants and talk about a Jeff Samardzjia-Jacoby Ellsbury trade. Samardzjia is owed $57-million through 2020 and has an ERA north of 5 currently. I assume even with that the Yankees would need to kick money in to at least equalize the contracts, but this is the place I would start. Find a team with a bad pitching contract and see if you can make a deal. Samardzjia has a limited no-trade clause, so that complicates things further, but there are always ways to get around that. If it worked, the Yankees would have a guy who has thrown 200 innings each of the last three seasons and is on pace to do so again. Yes, they are not great innings, but the Yankees could use a starter who can eat up innings right now. And with the certainty that Sabathia and Pineda won’t be back next year, a veteran starter isn’t the worst idea in the world.

It’s worth noting that Ellsbury is on the bench today against a RHP with Frazier in left and Gardner in center. He was benched against the LHP last night, so I suspect the Yankees are trying to “encourage” him to be flexible about his no-trade clause. Let’s see what happens.

Stupid Stuff

Todd Frazier says he grew up a “baseball fan” not rooting for a particular team, but rooting for one player- Paul O’Neill. To that end, he has worn the number 21 on both of his previous teams. (Sidebar, he is from Toms River, NJ, decent chance baseball fan equals Phillies fan, but that’s just a guess.) When he got to the Yankees, he was given the number 29, but said he was going to have a talk with O’Neill about wearing 21 when the Yankees returned home. Now that apparently won’t happen and he will stick to 29, after talking to some “guys”.

This is remarkably dumb. He should wear 21. In fact he is probably the perfect person to wear 21. Paul O’Neill should stop this stupidity and ask for Frazier to wear 21. It’s been SIXTEEN years since O’Neill played and the Yankees have tried once, and only once, to assign 21 to another player. That didn’t go well, but its long past time. And remember, the Yankees had a plaque ceremony for O’Neill a few years ago and didn’t retire the number.

The Yankees have retired way too many numbers. I’ve written about this before, coming up with the “great, but not great enough” category after Andy Pettitte retired for the first time in 2011. Basically, players who are not Hall of Famers get their number placed out of circulation for the same number of years as they played with the Yankees.

Unfortunately, the Yankees recently went the opposite way and retired Posada, Pettitte, and Bernie’s numbers along with the three no-brainers, Jeter, Rivera, and Torre. And that is despite the whole plaque part of the equation. That’s a wonderful compromise for the great, but not great enoughs. Give them a plaque and a ceremony, hold the number out of circulation for awhile, but stop this stupidity. Someone should wear 21 again and soon. The question is, who?

Didn’t Notice-UPDATED

Fascinating piece on Si.com today about how the Yankees are deliberately throwing the least amount of fastballs in the big leagues this year. The basic premise is that fastballs, even really good ones, get hit more than other pitches, and the data backs that up.

Here’s the thing that really shocked me, the Yankees are only throwing fastballs about 43% of the time. If you had asked me to guess their fastball usage. I probably would have said at least 60% and probably closer to 70%. I simply hadn’t noticed this change. It’s a good article, and well worth your time. I’m going to start paying more attention to the little things!
*****

Keep an eye on the roster moves the Yankees make today because they will tell us a lot about how the new players will be used, and how the rotation will be shaped going forward.

With the addition of three big leaguers and the Subtraction of one from the roster, two moves have to be made. I would assume the Yankees will send a pitcher and a hitter to the minors as that would leave them with the same roster composition as before the trade. The hitter will almost certainly be either Choi or Cooper. If it is Choi, you might see the Yankees use Frazier at first against RHP and move him to third against LHP with Cooper moving to first. Headley has a .534 OPS abs LHP, so this would make sense. If Choi stays and Cooper goes, then I would assume Frazier is pretty much the everyday firstbaseman.

As for the pitchers it will almost certainly be Cessa or Smith sent down. The Yankees chose to keep Smith around and demote Mitchell yesterday, so maybe they are seriously considering letting him replace Pineda. Cessa didn’t look very good yesterday, so the Yankees might want to try something new.

UPDATE- I wasn’t thinking about the 40-man roster and the need to clear space on that too. So the Yankees DFA’ed Choi and Rob Refsnyder while sending Chason Shreve to the minors.

Choi is not a shock at all. Refsnyder shows how crowded the 40-man is becoming and reinforces why trading Clarkin is probably for the best. I’m surprised that Shreve was the guy to get sent down because he has been pretty good this year. But as I think more about it, Cessa or Smith are the only “long” guys in the pen, so the Yankees probably want them both around for now.

A Big Trade-UPDATING

10:37pm We don’t have anything official, but the Yankees are apparently getting David Robertson, Todd Frazier, and Tommy Kahnle from Chicago. The return package is Blake Rutherford, Ian Clarkin, and perhaps more.

Let’s break this down piece by piece.

Robertson is clearly a name we know and he has pretty much done what he did here, in Chicago. Adding him back to the bullpen gives the Yankees a lot of firepower at the back of the pen, but at a big price.

Frazier is a pending free agent who can play first or third and has a .214 BABIP, which suggests his .207 average is a fluke. He has a .328 OBP and a .432 slugging, so he is a much better option at first tha what the Yankees have tired so far and he could shift to third if they traded Headley. (That wouldn’t be a shock right now.)

Kahnle is a former Yankee farm hand who they lost to the Rule 5 draft after 2013. It’s all clicked for him this year and he isn’t a free agent until 2021.

Rutherford is the prize going back, but he is only in single A and the Yankees have a ton of outfield prospects/ young guys. Rutherford is projected to be a corner guy, so I can’t kill them for trading him when you consider the wealth they have in the corners right now.

Clarkin was a first round pick in 2013, but he is still in A ball and would need to be protected on the 40-man this offseason. I don’t think the Yankees would want to do that, so this isn’t a loss.

10:50pm- Tyler Clippard is apparently part of the trade which really isn’t a loss at all.

11:02pm- The Yankees are sending a fourth player to Chicago according to reports.

11:10- Think about the potential bullpen choices if this happens. Kahnle, Green, Warren, Robertson, Betances, and Chapman. Wow

11:24- Not sure how to quantify this, but I would bet anything that if D-Rob comes home, Betances moves to the 7th inning. That would diminish his earning potential in arbitration next year which has to factor in this trade.

11:55- Both the Yankees and White Sox have finished their games. Not sure why a trade hasn’t been announced at this point.

12:04- The trade is official! What I said above, plus Tito Polo, a guy the Yankees acquired for Ivan Nova in addition.

This is the type of trade I can handle from the Yankees. Rutherford may turn out to be awesome, but he isn’t considered a center fielder by the Yankees and they hope that Judge and Clint Frazier are going to lock down the corners for years to come. Clarkin is not a guy the Yankees have roster room for, so he is a sunk cost. Polo may be the best of the bunch, but again, the Yankees have a lot of guys ahead of him on the depth chart. Clippard is a salary dump.

In exchange the Yankees have two huge bullpen assets for this year and next, plus Frazier for rest of the year at first. At the very least, this should solidify their wild card chances. At best, they are now contenders for the division.

I won’t go that far, but for a big market team, this is a solid trade. They’ve improved the team this year and next, but havent subtracted from the immmediate future. Perhaps they regret this in 2020, but that means that Judge and Clint Frazier didn’t pan out.

Symmetry

The Yankees have played 91 games and as Jack Curry pointed out, look what happens if you slice the season into thirds with the extra game in the middle

1/3- 21 and 9
2/3- 17 and 14
3/3- 9 and 21

If you take the middle part, 17-14, that equals an 88-win pace over 162 games. That’s a tad higher than I thought they were capable of in March, but only by a few wins. For the whole season, they are on pace for about 84-wins, right about where I thought they would end up. The key to me is that 21-9 seems more of an outlier than the other 61 games. I hope the front office agrees.

The Word on Bird

The Yankees announced that Greg Bird is going to have surgery tomorrow and there is a six-week rehab afterwards. If everything went well, that would put him back on a baseball field right before Labor Day. The minor league regular season usually ends right around then. so there is little room for him to be able to return and get into rehab games.

And that’s clearly the goal here. Joe Girardi has this to say: “It’s really tough to get on track when you’ve missed basically two whole years. Hopefully he can get some at-bats before the end of the year.”

For now, the Yankees appear to be willing to try a platoon with Choi and Cooper. That’s not an optimal idea for a team with only four bench players, so I wouldn’t expect it to be the ultimate solution. The Yankees will probably look pretty hard at the trade market for first baseman.

Split Decision

Considering how the series started, escaping Boston with a split of the series seems a victory. Granted, expectations are low, before yesterday/today the Yankees had gone over a month since they last won consecutive games.

To me the biggest takeaway from this series is the quality of the starting pitching. Montgomery bended, but did not break. Severino was great. Ditto that for Sabathia and Tanaka. If they can collectively keep doing that, the Yankees will be a force in the second half, no matter who the fifth starter is.

And while Tanaka lost tonight, you can’t emphasize enough how big that start was. 7-2/3rd innings was exactly what a depleted bullpen needed. With tomorrow’s starter still TBD! the Yankees are going to need a full bullpen, and they should have close to that when they land in Minnesota.

2-2 coming out of Boston and seven games left on the road trip. This week will determine a lot.

Pray for Rain-UPDATED AFTER GAME 1

The Yankees pulled out a victory by the skin of their teeth on Saturday. A dramatic homer in the ninth followed by some nifty escapes in extras, and a bizarre play at first, gave the Yankees a sixteen-inning victory. Now they get to play a doubleheader!

Expect some big roster changes. The Yankees have already announced that CC Sabathia, and not Bryan Mitchell, will start this afternoon. Mitchell will almost certainly be recalled for depth. Luis Cessa hasn’t been down in the minors long enough to be recalled without injury, but the 26-man rule for doubleheaders lets the Yankees get around that. I would expect them to add a third pitcher as the bullpen is a mess right now. It wouldn’t shock me to see Chad Green as the closer today. And if the Yankees have to pitch a lot of bullpen innings today, tomorrow will be really interesting as the scheduled starter already is “TBD”.

UPDATE-Three new pitchers it is. Mitchell is the 26th man, Domingo German and Caleb Smith promoted from AAA. I suspect Cessa will start tomorrow and is on a plane to Minnesota. The interesting thing is that they opened a 40-man spot for Smith, a late bloomer who has had a nice year at AAA. I wonder if they are going to look at him as a possible Pineda replacement?

UPDATE- Cessa is starting Tuesday, so tomorrow is still TBD. I wonder if the Yankees are going to see if Caleb Smith pitches in game 1 today, and if not get him on an evening flight to Minnesota?

UPDATE- The Yankees have now won consecutive games for the first time since June 11th/12th. Getting six innings out of CC was huge as they only used the bullpen for three.

Ugh

That’s all I have to say about that.