Yankees will reportedly receive Reds' No. 7 prospect and Competitive Balance pick.
5:15 PM: The second trade is now official, sending Long from the Yankees to Seattle for Stowers. If we’re basing length of Yankees career by @YankeesPR tweets, Long was a Yankee for 10 minutes.
5:05 PM: The Yankees have announced the first part of today’s trades, as Gray and Sanmartin are officially members of the Reds now. No word on the follow-up trade with Seattle.
Stowers was the 54th overall pick in the 2018 draft, and was ranked No. 10 in the Mariners farm system. He started his career in Short-A, where he hit .260/.380/.410 (126 wRC+) with five home runs. Stowers does not have to be protected on the 40-man roster until December 2021, whereas Long would have to be placed on the Yankees’ 40-man roster. With thinned-out outfield depth rearing its ugly head last season, the Yankees replenish by adding Stowers
4:09 PM: Jeff Passan of ESPN reports that Gray has officially been traded to Cincinnati.
Gray has agreed to a three-year, $30.5 million extension with a $12.5 million club option for 2023, according to Rosenthal. Long, formerly the Reds’ No. 7 prospect, will be part of the Yankees’ return, per Passan. The Yankees will receive the No. 36 overall pick in the 2019 Rule 4 Draft as well. The Yankees will send 22-year-old lefty Reiver Sanmartin to the Reds to complete the deal.
12:19 PM: The Yankees “had … deals with other clubs in place Friday,” and could pivot if the Reds are unable to agree to an extension with Gray and his agent by the deadline today, according to MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand. The deadline for negotiations could be 5 p.m. or midnight, though it is unclear which according to Feinsand.
Previous reports have indicated the Athletics, Braves, Brewers, Giants and more could be interested in dealing for Gray still.
10:30 AM: The moment Brian Cashman had indicated would come in November 2018 seems to have finally arrived. Per multiple reports across baseball media, the Yankees will trade right-hander Sonny Gray to the Cincinnati Reds pending negotiations on an extension to keep him at Great American Ballpark.
The reported return for Gray would be Reds No. 7 prospect Shed Long, as well as the Reds’ Competitive Balance A pick in the 2019 Rule 4 Draft. That pick will be No. 36 overall. This return appears dependent on the Reds working out an extension with Gray within the 72-hour negotiating window, which reportedly ends “late Monday,” per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The Reds appear ready to buy into a bounce-back campaign from Gray, who stumbled to a 4.90 ERA and was demoted to long relief by the end of the 2018 campaign. The 29-year-old held a great 3.17 ERA away from Yankee Stadium, and limited opponents to a .614 OPS in a 71-inning sample away from the Bronx. At Yankee Stadium, however, Gray got bombed to a 6.98 ERA and .932 OPS against. To use player comparisons, hitters averaged Nolan Arenado numbers at Yankee Stadium while putting up worse than Billy Hamilton numbers on the road.
Despite pitching fewer innings at home, Gray walked 13 more batters in the Bronx and allowed eight more home runs. Something about the crowd or the construction of the stadium made Gray nibble, or lose command of his pitches. Then, once in trouble because of walks, he could never make the big pitch to get out of his own mess.
It remains to be seen how Gray will do at Great American Ballpark, which had a less favorable park factor for pitchers (per Baseball Reference) in 2018.
It’s pretty amazing that Brian Cashman could turn Gray into a top-10 prospect. Shed Long, a 23-year-old converted catcher, was a 12th-round pick of the Reds in 2013. His position change to second base in 2015 led to an offensive breakout in 2016, which saw him hit .293/.371/.471 with 15 home runs between Class-A Dayton and High-A Daytona.
His development continued in 2017 by repeating most of the season in Daytona, with a stellar .922 OPS in 62 games. He then spent the final 42 games in Double-A Pensacola with a .680 OPS, although he missed time with a wrist injury. He played 126 games at Double-A in 2018, hitting .261/.353/.412 with 12 home runs. He also had a 19-game cameo in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .241/.333/.310 for Scottsdale.
From his MLB Pipeline scouting report: “As long as he can maintain average, or close to it, defense, Long should have a long career as an offensive-minded second baseman. His bat shouldn’t take too much longer to be ready for Great American Ball Park.”
The more intriguing possibility for the Yankees here is the No. 37 pick in the 2019 draft. Brian Cashman has always pursued extra opportunities to acquire high-quality talent. Are they acquiring the pick just to stockpile, or are they planning to incur some kind of draft pick penalty in the future? If the Yankees go over $246 million in payroll, they would “have their highest selection in the next Rule 4 Draft moved back 10 places”. That would have them pick 40th instead of at 30. Should they sign Bryce Harper, or any other free agent who was extended a qualifying offer, they would forfeit their second-round pick (No. 68) as well as $500,000 from their international bonus pool.
Either way, the pick could bring massive benefit to the Yankees.
The second of Brian Cashman’s relievers appears to be headed to the Bronx, as The Athletic‘s Robert Murray reports the Yankees and Adam Ottavino are close to a 3-year deal in the $25 million range. Jon Heyman of Fancred reports the deal is for three years at $27 million total.
Ottavino was a top-10 pitcher in terms of fWAR for the Colorado Rockies in 2018, pitching to a 2.43 ERA (2.74 FIP) and striking out 12.98 batters per nine innings. The 33-year-old recorded 34 holds for the Rockies, as well as six saves. He recorded 32 of what Fangraphs calls “shutdowns,” which indicate the player’s performance in a certain game increased his teams chance of winning by 6%. Plus, he’s poised to make Yankees uniform history as the first player to wear No. 0.
The Yankees have prioritized relief pitching in each of the past few seasons, always looking to make things tougher on their opponents as it becomes later in games. Ottavino fits the Yankees pitching profile as he only throws his four-seam fastball 1.3% of the time. Ottavino relies on 5 pitches: Slider (46.8%), Sinker (41.9%), Cutter (9.8%), Four Seamer (1.3%), Changeup (0.2%).
This contract carries a $9 million average annual value, and that’s what matters in terms of the competitive balance tax. I have a feeling that Ottavino took less money in order to become a New York Yankee. He was born in New York, and was in the stands for David Wells‘s perfect game in 1998. Plus, he jumps from the altitude of Coors Field in Colorado into the fire of the American League East in the Bronx.
Ottavino now completes what could easily be called the most dominant back end of any bullpen in all of major-league baseball right now. With 27 days until pitchers and catchers report to Tampa, Yankees fans can feel good about their relief pitching corps.
So long, Tim Locastro. We hardly knew you. After designating the 26-year-old for assignment in order to officially sign DJ LeMahieu, the Yankees dealt him to the Arizona Diamondbacks for 17-year-old lefty Ronald Roman and cash considerations.
Locastro came to the Yankees from the Los Angeles Dodgers as the latter unloaded him ahead of the 40-man roster deadline in November. The Yankees gave up 2015 third-round pick Drew Finley and cash to acquire him. Locastro, who had become redundant with the signing of LeMahieu and the presence of Thairo Estrada in the minors, hit .279/.389/.409 (118 wRC+) for Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Dodgers organization in 2018.
This is where things get interesting: Roman has yet to pitch in a professional game. The Diamondbacks signed him July 2 as soon as the new international signing period opened. All we know is that he’s a lefty, is 6’3″ and weighs 185 pounds. Roman, who hails from Puerto Plata in the Dominican Republic, will likely start the 2019 season with the Yankees rookie affiliate in the Dominican Summer League.
I’d imagine the Yankees acquired cash from Arizona because they had traded cash to Los Angeles for Locastro in the first place. That would, I assume, make the two deals financially neutral.
Jan. 14: The Yankees have officially signed LeMahieu, and have designated utility man Tim Locastro for assignment to create a 40-man roster spot.
Locastro had been acquired right around the 40-man roster deadline in November in exchange for 2015 third-rounder Drew Finley. I would think the Yankees will attempt to sneak him through outright waivers to have him with the RailRiders in 2019. We’ll see.
The Yankees have agreed with a free-agent infielder on a contract, but it’s not the one people expected. Manny Machado, move over. Multiple reports from all over the baseball media landscape say the Yankees agreed with 30-year-old DJ LeMahieu on a 2-year, $24 million contract. The club has not confirmed.
Jack Curry at the YES Network was first on the news, and said the Yankees will use LeMahieu “as a versatile player around the infield. They will use him at second base, first base and third base.” He has played exclusively second base since 2015, but does have a few games at each of the aforementioned positions.
Like anybody who plays at Coors Field, LeMahieu received a ton of scrutiny for his home/road splits. In 2018, he hit .317/.360/.433 (85 wRC+) at home, and .229/.277/.422 (85 wRC+) on the road. But, he won a batting title in 2016 behind an overall .348/.416/.495 (130 wRC+) batting line.
LeMahieu’s best tool is his defense, having reeled in the National League Gold Glove award at second base in 2014, 2017 and 2018. His 12.9 defensive WAR component (per Fangraphs) was highest among qualified second basemen in all of baseball for 2018. He’ll be tasked with getting himself reacquainted with third base and first base in pinstripes.
This move gives the Yankees five infielders for four spots, which would be fine if the outfield wasn’t four players for three spots. With one designated hitter role, there will either be a ton of off-days or something’s going to happen before March 28. Injuries, regression or a surprise trade could throw things off.
One thing is certain, in my opinion: the Yankees aren’t paying LeMahieu $12 million per year to be a utility bench player. That’s the kind of money you pay someone to be out there just about everyday. I’d watch for some movement that would allow that to be the norm for the Yankees.
Cole was acquired in an early-2018 cash trade, and made 28 appearances for the Yankees with a 4.26 ERA (4.92 FIP). Alberto did not appear in a game for New York as he was acquired head of the 2018 Rule 5 deadline.
Jan. 11: The Yankees have officially announced the signings.
Both players have received invitations to Tampa for Spring Training, but will both likely start the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
A 15th-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2009, Hutchison bounced around a ton in 2018. He pitched in 11 games for Philadelphia, then made nine appearances for Triple-A Oklahoma City in the Dodgers organization and finished the season with five starts for Texas. Overall in the big leagues, the 28-year-old had an ugly 6.75 ERA (6.42 FIP) and an abysmal 40.9% ground-ball rate. Hutchison likely will eat some innings in Tampa and spend most of 2019 in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Lipka was a first-round pick of the Braves in 2010, and played all of 2018 with Double-A Richmond in the Giants organization. He hit .240/.329/.352 (91 wRC+) with four home runs and 30 RBIs in 123 games for the Flying Squirrels. He started at least one game at second base, third base, left field, center field and right field during the 2018 season.
It’s unknown at this point if either player has been invited to MLB Spring Training, though I’d imagine at the very least Hutchison will get an invite.
Jan. 11: The Yankees have officially announced Britton’s signing on Twitter.
To clear a roster spot for Britton, they’ve designated infielder Hanser Alberto for assignment. He was acquired in a waiver claim from the Texas Rangers on Nov. 2. He was hitting .322/.366/.392 with one homer and 16 RBIs in 43 games for the Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League. Alberto lasted on the Yankees 40-man roster for two months and nine days.
Jan. 5: With the ink barely dried on David Robertson‘s two-year, $23 million contract with Philadelphia, the Yankees struck a deal to bring back reliever Zach Britton. The deal guarantees the first two years of the contract, a two-year team option after year two, or a one-year player option should the Yankees decline it.
Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic was the first to report momentum towards a deal, and Jeff Passan of ESPN confirmed shortly after that an agreement was in place.
That contract has become somewhat of a Scott Boras specialty, having debuted these paired options in contracts for Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Yusei Kikuchi and now Britton. Britton will earn a $1 million raise from his final year of arbitration salary, and will remain in the Bronx for at least two seasons. From what I gather, the Yankees have the first choice on the two-year team option, and after that, Britton can either opt in for 2021 or test free agency again.
After coming to the Yankees in a Trade Deadline deal for prospects Cody Carroll, Josh Rogers and Dillon Tate, Britton pitched to a fantastic 2.88 ERA and stellar 77.8% ground-ball rate in 25 outings for the Yankees. With his impending free agency approaching, Britton fielded questions about a return to the Bronx, and he always seemed open to the idea.
The Yankees had always said they were looking at two relievers, and it will be interesting to see the direction they take as the market begins to heat up. They’ve been very connected to Adam Ottavino recently, but he would be an expensive piece for a bullpen already stocked with expensive pieces. I’m very into the idea of ownership going full Evil Empire and securing Ottavino, as well as Bryce Harper and/or Manny Machado. They’re definitely going over the first luxury tax threshold, and they should make it worth it.