All posts by JP Hadley

Hot Stove Notes: Corbin, Greinke, Happ, Realmuto

Plenty of storylines flying about as the Winter Meetings lurk less than two weeks away, and, of course, the Yankees seem to have their hands in everything. Let’s get into it:

Corbin Visits the Bronx

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Widely known as the Yankees top starting pitching target, lefty Patrick Corbin continued his ballpark tour of the Northeast Corridor with a stop at Yankee Stadium. He previously visited the Nationals and Phillies. The Yankees had their full complement of staff relevant to Corbin, as manager Aaron Boone, pitching coach Larry Rothschild, bullpen coach Mike Harkey and analytical staff member Zac Fieroh were all photographed on-hand along with Brian Cashman.

CC Sabathia was at Yankee Stadium as well, but he was there to work on the rehab for his surgically-repaired knee. The New York Post‘s George A. King III reports that the two lefties did get a chance to say hello, though. SNY’s Andy Martino wrote hours after the meeting at Yankee Stadium that there was no deal close with Corbin.

“I wouldn’t call it a recruiting effort as much as an educational effort, where [he’s] getting a chance to see the facilities from the home side, because clearly he’s played here as a visitor and he certainly has traveled to New York as a visitor,” Brian Cashman said on YES. “He’ll get access to all aspects of what we’re about, the brand, our efforts, the people, with Aaron Boone and our coaches and myself and hopefully he’ll walk away getting a better feel for who we are.”

Corbin grew up in a suburb of Syracuse, New York, with a family of Yankee fans, and apparently his brother took out a Yankees cap during his best-man speech at Patrick’s recent wedding:

The lefty is expected to command a six-year deal with a total salary around $110 million.

Greinke Can Block Trade to Yankees

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Not that there was any trade speculation, but The Athletic‘s Zach Buchanan reported that Arizona Diamondbacks righty Zack Greinke can block a trade to the Yankees as part of his 15-team no-trade clause on his contract from 2016. Greinke has always been seen as the stereotypical salary dump acquisition for the Yankees, as fans hope they can convince Jacoby Ellsbury to waive his no-trade clause to go to Arizona. If that’s going to happen, it’ll require both players to give their consent. Ellsbury is owed another $47.3 million over the next three years, assuming he’s bought out of his 2021 team option. Greinke, on the other hand, is owed another $104.5 million through 2021. I think a Greinke trade to the Yankees is close to impossible.

After Corbin Visit, Yanks Still Considering Happ

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Another lefty not named Patrick Corbin remains on the Yankees radar, as Martino reports “the Yankees may still like J.A. Happ as an alternative” option. The SNY reporter notes that the Phillies are also pushing hard on Corbin, and a contractual commitment to the 36-year-old Happ would be shorter than that to Corbin at 29. Happ, of course, delivered 11 stellar second-half starts for the Yanks, with a 7-0 record and 2.69 ERA. I think fans would be willing to overlook Happ’s ALDS collapse against Boston if he were to be back in the Bronx next year.

Yankees & Marlins Discussed Sánchez-Realmuto Trade

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Here’s a pretty crazy scenario: the Yankees and Miami Marlins have discussed a swap of catchers Gary Sánchez and J.T. Realmuto. Per Jon Heyman, here’s where talks stood:

The issue with the Yankees’ talks apparently is that they still hold Gary Sánchez in high enough regard that they have resisted offering other top pieces in a package with Sánchez. The Marlins, who are run by ex-Yankee types (Derek Jeter, Gary Denbo) seem to like Sanchez as well but are hoping for a major package for Realmuto.

For all of the poor reputation Sánchez received for his abysmal offensive and defensive performance, Gary is younger, under control for longer, has a higher career wRC+ and put up a much superior defensive runs component of WAR in way fewer games than Realmuto. Simply put, trading Sánchez for Realmuto doesn’t seem to make much sense at all. Heyman mentions the Yankees are joined by the Astros and Dodgers in checking in on the 27-year-old.

Sherman: Patrick Corbin to Meet With Yankees Thursday

Much was made of Patrick Corbin‘s visit to the Philadelphia Phillies, which included a viral image of the lefty photoshopped into a Phillies uniform on the scoreboard at Citizens Bank Park. It turns out that Philly isn’t the only stop for Corbin, however, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported he’d be in New York to meet with the Yankees (and not the Mets) Thursday.

Corbin is widely regarded as the best starting pitcher available on the free-agent market, after finishing tied for fourth among qualified starters in all of baseball with 6.3 fWAR. By that metric, only these guys were better:

  1. Jacob deGrom (8.8)
  2. Max Scherzer (7.2)
  3. Justin Verlander (6.8)
  4. Patrick Corbin (6.3) | Gerrit Cole (6.3)

That’s a pretty good group of pitchers to be associated with. Corbin’s ground-ball rate has been comfortably above the MLB average since his debut in 2012, and an increase in strikeout percentage turned him into a top-5 pitcher in baseball.

Per Fangraphs’ pitching value system, Corbin had the best slider among all qualified pitchers in the MLB. In fact, since he’s started to throw that pitch more, his fWAR has increased at a similar rate. Corbin relies on 5 pitches: Slider (40.9%), Sinker (29.5%), Four Seamer (19.1%), Curve (9.4%), Changeup (1.1%).

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Patrick Corbin’s fWAR has increased as he throws more sliders.
Credit: Fangraphs

“I don’t think I’ve seen a slider like that since Steve Carlton,” said Rick Schu, San Francisco Giants assistant hitting coach, to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. “I mean, it just disappears.”

The question comes down to whether the Yankees will out-bid the Phillies for Corbin, or if Corbin will accept a competitive offer that will fulfill his dream of pitching in pinstripes. MLB Trade Rumors ranked Corbin as the third-best free agent in their annual Top 50 ranking, and predicted the Yankees would ink the southpaw to a six-year, $129 million contract.

“I know the Yankees have had some interest in the past, and there were a lot of rumors this winter that got my family excited,” Corbin said to Nightengale. “It would have been cool. You just want to go where you’re wanted, and every team will have an opportunity. I would love to be on a contending team for sure, but we’ll see what happens.”

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, Corbin also met with the Washington Nationals earlier this week. It’s unclear if the lefty plans to meet with any other teams.

Ronald Torreyes Traded to Cubs for PTBNL/Cash

The Ronald Torreyes era is over. After 221 games, the Yankees announced today that they traded the versatile 26-year-old to the Chicago Cubs for a player to be named later or cash consideration. He had been designated for assignment Monday when the Yankees claimed pitcher Parker Bridwell from the Los Angeles Angels.

Torreyes had grown into a fan favorite since joining the Yankees in 2016 because of his energy and ability to produce as a bench player. He proved exceedingly useful in 2017, when he started the first month of the season at shortstop to allow Didi Gregorius to recover from a shoulder injury. Overall as a Yankee, he hit .281/.308/.373 (80 wRC+) with four home runs and 55 RBIs. He suited up at second base, third base, shortstop and right field for the Yankees.

Though he made a ton of contact, Torreyes provided little value with his offense. He walked 23 times in three seasons (3.8%), and only picked up extra-base hits in 6.4% of his plate appearances. He graded out as an average baserunner, but had little value as a pinch-runner since he only stole four bases in his time as a Yankee.

The real reason Torreyes was dealt appears to be his price tag. He is eligible for salary arbitration for the first time this winter. I think the Yankees were planning to non-tender him if they did not find a destination by this Friday’s deadline. MLB Trade Rumors projected he would make $900K in his first go-around. The Yankees have way cheaper options for the utility-man bench role (Hanser Alberto, Thairo Estrada, Tim Locastro Tyler Wade, etc.) and Torreyes became the odd man out.

I’m expecting Toe will get a big hand at Old Timer’s Day at some point down the road. Only time will tell if Chicago is his final destination this offseason, as Torreyes has bounced around in the past. The Yankees acquired Torreyes along with lefty Tyler Olson in January 2016, but he got claimed by the Angels off waivers a week later. A week after that, the Yankees claimed him back from Los Angeles and the rest is history. For now, he’s a Cub. In February, we’ll see where he’s suiting up for Spring Training.

Miguel Andújar Wins Players Choice for AL Outstanding Rookie

Despite losing the official American League Rookie of the Year Award to Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, Yankees third baseman Miguel Andújar is not going home empty-handed. The 23-year-old was announced as the 2018 Players Choice for AL Outstanding Rookie on Wednesday.

Andújar was called up April 1 after Billy McKinney‘s shoulder injury in Toronto, and never looked back. He took over full-time at third base after Brandon Drury‘s migraines, and was incredible. He was the AL Rookie of the Month for both June and August, and tied with Boston’s Mookie Betts for third-most doubles in the MLB with 47. That tied Boston’s Fred Lynn for most doubles in a season by a rookie, which was done in 1975.

Overall, Andújar hit .297/.328/.527 (128 wRC+) with 27 home runs and 92 RBIs in 149 games. The defensive metrics were less kind to him, however, tagging him at -25 defensive runs saved and -24.5 UZR/150. That’s always been Andújar’s biggest weak point, though he’s frequently observed taking extra infield work before games.

There have been rumblings about Andújar’s place on the 2019 Yankees, as speculation swirls around free agent Manny Machado and his superior defense. Andújar was given a 70 out of 80 for his arm, and certainly has enough athleticism to learn the outfield. I figure the Yankees would try this before relegating an able-bodied 23-year-old to being a full-time designated hitter.

Rosenthal’s Latest: Gray, Goldschmidt

Though I’m not sure he can top yesterday’s bombshell revealing the Yankees and Seattle Mariners “briefly discussed” a Jacoby EllsburyRobinson Canó contract swap, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic dropped another set of interesting Yankees tidbits in his notes column:

Mariners Wanted Gray in Paxton Deal

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Rosenthal did, however, add further insight into the trade that sent lefty James Paxton from Seattle to the Yankees. The Mariners asked the Yankees to add Sonny Gray to the return for the lefty, which included top prospect Justus Sheffield, fringe 40-man pitcher Erik Swanson and lower-level outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams. The Yankees decided to keep Gray, however, telling Seattle that “they had a number of other teams interested in him.”

Rosenthal also cited sources within the Yankees organization who “suspected the Mariners wanted Gray to flip him – perhaps to the Reds, who were trying to land Paxton.” It’s pretty clear that Brian Cashman is waiting for the best deal before trading Gray, who is projected to make $9.1 million in his final year of salary arbitration in 2019. If Cashman was looking to dump Gray for a roster spot, the trade would have been made in advance of last week’s 40-man roster deadline. I’d look for Gray to be dealt prior to this Friday’s non-tender deadline.

Yankees “Not Pursuing” Goldschmidt

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The early offseason news cycle was set abuzz when ESPN’s Buster Olney speculated the Yankees would engage the Arizona Diamondbacks regarding first baseman Paul Goldschmidt. He stirred that up even further by reporting the Yankees had pushed Justus Sheffield in those negotiations before dealing him to Seattle for James Paxton. But, it seems Goldschmidt and his one-year deal are not targets for the Bronx Bombers.

The team is already “too right-handed, particularly with shortstop Didi Gregorius expected to be out until at least June as he recovers from Tommy John surgery,” per Rosenthal. The Yankees also not focusing on an upgrade at first base at the moment.

Rosenthal did note, however, the Yankees would be willing to add yet another righty to the lineup if it was someone like Manny Machado. He mentioned that “at 26, [Machado] is five years younger than Goldschmidt and would be under long-term control. Goldschmidt is signed only through next season.”

Yankees Claim Parker Bridwell; DFA Ronald Torreyes

The Yankees have added another pitcher to their roster, claiming righty Parker Bridwell off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels. To make room for Bridwell on the 40-man roster, fan-favorite Ronald Torreyes was designated for assignment.

Bridwell was a ninth-round pick of the Baltimore Orioles out of Hereford HS in Texas, and went to the Angels in an April 2017 cash trade. In his one full season in 2017, Bridwell owned a 10-3 record and 3.64 ERA (4.84 FIP) in 21 games (20 starts). He was optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake as the 2018 season opened, and was called up for a few days in April. He spent about a month on the Triple-A disabled list, was active for about another month and then was out for the rest of the year with an elbow injury. The Angels had designated him for assignment November 20 as they cleared their 40-man roster. In 2018, Bridwell made five appearances (6⅔ IP) and allowed 13 earned runs, which was good for a 17.55 ERA (12.91 FIP). For Triple-A Salt Lake, he made six starts and allowed 27 runs in 28 innings (8.68 ERA).

Torreyes became a fan-favorite in the Bronx because of his high energy, aggressive hitting style and ability to produce off the bench. Fans enjoyed his high batting average, despite the majority of his hits being singles. Over his three seasons in New York, he hit .281/.308/.374 (80 wRC+) with four home runs and 55 RBIs. The Yankees have seven days to trade or release Torreyes, or he can be sent outright to the minor leagues and off the 40-man roster should he go unclaimed on outright waivers.

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Rosenthal: Yankees, Mariners “Briefly Discussed” Ellsbury-Canó Swap

This would’ve been wild.

Here’s a trade rumor that feels like it’s straight out of MLB The Show. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported in his latest notes column that Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto reached out to the Yankees (and Mets) about a trade for ex-Yankee Robinson Canó.

From that post:

A return to New York almost certainly would appeal to Canó, who played for the Yankees from 2005 to ’13 before signing his 10-year, $240 million free-agent contract with the Mariners. Whether Canó would appeal to either New York team — or any team at all, for that matter — is another question entirely, hinging mostly on how much of his deal the Mariners would be willing to absorb.

Canó’s albatross contract seems to be the reason that the Yankees opened negotiations by trying to salary-dump Jacoby Ellsbury, who is owed $42.3 million guaranteed over the next two seasons plus a $5 million buyout for the 2021 season. Canó – who hit .303/.374/.471 (136 wRC+) with 10 homers and 50 RBI in a suspension-shortened 80 games – is still owed $120 million across the next five seasons with no buyout.

The sides “briefly discussed” the swap, which would also require both players to waive their respective no-trade clauses. The Yankees wanted the Mariners to both take on the full financial commitment to Ellsbury, and “include significant cash” to pay down the money owed to Canó. The Yankees also view Canó as “a first baseman-DH” type player, despite only having 10 starts at the position. The team also does “not want to tie up their DH spot,” per Rosenthal.

It’s pretty easy to see where things broke down. The Yankees want to simultaneously unload Ellsbury, while not taking on the full brunt of a bad contract like Canó’s. The questions about Canó’s spot on defense and the recent 80-game suspension for a banned diuretic would be enough to scuttle a trade before discussion of the contract even begins. The Yankees have cheaper and younger options to fill in at second base, first base or designated hitter for 2019.

The Yankees and Mariners, of course, did just hook up on a major trade. The Yankees acquired lefty starter James Paxton from Seattle in exchange for top prospect Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams. The teams also discussed a scenario where infielder Jean Segura would have come to New York with Paxton, although that ultimately did not materialize.

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