All posts by JP Hadley

Sherman: Yankees Interested in Adam Ottavino

More power relievers in the Bronx, please.

Buried deep in a post about the next Yankees pitching move after acquiring lefty James Paxton from Seattle was an interesting note from Joel Sherman: the Yankees are interested in dominant reliever Adam Ottavino.

Brian Cashman has already said his offseason master plan includes adding two relievers, and it’s easy to see where the Brooklyn-native would fit for the Yankees. In 75 appearances in 2018, the righty registered a 2.43 ERA (2.74 FIP) and ridiculous 13.0 K/9 in 77⅔ innings as Wade Davis‘s setup man in Colorado. He allowed just five home runs in that span, and only two came at Coors Field.

Ottavino’s repertoire on the mound is rather diverse for a late-inning reliever, with Statcast indicating he throws five pitches: Slider (46.8%), Sinker (41.6%), Cutter (9.8%), Four Seamer (1.6%), Changeup (0.2%). That falls into place perfectly with the Yankees anti-fastball approach. Oh, and that slider is tied for the best slider in baseball amongst relievers, per Fangraphs. Ottavino shares that with Collin McHugh of the Houston Astros. Fangraphs also says that 79.3% of plate appearances against him end in either a strikeout or a ground ball.

The combination of power breaking-ball, ground balls and strikeouts certainly makes Ottavino an appealing option for the back-end of the Yankee bullpen. With Zach Britton and David Robertson hitting free agency and likely receiving offers as closers, Ottavino’s non-closer status could help the Yankees land him for less. His ability to get ground balls and strikeouts would be huge for the back of the bullpen.

Yankees Acquire Tim Locastro From Dodgers

The 40-man roster is now full.

The Yankees swung a minor trade Wednesday, acquiring outfielder Tim Locastro from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for RHP Drew Finley and cash considerations. Locastro was added to the 40-man roster, which is now at 40 players.

The Dodgers had designated Locastro for assignment to clear 40-man roster space and got something back for him. The 26-year-old saw just 15 plate appearances with the Dodgers, spending most of his time with Triple-A Oklahoma City. In the MLB, he hit .182/.357/.273 (91 wRC+). He stole four bases and was not caught once.

For Oklahoma City, he hit .279/.389/.409 (118 wRC+) and stole 18 bases in 20 opportunities. Not a huge power guy, but clearly plays the speed game well. He suited up at first base, second base, left field and center field in 2018. He’s also logged time at shortstop and in right field. He still has two minor-league options remaining, and will not be arbitration eligible until 2022.

Finley was the Yankees’ third-round pick in 2015, and he repeated in Short-Season A-ball for the third consecutive season in 2018. He was promoted to Low-A Charleston in 2016, but got hurt and his rehab assignment in Staten Island turned into a permanent assignment. In 16 games in 2018, he had a 2-4 record, 7.24 ERA, 10.9 K/9 and 6.6 BB/9.

Yankees Acquire Jefry Valdez From Colorado for Jordan Foley

The Yankees dealt an arm eligible for this year’s Rule 5 Draft to the Colorado Rockies Tuesday night, announcing they shipped RHP Jordan Foley to the Rockies for RHP Jefry Valdez.

Valdez signed with Colorado out of the Dominican Republic in 2015. He spent all of 2018 in Short-Season A Boise, pitching in 27 games to a 5.82 ERA, 11.9 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. It seems his command is good, but he might throw a few too many strikes. He allowed a ridiculous 12.7 hits per nine for Boise, which would explain the high ERA. He’s a three-pitch pitcher, featuring a 90-92 mph fastball, 79-81 mph changeup and an 82-85 mph slider according to Baseball Census. Valdez has been assigned to the Yankees’ Short-Season affiliate in Staten Island.

Foley, 25, was a fifth-round pick of the Yankees in the 2014 draft out of Central Michigan University. He spent the entirety of 2018 with Double-A Trenton, pitching in 37 games (2 starts) with a 2.98 ERA, 9.1 K/9 and 4.7 BB/9. The Yankees assigned Foley to the Arizona Fall League, and he didn’t do so great. He allowed 20 earned runs in 19⅔ innings, and walked an astounding 8.7 batters per nine innings. Despite being Rule 5-eligible, Foley was not added to the Rockies 40-man roster. Foley has been assigned to the Rockies’ Double-A affiliate, the Hartford Yard Goats.

Yankees Select Joe Harvey to 40-Man Roster

One 40-man roster spot remains as of now.

Ahead of the 8 p.m. Eastern deadline Tuesday, the Yankees announced that they selected the contract of RHP Joe Harvey to the 40-man roster. The 40-man roster now has 39 players.

A 19th-round pick in 2014, Harvey had a stellar 1.66 ERA in 54⅓ innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He had eight saves, and was also credited with 21 games finished. He also pitched in five innings for Double-A Trenton, earning a save in each of his three chances there and allowing just one earned run.

By adding Harvey to the 40-man roster, he will be ineligible for December’s Rule 5 draft. Per, “Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn’t stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.” The Rule 5 Draft takes place during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas on Dec. 13.

Harvey has appeared in four games for the Toros del Este of the Dominican Winter League. He has yet to allow a run in 3⅔ innings.

Yankees Acquire James Paxton From Mariners for Three Prospects

One above-average starting pitcher: ✅

The Yankees made their first big splash of the 2018-19 offseason Monday night, as they acquired Canadian left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for a package of three prospects.

Seattle picks up former No. 1 prospect LHP Justus Sheffield, No. 22 RHP Erik Swanson and unranked OF Dom Thompson-Williams. The deal was first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, and was confirmed by the Yankees just 25 minutes later.

Paxton, 30, was drafted by the Mariners in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, despite being drafted 37th overall in 2009 by the Toronto Blue Jays and not signing. He debuted as a September call-up in 2013 by making four starts with a 1.50 ERA down the stretch. He was an up-and-down starter in 2014, and missed most of 2015 because of a strained tendon in his left middle finger.

The past three seasons (2016-2018) serve as the most consistent body of work for Paxton. He averaged 139 innings pitched across an average of 24 starts, with a 3.52 ERA (2.90 FIP) and 10.4 K/9. His career-high in starts came in 2018, as he pitched 160⅓ innings in 28 starts. His crowning achievement was his May 8 no-hitter against Toronto.

The issue with Paxton is his reliance on fastballs (63.6% of his pitches), and his durability. The Yankees acquired a fastball-heavy starter in J.A. Happ at the 2017 Trade Deadline, and largely allowed him to continue throwing a ton of fastballs. Boy, did that work out well. I figure the Yankees won’t shake up Paxton’s arsenal too much, but there’s likely going to be an uptick from just 36.4% offspeed pitches.

Now, for the durability question. Paxton has only thrown 160 innings once, and it came last year. Here’s his injury history since being a big-leaguer:

  • 2014 (13 starts – 74 IP):
    • Left Latissimus dorsi muscle strain (Out 3 months, 24 days)
  • 2015 (13 starts – 67 IP):
    • Strained tendon in left middle finger (Out 3 months, 15 days)
  • 2016 (20 starts – 121 IP):
    • Left elbow contusion (Out 17 days)
  • 2017 (24 starts – 136 IP):
    • Left forearm strain (Out 28 days)
    • Strained left pectoral muscle (Out 1 month, 4 days)
  • 2018 (28 starts – 160⅓ IP):
    • Lower back inflammation (Out 17 days)
    • Left forearm contusion (Out 17 days)

There’s some fluke injuries there, but the questions will remain until he turns in another season with at least 160 innings. The Yankees have two arbitration years of Paxton, and they have to hope he can put it together.

In four career starts against Boston, Paxton is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA and has limited the Red Sox to a .529 OPS. That’s the kind of pitcher Brian Cashman is hoping will take the mound at least 30 times per season for the next two years.

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On the other side of the coin, Justus Sheffield was the much-hyped pitching prospect who came to the Yankees in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade. Sheffield never got his command together (3.9 BB/9 in 2018), and the Yankees ran out of patience with his development. Seattle is still betting on his upside, though Buster Olney of ESPN noted the Mariners could utilize him as a reliever. That’s where the 22-year-old debuted for New York in 2018, allowing three earned runs in 2⅔ innings (10.13 ERA) with three walks and no strikeouts.

Erik Swanson, the teams former No. 22 prospect, came to the Yankees in the 2016 Carlos Beltrán trade. He was on the 40-man bubble ahead of Tuesday’s Rule 5 deadline after posting a 2.66 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) across three minor-league levels.

Dom Thompson-Williams, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2016 by the Yankees out of the University of South Carolina. He hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs and 74 RBIs in Low- and High-A ball in a breakout 2018 season.

Overall, I’m comfortable with the package the Yankees gave up. Paxton clearly helps the big-league team more than Sheffield, Swanson wasn’t even a lock for the 40-man roster and a 23-year-old outfielder in A-ball is definitely expendable.

Reports: Yankees “Moving Toward” Sonny Gray Trade

We all knew Sonny Gray‘s days as a New York Yankee were numbered, and it appears his tenure in the Bronx is rapidly approaching its end. Andy Martino of SNY reported that the Yankees “have multiple offers on the table” currently and are now “in the process of weighing them”.

Martino said in a follow-up tweet that there are “approximately 11 teams on Gray,” and Max Wildstein of Gotham Sports Network listed the Atlanta Braves, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants among the interested teams. Jon Morosi of MLB Network reported that there’s been communication between the Yankees and his former team, the Oakland Athletics, as well.

Brian Cashman could not have been more clear about his intention to move Gray. “Once we feel comfortable with the return, we’ll make the decision to move him,” Cashman said in early November. “But the plan is to move him because I don’t want to keep going through the process of something that won’t work here.”

After being acquired at the 2017 Trade Deadline from Oakland for Dustin Fowler, James Kaprielian and Jorge Mateo, Gray pitched to a brutal 6.55 ERA in 88 innings at Yankee Stadium, and an overall 4.51 ERA in his 195⅔ innings as a Yankee. His obvious appeal comes from the other side of the home/road split, as he maintained an impressive 2.84 ERA in 107⅔ innings away from Yankee Stadium. He’s projected by MLB Trade Rumors to make $9.1 million in arbitration this offseason, and will be a free agent after the season.

Leave it to Cashman to create an 11-team bidding war for a pitcher who was widely regarded as a failure last year. I’d imagine a deal for Gray gets done sooner rather than later because of two approaching roster deadlines. All teams must set their 40-man roster for December’s Rule 5 Draft by Tuesday, November 20. It’s unclear how many players the Yankees are looking to protect this offseason, but they will undoubtedly be making moves to ensure Gray does not take the spot of a prospect with a future in New York.

The second deadline would be Nov. 30, which is the deadline for teams to decide whether they will tender pre-arbitration and arbitration players a contract. If Gray somehow remains on the Yankees roster through the 40-man roster deadline, he’ll definitely be dealt before the Yankees are responsible for the $9.1 million he’s projected to receive.

Steinbrenner: Machado’s Hustle Comments “Troubling”

“Because that ain’t gonna sell where we play baseball. That conversation will happen no matter who it is.”

It seems Manny Machado would have some explaining to do if he were to become a Yankee. The team’s managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner told Ken Davidoff of the New York Post that the infielder’s comments about his style of play were “troubling” and would require an explanation.

“If it’s a $300 million guy or a $10 million guy, clearly those comments are troubling,” Steinbrenner told a small group of reporters. “But that’s really [general manager Brian Cashman’s] job. If we’re interested in any player, sit down with him face to face and ask him, ‘Where did this come from? What was the context around the entire interview? Was there a point you were trying to [make]? How do you justify it?’ Because that ain’t gonna sell where we play baseball. That conversation will happen no matter who it is.”

The comments in question, of course, come from the Oct. 16 interview Machado gave to Ken Rosenthal where the 26-year-old said his style of play did not include hustling 100% on every play.

“Obviously I’m not going to change, I’m not the type of player that’s going to be ‘Johnny Hustle,’ and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen. That’s just not my personality, that’s not my cup of tea, that’s not who I am,” Machado said. “Should I have given it a little more effort? One hundred percent. (It’s) my fault like always, I mean that’s just my mentality when I’m in the game. (There are) things that you learn, things that you gotta change. I’ve tried changing it for eight years and I still can’t figure it out but, one of these days I will.”

Machado’s comments combined with a .670 OPS in the playoffs left the star shortstop at a disadvantage heading into free agency for the first time in his career. Players with his talent and youth don’t hit the market often, and he should still cash in with a big contract. But, there will always be questions about his effort and reputation as a “dirty player,” to use the words of Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich.

The Yankees have an obvious hole at shortstop now with Didi Gregorius slated to miss the first half of 2019 at the very least. They could stand to upgrade defensively at third base with Miguel Andújar‘s -15.5 defensive WAR coming in at seventh-worst in all of baseball for 2018. The Yankees have been doing their due diligence on Machado, but have to be weighing whether the signing is worth the inevitable media circus that will come with it.

The very “Yankees” thing to do would be to fill Gregorius’s spot with the best (and most expensive) option. I see them making a serious run at Machado, being careful to avoid a bidding war and albatross contract like Jacoby Ellsbury‘s. C’mon, guys who average 128 wRC+ over their last three seasons don’t just grow on trees.

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