Category: Rumors

Keuchel: “I Like Pitching at Yankee Stadium”

The lefty could fit in quite well in the Bronx next year.

Current free agent and former Houston Astros lefty starter Dallas Keuchel expressed clear interest in ditching his trademark beard and putting on the pinstripes in a recent interview broadcasted on Fox Business Network.

The 30-year-old mentioned he’d “happily shave this beard off” for “the right opportunity”. That could come with the Yankees, who have a need for a quality lefty starter heading into 2019. The two-time All-Star and reigning Gold Glove winner owns a 3-2 record and 2.45 career ERA in five Yankee Stadium starts. That doesn’t include a career 2.04 ERA mark against the Yankees in the postseason.

“Everyone’s in play right now,” Keuchel said while promoting a company that makes disposable liners for hats and helmets. “The lure of the city would be really cool. I like pitching in Yankee Stadium.”

Coming off a career year in 2017, Keuchel experienced some regression in 2018. His ERA jumped by 84 points from 2.90 to 3.74, but the lefty put up a career-high 34 starts. Unlike last year, the lefty avoided the disabled list after two stints because of various neck issues in 2017.

Looking at the Steamer projections for 2019, I’d have to think the Yankees would love the 190.0 innings of 3.69 ERA that Keuchel is projected for. That would mark a significant drop in innings from 2018, though the projection is skewed because of previous seasons with a smaller workload. Keuchel relies on 5 pitches: Sinker (41.1%), Slider (18.4%), Cutter (15.5%), Changeup (12.8%), Four Seamer (12.2%).

Keuchel is represented by Scott Boras. MLB Trade Rumors ranked Keuchel as their No. 4 free agent this offseason, and predicted he will sign a 4-year, $82 million deal with the Washington Nationals.

Infield Rumors: Harrison, Profar

The Yankees are looking for versatility in their search for an infielder.

Didi Gregorius is set to miss at least the first half of the 2019 season because of Tommy John surgery on his right arm. It sucks. It seems likely the Yankees will find a player who can man either shortstop or second base and then transition into a bench role once Gregorius becomes healthy. They’ve been connected to two such players so far: one a free agent, and the other seemingly available via trade.
  • For, like, the millionth time, the Yankees have checked in on former Pittsburgh Pirates utility man Josh Harrison, reports Jon Heyman. They’ve been connected to Harrison during every conceivable offseason and Trade Deadline. Harrison got bought out of his $10.5 million club option for $1 million and became a free agent. He had a brutal offensive season in 2018, batting .250/.293/.363 (78 wRC+) with a career-high 18.2% strikeout rate. His calling card has always been defensive versatility, but he didn’t make a single start at a position other than second base in 2018. But, he’s just one year removed from a 104 wRC+ season and, at 31, likely still has the athleticism required to play second, third and the corner outfield spots. His only recent injury history is a fractured metacarpal bone in his left hand that caused him to miss time from September 3, 2017 until May 20, 2018. I could see the Yankees signing him to a contract like the one Neil Walker signed.
  • After checking in last offseason, the Yankees are back in contact with the Texas Rangers about infielder Jurickson Profar. Joel Sherman reported the Yankees attempted to swap Sonny Gray for Profar, but the Rangers wanted more because Profar has an extra year of team control compared to Gray. Profar was a can’t-miss prospect who… missed. He has turned into a valuable role player, however, hitting .254/.335/.458 (104 wRC+) while making at least 10 appearances at each infield position. He’s also turned in a few innings of left field, and was a +4.0 BsR baserunner. The Yankees will likely create a package around Gray if they attempt to pry Profar loose from Texas. Profar is under arbitration for two more seasons (projected at $3.4 million this offseason) before becoming a free agent in 2021, and those are the type of players that are expensive in trade negotiations.

Martino: Yankees in “Preliminary Talks” With J.A. Happ

The Yankees would love to have the veteran lefty back in the Bronx.

J.A. Happ, one of the arms that the Yankees and Brian Cashman would like back in the Bronx next season, is currently in “preliminary talks,” reports SNY’s Andy Martino. Jon Morosi of corrborated the report, and also indicated Toronto had also reached out as well.

This really isn’t a surprise, as the Yankees have expressed public interest in bringing the veteran lefty back after an incredible 11-start run with a 2.69 ERA to end the regular season. He came to the Yankees in a deadline deal that saw Brandon Drury and Billy McKinney traded to Toronto.

Overall in his career, Happ owns a 109-82 record and 3.90 ERA (4.10 FIP). MLB Trade Rumors predicts the 36-year-old will end up with a 3-year, $48 million deal from the Los Angeles Angels.


Heyman: Yankees Interested in Carrasco, Kluber, Paxton on Trade Market

Could the Yankees make their biggest splash via trade?

The Yankees have made clear that their first offseason priority is to upgrade their pitching staff. The most obvious fixes would come from the free agent market in the form of Patrick Corbin, J.A. Happ or CC Sabathia.

But now, according to Fancred’s Jon Heyman, there could be multiple aces available via trade as the Indians and Mariners look to shed costs. He reports the Yankees are interested in RHPs Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber from the Indians and LHP James Paxton from the Mariners.

Carrasco made 32 appearances in 2018, going 17-10 with a 3.38 ERA (2.94 FIP) for Cleveland. He has made at least 30 starts in three out of his last four seasons, and owns a 3.40 ERA (3.12 FIP) across that span. Carrasco relies on 5 pitches: Four Seamer (31.4%), Slider (30.9%), Changeup (16.4%), Sinker (13.2%), Curve (8.2%).

Kluber leads all MLB pitchers in fWAR since 2014 with a whopping 31.0. He went 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA (3.12 FIP) in 2018, and was named as a finalist for the 2018 American League Cy Young Award. He won the award in 2017. Kluber relies on 5 pitches: Sinker (32.7%), Cutter (29.5%), Curve (22.4%), Four Seamer (8.8%), Changeup (6.6%).

Paxton is the lone lefty of the group, going 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA (3.23 FIP) in 28 starts in 2018. He missed 17 days on two separate occasions, however, because of lower back inflammation and a left forearm contusion. The issue with Paxton is that you can bank on at least two different disabled list stints per season, as he dealt with a left forearm strain and left pectoral muscle strain in 2017. Paxton relies on 4 pitches: Four Seamer (63.6%), Curve (21.5%), Cutter (14.4%), Changeup (0.4%).

Now, let’s look at the contractual obligations of all three. Each is controllable for multiple years, which will add to the prospect cost.

2019 2020 2021
Carrasco $9,750,000 $9,500,000 (TO)

$662.5k Buyout

Kluber $17,000,000 $17,500,000 (TO)

$1M Buyout

$18,000,000 (TO)

$1M Buyout

Paxton $9,000,000

Proj. Arb 3


Kluber easily has the most team-friendly deal. He provides so much more value than his contract is priced for. I think the Yankees should aim high for Kluber, then fallback on Carrasco should that deal not work out. I’m not the highest on Paxton because of his inability to stay healthy and because of his reliance on fastballs.

Heyman: Yanks “Will Look Into Machado”

A step up from “lukewarm”.

Jon Heyman of Fancred has reported that the Yankees will, at the very least, “look into” signing free agent infielder Manny Machado this offseason. This report paints the Yankees as more favorable towards a run at the mercurial star, after it was previously reported that the team was “lukewarm” on a pursuit of the 26-year-old.

Machado hit .315/.387/.575 with 24 homers and 65 RBIs in 96 games for Baltimore before being traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers and finishing the year hitting .273/.338/.487 with 13 more home runs and 42 additional RBI. That led to an overall .297/.367/.538 batting line and 37 home runs, which matches a career-high.

But, a .672 OPS in the 2018 postseason and controversies about how he handles himself have led to questions about an all-out pursuit of Machado. That is likely what led the Yankees to be just “lukewarm” on one of the most hyped free agents of all-time. I’d also imagine that term was leaked in order to safeguard the Yankees’ leverage in any potential negotiations.

The Yankees attempted to pry Machado away from the Orioles at the 2018 Trade Deadline, and have been connected to the superstar on a few different occasions. Didi Gregorius is set to miss most of the 2018 season with Tommy John surgery, and there have been consistent questions about Miguel Andújar‘s defensive abilities at third base. Those two spots are obvious fits for Machado with his elite offensive and defensive abilities.

MLB Trade Rumors, which does an annual prediction series on the fates of their Top 50 Free Agents, believes Machado will sign a record-breaking 13-year, $390 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. That’s the second-biggest contract prediction in their article, as they also predict Bryce Harper will land an unprecedented 14-year, $420 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Heyman: Corbin, Happ Will Be Yankees’ Pitching Priorities

Two impressive lefties are at the top of the Yankees’ pitching wishlist.

The Yankees are aiming to put a majority of their offseason focus into improving their pitching staff for 2019. That search will be centered on a pair of lefties – Patrick Corbin and J.A. Happ, according to Fancred’s Jon Heyman. Having more than one strong lefty in the Yankee rotation would help neutralize lefty bats that often target the right-field porch at Yankee Stadium.

Patrick Corbin – 11-7, 3.15 ERA (2.47 FIP), 11.07 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, 6.3 fWAR

By WAR, Corbin was the third-best qualified pitcher in the National League behind stunning seasons from the Mets’ Jacob deGrom and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer. His 48.5% ground-ball rate was sixth-best in the National League, and would’ve been second-best on the 2018 Yankees (minimum 50 innings) behind Sonny Gray‘s 50%. Obviously, Gray wasn’t as successful as Corbin, but Gray walked close to two more batters per nine than Corbin and struck out three batters less per nine. Simply put, Corbin misses bats and can avoid the big hit despite an NL-leading 41.7% hard contact rate amongst qualified pitchers. If it’s hit hard, but on the ground, a well-positioned infield can get you an out. There will be an obvious learning curve with a jump from the National League West to the American League East, but I think Corbin is up to it.

J.A. Happ – 17-6, 3.65 ERA (3.98 FIP), 9.78 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, 3.2 fWAR

At first glance, Happ’s stats are not as strong as Corbin’s, but are still impressive. What I appreciate most from Happ is that he put this line up against the formidable American League East with the pressure of a New York Yankees postseason run on his shoulders. Happ was filthy down the stretch and provided incredible value for the Yankees when he went 7-0 with a 2.69 ERA in 11 starts. Age is the only big concern for the lefty. Happ is 36 now, but showed how he can still be effective for at least a few more seasons.

In a perfect world, the Yanks are able to haul both of these southpaws in as free agents with room to keep building the team. Heyman listed Nathan Eovaldi, Gio González, Dallas Keuchel, Wade Miley, Charlie Morton, Hyun-jin Ryu and CC Sabathia as other options should the Yankees fail to sign either Corbin or Happ. He also mentioned Clayton Kershaw but the lefty just agreed to a 3-year, $93 million extension with the Dodgers as expected.

Hot Stove Notes: Gardner, Harper, Machado, Robertson

Our first round of Hot Stove Hot Takes are here.

With the World Series (painfully) behind us, free agency and Hot Stove are both officially underway. As of 9 a.m. yesterday, all players eligible for free agency are officially on the market. Players can only negotiate with their old team until Friday at 5 p.m. before the real madness starts. Teams must also decide whether they will extend the one-year, $17.9 million qualifying offer to those eligible free agents by that same deadline. Those that get offered the qualifying offer will get 10 days (until November 12) to decide whether they will accept or decline. Teams that sign a player who declined the qualifying offer receive compensation in the form of draft picks and/or international bonus pool money from that player’s new team.

It’s been one day, and there’s already some headlines swirling around Yankees Universe:

  • The Yankees have until Wednesday at 5 p.m. to determine the fate of Brett Gardner and his club option for the 2019 season. The team will either pay $12.5 million to pick him up for 2019, or decline the option and pay him a $2 million buyout. “I’d love to come back here, man,” Gardner said after the season-ending loss to Boston in the ALDS. “I’ve been here for a long time. My agent [Joe Bick] and I have a great relationship with Cash and the rest of the front office. I’m sure when the time is right, we’ll sit down and talk about that.” The 35-year-old saw his offensive production drop to a .236/.322/.368 (90 wRC+) line but also proved he can still play elite outfield defense. If I had to guess, I think the Yankees decline the option but look to retain Gardner as the team’s fourth outfielder.
  • The Bryce Harper headlines are here, folks. Andy Martino of SNY reported the Yankees are “not expected to pursue free agent Bryce Harper” because “The early feeling is that Harper simply doesn’t fit”. On the surface, that seems to torpedo the offseason plan of backing up a dump-truck for Harper and Manny Machado (more on him to come). But, remember what I wrote above. The Yankees would be clearly tampering if they expressed interest in Harper during the exclusive negotiation period. Also, it would kill the Yankees’ negotiating leverage to come out for Harper this early. This reminds me of how Cashman handled Johnny Damon‘s free agency in 2005: where he claimed Bubba Crosby would start in center field… until he didn’t.
  • Now, to the Manny Machado news. Also from SNY’s Martino, the Yankees are apparently “lukewarm” on the idea of a Machado pursuit. The optics and results of Machado’s postseason apparently “cost him some enthusiasm in the offices at Yankee Stadium,” per the report. I can see how that would be true, especially since Machado clearly cleated multiple first basemen on purpose and was called a “dirty player” by multiple players and analysts throughout the playoffs. As with Harper, this is some early-offseason posturing for a team that’s not even allowed to negotiate with the player in question. With Didi Gregorius slated to miss most of next season, I think the Yankees are going to have significant interest in Machado. But, this is a business based on negotiation and Cashman has to play his cards properly.
  • David Robertson, who officially became a free agent yesterday, wrote a short guest post for MLB Trade Rumors about his decision to represent himself without an agent during his second foray into free agency. Namely, he decided he knew his desires for a contract best and also indicated the decision did not stem from a disagreement with his agent. The whole statement is definitely worth a read.
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