Category: Rumors

Yankees “Heavy” on Zach Britton; Other Teams Still In On Lefty

It seems there’s no dominant starting pitcher available on the market, so the Yankees are looking to shore up an already dominant bullpen.

Multiple MLB insiders reported today that the Yankees are “heavy” in their pursuit of Baltimore Orioles closer Zach Britton, with that adjective coming from SNY’s Andy Martino. MLB Network’s Jim Bowden said the Yankees are in the lead along with the Houston Astros, and stated “negotiations are rounding third and heading for home.”

Bowden also noted that the Astros and Yankees were not alone, and his MLB Network colleague Ken Rosenthal reported that he heard the Milwaukee Brewers and Boston Red Sox are also involved.

Britton would fill the role of the non-Aroldis Chapman lefty out of the Yankees bullpen. Since becoming a full-time reliever in 2014, lefties hit just .182/.242/.232 off of him in a 290-batter sample size. Plus, his experience in high-leverage situations would be valuable down the stretch.

The Yankees have been linked to Britton at various points this trade season, as well as now-Cleveland lefty Brad Hand. Rosenthal reported the Yankees had been in touch with the Padres about Hand, but that the Friars wanted Miguel Andújar in any trade for Hand. They ended up accepting one prospect (albeit a good one – Francisco Mejía) for Hand and Adam Cimber, who combined have like eight more years of control. Another example of teams demanding an overpay from the Yankees, but I digress.

Adding Britton to the Yankees bullpen would be an obvious upgrade not just over Chasen Shreve, but would also add another formidable arm to an already-scary bullpen down the stretch.

Rosenthal: Yankees Emerging in Manny Machado Sweepstakes

Well, this was unexpected.

Ken Rosenthal is reporting via The Athletic  that “according to major-league sources, the Yankees are showing increased interest in [Manny] Machado,” the Orioles star infielder who was just named the starting shortstop for the American League All-Star team.

An acquisition of Machado would leave a lot to unpack. He’s said he wants to be a shortstop, so what happens to Didi Gregorius? Miguel Andújar has been impressive at third base: does he end up in the minors or shipped out for a top-line starting pitcher? What about Brandon Drury?

Machado has made it clear that he would like to be a shortstop in the future, but defensive metrics show that third base is where he’s truly elite on defense. At the plate, his skills continue to impress: .309/.379/.555 with 21 home runs in 2018.

Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports confirmed the Yankees have checked in with the Orioles on “Machado, starting pitching and relievers,” which would be congruent with reports from Rosenthal and Fancred’s Jon Heyman. Heyman linked the Yankees to Orioles closer Zach Britton.

Would the Yankees trade Andújar for an ace (think Jacob deGrom) if it meant landing Machado? Would they beef up the prospect package to an AL East rival if it meant the inclusion of Britton? It would certainly be a blockbuster, but there’s really only one way to find out.

If the Yankees can ensure Machado would willingly play third base, and can make the money work so that they can remain under the luxury tax threshold to add starting pitching, they should definitely make the Machado trade if the price is right.

SP Notes: Eovaldi, Happ

Could we have a second consecutive summer where Brian Cashman swings a reunion trade?

Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday that the Yankees were one of many teams in attendance scouting right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, who dominated the Mets through seven innings of one-hit ball. The 28-year-old racked up nine strikeouts without a walk.

Of course, Eovaldi had shown flashes of that talent in his 51 games in pinstripes. He went 23-11 with a 4.45 ERA in that time, but the results never seemed to match his stuff. Disaster struck in August 2016, when it was revealed that Eovaldi had a torn flexor tendon and partially-torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.The Rays signed him as a reclamation project, giving him a one-year deal worth $2 million that also had a matching club option for $2 million. He rehabbed throughout 2017, and returned to pitch six no-hit innings in his return from the 60-day disabled list in 2018.

Eovaldi is a rental starter who could be had for much cheaper then someone under years of control. The Yankees have been known to target young starters who are cost controlled so that they can spend big money elsewhere. That would not be the case here but an acquisition of Eovaldi would be akin to the Jaime García trade of 2017. That trade was intended to add depth so that the younger pitchers on the staff could limit their innings.

On the J.A. Happ front, it seems the Yankees’ bludgeoning of the veteran lefty has led to a dispute between the Blue Jays and Yankees about his value. Buster Olney of ESPN reports the teams are having “continued conversations” about Happ, but they are “haggling over the price tag”.

Olney thinks the best course of action for the Yankees is to wait out the Blue Jays and the rest of the trade market to see if any better starting pitchers become available. I agree with Buster here, since Happ really doesn’t seem like the type of arm to be a difference-maker in a playoff series.

Now, I could understand this kind of trade if it would be a García-like maneuver. But Happ can’t be the guy they put all their trust in to deliver in the postseason.

Heyman: Zach Britton, Brad Hand Among Yankees Interests

A glaring need for the Yankees as the non-waiver trade deadline is a non-Aroldis Chapman lefty who can come into a tough situation to get left-handers out.

Chasen Shreve was given that role out of Spring Training once the team released Wade LeBlanc on March 23 as camp started to wind down. Shreve has been inadequate in that role, as lefties have an OPS of 1.002 against him as of July 8. Overall, hitters have an OPS of .853 against him (again, as of July 8) on the season so there’s clearly room for an upgrade.

Jon Heyman of FanCred tweeted yesterday that the Yankees have inquired with the Baltimore Orioles and San Diego Padres about lefties Zach Britton and Brad Hand, respectively. Both would represent a gigantic upgrade over Shreve. Let’s dive into each of them as potential trade pieces.

Zach Britton

Britton is coming off a rather major injury, as he ruptured the Achilles tendon in his right leg December 20 during an offseason workout. He began the season on the 60-day disabled list and made his first appearance June 12. So far, he has pitched 10⅔ innings and allowed six runs. It creates an inflated 5.06 ERA up front, but if you look at his game logs, four of those runs came in one outing, and the other two came in another. He’s a victim of how small sample sizes can kill a reliever’s ERA.

The 30-year-old has been as dominant as they come since becoming a full-time reliever in 2014. He’s got a 1.61 ERA and 244 strikeouts to 73 walks. Britton will be a free agent after the 2018 season, so his status as a rental making the pro-rated portion of $12 million makes him rather cheap. Health issues with an Astros prospect torpedoed a deal to send him to Houston last year. The Orioles ended up screwed by Britton’s Achilles injury because now he has limited time to build up value.

Baltimore has used him exclusively as a closer since converting him into a reliever, though that clearly would not be his role if he were traded to New York. His .181/.239/.232 line against left-handed hitters since his bullpen move makes him a prime rental candidate for the Yankees.

Brad Hand

Hand is an interesting trade candidate for a variety of reasons. He has shown clear signs of regression from his All-Star campaign in 2017, and has an ERA that is more than half a run higher than at this point last season. But, his 2.16 ERA and 21 saves in 2017 were enough for the San Diego Padres to buy out his first year of free agency with a three-year extension in January 2018. That extension also features a club option for the 2021 season.

Hand has been a full-time reliever with the Padres since they claimed him off waivers prior to the 2016 season. In that timeframe, he’s marginally better against lefties than Britton in a smaller sample: .134/.230/.263

With that said, Hand will be a much more expensive trade because of the control that comes with him. The Yankees were able to fetch Clint Frazier, Justus Sheffield, Ben Heller and J.P. Feyereisen from the Indians for a similar amount of control of Andrew Miller. Hand is not on the same level as Miller, but is also making significantly less money (Hand is making $4.1 million, up to $7.6 million; Miller has been making $9 million). Still, the prospect price would be quite high.

Given the Orioles’ loathing of trades within the division, I think it’s hard to imagine the Yankees acquiescing to their demands for a Zach Britton trade. An acquisition of Brad Hand, no matter how expensive, would provide a huge upgrade in a crucial spot for the Yankees relief corps. With the amount of young pitching talent still in the Yankee farm system, the Yankees should put more into targeting Hand for the 2018 team and beyond.

Morosi: Moustakas at 1B of Interest to Yankees

With Greg Bird putting up below average offensive production for the Yankees at first base (97 wRC+, 95 OPS+), the Yankees could turn to an unorthodox option on the trade market. Jon Paul Morosi of is reporting the team has interest in acquiring Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and moving him across the diamond to first base.

The Yankees have gotten very little production out of first base for the second consecutive season, as the combination of Bird, Tyler Austin and Neil Walker has produced a .657 OPS – 29th among 30 Major League teams.

Morosi reports the Royals expect to trade Moustakas, who became a victim of the 2017-18 free agent freeze and signed with the Royals on a one-year, $6.5 million deal that features a $15 million mutual option for 2019. Morosi mentioned also that the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies are also interested in Moustakas, but as a third baseman. At 29, the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 draft seemed poised to cash in on a season where he hit a career-high 38 home runs. But, that opportunity never came and he found himself back in Kansas City for cheap.

In 82 games so far this season, Moustakas has put up a .258/.312/.472 line with 16 home runs. He has, however, just 17.0 innings of big league baseball at first base in his career and they’ve all come in 2018. Moustakas would likely receive the sort of crash course that Chase Headley got at the end of 2017 following the acquisition of Todd Frazier. Headley only had 62 innings at first base under his belt when the Yankees made that move on July 18, 2017. However, Headley had been a bit of a utility man with the San Diego Padres, also seeing time in the outfield. Moustakas only has a few minor league innings at shortstop on his résumé.

Acquiring Moustakas would show the Yankees have zero confidence in Bird’s ability to put it all together in 2018. He still has minor league options remaining, so the Yankees would likely stash him in Triple-A until September 1 to get things ironed out. A move that acquires salary like this would be worth watching also because the Yankees want to add to the starting rotation and stay below the $197 million luxury tax threshold. The Yanks could shed the remaining salary of Neil Walker by attaching a higher quality prospect, which is how the team managed to jettison Headley alongside Bryan Mitchell.

The internal options to replace Bird aren’t great. Austin recently hit the minor league 7-day disabled list with a back issue, where he joins fellow Triple-A first baseman Mike Ford. The next man up would be Billy McKinney, who has already cracked 11 home runs in the International League but has primarily suited up in the outfield this season. Ryan McBroom has had an impressive breakout after being acquired for Rob Refsnyder from Toronto, hitting .313/.336/.498 at Triple-A while splitting time between first base and right field.

Greg Bird is just 12-for-61 (.715 OPS) in his past 21 games. In that same span, Mike Moustakas is 15-for-71 (.626 OPS). Neither is lighting the world on fire at the moment. I think it’s too soon to be making a declaration in either direction on this rumor. Bird rounding into shape so that the Yankees only have to trade for a starter would be the best case scenario. But, if Bird gets injured or continues to struggle, Brian Cashman has the pieces and the flexibility to land Moustakas for much less than the trade that sent ex-teammate Kelvin Herrera to the Washington Nationals.

Giovanny Gallegos Promoted for Texas Series Opener

UPDATE (3:35 p.m. EDT): The Yankees have announced the move. Gallegos will wear No. 61.

It seems we have an answer regarding who will fill the roster spot vacated by Clint Frazier after he was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Sunday night. George A. King III of the New York Post reported that right-handed reliever Giovanny Gallegos is likely to join the team today for the series opener in Texas.

Gallegos debuted with the team last May, and made 16 appearances as one of the up-and-down relievers on the Scranton Shuttle. He finished the season with a 0-1 record and 4.87 ERA.

The 26-year-old had been dealing with a back problem that shelved him at Triple-A, where he has just three relief appearances to this point. In those outings, he has given up three runs in four innings (6.75 ERA). Gallegos figures to be filling the role of eighth man, and he’s useful because he can be optioned to the minor leagues without risk of losing him.

It seems likely that Gallegos will hang around until Greg Bird is ready. Aaron Boone described Bird’s return as “around the corner,” so Gallegos may not be long for the MLB roster. Demoting a reliever when Bird returns will also allow them to keep Tyler Austin around, who is 6-for-11 (.545/.538/1.364) in his last three games with three home runs.

Newsday: Yankees Still in Play for Alex Cobb

Could Brian Cashman make one last big splash?

While the Yankees’ starting rotation may seem settled for the 2018 season, one baseball source told Newsday’s Anthony Rieber that the Yankees are continuing to monitor the market of right-handed pitcher Alex Cobb.

Rieber said that Cobb would fit with the Yankees “if his price drops enough and the Yankees can continue their quest to stay under the luxury-tax threshold”. He then cited the Yankees’ signing of Neil Walker to a $4 million one-year deal as an example of how low Cobb’s market would have to go for him to fit under the $197 million luxury tax number.

Cobb is the best starting pitcher remaining on the market after a remarkably cold offseason for players expecting high-value contracts. Lance Lynn recently agreed to a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins, while Jake Arrieta inked a three-year, $75 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The issue with Cobb is that he declined the qualifying offer from the Tampa Bay Rays, so the Yankees would have to “lose its second- and fifth-highest selections in the following year’s Draft as well $1 million from its international bonus pool” because the Yankees exceeded the luxury tax threshold in 2017.

The righty fits with the Yankees because he is a ground ball pitcher. In 2017, batters had a 47.8% ground ball rate against Cobb. That number, however, is a significant drop from Cobb’s last full season in the big leagues. Cobb had a 56.2% ground ball rate in 2014. Injuries prevented him from pitching in 2015 and he only made 13 starts (including rehab appearances) in 2016.

Behind incumbent fifth starter Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees do not have much starting pitching depth that is MLB-ready. Domingo Germán has impressed so far in Spring Training, and Aaron Boone mentioned him in the same sentence as Luis Cessa, Chance Adams and David Hale as potential sixth starters. The Yankees do not yet believe that Justus Sheffield or Domingo Acevedo are able to fill in just yet.

Adding Cobb would create an interesting situation in the Yankee rotation. The team could, conceivably, use an option year on Montgomery and have him spot start with the big league club to limit his innings and provide starting depth. But, you’re keeping an effective lefty starter who had a promising rookie year in the minors for part of the season to allow Cobb, who pitched his first full season since 2014 last year, to have a full-time rotation spot.

With the draft pick compensation and the fact that the Yankees have five starters already, I think adding Alex Cobb would create more headaches for the team than is necessary.