Though I’m not sure he can top yesterday’s bombshell revealing the Yankees and Seattle Mariners “briefly discussed” a Jacoby Ellsbury–Robinson 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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 MLB.com 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.