Needing bullpen reinforcements, the Yankees hooked up with the Washington Nationals on a simple trade after Monday’s 14-to-1 drubbing of the Minnesota Twins. The Bombers acquired right-hander A.J. Cole from the Nats in exchange for cash considerations.
The Yankees plan to activate Cole for Tuesday’s matchup with the Twins. To clear 25- and 40-man roster space, the team designated fellow righty David Hale for assignment. Hale pitched two scoreless innings of mop-up duty Monday.
Cole had been designated for assignment by the Nationals April 20, so the Yankees likely claimed him off waivers and then arranged the trade with Washington. The 26-year-old has made four appearances (two starts) in 2018, with a not-so-great 13.06 ERA (10.51 FIP) and a 1.298 OPS against him. He was ranked as the Nationals’ No. 10 prospect prior to the 2016 season, per MLB Pipeline.
With injuries to Luis Cessa, Giovanny Gallegos, Ben Heller, Tommy Kahnle and Adam Warren, the Yankees found themselves down to just Jonathan Loáisiga (who hasn’t pitched above High-A ball) on the 40-man roster. Cole likely will slide into a role in the front-end of the Yankee bullpen, and could be a spot-starter should the Yankees need one.
Cole is still a pre-arbitration player, so he will make $555,300 for this season when on the MLB roster. He will make less than that if he ever goes to the minor leagues. He is out of minor league options, so the Yankees would have to designate him for assignment and hope to outright him off the 40-man to demote him.
Hale finds himself in DFA-limbo now. The Yankees have 10 days to trade, release or outright him to the minors (if he clears waivers). By my research, he has never been outrighted before and also does not have the service time to decline an outright assignment. Therefore, my prediction is that Hale finds himself back with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre sooner rather than later.
With already questionable first base depth and a suspension to Tyler Austin looming, the Yankees have brought back a familiar face in Adam Lind. The veteran signed a minor league deal with the Bombers, and he will report to extended spring training in Tampa.
The deal was first reported and confirmed by SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo. Lind played in five Spring Training games for the Yankees, going 3-for-15 (.200/.250/.200) with no extra-base hits and one RBI. He played exclusively first base in the Grapefruit League, but logged 197⅓ innings in left field for the Washington Nationals in 2017.
Lind’s initial deal with the Yankees included an opt-out clause if he was not on the active roster by a certain date. Once the Yankees signed Neil Walker, Lind was released since it became apparent that he would not make the Opening Day roster. But, with an injury to Greg Bird, Austin’s suspension and the team’s offensive malaise, it made sense to bring Lind back.
The team has already begun to work out Miguel Andújar at first base, which shows how desperate they are for a solid first base option. Lind slashed .303/.362/.513 in mostly bench duty for the Nationals last season, and is a solid option against right-handed pitching.
The Yankee outfield depth issue became a bit more comfortable for the team Tuesday, as they announced the acquisition of Trayce Thompson off of waivers from the Los Angeles Dodgers. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Yankees transferred right-handed pitcher Ben Heller to the 60-day disabled list.
In 151 big league games, Thompson has a career line of .233/.310/.445 with 19 home runs and 50 RBIs. His biggest asset to the Yankees is the required athleticism to play center field. With tons of injuries to Yankees outfielders, Thompson provides an extra depth piece.
Manager Aaron Boone told reporters that Thompson will be assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but that the team would re-evaluate after Wednesday’s series finale against Tampa Bay.
Well, this isn’t ideal. The Yankees’ PR Twitter account announced Friday that Opening Day center fielder Aaron Hicks has been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a right intercostal muscle strain. Outfielder Billy McKinney has been recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to take his spot on the active roster.
There’s no clear evidence as to when in last night’s season opener Hicks suffered his injury. Hicks went 2-for-4 with two strikeouts against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday. He spent most of 2017 as the Yankees’ primary center fielder, slashing .266/.372/.475 (127 wRC+) with 15 home runs in 88 games. He did spend extended time on the disabled list in 2017 with a nagging oblique injury.
McKinney impressed with his power in Spring Training after being added to the 40-man roster in the offseason. He slashed .167/.340/.524 with five homers and 13 RBIs while seeing time in the outfield corners and first base. He picked up a first baseman’s glove again for the first time since high school with the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League. McKinney showed his first round promise last year between Double-A and Triple-A, slashing a combined .277/.338/.483 with 16 home runs and 64 RBIs between the two levels.
This injury complicates things slightly for rookie manager Aaron Boone. Luckily, he has a lot of versatility that he can deploy with his bench. I think we might see a bit of Tyler Wade in the outfield now, with Neil Walker sliding to second base and Tyler Austin getting more reps at first base. Brett Gardner likely slides into center field to replace Hicks.
Of course, Giancarlo Stanton can also play left field, though the plan with that was to limit his time out there to games against tough left-handed pitchers. McKinney can play both outfield corners as well.
The news out of Tampa continues to be promising about Jacoby Ellsbury, whom Brian Cashman said needed “40-50 at-bats” before he would return from an oblique injury suffered early in Spring Training. Even with all of his faults, Ellsbury’s ability to play center field would greatly help the Yankees.
The battle for the Yankees 25-man roster has come down to its final participants, with the Yankees announcing that 1B/OFs Tyler Austin, Billy McKinney and RHPs Giovanny Gallegos and Ben Heller to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. That leaves Luis Cessa (who can’t get optioned mid-start, I guess), Domingo Germán and Jonathan Holder for the final spot on the Yankees roster.
Austin showed his power this spring. He tied with Miguel Andújar and McKinney for the team’s home run lead with four. Outside of the dingers, Austin slashed .235/.333/.618 in 16 games. His lifetime .361/.432/.722 line in 44 at-bats against left-handed pitchers will be his calling card this season, as he will likely get promoted to face teams like the lefty-heavy Red Sox.
McKinney came out strong this spring, but finished in a little bit of a lull. The former first-rounder slashed .161/.381/.548 with the aforementioned four home runs in 18 games. The corner outfielder continued the work at first base that he started in the Arizona Fall League. McKinney likely gets a chance in the majors if there’s an injury to one of the outfielders.
The situation for the two pitchers optioned is a bit of a different story. The Yankees will cycle through their pitchers with minor league options remaining to keep them fresh.
Gallegos appeared in eight games, pitching a total of 7⅓ innings. He allowed three runs in that span (3.68 ERA) and struck out 12 batters to six walks. He’s going to form a part of the RailRiders bullpen, and will cycle up to the bigs when a long reliever is needed.
Heller appeared in seven games, pitching 10⅔ innings. He gave up eight runs, but only five of them were earned. That gave him a less-than-stellar 4.22 ERA, which was inflated by allowing three earned runs in his last outing against the Tigers March 20. Heller, like Gallegos, will be going up and down all season.
The Yankees have received one prospect back after losing him in the Rule 5 draft, as the Atlanta Braves returned right-hander pitcher Anyelo Gómez to the Yankees Tuesday. The Yankees assigned Gómez to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Gómez began 2017 all the way down in Class-A Charleston, before working his way up to one appearance in September with the RailRiders. He had a 5-3 record, a stellar 1.92 ERA and dominating 11.1 strikeouts-per-9 rate. He put up those numbers in 38 games, with just one start (with Double-A Trenton).
The Braves were looking to use Gómez in the front-end of their bullpen. He struggled in seven Spring Training appearances, however, posting a 10.80 ERA in 8⅓ innings for the Braves. He allowed more than a hit per inning, and his walk rate was nearly 63% higher than in 2017.
The Yankees still have three other players who were taken in the Rule 5 draft who are vying to make their respective big league clubs: left-handed pitcher Néstor Cortés (Orioles), right-handed pitcher José Mesa (Orioles) and first baseman Mike Ford (Mariners).
If these players do not make the 25-man roster or open the season on the disabled list, they must be offered back to the Yankees. Otherwise, they must spend the entire season in the major leagues for the team to gain the ability to send them to the minor leagues.
One such example is catcher Luis Torrens, who was taken by the Cincinnati Reds and then traded to the San Diego Padres prior to the 2017 season. The Padres kept Torrens through an understandably awful .163/.243/.203 line in 56 games before optioning him to the Double-A San Antonio Missions March 14.
The Yankees sent two Top 10 prospects down to minor league camp Sunday, as No. 4 third baseman Miguel Andújar and No. 2 outfielder Estevan Florial were reassigned to minor league camp.
Andújar, who is a member of the 40-man roster, was optioned to Triple-A Scranton. Prior to the Yankees’ trade for Brandon Drury, Andújar was the local favorite to break camp as the team’s third baseman. He is currently tied with outfielder Billy McKinney for the team lead in home runs this spring with four. He slashed .262/.273/.643 in 14 games prior to his demotion. The knock on Andújar is his defense, where his scouting report says “he still needs to polish some rough edges”.
Interestingly enough, the Yankees decided to expand Andújar’s defensive portfolio by having him play first base now that he is in minor league camp.
Florial, who is not Rule 5 Draft eligible until December 2019, was simply reassigned to minor league camp. He will likely open the season with Class-A Advanced Tampa or Double-A Trenton. The speedy outfielder impressed with his maturity for a player who just turned 20 this past November. He slashed .231/.333/.462 with three triples, three RBIs and two stolen bases in his 18 games in big league camp.
The Yankees are looking for Florial to work on making more consistent contact, given that he struck out at a 31% rate in the low minors last season. He has a plus arm, and the speed to stick in center field.
Jake Cave has found a new home in Minnesota, as the Yankees dealt him to the Twins for pitcher Luis Gil Friday. Cave had been designated for assignment March 12 to clear a 40-man roster spot for newly-signed infielder Neil Walker.
Cave found himself on the chopping block after a strong 2017 in the minors because of the Yankees’ outfield depth. He put up career highs in home runs (20) and RBIs (56), while slashing .305/.351/.542 in 103 games between Double-A and Triple-A. The 25-year-old, who is capable of playing all three outfield positions, was hitting just .158/.304/.211 through 10 games with the big league club in Spring Training.
The Yankees’ acquisition of Giancarlo Stanton and the emergence of Billy McKinney in Spring Training made Cave expendable. While the Yankees’ next true center fielder, Estevan Florial, is still a few years from the Bronx, they were clearly comfortable dealing Cave because of their belief in the upside of Aaron Hicks and in the consistency of Brett Gardner to back him up.
The return for the Yankees is 19-year-old right-hander Luis Gil. Gil signed with the Twins in 2015, and pitched for their Dominican Summer League team in 2015 and 2017. It is unclear why he did not pitch in 2016. Between those two seasons, Gil posted a 3.32 ERA and 10.1 K/9 in 30 games (14 starts).
Gil is the second pitcher the Yankees have acquired with only Dominican Summer League experience under their belt. The Bombers traded Nick Rumbelow to the Seattle Mariners in November 2017 during their 40-man roster crunch for RHP Juan Then, who is now ranked as the Yankees’ No. 25 prospect.
The Twins designated 1B/DH Kennys Vargas for assignment to clear a 40-man roster spot for Cave. Vargas was out of options, while Cave still has three remaining. Cave likely begins the season with the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings.
After coming into MLB camp as a highly regarded non-roster invitee, No. 6 prospect Chance Adams was reassigned to minor league camp Thursday after giving up six earned runs in just 4⅔ innings pitched.
“It hasn’t been too great of a spring for me,” Adams said, per Bryan Hoch. “Just got to let it go, and I have to get better as the season goes on. Nothing really happens too good if you just dwell on what happens. Just got to be focused on the future and let the past go.”
Adams had a fantastic year in 2017 with both Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, posting an overall 15-5 record and 2.45 ERA in 27 total starts. The former college reliever has the upside to become a No. 3 starter, but needs to focus on harnessing his fastball command, per MLB Pipeline.
The 23-year-old’s time in camp ended with an unpleasant 11.57 ERA, with hitters batting .474 against him. Adams will now focus on returning to the RailRiders rotation in Triple-A, and being prepared if there is a need in the big league rotation or bullpen due to injury.
Many clamored for Adams to make his debut last season amid injury- and performance-related uncertainty in the Yankees’ rotation. The midseason acquisitions of Jaime García and Sonny Gray allowed the Yankees to keep Adams in the minors, however.
Adam Lind‘s time in pinstripes has reportedly come to an end. Randy J. Miller of NJ Advanced Media reported this morning that the Yankees have released the 34-year-old first baseman/outfielder.
The club confirmed Lind’s release in a tweet from their official PR Twitter account.
Lind signed a minor-league deal with an invitation to MLB Spring Training March 2, and he slashed .200/.250/.200 in five games with the Yankees. The contract he signed reportedly had an opt-out for March 22 if he was not on the major league roster by that point. It seems the Yankees have jumped that gun by releasing Lind, which shows that they prefer the skills of Neil Walker and/or Tyler Austin backing up Greg Bird at first base.
In 2017, Lind performed well as a part-time player off the bench. The veteran slashed .303/.362/.513 in 116 games for the Washington Nationals. Even more impressively, Lind put up a .356/.396/.644 line with four home runs and 13 RBIs in 48 plate appearances as a pinch-hitter.
Now, Lind re-enters a market that has been quite cold for 1B/OF/DH types like him. I expect him to latch on with another National League club that will value his skills off the bench.