Category: Transactions

Yankees Re-Sign Díaz, Urshela to MiLB Deals

The Yankees have re-signed minor-league catcher Francisco Díaz and infielder Gio Urshela to another round of minor league deals. That information was compiled by Matt Eddy at Baseball America.

Díaz, 28, is a switch-hitter from Punta Cardon, Venezuela, who played in 74 games for the Yankees from High-A all the way to Triple-A. Across those levels, he hit .275/.381/.333 with one homer and 28 RBIs in 74 games. Díaz played at least 19 games at each of those levels, as he moved around the minor-league ranks as a depth player. He’s playing winter ball in Venezuela, batting .275/.367/.275 in 16 games for the Bravos de Margarita.

Urshela came to the Yankee organization August 4, 2018, in a cash trade from Toronto. He went straight to the RailRiders, and hit .307/.340/.475 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 27 games for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He played mostly shortstop and third base for the RailRiders, though he also made one start at second base. It seems the 27-year-old is also picking up a first baseman’s glove, having recorded five starts there for the Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League. He’s hitting .242/.242/.485 so far in nine Dominican Winter League games.

These two join catcher Ryan Lavarnway as the players who have already signed minor league deals with invites to Major League Spring Training.

Yankees Sign Ryan Lavarnway to MiLB Deal

The 31-year-old veteran will serve as upper-level catching depth.

The Yankees added veteran catching depth to their ranks Wednesday, reportedly inking 31-year-old Ryan Lavarnway to a minor league contract. That deal also carries an invite to MLB Spring Training, as well as a likely ticket to playing time with the Triple-A SWB RailRiders.

Lavarnway has always been a part-time big-leaguer, appearing in a career-high 46 games for the Boston Red Sox in 2012. He’s also played for the Baltimore Orioles (2015), Atlanta Braves (2015–2016), Oakland Athletics (2017) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2018). He is a career .208/.268/.326 (59 wRC+) hitter with seven home runs and 43 RBI.

In 2018, he hit .288/.375/.485 (145 wRC+) for Triple-A Indianapolis in the Pirates organization. He went 4-for-6 in a six-game cameo with Pittsburgh as a September call-up.

Just like the Erik Kratz trade and subsequent signing last year, Lavarnway is around to provide a veteran presence in Spring Training and help shoulder the workload in Triple-A. The Yankees upper-level catching depth is thin with Wilkin Castillo and Francisco Díaz both set to become minor-league free agents.

Yankees Claim Hanser Alberto Off Waivers From Texas

The 26-year-old joins the Yanks as infield depth.

The Rangers tried to sneak out-of-options infielder Hanser Alberto through outright waivers, but failed as the Yankees pounced with a waiver claim on the 26-year-old. Alberto is hitting .381/.435/.548 in his first 11 games for the Gigantes del Cibao of the Dominican Winter League.

In parts of three seasons with the Rangers, Alberto hit .192/.210/.231 (9 wRC+) with defensive appearances at all four infield positions. It’s an ugly stat-line, but he did manage to hit .330/.346/.452 (106 wRC+) with seven homers and 58 RBIs for Triple-A Round Rock Express in 2018.

This move adds infield depth to the Yankees on the heels of Didi Gregorius‘s recent Tommy John surgery. Alberto is regarded as a strong defender, relatively young and cheap. I have a feeling the Yankees will try to sneak Alberto through outright waivers between now and the beginning of Spring Training. The team could use some veteran infield depth in the upper levels of the minor leagues.

At Triple-A, the Yankees are at risk of losing Rey Navarro and Gio Urshela to minor league free agency. Miguel Andújar and Gleyber Torres appear to be anchored in the major leagues, and Ronald Torreyes and Tyler Wade appear to have the inside track for bench roles in the big leagues. If Alberto does make it through the winter in the Yankees organization, he’ll compete for the utility infield bench spot and for a starting role with the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders.

Alberto has been added to the Yankees 40-man roster, which now sits at 37 players.

Ellsbury, Frazier, Heller, Montgomery Activated From 60-Day DL

The Yankees quietly activated OF Jacoby Ellsbury, OF Clint Frazier, RHP Ben Heller and LHP Jordan Montgomery from the 60-day disabled list one day ahead of the Nov. 2 deadline Thursday. The Yankees 40-man roster now stands at 36.

Ellsbury went through an extensive list of injuries in Spring Training, and never took the field for the Yankees in the regular season. On August 6, he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. He’s expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Frazier was limited to 283 plate appearances from High-A, Triple-A and the MLB because of multiple concussions. He hit .265/.390/.353 (113 wRC+) in 15 big league games in 2018. He’s expected to be ready for Spring Training.

Heller underwent Tommy John surgery April 6 and missed the entire 2018 season. In 19 MLB games with the Yankees in 2016 and 2017, the righty was 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA. By all accounts, he should be ready for Spring Training in 2019.

Montgomery made six starts for the Yankees in 2018 before he, too, required Tommy John surgery. He was 2-0 with a 3.62 ERA before disaster struck. He’s expected to return at some point towards the end of the 2019 season.

Yankees Agree With Brett Gardner on One-Year, $7.5 Million Deal After Declining Option

The longest-tenured Yankee will be back in pinstripes in 2019.

The longest-tenured member of the Yankees will be back in pinstripes for 2019, as the team announced they have agreed to terms with Brett Gardner after declining his $12.5 million club option for the 2019 season. He will be paid a $2 million buyout since the team declined his option.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect at the end of the season,” Gardner told MLB.com, “but being able to come back and rejoin this special group of guys we have in place, continue my career in a Yankees uniform — and hopefully finish it in a Yankees uniform — it means a great deal to me.

Mark Feinsand of MLB.com reported on Twitter that Gardner will earn $7.5 million in 2019. At the moment, it is unclear if he will earn any incentives for playing time or other milestones. The 35-year-old hit .236/.322/.368 (90 wRC+) with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs in the final guaranteed year of the contract he signed with the Yankees in 2014. He saw his playing time shrink down the stretch as he fatigued yet again in the second half as the team swung a last-minute trade for Andrew McCutchen from the San Francisco Giants.

Gardner went 0-for-8 with three walks in five postseason games for the Yankees in 2018. He started in center field for Game 2 and Game 3 of the American League Division Series against Boston.

Gardner technically will get $9.5 million because of the buyout, but the team will only face a $7.5 million luxury tax hit because the buyout quantity was guaranteed to be paid from the last contract. Therefore, it was in the average annual value of the old contract as a sunken cost.

With free agency beginning in earnest Friday evening, it’s important to look at Gardner’s role for the 2019 season. I get the feeling that he won’t be a full-time player. Gardner’s abilities as a defender, baserunner and veteran leader can certainly help this team be better next year. Aaron Boone can also manage his workload to avoid the second-half burn out that we often see from him.

“We have some unfinished business. It was tough to sit back and watch the rest of the postseason this year,” Gardner said to MLB.com. “It was a great learning experience for us. We have a young team and had a great season, but we came up short of our goal.”

The most important part of this move is that it reinforces the once formidable outfield depth in New York. The 2018 Yankees got outfield appearances from Jace Peterson, Shane Robinson, Tyler Wade and Neil Walker because of injuries and trades. The team really can’t rely on Jacoby Ellsbury and Clint Frazier because of their injury histories. Top prospect outfielder Estevan Florial needs more development, and depth guys like Ryan McBroom, Mark Payton and Zack Zehner probably aren’t options yet. Who does that leave? Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. That’s a pretty solid starting outfield.

But, then again, the Yankees had a similar situation in 2017 and swung a trade for Stanton. This team could still go out and make a big splash for someone like Michael Brantley or Bryce Harper. Point is, the Yankees got caught with their pants down when all of their outfield depth suddenly dried up in 2018. I think this is a smart baseball move for a team with more additions to make before Spring Training opens in February.

Yanks Select Sheffield; Recall Germán; Transfer Frazier to 60-Day DL

More bullpen reinforcements, including the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect.

Yankees fans will finally get a glimpse of the future, as the team selected the contract of left-handed pitcher Justus Sheffield on Tuesday morning. The team also recalled righty Domingo Germán in the same transaction. The Yankees clearly think both arms could help the team now that the RailRiders have been eliminated from the Triple-A playoffs.

Justus Sheffield, the Yankees No. 1 prospect, took a big step forward in the Yankees system in 2018, going 6-6 with a 2.48 ERA in 21 games (he entered in the second inning June 27 to allow A.J. Cole to have a rehab start) before being moved to the bullpen. The bullpen move was definitely not performance-based, but likely a way to simultaneously limit his innings and prepare him for a role at the big-league level. He owned a 2.45 ERA in 7⅓ innings across four regular season outings as a reliever. In three playoff outings, he posted a 3.60 ERA across five innings.

Domingo Germán appeared in 19 games for the Yanks, with 13 of them starts. He had an overall 5.68 ERA in 82⅓ innings, though his 3.52 ERA in relief clearly eclipses the 6.18 mark as a starter. He was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after a disastrous outing against the Mets on July 20, allowing four runs in just 3⅔ innings. A week later, he was placed on the MiLB disabled list with biceps tendinitis and ulnaritis. He spent a month on the DL before returning to rehab in the Gulf Coast and Florida State leagues – pitching to a 6.14 ERA in 7⅓ innings. In two playoff starts with Triple-A, Germán went 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA.

To clear a 40-man spot for Sheffield, Clint Frazier was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. It’s an unfortunately lost season for Frazier, who came to the Yankees alongside Sheffield from Cleveland in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade. The 24-year-old appeared in just 69 games combined between the majors and minors because of concussion issues. Frazier had started a rehab assignment with Tampa on August 12, and then did not play again until August 30. He went 2-for-5 in those two games, and was set to join Double-A Trenton in the Eastern League playoffs before the concussion symptoms returned. Across all levels, he finished the season batting .298/.387/.531 with 11 home runs and 26 RBIs.

It remains to be seen with the next step is for the outfielder, since he has too much service time to be assigned to the Arizona Fall League. I’d have to imagine he’ll play some winter ball in the Caribbean to make up for lost games. Yankees fans have to be hoping he’ll be back to his old self by next February.

Jonathan Loáisiga Recalled

Johnny Lasagna is back!

September 2 brings a second call-up now that rosters have expanded, as the Yankees recalled right-handed pitcher Jonathan Loáisiga from Double-A Trenton. He had been scheduled to start today for the Thunder.

Loáisiga made his MLB debut June 15, throwing five innings of shutout ball against Tampa Bay. He wound up making four starts before being optioned, and dealing with inflammation in his right shoulder. He finished his first MLB stint with a 2-0 record and 3.00 ERA (2.87 FIP).

The 23-year-old returned to action August 11, making one start in the Gulf Coast League and another three for Trenton. He didn’t record a decision, but owned a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings pitched.

The Yankees signed Loáisiga as a minor league free agent February 9, 2016, after he was released by San Francisco. He was added to the 40-man roster in the 2017 offseason.

 

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