Category: Transactions

Yankees Select Joe Harvey to 40-Man Roster

One 40-man roster spot remains as of now.

Ahead of the 8 p.m. Eastern deadline Tuesday, the Yankees announced that they selected the contract of RHP Joe Harvey to the 40-man roster. The 40-man roster now has 39 players.

A 19th-round pick in 2014, Harvey had a stellar 1.66 ERA in 54⅓ innings for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He had eight saves, and was also credited with 21 games finished. He also pitched in five innings for Double-A Trenton, earning a save in each of his three chances there and allowing just one earned run.

By adding Harvey to the 40-man roster, he will be ineligible for December’s Rule 5 draft. Per MLB.com, “Players first signed at age 18 must be added to 40-man rosters within five seasons or they become eligible to be drafted by other organizations through the Rule 5 process. Players signed at 19 years or older have to be protected within four seasons. Clubs pay $100,000 to select a player in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft. If that player doesn’t stay on the 25-man roster for the full season, he must be offered back to his former team for $50,000.” The Rule 5 Draft takes place during the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas on Dec. 13.

Harvey has appeared in four games for the Toros del Este of the Dominican Winter League. He has yet to allow a run in 3⅔ innings.

Yankees Acquire James Paxton From Mariners for Three Prospects

One above-average starting pitcher: ✅

The Yankees made their first big splash of the 2018-19 offseason Monday night, as they acquired Canadian left-handed starting pitcher James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for a package of three prospects.

Seattle picks up former No. 1 prospect LHP Justus Sheffield, No. 22 RHP Erik Swanson and unranked OF Dom Thompson-Williams. The deal was first reported by Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, and was confirmed by the Yankees just 25 minutes later.

Paxton, 30, was drafted by the Mariners in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, despite being drafted 37th overall in 2009 by the Toronto Blue Jays and not signing. He debuted as a September call-up in 2013 by making four starts with a 1.50 ERA down the stretch. He was an up-and-down starter in 2014, and missed most of 2015 because of a strained tendon in his left middle finger.

The past three seasons (2016-2018) serve as the most consistent body of work for Paxton. He averaged 139 innings pitched across an average of 24 starts, with a 3.52 ERA (2.90 FIP) and 10.4 K/9. His career-high in starts came in 2018, as he pitched 160⅓ innings in 28 starts. His crowning achievement was his May 8 no-hitter against Toronto.

The issue with Paxton is his reliance on fastballs (63.6% of his pitches), and his durability. The Yankees acquired a fastball-heavy starter in J.A. Happ at the 2017 Trade Deadline, and largely allowed him to continue throwing a ton of fastballs. Boy, did that work out well. I figure the Yankees won’t shake up Paxton’s arsenal too much, but there’s likely going to be an uptick from just 36.4% offspeed pitches.

Now, for the durability question. Paxton has only thrown 160 innings once, and it came last year. Here’s his injury history since being a big-leaguer:

  • 2014 (13 starts – 74 IP):
    • Left Latissimus dorsi muscle strain (Out 3 months, 24 days)
  • 2015 (13 starts – 67 IP):
    • Strained tendon in left middle finger (Out 3 months, 15 days)
  • 2016 (20 starts – 121 IP):
    • Left elbow contusion (Out 17 days)
  • 2017 (24 starts – 136 IP):
    • Left forearm strain (Out 28 days)
    • Strained left pectoral muscle (Out 1 month, 4 days)
  • 2018 (28 starts – 160⅓ IP):
    • Lower back inflammation (Out 17 days)
    • Left forearm contusion (Out 17 days)

There’s some fluke injuries there, but the questions will remain until he turns in another season with at least 160 innings. The Yankees have two arbitration years of Paxton, and they have to hope he can put it together.

In four career starts against Boston, Paxton is 2-0 with a 2.49 ERA and has limited the Red Sox to a .529 OPS. That’s the kind of pitcher Brian Cashman is hoping will take the mound at least 30 times per season for the next two years.


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On the other side of the coin, Justus Sheffield was the much-hyped pitching prospect who came to the Yankees in the 2016 Andrew Miller trade. Sheffield never got his command together (3.9 BB/9 in 2018), and the Yankees ran out of patience with his development. Seattle is still betting on his upside, though Buster Olney of ESPN noted the Mariners could utilize him as a reliever. That’s where the 22-year-old debuted for New York in 2018, allowing three earned runs in 2⅔ innings (10.13 ERA) with three walks and no strikeouts.

Erik Swanson, the teams former No. 22 prospect, came to the Yankees in the 2016 Carlos Beltrán trade. He was on the 40-man bubble ahead of Tuesday’s Rule 5 deadline after posting a 2.66 ERA in 24 games (22 starts) across three minor-league levels.

Dom Thompson-Williams, 23, was a fifth-round pick in 2016 by the Yankees out of the University of South Carolina. He hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs and 74 RBIs in Low- and High-A ball in a breakout 2018 season.

Overall, I’m comfortable with the package the Yankees gave up. Paxton clearly helps the big-league team more than Sheffield, Swanson wasn’t even a lock for the 40-man roster and a 23-year-old outfielder in A-ball is definitely expendable.

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.

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