- 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.
The Yankees made manager Aaron Boone and general manager Brian Cashman available today for their postmortem press conference. Here are the most important storylines:
- Didi Gregorius tore his right ulnar collateral ligament during one of the first two games of the American League Division Series in Boston, and played through the injury for the rest of the series. A recent MRI determined the tear was bad enough to force the shortstop to undergo Tommy John surgery. Cashman told reporters that Gregorius had an “asymptomatic” partial tear of the ligament that came up in his December 2014 physical that was part of his trade from Arizona to New York. “Is it bring him back in June, July, August? I think all depends on how things play out,” Cashman said. “I’d rather not put a timeframe on it. We do expect to get him back, and we do expect to return to the player that obviously we’ve been enjoying for quite some time.” Cashman also said that Gleyber Torres was the “best internal option” to start the season at shortstop, though the Yankees will undoubtedly check in on free agent Manny Machado. Gregorius also tore cartilage in his right wrist on a head-first slide, and missed time with a bruised heel suffered August 19 against Toronto. He has batted .274./.319/.447 with 81 home runs and 299 RBIs in 2,314 plate appearances since debuting for the Yankees in 2015 – all with a partially torn ligament in his right elbow.
- Sonny Gray will almost certainly begin the 2019 season in a different uniform, as Cashman said the Yankees will “enter the winter, unfortunately, open-minded to a relocation”. Gray was awful for the Yanks at home in 2018, pitching to a 6.98 ERA in 15 home games compared to 3.17 in 15 games away from the Bronx. “Someone, if they trade for him, is going to get the player that we wanted,” Cashman said. “If and when that happens, I fully expect that. But it just hasn’t worked out here.”
- CC Sabathia had another operation on his balky right knee, just like the clean-out he had after last season. “He’s had an amazing career that has a chance to continue — whether it’s gonna be for us or not,” Cashman said. Sabathia owns a 129-80 record and 3.74 ERA in 284 starts for the Yankees since he first signed with the team in 2009.
- Unprompted, Cashman said he has “no regrets” on swinging a trade for 2017 National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton. “We got one of the better players in the game from the offensive standpoint, period, we didn’t shy away from the opportunity of acquiring him,” the GM said. Stanton hit .266/.343/.509 with 38 home runs and 100 RBIs but also hit just .213/.306/.436 with five homers in September, and had a tough postseason slashing .238/.273/.381 against Oakland and Boston.
A note unrelated to today’s press conference: the Texas Rangers interviewed ex-Yankees manager Joe Girardi for their managerial opening today. He managed the Yanks to Game 7 of the ALCS in 2017 and spent 2018 working as an analyst for MLB Network.
MINNEAPOLIS, MI – Gary Sánchez‘s bat got going in a big way Monday night in Minnesota, as he collected three hits and scored two runs in a big 7-to-2 Yankee win.
The Oakland Athletics sat idle, so the Yankee lead in the Wild Card grew to three games. The game was a pitching duel through the sixth inning, with J.A. Happ and Kyle Gibson matching zeroes until El Gary stepped to the dish with two outs. Sánchez was robbed in his previous at-bat, thanks to a fantastic play by Twins third baseman Gregorio Petit.
Sánchez fouled off a few tough pitches down in the zone, and then crushed a 2-2 sinker that was out of the zone 460 feet into the third deck at Target Field. It was his second homer since returning from rehab September 1, and his 16th overall on the 2018 season.
In a nightmare season, Sánchez’s bat showed a sign of life that could be crucial down the stretch. His three hits were the most he’d had in one game since he had four against the Royals on May 19. The Yankee lineup becomes so much stronger if he can maintain something like the .263/.333/.632 (156 wRC+) line of his past five games.
The Yankee offense got a big boost in the top of the seventh, where they scored six runs. That allowed Aaron Boone and Co. to lift Happ after just 91 pitches and six shutout innings. Luis Cessa allowed the two runs in two mop-up innings, and Jonathan Holder pitched a perfect ninth to nail down the win.
Brett Gardner contributed a multi-hit game from the No. 9 slot, and he’s been a bit hotter of late – .280/.333/.320 (81 wRC+) since September 3. The Yankees worked 10 walks, with three going to Andrew McCutchen and two-a-piece for Aaron Hicks and Greg Bird. Bird was the only starter who did not record a hit. Miguel Andújar, Giancarlo Stanton, Didi Gregorius, Gleyber Torres, and McCutchen each recorded RBIs as well.
Sonny Gray, who owns a 1.83 ERA in 19⅔ innings (six games, one start) since his bullpen demotion, returns to the rotation for a spot-start. The Twins will employ the “opener” tactic, sending Tyler Duffey to the mound.
The Yankees kick off a three-game series with the Minnesota Twins tonight, sending lefty J.A. Happ to the hill.
Happ got a no-decision his last time out, but pitched quite well. He allowed just one run on two hits Tuesday in Oakland. He’s the owner of a 5-0 record and 3.10 ERA since his trade from Toronto to the Yankees.
Happ’s opponent is Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson. Gibson has been the Twins’ best qualified starter this season in terms of ERA (3.74), though his 7-12 record is nowhere near as pretty. The righty gave up four runs (two earned) his last time out a week ago against Houston on four hits, one walk and five strikeouts.
- NOT A DRILL: Aaron Judge took five rounds of batting practice on the field today, “without the hint of pain,” per George A. King III of the New York Post. It’s a huge step to see the big fella taking live BP, and here’s to hoping he can sneak into the RailRiders lineup as they chase the Governor’s Cup.
- Speaking of the Triple-A playoffs, ex-Yankees righty Giovanny Gallegos (traded to St. Louis) had a pinch-hit walk-off single with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning after the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds ran out of position players. You can’t predict baseball, Suzyn.
- Luke Voit has some back stiffness, and will sit in favor of Greg Bird tonight. Aaron Boone said Voit’s issue is not serious and that he’ll be available off the bench.
- Sonny Gray gets the spot-start tomorrow as the Yankees push everyone back a day. The October 3 Wild Card game looms large as the season starts to wrap up, and this is a move to have either Luis Severino or Masahiro Tanaka lined up for that evening.
(italics denotes ex-Yankees)
- Joe Mauer – 1B
- Jorge Polanco – SS
- Logan Forsythe – 2B
- Robbie Grossman – RF
- Mitch Garver – C
- Willians Astudillo – DH
- Jake Cave – CF
- Johnny Field – LF
- Gregorio Petit – 3B
BALTIMORE – The Yankees clocked four home runs Saturday afternoon as they hung a 10-spot on the Baltimore Orioles in the first game of their doubleheader.
The biggest of those four came from Miguel Andújar, who hit No. 21 on his fantastic season with two runners on to cap a four-run third inning. Brett Gardner hit a solo shot in the fourth, Gleyber Torres hit one in the eighth and Aaron Hicks hit his home run in the ninth inning.
J.A. Happ delivered another quality start for the Yankees, going six innings and allowing just two earned runs. He recorded nine strikeouts to just one walk, and also got five ground ball outs. Luckily for the Yankees and Aaron Boone, the Yankees only had to use 26th man Luis Cessa to finish the game. The righty allowed a run on three hits in three innings to earn his first career save.
The only Yankees not to record hits were Giancarlo Stanton, Neil Walker and Kyle Higashioka. Aaron Hicks went 3-for-5 with two runs driven in, while Luke Voit collected his 10th RBI on the season with a run-scoring single. Andújar led the team with four RBI on the afternoon.
More baseball tonight. Sonny Gray (9-8, 5.34 ERA) returns from bullpen exile for a spot start against Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.84 ERA) in Game Two.
The Yankees placed closer Aroldis Chapman on the 10-day disabled list today, and recalled righty Chance Adams from Triple-A to take his roster spot. The Yanks claimed catcher Chris Rabago from the Colorado Rockies and optioned him to Double-A Trenton.
Chapman had been pitching through tendinitis in his left knee all season, but had been able to manage it himself. He told reporters after the game Tuesday that the pain he felt was worse than usual. He threw just six pitches in his appearance in the 12th inning before summoning the trainer from the dugout. He was relieved by Tommy Kahnle, who got the save 17 pitches later. Chapman is 3-0 with a 2.11 ERA in 50 appearances. He is 31-for-33 in save attempts.
Adams will serve as a long-relief option for the Yankees tonight in Miami, and will be one of the options (along with Luis Cessa and Sonny Gray) to start in Saturday’s doubleheader in Baltimore. The Yanks No. 13 prospect, he made his MLB debut August 4 in Boston, allowing three runs on three hits in five innings of work.
Rabago was the Rockies’ 13th round pick in the 2014 draft. In 66 games for the Double-A Hartford Yard Goats, he was hitting .213/.292/.361 with four home runs and 23 RBI. The Yankees will likely recall Rabago to be the third catcher September 1 until Gary Sánchez returns from his rehab assignment.
THE BRONX – For the second consecutive day, the Yankees put 10 runs on the board as they swept the Toronto Blue Jays with a win Sunday afternoon.
“A lot of people contributing, and really, I felt like our hunger was good coming in,” Aaron Boone said. “Really pleased with how the guys came out today from a focus, energy standpoint, to finish this homestand that was kind of up-and-down on a really good note.”
The Yankees got their runs in two bunches, with a six-run first inning and four-run sixth inning. The Blue Jays actually scored first since J.A. Happ allowed a solo home run with two outs in the top of the first inning to Randal Grichuk on a 3-0 fastball.
But, the offense backed their starter in the bottom of the frame, thanks to some shoddy command from Jays starter Ryan Borucki. Aaron Hicks and Giancarlo Stanton each walked to lead off the game, then moved up a base on a double steal. Miguel Andújar followed with a single to left that scored Hicks.
Didi Gregorius came to the plate next, and he hit a ground ball to second base that ate up Devon Travis. Travis’s throw to first was late, and pulled first baseman Kendrys Morales into the baseline. Gregorius and Morales collided, leaving Gregorius worse for the wear. It was scored an RBI single as Stanton scored. Gregorius would stay in the game to run the bases, moving to second on an infield single hit by Gleyber Torres.
Greg Bird came to the plate next, entering fresh off a garbage-time solo shot in the eighth inning the day before but hitting just .140/.222/.246 in August. With the bases loaded, he crushed a 2-1 sinker on the inside corner into the second deck in right field for his second career grand slam.
“It’s a product of keeping your head up,” Bird said. “I felt like I did a better job of using my legs today … I just keep playing. I keep going. The biggest thing is not getting caught up and chasing results, and just doing what you can when you get the opportunity.”
Morales homered off Happ for the Blue Jays in the sixth, but the Yankees more than made up for it in the bottom of the inning. Brett Gardner singled, Hicks worked another walk and Stanton smacked an RBI single through the right side of the infield to score Gardner. Andújar followed by juuuuust beating out a double play ball hit up the middle. The Blue Jays challenged, and lost.
Ronald Torreyes* doubled, and Torres was intentionally walked to face Bird. Bird grounded into a 3-2 force at home plate, but the return throw to first was late, according to first base umpire Jansen Visconti. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons was out of challenges (having already lost one), and wanted a crew chief review of the play at first. Visconti wanted no part of that, and handed Gibbons his sixth ejection of the season.
With runners on second and third, Kyle Higashioka ripped a two-run single to score Torreyes and Torres. That capped the scoring for both teams. Happ pitched 5⅓ innings, giving up the solo homers to Grichuk and Morales. Jonathan Holder pitched 1⅔ and Sonny Gray got the final six outs to lockdown the sweep.
“It was strange, I can admit that,” Happ said. “I think I’d probably prefer not knowing the opposition the way I know those guys. But we got through it, had a big first inning and got a good win.”
The only Yankee without a hit was Shane Robinson. Torreyes managed to go 3-for-4 with two singles and a double despite not starting the game.
* I put an asterisk next to Torreyes’s name because he entered as a defensive replacement for Gregorius after the latter played an inning after the collision. The Yankees announced later that Didi had a “bruised left heel” and was headed to a local hospital for further testing. After the game, Aaron Boone said that the injury was “pretty significant” and that he could spend some time on the disabled list.
The first off-day since July 30. Then, the team heads south to Miami to take on the Marlins in a short two-game series. Masahiro Tanaka starts game one and Lance Lynn starts game two.