In previous seasons, we’d have written about players on waivers and what leftover trades the Yankees could make to shore up their depth, particularly with even more injuries hitting the roster. This season is different.
With no August trades allowed of 40-man roster players, the Yankees would have to bargain shopping to add to their organization. Lucky for them, there are a few interesting pieces who have been released in recent weeks or sit in Triple-A on MiLB deals. Let’s get into it.
Just two years ago, Zack Godley was one of most productive pitchers in baseball, pitching to a 3.37 ERA with 165 strikeouts in 155 innings for the D-backs. However, in two years, his ERA has ballooned by three runs and he was given his release from Arizona at age 29.
Godley never had elite velocity, but he’s lost 1 mph off his sinker and cutter, make the former extremely hittable. It’s also probably affected the performance of his go-to pitch a sharp knuckle-curve that he throws 45 percent of the time.
While he’s been hit hard this season, he also gave up plenty of hard hits in 2017 and still limited exit velocity. His K-BB ratio has fallen below 2.0 and he’s suffered from more balls in play with those balls leaving the yard more often.
Normally, I’m unsure if pitchers would want to rebuild value at Yankee Stadium. However, if the Yankees are interested, Godley would have a chance to join a championship-caliber roster. Furthermore, the House that George Built is playing as a pitchers park this year.
The 2016 All-Star reliever and AL East veteran was recently released by the Cubs. There was plenty of reason as he had a 6.13 ERA in Chicago. Brach was excellent as recently as the second half of 2018, when he dominated down the stretch for the Braves after a deadline trade.
What was different for him this year? Walks. He walked 15.5 percent of batters. His K-BB rate has fallen in three consecutive seasons despite his K-rate ticking up this year. He’s also had his pitches hit for higher average exit velocity.
Brach still keeps the ball in the ballpark and suffered from an abnormally low 65.9 percent strand rate. His FIP (4.12) suggests he should be closer to his late Baltimore levels.
The right-hander still throws his fastball in the mid-90s. His slider has gotten strong results (.200 BA against, 36.1 percent whiff rate) and could perhaps benefit from more usage.
Ervin Santana, Parker Bridwell and Vidal Nuno III
I’m grouping these three pitchers because each are in that second category, pitchers in the Minor Leagues that aren’t on 40-man rosters and haven’t been outrighted off the 40-man. Each has MLB experience and would be an intriguing fit in New York.
Ervin Santana had an MLB stint in April, but he was awful for White Sox. His velocity was down from his impressive 2017 season, though he dealt with an abbreviated Spring Training. He’s had solid numbers for the Syracuse Mets, albeit still without many strikeouts. A deal with the Mets is always unlikely, though perhaps they’d be more amenable with a veteran depth piece. The Mets, though, could be holding onto him as depth for themselves.
Bridwell and Nuno, meanwhile, have each struggled in Triple-A this year. Bridwell, for example, has a 7.85 ERA in Triple-A for the Angels with 1.90 HR per nine in the unforgiving Pacific Coast League. That’s just two years removed from 121 innings for Anaheim with a 3.64 ERA. However, his strikeouts are way up from his pitch-to-contact MLB days and he has both a high-spin fastball and curveball, despite poor other Statcast numbers.
The Yankees clearly liked something about Bridwell, carrying him on their 40-man roster for a brief period this offseason.
Nuno might be the toughest to acquire, pitching for the division-rival Rays in Durham. He’s the same soft-tossing lefty he’s always been, but he has an ERA above seven in Triple-A this year. As he’s turned to his slider more and more in his MLB career, he’s been able to get more strikeouts while still finding ways to limit hard contact. If he were a free agent, I’d strongly advocate for adding him as an innings eater in long relief.
Ramirez is a 30-year-old right-handed reliever who was recently let go by the Indians in his second season with the club.
The idea with him is simple: He features a mid-90s fastball and has high spin on that fastball and his curve, the latter which he throws just 11 percent of the time. Could he benefit from more fastballs up in the zone and curveballs low? The problem is his control: He’s always had high walk totals and might be incapable of getting his command in place. Worth a flier.
Or maybe not. He reportedly appears to be closing in on a contract with the Jays.
Tyler Austin and Joe Panik
These two position players were each released by the Giants in the last week. I’ve focused on pitchers with this post, but the Yankees have plenty of familiarity with Austin and Panik would be an intriguing buy-low candidate.
Austin would be a bat-first first baseman for the Yankees. There might be bad blood after the team dealt him last year, but he has pop in his bat, albeit not enough to stick in the Bronx. The Yankees probably prefer Mike Ford and a healthy Luke Voit precludes this signing, yet he would be a nice depth piece.
However, he might not even be the next best first baseman in the organization with Ryan McBroom raking in Triple-A. Austin had just an 81 wRC+ this season with a rising strikeout rate, albeit playing in perhaps the worst park for his right-center field approach.
Panik hasn’t performed well enough in the past few injury-plagued seasons to be worth more than a Minor League deal. He’s hit for a 75 and 69 wRC+, respectively, in the last two seasons and hasn’t shown any power either in results (seven homers in 205 games) or exit velocity (1.1 mph below league average).
The second baseman’s top talent is his ability to put the ball in play and avoid strikeouts. He consistently posts one of the best strikeout rates in the game (under 10 percent) and has walked nearly as often as he’s fanned this season. Taking a chance on a player with that contact profile would be an interesting fit.