Category: Rumors Page 2 of 3

Yankees Trade Target: Blake Treinen

The Yankees are interested in Oakland A’s sinkerball reliever Blake Treinen, reported The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal last night. Treinen is available because of the annual payroll crunch the A’s are facing, Rosenthal also reported.

Treinen is now (at least) the second reliever to whom the Yankees have been connected in the last few days along with Kansas City’s Tim Hill. The Yankees have been involved in building super bullpens for at least a decade now, so this shouldn’t surprise anyone–especially with Dellin Betances now a free agent. Anyway, let’s take a look at Treinen and see if he makes sense for the Yankees.

Background

Treinen is a 31-year-old righty from Osage City, Kansas. He was drafted by the then-Florida Marlins in the 23rd round of 2010 Amateur Draft but did not sign. The A’s drafted him a year later in the 7th round of the 2011 Draft before trading him to the Nationals in a three-team deal. He would make his MLB debut with Washington in 2014 and pitch three-and-a-half seasons in the Capitol.

The Nationals traded him back to Oakland at the 2017 Trade Deadline in a deal for current closer Sean Doolittle. Treinen has been in Oakland ever since.

Performance

Treinen has been an above-average reliever for most of his career, though he really made a name for himself in 2018 when he was truly exceptional in his first season back in Oakland. I broke down his career into five different parts: his time with the Nationals, his first half-season with Oakland, his dominant 2018, his 2019 season, and his time overall with Oakland. Check it out:

ERA-GB%K%BB%HR/9WHIPBAA
Washington8362.2%20.5%9.6%0.521.38.263
2017 2nd Half5056%26.9%7.7%0.711.16.225
20181951.9%31.8%6.7%0.220.83.157
201911042.8%22.2%13.9%1.381.62.254
Oakland5649.5%27.3%9.5%0.711.16.205

Breaking this down in such a way is illuminating because it shows that Treinen was a good reliever in Washington who immediately took a major step forward with Oakland. Looking at just his career performance with Oakland makes him look like one of the best relievers in the game, and while that’s true, the real story is a bit more nuanced.

Immediately after the trade, his strikeouts went up, his walks went down, and opponents got fewer hits off him. That much is evident from looking at his performance down the stretch with the A’s.

In 2018, though, he took that performance to another level entirely. He was baseball’s best reliever two seasons ago. All of the improvements he made in 2017’s second half were amplified: he missed more bats, missed the plate less, and was virtually unhittable. I say virtually unhittable, well, because:

That triple would have been hilarious and satisfying no matter what, but that it came off Treinen made it even better. He was that good.

Anyway, as good as Treinen was in 2018, he was bad in 2019. He took a major step back in every regard, notably with home runs. That was true of basically every pitcher in baseball in 2019, though, so I’m much more willing to write that off as a blip in the juiced ball year than perhaps I should be. That can really change a year for a pitcher.

However, what I’m not willing to write off is the declining ground ball rate. As I’ll get into in a moment, Treinen throws a power sinker. That should lend itself to ground balls. Generally, it has–look back up at the table. It’s clear that he has always generated a ton of grounders…but it’s also clear that this skill is diminishing. It wasn’t just a one year jump. Check it out:

That’s an ugly chart right there. It’s a three-season trend, so it doesn’t seem to be ball-related. It’s alarming in any context–though prior to 2019 it didn’t inhibit him–but especially when paired with a big increase in home runs. I think it’s fair to consider this a real red flag in his performance profile. His best days could be behind him.

Current Stuff

Treinen is a true four-pitch reliever, featuring a four-seam fastball, a slider, and a cutter in addition to his trademark sinker. Here’s his usage graphs, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

Even though his sinker usage is declining, he still features the pitch more than any other by a significant amount. He’s a sinkerballer through and through. What’s powered his success, and made his sinker so unique, is its velocity. Treinen is a true power pitcher. Check out his velocity chart:

His sinker comes in on average between 97-98 mph in his career, topping out at 99. I mean, just look at this:

And this:

And this:

That last one, against San Fran’s Chase d’Arnaud, is just unfair. That’s a real “I tweaked with the attributes in MLB: The Show” type pitch. For what it’s worth, all three of those sinkers clocked at 99+ mph, and each of them came in the 2018 season. That’s what you bet on when Treinen comes in.

With that said, however, there are some red flags even with this pitch. Here’s his average spin rate on the pitch in every year since 2016:

  • 2016: 2342 RPM
  • 2017: 2294 RPM
  • 2018: 2371 RPM
  • 2019: 2250 RPM

That’s still a really good spin rate for a sinker, but it’s also the lowest it’s been–a trend, for what it’s worth, that is consistent with his four-seam fastball. That’s a red flag for sure, though not a huge one.

Another slight red flag is the fact that his pitches overall were considerably less effective in 2019. Check out the whiffs-per-swing on his pitches throughout his career:

All four of his big pitches took a step backward, with his slider at its lowest rate since his rookie campaign. His cutter was much worse, his fastball more hittable, and even his slider took a step backward. His velocity, if you think back to that initial chart above, also took a step back. Couple all of this with his poor overall performance, a huge increase in home runs, a declining ground ball rate, and a declining chase rate, and you get an overall profile with some red flags.

Now, it’s only fair to note that his stuff is still very good–it’s more than enough, in fact, to be successful. But there can be no doubt that Treinen is trending in the wrong direction.

What’s He Going to Cost?

Treinen is arbitration-eligible, of course, which is why he’s on the trading block in the first place. He should make around $8 million in arbitration, per MLB Trade Rumors. He will accrue his 6th year of MLB service time in 2020, making him eligible for free agency in 2021. Given his poor 2019, declining peripherals, and Oakland’s financial situation, I think it’s fair to say that he will not command a huge return.

As for what that return will be, it’s tough to say. Maybe Chance Adams? The Yankees might be better off trying to convert him to a reliever, but his stock is certainly diminished right now. But ultimately, I have no idea.

For what it’s worth, Baseball Trade Values considers Tampa Tarpons pitcher Nick Green to be fair value for Treinen. Is that enough? I really doubt it. I know Treinen struggled last year, but yeesh, you have to think he’s more valuable than that. But who knows. Either way, I don’t think bringing Treinen on board would cost the Yankees too much. And $8m in salary isn’t too much, either, especially if they’re confident that they can revitalize some of his prior performance.

Does He Make Sense for the Yankees?

Yes and no. He makes sense in that he’s a once-dominant reliever who is just a season removed from being one of the best relievers in baseball. The Yankees clearly value their bullpen and are always looking to stockpile as much talent as possible. Not to mention, Treinen would likely be the 5th guy out of the pen on the Yankees. Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, Tommy Kahnle, Adam Ottavino, and even Chad Green outperformed him last year. I’d imagine that he’d have to earn his way into the so-called Circle of Trust. So, in that context, Treinen absolutely fits. You could do a whole hell of a lot worse than a pitcher with his stuff as a back-end option.

Now, with that said, there are numerous signs that his best days are behind him. If the Yankees are going to take a flier on a once-dominant reliever and hope for a bounce-back season, I’d prefer they do it with Dellin Betances. But hey, on the other hand, why not both?

Ultimately, I think I would be excited if the Yankees brought Treinen on board. He has top-shelf stuff, even if it’s declining a bit, and the Yankees’ track record with relievers is impeccable. If Treinen and his power sinker come aboard, I think it’s a pretty safe bet that the good times would just keep rolling in the Yankee bullpen.

Assorted Thoughts 7 Hours Before the 2019 Trade Deadline

Well, today’s the day. The Yankees will either upgrade their starting rotation by 4 pm EST or they won’t do so at all. Remember, this year is the first year of no August waiver wire, so today’s all we’ve got. The deadline has already been a bit of an adventure for a few reasons, so here are a few assorted thoughts as we go into the day.

1. Marcus Stroman is off the Board: As we all know, Stroman was traded to the Mets in a move that shocked nearly everyone. I found this disappointing, personally, as I thought that Stroman was both the most likely SP upgrade the Yanks would make and also my preference among the rumored options. His 56.3% GB% ranks 2nd in the league among 74 qualified starting pitchers, and his 0.72 HR/9 ranks 4th among that same group. He’s averaging about 6 innings pitched a start, too. He would have made a nice addition to the Yankee rotation, even if he isn’t the dominating ace everyone expects for some reason.

As for the package the Mets surrendered to get him, well, it’s hard to say that the Yankees couldn’t have beaten it. Industry perception seems to be that the Blue Jays got fleeced in the deal–though, as always, it’s far too early to determine that!–and that the front office rushed into moving Stroman. Anthony Kay is a nice piece, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Yankees have comparable talent. Who knows what happened? I doubt it was on the Yankees’ end, though. His salary isn’t prohibitive (this year or next) and the Yanks had the pieces. Maybe Toronto just didn’t want to trade their ace within the division? Who knows. This is a bummer, though. For sure.

2. Trevor Bauer, Too: The Yankees also missed the boat on now-Red Trevor Bauer, who was shipped out of Cleveland last night in a three-team trade. Bauer is having a nice year and showed last year how dominant he can be, but his incident throwing the ball over the centerfield wall the other day just perfectly illustrates why a considerable number of Yankee fans simply didn’t want to root for him. In pure baseball terms, he’d have made the team better, though, and now he’s unavailable. I guess Cincy could try to flip him, but I doubt it. A rotation of Castillo/Bauer/Gray is pretty damn formidable.

Now, could the Yankees have beaten this package? On their own, absolutely not. Cleveland added Yasiel Puig and prospect Scott Moss from Cincy and Franmil Reyes, Logan Allen, and Victor Nova. That’s a haul better than what the Yankees could have given them. They probably could have been involved in a three-team trade, and maybe Clint Frazier gets it done, but Cleveland clearly wanted MLB talent, and they got it. I don’t know if the Yankees could have matched. Maybe Clint and Luis Gil? That feels light, and my trade proposals, like yours, suck.

What I do know is that, yet again, the luxury tax threshold is back amid Yankee trade rumors. Joel Sherman of the Post last night reported that the Yankees had “concerns” about where Bauer’s “$20 million-ish contract for next year would push a payroll that already projects to well beyond $200 million for luxury tax purposes.” Look. There are plenty, and I mean plenty, of reasons not to want Bauer on the team, but his salary isn’t one. This remains the single most infuriating thing the Yankees have done in probably over two decades, so it could be worse, but man is it infuriating.

3. Mike Minor Is Still Out There: So, in other words, after a few days of inaction, the two best starting pitchers on the market are no longer around, and neither of them are on the Yankees. That’s frustrating! Fans are allowed to be frustrated by this, but all hope is not lost. There are still a few other options, including Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers, who according to Baseball-Reference at least, is having the best season among all starters in the league. For real. Check out their WAR leaderboard for pitchers:

  1. Mike Minor: 5.9
  2. Max Scherzer: 5.4
  3. Lance Lynn: 5.0
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu: 4.6
  5. Justin Verlander/Stephen Strasburg: 4.5

Holy smokes! That’s some real production right there. I had written up a (very) long post in the same style as my other trade analyses the other day, and then WordPress ate it, which was insanely frustrating. Sorry about that. However, the long and short of it is this: Minor is having one hell of a season. He’s limiting homers, generating a lot of swings and misses, keeping the ball on ground, and he is averaging about 7 innings a start on the season. He’s walking more guys than you’d like to see, but you can’t argue with the success this year. It’s been real. He also has one of the highest-spin fastballs in baseball, which the Yankees love.

Now, is it sustainable over the long term? I’m not sure. Minor hasn’t ever really had results like this, save 2013. But sometimes it’s not always about the long-term. Would Minor make the Yankees immediately better? Yes. Is he available now? Also yes. The Yankees are in contention for the World Series, and I do think that adding Minor would better position the team to bring the trophy home in October, his performance next year be damned.

4. Robbie Ray, Too: The Yankees have also been linked to Arizona’s Robbie Ray, who is I think the most intriguing of the available starters. Let’s first focus on the good: holy cow does he miss bats. His 12.07 K/9 is 5th highest among qualified pitchers, and this isn’t a new skill. Check out his K rate rankings among pitchers with at least 100 IP in each season over the last few years:

  • 2016: 28.1% (9th)
  • 2017: 33.0% (5th)
  • 2018: 31.4% (8th, min 100 IP)
  • 2019: 31.6% (6th)
  • Cumulative (2016-19): 30.8% (3rd among 153 qualified pitchers)

So, yeah. That’s legitimate stuff right there, and it speaks to why Ray is appealing. Here’s the bad news: Ray also walks a lot of guys. A LOT of guys. I don’t think I need to do the same exercise again to prove this point, but here are the cumulative walk rate numbers from 2016-2019 among qualified pitchers for Ray: 10.7%, which ranks 6th highest out of 153. That’s way, way too many walks for my tastes. This year, though not as much historically, Ray is also surrendering a lot of homers, and walks and homers are an ugly combination. Especially in the AL East. Those might be warning signs.

However, with that said, I think the fanbase at large is a bit too dismissive of Ray. He’s not the big name we wanted or maybe even expected, but you don’t miss that many bats without legitimate stuff. The Yankees may see in Ray the potential to unlock an ace. I’d have to look under the hood to get a better sense of what that might be, but again, his stuff is clearly legit. Now, that’s also what’s been said about guys like Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Sonny Gray, and, most recently, James Paxton. We know what those results have been. I can see why fans wouldn’t want any more experiments like that.

But you know what? The Yankees also developed Luis Severino, which you never hear discussed, and that guy is pretty damn good. And the Yankees pitching staff has actually been one of the best in the league in 2017 and 2018 and it was pretty good until 10 days ago this year, too. The idea that the Yankees are completely lost when it comes to pitching is misguided at best, though there’s no denying that it’s been frustrating this week. (Also: pitching is hard and there aren’t many success stories out there, as a whole. Keep some perspective, please.)

Point is, the Yankees are very smart, and may be able to tweak Ray’s approach and turn him into a real difference maker, and if they don’t, they’d be adding a pitcher who can soak up innings, generally limit the damage, and help stabilize the rotation for now. That’s a win in my book.

5. Madison Bumgarner’s Availability: Is Madison Bumgarner really available? That’s a huge question today, and I have to say that I’m conflicted. But first, let’s establish something: Bumgarner is flying under the radar, a bit. I think signs of his decline are way too premature.

When I wrote about Bumgarner a few weeks ago, I was impressed to see some under-the-hood figures that suggested a resurgence was in order. I even talked myself into being excited should the Yankees acquire him. He made a start the next day after that posted. Here’s his line since: 3-1, 3.47 ERA (2.97 FIP, 81 ERA-) with 9.64 K/9 (26.3% K%) and only 1.74 BB/9 (4.7% BB%) in 46.2 IP. Sign me the hell up for that!

Now, back to the conflicted part: the Giants are on quite a run right now and have literally been the best team in baseball for the past month. They’re only 2.5 games out of the NL Wild Card. Now, Bumgarner is almost surely going to walk after the season, but aren’t the Giants–the GIANTS!– the perfect case study in “make the playoffs and anything can happen?” I think it would be a distressing sign for the health of the league if the Giants sold MadBum. It would really bother me on a deep level as someone who cares deeply about baseball as a whole.

*John Sterling Voice* Howevah, I really, really, really want the Yankees to win the World Series and I think Bumgarner would greatly improve their chances of doing so, so I’d be willing to look past this obvious red flag if the Yankees got him. Any other team, though? Time to be mad online, folks. But for real, in terms of Ray, Bumgarner, or Minor, I think Yankee fans should be happy if Cashman acquires any of those 3 today. They can really pitch, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of squinting to see real positives from any of them. They’d all help make the team better, which is the point of all this.

6. Adding a Reliever Instead: But what if they don’t? Cashman and the Yankee front office’s modus operandi in recent years, particularly with pitching, seems to be sticking to a set price and never once wavering. We’ve seen it a million times. Corbin, Cole, Scherzer, etc. I don’t need to keep going, do I? I think it keeps most of us up at night.

Anyway, if they stick to this again and don’t make a move for a starter, I don’t think they’l stand pat. They’ll add a reliever, preferably a high-leverage one, and bank on being about to go four-and-fly come October with one of the best pens in league history. And yes, everyone will whine about the starters not being championship level or whatever, but this exact strategy worked for the Kansas City Royals (who had a much worse offense) exactly…*checks notes*…3 seasons ago. That’s not ancient history. I don’t know who that is–Archie Bradley? Will Smith? Edwin Diaz (lol)–but this feels inevitable should the Yankees miss out on a starter. Hell, it might be inevitable anyway. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Yanks add a reliever either way. Who that is might just depend on the SP market.

7. “Adding Severino is The Best Trade We Can Make”: Look, I know we hate it. We all hate it. But that’s what Brian Cashman is going to say, and in fact, he’s already said it. I know it sounds like a BS PR excuse, and the reality is that it is that to a great extent. But what if I told you…it’s also…true? There isn’t a pitcher out there as good as Severino. Here are some key stats from 2017-2018, with his rankings among qualified starters in parentheses:

  • Wins: 33 (4th)
  • ERA: 3.18 (11th)
  • FIP: 3.01 (5th)
  • Innings Pitched: 384.2 (10th)
  • Strikeouts per 9: 10.53 (9th)
  • Walks per 9: 2.27 (13th)
  • HR per 9: 0.94 (17th)
  • fWAR: 11.2 (5th)

The Yankees aren’t getting a pitcher like that out there on the market. Pitchers like that barely even exist. Now, should that stop them from acquiring a starting pitcher today? Absolutely not! Say it again: absolutely not! In no way, shape, or form should the Yankees count on Severino (or Betances) for a single inning this year. They should make every possible move to ensure that they don’t need to rely on him, in fact. That should be, and I think it is, a priority.

But, even if they do trade for MadBum or Minor or Ray, if Severino returns and is able to start games for the Yankees in 2019, then Brian Cashman will be right: the very best starting pitching “acquisition” of the entire season will have been the return of Luis Severino. There’s no denying it.

8. Delayed Keuchel Reaction: Good grief has this deadline really hammered home the fact that the Yankees made a big mistake in passing on Dallas Keuchel a few months ago. I wrote about it at the time, but it’s not exactly a radical position. Everyone seemed to feel that way except the Yankees. It remains utterly baffling to me that the Yankees didn’t sign him. He’d have been a perfect fit. This entire deadline would be way, way less stressful for everyone, and the Yankees would be way less desperate.

Keuchel has made 8 starts since he signed with Atlanta, and he’s averaging over 6 innings per start with a 3.86 ERA (4.82 FIP) and a 60% grounder rate. He’s surrendering a few more homers and walks than you’d expect, but by and large, Keuchel has been exactly what you’d have expected and exactly what the Yankees need. The team simply wouldn’t budge from their internal value for Keuchel and they’re paying the price. Now they’ll have to surrender several prospects or they’ll have to stand pat with this rotation (which, I *insist* is much better than people think). Not great.


We’ll have an active thread throughout the day, dutifully updated by Derek. Additionally, we will provide as-instant-as-possible reaction to any trades that do go down. The Yankees are, in my view, the best team in baseball in terms of pure talent. They have a real opportunity to get better today. Let’s hope they do just that.

Assorted Thoughts 7 Hours Before the 2019 Trade Deadline

Well, today’s the day. The Yankees will either upgrade their starting rotation by 4 pm EST or they won’t do so at all. Remember, this year is the first year of no August waiver wire, so today’s all we’ve got. The deadline has already been a bit of an adventure for a few reasons, so here are a few assorted thoughts as we go into the day.

1. Marcus Stroman is off the Board: As we all know, Stroman was traded to the Mets in a move that shocked nearly everyone. I found this disappointing, personally, as I thought that Stroman was both the most likely SP upgrade the Yanks would make and also my preference among the rumored options. His 56.3% GB% ranks 2nd in the league among 74 qualified starting pitchers, and his 0.72 HR/9 ranks 4th among that same group. He’s averaging about 6 innings pitched a start, too. He would have made a nice addition to the Yankee rotation, even if he isn’t the dominating ace everyone expects for some reason.

As for the package the Mets surrendered to get him, well, it’s hard to say that the Yankees couldn’t have beaten it. Industry perception seems to be that the Blue Jays got fleeced in the deal–though, as always, it’s far too early to determine that!–and that the front office rushed into moving Stroman. Anthony Kay is a nice piece, but I don’t think there’s any doubt that the Yankees have comparable talent. Who knows what happened? I doubt it was on the Yankees’ end, though. His salary isn’t prohibitive (this year or next) and the Yanks had the pieces. Maybe Toronto just didn’t want to trade their ace within the division? Who knows. This is a bummer, though. For sure.

2. Trevor Bauer, Too: The Yankees also missed the boat on now-Red Trevor Bauer, who was shipped out of Cleveland last night in a three-team trade. Bauer is having a nice year and showed last year how dominant he can be, but his incident throwing the ball over the centerfield wall the other day just perfectly illustrates why a considerable number of Yankee fans simply didn’t want to root for him. In pure baseball terms, he’d have made the team better, though, and now he’s unavailable. I guess Cincy could try to flip him, but I doubt it. A rotation of Castillo/Bauer/Gray is pretty damn formidable.

Now, could the Yankees have beaten this package? On their own, absolutely not. Cleveland added Yasiel Puig and prospect Scott Moss from Cincy and Franmil Reyes, Logan Allen, and Victor Nova. That’s a haul better than what the Yankees could have given them. They probably could have been involved in a three-team trade, and maybe Clint Frazier gets it done, but Cleveland clearly wanted MLB talent, and they got it. I don’t know if the Yankees could have matched. Maybe Clint and Luis Gil? That feels light, and my trade proposals, like yours, suck.

What I do know is that, yet again, the luxury tax threshold is back amid Yankee trade rumors. Joel Sherman of the Post last night reported that the Yankees had “concerns” about where Bauer’s “$20 million-ish contract for next year would push a payroll that already projects to well beyond $200 million for luxury tax purposes.” Look. There are plenty, and I mean plenty, of reasons not to want Bauer on the team, but his salary isn’t one. This remains the single most infuriating thing the Yankees have done in probably over two decades, so it could be worse, but man is it infuriating.

3. Mike Minor Is Still Out There: So, in other words, after a few days of inaction, the two best starting pitchers on the market are no longer around, and neither of them are on the Yankees. That’s frustrating! Fans are allowed to be frustrated by this, but all hope is not lost. There are still a few other options, including Mike Minor of the Texas Rangers, who according to Baseball-Reference at least, is having the best season among all starters in the league. For real. Check out their WAR leaderboard for pitchers:

  1. Mike Minor: 5.9
  2. Max Scherzer: 5.4
  3. Lance Lynn: 5.0
  4. Hyun-Jin Ryu: 4.6
  5. Justin Verlander/Stephen Strasburg: 4.5

Holy smokes! That’s some real production right there. I had written up a (very) long post in the same style as my other trade analyses the other day, and then WordPress ate it, which was insanely frustrating. Sorry about that. However, the long and short of it is this: Minor is having one hell of a season. He’s limiting homers, generating a lot of swings and misses, keeping the ball on ground, and he is averaging about 7 innings a start on the season. He’s walking more guys than you’d like to see, but you can’t argue with the success this year. It’s been real. He also has one of the highest-spin fastballs in baseball, which the Yankees love.

Now, is it sustainable over the long term? I’m not sure. Minor hasn’t ever really had results like this, save 2013. But sometimes it’s not always about the long-term. Would Minor make the Yankees immediately better? Yes. Is he available now? Also yes. The Yankees are in contention for the World Series, and I do think that adding Minor would better position the team to bring the trophy home in October, his performance next year be damned.

4. Robbie Ray, Too: The Yankees have also been linked to Arizona’s Robbie Ray, who is I think the most intriguing of the available starters. Let’s first focus on the good: holy cow does he miss bats. His 12.07 K/9 is 5th highest among qualified pitchers, and this isn’t a new skill. Check out his K rate rankings among pitchers with at least 100 IP in each season over the last few years:

  • 2016: 28.1% (9th)
  • 2017: 33.0% (5th)
  • 2018: 31.4% (8th, min 100 IP)
  • 2019: 31.6% (6th)
  • Cumulative (2016-19): 30.8% (3rd among 153 qualified pitchers)

So, yeah. That’s legitimate stuff right there, and it speaks to why Ray is appealing. Here’s the bad news: Ray also walks a lot of guys. A LOT of guys. I don’t think I need to do the same exercise again to prove this point, but here are the cumulative walk rate numbers from 2016-2019 among qualified pitchers for Ray: 10.7%, which ranks 6th highest out of 153. That’s way, way too many walks for my tastes. This year, though not as much historically, Ray is also surrendering a lot of homers, and walks and homers are an ugly combination. Especially in the AL East. Those might be warning signs.

However, with that said, I think the fanbase at large is a bit too dismissive of Ray. He’s not the big name we wanted or maybe even expected, but you don’t miss that many bats without legitimate stuff. The Yankees may see in Ray the potential to unlock an ace. I’d have to look under the hood to get a better sense of what that might be, but again, his stuff is clearly legit. Now, that’s also what’s been said about guys like Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, Sonny Gray, and, most recently, James Paxton. We know what those results have been. I can see why fans wouldn’t want any more experiments like that.

But you know what? The Yankees also developed Luis Severino, which you never hear discussed, and that guy is pretty damn good. And the Yankees pitching staff has actually been one of the best in the league in 2017 and 2018 and it was pretty good until 10 days ago this year, too. The idea that the Yankees are completely lost when it comes to pitching is misguided at best, though there’s no denying that it’s been frustrating this week. (Also: pitching is hard and there aren’t many success stories out there, as a whole. Keep some perspective, please.)

Point is, the Yankees are very smart, and may be able to tweak Ray’s approach and turn him into a real difference maker, and if they don’t, they’d be adding a pitcher who can soak up innings, generally limit the damage, and help stabilize the rotation for now. That’s a win in my book.

5. Madison Bumgarner’s Availability: Is Madison Bumgarner really available? That’s a huge question today, and I have to say that I’m conflicted. But first, let’s establish something: Bumgarner is flying under the radar, a bit. I think signs of his decline are way too premature.

When I wrote about Bumgarner a few weeks ago, I was impressed to see some under-the-hood figures that suggested a resurgence was in order. I even talked myself into being excited should the Yankees acquire him. He made a start the next day after that posted. Here’s his line since: 3-1, 3.47 ERA (2.97 FIP, 81 ERA-) with 9.64 K/9 (26.3% K%) and only 1.74 BB/9 (4.7% BB%) in 46.2 IP. Sign me the hell up for that!

Now, back to the conflicted part: the Giants are on quite a run right now and have literally been the best team in baseball for the past month. They’re only 2.5 games out of the NL Wild Card. Now, Bumgarner is almost surely going to walk after the season, but aren’t the Giants–the GIANTS!– the perfect case study in “make the playoffs and anything can happen?” I think it would be a distressing sign for the health of the league if the Giants sold MadBum. It would really bother me on a deep level as someone who cares deeply about baseball as a whole.

*John Sterling Voice* Howevah, I really, really, really want the Yankees to win the World Series and I think Bumgarner would greatly improve their chances of doing so, so I’d be willing to look past this obvious red flag if the Yankees got him. Any other team, though? Time to be mad online, folks. But for real, in terms of Ray, Bumgarner, or Minor, I think Yankee fans should be happy if Cashman acquires any of those 3 today. They can really pitch, and it doesn’t take a whole lot of squinting to see real positives from any of them. They’d all help make the team better, which is the point of all this.

6. Adding a Reliever Instead: But what if they don’t? Cashman and the Yankee front office’s modus operandi in recent years, particularly with pitching, seems to be sticking to a set price and never once wavering. We’ve seen it a million times. Corbin, Cole, Scherzer, etc. I don’t need to keep going, do I? I think it keeps most of us up at night.

Anyway, if they stick to this again and don’t make a move for a starter, I don’t think they’l stand pat. They’ll add a reliever, preferably a high-leverage one, and bank on being about to go four-and-fly come October with one of the best pens in league history. And yes, everyone will whine about the starters not being championship level or whatever, but this exact strategy worked for the Kansas City Royals (who had a much worse offense) exactly…*checks notes*…3 seasons ago. That’s not ancient history. I don’t know who that is–Archie Bradley? Will Smith? Edwin Diaz (lol)–but this feels inevitable should the Yankees miss out on a starter. Hell, it might be inevitable anyway. I wouldn’t be shocked to see the Yanks add a reliever either way. Who that is might just depend on the SP market.

7. “Adding Severino is The Best Trade We Can Make”: Look, I know we hate it. We all hate it. But that’s what Brian Cashman is going to say, and in fact, he’s already said it. I know it sounds like a BS PR excuse, and the reality is that it is that to a great extent. But what if I told you…it’s also…true? There isn’t a pitcher out there as good as Severino. Here are some key stats from 2017-2018, with his rankings among qualified starters in parentheses:

  • Wins: 33 (4th)
  • ERA: 3.18 (11th)
  • FIP: 3.01 (5th)
  • Innings Pitched: 384.2 (10th)
  • Strikeouts per 9: 10.53 (9th)
  • Walks per 9: 2.27 (13th)
  • HR per 9: 0.94 (17th)
  • fWAR: 11.2 (5th)

The Yankees aren’t getting a pitcher like that out there on the market. Pitchers like that barely even exist. Now, should that stop them from acquiring a starting pitcher today? Absolutely not! Say it again: absolutely not! In no way, shape, or form should the Yankees count on Severino (or Betances) for a single inning this year. They should make every possible move to ensure that they don’t need to rely on him, in fact. That should be, and I think it is, a priority.

But, even if they do trade for MadBum or Minor or Ray, if Severino returns and is able to start games for the Yankees in 2019, then Brian Cashman will be right: the very best starting pitching “acquisition” of the entire season will have been the return of Luis Severino. There’s no denying it.

8. Delayed Keuchel Reaction: Good grief has this deadline really hammered home the fact that the Yankees made a big mistake in passing on Dallas Keuchel a few months ago. I wrote about it at the time, but it’s not exactly a radical position. Everyone seemed to feel that way except the Yankees. It remains utterly baffling to me that the Yankees didn’t sign him. He’d have been a perfect fit. This entire deadline would be way, way less stressful for everyone, and the Yankees would be way less desperate.

Keuchel has made 8 starts since he signed with Atlanta, and he’s averaging over 6 innings per start with a 3.86 ERA (4.82 FIP) and a 60% grounder rate. He’s surrendering a few more homers and walks than you’d expect, but by and large, Keuchel has been exactly what you’d have expected and exactly what the Yankees need. The team simply wouldn’t budge from their internal value for Keuchel and they’re paying the price. Now they’ll have to surrender several prospects or they’ll have to stand pat with this rotation (which, I *insist* is much better than people think). Not great.


We’ll have an active thread throughout the day, dutifully updated by Derek. Additionally, we will provide as-instant-as-possible reaction to any trades that do go down. The Yankees are, in my view, the best team in baseball in terms of pure talent. They have a real opportunity to get better today. Let’s hope they do just that.

Trade Deadline Preview: Who’s Selling?

Eight days remain until the thirty major league teams can no longer make trades. And this year, it’s a hard deadline. The August waiver deals are no more; teams will need to commit to buying or selling now rather than kicking the can down the road.

So with the new rule in mind, let’s take a look at what teams the Yankees could partner with in the upcoming days. From the definite sellers to teams on the fence, the Yankees undoubtedly will be diligent surveying the market. Can’t imagine that Brian Cashman will get much sleep.

Definitely Sellers

Miami Marlins: To no one’s surprise, Derek Jeter’s ballclub sits at the bottom of the National League. They’re still a long way from contention, so theoretically anyone on their roster could be available. The problem? It’s slim pickings.

Perhaps the most interesting piece would be ex-Yankee Caleb Smith, a southpaw who’s found his footing in Miami. Since last year, he’s made 30 starts for the Marlins and owns a 3.89 ERA with high strikeout totals. However, he gives up his fair share of homers (1.45 per nine) which could be a problem moving from Marlins Park to Yankee Stadium. At any rate, it sounds like the Marlins want to keep him.

A healthy Austin Brice would be an interesting bullpen target. He’s broken out this year (1.88 ERA) and has strong peripherals. Nick Anderson, a 29 year-old rookie reliever, has posted monster strikeout numbers.

Cincinnati Reds: The Reds have a positive run differential but have fallen out of contention recently. They’re nine games under .500 and 7 games out of the second Wild Card spot. Cincinnati is a talented club that probably will contend over the next couple years, so they’re probably looking for close to major league ready young talent to help them take the next step.

Expect the Reds to trade Tanner Roark, who’s been solid for them this year (3.97 ERA, 4.26 FIP). He’s not an impact arm, but could help the Yankees back of the rotation eat innings in order to keep the bullpen rested. The Yankees are probably aiming higher, but he’d be a decent fallback.

The dream acquisition would be Luis Castillo, but let’s not kid ourselves here. Sonny Gray has been incredibly effective for the Reds, and probably will draw a lot of interest from other clubs, but obviously the Yankees have been there and done that.

David Hernandez and Raisel Iglesias appear to be the Reds’ two most likely bullpen chips to go. Neither have had good results in terms of ERA, but both offer high strikeout totals. Iglesias has more upside and is under contract through 2021, so his prospect cost could be high even though he’s developed a home run problem over the last two years.

Now that Brett Gardner’s knee is barking and Giancarlo Stanton is far from returning, it wouldn’t be stunning to see some positional depth targeted. Although Derek Dietrich is more of an infielder, he has outfield experience and left-handed power that could fit.

New York Mets: The Amazin’s are nine games under .500 and are certain to deal guys like Todd Frazier and currently injured Zack Wheeler, though the Bombers would only have interest in the latter. That said, Wheeler’s shoulder impingement will make it a lot harder for him to be moved to any team, let alone a crosstown rival.

Noah Syndergaard‘s name has come up in rumors of late, particularly when Omar Minaya attended one of Deivi Garcia’s starts recently. Still, it’s pretty hard to envision the Mets dealing Thor. Perhaps the Mets would entertain offers for Edwin Díaz, who although has pitched better lately, has not been the guy he was in Seattle.

The Mets have plenty of interesting pieces, but consummating a deal with the Yankees just doesn’t seem likely.

Baltimore Orioles: Similar to the Marlins, Baltimore’s trade block is lacking. That’s no surprise for a team with a 31-67 record, of course. They’ve already started dealing; the O’s traded Andrew Cashner to Boston last week.

The only other starting pitcher that I’d be remotely interested in is John Means, but Baltimore has little reason to trade the rookie. Even if they were, I’m skeptical of his results to date. In relief, perhaps the Yankees could try to get Mychal Givens back on track. He lost his closer role after a horrific start to the season, but has pitched better since June. He won’t be a free agent until after the 2021 season, so he’d be a long-term relief option too.

Detroit Tigers: Dead last in the Central, the Tigers should be active at the deadline. The most bandied about name has been Matt Boyd, a lefty starter who Bobby profiled a few weeks ago. He’s had a breakout season and is under team control for three more years, though I’d be hesitant because of his high home run totals.

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The other names most rumored are Shane Greene and Nick Castellanos. Greene, who the Yankees dealt in the Didi Gregorius trade, has been excellent in Detroit’s closer role this year. He can be retained for 2020, too. On the other hand, Castellanos is merely a rental option who can really hit but is lackluster in the outfield.

Kansas City Royals: The Royals aren’t much further ahead of Detroit. The Yankees already pulled off one deal with them; the acquisition of speedster Terrance Gore.

Matt profiled Ian Kennedy yesterday, who’s found success as a reliever. Coming back to the Yanks would bring his career full circle, too. Elsewhere in the Kansas City bullpen, hard-throwing southpaw Jake Diekman could be a fit. Starting pitching-wise, there’s really nothing enticing. Danny Duffy would have interested me a couple years ago, but this is now his second poor season in a row.

If the Yankees decide they need more outfield depth as we wait to hear more about Gardner, Alex Gordon could be a target (though he is a 10-and-5 guy). Aside from June, he’s been resurgent offensively and is well known for his defensive chops despite his age.

Toronto Blue Jays: We’re starting to see the Jays’ core reach the majors, and I must admit, it’s a little scary. They’re still a few years away and need pitching help badly, but they’re going to hit. But for now, they’re still in the latter stages of rebuilding.

One would think Marcus Stroman would be a part of Toronto’s future, but that seems unlikely. Bobby wrote Stroman up recently, and he seems to make a good deal of sense for the Yanks. As an added benefit, it sure sounds like Stroman would embrace being a Yankee.

Aside from Stroman, Ken Giles has come up in rumors quite a bit. He’s been fantastic this year and has made his down 2018 look like a blip on the radar. Giles will probably fetch one of the bigger trade packages over the next week. Moving down a rung in the bullpen; Daniel Hudson or David Phelps would be helpful middle relief options.

Trade Candidate: Ian Kennedy

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Imagine it’s early 2008. Imagine you’re looking over the Yankees’ prized trio of Phil (no long Phillip) Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Ian Patrick Kennedy. At the time, they were all had big time potential and we had the highest of hopes for them to front the Yankees’ rotation for a long, long time. Despite that collective good feeling, there was a bit of separation between the three. Now imagine that in that early 2008, I tell you that Ian Kennedy is the one who’d still be pitching in the Majors in 2019, with the other two as (relatively) distant memories. You’d be shocked. I’d be shocked at saying it. But it’s the truth.

Now in 2019, the Yankees are–as they are at most every trade deadline–looking to bolster their pitching. This applies mostly to the rotation, but we’ve heard they’re seeking bullpen help as well, and that’s where Kennedy fits in. This year, the Royals shifted him to the bullpen and the results have been pretty great.

As I write this on Wednesday night, Kennedy is sporting a 3.32 ERA (71 ERA-) and 2.26 FIP (50 FIP-) in 38 innings across 37 games. He’s striking out 28.9% of the batters he’s facing as well as walking only 5.7%. His Statcast rankings are also closer to ‘great’ than anything else:

Just about all of this represents a huge improvement over Kennedy’s previous performances. Let’s take a look, on a pitch-by-pitch basis, to see what’s behind this great change.

Before we look at gains, let’s acknowledge something he’s lost. This year, Kennedy has all but ditched his changeup, throwing only 11 all season. He’s also slightly lowered his curveball usage. In their stead, he’s relied on his cutter a bit more, increasing the pitch’s usage from 11.78% in 2018 to 14.61% this season. He’s also throwing his cutter faster this year, increasing its velocity from 88.24 MPH to 91.69 MPH. Similarly, as one would expect of a starter moving to the bullpen, his fastball has ticked up , too, from 92.5 MPH to 94.55 MPH. The three pitches also have something else in common: more whiffs.

Kennedy’s fastball has gone from a 15.92 whiff/swing% to 24.02 and his curve has gone from 20.99 to 28.30. Those are big increases! The same holds true with his out of zone chases via Statcast. The rate has increased more than 20% on his fastball, more than 15% on his curveball, and just over 6% on his cutter. His cutter’s overall whiff/swing% has dropped, but has compensated with a higher GB/BIP% than 2018: 42.86-60.00. Similarly, his fastball has generated more grounders: 18.72% in 2018 to 34.48 in 2019. Predictably, the same holds true for his curveball: 46.05 to 53.85. It’s possible we can trace this to some other changes. His pitches are moving more and his release point is different.

Pitch/Movement2018 Horizontal/Vertical2019 Horizontal/Vertical
Curveball5.67/-8.266.93/-8.75
Cutter 0.98/4.350.01/5.07

One way or another, his two moving pitches are moving more than they did in the past and it’s helping them be more effective in missing bats.

Now let’s look at the release points, 2018 first:

And now 2019:

Kennedy’s release point is clearly lower this year than it was last year. I’m not an expert on mechanics or anything, but that is clearly having some effect on his pitches and their effectiveness.

While it’s tempting to write off Kennedy’s 2019 as an outlier or a fluke because it’s so different than his 2018 and his mostly middling career, there is evidence that this is all real. Both his pitching process–pitch selection, release points, movement–and results–more whiffs, more grounders–show that something has changed in Kennedy and, baseball wise, he’s probably worth a look.

Given the more luxury tax conscious Yankees, we do have to take a look at Kennedy’s contract. He’s under contract for 2019 and 2020, both at $16.5M. For luxury tax purposes, he counts as $14M, the AAV of his 5 year, $70M contract. That doesn’t matter as much for 2019 since the Yankees are already over the threshold. They’ve got, per Cots, $36.55M to play with before hitting the threshold next year. At $14M, Kennedy would eat up almost 40% of that, which might scare the Yankees off, unless they plan on blowing by the threshold again. If you’ve read me in the past on this issue, you know I don’t care about saving the Steinbrenner family money, so that’s of no import to me. Now, I’m not going to propose a trade because that is way beyond my depth, but, as always, the Yankees–should they offer–should take on as much money as possible to lower the prospect cost.

The chances of this happening are incredibly slim and this might be a bit of wishing. I always liked Kennedy more than others and was sad to see him go. Considering how much ire there was towards him for not throwing himself on the fire after a bad game against the Angels, it’d be nice to see him ‘come home’ and contribute to a Yankee run at the playoffs. Bring IPK home, Cash. Bring him home.

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