Tampa Bay Rays Series Preview: 8/7 to 8/9

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With absolutely no apologies to the Orioles and Red Sox, this is the Yankees first big intra-divisional series of the season. The Yanks will play four games in three days against the Rays with an opportunity to create even more distance from the team that’s supposed to be the Bombers toughest competition in 2020. Right now, Tampa Bay (5-7) is four games behind the Yankees (9-3) in the American League East.

Their story so far

It’s been a bizarre start for the Rays thus far. After starting 4-1 against Toronto and Atlanta at home, Tampa Bay lost five straight. All of those were on the road. Two of those were in Atlanta, which in the scheme of things isn’t terrible considering the talent of that club. However, things turned for the worse from there. The Orioles swept the Rays in three games at Camden Yards, during which Tampa Bay mustered just eight runs. This came right after the Yankees won two in Baltimore and scored 17 runs while doing so.

As usual, Tampa Bay’s pitching staff has been just fine (3.63 ERA), but it’s offense has really held them back. You could probably glean that after I told you how many runs they scored in Baltimore. Granted, Austin Meadows just returned and has only played two games thus far, but the return of one player isn’t going to make or break an offense. They have a .211/.303/.365 batting line in 442 plate appearances to date and have swatted just 10 home runs. The only team with fewer home runs that hasn’t had postponements due to COVID-19 are the Diamondbacks, who have just 6.

As a result of this slow start, the Rays have seen their division title chances drop precipitously. It stood at 34.3 percent at Opening Day, but is now down to 15.5 percent. Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes are certainly still in tact though, especially with an expanded postseason.

Injury Report

  • OF Randy Arozarena and LHP Brendan McKay are unavailable for undisclosed reasons.
  • RHP Yonny Chirinos was just placed on the injured list with triceps inflammation retroactive to August 3rd.
  • LHP Colin Poche is out for the season. He had Tommy John surgery on July 29th.
  • Not an injury, but LHP José Alvarado was placed on the paternity list today and could miss this series.

Spotlight: Nick Anderson

Who? Nick Anderson, perhaps the league’s best reliever, that’s who. The 30 year-old righty is basically unknown, and understandably so. Anderson’s been around the block, but finally got his chance to shine last season in time with the Marlins and Rays. It took a while for him to get here, though.

The Brewers drafted Anderson in the 32nd round back in 2012, but the righty did not sign and instead pitch in Indy-ball through 2015. The Twins were the first to bring him into affiliated ball, where he eventually reached Triple-A in 2018. There, he recorded a stellar 36.2 percent strikeout rate in the Rochester bullpen, but there was still no room for him in the big leagues. Minnesota traded him to Miami that offseason.

The Marlins gave Anderson his first shot, and he succeeded right away. In 43 2/3 innings, Anderson delivered a 3.92 ERA/2.71 FIP and struck out 69 opponents. Maybe the entire league hadn’t taken notice yet, but the Rays certainly did. Tampa Bay sent Ryne Stanek and prospect Jesús Sánchez to the Marlins to pick up Anderson. After that, Anderson really burst onto the scene.

In 21 1/3 post trade deadline innings, Anderson recorded a 2.11 ERA/1.62 FIP. He struck out a whopping 51 batters (52.6 percent!) and walked only two (2.6 percent). He’s off to a similarly fast start this season: in four games, Anderson has yet to allow a run or walk in 3 1/3 innings. He’s given up just two hits and fanned four batters. I think it’s safe to say that not only is he the best reliever you’ve never heard of, but he also might be the best reliever in baseball, period.

What makes Anderson so dominant? It’s the way he effectively pairs his fastball and curveball. He basically has Chad Green’s fastball paired with the curveball that Green’s trying to incorporate now. Take a look at the fastball:

Metric (2019)GreenAndersonLeague Avg.
FB velo 969693
FB spin246323262287
FB drop (in.)121016
FB Whiff %29%30%22%

Pretty similar! And even though Green has more spin on his fastball, Anderson’s doesn’t drop as much (i.e. it appears to rise more than Green’s). This is because Anderson’s release point is a bit more efficient to maximize that spin rate (not that Green’s is bad, or anything).

That’s not where the similarities end, by the way. Even though it’s really tough to square up Anderson and Green, hitters do make loud contact when they’re fortunate enough to do so. Last year, both were near the bottom of the league in exit velocity and hard hit percentage against. Green was in the 1st (!) percentile for both, while Anderson was in the 12th and 10th, respectively. Of course, making contact against these two is easier said than done.

Now, what differentiates Anderson is the curveball. On the face of things, it doesn’t look terribly impressive. It’s spin and movement are way below league average, in fact. The spin is in the 7th percentile and it drops about seven inches below average as well. Yet, it’s an incredibly effective offering for Anderson. He garnered an absurd 54.2 percent whiff rate against the pitch last year, for reference. How does this happen in spite of low spin and little movement? Deception.

Anderson is incredibly consistent with his release point between his curveball and fastball. Take a look:

Red = Fastball, Blue = Curveball. (via Statcast)

On top of that, his curve is a true 12-6 offering. With almost no horizontal movement, batters are either getting a (seemingly) rising fastball or a hard curveball with a quick downward drop coming out of the same arm slot. That’s not easy to decipher. See below:

Lighter graphics with dotted lines represent league average. (via Statcast)

Unfortunately for the Yankees, Anderson is pretty fresh coming into this series. He hasn’t pitched since Tuesday when he recorded an 11 pitch save against the Red Sox. Let’s hope we don’t have to see much of him this series.

Projected lineup

I’d look that frustrated if I was Kevin Cash, too. Tampa Bay has the league’s 20th-ranked wRC+, and even though Austin Meadows is back, this lineup wasn’t supposed to be particularly great anyway. Here’s the Roster Resource projected lineup:

  1. Austin Meadows, LF (.250/.250/.500, 104 wRC+)
  2. Brandon Lowe, 2B (.302/.375/.605, 175 wRC+)
  3. Yandy Díaz, 3B (.211/.362/.263, 97 wRC+)
  4. Ji-Man Choi, 1B (.148/.273/.333, 77 wRC+)
  5. Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, DH (.182/.289/.303, 78 wRC+)
  6. Willy Adames, SS (.290/.389/.419, 138 wRC+)
  7. Hunter Renfroe, RF (.184/.279/.395, 95 wRC+)
  8. Kevin Kiermaier, CF (.171/.237/.229, 38 wRC+)
  9. Mike Zunino, C (.077/.200/.192, 23 wRC+)

Off the bench, Tampa Bay has two catchers (Michael Perez and Kevan Smith) along with infielders Mike Brosseau and Joey Wendle. José Martínez (136 wRC+) is the team’s platoon bat vs. southpaws, so we’ll likely see him against James Paxton this weekend.

Pitching Matchups

Tonight, 6:40 p.m. EDT: Masahiro Tanaka (vs. Rays) vs. Blake Snell (vs. Yankees)

As sweet as it would be for the Rays to beat the Yankees, it’d be just as sweet to put a sock in Snell’s mouth tonight. He’s made two starts so far, but has only thrown five innings as he’s still getting stretched out following some elbow soreness back in spring training. That same elbow has been in rough shape since last year: he had arthroscopic surgery to remove some loose bodies last July and had a cortisone shot in it this spring.

He hasn’t been the same since his excellent Cy Young campaign in 2018 when he posted a 1.89 ERA. Given his health, I guess that’s not a surprise. He had a 4.29 ERA (3.32 FIP) in 107 innings last season and has been so-so in an extremely limited sample this year. On the bright side, his fastball velocity (95 MPH) hasn’t gone away. It sounds like he could pitch four or five innings tonight.

Snell.

Masahiro Tanaka will probably go a similar distance as Snell tonight. Tanaka tossed 2 2/3 innings in his first start of the season last week against Boston. His fastball velocity and usage were unexpectedly up from past years, so that’ll be something to keep an eye on tonight.

Saturday (Game 1 of 2), 2:10 p.m. EDT: Gerrit Cole (vs. Rays) vs. Bullpen/Tyler Glasnow (vs. Yankees)

Glasnow is likely to pitch one of the two games in Saturday’s doubleheader. He’ll be a handful for the Yankees’ lineup whenever he does go. He’s got incredible stuff. Glasnow looked like a Cy Young contender last year before he got hurt. The young righty had a 1.86 ERA in 48 1/3 innings through early May before suffering a forearm strain.

Glasnow.

Glasnow’s one downside: he doesn’t provide much length. He’s averaged roughly five innings per start in his Rays career and hasn’t thrown more than 4 2/3 innings in either of his two starts this season. That said, he did average six innings per start last year before he got hurt. It also helps that this will be a seven inning game.

Cole is slated for the first game of the doubleheader for the Yankees. It’ll already be his fourth start in pinstripes even though it’ll be just the 14th team game for the Bombers. Oddly enough, those postponements against the Phillies a couple of weeks ago really benefited the Yanks’ starting staff by essentially giving Cole an extra turn. Though it’s a little bit of a different Tampa Bay lineup, Cole absolutely eviscerated the Rays in the ALDS last year. He won both Game 2 and Game 5 thanks to 15 2/3 innings, one run allowed, and 25 strikeouts. More of the same here, please.

Saturday (Game 2 of 2): TBD vs. Bullpen/Tyler Glasnow

Surprisingly, the Rays haven’t done an official opener/bullpen game yet this year (though Snell’s short starts effectively were bullpen games). A couple of candidates to get the starting nod: Trevor Richards and Andrew Kittredge.

Similar to the Rays, the Yankees will have a bullpen game during this doubleheader. Jonathan Loaisiga seems like a plausible candidate after he served as an opener on Thursday. Luis Cessa, David Hale, Michael King, and Nick Tropeano are candidates as well.

Sunday, 1:10 p.m. EDT: James Paxton (vs. Rays) vs. Charlie Morton (vs. Yankees)

This is going to be a battle of two pitchers still working out the kinks. Morton didn’t look very sharp in his first couple of outings, particularly with diminished fastball velocity. He sat 92 in his first two starts, but average 93 in his most recent game against Boston. This is still well down from 96 in 2018 and 95 in 2019. Overall, Morton has a 5.52 ERA in 14 2/3 innings.

Morton

Paxton’s yet to go more than three innings in his two starts this season, and that wasn’t by design. His fastball velocity is way down and his mechanics are all over the place. The Yankees need to see some progress for him really soon. The Big Maple was really good against Tampa last year (12 innings, 18 strikeouts, 3.00 ERA), but it’ll be hard to repeat that without his usual velocity.

Bullpen Status

RHP: Nick Anderson, Oliver Drake, Diego Castillo, Chaz Roe, Peter Fairbanks, Andrew Kittredge, Trevor Richards

LHP: Aaron Loup, Jalen Beeks, Sean Gilmartin

Per Fangraphs, this is the league’s top bullpen. I’d argue the Yankees have a better crew, but that’s neither here nor there. There’s no set closer in this bullpen, though Drake is the only one with saves (2) on the roster. Anderson or Castillo can do the job as well. Alvarado has closer experience with Tampa Bay, but as noted earlier, is inactive to start the series. The other big absence is Poche, who’s out for the year as mentioned before as well.


Considering that this series is at the (hated) Trop and the Rays are going to trot out three of their best starters, I think a split would be satisfactory. Especially with a double header in line for Saturday, as those are generally tough to sweep. Taking three of four or sweeping Tampa Bay would virtually put the Rays’ hope for a divisional title out of reach, however.

Mailbag: Zack Britton, J.A. Happ, 2021 Rotation, Alternate Site, & More

Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees are 9-3 and sit comfortably in first-place, with a four-game lead over Baltimore and Tampa Bay in second. The season is now 20% through, believe it or not, so this is about as good a position as you could reasonably want from the Yanks at this point. Things are good.

It’s time for another mailbag. We have six good questions today. As always, please send in yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com to be included in a future edition. We answer our favorites each Friday.

Iron Mike Asks: With the dominant closing of Britton, shouldn’t the Yanks consider keeping him at closer? He has been a groundball machine which is in contrast to Chapman, who has much more of a track record of being wild.

Aroldis Chapman is probably the best reliever in Yankees history to give fans this much agita. From a purely on-field perspective alone, it is completely unwarranted. To wit, here are Aroldis’ statistics and associated rankings since joining the Yankees in 2016, (including two months in Chicago):

  • fWAR: 8.1 (1st)
  • FIP: 2.07 (1st)
  • Average Fastball Velocity: 99.6 mph (1st among RP w/ 1,000+ fastballs)
  • ERA: 2.33 (3rd)
  • HR/9: 0.42 (4th)
  • Strikeout Rate: 38.3% (5th)
  • Batting Average Against: .147 (5th)

The point here is that Chapman, wild though he may be at times, is one of the most consistent and reliable relievers in all of baseball. The only argument against having him be a closer 100% of the time would be to use him in the higher leverage situations, if possible. That’s not going to happen, but he is the best reliever the Yankees have. They treat him as such, and they should and should continue to do so.

It’s also true that Britton has been great in pinstripes. He has a 2.04 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 91.1 IP with a preposterous 77.2% ground ball rate. The walk rate (12%) is high, but this sample includes his recovery from an achilles tear. He’s looked better with basically every appearance. But he’s still not Chapman. Britton will not – and should not – replace Chapman as the closer, assuming Chapman is healthy.

Jeff Asks: Why shouldn’t the Yankees straight up release J.A. Happ right now?  The simple answer I’m assuming is “depth”, but what good is that if he can’t get anyone out?  I’d rather watch a Schmidt, Garcia, King, etc. struggle than Happ.

The simple answer is always the correct one. The Yankees shouldn’t release J.A. Happ because they’ll need the depth. Pitchers across the league are getting injured at a historic rates in 2020. That’s not speculation: it’s measurable and true. As bad as Happ has been – and he’s been bad – I don’t think the Yankees should get rid of a stretched out MLB arm. You just never know what might happen.

With that said, though, let me be extremely clear: J.A. Happ should not start another game for the 2020 Yankees, barring those major injuries. He has been very bad. Thursday’s start was infuriating to watch. This is not a James Paxton situation, where a star pitcher is struggling and needs to get right. Happ is getting older with declining velocity and spin rates coupled with worsening control. He shouldn’t be “figuring it out” in the MLB rotation for a team competing for a World Series. Give those innings to Clarke Schmidt, please.

The Yankees should use him in a long relief role where he primarily faces lefties. He was much better against LHB (.652 OPS against) than RHP (.830 OPS) in 2019. To the extent that Happ is salvageable, I think that is the role best conducive to his skillset right now.

Jonathan Asks: Gut feeling where do you think the rotation will be next year? With Sevy injured and Tanaka, Paxton, and Happ (hopefully) free agents. It’s just Cole and Gumby. I know the Yankees are loaded with good position players but the rotation is in major flux. I think the Yankees will re-sign Tanaka and go with the Schmidts, Kings and Garcias of the world. The Gleybers, Judges and Sanchezs of the world will get expensive so I think the Yankees will go cheap on pitching even though they need more. What do you think? 

I agree about Tanaka. I think the Yankees/Tanaka marriage is working for both sides and I fully expect the two sides to work out an agreement to keep in him pinstripes for the next few years at least. It’s tough to say beyond that right now though.

The ultimate variable is James Paxton, who has just looked horrific so far in 2020. He’s not right, but there is a mechanical issue reason and the Yankees insist he’s healthy. Still, if his velocity drops 5+ mph and he’s unable to regain his 2017-19 form, it’s a big blow to him as a free agent. Perhaps the Yankees re-sign him to a cheap 1-2 year deal and try to get him right. And even if he does regain his old form soon, his free agency profile is really complicated by all this. I don’t know. We need to see more.

As for the rest of the class, there probably aren’t a lot of pitchers out there in whom the Yanks will be interested. Marcus Stroman and Robbie Ray, two pitchers formerly connected to the Yanks, are the headliners of the class. We all remember Cashman’s comment about Stroman not being good enough to crack last year’s playoff rotation, and Ray has his own issues. I don’t know that they’re going to commit dollars to these guys, but the market will be weird and probably depressed. Shrug.

If there is going to be a big splash for the Yanks in the rotation, it’ll probably come in the form of a trade for a cost-controlled starter with upside, like they did with James Paxton after 2018. I’ll have to think more about who that might be, though.

Max Asks: Is there coaching support for players at the alternate site? For example, the Triple-A staff. Also, can players not on the alternate roster play with players that are, for development? For example, Jasson Dominguez.

The best way to imagine the dystopian-named Alternate Site is to think of it like Spring Training 2.0. There are organizational coaches there running drills, organizing simulated games, and the like. Remember, these are the guys who can get called up at a moment’s notice, and the entire point of the site is to theoretically replace the entire team in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.. They have to be ready.

Twins outfielder Lane Adams gave a pretty good overview of what’s happening at the Twins’ alternate site here. I imagine that is roughly equivalent to what’s going on everywhere, including in Scranton for the Yankees’ other 30 guys. It’s not a MiLB season, but it’s better than nothing, I guess.

That’s what non-rostered players – like Jasson Dominguez – are dealing with right now. Nothing. Their contracts are currently suspended and they’re even allowed to play with independent league teams to get regular reps. It’s truly unprecedented. My guess, though, is that a number of the Yankees’ big-time prospects are in regular contact with the team, working out with MiLB/development staff, and getting their reps in.

Paul Asks: If a starting pitcher pitches all 7 innings of a doubleheader game, does he get credit for a complete game?

Yes. A pitcher earns a complete game in any circumstances in which he was the only pitcher to make an appearance for his team during an official game, however long it lasts. It’s not the pitchers’ fault that the game is only seven innings. This is why, if you check Gerrit Cole’s 2020 statistics, you’ll see he has a complete game on the ledger – from the rain-shortened season opener in Washington. Is it quite a bit cheaper? Sure. But it’s a complete game nonetheless.

Sam Asks: Rob Manfred decrees that in 2021 there will be a Designated Fielder, a 10th person to play defense who isn’t in the lineup. Where would you put that person in a standard defensive alignment?

Love this question, but I’m afraid to even answer it. I’m afraid doing so will speak it into existence. But it’s fun, so why not. In most cases, I’d put the extra defender behind second base as a fifth-infielder. You basically get the benefits of the shift without having to move anyone out of position (and protect against bunts, which actually do work against the shift).

And of course, you could use that person as a super shifter. Put them into the outfield when a pitcher or batter has extreme FB rates, etc. It is a fun thought experiment but let’s hope nobody gets any ideas.

Game 12: Another Short Start

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That was a frustrating loss. The Yankees were in an early hole and despite a valiant effort were unable to pull off the comeback. They lose the rubber game of this series against the Phillies by the score of 5-4. Their record now sits at 9-3. Here are the takeaways.

Monty Continues The Starters’ Woes

Jordan Montgomery was excellent in his first start of the year against Boston. In his second start of the year, he was anything but that. Monty was effective against Boston because of efficient effectiveness. That wasn’t the case tonight. Montgomery was fighting his command and control all night. It led to high pitch count innings. He was falling behind the hitters a ton forcing him to throw hittable pitches in the zone. All you have to do is look at this pitch chart to get an idea of how wild he was:

This is a mess. It is important to point out that a lot of these strikes were foul balls. This leads to a concerning trend early on in the season for the Yankees’ pitchers. It is becoming increasingly clear that the staff is struggling to put batters away with two strikes and/or two outs. The JT Realmuto three run home run in the first inning was on a 1-2 hanging curve ball. The Bryce Harper single prior to the home run was on a 1-2 sinker. Rhys Hopkins walked on a 3-2 change up. The big double by Phil Gosselin in the third inning came on a 1-2 change up with two outs. You get the point.

This isn’t just a Montgomery issue. We’ve seen it from Paxton, Happ, and Loaisiga amongst others. This leads to long innings, high pitch counts, and damage from the opposing lineup. It is emerging as a trend that needs to halt sooner than later. There are too many pitchers on the staff right now who can’t put hitters away when they have the chance. Outside of Gerrit Cole, the staff struggles to get to the fifth inning let alone qualify for a quality start. The Yankees have a great bullpen, but most games shouldn’t come down to the pen and lineup. The starters have to step it up.

Montgomery is a good pitcher on an off night. This isn’t a Paxton or Happ situation. Gumby faced a pretty good lineup without his best command. He paid for it. I fully expect Montgomery to bounce back in his next start.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Sanchez

It is hard to criticize the Yankees lineup. They are top three in almost every team offensive category. The Yankees sluggers were able to muster a comeback against a weak Phillies bullpen. This is despite some major pieces struggling so far. Gleyber Torres is in a major slump. Aaron Hicks hasn’t found his power stroke yet. Giancarlo Stanton has cooled down a bit. Gary Sanchez is the lineup’s biggest issue at the moment. So of course, he hits a big opposite field home run to bring the Yankees back.

We all know Gary’s horrid start to the year. His K% is over 53.3. His wOBA is .141. He has a ton of swing and miss in his at bats. His plate discipline is poor. Despite all of this, Gary is still hitting the ball hard. He sits in the 88th percentile of exit velocity and the 76th percentile of hard hit percentage. It feels like his issues are timing, pitch recognition, and plate discipline. If he gets a pitch in the zone he’s stinging the ball. That was the case with this home run:

Gary is driving the ball well to the opposite field this year when he swings at strikes. He drove a good pitch on the outer third to the seats. I’ve said this a few times, but a lot of Gary’s success comes down to his timing. Now, he’s been displaying terrible plate discipline lately, but the slump started with poor timing. We like to say that big moments like this could be the breakthrough moment. I’m not sure we’re there yet. It is nice to see him drive the ball to the opposite field though.

The Bullpen Is Great Again

You can really appreciate the Yankees bullpen when you see the Phillies’ pen. Even with lower guys on the depth chart, the Yankees relievers give the offense a chance to compete throughout the entire game. David Hale and Jonathan Holder came on after Jordan Montgomery with four effective innings of no-run ball. Holder was especially effective with three strikeouts in 1 2/3 innings. If Luke Voit’s drive in the ninth inning finds a gap or goes over the wall, we’re praising the work of the two relievers.

The duo were still important in this game. They were the main reason the ninth inning was interesting. Holder had five swing and misses out of his 12 change ups. The pitch induced soft contact as well. The exit velocity on the change was 52.6 MPH. He was able to get some big strikeouts in the latter stages of the game to give the Yankees a chance late.

David Hale did the heavy lifting on the pitching end. He came on in relief of Montgomery and slowed the Phillies bats down. Despite a few walks, Hale challenged hitters with his four seamer with success. This was an especially important outing because the Yankees were down some quality arms after yesterday’s double header. Hale was able to save some arms and keep the game within reach. That is exactly what you’re looking for from a guy like Hale. That has value.

Leftovers

Despite the loss, the Yankees are off to a great start. Some of their stars are struggling. The non-Cole starters haven’t hit their stride. With that said, the Yankees still have a 3.5 game lead in the division. That is important because they’ve already completed 20% of their weird season. It is crazy to say that, but it’s true. They have an opportunity to put some significant distance between them and the Tampa Bay Rays starting tomorrow night. It will be Masahiro Tanaka against Blake Snell. Blake Snell apparently enjoys beating the Yankees, which is weird because he doesn’t do it much. The game starts at 6:40pm ET. Have a great night.

Game 12: Randy’s worst nightmare

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The stars have aligned, folks. Tyler Wade is in the starting lineup and Randy is handling tonight’s recap. In case you somehow aren’t in on the joke, maybe listen to our podcast?

Tonight’s the last of the Yankees and Phillies four game set before the Bombers head down to Tampa Bay. And similar to yesterday, Aaron Boone is providing more rest for his usual starters, especially because the Yankees-Rays series will include four games in three days. Tonight, Aaron Judge and DJ LeMahieu get a breather. With that, here are the lineups:

New York Yankees (9-2)

  1. Mike Tauchman, RF
  2. Luke Voit, 1B
  3. Aaron Hicks, CF
  4. Giancarlo Stanton, DH
  5. Gleyber Torres, SS
  6. Brett Gardner, LF
  7. Gio Urshela, 3B
  8. Gary Sánchez, C
  9. Tyler Wade, 2B

LHP Jordan Montgomery

Philadelphia Phillies (2-4)

  1. Andrew McCutchen, LF
  2. Rhys Hoskins, 1B
  3. Bryce Harper, RF
  4. J.T. Realmuto, C
  5. Phil Gosselin, DH
  6. Didi Gregorius, SS
  7. Scott Kingery, 2B
  8. Neil Walker, 3B
  9. Roman Quinn, CF

RHP Zach Eflin

News & Notes

  • Friendly reminder: our mailbag is open for questions. Shoot us a note at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com for a chance to featured in an upcoming mailbag.
  • Some roster news: the Yankees selected RHP Nick Tropeano from its player pool and transferred Tommy Kahnle to the 60-day injured list. Tropeano is a local product from West Islip and played college ball at Stony Brook. He’s a starter by trade so he can give a few innings in relief if need be.
  • In case you missed it, the Yankees optioned Miguel Andújar, Thairo Estrada, and Nick Nelson today too.

This one starts at 6:05 p.m. EDT. You can watch on YES and listen on WFAN or WADO.

Yankees Option Miguel Andújar, Thairo Estrada, and Nick Nelson

The Yankees announced several roster moves today as rosters contract from 30 men to 28. The team sent Miguel Andújar, Thairo Estrada, and Nick Nelson to the Alternative Site in Pennsylvania. I took a look at the roster crunch on Monday and predicted that Brooks Kriske and Thairo Estrada would be first to go. Kriske was already sent down for Luis Cessa yesterday, so he wasn’t an option here. Thairo doesn’t play at all, so his demotion was predictable. Nelson had a rough outing yesterday and has 3 options, so he makes sense, too. (The Yanks will probably recall Ben Heller or another depth arm to fill the extra spot on the roster.) The big news here, of course, is Miguel Andújar.

There is logic to this from a straight baseball point-of-view. Miggy is recovering from major injuries and will need regular playing time to get back up to speed. Those at-bats are likely not there with the Yankees, but they are there in Pennsylvania. And it’s not like he’s setting the world on fire: he is hitting just .071/.071/.071 in 14 plate appearances. The Yanks clearly tried to get him regular time. It probably just wasn’t enough. He’s the victim of a very deep and talented roster, like so many other big league quality players in the Yanks organization. A less talented team probably has space for Andújar. Right now, the Yankees do not.

But there is also another benefit for the Yankees: by sending him down now, they’ll likely gain another year of control over Andújar. MLB and MLBPA agreed to pro-rate service time in 2020, so the normal 172 days on an active roster needed for a full year of service time is now 61 days. This helps us understand Andújar’s situation. He came into 2020 with 2 years and 20 days of service time. Using the new formula, Andújar needs 54 days on the Yankees’ active roster to clear 3.0 years of service time and hit free agency a year sooner.

In other words, sending Andújar down now all but guarantees the Yankees another year of control. If he spends 13 days in Pennsylvania – and he can’t come up for at least 10 days anyway – then that’ll be that. It’s unfortunate for Andújar. No doubt about it. On the bright side, at least he’ll be a Super 2 and be arbitration-eligible before reaching 3 years of time. It’s also important to remember that this isn’t necessarily straight service time manipulation. The extra at-bats will likely be helpful to Andújar and help him return to form more quickly than he would otherwise. That’s a win-win for everyone.

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