The Hot Stove is finally starting to warm up on the second day of this year’s Winter Meetings. It’s far from hot still, but teams have started to make some moves. Just not the Yankees, at least, not yet. Let’s get today’s happenings:
Lance Lynn goes to White Sox; Yankees did not engage Texas
The biggest move of the Winter Meetings (so far) went down late last night. Texas sent righty Lance Lynn to the White Sox in exchange for Dane Dunning and prospect Avery Weems. Dunning is still technically prospect eligible I believe, but he had a nice season for Chicago in 2020 (3.97 ERA in 34 innings). He was a first round pick back in 2016 by Washington.
Lynn has been nothing short of excellent since he joined the Rangers in 2019. He’s thrown 292 1/3 innings and recorded a 3.57 ERA and 3.43 FIP. This came right after the Yankees had acquired him mid-2018, by the way. He would have been a really good fit back in pinstripes.
4:00 p.m. EDT: Ding ding ding. Nothing for the Yankees today, unless we get a surprise late announcement like the Zack Greinke trade last year.
3:40 p.m. EDT: Cashman has a few “narrowed-down” talks for relievers and position players. (Brendan Kuty)
3:39 p.m. EDT: Boston makes a move. Kevin Pillar goes to the Rockies. (Mark Feinsand)
3:34 p.m. EDT: Old friend alert. Milwaukee traded David Phelps to the Phillies. He reunites with another old friend, Joe Girardi. (Ken Rosenthal)
3:19 p.m. EDT: The Yankees aren’t optimistic about getting a deal done, though they’ve been in touch on Gausman, Bundy, and Lynn. (Heyman)
2:58 p.m. EDT: Another deal: Jonathan Villar from Miami to Toronto. (Ken Rosenthal)
2:56 p.m. EDT: The Marlins are close to landing Marte. Take him off the Yankees’ wish list. (Craig Mish)
2:22 p.m. EDT: The Diamondbacks appear likely to move OF Starling Marte for the best deal they can get by 4 p.m. The team does not intend to pick up his 2021 option, so a trade will have to do. (Joel Sherman)
2:07 p.m. EDT: Texas “would love” to get Deivi García for Lynn. Duh. (T.R. Sullivan)
1:52 p.m. EDT: The Blue Jays have acquired LHP Robbie Ray from Arizona. He’s been awful this year, but has been connected to the Yankees in the past. (Rob Longley)
1:41 p.m. EDT: The Yankees have checked in on RHP Kevin Gausman. (Heyman)
1:05 p.m. EDT: The Yankees have been in touch with the Rangers over the last 48 hours regarding Lynn. (Jon Morosi)
12:40 p.m. EDT: The Rangers could be motivated to trade RHP Lance Lynn. The team may regret not dealing Minor last year, so they don’t want to make that mistake with Lynn while his value is high. (Joel Sherman)
12:31 p.m. EDT: Another trade: LHP Mike Minor from the Rangers to the A’s for two players to be named later. Mark another pitcher off the board who could have fit the Yankees. (Jeff Passan)
12:25 p.m. EDT: Radio silence in terms of Yankees-related rumors at this point. As per Martino’s report linked below, it sure seems possible that the Yankees don’t make any moves.
11:15 a.m. EDT: Clevinger is off to San Diego. Cross one target off the Yankees’ list. (Robert Murray)
10:25 a.m. EDT: The prices are too high for the Yankees at the moment. They’re not anywhere close on RHP Mike Clevinger or RHP Lance Lynn. It’s also not clear if San Francisco will move RHP Kevin Gausman. (Andy Martino)
T-minus six hours until the 4 p.m. EDT trade deadline. A number of trades went down yesterday — none of them involving the Yankees — and a few more are sure to occur today. We’ll update this post for any deals made and rumors involving the Yankees throughout the day. Here are the latest Yankees-related rumors:
The Yankees have talked to the Brewers about LHP Josh Hader, but there’s “no traction” there. They’ve also checked in on RHP Mike Clevinger. (Jon Heyman)
No baseball for the Yankees today, but there are five games on the schedule against the Mets this weekend. I have a few things on my mind at the moment that are Yankees-related, so let’s get to them here:
1. The Yankees stink right now, but it’s hard to get flustered by it. The Yankees had a downright dreadful day yesterday. Not only did they lose both games of the doubleheader in Atlanta, but it looks like they may be without Aaron Judge once again. It’s all frustrating, but frankly, it all pales in comparison to what’s going on in this country right now. I’m really having a hard time getting worked up about all of the Yankees’ injuries and the team’s five game losing streak, because it’s just not a big deal.
Yesterday, we saw the players in NBA and WNBA take the lead in deciding to walk out and not play scheduled games. Some entire MLB teams and some individual players on other teams followed. Exhausted by constant violence against Black folks and professional leagues’ empty gestures, players started to take things into their own hands. Not the Yankees, however, which was disappointing albeit unsurprising. The news about the Milwaukee Bucks striking began to unfold toward the end of the first game of the Yankees-Braves doubleheader. Maybe there wasn’t enough time between games for the teams to discuss the issue at hand. Eh. As Randy tweeted yesterday, thirty minutes is more than enough time to make a decision.
Maybe the Yankees will take a stand this weekend. Bobby tweeted about the reach the team has and the impact it could have. There’s no doubt about that. I’m not holding my breath, though. Need I remind you the affiliations this front office has? Plus, the Mets, who the Yankees will face this weekend, didn’t take a stand yesterday and left one player to speak on his own: Dom Smith. Although Smith played yesterday, we saw some teams play while one of its own Black players chose to sit out (Jason Heyward with the Cubs).
I love baseball and the Yankees and I selfishly want to keep watching them play this season. It’s admittedly been a distraction for me from everything going on in the world. But Clinton Yates’ piece today for The Undefeated make an important point: expecting Black athletes to perform for the sake of our entertainment while they are in anguish is wholly unfair. And responding with something like: “what does a walkout actually accomplish?” is absurd to ask as well. It doesn’t have to accomplish anything immediately. As Yates writes:
Which gets to the question that keeps coming up: What does this solve? What do you want? Maybe they don’t know. They shouldn’t have to. A collective bereavement pause on the league might be what everyone needs anyway. Lord knows how tough 2020 has been on everyone. But the point is that should be good enough.
2. If you haven’t rage-closed your browser yet (good riddance), here’s a Yankees thought: the team should sign recently released Brock Holt.Matt wrote about Holt back in the offseason and much of what he said still applies. In fact, one sentence from Matt’s piece really stands out to me: “The predictability he offers is preferable to the upside of Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada”. This rings particularly true with Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu sidelined.
Holt really struggled for the Brewers this year, which led to his release. He hit .100/.222/.100 in 36 plate appearances. Pretty terrible, but also a ridiculously small sample size to cut someone on. I guess the 13-15 Brewers wanted to shake things up. Holt is almost certainly not that bad though, and should be an immediate upgrade over Wade and Estrada.
Holt batted .286/.366/.407 (106 wRC+) for the Red Sox in 662 plate appearances across 2018 and 2019. He’s not going to hit for power, but he makes plenty of contact and gets on base frequently. Holt offers plenty of versatility too. He can play all over the infield and outfield. And it’s not like he’s faking it at those positions — he’s a good defender too. Last year, Holt was in the 80th percentile of defenders in Statcast’s Outs Above Average. Most of that credit comes from his time at second base, but Statcast also grades him as an above average glove at shortstop. The Yankees may not be able to sign Holt, but it would shock me if they didn’t try to.
3. On Aaron Judge, hurt again. I think our tweets from earlier today says about all that needs to be said:
I love, love, love Aaron Judge. But there’s absolutely no reason to ever take him seriously when he says he’s “fine” again. He had four (4) extra days and sat the first game today. No chance was he fully ready or healthy.
Remember, Judge argued to avoid the injured list entirely. So much for that. While it’s often seen as admirable to play through pain, this just isn’t one of those instances. It’s detrimental to the club because now he could be out longer than initially anticipated.
4. Trade deadline priorities. One starting pitcher came off the market this afternoon: Taijuan Walker, who the Mariners traded to the Blue Jays. If you listened to our podcast this week, you’d know that Randy and I weren’t too keen on Walker anyway. The Yankees still have four days to address the pitching staff, however. There are really only two guys that I think are a) available and b) could make an impact: Lance Lynn and Dylan Bundy. Mike Clevinger certainly would make an impact, but I’m not certain he’s actually available and I don’t think it’d be a good idea to bring him into the clubhouse.
Starting pitching shouldn’t be the only target for the front office, though. The Yankees should go after some middle infield help too, especially if they don’t sign Brock Holt. Not that Holt would have a huge offensive impact, but almost any bat is going to be a fairly substantial upgrade over Tyler Wade in the lineup. One other middle infielder that comes to mind: Freddy Galvis of the Reds. Good defender at shortstop, has some power, and is purely a rental. Cincy is 11-17 and may be sellers anyway. I might go in more depth in a trade target piece, but if not, he’s one guy to keep in mind.
The Yankees will finish their magical 2019 season with a 103-59 record, tying that very fun 2009 team. They did not set the single-season home run record. Only one guy got hurt. It could have been worse. I’m sure some people out there will be really nervous that the team “limped” into the playoffs, but dear reader, don’t be that fan. This weekend has nothing to do with next weekend. I promise you that.
Anyway, let’s get right to the takeaways from this stinker of a last game of the (regular) season.
1. Chad Green, Opener: I think I’ve said this all year, but I strongly prefer Chad Green as a multi-inning weapon out of the pen instead of using him as an opener. I really, really hope that’s how he’s used during October, but hey, I have no clue. Whatever. Anyway, today Green opened in front of Tanaka and he looked pretty good, all things considered. Better than his line, I’d say. Here’s his strike zone plot:
As you can see, not much over the plate at all. He worked inside and outside and kept the ball on the corners. He was also pumping 98 throughout the outing. Good stuff.
Now, that said, Green surrendered a walk and a hit. Choo walked to open the game and Andrus hit a ground-ball single. They proceeded to both steal second and third, which prompted a throwing error from Gary Sánchez that led to a run. Green would strike out two during the rest of the frame.
Not the cleanest inning of the season, but hey, whatever. It was irrelevant. At least Green looked good.
2. Not-So-Sharp Masahiro: Tanaka, on the other hand, did not look nearly as good as Green did. It’s perhaps worth noting that this was Tanaka’s first-ever relief appearance as a Major Leaguer–his last relief appearance came in Game 7 of the 2013 Japanese Series, a game after he threw 160 pitches in Game 6. I suspect this was more of a trial than it was anything else. I’ve said this a lot now, but I’d be really surprised to see Tanaka used out of the bullpen in October. It just doesn’t make any sense to me. It feels like overthinking it.
Anyway, here is Tanaka’s line: 3.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R (1 ER), 1 BB, 2 K. It wasn’t his finest day but it also was not his worst outing. It was just kind of meh. Here was his strike zone plot:
And here was his pitch usage, since that’s always an interesting thing to watch with Masahiro these days:
He generated 4 swings-and-misses on the day, 2 on the fastball and 2 on the splitter. It sure seems to me that the splitter is back to being an effective pitch since the whole changed grip thing. He’s using it more and it’s not worthless anymore. That’s good news. Not really a whole lot more to say about this one. See you next Monday, Masahiro. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see the return of Playoff Tanaka, he of the 1.50 career postseason ERA.
3. Bullpen Tune-Ups: As expected, the Yanks used this game to get their top bullpen arms a final tune-up before October. Here are all of their lines, and I’ve added some commentary below:
Tommy Kahnle: 1.0 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 0 K
Adam Ottavino: 1.0 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 0 K
Zack Britton: 1.0 IP, 1 H, zeros, 1 K
Aroldis Chapman: 1.0 IP, zeros, 1 K
Alright, I know we’re all nervous about the relievers’ workload these days. I personally am not. I implicitly trust the Yankees when it comes to pen management–it’s tough to argue with their results over the past, what, decade?–but I get it. They haven’t had a lot of work, and that can lead to some rust. And…well, it sure seemed like there was some rust today, at least with Kahnle and Ottavino. Both have struggled a bit recently and today was no exception. They weren’t really around the zone and didn’t look very sharp. Both guys have had seriously dominant seasons this year, though, so I would be lying if I said I was nervous. I am treating this one like a Spring Training game, myself, which means I am not reading anything into it. I suggest you do the same to help quell your nerves over the next week. It’s not worth it.
Britton looked very good though. He did give up a hit, though it was a grounder. It was a sharp grounder, to be sure, but it was a grounder nonetheless. He then got a double-play grounder and a swinging strikeout. That’s more like it.
Chapman needed just 9 pitches to record his 3 outs and the last two pitches of his outing were 100 mph. I’d say that will get the job done. Pretty incredible how good he’s been in 2019. It will make his opt-out decision all the more fascinating to watch.
4. And Thus Concludes the 2019 HR Race: Coming into today, the Yankees had a 1 HR lead (305) over the Twins (304) for the single-season HR record. Well, the Twins hit 3, which brought their total to 307.
Unfortunately, the Yankees were not able to keep pace with the Twins today. They will finish at least one home run behind Minnesota (as the Twins game is still going as of this writing). But Aaron Judge did his part, launching an absolute blast into the left field seats in the third inning. Here is the video:
May we see many more of those over the next month! That was number 306 for the Yankees on the season and the 27th of Judge’s year. That means he finished one behind Gardner in their personal competition. Judge only played 102 games but still pretty remarkable that Gardner outslugged him. 2019 sure was a season of baseball that happened. That’s for sure.
It’s too bad the Yankees couldn’t get this job done but hey–there’s a more important competition coming up against Minnesota pretty soon. I’d rather win that one.
Brian Cashman in the Booth: Brian Cashman joined Michael Kay and Buck Showalter in the booth for the entirety of the 4th inning. As you’d expect, he repeated what has already been said publicly and otherwise said a whole lot of nothing. In other words, the team is playing it safe with Encarnación but expects him to be ready for Friday; Gary Sánchez is fully healthy; they are taking their time with the roster and don’t know if they’ll carry 12 or 13 pitchers; these are always tough conversations to have; and, while he’s “disappointed” Houston has a better record, it is like walking a tightrope to balance rest and going for it. He also mentioned that he’s surprised at how well they’ve handled the injuries. He was in the booth for the Gio injury and sounded positively defeated. Same.
Lance Lynn, Somehow an Ace: I am happy for Lance Lynn. I really am. I just wanted to get that out of the way because holy crap does his resurgence annoy me. It’s completely a me issue, to be fair, as you’d think I’d be over the fact that he came into Game 3 of the ALDS last year in relief of Severino over…literally anyone else. It’s not even his fault! Oh well. I do my best to be rational around here (and I think I do a good job of that) but this is one that still haunts my dreams, and I reserve the right to have a little sports hate for Lance Lynn, unfair though it may be. Anyway, he had a truly dominant 2019 (his 6.4 fWAR coming into the game ranked 2nd in the AL behind just Gerrit Cole) and he was dominant again today. Blah. Good for him though, seriously. He deserved every second of that ovation he got in the 8th inning. I’ll get over myself. Maybe.
DJLM, 2nd Place in the Batting Crown: DJ LeMahieu will not be the first player in the modern era to win the AL and NL batting crowns…at least not in 2019. 2020 is a different year, after all. Our man had an incredible season but just couldn’t finish strong enough to outlast Chicago’s Tim Anderson, who really had himself a fantastic season. Anderson is a great dude by all accounts, so I’m happy for him. Too bad for DJLM, but I think he–and all of us–are pretty damn happy with how his season worked out.
Yankee Defense, Not So Great: The Yankees played this one like they didn’t care at all about it. Good thing they didn’t have to. I remind you all that this game didn’t matter. They were sloppy in a lot of regards–Tanaka throwing the ball away, Gary throwing the ball away, a weird play during Ottavino’s 6th, etc. etc. Whatever. I could be much more worried. I could be worried at all, honestly, and let me assure you: I am not. The Yankees will show up next week. Don’t read anything into this.
Gio Urshela’s Defense, Though: Before getting hurt (insert upside-down smiley face here) Gio Urshela flashed his leather at the hot corner. Here’s a replay of his play, which was honestly phenomenal:
Rest, rest, and more rest. Obviously, this was the final game of the regular season. There are four days between today and the start of the ALDS, so the Yankees will spend that time figuring out their roster, making final tune-ups before the playoffs begin, and watching the Wild Card games.
As for us here at Views, we’ll be keeping you up to date on all of that and more, and I truly cannot say thank you enough for sticking with us throughout the regular season. It’s been a fun one, and I can only hope we have another fun month ahead of ourselves.
With Sonny Gray unable to produce, the Yankees made two starting pitching acquisitions at last year’s trade deadline: J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn.
Happ dominated for the final two months, Lynn was his, until this season, mediocre self, and neither made a positive contribution in the postseason. Going into the offseason, the Yankees’ eventual course of action — Trade Gray, sign Happ and let Lynn go — seemed reasonable.
Gray’s turnaround in Cincinnati was foreseeable with his struggles in the New York environment and disagreements with the coaching staff. Happ, being a mid-30s pitcher, could have been expected to suffer a decline, though the precipitous drop in stuff and results has been staggering.
What we didn’t know at the time is that Lynn, in his age-32 season, would see his fastball jump in velocity, spin rate and success, turning him back into an upper-tier starter after a disappointing 2018. It all comes full circle Wednesday as Lynn faces the Yankees with the lead in pitching WAR according to Fangraphs.
For the season, Lynn had a 3.77 ERA and 3.00 FIP while pitching in both a strong hitters park in Texas and the Rangers’ porous defense. I personally don’t believe he’s been the best pitcher in baseball — the adjustments for his ballpark and defense seem a bit fishy to me — but he’s no doubt improved on the mound. His strikeout rate has improved by 4.1 percent and he’s lowered his walk rate by 4.2 percent, all while keeping his home runs low as he did a year ago.
The strong peripherals actually began to improve with the Yankees, though his swinging strike rate has ticked up significantly in Texas. If you remember, Lynn was a victim of a barren free agent market in 2017-18 and signed with the Twins without a traditional Spring Training. He was slow out of the gate in Minny, but by the end of his tenure with the Twins and his time in New York, he was at his best pre-Tommy John surgery peak.
Sporting a 2.17 FIP to a 4.14 ERA with the Yankees, Lynn may have been hurt by the Bombers’ questionable defense a season ago — wide swaths of his Yankee tenure included Aaron Judge out, Miguel Andujar at third base and Gleyber Torres/Luke Voit still finding their footing on the right side of the infield. At the same time, his Statcast numbers show him turning into an entirely different pitcher, so the Yankees aren’t entirely to blame.
The Yankees didn’t tinker much with his pitch selection, not imposing their anti-fastball philosophy on a pitcher who excels almost exclusively on the pitch. However, with a velocity and spin rate jump, Lynn has thrown his four-seam fastball more, increasing it to over 50 percent usage while lessening his reliance on his sinker.
The saying goes that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, yet this age of baseball development has shown that even veterans like Justin Verlander and Charlie Morton can re-invent themselves and find more velocity.
Should the Yankees have seen a new-look Lynn coming with a full spring and a change in offseason regiment? Perhaps. It’s worth wondering how much passing on Lynn was a Yankees mistake vs. an unexpected improvement and a success story for the Rangers. I side closer to the latter — there wasn’t much clamoring for a reunion this winter — but Lynn is a valuable innings eater, in the best sense of that term, even before his sudden improvement.
Lynn will give the Yankees’ lineup a tough test Wednesday. At the same time, he provides an example for how they could have misjudged a player in-house, and gives them something to think about going into their next set of free agent choices.