Got a few tidbits to pass along today. Not much yet with regard to the hot stove, but there are a few things Yankees-related that have happened in recent days. Let’s get to it.
An update on Yankees in LIDOM
Domingo Germán pitched in his first professional game since his suspension for domestic violence began at the end of the 2019 season. He contributed four no-hit innings with seven strikeouts in Toros del Este’s combined no-hitter in its season opener. We still haven’t heard anything about Germán’s future with the Yankees other than Hal Steinbrenner’s words last month.
Hal Steinbrenner on Domingo Germán: "There's no doubt he has to prove he's turned his life around and that he absolutely realizes how horrific that was."
(The details of the incident that led to Germán's suspension under the league domestic violence policy are not public.)
The Yankees make the 40-man roster protection deadline an event last night by adding over a half-dozen players and jettisoning some big names to make room for them. ICYMI, here’s the summary of their moves:
Added: Deivi García, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Estevan Florial, Nick Nelson, Miguel Yajure, Brooks Kriske DFA’d: Nestor Cortes Jr., Greg Bird Released: Jacoby Ellsbury
Here are my thoughts on the whole sequence of moves, starting with who the Yankees added:
It’s well-known how electrifying Deivi can be, and he nearly earned a spot on the roster last September. With the 40-man spot secured, he could get strong consideration for the Opening Day roster in 2020, though it’s more likely he gets further reps in Triple-A after he struggled with the MLB ball and tired down the stretch in 2019.
Meanwhile, Gil, Medina and Florial are further away from the Majors. Gil and Medina raised their profiles with strikeout-laden 2019 seasons for Single-A Charleston, followed by brief stints with Single-A Tampa. Gil, funny enough, was acquired via trade in March 2018 when the Yankees needed to clear room on the 40-man roster. Medina doesn’t turn 21 until May while Gil will be 22 in June.
Florial had his second consecutive down year, both hampered by wrist/hand injuries in Spring Training. That’s part of why he didn’t make Baseball America’s top 10 Yankee prospects. His chances of reaching the Majors in 2020 are slim (as they are for Gil and Medina), but the outfielder would have easy to keep on a 26-man roster for a rebuilding team. Now, he has to find a way to cut down on strikeouts and tap into his potential before it’s too late.
2. The borderline additions: Yajure and Nelson were mentioned by most outlets as bubble players with some favoring Yajure as a “must add.” Kriske, though, came as a surprise even if his name was mentioned.
All three are right-handed pitchers who spent time in Double-A last season, but that’s where the similarities end. Yajure specializes in control, issuing just 30 walks in 138 2/3 innings across High-A and Double-A last season. Though just 21, he has missed development time with Tommy John surgery that knocked out his 2017 season, but he’s fully recovered and has hit 97 on the gun.
However, unlike the four locks, Yajure didn’t make either Baseball America or Baseball Prospectus’ Top 10s. He should start in Trenton after making two starts there in 2019 and could rise from there.
Nelson, meanwhile, reached Triple-A briefly after excelling in the Eastern League. High strikeout rate, high walk rate, the 2016 fourth-rounder has potential to make the Majors in 2020, though that would most likely come in relief as he’s behind García and Michael King for now.
Kriske was the lone full-time reliever of the bunch. Another pitcher who has gone under the knife for TJ, he’s the oldest player added at 25 and is a former sixth-round pick as a senior sign from USC. He could be the latest homegrown college reliever to find his way up the Yankees pipeline. The Bombers wouldn’t have added him to the 40-man as a 25-year-old reliever if he weren’t MLB ready in the near future.
The right-hander added a splitter after joining Trenton, and it appears to have worked wonders for him. Look at his funky motion (and the swings and misses).
3. Yankees not nearly done: So the Yankees are now at 40 men exactly with their 40-man roster. That leaves them no room for Domingo Germán when he’s eventually reinstated from the Commissioner’s exempt list, nor for retaining free agents like Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances, Cameron Maybin or Austin Romine. Or, if this is your cup of tea, Gerrit Cole.
The Yankees had to add the seven players above by Wednesday or else they would have been ripe for the Rule 5 draft in a couple of weeks. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be used as trade bait between now and the start of 2020. In fact, the Bombers might have added one or two players to maintain leverage in ongoing trade talks.
As mentioned above, the Yankees acquired Gil in March 2018. They did so after adding Jake Cave to the 40-man roster the previous fall, only to need room for Brandon Drury in Spring Training. A similar fate could befall Nelson, Kriske or one of the other recent additions, or one of the higher-end prospects (Deivi, Gil, Medina Florial) could be packaged in a larger deal.
I thought the Yankees were going to swing a trade, hence why they went up until the 8 p.m. deadline. They could have been working on one and just didn’t find one that made sense. The Rays, meanwhile, dealt Jose De Leon and Christopher Sanchez to alleviate their own logjam, though they also DFA’d Matt Duffy.
4. Current 40-man roster composition: The Yankees are far from done and they’ll need to excise players currently on their 40-man to make any further MLB moves. But as they stand right now, they have 24 pitchers and just 16 hitters on the roster, with Germán still in the organization as a de facto 41st man while awaiting suspension. While that split remains lopsided, it’s because the Yankees like their pitching prospects. They had enough good ones that other teams would have snapped up, and now they’ll have to sort them out.
Chances are, not all 24 pitchers will make it through the next three months until pitchers and catchers report. Here’s how I see the current chopping block, in order:
Holder and Tarpley are each fine up-and-down arms, but they haven’t proven themselves more than OK middle relievers in a team full of pitchers. Holder is arb eligible for the first time and is projected to make $800K in 2020, but he also had a 6.31 ERA over 41 1/3 innings last year. Even with a strong 2018, he might struggle to make it through, as could Tarpley. Both had injuries that hampered their 2019 seasons.
Adams hasn’t taken as a starter, so it’s probably time to move him to relief full time and see if a healthy version of him can make it as a reliever. Kriske and Abreu, though both in Double-A and near the Majors, each have an injury history and could be expendable.
Luis Cessa, meanwhile, could fit on that list as he’s out of options, and the Yankees have that glut of pitchers on the roster. If J.A. Happ, Jonathan Loaisiga or Germán are moved to long relief in 2020, Cessa’s spot becomes tenuous, as it does if Adams breaks through.
Key date to watch out for: Dec. 2. That’s the non-tender deadline, which could be Holder, Cessa or Tarpley’s last stand.
5. Bird’s likely exit: Though the Yankees could potentially retain Bird after designating him for assignment Wednesday, I wouldn’t count on it. As he has more than three years of service time, he can elect free agency if he clears waivers.
With Luke Voit, DJ LeMahieu and Mike Ford all on the roster, the Yankees scarcely have room for a first base-only player like Bird that can barely stay on the field. His one-week stint in the Dominican Winter League was encouraging but not enough to save his roster spot.
If he hits free agency, maybe New York could work a Minor League deal with their erstwhile first baseman. The organization has certainly believed in him enough to keep him through a laundry list of injuries, and they were rewarded briefly in the 2017 postseason.
Ah, well. At this point, Bird is better off seeking greener pastures with an organization that has more of an opening at first. The talent has always been there, so hopefully his body can hold up wherever he ends up in 2020.
6. The end of the Ellsbury Era: It was time for the Yankees to move on from the veteran outfielder, even if it meant eating $26 million in the process. It’s been 25 months since Ellsbury donned Yankee pinstripes and Brian Cashman didn’t seem confident in Ellsbury’s renewed health during the GM’s end-of-year press conference.
“It’s hard to say based on how things have played out,” Cashman said of Ellsbury’s availability after Aaron Hicks’ surgery. “Right now he’s not someone in a position health-wise where I can answer anything in the affirmative.”
Ellsbury had $21 million due his way in 2020, though the New York Post reported that was uninsured. The Yankees had previously been able to insure his contract, so they weren’t on the hook for all of his 2018 and ’19 salaries. (To clarify, Ellsbury got all the money owed to him, but an insurance company partially compensated the Bombers.) He also is due $5 million to buy out his option for 2021.
The seven-year, $153 million contract is a notable blemish on Cashman’s strong history of signing position players in free agency. In the same offseason, Shin-Soo Choo earned a similar seven-year deal from the Rangers and was an All-Star in 2018. He was worth 14.1 WAR to Ellsbury’s 9.5 ove the last six seasons, and he still has another year to go.
Meanwhile, the Ellsbury signing came on the heels of Robinson Cano’s exit to Seattle. The Yankees reportedly offered him $175 million over seven years, but the second baseman signed for less AAV ($24 million) over 10 seasons. After a lackluster 2013 season where the Bombers’ offense cratered, the team might have felt it needed to make a splash on offense when they signed Ellsbury in addition to Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann.
Ultimately, the signing did not work out at all, outside of Ellsbury’s single-season, career and postseason catcher’s interference records, all set with the Yankees. OK, I guess I’m the only one who cares about that last part. It was time for the Yankees to close this chapter.
7. Bye to Nasty Nestor: Lastly, the Yankees removed Cortes from the 40-man roster. He doesn’t have as big a name as Ellsbury or Bird, but baseball’s Mr. 305 should be remembered fondly for his contributions to the 2019 Yankees.
The final numbers are ugly. He had a 5.67 ERA/5.57 FIP and a 79 ERA+, allowing 16 home runs over 66 2/3 innings. The soft-tossing left-hander rarely topped 90 mph, but he got by on guile and an advanced pitching acumen.
Cortes was the bulk guy to form an impressive tandem with opener Chad Green from May well into the summer. The duo helped the Yankees stave off rotation armageddon. Green obviously deserves more of the accolades when it comes to the Yankees’ opener success, but Cortes kept it going. As the bulk pitcher, he helped the Yankees get wins over the Rays (x2), Indians, Astros and Twins, among others.
As the Yankees have previously DFA’d him and the Orioles sent him back in the 2018 Rule 5 draft, I’m pretty certain he can elect free agency. Another team could use him in a bulk/opener role. For whatever reason, I feel as if he’d fit the Seattle Mariners well.
The Yankees added OF Estevan Florial and RHPs Deivi García, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Brooks Kriske, Nick Nelson and Miguel Yajure to the 40-man roster Wednesday. To make additional room on the roster, New York designated Greg Bird and Nestor Cortes Jr. for assignment while Jacoby Ellsbury was released.
After today’s moves, the Yankees now have a full 40-man roster before making any free agent moves. Assuming they don’t make further room, they won’t be able to select a player in next month’s Rule 5 draft.
While the Yankees were expected to add many of those seven players to the roster, it was surprising that they fit all of them, including Kriske, Nelson and Yajure, who weren’t locks. Meanwhile, the moves to jettison both Bird and Ellsbury alongside Cortes comes as a shock. Bird made just 41 plate appearances last season while Cortes pitched to a 5.67 ERA.
Oswaldo Cabrera, Chris Gittens, Hoy Jun Park and Rony García are among the players the Yankees left unprotected. For more on those names and others, check out Derek’s Rule 5 primer from Tuesday.
In the past, the Yankees have lost plenty of players in the Rule 5 draft, though players are often returned. Cortes, Mike Ford, Caleb Smith and Iván Nova were each selected then returned in recent seasons. The Yankees weren’t so fortunate with Tommy Kahnle and Luis Torrens, each of whom stuck in their new locales.
The last time New York selected a player in the Rule 5 draft was 2011, when the Bombers chose Brad Meyers and purchased the contract of Cesar Cabral, though neither ultimately lasted long in the Bronx.
While the Pinstripers made the aforementioned moves Wednesday, they had previously culled their system of players who they would have needed to add Wednesday. OF Blake Rutherford (White Sox, Robertson/Kahnle/Frazier deal), RHPs Taylor Widener (D-backs, Drury deal) and J.P. Feyereisen (Brewers) were all added to their respective 40-man rosters.
INF Nick Solak, also part of the Brandon Drury deal, was dealt from Tampa Bay to Texas at the deadline last year due to the Rays’ own roster crunch. The Yankees also dealt 1B Ryan McBroom to Kansas City last August and he has remained on the Royals’ 40-man roster. Dom Thompson-Williams (Paxton trade) was not added to the Mariners’ 40-man roster.
We’ll finally see the Yankees make some roster moves this week. Tomorrow’s the deadline to protect eligible players from the Rule 5 draft, which occurs at the end of the winter meetings next month.
Right now, the Yankees have four open spots on the 40-man roster, which is ample room to select the players I believe are must-adds. That said, there’s always the possibility that the Yankees swing a minor trade in order to open up one more spot. In any event, let’s take a brief look at some of the eligible players.
Deivi García is now one of baseball’s top prospects and nearly made it to the majors this year. The 20 year-old should see some time in pinstripes next season, but will certainly start the season in Triple-A. After his rapid ascension last year, he’s a no brainer.
Two other pitchers need to be added in my view: Luis Gil and Luis Medina. The Yankees nabbed Gil from the Twins in exchange for Jake Cave, and he’s done nothing but dominate. He’s yet to reach Double-A and only has 13 innings in High-A, but there’s no way he’d slip through the Rule 5 draft. Elvis Luciano stuck with the Blue Jays all of last year as a 19 year-old who never pitched above rookie ball. That example, along with an expanded 26-man roster, would make Gil a top target.
I wouldn’t have expected Medina to be a definite earlier this year. He struggled in his first taste of action out of rookie ball and seemed doubtful to be drafted, even with his tantalizing stuff. Then, come July, Medina went off and earned a promotion to High-A Tampa. In his final 8 starts, we saw some of Medina’s remarkable potential: 45 2/3 innings, 63 strikeouts, 15 walks, and a 1.77 ERA. He seems like a prime candidate to stash as the 26th man all season, and the Yankees shouldn’t risk losing him.
Lastly, soon-to-be 22 year-old Estevan Florial will get a 40-man spot. Though he’s struggled the past two seasons since his breakout 2017, he’s dealt with a number of injuries. He’s far away, but his ability is too good to risk losing.
These next three all feel deserving of a 40-man spot, but the Yankees are in a crunch. Nick Nelson, Miguel Yajure, and Kyle Holder all have their merits, but could be on the outside looking in.
Nelson, the team’s 4th round pick in 2016, posted strong numbers between Double-A and Triple-A this year. In 89 2/3 innings, he had a 2.81 ERA and 3.22 FIP. Nelson fanned 114 batters but walked a few too many (11.4 percent). Seems like prime draft fodder, but there’s only so many the Yankees can protect. That’s why we included him as a trade piece in our offseason plan.
Yajure performed very well this year, mostly in High-A Tampa. He did finish the year with two starts in Trenton. His 2.14 ERA and 2.65 FIP in 138 2/3 innings was impressive, but he also wasn’t overpowering as he’s not a hard thrower who racks up strikeouts. He was another guy we dealt in our offseason plan.
Holder is a glove-first shortstop who hasn’t hit much — until this year. Not that he raked or anything, but he did well for himself in Trenton. He hit .263/.335/.405 (119 wRC+) with the Thunder and had solid discipline (8.7 percent walk rate and 13.8 percent strikeout rate). That modicum of offense makes him a bit more intriguing as a utility-type, which is why we added the Yankees’ first rounder in 2015 to the 40-man roster in our offseason plan. It may be a stretch to add him with Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada already around, though.
Unlikely, but somewhat close to the majors
Ben Ruta’s shown good bat-to-ball skills and the ability to play three outfield positions, but without much power, the Yankees don’t need to add the 25 year-old. He doesn’t seem particularly likely to be drafted, either.
The Yankees seem to protect a reliever every year, and Brooks Kriske could be that guy this time around. He struck out 32.2 percent of hitters in Double-A this year, but also had a walk rate north of 11 percent.
Power hitting Dermis García hasn’t become the guy the Yankees hoped when they gave him a $3.2 million bonus during their 2014-2015 IFA shopping spree. He did hit an impressive 17 dingers in just 297 plate appearances in Double-A this year, but his 35.4 percent strikeout rate will scare probably scare teams off.
22 year-old shortstop Hoy Jun Park performed well in Double-A (120 wRC+). He’s a speedy runner but doesn’t have really have a standout tool. If he had a glove like Holder, perhaps his situation would be different.
Rony García made 20 starts in Trenton this summer after he earned a promotion from Tampa early in the season. The nearly 22 year-old righty is an intriguing arm but not a must-protect.
Chris Gittens won the Eastern League MVP this year, but will have a hard time finding a 40-man spot. The first base/designated hitter prospect hit .281/.393/.500 with 23 dingers in 478 plate appearances, but struck out 29.1 percent of the time. Considering his age (26 in February), position, and high strikeout totals, it’s hard to see him get picked despite his impressive power.
Too far away
Oswaldo Cabrera, Freicer Perez, and Jio Orozco are just a few examples of prospects who are too far away for a team to gamble on in the Rule 5 draft.
Pitchers Perez, Orozco, and Vizcaino haven’t surpassed High-A yet. Orozco had mild success at the level this season, but nothing eye opening. Meanwhile, Perez didn’t pitch all of this season with an undisclosed injury. Seems to be shoulder-related, but there’s very little info.
Cabrera’s a 20 year-old infielder who was just OK with Tampa this season (104 wRC+) and lacks any standout tool. His teammate Olivares performed similarly at the level (107 wRC+), but the outfielder lacks power.
It’s often difficult to figure out who’s eligible for the Rule 5 draft each year, but there are a couple of indispensable sources that help. There’s often some uncertainty about some prospects, like 2015 international signee Alexander Vizcaino this year. He wasn’t included as eligible on MLB Pipeline or Pinstriped Prospects, which is what we’re referencing.
Starter: RHP Luis Gil: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 1 WP, 6/4 GB/FB — 57 of 88 pitches (65%) were strikes … High-A debut for the 21-year-old Gil, who carved up the South Atlantic League until his call-up.
In Relief: RHP Bryan Blanton: 1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 2 K — Back with Tampa for first time since May.
Hitting Star: CF Estevan Florial: 2-for-2, 3B, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB — He’s hitting slightly better in July after an abysmal June. Still putting up a .650-ish OPS for the month.