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.
Even though Cleveland is in the thick of the postseason picture, it’s quite possible that the team is ready to part ways with one of its star pitchers, Mike Clevinger. The 29 year-old righty has been bandied about in recent rumors. This comes after Clevinger broke COVID-19 protocols, was placed on the restricted list, and ultimately optioned to the Alternate Site. More on that (and other baggage) in a bit.
Clevinger would be the top pitcher on the trade block if truly available. Brian Cashman undoubtedly will make (or already has made) a call to Cleveland’s front office about him. After all, the Yankees’ rotation could use the boost.
Background & Performance
The Angels drafted Clevinger in the fourth round of the 2011 amateur draft. He wasn’t a big time prospect with the Halos, who dealt him to Cleveland in 2014 for Vinnie Pestano. Pretty bad return in retrospect, though at that time, Clevinger had yet to make it past High-A.
Things turned around fairly quickly for the righty in a new organization. Clevinger became emblematic of Cleveland’s knack for developing pitchers, in fact. He posted gaudy numbers in Double-A and Triple-A in 2015 and 2016, respectively. He also made the show in 2016, but it wasn’t until 2017 that Clevinger became a stalwart in Cleveland’s rotation. A late bloomer at 26 years-old, sure, but better late than never.
In 447 2/3 innings dating back to ’17, Clevinger owns a 2.96 ERA and 3.32 FIP. He’s fanned 28.3 percent of batters and allowed fewer than one homer per nine. His walk rate (9.1 percent) is a tad high in that span, but really not all that bad. Clevinger also went from averaging 92.5 MPH on his fastball to 95.4 last year (he’s down to 94.4 this season, for what it’s worth). The righty’s secondaries are pretty terrific too: he can miss bats with his slider, curveball and changeup. On top of the good stuff, he’s been excellent at limiting hard contact (95th percentile exit velocity in 2019, for example).
If acquired, Clevinger would immediately become the Yankees’ number two starter. This isn’t a case of pursuing someone like Dylan Bundy who’s starting to show flashes after a career of mediocrity. Clevinger is that good. Yet, even with the big numbers and impressive development, he may not be worth the headache. Let’s take a look at why.
Clevinger’s teammates were not too happy, and understandably so. That Francisco Lindor quote above speaks for itself. Cleveland held a team meeting about the situation that effectively resulted in Clevinger’s (and Plesac’s) demotion to the Alternate Site. It’s going to be difficult for those two to regain the trust of their teammates if and when they return.
Professional athletes cheating on spouses/significant others isn’t a surprise. If that alone was disqualifying for wanting a player on your favorite team, you’d probably have a hard time putting a squad together. That said, there are other more troubling allegations above, particularly involving his children. We’re never going to be able to get to the bottom of what happened between he and his family, but I can’t say I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt considering his other behavior noted above.
Clevinger had Tommy John surgery while in the Angels organization and missed most of 2012 and 2013 as a result. That’s pretty far past him now and his arm health has been fine ever since. However, other issues cropped up in 2019. Clevinger was on the injured list from April 9 to June 17 with a high grade back strain. He also missed some time after that return start due to an ankle sprain.
Further, Clevinger had knee surgery back in February that was all but forgotten as a result of the pandemic. He’d have missed a fairly significant chunk of the regular season had it gone on as originally scheduled.
Pitchers of Clevinger’s caliber aren’t available via trade very often. Of course, there are some underlying issues that probably bring down his trade value. For better or worse, these are the types of players the Yankees like to pursue.
I originally was going to reference the Sonny Gray and Chris Archer trades here, but those comps don’t make sense. Cleveland isn’t a traditional seller right now at 17-12. If they trade Clevinger, they’re going to want to try to offset his loss at the major league level. There’s one obvious place to do so. The team’s 112 runs scored is 23rd in all of MLB and Cleveland’s outfield have a league-worst 45 wRC+. I think you know where I’m going here. Clint Frazier, Miguel Andújar, and Mike Tauchman will be of interest. It’ll probably take at least one of those three and prospects to make a Clevinger trade happen.
Gah. The Yankees made it close but were ultimately felled by Cleveland 8-4. The offense struggled to get it going against Clevinger, and a late 9th inning rally wasn’t enough to cover the early deficit. Still, the Yankees are 15-4 in their last 19 games, because of course they are, and retain the league’s best record. Things sure are good around here, today’s loss aside. If you want it, here is today’s box score.
Let’s get right into today’s takeaways.
1. Not CC’s Finest Return: Barring an unlikely playoff start against Cleveland, today was CC Sabathia’s final start against his long-time team, and it was, unfortunately, one to forget for the big man. Here was his final line: 3.0 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K. Just 37 of his 67 (55%) of his pitches found the strike zone, though it is worth noting that he induced 26 swings and generated 9 swings-and-misses, which is good for an impressive 35% whiff-per-swing rate. That is a positive to take from his first start back for sure. As usual, here is the strike zone plot:
He hitting every quadrant, as is typical of him at this stage of his career, but CC clearly left a few too many pitches right over the heart of the plate and was also way too far out of the zone a lot. Let’s chalk it up to rust, okay? Sounds good.
CC held Cleveland scoreless in the first in large part thanks to more good defense from Didi Gregorius and Gio Urshela (again, shows you the value of stats like UZR). Check it out, beginning with Gregorious’ nice grab to rob Lindor of a hit to start the game:
And then a good charging play from Gio to stop a run at the plate after a throwing error from Sánchez:
Good defense couldn’t stop the big blow that came in the 2nd inning, and it created a hole from which the Yankees couldn’t ever climb. After two consecutive singles and a sac bunt to open the inning, Cleveland’s first run scored on a fielder’s choice:
And then CC allowed this 3-run blast to Mike Freeman, who had himself a nice 3-4 day:
Good defense and some timely Ks helped CC prevent a worse start, and like I said above, I think there was some rust in his first start back. Regardless of how effective he is, though, I think it’s going to be a whole hell of a lot of fun watching CC pitch in the last few games of his career. The Yanks have a huge lead, so we should all just take some time to appreciate CC while he’s still playing. He’s one of the best free agent signings in team history, has been the very definition of a clubhouse leader, and helped guide the Yanks to their most recent championship. Nothing but love for CC the rest of the way.
I’ll leave you with a nice strikeout from CC, because as I said, nothing but love:
2. Not-So-Nasty Nestor: Nestor Cortes has been extremely fun to follow this year–I just love how he mixes up his arm angles so obviously, it’s just cool–and he’s had some good success, too. Today was not one of those days. Cortes was tagged for 2 runs in 2.1 IP, allowing 5 hits (1 HR), issuing one walk, and generating only 2 strikeouts. The homer came to Lindor, who is one of my favorite non-Yankees in the league. Here’s the video, and while close, the call was upheld upon a challenge:
He would give up another run on a single to Oscar Mercado in the 5th, and he was unable to keep the Yankees in the game. There’s a big difference between 4-0 and 6-0, especially considering the 9th inning rally, but it is what it is. The Yankee bullpen, from the Scranton shuffle to the big names, has done a fantastic job of giving the Yankee offense a chance to make a comeback all year, so you can’t get too mad about this at all. It happens, especially against a team that’s as talented as Cleveland. Oh well.
3. The Offense Is Dominated By Clevinger: Yeesh, did Mike Clevinger look unhittable or what? The Yankee offense was mesmerized by him all afternoon, generating just 3 hits and 2 walks in his 5 innings while striking out 10 times. Clevinger was confident and attacked the zone all day. I mean, look at this:
That’s a real “here is my best stuff, come and hit it” graph right there, folks. And the Yankees couldn’t hit it. Clevinger generated 13 whiffs on 39 swings (33%) which is more than enough to get the job done. It also means the Yankees were aggressive right back to Clevinger’s approach. They just couldn’t get the job done today.
Well, you can’t say that they never put up a fight. A Gardner double (our man remains red hot despite the drama) and Ford walk gave the Yanks a chance in the second, but that rally ended on a 93 mph lineout from Tauchman.
Oh well. Other teams are allowed to have good players too, unfortunately. Not much we can do about it. Here’s a video of all the strikeouts, if you care:
4. Aaron Judge Has Awoken: I wrote after Fridays’ game that Judge was starting to look like Judge again, as he got some good results and really hit the ball hard. That trend continued today, and I think we’re at the point where we’re seeing him emerge from his brutal slump. He went 2-5 with an RBI today, crushing a 104 mph single off Clevinger, hitting another ball 101.6 mph that didn’t result in a hit, and smashing a double to left in the 9th to bring the score to 8-4. He did strike out twice more, but that is the Aaron Judge we all expect to see.
You know how I said his slump is ending? It’s because of this. Check out the exit velocities on Judge’s last 6 balls put in play:
Single: 105.0 mph
Lineout: 103.2 mph
Double: 91.8 mph
Single: 104.9 mph
Lineout: 103.2 mph
Double: 91.8 mph
Yeah, that’s an average exit velocity of 99.98 mph in his last 6 balls put in play. I think we’re in the clear, guys. I know he came into today hitting just .207/.352/.328 (85 wRC+) with just 4 extra-base hits (no homers) in 71 plate appearances in August, but the underlying metrics suggest the results are going to change fast. He’ll be mashing homers soon. You can just feel it.
The 9th inning at-bat, for what it’s worth, was classic Judge. Six pitches, a full-count, and a double laced to the wall in left field. Check it out:
That 6th pitch was a 95 mph fastball in on his hands, and he turned on it for the double. Yeah, that’s the Aaron Judge we all know and love right there. There are a lot of things that are exciting about this Yankees squad, but Judge coming out of his slump sure has to be one of the most exciting. I can’t wait to watch him carry the Yanks for a few weeks. It rules when he does that.
9th Inning Comeback Falls Just Short: Man, the 2019 Yankees never quit, do they? Down 8-2 in the 9th, the Yanks scored two more and had the tying run on deck with 2 outs, because of course they did. Gleyber was hit by a pitch (he’s fine) and Tauchman, who had a nice day with little to show for it, recorded a single. That was followed up by the Judge at-bat I highlighted above, but a Gregorius strikeout and long Urshela fly out ended the rally. Oh well. This, plus the good defense highlighted throughout, is the mark of a good team. I expect them to win every game (don’t you?), they usually do, and they make it interesting most times when they do lose. What a team. What a season.
A Brutal Stretch Comes to An End: Speaking of, remember that vicious 19 game in 17 day stretch the Yanks started a few weeks ago? Well, it’s over now, and the Yankees officially went 15-4. That’s the 2019 Yankees in a nutshell right there. That gives them a nice cushion for their upcoming West Coast trip. How can you not love this team?
Luis Severino’s Return is Imminent: Here is some more good news: Luis Severino threw off a mound against live hitters today, and he felt “great.” That’s according to Bryan Hoch. He threw 16 pitches to 3 hitters, and should be heading to Tampa now to throw another sim game and then begin a MiLB rehab stint. You can look for Severino in DoTF soon, which absolutely rules. Come back soon, Luis. We need you.
Dellin Betances, too: Betances is a bit behind Severino, but he, too, is heading to Tampa to continue his rehab, per Hoch. He also threw off a mound today and is “close” to seeing live hitters. While he’s behind, his rebab will likely be shorter. Either way, we can expect to see them both soon. That’s awesome.
Luke Voit, As Well: Finally, Hoch reports that Luke Voit will begin an assignment with Triple-A Scranton this week, setting him up to return for the August 30 homestand following the West Coast trip. That’s great timing, honestly. Let’s give all of the rehabbing hitters a full month to recover and get back into a groove, shall we?
Nothing! Well, a much-deserved off-day, actually. The Yanks are off for the first time in more than 2 weeks before heading to the West Coast for a 12-game stretch against Oakland, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Despite the late starts, we’ll have you covered with takeaways (although potentially abbreviated) each night, as usual.
We’ll see you on Tuesday night at 10:07, when Domingo Germán (16-2, 3.96 ERA) takes on Oakland’s Homer Bailey (10-8, 5.22 ERA) in the Coliseum. You can catch the game on ESPN nationally, YES locally, and WFAN for the radio broadcast. Enjoy your Sunday night, everyone.