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Yankees Free Agent Target: Robbie Ray

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If there’s one constant for every team, every offseason, it’s that there’s a scramble for elite pitching.  Every team needs it, too few teams have it, and even if a team does have it, you always want more.

The Yankees’ pitching was pretty decent in 2021, featuring Cy Young runner up Gerrit Cole having an overall excellent season, a surprisingly great bullpen, and unexpected performances from the likes of Nestor Cortes, Jr., but they would be wise not to sit on their heels going into 2022.  Robbie Ray, near-unanimous Cy Young winner in 2021, is set to be one of the hottest free agents on the market this offseason, and the Yankees will be one of many teams taking a hard look.

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2020 Trade Deadline Thread

  • 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)
  • CF Starling Marte is on the Yankees’ radar. (Joel Sherman)
  • A deal for Marte could be expanded to include LHP Robbie Ray and/or RHP Archie Bradley. (Heyman)
  • The Yanks are reluctant to add any more salary via trade, which could make a Marte (or any other trade) complicated. (Ken Rosenthal)

To get you up to speed on official transactions, here are the moves from yesterday:

  • Boston traded 1B Mitch Moreland to San Diego for prospects 3B Hudson Potts and CF Jeisson Rosario.
  • Tampa Bay dealt DH José Martínez to the Cubs in exchange for a player to be named later or cash.
  • Baltimore sent RHP Mychal Givens to Colorado in return for minor leaguers 1B/3B Tyler Nevin, SS Terrin Vavra, and a player to be named later.
  • The Angels moved C Jason Castro to San Diego for RHP Gerardo Reyes.
  • Seattle swapped UTIL Austin Nola, RHP Austin Adams, and RHP Dan Altavilla to San Diego for IF Ty France, C Luis Torrens, RHP Andres Munoz, and top OF prospect Taylor Trammell.
  • Baltimore dealt LHP Tommy Milone to Atlanta for a player to be named later.

News & Notes: Cole/Strasburg Sweepstakes, Gardner Offer, Ray Trade, Voit Injury News

Happy Saturday, everyone. The Winter Meetings are almost here and I have to say: the Hot Stove is sufficiently hot. At least with real rumors. I’m very surprised. Pleasantly surprised, to be clear, but surprised nonetheless. We’ll have to see what happens this week. I’d like to see the Cole/Strasburg sweepstakes come to a quick–and satisfying–conclusion but I’m still not holding my breath. Agent Scott Boras will prey on teams’ desperation. But we’ll see. I’m more hopeful than I was two weeks ago over this not drawing out, that’s for sure.

Anyway, today is the 24-year anniversary Tino Martinez trade, which is a good excuse to post some 90s dynasty highlights. Here’s his famous grand slam in Game 1 of the 1998 World Series:

And here is his game-tying two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game 4 of the 2001 World Series:

Those are two moments that have never once gotten old for me, even knowing how 2001 turned out in the end. (Not to mention, it’s always great to hear Sterling back then, and “The Bamtino” is one of my favorite HR calls of his.) All told, Martinez hit .279/.348/.488 (114 OPS+) in 923 games with the Bombers and won four World Series. Not bad.

Back in 2019, though, there are many rumors swirling around the Yankees. Let’s get right to them.

Cole/Strasburg Sweepstakes

Not much has changed since I wrote this the other day, really, but this is why everyone is here. Here’s the quick rundown of the latest news regarding Cole and Strasburg, who are the Yankees’ big targets this offseason:

  • The Yankees would be surprised to see Strasburg leave Washington. (Jon Heyman)
  • That said, they pulled out “all the stops” in their meeting with him and treated it exactly as they treated the Cole meeting. Makes sense! (NBC Washington)
  • Brian Cashman repelled down a building yesterday and a fan put up a sign in the window of the building saying “Please sign Gerrit Cole.” He also spoke about the team’s meeting with the players with reporters afterward. (ESPN)
  • The Phillies are also interested in Cole and Strasburg, even after signing Zack Wheeler. That brings the list of known suitors to four: the Yanks, Dodgers, Angels, and Phillies. Washington is also in on Strasburg. (Jon Heyman)

That’s that, folks. Nothing really new. We will continue to keep you posted on this front in real-time, obviously.

Yanks Offer Brett Gardner A Deal

File this one in the “not at all surprising” department, but the Yankees recently offered Brett Gardner a contract. Here’s the Heyman report:

I think it’s interesting that they made “another” offer but not too interesting. It makes no sense for either party to accept the first deal offered. That’s not how negotiations work!

Gardner is coming off a great year in which he hit .251/.325/.503 (115 wRC+) and looked like his old self in the second half. He probably wants a two-year deal at a higher annual salary than the $7.5 million base salary he earned this year. There is probably just a small difference between the teams as they hash this out, as even Hal Steinbrenner was laudatory of Gardner in a recent interview. He will be back. That’s good news.

I expect this to be done sooner rather than later, although it is certainly a chance it draws out until after the Cole/Strasburg saga wraps up. I just can’t imagine Gardner suiting up anywhere else, and I don’t think he, or the Yankees, can either.

Robbie Ray, We Meet Again

Multiple sources are listing Robbie Ray as a potential backup plan for the Yankees, should Gerrit Cole and Stephen Strasburg elect to take their services elsewhere. ESPN’s David Schoenfield wrote a piece outlining a potential Clint Frazier for Ray swap, which you can check out at that link. ESPN’s Buster Olney mentioned Ray as a potential backup option as well.

Remember, this is not the first time we’ve heard this. The two sides were linked at the trade deadline. This exact deal came up, in fact, and the Yankees turned it down. That’s why I personally would be surprised to see this deal go down. Of course, things change, and maybe the Yankees’ internal valuations of Frazier and Ray have changed, too. You never know!

A lot of fans, including my co-writers here, are not very excited by the prospect of Robbie Ray, which I understand. On the other hand, I don’t think you have to squint very hard to see his under-the-hood stuff and dream about unlocking his full potential. That said, he’s a complementary piece, not the big fish. Just sign Cole, please, then we can talk about this.

Luke Voit Injury Update

Finally, Luke Voit is determined not to rush back from his latest injury. He won’t play until he’s 100% healthy, he told the YES Network the other day, by way of Bradford William Davis of the New York Daily News. Here is the money quote:

“After that thing in London, I was fighting through it and you know it’s one of those things where (the training staff) told me ‘just rehab and everything’s gonna get better’ and I just couldn’t get over that hump.I wasn’t the most truthful in telling them that, you know, everything was hurting down there.”

Not great! It’s a common issue though with athletes, though. They want to play and help the team. I probably would in their shoes, too. But even though I understand it, I do hate it. Voit says it’s a lesson learned going forward, which is good to hear.

Anyway, Voit’s self-described “thickheadedness” definitely hurt his performance down the stretch and may have even exacerbated his injury. It’s too bad because 2019 was an otherwise excellent campaign for him and I do believe his absence cost the Yanks in the playoffs. Hopefully, Voit is able to rest and get healthy following his surgery and return to form next season. That sure would be nice.

Assorted Thoughts 7 Hours Before the 2019 Trade Deadline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Assorted Thoughts 7 Hours Before the 2019 Trade Deadline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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