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Rule 5 Draft Recap: Yankees lose Garrett Whitlock, Kyle Holder, and Trevor Stephan

Don’t get too excited.

As expected, the Yankees lost a few prospects in today’s Rule 5 draft. Garrett Whitlock, Kyle Holder, and Trevor Stephan will start 2021 in new organizations, though there’s still the possibility that they will return to the Yankees before season’s end.

Boston, badly in need of any sort of pitching, took righty Garrett Whitlock with the 4th overall selection. Whitlock had Tommy John surgery mid-2019 but should be a full go come spring training. Perhaps he cracks a spot in the Red Sox rotation. The former 18th round pick in 2017 made 14 Double-A starts in 2019 and posted a 3.07 ERA and 3.14 FIP.

The Phillies grabbed shortstop Kyle Holder, the Yanks’ first round pick in 2016. Holder spent time at the Alternate Site this summer and now possibly could replace Didi Gregorius as the Phillies’ shortstop. He’s best known for his defensive chops at short.

Lastly, Cleveland selected righty Trevor Stephan. He was the Yanks’ third round selection in the 2017 amateur draft. Somewhat surprisingly, he wasn’t at the Alternate Site this summer as he seems prime for a big league relief gig soon. Granted, 2019 was a bit of a roller coaster for him. The year included a demotion from Double-A to High-A, but he did look better and returned to Trenton by the end of that season.

These three aren’t lost for good, so you know. They must stick in the big leagues for the entirety of the 2021 season, so all three could be back in the Yankees’ organization before too long.

The Yankees will also lose a few players in the minor league phase this afternoon. That said, the minor leaguers taken during this phase rarely are notable prospects. I’ll update this post if there are any surprises.

Meanwhile, because the Yankees have an open 40-man roster spot, the team could have made selection in today’s draft. But to no surprise, the organization passed. The Yanks haven’t made a pick in the Major League phase since 2011 (RHP Brad Meyers, Nationals).

Winter Meetings Day 3 Recap: Mets get moving, Cleveland listening on Lindor, MiLB announcement

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While the Yankees remain quiet, there are rumors involving other ballclubs to pass along today. Particularly with the Yankees’ crosstown rivals, the Mets. The Yankees will do something…eventually…but that day doesn’t appear to be today, unless something comes out of the blue. For now, let’s get to the latest around the league:

Mets closing in on deal with James McCann — or are they?

Conventional wisdom indicated that the Mets would be in hot pursuit of JT Realmuto this offseason. Instead, it appears the team is going with James McCann instead. There’s no doubt that Realmuto is the best catcher in baseball at this moment, but McCann certainly will come at a lower cost.

McCann has been quite good since 2019, albeit after an extended stretch of pretty lousy play in years prior. Through 2018, the soon-to-be Met had a .240/.288/.366 (75 wRC+) and -0.1 fWAR in 1,658 plate appearances. Since, in his age 29 and 30 seasons, he’s batted .276/.334/.474 (116 wRC+) and racked up 3.8 fWAR. Not only did the bat come around, but so did the defense.

Obviously, the Mets are banking on McCann’s recent success to continue. Realmuto would be the safer bet, but there is potential for McCann to provide similar production at a lower cost. At the same time, there’s a much lower floor here than what Realmuto offers.

All that said, perhaps Rosenthal’s report is a tad premature. Jon Heyman indicates that the Angels are in on the backstop too:

Winter Meetings Day 2 Recap: Lynn trade, all quiet on Yankees’ front, other moves

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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.

Winter Meetings Recap, Day 1: Yes, this is still (virtually) happening

Like everything else this year, MLB’s winter meetings are much different this year. COVID-19 has halted the typical big name hotel gathering, and instead, this year’s meeting are going to be held virtually. How much that affects the amount of free agent and trade activity this week remains to be seen, but the safe bet is that things will be much quieter than usual. Nonetheless, there are a few newsworthy items to share today. Let’s get to them.

Yomiuri Giants post Tomoyuki Sugano

Add another starting pitcher to the free agent list. I don’t know anything about him, so rather than aggregate a bunch of information on him, I’ll leave FanGraphs’ scouting report on him here:

Sugano has a 2.34 career ERA in seven NPB seasons, all as a starter. In 2020 (at age-31), his fastball velo gained a tick on average, and now sits parked at 93 mph. It is one of five offerings in Sugano’s arsenal, the best of which are his splitter (which he threw more of this season) and a slider that’s a 45-grade pitch in a vacuum but plays because Sugano locates it so consistently. He has sort of an odd windup. His torso rotates clockwise while his hips and lower half remain stationary, almost like the two halves of a twisted Oreo coming apart, before things normalize and look like a typical delivery. It’s a little deceptive and, along with fantastic command, helps Sugano’s average stuff play. He’ll likely plug into the middle of a major league rotation immediately.

So, Sugano is more of a command-over-stuff pitcher from the sounds of it. Based on the write up, I definitely wouldn’t expect him to dominate MLB hitters in the way he shut down his NPB opponents, but he certainly seems like he’d help the Yankees rotation.

Winter Meetings Day Four: Yankees News and Reactions

This photo is now on its final legs, and for that I am thankful.

These Winter Meetings were very good, in my opinion. They wrapped up today and there were a few signings and rumors, but before we get to those, let’s take a step back and recap the last few days:

  • Monday: Stephen Strasburg and the Nationals agreed to a seven-year, $245 million contract on Monday afternoon. There were also plenty of Cole and Rendon rumors, as expected. Check out our recap here.
  • Tuesday: Gerrit Cole and the Yankees agreed to a nine-year, $324 million contract late on Tuesday night. That was cool! I liked that one a lot. There were also Rendon rumors and other signings, too. Check out our recap here.
  • Wednesday: Anthony Rendon and the Angels agreed to a seven-year, $245 million contract last night amid other rumblings. That happened right after I posted my recap, of course.

Anyway, the point here is that the market moved this year and it moved quickly. I distinctly remember following the Manny Machado saga late on New Year’s Eve last night and that was not fun. This has just been so much better for a million reasons. Keep it up, MLB. (I am not holding my breath.)

The Yankees were once again in the news today. Shocking, I know! Here is today’s news roundup, followed by a much shorter look around the league.

1. Brett Gardner Forever: The Yankees and Brett Gardner inked a one-year deal that will pay the longest-tenured Yank a $10 million in 2020. There is a team option for 2021 that carries with it a $2.5 million buyout if the team declines the option. This all happened a few minutes after I posted a new primer on the payroll situation, because of course it did. I updated the post, which you can read here. It’s current now.

Anyway, the Gardner deal sure did feel inevitable and it turns out that was for good reason. I am glad to have Gardy back. Gardner is now one of just 18 players to log 1,500 games for the Yankees, which is crazy. It makes sense though. He’s been around since 2008 and he’s had a very nice career. Look at the bWAR leaderboard for Yankees players over the last 20 years (1999-2019):

  1. Derek Jeter: 57.0
  2. Alex Rodriguez: 54.2
  3. Robinson Cano: 45.5
  4. Brett Gardner: 41.6
  5. Jorge Posada: 39.5

I know there is a “counting stats” argument to make here–Gardner has been a Yankee for 11 seasons, which limits the pool–but it sure is cool to see. Who would have guessed when he came up that Brett Gardner would have a career like this? It rules. His 100th home run–not an insignificant accomplishment!–also ruled, so I am going to link it here because there is no new baseball now:

2. A New Backup Catcher: Happy Trails to Austin Romine, who was baseball’s best backup in 2019, and a subject of much fan criticism during his eight (!) seasons with New York. He hit .239/.281/.366 (73 OPS+) in 368 games with the Bombers and was often a sturdy backup when Sánchez has gone down in 2018 and 2019. Miraculously, Romine was also the Yanks’ third-longest tenured player in 2019, behind just Brett Gardner and CC Sabathia.

He will now probably start in Detroit while Kyle Higashioka takes the mantle as the Yankee backup. Unless…the Yankees go after Cole’s personal catcher in Martín Maldonado, which Derek will address tomorrow. Backup catcher talk. Exciting!

3. Rule 5 Draft: As always, the Rule 5 Draft concluded the Winter Meetings today. The Yankees lost one player–Rony Garcia–in the Major League phase of the draft and four players in the Triple-A phase. The team has the details here:

Rony is a nice piece who might be a decent long reliever as a part of a truly putrid Detroit team–seriously, Detroit is historically awful–so good for him. There was never a chance that he was going to make it with the Yanks, so this is a personal victory. Owen Surrett of Pinstriped Prospects has a good profile of him here that you should check out. Rob Pimpsner of the same site reacted to the news today, highlighting the Garcia pick as well as the loss of the four minor leaguers. Be sure to read those for more info on all of this. They’ve got you covered.

4. Other Yankee News: Here are the leftover tidbits from the Winter Meetings now that the Yankee contingent is headed back to the five boroughs:

  • Dellin Betances: The Dodgers are among the most aggressive teams pursuing the former Yankee reliever. (Joel Sherman)
  • Josh Hader: The Yankees are active in conversation with the Brewers over Josh Hader, but that sounds like an “if we missed out on Cole” contingency plan more than anything else. (Ken Rosenthal, subs req’d)
  • Coaching Staff: The 2020 coaching staff is all set. (Brendan Kuty)
  • Rachel Balkovec: Meredith Marakovits spoke with the new Yankee instructor in an interview on YES Network. (YES Network)

Around the League

Finally, here are the latest signings, rumors, and all the other interesting news items from the league today:

  • After missing out on Cole, the Angels are exploring the trade market for starting pitching help. (Jon Heyman)
  • The Braves, Dodgers, Twins, and Blue Jays are in on Hyun-Jin Ryu. (Jon Heyman)
  • Washington is interested in Josh Donaldson but also Kris Bryant, as everyone should be. (Jon Heyman)
  • One New York team has signed a Cy Young pitcher this offseason, and that’s the Mets, who inked a deal with Rick Porcello. (Ken Rosenthal)
  • As I said the other day, the new opioid agreement–now finalized–means that MiLB players can smoke weed. MLB players already weren’t tested. (MLB Communications)

And that, folks, is that. That marks the end of the 2019 Winter Meetings. Have a great night everyone.

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