- The Twins placed lefty Dietrich Enns, who was only just acquired from the Yankees as part of the Jaime Garcia swap, on the 10-day disabled list with a shoulder strain yesterday. Enns missed more than two months of the season with a shoulder issue as a member of the Yankees’ Triple-A club, and Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press suggests that the Twins could potentially seek additional compensation from the Yankees if Enns’ shoulder issue proves to be serious.
Masahiro Tanaka is on the disabled list due to some inflammation in his shoulder, but he could be back with the Yankees as soon as next week, per WFAN’s Sweeny Murti (Twitter link). Murti also notes that lefty CC Sabathia is slated to come off the DL on Saturday. Tanaka will throw a bullpen session tomorrow, and if that goes well, he’ll return to the rotation next week against the Tigers. Demonstrating that this is a minor issue will be key for Tanaka and the Yankees; Tanaka has pitched quite well over his past nine starts and been solid dating back to late May, perhaps positioning him to opt out of the remaining three years on his contract. And the Yankees, of course, are currently in possession of an AL Wild Card spot and are also 4.5 games back of the Red Sox in the AL East.
Both the Yankees and Mets acted rationally with their approaches in trades this summer, opines Joel Sherman of the New York Post. The Yankees showed a willingness to deal from the middle range of their considerable prospect depth to avoid luxury taxation, as they did with the Jaime Garcia trade and reportedly tried to do in their pursuits of Jay Bruce and Neil Walker. Sherman writes that the Yankees asked the Mets to eat $2.7MM of the remaining $3.7MM on Bruce’s contract in exchange for two prospects. The Mets clearly didn’t deem the difference between that pair and Ryder Ryan (whom they acquired from the Indians for Bruce) to be sizable enough to eat that cash. While many Mets fans chastise the organization for not spending, Sherman points out that the Mets have taken on salary (Bruce, Addison Reed, Yoenis Cespedes) in recent years. They’ve also already begun spending for 2018, Sherman adds, pointing to the acquisition of AJ Ramos. In that sense, saving money in trades to better stock the team’s offseason war chest could have relatively immediate impact on the team’s fortunes. Of course, it remains to be seen how their offseason plays out.
The last look we took at the handful of players with opt-out clauses following the 2017 season was more than a month ago, and a few of their situations may have changed since that early July check-in. Here’s an update on this group of potential free agents…
- Justin Upton, Tigers ($88.5MM from 2018-21): There have been plenty of suggestions that there’s no way Upton will walk away from that contract, but we’re not really sold on that notion. Upton was terrible in his first three months with the Tigers but is hitting .274/.352/.542 (137 wRC+) with 45 homers dating back to July 1, 2016. Over the past calendar year, he’s hitting .281/.366/.571 (148 wRC+) with 40 homers in 631 PAs. He’s been seven to nine runs above average in left field, per UZR and DRS, as well. Upton will play next year at the age of 30 and needs only to feel he can top Hanley Ramirez’s guarantee to opt out. Beyond that, he may simply like the idea of moving to a team that isn’t openly trying to pare back its payroll and retool for the future.
- Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees ($67MM from 2018-20): Tanaka’s home-run woes are an unequivocally troubling issue, but his numbers since the summer began are encouraging. Since May 26, Tanaka has a 3.99 ERA with 10.7 K/9, 1.9 BB/9 and a 47.6 percent ground-ball rate — good for a 3.12 xFIP and a 3.17 SIERA. The numbers are even better if you look at his past nine starts (3.00 ERA, 65 K, 12 BB, 57 innings). The health concerns are well known. Tanaka had a partial UCL tear in his rookie season but was able to avoid Tommy John, and he’s currently on the DL with what is reportedly some minor shoulder fatigue. The righty has averaged 2.2 HR/9 this year, but he’s also going to be just 29 years old next year. An opt-out looked highly unlikely two months ago but now looks entirely plausible, as long as this latest DL trip proves minor.
- Welington Castillo, Orioles ($7MM player option): Since last check, Castillo has absolutely raked. He’s batted .308/.345/.500 with four homers and three doubles in his past 84 PAs, and his overall batting line it up to .283/.319/.457 (103 wRC+). Castillo’s framing marks have improved from some of the worst in the league to roughly average (per Baseball Prospectus), and he’s halted an incredible 46 percent of stolen-base attempts against him in 2017. He should be able to top a one-year, $7MM deal with ease this winter.
- Greg Holland, Rockies ($15MM player option): Since our last check, Holland has reminded everyone that he is indeed mortal. In his past 11 2/3 frames, he’s coughed up eight runs on a dozen hits and six walks with 14 strikeouts. Six of those runs have come in his past two outings, but as long as that proves to be a blip on the radar, Holland still seems a safe bet to opt out. If he significantly fades in his first year back from Tommy John or lands on the disabled list, though, there’s at least a chance that he takes the option. Assuming he remains healthy, though, Holland will likely look to top Mark Melancon’s four-year, $62MM deal this winter.
- Johnny Cueto, Giants ($84MM from 2018-21): It’s been almost a month since Cueto last set foot on a Major League mound, as he’s been sidelined with a forearm issue that has significantly clouded his chances of opting out. Reports earlier in the summer suggested that a slow start wasn’t going to deter Cueto from opting out, but a month-long injury scare and an ERA in the upper-4.00s certainly might. Cueto, 32 in February, has a 4.59 ERA with 8.0 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and the second worst ground-ball rate of his career (39.2 percent). FIP, xFIP and SIERA all peg him at 4.41 or worse.
Unchanged Since Last Check
- Matt Wieters, Nationals ($10.5MM player option): Wieters wasn’t hitting in early July, and he’s hitting even less now. His defensive reputation limited him to a two-year, $21MM deal with a player option after year one on the 2016-17 open market, and that was coming off a much better offensive season. Wieters seems extremely likely to take the $10.5MM in 2018.
- Ian Kennedy, Royals ($49MM from 2018-20): Kennedy’s results have improved slightly since the last opt-out update, but it’s hardly enough to make it likely that he’ll opt out of that significant guarantee. Through 120 innings in 2017, Kennedy has averaged 1.65 HR/9, tying a career-worst mark, while both his strikeout and walk rates have gone the wrong direction. He’s also missed a couple of weeks with a hamstring injury, and he’ll turn 33 this December.
- Wei-Yin Chen, Marlins ($52MM from 2018-20): No change here. Chen has scarcely been able to pitch in 2017 due to a reported partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament. He’s reportedly still aiming for a late comeback, but that won’t be enough to give him the earning power to top his remaining guarantee.
12:02pm: There is nothing structurally wrong with Tanaka’s shoulder, Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets. Tanaka simply told the team that his arm was tired, and the Yankees are giving him a short break.
11:33am: The Yankees have announced that they’ve placed righty Masahiro Tanaka on the 10-day DL with shoulder inflammation. To take his place on the active roster, they’ve recalled righty reliever Giovanny Gallegos from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Tanaka has posted a 4.92 ERA and allowed 28 home runs over 133 2/3 innings this season, although his strikeout and walk numbers (9.5 K/9, 2.2 BB/9) have been fine. He left Wednesday’s start against the Blue Jays after allowing five walks in four innings, however.
While a trip to the DL with a shoulder injury doesn’t always mean that injury is significant, it’s certainly worth watching. Tanaka missed time due to arm issues in 2014 and 2015, although those were to his wrist, forearm and elbow, not his shoulder. The seriousness of his current injury is unclear.
In the short term, the Yankees will have to fill a rotation that’s also currently missing CC Sabathia, who’s out with a knee inflammation, and Michael Pineda, who has a UCL injury. The Yankees recently promoted Jordan Montgomery to take Sabathia’s place.
- Prior to yesterday’s game, the Yankees placed lefty CC Sabathia on the DL with knee inflammation. To take his place on the active roster, they recalled righty Jordan Montgomery from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Sabathia left his last start due to issues with his knee, so his DL placement doesn’t come as a surprise, but his situation has to be frustrating for the Yankees — Sabathia is in the midst of a solid season, with a 4.05 ERA, 7.0 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 thus far. Montgomery is scheduled to start tomorrow against Boston.
The Yankees showed interest in Mets second baseman Neil Walker before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, according to FanRag’s Jon Heyman. The crosstown rivals actually had a deal for Walker in place, tweets Mike Puma of Newsday, but it fell through over medical concerns. Walker suffered a partially torn hamstring in mid-June and returned shortly before the deadline. At that point, the Yankees had recently lost second baseman Starlin Castro to a hamstring injury of his own, but he’s now nearing a rehab assignment, per Bryan Hoch of MLB.com (Twitter link). As for Walker, the impending free agent has already cleared revocable waivers this month, making him eligible for a trade, though he’s owed sizable sum (around $6MM) through season’s end.
The Yankees have placed outfielder Clint Frazier on the 10-day DL, per a club announcement. That move had been expected, as he’s dealing with an oblique strain.
Aaron Hicks will return from his own oblique-related DL placement to take the open roster spot. He has been out since late June, but was on quite the tear through his first sixty games. Hicks will look to pick up where he left off, with a .290/.398/.515 batting line.
Generally, the picture on the position player side of things has continued to evolve for New York. With Matt Holliday on the DL, the club looked into a trade for Jay Bruce — and could still consider adding a lefty bat. But the switch-hitting Hicks becomes the team’s active third outfielder that represents an option against righties, and first baseman Greg Bird still could make it back in a few weeks. If no new addition is made, it seems reasonable to anticipate that the Yanks will rotate the DH role to keep everyone fresh, at least until Holliday returns.
As regards Frazier, there have been signs of both good and bad. He’s slugging .477 over his first 117 MLB plate appearances, but has also managed only five walks against his 34 strikeouts and is reaching base at a mediocre .274 clip. He may have been set for an optional assignment were it not for the injury; instead, he’ll now likely be viewed as a candidate to come back when rosters expand in September, assuming he’s healthy by that point.
Last night’s trade sending Jay Bruce from the Mets to the Indians was perhaps the most significant deal since the non-waiver deadline. It could well hold that title the rest of the way, though there are also a variety of other notable players that could be dealt this month. (Click here for MLBTR’s top 25 ranking of candidates; click here to see the players that have already reportedly cleared waivers.)
While the transaction was largely a straightforward affair — a team with a need chipped in a low-level prospect and took on the entire contract of a veteran who fit — it’s worth taking a look at some of the post-deal chatter:
- Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti spoke with the media about the deal, and MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian provided a transcript of the chat. Antonetti acknowledged the importance of injuries to the swap, noting that the club wouldn’t really even have playing time to give to Bruce were it not for the absences of Lonnie Chisenhall and now Michael Brantley. The timing was right now, says the club’s top baseball decisionmaker, but the organization has long had interest in Bruce. While Cleveland will begin to face some challenging playing-time questions if it gets a fully healthy roster, the expectation at present is that Bruce will “play regularly.”
- There aren’t a lot of recent scouting reports on Ryder Ryan, the young righty who goes to New York in the trade. That’s due largely to the fact that he is a late-round relief prospect that hasn’t had much time to climb the organizational ladder. But that doesn’t mean he’s not a reasonably intriguing prospect. Antonetti himself said as much, crediting Ryan’s “really good stuff” and saying he “has a chance to pitch in a major league bullpen.” Baseball America also has some details, noting that Ryan is working in the mid-nineties while working on developing his slider and commanding his pitches.
- One of the most interesting elements of the deal, though, was the alternative swap that didn’t go through. The Yankees were in on Bruce through to the end, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter) and Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link) report. But the Yankees’ offer would’ve left the Mets holding onto most of Bruce’s remaining salary this year, per reports from Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (on Twitter) and Newsday’s Marc Carig (also in a tweet), while also picking up two prospects that (it stands to reason) would be more valuable than Ryan. The Mets’ motivation for choosing Cleveland’s offer isn’t yet entirely clear — GM Sandy Alderson has yet to speak to the media, but will do so today — but there could certainly be multiple factors at play. While the cross-town Yankees obviously aren’t off limits as a trade partner, perhaps considerations of intra-city marketing played some role. And surely the cost and talent packages offered different benefits and drawbacks.
- Per Sherman, Bruce would’ve functioned as the DH had he been acquired by the Yankees, filling in there with Matt Holliday on the DL. With Aaron Hicks nearing a return and Greg Bird still representing a possible option, there are some internal possibilities for bolstering the team’s array of lefty bats. While it’s not clear at present whether the Yanks are looking hard at alternatives, it stands to reason they’d be open to the possibility. (Clearly, though, there are limits to how much salary they want to take on at this point.) Among the players that we have identified as plausible August trade chips, there are a few that could fit the bill. If the Mets are willing to keep chatting, old friend Curtis Granderson or even Neil Walker could make sense; neither has the same profile as Bruce but both offer more defensive function. Former Red Sox nemesis Daniel Nava might be an affordable target, while Matt Joyce of the Athletics is surely available. Of course, Yonder Alonso arguably made the most sense, but he was dealt to the Mariners after Seattle placed a waiver claim (meaning the Yankees never had a shot — at least, after July 31st).
There is once again concern surrounding CC Sabathia’s troublesome right knee, writes Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Pain in that knee forced Sabathia out of last night’s start after three innings, and the 37-year-old said after the game that his knee hasn’t felt this bad in two years, Davidoff continues. Sabathia is headed back to New York to have the knee further evaluated today, and it’s an all-around worrisome scenario for the Yankees, who have quietly received strong production out of Sabathia over the past three months or so. Sabathia has a 2.98 ERA in his past dozen starts (albeit with somewhat lesser peripherals), but he’s now given up four runs in each of his past three trips to the hill. The Yankees have bolstered their rotation with the additions of Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia, but they’ve also lost Michael Pineda to Tommy John surgery and are trying to limit young Jordan Montgomery’s innings.
- As part of that effort to limit Montgomery’s innings, the Yankees optioned him to Triple-A on Monday. Presumably, if Sabathia were to require a trip to the disabled list, Montgomery would be the first line of defense to step back into the team’s rotation. Via MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch, manager Joe Girardi recently said that the Yankees have “somewhat of a concern” about the notion of Montgomery exceeding 180 innings, as Montgomery worked a total of 152 innings last year (including the Triple-A playoffs). “We care about all our players, but this is not just a one-year deal for him,” said Girardi. “We envision him being a starter here a long time, and we want to make sure we don’t push him too hard.” Montgomery has thrown 120 2/3 innings this season between the Majors and his lone minor league start of 2017.