Saturday, November 21, 2015

Weekly AFL Check In: Dustin Fowler

Every team has the opportunity to send up to eight prospects to the Arizona Fall League every single season with the knowledge that one of the players would be used sparingly. That player this season was Dustin Fowler which is why we never checked in on him weekly like we did Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin, Domingo Acevedo, Tyler Austin, Tyler Webb, Tyler Wade and Chaz Hebert. Now that the AFL regular season is wrapped up and the championship game is being played, by the way the Surprise Saguaros and the Yankees prospects will be in the championship game so check that out, we can do a bit of a weekly AFL recap rather than check in with Mr. Fowler.

Fowler made the most of his limited opportunities in the AFL and hit for a surprising bit of power as a member of the Saguaros. His numbers will look skewed due to sample size but he wouldn’t be here had he not caught the eyes of the New York Yankees organization. Fowler had a free pass to take it easy down in Arizona and once again opened the eyes of the Yankees front office and advanced scouting teams thus setting himself up for a bright future in New York potentially.

Dustin Fowler:

Games: 15
At Bats: 57
AVG: .281
OBP: .305
SLG: .421
OPS: .726
H: 16
HR: 2
RBI: 7
BB: 2
K: 9

Quick Hit: MLB Minimum Salary Holds Steady at $507,500 for 2016

Major League Baseball’s minimum salary for their players rose to an all-time high of $507,500 before the 2015 season, up from an even $500K in 2014, and that is where it will remain at least through the 2016 season.

The collective bargaining agreement, which expires after the 2016 season just as a reminder, states that a cost-of-living adjustment is based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. That measure, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, decreased over the last 12 months meaning a raise is not coming, although neither is a decrease.

Just as an FYI the minor league minimum salary for a player signing a second major league contract will also stay the same at $82,700 while the minor league minimum for a player signing an initial big league contract also stays the same at $41,400. 

Using the Brandon Crawford Extension w/ Didi Gregorius

Apparently winning a Gold Glove Award is a lot more lucrative then it used to be in Major League Baseball, just ask Brandon Crawford. Crawford won a Gold Glove Award at shortstop for the National League last week and was rewarded for it this week with a new six-year contract that will take him through the 2021 season and pay him $75 million.

Obviously there was a lot more to the extension for Crawford and the Giants then just the Gold Glove but there are at least some similarities that the New York Yankees can potentially use if they choose to extend their shortstop Didi Gregorius. This will be the ultimate test of who actually reads the article and who just see’s the title and runs with it because I’m not suggesting the Yankees extend him until after the 2016 or 2017 season, not today,  with some obvious stipulations included. Health is obviously one and the second, and largest, is that his production both at the plate and in the field look more like what they looked like in the final four months of the season and less like the first month-and-a-half to two months.

San Francisco essentially bought out the final two years of arbitration that Crawford was owed and four years of free agency. Crawford, now 28-years old, batted .256 with 21 home runs and 84 RBI for San Francisco this season including his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award along with his first trip to the All-Star Game. Crawford now has four seasons under his belt, to Didi’s just one full season in 2015, and has played in at least 143 games in each of them after making his MLB debut in May of 2011. Crawford has already helped the Giants win the World Series in 2012 and 2014 so obviously Didi has some catching up to do but this sets the tone for future talks between Gregorius and the Yankees on an extension.

I’m not saying the Yankees should extend Didi today, they should absolutely wait another full season or two and truly see what they have in Gregorius, but I like the idea of paying him sooner rather than overpaying, or potentially losing him, later. I’m personally keeping my eyes on this situation and following it closely. 

Recapping Chase Whitley’s Short Tenure w/ NY

Chase Whitley learned on Friday that he was claimed on waivers by the Tampa Bay Rays and would be switching his home. Despite staying in the AL East Whitley will throw his home games in front of the crowd in Tropicana Field rather than in the Bronx inside Yankee Stadium so I thought now would be as good of a time as any to recap the quick, yet eventful, Yankees tenure that Whitley had with the team.

Whitley was drafted by the New York Yankees in the 15th round of the 2010 MLB First Year Players Draft out of Troy University and immediately began his professional career with the Staten Island Yankees. Whitley, then, was a closer for the club and made the All-Star Game for the New York-Penn League. Whitley earned the promotion to High-A Tampa in 2011, skipping Charleston all-together, and finished the season in Double-A with the Trenton Thunder. By 2012 Whitley was out of the closer’s role and into middle relief for the Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders, a minor league affiliate stop that he would stay at for the 2013 season as well. At the end of the 2013 season though the team decided to transition Whitley into being a starting pitcher instead of a relief pitcher and Whitley continued working on the transition into the 2014 season.

Whitley wasn’t long for the minor leagues after switching to a starting pitcher and made his Major League debut on May 15, 2014 against the cross-town rival New York Mets inside Citi Field. Whitley lasted just 4.2 innings in that start but allowed just two hits and two walks while striking out four. Whitley also collected his first career hit in the game when Whitley roped a single off Mets starter Jacob deGrom. deGrom also recorded his first hit and was making his Major League debut in the same game. Whitley took the no decision in a game that the Yankees went on to win 1-0 which propelled him to a 4-3 record and a 5.23 ERA in 12 starts. Whitley was on the Yankees radar.

Whitley was back in Triple-A to start the 2015 season but was called up on April, 27. Whitley started the next day and experience elbow pain that he attempted to pitch through to help the club. Whitley lasted until May 14 before being removed from a start and being diagnosed with a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament. Whitley had Tommy John surgery that essentially ended his 2015 season and will keep him out for much of the 2016 season. That 2016 season will have to come with the Tampa Bay Rays, not the New York Yankees, after the Yankees tried to sneak him off their 40 man roster.

Good luck in Tampa Chase and thank you for the memories.

Remember! Not All Trades Are Good.

We're not even three weeks removed from the end of the World Series, and Brian Cashman has already made a couple of moves to prepare the Yankees for the 2016 season. Sure, those two moves (you know what they were) weren't earth-shattering, however we've heard some rumors that certainly could be.

"Did you hear about so-and-so being traded for so-and-so?"

Okay, "earth-shattering" may be a little melodramatic, but trading Brett Gardner would be a very significant move, and when it comes to anything significant you have to be careful.

On the one hand, dealing away Jose Pirela is certainly not a zero loss, but if Ronald Herrera (the guy the Yankees got back in that deal with the Padres) doesn't pan out the team and it's future won't really be affected.

To a lesser extent, the same could be said about the John Ryan Murphy for Aaron Hicks deal. While Hicks could see quite a few starts next season, even if he doesn't work out the Yankees aren't going to be scrambling in order to repair the situation.

But to trade away Brett Gardner, who has been a key player for the Yankees in six of the last seven years (he missed most of 2012 with an elbow injury, which led to surgery), would be no small loss.

Even last season, which was arguably his worst since becoming a regular with the Bombers, Gardner still had a bWAR of 3.3, and Fangraphs placed a dollar value of $20.4 million on him. So you can say that Brett wasn't as good as any of us hoped, but you can't say he was worthless. And to lose that much production, without getting anything significant back, would most certainly hurt.

So what would be "good"?

No, not Starlin Castro.

Yeah, I know. The rumors surrounding a swap of Gardner for Castro have been shot down. But we can still learn something from them.

First of all, Castro is a shortstop, and the Yankees certainly don't need one of those. While Didi Gregorius wasn't an all-star last season, and likely won't be next year or the year after that or... you get the picture, he's still does a very good job at short.

Secondly, even if Starlin were to move to second base (he did play there for 258 innings last season), I'm not sold that he'd be that much better than the combination of Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder. Castro is likely to improve at the plate next season, as he is only 25 years old. But on that note, Ackley is just 27 while Refsnyder is 24. And it's not out of the realm of possibility that Dustin and Rob would be just as good... if not better.

In fact, the best possible outcome of a Gardner for Castro swap would be the Yankees signing Jason Heyward or Justin Upton to replace Brett in the outfield. And even if that were to happen, I'd still look back at the Gardner/Castro trade and sigh, because no matter the situation you want to get the most you can out of players.

I felt the same way, and said so much, when it came to the Red Sox trade for Craig Kimbrel. I understand that Boston has a very good farm system, and can certainly afford to take the hit it took in that deal, but the fact of the matter is that the Sox still could have gotten more out of the package they sent away for Craig. Especially when you consider that having an elite closer is meaningless if you can't take a lead into the 9th inning anyway.

Look, we're bound to hear more rumors about trades involving Brett Gardner, and it could turn out that Gardner is on the team come Opening Day 2016. But let's not be content with just anything. If Cashman can turn Brett Gardner into Carlos Carrasco, then that would be fantastic, as it makes the 2016 rotation look mighty good (Tanaka, Carrasco, Pineda, Eovaldi, Severino *drool*... and yes, I'm trying to forget that Sabathia would be in there somehow).

A deal involving Brett Gardner has to result in a "win" for the Yankees. After a deal like that, we have to be able to look at the team and clearly see an improvement. We absolutely should not have to wait around for the team to sign a Jason Heyward in order to be happy with it.

Make sure you don't fall into the "any trade would be a good trade" trap.

Brian Cashman and the Market for Brett Gardner

The New York Yankees and their GM Brian Cashman are going to have to be aggressive and a bit creative this offseason if they want to make any major moves to the ball club. Without the unlikely additions of payroll from owner Hal Steinbrenner the Yankees salary and roster is all but set for the 2016 season thus forcing Cashman into the trade market for upgrades. Cashman has already pulled off a pair of deals acquiring RHP Ronald Herrera and CF Aaron Hicks in separate deals involving Jose Pirela and John Ryan Murphy and is also rumored to be shopping absolutely everyone, especially closer Andrew Miller and left fielder Brett Gardner.

The problem for Cashman is that it seems like many teams or GM’s simply aren’t impressed with what the Yankees are offering or refuse to deal with Cashman or the team. Whenever Cashman makes a deal it seems like the same handful of teams are always involved. Teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, the Detroit Tigers under Dave Dombrowski and the Seattle Mariners. If this is true and only a handful of teams will deal with Cashman then the market for Gardner is drying up after the Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners made a deal this week involving center fielder Leonys Martin.

Using the Martin and Tom Wilhelmsen deal that Seattle just paid for as a guide to what to ask for in the Gardner negotiations you can see that New York can continue getting younger and more flexible with a trade. Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners new GM, gave up right-handed relief pitcher Wilhelmsen, outfield prospect James Jones and a player to be named later. Seattle also received right-handed relief pitcher Anthony Bass in return in the deal. Martin is coming off one of his worst seasons of his career offensively where the Cuban defecting center fielder hit just .219 in 95 games. Martin missed most of August and September after breaking a bone in his right hand. Gardner you would have to think brings more value in a trade that Martin, a substantial more.

Maybe Danny Salazar or Carlos Carrasco? More on that later. 

Finding a suitable trade partner may be tough for Gardner but in a market thin on speedy center fielders that can hit 15 home runs a season his value may never be higher. Gardner has had a couple consecutive disappointing second half stretches now but if Cashman can find a partner he may get two or three Major League ready and Major League useful pieces in return thus opening the door for either Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes, Jason Heyward, Aaron Hicks or someone the ninja has in mind that we know absolutely nothing about. Stay tuned. 

Weekly AFL Check In: Tyler Webb

Tyler Webb finished the 2015 regular season in Triple-A with the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders and will be our final regular check in for this season’s Arizona Fall League. While Webb didn’t come to the Surprise Saguaros with the same hype as say a Gary Sanchez, Ian Clarkin or Domingo Acevedo he, along with Tyler Austin, may have had the most to prove this fall in Arizona. You have to think that Webb is fighting for one of those precious bullpen spots out of Spring Training this season with the Yankees and you would also have to think he’s pretty slow on the depth chart right now.

That is not intended to be a knock on Webb, he’s still young and could use another two or three months with the RailRiders to fine tune his mechanics and such, as much as it is a testament to how deep the Yankees farm system is really getting. Vying for a bullpen slot along with Webb will be Jacob Lindgren, James Pazos, Branden Pinder, Caleb Cotham, Bryan Mitchell, Nick Rumbelow, Nick Goody and a slew of others leaving Webb on the outside looking in. Webb could have helped his own cause this fall with a better showing but that didn’t happen unfortunately.

Maybe next time Tyler!

Tyler Webb:

G: 8
GS: 0
IP: 10.0
W/L: 1-0
ERA: 7.20
K: 7
BB: 3
WHIP: 1.50

This Day in New York Yankees History 11/21: Enter Pascual Perez & Joe DiMaggio

On this day in 1989 the New York Yankees signed Pascual Perez to a three year deal worth $5.7 million in one of the worst Yankees signings in their history, see Carl Pavano for reference. The starting pitcher would spend a total of 150 weeks on the disabled list and would be suspended for the entire 1992 season after failing yet another drug test.

Also on this day in 1934 the New York Yankees purchased the contract of Joe DiMaggio from San Francisco of the Pacific Coast League. The son of an Italian immigrant will be the first of three DiMaggio brothers to play in the Major Leagues.