No-Longer-Breaking-But-Still-Important News: Yanks Trade ManBan To Braves For A Pair Of Relievers

Well there's that next move in the new plan Cash said he had.  This might be the most surprising trade of the offseason and it's another one that looks good for the Yankees.  Carpenter is a 29-year-old right-handed reliever with a 3.62/3.42/3.54 tripleslash and 201 K in 186.2 career innings.  He throws hard, he gets a lot of swings and misses, and he is under team control for 3 more years.  Shreve is an interesting prospect as a 24-year-old lefty who made his MLB debut in 2014, pitching to a 0.73 ERA and striking out 15 in 12.1 IP.  He can fill up the strike zone, get swings and misses when he needs them, and could have more upside than just a LOOGY.

Once the crown jewel of the Yankee farm system, Banuelos had fallen on hard times over the past few seasons thanks to injuries, most notably an elbow injury that required TJS.  He spent the 2014 season pitching limited innings working his way back from the surgery and to be dealt now for 2 relievers may say something about how far his stock had fallen in the organization.  He's on limited MiL time because of remaining options, so the team may not have been confident he could become a viable starting option in that time.

Hat tip to EJ for pointing this out, but it's worth nothing that ManBan's long-term projection was starting to shift towards relief work.  With the Yankees adding a lot of strong lefty relief arms, he was becoming a bit of a redundant piece to have around.  Dealing from that Minor League surplus to upgrade the Major League bullpen is a smart move and one that nets the Yankees another interesting lefty lottery ticket in return in Shreve.  He sounds like the real deal and could be more helpful to the big league club in 2015 than ManBan would have been.

Let this be the latest reminder of how unpredictable and fickle the prospect game can be.  It doesn't take long for the next big thing to become just another dude.  It's a shame to see ManBan go because it doesn't seem that long ago that we were all drooling over him.  But the return for him is a pretty good one for the Yanks, maybe better than what he ultimately could and would have provided had he gotten a chance to pitch next season.  A few more bullpen pieces are put into place, and the spring competition for the last spot is going to be packed to the gills.

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Best Offseason Move So Far: Eovaldi a Huge Add; Phelps Won't be Missed; Prado Blocked the Kids; Jones a Useful Spare Tire

I clumsily tried to sum up all my thoughts in the title, but here, one by one for the 4 main players traded -- David Phelps, Nathan Eovaldi, Martin Prado, and Garrett Jones -- is why I love this deal. 1. Phelps won't be missed. If you look up "replacement-level starter" in a dictionary, Phelps might be the photo you see: WAR of -0.1 in 2013, 0.0 in 2014; career (2012-14) ERA of 4.34 as a starter (average A.L. ERA in '14: 3.82). If you did the surgery from "Face-Off" and put Phelps' mug on Bryan Mitchell or Chase Whitley, their own wives couldn't tell -- which basically is the definition of replacement-level: you can lose the guy, and sub in an above-par AAA'er, with little to no difference.

2. Eovaldi, not Phelps, is the rarely available commodity. He's a SP who (a) is 24 (25 by opening day), (b) throws hard (avg FB of 95.7, 4th in MLB), (c) has control (2014, 1.9 BB/9), and (d) has improved his control a lot (3+ BB/9 to 1.9 in 2014), K rate somewhat (1.5 yrs at 5.9-6.0, then 6.6 and 6.4, and overall performance a ton – his yearly FIPs form a straight downward slope: 4.35, 4.13, 3.59, 3.37. His weak K rates are odd for a flamethrower, but given his age, high heat, and modest but real K-rate improvement to date, there's reason for optimism about his ability to miss bats. Honestly, if he had high K rates already, he'd already be a totally unavailable ace. So the Yanks landed a 24 yr-old whose low-mid 3 FIPs give him a #3 SP floor (well above Phelps), an easy shot at #2 SP performance, and a realistic shot (if his K rate rises to match his stuff) at being a #1. Joel Sherman's "worry ... Did they just get younger version of Burnett. Great stuff, but can’t execute consistently" – is not a bad comp, but less a "worry" than a pretty positive worst-case scenario: starting at age 25 (Eovaldi's 2015 age), Burnett averaged almost 3 WAR/yr through age 32; yeah, I'd take that as the  "worry" case of Eovaldi not fully putting it together. The difference between Eovaldi and a replacement-level Phelps is easily 2-3 WAR, so compare the lose of Prado:

3. Prado is nice – but a fair price for Eovaldi, and he was blocking two kids who earned a shot. Yes, Prado likely could outplay the winner of a Refsnyder/Pirela 2B competition; if Prado is worth 3 WAR, assume the winner of Ref v. Pirela is 1-2 WAR worse (could be better, could be worse). But smart teams give shots to 24 year-olds who ace AAA; if just one of Ref/Pirela is legit, you've locked down 2B at low cost though about 2020. With the unusual luxury of two deserving youngsters ready for the same position the same year, we're not stuck if one bombs. Keep in mind (hat tip: Michael & EJ) that just months ago, Prado cost only a power hitter without a position who struck out over once per game at A & AA (Peter O'Brien), so it's quite a flip to package him with a replacement SP and land a strong 24yo SP.

4. Jones is only a useful spare part - but a perfect fit. He's an average hitter but with a helpful platoon split for Yankee Stadium and for splitting time with A-Rod: the past 2 yrs he's OPS+'d 98, but OPS'd .730-.749 vs RHP. He's a butcher in the field, but (a) Chris Young already fills the defensive-replacement role, and (b) Jones can mostly DH, plus fill in at 1B if Teixeira needs to rest against a righty (against LHP, Headley might move to 1B while A-Rod tries to find his 3B glove). In a sense, WAR doesn't tell the whole story, because the Yanks' needs and stadium let them exploit what Jones does well (power-hit vs RHP) while minimizing what he does badly (hit LHP, and field anywhere).

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Yankees Re-Sign Chris Capuano To A 1-Year Deal

You wanted some veteran rotation insurance, you got some veteran rotation insurance.  As first reported by Jack Curry, the Yankees have re-signed left-hander Chris Capuano to a 1-year/$5 million deal. Acquired for cash in late July of this year, Capuano made 12 starts for the Yanks down the stretch and pitched to a more-than-solid 4.25/3.85/3.78 slash line in 65.2 IP.  Last I heard, he was contemplating going over to Japan to pitch next season.  I have to think coming back to New York is a much better option.

Capuano gets penciled in as the #5 starter right now behind Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Phelps.  I'm sure the Yankees would like to have him as their #6 starter/swingman out of the 'pen, but they've been slow to act on any other remaining free agent targets.  Between injuries, current lack of depth, and the eventual return of Ivan Nova, I think the #5 rotation spot is going to be a revolving door next season.  Nothing wrong with adding a cheap lefty who can pitch in multiple roles to that mix.

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Yankees Re-Sign Chase Headley To 4-Year Deal (UPDATED)

As first reported by Jon Heyman, the Yankees and Chase Headley have agreed to a 4-year contract.  The deal is worth $52 million with reports of bonus escalators also included. There was reason to expect this signing would come quickly on the heels of Cash's very upfront comments last night.  Headley represented the best remaining positional FA and very much fills a position of need.  With him coming back to play third, Martin Prado will presumably move over to second base and A-Rod will be mostly a DH.

More on this story as it develops...

** UPDATE 10:32 AM- Joel Sherman had the confirmation of the $52 million contract value and performance bonuses.  As always, this deal is pending a physical. **

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Waking Up To The D-Rob News And Not Knowing How To Feel About It

[caption id="attachment_70707" align="aligncenter" width="385"]David_Robertson_Firefighter So long, guy.[/caption] First things first, mad props to Stacey for being up and jumping on this "David Robertson to the White Sox" story last night.  I had long shut it down for the day when it broke and I barely made it past halftime of the Packer game before passing out in my armchair.  I didn't find out about this until I turned on SC this morning, and after 20 or so minutes of pondering it while driving to the office, I still have no clue how I feel about it.

On the one hand, I understand it.  The Yankees need a lot more help in roster places other than the bullpen.  They just signed a younger pitcher who had a better 2014 season to a cheaper deal a few days earlier.  They have Dellin Betances coming off a historically dominant season, and they have a ton of other young, high-upside relief arms in the top 2 levels of their farm system.  D-Rob had gone from necessity to luxury with the signing of Andrew Miller and the Yankees decided they needed to spend their time and money on the necessities.

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Yankees Acquire Didi Gregorius In A 3-Team Trade (UPDATED)

Well how about that?  We've been hearing a lot of rumblings about the Yankees working the trade market hard for a shortstop and now it sounds like something might be coming together.

No more details yet, but this is definitely worth watching.  Gregorius has been targeted by the Yankees before.  He's 24 years old, generally considered a plus defensive shortstop, and has hit .243/.313/.366 (.300 wOBA, 84 wRC+) in 2 partial seasons for the Diamondbacks.

More on this story as it develops.

** UPDATE 9:24 AM- Per Ken Rosenthal, it's a done deal.  Still waiting on all the players involved to come out. **

** UPDATE 9:42 AM- Alright so here's what we know right now, courtesy of Sweeny, Rosenthal, and Jon Morosi: The 3 teams involved are the Yankees, Tigers, and Diamondbacks.  The Yankees are sending righty pitcher Shane Greene to Detroit, getting Gregorius from Arizona, and the Tigers are sending pitcher Robbie Ray and a yet to be named infield prospect to the D-backs.**

Hard to not like this deal from the Yankees' perspective.  All the talk was about how much of their farm system they would have to give up to get somebody like Tulo or Starlin Castro, and instead they managed to add a younger, plus defensive player who's under team control through 2019 for minimal prospect cost.  Losing Greene hurts in the immediate, but his future was likely as a 4th or 5th starter at best.  In a similar vein as the Prado and McCarthy trades, this is the Yankees selling high on marginal prospects to address areas of need.

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Wilson-Cervelli: Quick Takes + a Worry about Lost Depth

Wow, is my timing awesome: on Tuesday, I write a hosanna to Francisco Cervelli's bright 2015 future of increased Yankee playing time, but apparently Brian Cashman disagrees or (gasp) doesn't read me, because he traded Cervelli the next day for LHP Justin Wilson. I feel like Karl Rove on election night 2012 screaming about how Romney is still winning right as his fellow Fox Newsers gave up the ghost. So, a few quick takes on the trade: (1) Don't Cry for Me, Venezuela. I praised Cervelli as an above-par catcher who could free up Brian McCann both to rest and to spell Teixeria -- but I can't fault Cashman for trading him. In retrospect, I may have lowballed Cervelli's injury history, especially his 2014 migraines, which don't seem major, except that migraines are a known problem for folks who have had concussions. I still think the Yankees were a better team with than without him, but he's not exactly indispensable or reliable.

(2) Pleased to Meet You, Lefty. Justin Wilson is an interesting get. He's a lefty, which adds some value because the Yankee pen is righty-heavy, but he's not a LOOGY (Lefty One-Out Guy); he has basically no lefty-righty split. I like lefties with little split: he's a better bet to face lefties than a non-elite RHP like Warren, Kelley, or a RH starter; but he's not a LOOGY you can't leave in the full inning for fear the righties will mash him. But is he good enough? His 138.1 IP is just enough data to believe his 2.99 ERA / 3.45 FIP, and he should adjust to Yankee Stadium fine because he has no real home-road split and isn't prone to the homers (just 0.5 HR/9) that are the bane of pitchers in the Bronx. A mid-3s ERA would arguably tie him with Adam Warren as the second-best or third-best reliever, depending on whether they lose D-Rob. Flip the handedness and Warren is actually a pretty good comp: both were mediocre minor-league starters whose move to the bullpen made them high-K relievers who reach the mid-high 90s. As relievers, their HR/9, BB/9, and K/9 are pretty similar -- 0.9/3.2/8.0 for Warren, 0.5/4.0/8.3 for Wilson. Wilson is somewhat wilder, but -- key for a hitter's park -- is noticeably less homer-prone and K's a tad more.. If you think of the trade yield as "Adam Warren, but with added lefty value," it doesn't sound bad.

(3) But Trading from Overrated Caching Depth? I'm not sold on the remaining backup catchers. Stick a fork in Austin Romine, he's done: turning 26 this month, and all he has to show for it are lines of .243/.303/.365 in AAA (445 PA spanning 3 years) and .204/.247/.281 in MLB (181 PA). I get how J.R. Murphy jumped him in line, but that says more about Romine's decay than about Murphy's performance, which is unimpressive: .259/.321/.416 in two half-seasons at AAA. Before you get excited about his 81 good major-league AB in 2014, remember that his minor-league line was better in 2013 (a solid but not overwhelming .270/.342/.430 an AAA) than in his poor 2014 (a lower-power, lower-contact, lower-walk .246/.292/.397 at AAA) -- so there isn't really evidence he's outgrowing his performance as a mediocre AAA hitter.

(4) But J.R. is Good Enough for Backing Up. While I'm no Murphy booster, he's probably fine as a backup -- and Wilson is worth more than the Cervelli-Murphy dropoff from league-average hitting (about 2 WAR/season) to replacement-level or slightly better hitting (0-1 WAR/season). Pro-rate that to playing only a third of a season, and the falloff is about 0.5 WAR. A solid reliever like Wilson replacing whoever the last bullpen guy would've been (Huff?) easily could exceed half a win.

(5) But Watch Out for the Depth Loss. The main implication of losing Cervelli may be that you can't, as I suggested Tuesday, give him 80-100 games to free up Brian McCann both to rest more, to DH some, and to spell Teixeria at 1B. Murphy is fine to catch a quarter-season as a bankup, but not fine to catch a half-season to let McCann DH/1B, because then you're basically leaving your catcher (McCann) in the lineup and adding a weak hitter (Murphy) with the DH/1B spot. It's like when Brendan Ryan or Kelly Johnson played 1B. In short, unlike Cervelli, Murphy probably isn't good enough to justify more time and let your catcher surplus help you rotate enough offense through 1B/DH.

(6) But Cashman Can Find 1B/DH Depth, But He Didn't in 2013-14. As you can tell from how I just admitted I have five buts, I have mixed emotions here. My last point is that one subtle but real negative of the Cervelli trade is that the team just lost useful 1B/DH depth. You'd think that's an easy hole to fill, but it wasn't in 2013 (Lyle Overbay) or 2014 (Ryan/Johnson). Hopefully Cashman conjures up a better 2015 contingency plan than his failed 2013-14 contingency plans of hoping Teixeira gets into the best shape of his life.

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The Puerto Rico Rays? Sí, se puede...

Yankee fans following road trips to A.L. East rivals may not have to visit one of MLB's most humdrum parks and cities much longer: frustrated with MLB-low attendance and a notoriously weak park, the Tampa Bay Rays' owner "has discussed moving the club … to Montreal." Believe or don't believe reports that "play[ing] to a half-empty (or worse) stadium night after night … wore on Maddon" in his decision to leave the team he managed for nine years. But clearly the Rays, despite being roughly tied with the A's as the team most praised for innovative decision-making, are also roughly tied with the A's as MLB's most troubled team; the hit they'll take from losing simultaneously one of the most respected GMs and one of the most respected managers just compounds their structural attendance and park problems. Yet a team looking for a more devoted fan base would be making a curious decision by shacking up with Montreal, the one city MLB jilted by permanently confiscating its MLB team for lack of local support. I suppose D.C. non-permanently lost a team and is supporting its new team, but from my personal experience, Montreal isn't very similar to the capital of the nation where baseball is/was the national pasttime.

In 1991, I went to a Montreal Expos game. Of 17 MLB parks I've visited, Olympic Stadium was the most depressing experience. Attendance was pitifully low, and the roar of the crowd was deafeningly quiet, even grading on a curve for size: the few locals who ambled in showed little to no interest in a game being played with neither a puck nor a net at the end of the wooden stick; maybe the action could've gotten a rise out of them if Larry Walker had taken a swing at an ice-skating Hubie Brooks. Possibly that was a weird day, but Montreal's support of the team was bad enough to make the team flee the country, so I don't think I'm being too hard on the Québécois.

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ALSO BREAKING: Yanks Let Hitting Coach Kevin Long Go (UPDATED)

If you didn't see this one coming, you're Stevie Wonder.  The Yanks didn't hit, again, and they aren't going to be able to trade away all their crummy hitters and their big contracts.  Somebody had to take the fall for this and Long was the easiest target.  Hard to say he didn't at least partially deserve it.

** UPDATE 2:02 PM- Also via Feinsand, Mick Kelleher is getting the boot too.  Start the countdown to the Rob Thomson announcement. **

** UPDATE 2:13 PM- Couldn't resist.  Hey, Kevin... **

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BREAKING: Yanks And Cashman Agree To A 3-Year Extension

This tweet came through a few minutes ago and the story is being picked up by a couple other beat writers, so it's legit.  We heard the Yankees and Cash were working on a new deal recently and it appears that work is now done.  Cash has been extended for 3 more years as the GM and Sr. VP.

More on this as the details come out.  For now I'll let everybody make their own judgments on the decision.  Cash has been around for so long that you either love him as a GM or hate him.  There's no middle ground.

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