The Yankees lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 4-2, on Thursday night in Toronto to even their record at 4-4. The Yankees had a 2-0 lead in the fourth on a fielder’s choice by Carlos Beltran that scored Alex Rodriguez and then a a wild pitch by Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman that sent Mark Teixeira home, but the Blue Jays would take the lead for good when the fearsome Josh Donaldson hit a three-run homer to deep center in the fifth.
Stroman, who is a Long Island native and one of the best starting pitchers in the American League, threw 106 pitches and only allowed three hits and two runs in a dominant eight innings pitched. Further proving the Yankees offensive ineptness during Thursday’s game was that the only hits they had all game were singles by Teixeira, Brian McCann and Beltran.
The first three hitters in the lineup – Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Rodriguez – were a combined 0-10 with one run scored and a walk. It is a plus that they didn’t strikeout at all, which means that it could partly be due to bad luck since they put the ball in play every at-bat, but they have to be able to get on base at the top of the lineup. Gardner and Rodriguez have really struggled to begin the season as Gardner has a .174 average with only one steal and three runs scored in 23 at-bats and Rodriguez has only three hits in 25 at-bats (.120 average) with one homer and two RBIs.
The Yankees need Gardner to get on base often and steal bases from the two spot in the lineup and they need Rodriguez to have a similar statistical season as last season when he slugged 33 homers and drove in 86 runs. The issue could be that they haven’t really found their swing yet and will have better production by the end of the month. Sometimes established major league players have a slow start to the season like Beltran did last April, but they both need to show some signs of progress.
Nate Eovaldi, who made his second start of the season, only allowed a single, a walk and a double in the first four innings. However, his effectiveness ended in the fifth as he gave up a two-out three-run homer to Donaldson to give Toronto a 3-2 lead. Eovaldi needs to be a better pitcher with two outs and be more careful with hitters like Donaldson, who led the American League with 123 RBIs last season.
Eovaldi also allowed a solo homer to Troy Tulowitzki with one out in the sixth inning, which took away his quality start. He needs to prove that he can be successful pitching five and more importantly six innings and not fade after the fourth inning. Eovaldi ended up throwing 98 pitches in 6.2 innings while allowing four earned runs, seven hits, two walks and two homers. The only positive from Eovaldi’s performance was that he recorded eight strikeouts.
The bullpen has not surprisingly by far been the strength of the pitching staff so far. Rookie Johnny Barbato, Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller all have 0.00 ERAs. Barbato, who is from Miami and came to the Yankees from the Padres in the Shawn Kelley trade in December of 2014, appears that he will be able to help the bullpen the whole season after getting outs in clutch situations.
However, Masahiro Tanaka is the only Yankees starter with less than a 4.50 ERA. It is a small sample size, but Tanaka has a 3.38 ERA in two starts, CC Sabathia has a 4.50 ERA in his one start, Luis Severino has a 5.40 ERA in his one start, Michael Pineda has a 6.55 ERA in his two starts and Eovaldi has a 6.94 ERA in his 11.2 innings pitched.
It will be important for the rotation to be more effective so that the bullpen will not have to be overworked. The bullpen will have more depth once Aroldis Chapman returns from his suspension, but the team will win a lot more games when the starters can effectively throw six or seven innings. The Yankees need Severino, who is in his first full season, to be similar to the pitcher he was in the final two months of last season when he had a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts.
For the Yankees to live up to their potential Pineda and Eovaldi will need to be consistent and pitch like they are capable of and Tanaka will need to step up and be the ace of the staff for the duration of the season. Proving Pineda’s inconsistency he allowed six earned runs in his first start and then two runs in his second outing.
Severino will look to regain his form from last season during today’s start against the Seattle Mariners. Based on how the starting pitching and some of the hitters have underwhelmed so far this season it is somewhat impressive that the Yankees are 4-4.
The Yankees will look to rebound from Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles when they play the Orioles on Wednesday night in the rubber game of the series. The Yankees beat Baltimore 6-5 on Monday in the first game of the series after Stephen Drew hit a pinch-hit grand slam.
The Yankees had a chance to win Tuesday night’s game but the Yankees were only able to score two runs in the eighth after having runners on first and third with one out. Carlos Beltran’s groundout scored Didi Gregorius and then Chase Headley scored after an error allowed Mark Teixiera to reach first. If Beltran and Teixeira would have both hit doubles they could have had a 7-6 lead instead of a 6-5 deficit after the eighth inning.
CC Sabathia got the start and was unlucky for the most part and pitched better than his stats indicate. He had seven strikeouts and only one walk, and Sabathia now has 15 strikeouts and only one walk in his two starts. Two plays that really hurt Sabathia were Adam Jones’s homer that easily cleared the wall in left in the first and Caleb Joseph’s triple to the gap in right center to leadoff the seventh inning.
Joseph would score on a sacrifice fly to center by Everth Cabrera for what would be the winning run. Cabrera hit a pop up to shallow canter and if Jacoby Ellsbury had a strong throwing arm he likely would have had Joseph out at home.
In the third game of the series, Nathan Eovaldi will get his second start for the Yankees. Eovaldi threw a pitch that was 101 miles per hour in his start last week against the Boston Red Sox, but wasn’t as effective overall as he should be. In 5.1 innings he allowed eight hits, three earned runs and only had one strikeout. He has the stuff and velocity to be a pitcher who can consistently strikeout more than five batters.
Carlos Beltran, who is only hitting .156, is still hitting third in the lineup. He will likely be moved to six or seven in the next week or two if he isn’t more productive.
Didi Gregorius is a player who needs to be better not only on offense but surprisingly on defense as well. He is hitting .154, has made many mental mistakes on the base-paths in addition to not throwing home when he should have & made his first error last night. His struggles could be the result of pressing as he is playing his first few games with the Yankees and replacing Derek Jeter in the process.
The Yankees acquired Nate Eovaldi on December 19, 2014. They traded Martin Prado and David Phelps to the Miami Marlins for Domingo German, Garrett Jones and Eovaldi. Eovaldi’s 25th birthday is today, and this trade gives the Yankees a flamethrower who has the potential to help the rotation for years to come.
In 2013, Eovaldi’s ERA (3.39) and WHIP (1.317) were the lowest of his four-year career. Eovaldi allowed the most hits in the National League last season and had a high 4.37 ERA, but he did set career highs with 33 games started, 142 strikeouts and 199.2 innings pitched. The hard-throwing righty averaged 95.5 miles per hour on his fastball last season, which was the fourth fastest in all of baseball.
However, he does need to improve and rely on his secondary pitches more, in order to keep hitters off balance, and Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild could be the pitching coach to help him do just that.
According to Evoaldi, the two have developed chemistry so far. Pitchers and catchers have not officially reported yet, but Eovaldi has already thrown a few bullpen sessions with Rothschild watching. “We’ve already begun to work on things,” Eovaldi said after a workout at the Yankees’ minor-league complex this week. “He’s awesome. It’s going to be a lot of fun working with him this year.”
In 2014, Eovaldi primarily threw a four-seam fastball, slider (87mph) and curve (77mph). His slider generates more groundballs than other pitchers’ sliders and is harder than usual. He threw a change and sinker much less frequently last season. He often reverted to his fastball when he was in a in trouble last season, and the opposition came to expect it, so if he can improve his slider and curve in spring training he could have an ERA closer to the one he had in 2013.
In their bullpen sessions so far, they have been working on getting more consistency in his off-speed pitches. If he can successfully mix in his off-speed pitches while continuing to accurately throwing his elite fastball, he could go from being a average starter with a an elite heater to a consistently reliable one with All-Star ability.
(He is due to have a lower ERA this season because his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching – strikeouts, walks and home runs calculate what the ERA should have been) last season was a career-low 3.37 as a result of allowing about the same amount of walks and 64 more strikeouts than he did in 2013.)
He also recently reflected on his 2014 season, which had some positives and negatives. “I accomplished a lot that I wanted to,” Eovaldi said. “I stayed healthy. I got a lot of innings under my belt, controlled my walks. But my ERA was a lot higher than I would have liked it to (have) been and I gave up too many hits.”
The young emerging pitcher is proving to have a desire to improve on last season since he is putting in extra work with Rothschild. The fifth-year Yankees pitching coach, who helped Ivan Nova win 16 games in his rookie season, is very good at dealing with the mental and mechanical aspect of pitching, which should help Eovaldi improve his non-fastball pitches as well as adjust to pitching at Yankee Stadium and in the AL East.
Max Scherzer, who had pitched his previous five seasons with the Detroit Tigers and won the Cy Young in 2013, has signed a seven-year contract with the Washington Nationals. The contract will be worth $210 million, according to Ken Rosenthal. The 30-year-old who is coming off of two consecutive All-Star seasons was the premier free agent pitcher and he took until January 19 to sign with a team partly because his agent is Scott Boras.
He will give the Nats an even more imposing rotation than they had before, but his signing does mean that they have six starters for five spots in the rotation. Scherzer’s signing means that he would currently be in the rotation with Jordan Zimmermann (2.66 ERA in 2014), Stephen Strasburg (3.14 ERA in 2014), Gio Gonzalez (3.57 ERA in 2014), Doug Fister (2.41 ERA in 2014) and Tanner Roark (2.85 ERA in 2014). Even without one of these five pitchers, the Nationals will still likely have the best rotation in baseball next season.
Scherzer would have greatly helped the Yankees rotation, but General Manager Brian Cashman has not had interest in him throughout the offseason because he does not want to give another long-term contract to a pitcher. The Yankees already have CC Sabathia on an eight-year, $182 million contract that expires in 2016 and Masahiro Tanaka on a seven-year, $155 million contract that expires in 2019. Sabathia, who is 34, has to reinvent himself as a pitcher this season because he doesn’t have the velocity on his fastball that he used to and is coming off of surgery to repair his knee.
Based on the Yankees need for another starter and the Nationals current excess of starters it would makes sense if the Yankees traded for Doug Fister (30 & 31 in February) or Jordan Zimmerman (28). They are both on short-term contracts as Fister is on a one-year, $11.4 million deal and Zimmerman is on a two-year, $24 million contract that ends after the 2015 season. The Yankees should definitely make a trade especially if they can get some kind of a guarantee that they would re-sign.
Zimmermann, who is in his prime, is coming off of two consecutive All-Star seasons and is entering his seventh MLB campaign. He made 32 starts last season, had a career-low 2.66 ERA, two shutouts, a career-high 182 strikeouts, only 29 walks and a career-low 1.3 walks/9 innings. He is an ace with excellent control who is represented by Relativity Baseball, which is a benefit for a possible future contract (they are not Boras).
Fister, who is also entering his seventh season after playing last season for the Nationals and before that the Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners, is coming off of a season where he finished fourth in the National League in ERA. In 2014, he finished with a career-low 2.41 ERA, a career-high 16 wins, a very low 1.079 WHIP, 98 strikeouts and only 24 walks.
Both of these pitchers are worth trading for. They both have similar career ERAs with Zimmermann’s at 3.24 and Fister’s at 3.34. Zimmerman has more years left as a top of the rotation starter as he is two years younger than Fister. On the other hand, since Fister is two years older and is not the strikeout pitcher that Zimmermann is, his contract after the 2015 season would likely be less than Zimmermann’s.
The Yankees could put together a combination of top catching prospect Gary Sanchez, infielder Jose Pirela and one of their many relief pitchers for Zimmermann or Fister. Sanchez is coming off of a season where he hit 13 homers and drove in 65 runs with a .270 average in 110 games at Double-A Trenton. Pirela is a utility infielder that the Nationals could use and their bullpen isn’t very deep.
Wilson Ramos, who is only 27, has been their starting catcher for the last four seasons and has one more year left on his contract. Sanchez could potentially be the Nationals starter in 2016. However, Sanchez is known much more for his offense than his defense so the Nationals could have him switch to first base in 2015. Sanchez at first would allow Ryan Zimmerman to switch back to his natural third base position.
This trade makes sense for the Yankees because the need another starter so that Capuano will not have to be relied on next season, and the Yankees still have Brian McCann under contract at catcher for the next four seasons. With Zimmermann or Fister, the Yankees rotation could be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Ivan Nova (when he returns by June), CC Sabathia and Zimmermann or Fister. The Yankees recently traded for Nate Eovaldi, but he could be the odd man as he led the NL in hits last year.
Pineda’s one-year, $2.1 million contract for the 2015 season exactly matched MLBTR’s projection. Pineda is coming off of a season where he dominated in his 13 starts with a 1.89 ERA (and 59 strikeouts and only seven walks) in 76.1 innings, but he didn’t pitch for the Yankees between April 23 and August 23 as a result of inflammation in his teres major muscle (shoulder). He proved that he is over his shoulder issues as he allowed two runs or less in eight of his nine starts after being activated from the disabled list.
Pineda proved to be almost un-hittable last season since he was able to seemingly always throw his four-seam fastball (93 mph), slider (85 mph) and change-up (88 mph) where he wanted them to go. The movement on his pitches keeps hitters off balance and he knows when to throw his pitches to get a strikeout or a ball hit weakly.
Nova’s one-year, $3.3 million contract for the 2015 season also matched the MLBTR projection. Nova had to leave his start on April 19 due to an elbow injury, and he would miss the rest of the season due to Tommy John surgery. He was 2-2 with an 8.27 ERA in his four starts. He had his best season statistically in 2013 as he appeared in 23 games and made 20 starts, had an impressive 3.10 ERA, two shutouts, 116 strikeouts, only 44 walks and a career-low 1.28 WHIP.
The Yankees think that he will be able to return to the rotation by June. Nova throws a four-seam fastball (93 mph), sinker (93 mph) and 12-6 curve (80 mph) and a circle change-up (85-88 mph). He relies heavily on his four-seamers against righties and lefties. He will be an asset to the rotation if he can regain control of his pitches shortly after his return to the team. The rotation will currently be Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Nate Eovaldi, Chris Capuano, and Nova would move Capuano into a relief role when he is healthy.
The Yankees will need Nova to pitch like he did in the 2013 season when he recovers from his Tommy John surgery and for Pineda to stay healthy for the whole season for the first time since 2011 for the team to advance to the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
On Friday, in addition to the significant Martin Prado and David Phelps for Nathan Eovaldi, Garrett Jones and Domingo German trade with the Marlins, the Yankees made their first trade with their crosstown rival Mets in a decade.
The Mets traded relief pitcher Gonzalez Germen, who was designated for assignment last week by the Mets, to the Yankees for cash considerations. Germen, who is a 27-year-old right hander from the Dominican Republic, appeared in 25 games for the Mets in 2014 and posted a 4.75 ERA in 30.1 innings. His stats were much better at AAA-Las Vegas as his 2.38 ERA helped him record six saves and a 3-1 record in 22.2 innings (18 appearances). In the 2013 season, Germen appeared in 29 games and recorded an ERA of 3.93 in 34.1 innings. In 64.2 innings he has a 4.31 ERA, one save, 64 strikeouts, 30 walks and a 1.42 WHIP.
To make room on the 40-man roster for Germen the Yankees designated Preston Claiborne for assignment. This means that he will need to be returned to the 40-man roster within 10 days or be placed on waivers, traded, released or moved from the 40-man into the minor leagues.
The move to DFA Claiborne is somewhat surprising because his 3.79 ERA in two seasons was a good bit lower than Germen’s. Claiborne had a 3.00 ERA in 21 innings (but a very high 1.62 WHIP based on recording 24 hits and 10 walks) in 2014 and a 4.11 in 50.1 innings in 2013. The trade is basically a wash since neither Germen will not have a major impact on the Yankees and Claiborne, the player who was designated for assignment, would not have either.
Claiborne did have stretches where he pitched well for the Yankees, but he was not consistent enough during his two seasons. The Yankees like strikeout pitchers in the bullpen, and Germen has a solid 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings, which is much better than Claiborne’s 7.3.
Eovaldi, who is a starting pitcher who will turn 25 in February, is known for his dominating fastball that averages 96 mph while having a low strikeout total (142 in 199.2 innings last season) because he struggles with his location. He was traded from the Dodgers to the Marlins in 2012 in the blockbuster Hanley Ramirez deal. He has made 83 appearances (79 starts) while pitching 460 innings combined with the Dodgers and Marlins and has a deceiving record of 15-35 with a 4.07 ERA.
He had a 6-14 record while posting an ERA 4.24 last season. However, the former 11th-round draft pick out of Alvin High in Texas, had by far his best season of his career in 2013 as he showed his potential recording a 3.39 ERA in his 18 starts. If he can locate his overpowering fastball in the corners instead of throwing right down the middle like he often does he could have another season like he did in 2013.
Consistency and immaturity are his main issues as a pitcher. This is what an NL advanced scout said about Eovaldi: “He has No. 2 starter stuff, throws 98, but is very immature. His response to any trouble is to throw harder.” His 95.7 average fastball last season was the 4th best in all of baseball. In 2014, he relied primarily on his fastball and slider (87 mph), while also mixing in a curve (77 mph). He threw his changeup (77 mph) and sinker (97 mph) much less than his other three pitches. He will be more consistent if he relies more on his secondary pitches like his curve, change and sinker so that he will not only be throwing his fastball when he gets in trouble.
It would have been ideal if the Yankees could have kept Martin Prado, who plays well defensively at second, third and outfield and hit .316 with seven homers and 16 RBIs with the Yankees after being traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks, but Brian Cashman essentially turned Peter O’Brien into two months of Prado, and then turned Prado and David Phelps into Eovaldi, Jones and German.
Phelps is a pitcher that the Yankees will not miss as they tried to trade him last winter as well. The 28-year-old made his debut for the Yankees in April of 2012 after being drafted in 2008 and has appeared in 87 games and made 40 starts. He has a 4.21 ERA in 299.1 innings and has had ERAs of 4.38 and 4.98 the last two seasons. His WHIP has gotten worse the last two seasons and he basically is a No. 5 pitcher and middle reliever at this point without much upside.
The trade of Prado will initially hurt the Yankees in the infield, as he would have been the starter at second after they re-signed Chase Headley earlier in the week, but it opens up a spot for Rob Refsnyder, who has the ability to be a better overall second baseman eventually than Prado. Refsnyder, who is likely their second baseman of the present and future, could struggle a little in the beginning defensively. However, he is known for his ability with the bat and, after playing outfield in college, his defense his greatly improved.
In the 2014 season, Refsnyder had only three errors in 64 games at second base with the AAA-Scranton RailRiders after committing nine errors in 58 games with the AA-Trenton Thunder. In 2013, he had a combined 25 errors with two levels of A ball, which further proves his defensive development. He has hit well throughout the minors, with a .297 average in 313 games. In 137 games last season, Refsnyder hit .318 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs. This move will allow him to show his talents earlier than if Prado was still on the team. (The Yankees will miss Prado’s defensive versatility since he can play left field, right field, second base and third base.)
German is the second pitcher that the Yankees got in the deal. He is a 22-year old who was #8 on MLB.COM’s Top 10 Marlins prospects list. He has a 2.33 ERA in five seasons, and in 2014 while pitching for Single-A Greensboro in the South Atlantic League, he had an impressive 2.48 ERA, 8.5 K/9 and 113 strikeouts in 25 starts. Those stats are impressive even though that league is pitcher friendly. Cashman said that he will probably begin the season with High-A Tampa, and it seems like he could be in the big league rotation in the next two or three seasons. He could be a hidden gem of this trade.
Jones is the third player that the Yankees received and he should further diminish Alex Rodriguez’s role on the team. The 33-year-old didn’t make his MLB debut until he was 25 and didn’t get regular playing time until he was 28 in 2009. He has hit 15 homers or more in each of the past six seasons. His average was only .246 last season, but in 2012, he had a solid all-around season as he had a .274 average with 24 homers and 86 RBIs. He played in 129 games at first base last season, but he can be relied on to play the corner outfield positions as well.
This trade makes the Yankees rotation younger as they will have Masahiro Tanaka (26), Michael Pineda (25), Eovaldi (24) and Ivan Nova (27) all 27 or younger. This move means that they will not be getting Max Scherzer, but if Eovaldi can pitch like he did in 2013, this will prove to be a smart trade. Jones’s ability to play first base and outfield will ensure that the Yankees have a reliable back-up to Mark Teixeira and give them a player with power to put in the outfield since Carlos Beltran will inevitably have to miss time.
Losing Prado is definitely a drawback as he was a plus in the clubhouse and was a player who would do whatever it took to win, but the Eovaldi, Jones and German additions have the ability to help the team win in 2015 and in the future.