Late on Wednesday, it was reported by Ken Rosenthal that the Yankees had signed the free agent elite closer Aroldis Chapman to a five-year, $86 million contract. He has an opt out after the third year, a full not trade clause in the first three years and for some reason has a partial no trade clause in the last two years to all of the California teams.
Every since the Yankees traded Chapman to the Cubs before the trade deadline for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres and three other prospects the Brian Cashman had been interested in signing him again. When Chapman played for the Yankees in the first half of the season after his 30-game suspension for domestic abuse the previous October, he proved that he could excel playing in New York as he had a 2.01 ERA in 31 games (31.1 innings) with 20 saves, 44 strikeouts, 20 hits allowed, only eight walks and an excellent 0.894 WHIP.
Including his time pitching with the Yankees and Cubs last season, Chapman had a great 1.55 ERA (1.42 WHIP), with 40.5 percent strikeouts and 8.1 percent walks in 58 innings pitched. According to River Ave Blues, he walked 11.7 percent of batters faced from the 2013 through the 2015 seasons, which means that based on his 8.1 percent walk rate last season his control is getting better and this trend could be here to stay.
The Cuban Missile has been an All-Star in four out of his six full seasons and his stats in his seven seasons overall are a 2.08 ERA in 383 games (377 innings) with 182 saves, 1.88 FIP, 19 homers allowed, 636 strikeouts, 201 hits allowed and a very good 0.92 WHIP. In 2012, when he was an All-Star and finished eighth in Cy Young voting, he had an outstanding 1.51 ERA in 68 games (71.2 innings) with 122 strikeouts, 23 walks allowed, a 1.55 FIP and a 0.809 WHIP, which is the lowest of his career.
Chapman’s five-year contract is the first five-year contract for a reliever since the Blue Jays gave B.J. Ryan a five-year deal that they regretted in 2005. Chapman, who has a fastball that can go up to 105 mph and a very good slider, is a much better pitcher than Ryan but the signing could be a little risky because Chapman would break down three or four years from now since he throws faster than everyone else. He is the only pitcher who can throw 105 mph in all of Major League Baseball.
He does have character issues as the Yankees were able to acquire him for much lower rated prospects based on his domestic abuse where he choked his girlfriend in a domestic incident. Also, in 2012, Chapman was arrested after being clocked going 93 mph on a suspended license. Hopefully he will not have another incident similar to his previous ones. The domestic violence incident is not defensible, but he has served his punishment and if the Yankees didn’t sign him another team would have.
Chapman was the best reliever available this offseason and Brian Cashman was intent on upgrading the bullpen. The bullpen that the Yankees have now, if their current pitchers perform like they did last year, is likely better overall than it was in the first half of last season when they had Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Chapman pitching the last three innings Now, in addition to Chapman and Betances, they also have Tyler Clippard and Adam Warren as proven commodities.
They also have a situational lefty, Tommy Layne, who is 32 and had a solid 3.38 ERA in 29 games (16 innings) after coming over from the Red Sox. Young relief pitchers who have come up through the system and spent some time in the majors last season who could be in the bullpen on Opening Day include Johnny Barbato, Nick Goody, Ben Heller, Chasen Shreve and Jonathan Holder.
Signing Chapman and not Kenley Jansen, who could have made sense because his stats are not that much different and Jansen will likely break down later than Chapman, meant that the Yankees will not lose a first round draft pick like they would have if they signed Jansen. The team is now trying to develop as many high draft picks as possible.
The signing of the 6’4″ Cuban lefty who will be 29 in February means that Dellin Betances will go back to pitching in the eighth inning. It is possible that Betances could be an effective closer but he has been one of the best set up men in the American League the last three seasons as he was an All-Star in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
Having Chapman in the 9th inning means that Joe Girardi will be able to put Betances, who throws a high 90s fastball and a knuckle curve, into the game in the 7th or 8th inning depending on matchups and who else is available. In the 2014 season, when Betances was a set up man the whole season and a rookie, he had a 1.40 ERA in 70 games (90 innings) with a career-high 135 strikeouts, a career-low 24 walks, a 1.64 FIP and an outstanding 0.778 WHIP.
This past season, after Andrew Miller & Chapman had been traded, the 28-year-old struggled as the closer. He had an excellent 2.05 ERA on September 5 but at the end of the season his ERA climbed all the way up to 3.08. He allowed 10 runs in his final nine games, which means he might be better suited for the 7th and 8th innings right now. He also would make a lot of sense to replace Chapman if he opts out of his contract in three years.
The first impact move that the Yankees made during the offseason was trading Brian McCann to the Houston Astros. They obviously need to add two or three starters since Hal Steinbrenner has said that he expects to have two rotation spots open to begin spring training. This means that it is unknown who will be in the rotation after Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia.
A move that the Yankees should make that involves their bullpen is acquiring an elite closer so that Dellin Betances can go back to being an elite set up man. Betances broke down and was much less effective during the end of last season and it’s possible that that might not happen if he is pitching primarily in the eighth inning instead.
He was outstanding in the first five plus months of the season as he had an ERA of 2.05 and a WHIP of 0.94 before his appearance on September 5, which was his 64th game of the season, but his results were much worse after the 5th of September. After allowing eight earned runs combined from June through the first two games of September, he allowed 10 earned runs in his final nine games of the season.
Betances struggled with his control as he walked eight batters in September, which came after allowing eight walks combined in April, May and June. He was an All-Star for the third season in a row this season after being an elite set up man during the first half of the season while Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman were still on the team. The 28-year-old who grew up in New York City had a 3.08 ERA after finishing with a 1.50 ERA while still having a very good WHIP of 1.123 and striking out 126 batters, which was the most in the American League among relief pitchers. Betances primarily throws a nasty 12-6 curveball (85 mph) and a fourseam fastball (98 mph)
As of now, the primary set up men behind Betances are Tyler Clippard, Tommy Layne, Chasen Shreve and Richard Bleier. The veteran Adam Warren could be in the rotation or the bullpen, and other young pitchers who could open the season in the bullpen are Jacob Lindgren, Jonathan Holder, Nick Goody, Ben Heller and Johnny Barbato. There is not much proven major league success beyond Betances, Clippard and Warren if he ends up in the bullpen, which is why the Yankees should sign a veteran closer and another relief pitcher to lengthen the game and add to the depth of the bullpen.
The Yankees are rumored to be interested in signing Chapman, who they traded to the Cubs on July 25 for top shortstop prospect Gleyber Torres, Billy McKinney, Rashad Crawford and Warren. Chapman, who regularly throws 100 mph or faster, had a outstanding 2.01 ERA in 31 games (31.1 innings) with 44 strikeouts, eight walks and an outstanding 0.894 WHIP with the Yankees this season before they traded him to the Cubs. During his 28 games with the World Series champion Cubs, the Cuban Missile had a 1.01 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 26.2 innings.
He is a proven commodity in the league as he has performed at an elite level in his last five seasons. Chapman was an All-Star with the Reds in every season besides his rookie season and he pitched well enough last season to be an All-Star but didn’t pitch in the first month of the season because of his suspension for domestic abuse. Chapman has recorded between 33 and 38 saves in every season since 2012, his ERA has been at 2.54 or below in all those seasons, he recorded an astounding 122 strikeouts for a reliever in 2012 and his low in that span was 90 strikeouts this past season and his WHIP has been between 0.809 and 1.146 in every season.
Another proven commodity at the closer spot who is currently available is Kenley Jansen. The native of Curacao started in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization as a 16-year-old catcher and made his debut as a relief pitcher for the Dodgers when he was 22 in 2010. Jansen is coming off of his best season of his career as he was an All-Star for the first time after finishing with a 1.83 ERA in 71 games (68.2 innings) with 47 saves, 104 strikeouts, 11 walks, 35 hits allowed and a remarkable 0.670 WHIP. Jansen also has the ability to be effective in more than one inning, which is a plus if some other relievers aren’t available or are struggling.
Jansen has been the Dodgers closer since the 2012 season and has had an ERA of 2.76 or lower in every season since then. In 2014, he had a 2.76 ERA, which is a good bit higher than his ERA from this season, but he did have 101 strikeouts and 44 saves. The pitches that he throws are a cutter (94 mph), slider (83 mph) and sinker (95 mph), according to Brooks Baseball.
Jansen and Chapman both made their major league debuts in 2010. Jansen turned 29 in September and Chapman will be 29 in February. Chapman’s ERA in his seven seasons in 2.08 and his WHIP is 0.992 and Jansen’s ERA in his seven seasons is 2.20 and his WHIP is 0.893. Their stats are similar and the Yankees couldn’t really go wrong with either one.
An advantage to signing Jansen instead of Chapman would be that he likely would not command as high of a contract as Chapman (he is rumored to want a $100 million contract for five years). Another positive for Jansen is that he doesn’t regularly throw 100 + mph like Chapman does, which means that he will be able to keep his fastball at the mid 90s velocity that his is at longer than Chapman’s velocity will stay over 100.
The Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, 6-4, at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night for their second win in a row. The win also ended Boston’s 11-game winning streak.
The win kept them mathematically alive for the second wild card spot as they are four games behind the Baltimore Orioles with five games left in the season. Their chance is virtually impossible but it is positive to see that the players are still fighting as Joe Girardi has been saying.
To lead off the scoring for the Yankees in the bottom of the first inning, Gary Sanchez hit a two-run homer off of David Price for his 20th blast of the season. He matched Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves as the fastest players in major league history to reach the 20-homer milestone. The have both hit 20 home runs in 51 games played. Sanchez or the Tigers Michael Fulmer are the two contenders for AL Rookie of the Year.
Another rookie, Tyler Austin, hit a two-run homer off of Price in the seventh inning when the score was tied at four. That was his fourth homer and after hitting a homer in his first career at-bat his other homers this season have all come in clutch situations. He 3-3 game raised his average from .197 to .230. He along with others on the team expect greatness when Sanchez steps to the plate.
“Everybody on the team calls home run when he steps up there,” Austin said.
Price has a 1-3 record with a 7.89 ERA against the Yankees this season. He struggled once again as he allowed six runs on 12 hits, one walk and three homers against the Yankees. He has been an ace for much of his career but the Yankees have basically always had his number from when he was a Tampa Bay Ray, to when he was a Toronto Blue Jay to now with the Red Sox.
“I was trying to stay with my approach and go from there,” Austin said. “I just try to do the same work I have been doing all year and go from there. It is unbelievable to see these guys doing well up here.”
This is David Ortiz‘s last series of his career against the Yankees, and the longtime star designated hitter for the Red Sox finished the game by going 0-5. He has 37 homers and 124 RBI this season, which is the best for a player in his age 40 season, but he struck out with a chance to tie the game in the 9th inning.
The third homer that the Yankees hit was a solo homer by Didi Gregorius in the sixth inning. That homer came after the Red Sox scored their first two runs of the game in the top of the sixth. Gregorius’s 20th homer of the season proves he has greatly improved offensively this year as he only hit nine homers in all of 2015, which was his previous career-high.
Gregorius’s homer also made history because he and Starlin Castro are now the first Yankees middle infielders to each hit 20 or more homers in a season. Castro, who is in his first season with the Yankees after being traded from the Chicago Cubs, has hit 21 homers. Castro’s previous career-high was 14 homers back in 2014.
Castro and Gregorius are also only the third second base and shortstop combination 26 or younger (they are both 26) to hit 20 or more homers in a season. The other two are Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa (Astros) this season and David Bell and Alex Rodriguez in 1999 (Mariners). This is a middle infield that should be productive for the Yankees for years to come and Gregorius has been better offensively this season than anyone expected.
Luis Cessa pitched very well as he had his first start where he didn’t allow a home run and that helped him only allow two runs in six innings. He had two big strikeouts in the sixth inning. He struck out Ortiz swining with runners on second and third, and then struck out Hanley Ramirez swinging to end the inning after the second run of the inning scored on Mookie Betts’s ground out.
In eight games as a starter his ERA is a very solid 3.72. His slider was excellent, which helped keep the Red Sox guessing and off balance. It appears that Cessa can be a solid No. 4 or No. 5 option in the rotation next season since he has four pitches and can be relied upon to throw a quality start or better.
Tyler Clippard struck out two batters in the ninth inning for his second save of the season. The Yankees have two more games in the series against the Red Sox and they will honor Ortiz before Thursday’s game. His 52 homers with the Red Sox against the Yankees are tied with Carl Yastrzemski for second all-time behind Ted Williams’s 62.
The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night, 5-3, to keep their hopes of getting the second wild card spot alive. They have a very small chance as they are 3.5 games out with 12 games left in the season. They have two more games left in the series against the last place Rays and then end the season playing the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Orioles.
Michael Pineda proved his potential once again and showed that he has the ability to have an ERA a good bit lower than the 4.89 ERA that he has. He threw 5.1 innings, allowed only two earned runs on five hits and a walk, and added 11 more strikeouts to his season total. This means that 11 of the 16 outs that he recorded were via the strikeout.
“The last couple of games I have used my change up more,” Pineda said. “I have a good feel for it so I have used it.” He also used his slider very well against the Rays.
Pineda came into the game 7th in the American League in strikeouts with 184, but the 195 that he currently has puts him in 6th place in the league. His ERA should be lower based on the quality of pitches that he throws and that all of the pitchers with more strikeouts than he has have ERAs of 4.05 or lower. The only runs that the Rays scored off of him came off of a two-run triple by Brad Miller.
Pineda already had 98 pitches after 5.1 innings, so it was time for Joe Girardi to take him out of the game. He has been one of the worst pitchers in the first inning this season but has been a little better pitching in the beginning of the game recently. He was not able to get the win because the Yankees were losing 2-1 when he left the game.
Mark Teixeira hit a 407-foot homer to left in the fourth inning to give the Yankees their first run of the game. That was his 13th homer of the season and only his 38th RBI of his final campaign.
The more important homer of the game came in the 7th inning after Brett Gardner’s RBI single scored Ronald Torreyes. Gary Sanchez hit a hanging slider to left center for a 3-run homer off of Brad Boxberger to make the score 5-2. That homer gave the Yankees the runs they needed to win the game and end their five-game losing streak.
Teixeira, who has seen a lot as he has been in the majors since 2003, was very impressed with Sanchez after the game.
“Amazing, incredible, impressive,” Teixeira said. “He’s carried us. We’re not even close to talking about a playoff berth if Gary doesn’t come up and do what he does.”
Sanchez’s homer was significant in a few other ways.
That was Sanchez’s 17th homer of the season and his 17 homers tie the Boston Braves’ Wally Berger in 1930 for most homers hit in the first 44 games of a career. Sanchez has also homered in three consecutive games, which is the second time he has done that since being called up in the beginning of August. His next homer will match Alfonso Soriano’s 18 homers (2001) for most as a Yankees rookie. Soriano hit his 18 homers in 574 at-bats and Sanchez has hit his 17 homers in only 162 at-bats.
“He’s meant a lot,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Offensively and defensively. It’s kind of fitting that he got the big hit.” Sanchez has thrown out nine runners attempting to steal and has allowed 16 stolen bases, which equals a solid 36 percent caught stealing percentage.
Sanchez is currently on a five-game hitting streak and has at least one hit in six of his last seven games. He deserves to be the AL Rookie of the Year based on the impact that he has had on the Yankees since the beginning of August. The other player who might deserve to win Rookie of the Year is the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer, but he has struggled in his last few starts.
Sanchez is leading all rookies in an advanced metric stat called fWAR that evaluates the overall statistics. Sanchez is 2.9, Chris Devenski is 2.7, Fulmer is 2.5 and Tyler Naquin is 2.1.
Tyler Clippard allowed his second earned run in his last two games in the eighth inning to make the score 5-3, but he was able to pick up his 10th hold since rejoining the Yankees on August 1. He has a 1.29 ERA in 21 innings, which is better than anyone could have expected.
The Yankees will look to sweep the remaining two games against the Rays to not lose any ground. The remaining games will be valuable for the young players on the team since they will continue to play in meaningful games with a playoff like atmosphere.
The Yankees were swept by the Boston Red Sox in a four-game series over the weekend and basically saw their hopes of making the postseason fade away. They are now eight games behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East and four games behind Toronto for the second wild card, but four games ago, before the Red Sox series, they were four games behind the Red Sox and only two games out of the second wild card.
If the Yankees had a .500 record on the road this season then they would be in position for a playoff spot right now. As of now, they have a 44-31 record at Yankee Stadium but are only 33-41 in away games. The Yankees have lost six of their last seven games on the road but have won seven of their last 10 games in the Bronx. This five-game losing streak that the Yankees are on, that has brought them from 77-67 to 77-72 is a result of the team running out of steam and having the inability to hold onto leads in games.
The first loss in the losing streak was to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are 84-65 and have a four game lead for first place in the NL West. Pineda and the first three pitchers in the bullpen did not allow any runs in the 2-0 loss to the Dodgers but in the ninth inning the previously normally reliable Dellin Betances allowed two unearned runs to lead to the loss. Starlin Castro made an error on the first batter of the inning and Betances made an error when throwing home to lead to the second run.
In the series against the Red Sox, the Yankees blew a 5-1 lead in Game One and ended up losing 7-5, they blew a 5-2 lead in Game Three and ended up losing 6-5 and then in Game Four the Yankees had a 4-0 lead and ended up losing to the Red Sox 5-4. It is rare that a team will lose leads of four, three and four runs in one series.
A major reason that the Yankees lost the series was that they were not able to contain the dangerous Hanley Ramirez. The Red Sox scored 25 runs in the series and Ramirez had seven Runs Batted In. Ramirez was 9-18 in the series and in Game Four he hit two homers and drove in four of the team’s five runs.
Ramirez hit a three-run homer Sunday night in the fifth inning off of CC Sabathia that landed right above the Green Monster to make the score 4-3. In the seventh inning, Ramirez’s solo homer to left off of Tyler Clippard ended up being the game winner for the Red Sox. That was only the second earned run that Clippard has allowed in his 22 games (20 innings) with the Yankees this season since being traded from the Diamondbacks.
Gary Sanchez continued his remarkable month and a half since being called up from Triple-A by hitting a solo homer in the second to make the score 2-0. That was his 16th homer and 30th RBI in only his 41st game this season. Only four catchers have more homers than he does in the American League.
In Game One of the series, when the Yankees had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the 8th inning, the Yankees bullpen totally fell apart in the last two innings. After Masahiro Tanaka only allowed one run in seven innings to lower his ERA to 2.97, which is the best ERA in the AL, Adam Warren gave up a solo homer in the 8th to make the scored 5-2.
The Red Sox scored five runs in the 9th inning off of Blake Parker and Betances. Parker walked the only batter he faced and that runner would later score and be charged to him. After Betances walked Dustin Pedroia and got Zander Bogaerts to hit into a fielder’s choice, five runs would score with two outs.
David Ortiz hit an RBI single to make the score 5-3, Mookie Betts hit an RBI single to left to make the score 5-4 and then Ramirez hit his first homer of the series, a three-run walk-off homer to make the score 7-5. That was a heartbreaking loss by the Yankees because it was a game that it appeared that they would win going into the 8th and 9th.
The Yankees have been relying on many young players like Luis Cessa, Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder and Ronald Torreyes among others. Aaron Judge is another rookie that was starting but he is out for the season due to injury. Jacoby Ellsbury is now listed as day-to-day with a right bone bruise after his knee hit the wall when he was making a catch on Saturday.
“We’ll see how he feels,” Girardi said. “With a bone bruise, we’ll try to get him back as quick as we can, but being a center fielder, you’ve got to be able to run. That’s the bottom line.”
Second baseman Starlin Castro was also injured during Saturday’s game as he hurt his hamstring when running to second during a double. His diagnosis is a Grade 1 hamstring strain and he could be done for the year.
It appeared that the Yankees would have a chance at getting to first place before their five-game losing streak began, since they had a four-game deficit with four games against the first place Red Sox, but now the Yankees can only play to try to stay close to the second wild card spot. It is not likely, but if the Yankees go 10-3 the rest of the season they will tie their record from last season when they finished 87-76. After the the trades the Yankees made at the trade deadline, Joe Girardi had the Yankees playing very well up until the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
If the Yankees can finish the season 8-5 and three games out of the second wild card that will be a successful end to the season.
The Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays in a nail bitter of a game, 2-0, and were remarkably able to sweep the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays, who were in first place when the series started, are now a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. The Yankees are now 4.5 games out of first place in the AL East and 2.5 games out of the second wild card spot.
The Bronx Bombers got just enough on offense to finish off the sweep of their rivals to the north. Toronto has the deeper lineup, but the Yankees were able to out hit them nine to five. The nine hits would have led to more runs if they were better than one for six with runners in scoring position.
Starlin Castro hit a homer over the State Farm scoreboard in left field in the third inning against Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Castro now has 20 homers and he is only the fourth Yankee second baseman in franchise history with 20 or more homers in a season. The others were Robinson Cano (from 2009-2013), Alfonso Soriano (2002-2003) and Joe Gordon (1938-1941).
Later in the third, Brian McCann singled to right to score Didi Gregorius. McCann, who has become the regular DH with the emergence of Gary Sanchez, has three hits in his last 12 at-bats (.250) with a homer and two RBI. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury both had two hits.
Bryan Mitchell was stellar in his first start this season for the Yankees. He missed the first five months of the campaign after suffering a fractured sesamoid bone and Grade 3 turf toe during a spring training game against the Braves on March 30. He would need surgery the next week. He would have been an important part of the pitching staff if not for the freak injury and he appears ready to be fulfill that potential down the stretch.
Mitchell pitched five innings while not allowing a run, giving up only four hits, two walks and striking out two. He threw 49 of his 80 pitches for strikes and was able to get Edwin Encarnacion to hit into a double play in the first and got Devon Travis to hit into a double play in the third inning.
“After the whole season, what I went through, tonight’s very rewarding,” Mitchell said. “It’s been my goal all year to get back here.”
Luis Severino, who has been virtually un-hittable as a reliever this season, pitched the sixth through eighth innings while allowing a hit, a walk and striking out three. Severino has faced 50 batters as a relief pitcher and has only allowed two hits. Also, in 14.1 innings pitching out of the bullpen this season, he has not allowed an earned run and has 16 strikeouts and six walks. They likely would not have gotten the win without his three dominant innings as Dellin Betances and Adam Warren were both not available.
To close out the game, Tyler Clippard picked up his first save of the season while not allowing a hit and striking out two. The former Yankee was a starter for the team in his rookie season in 2007 and was reacquired from the Diamondbacks before the trade deadline. He has a 0.56 ERA as the run the Mets scored off of him on August 3 was the only earned run he has allowed in his 16 innings with the Yankees. He has been a valuable trade deadline acquisition after the trades of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
The Yankees are 65-51 since May 1, which is the fifth best record in the American League. The only teams with better records since then are the Blue Jays (66-48), Astros (67-48), Indians (70-47) and Rangers (69-46). They are also 21-13 since the trade deadline.
“We’ll get there (the postseason) if we continue playing the way we’re playing. If we continue to win series…we’ll be all right,” Castro said.
The Yankees begin a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. It’s important that the Yankees sweep the 59-79 Rays to have a chance at a playoff spot because their schedule will be more challenging after Sunday’s game.