Aiming to spark their stagnant lineup and increase roster flexibility for a playoff drive, the Yankees crossed the finish line on a pair of swaps in advance of Thursday’s non-waiver Trade Deadline, acquiring Stephen Drew from the Red Sox and Martin Prado from the D-backs.
New York also claimed reliever Esmil Rogers on waivers from the Blue Jays in a flurry of activity that bumped up against the 4 p.m. ET cutoff. Drew will take over as the starting second baseman and Prado is primarily being viewed as a right fielder.
“I think we’re going to compete. I think we’re improved,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. “We’re going to find out if it’s enough or not.”
The Yankees sent infielder-outfielder Kelly Johnson to Boston in exchange for Drew, who will switch clubhouses and join New York for Friday’s game at Fenway Park. New York also picked up $500,000 in the deal from the Red Sox, Cashman said.
Arizona received Minor League slugger Peter O’Brien, plus a player to be named later or cash considerations; O’Brien was ranked No. 9 among Yanks prospects by MLB.com before the deal. O’Brien hit a combined 33 homers this year between Class-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, but has not found a regular position.
Cashman said that the Yankees would designate veteran Brian Roberts for assignment in favor of Drew, and the team will have other transactions to get Prado and Rogers in uniform for Friday’s game. In a minor move, the Yankees unconditionally released infielder Scott Sizemore, who was with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Feeling fortunate to still be in the American League East hunt despite an underwhelming first 100-plus games to their season, the Yankees have been active on the trade front for some time. Much of Cashman’s last month has been spent searching for roster upgrades, both significant and of the incremental variety.
Their focus was initially on securing starting pitching, with the Yankees missing 80 percent of their Opening Day rotation due to injuries, but the July additions of right-hander Brandon McCarthy (in a July 6 deal with Arizona, for left-hander Vidal Nuno) and left-hander Chris Capuano (in a July 24 swap with the Rockies, for cash considerations) shifted the Yanks’ focus to the offense.
Ranked 10th in the American League with 429 runs scored entering play Thursday, New York enjoyed quick returns after picking up third baseman Chase Headley from the Padres earlier this month. They’ll hope for similar splashes from Drew and Prado, the latter of whom will send Ichiro Suzuki back to a bench role.
Drew, 31, was hitting just .176 with a .255 on-base percentage and .328 slugging mark after missing Spring Training and signing with the Red Sox in May. He had 12 hits in his last 45 at-bats for Boston dating back to July 11.
“He’s starting to heat up a little bit now and we hope to take advantage of that,” Cashman said.
Drew has played only shortstop during his nine-year Major League career, but with Derek Jeter installed at the position, the Yankees believe that Drew can make the adjustment to the other side of the infield.
“As we went through our assessments internally with our scouting personnel, everybody was shaking their head, ‘Can he do this, even though he hasn’t done it?'” Cashman said. “The belief system is that he can.”
Prado, 30, was dealt from Atlanta to Arizona in January 2013 as part of the deal that sent Justin Upton to the Braves. Over two seasons with the D-backs, Prado hit .278 with 19 homers and 124 RBIs.
He is under contract through 2016, due $11 million each year. Though he has played just two innings in right field, Cashman said the Yankees expect he can handle it; they could also use Prado at second base, third base and left field.
“That is one of the attractive things about Martin Prado, is that he can play a lot of different positions,” Cashman said. “I think Joe is going to have fun with that.”
Rogers, 28, posted a 6.97 ERA in 16 relief appearances over two stints with the Blue Jays this season before being designated for assignment on July 27. He also saw time at Triple-A Buffalo, going 2-2 with a 3.14 ERA in 12 games (seven starts).
The Yankees and the Red Sox had not completed a trade since Aug. 13, 1997, when New York re-acquired catcher Mike Stanley and infielder Randy Brown in exchange for pitcher Tony Armas and a player to be named later (pitcher Jim Mecir). The Red Sox later flipped Armas to the Expos as part of the Pedro Martinez deal.
Cashman said that a “unique set of circumstances,” Boston’s fire sale, created an opportunity for the rivals to do business. There could be more moves in store next month; Cashman said that he was not sure how Thursday’s flurry of dealing would affect the waiver market, but in years past the Yankees have been able to obtain useful pieces via that route.
“I can’t tell you how things are going to play out,” Cashman said. “Do I think our club is better right now? The answer is yes, I think we have improved over time, but talk is cheap. We have to actually go out there and prove that, and I’m hopeful that will happen for our fans.”
Brian Cashman has said that he has “more work to do” in preparing the Yankees’ roster for a playoff run, and if the general manager is able to cross the finish line on anything, there could be new faces in the clubhouse on Friday at Fenway Park.
Possibilities continue to float with Thursday’s non-waivers Trade Deadline approaching, and while manager Joe Girardi is keeping an eye on transactions around the league, he isn’t counting on anything as an absolute lock to happen with his club.
“Not necessarily, no,” Girardi said. “There’s less than 24 hours if something’s going to happen. You do expect that there’s going to be some movement in baseball. A lot of times there’s more talked about than actually done. We’ll wait to see what happens.”
Cashman has expressed desires for a big bat as well as a starting pitcher; on the hitting front, the Yankees are known to have touched base about the Phillies’ Marlon Byrd and the Twins’ Josh Willingham. The Rangers’ Alex Rios is also on the block.
There have been links between the Yankees and the White Sox about left-hander John Danks, but it appears that interest in bringing the Padres’ Ian Kennedy back to New York was overstated. CBSSports.com reported Wednesday that the Yankees inquired about Padres reliever Joaquin Benoit.
The Yankees have already added starters Brandon McCarthy and Chris Capuano, plus infielder Chase Headley, in deals completed this month.
“We talk about things, but I know that he’s very busy this time of year,” Girardi said. “If something gets close, we usually hear about it. I don’t expect an update every hour. That would drive him crazy and he wouldn’t be able to get anything done. So I just let him do his thing. When he calls me, I say, ‘OK.'”
The Yankees have been able to count on the back end of their season most nights this season, which is why it was so concerning to see Adam Warren, Dellin Betances and David Robertson struggle in succession on Tuesday against the Rangers.
Girardi has tried to give his late-inning hurlers rest whenever possible, but with the team playing so many tight games, that hasn’t been an easy task.
“You hope that off days come at the right time, you get some distance out of your starters, and you’ve just got to manage it,” Girardi said. “I’ll manage it like I have the whole year. You know that you can’t overwork them or you’re not going to get the same production.”
Warren took over for starter Brandon McCarthy in the seventh inning, holding a 10-4 lead, but issued two walks and permitted a hit to leave a bases-loaded situation for Dellin Betances, who served up a grand slam to Texas’ J.P. Arencibia.
“Mechanically, I just felt off,” Warren said. “It was really strange. I usually take pride in my mechanics. I just felt out of sync and couldn’t get on top of the ball. Especially in that situation you want to come in and pound the zone, get some quick outs, and I just couldn’t do that.”
Warren and Betances, converted starting pitchers who have made 48 and 47 appearances, respectively, both said that they do not believe fatigue is an issue. Betances pointed out that he rebounded after Leonys Martin’s triple to record two strikeouts around a walk, escaping the inning.
“I feel good, man. I feel great,” Betances said. “It was a tough one for me. It’s going to happen. Even after I gave up that home run, even after the triple, I was able to hold it right there. It could have been worse.”
Girardi said that he does not plan to use the trio of relievers much differently over the final two months of the regular season.
“We’ve been pretty good about giving them the days when we need the days, giving them two days when they need two days,” Girardi said. “[I'm] looking at what they’ve done in the past and having an idea how many innings they’ve thrown, and just trying to manage it that way.”
One day after Girardi said that Brian Roberts has looked “beat up” to him and could use a couple of days off, the veteran second baseman said that he is dealing with normal bumps and bruises, nothing out of the ordinary.
“I hope it pays off, sure. I’m not 20 anymore,” Roberts said. “Nobody wants days off, but you trust the people in charge to make decisions that hopefully benefit everybody. Hopefully that’s what happens.”
Roberts, 36, is batting .237 with five home runs and 21 RBIs in 91 games. That is Roberts’ highest games played total since 2009 with the Orioles, a fact that Roberts said Girardi pointed out in their pre-game chat Tuesday.
“He said, ‘I just think it’s a good time to give you a couple of days,'” Roberts said. “It’s not my place to argue. I just work here. I’ll play when they put me in the lineup. If Friday is the day, then I’ll be ready to go.”
Brian McCann was out of the Yankees’ lineup on Wednesday, with Francisco Cervelli catching. McCann said that it was just a scheduled day off, and manager Joe Girardi said that he planned it this way to give McCann two days off with Thursday’s travel day.
Girardi said that he was giving Ichiro Suzuki a day off for the same reason, playing Zoilo Almonte in right field.
“I’m sure it will probably help all of our guys at this point in the season,” Girardi said. “As I’ve said, we have some age on our team, and you feel that you have to manage it.”
On this date in 2011, the Yankees scored a franchise record 12 first-inning runs in a 17-3 win over the Orioles, sending 16 men to the plate. 13 reached base, with seven singles, two doubles, a homer, a walk and an error.
Brian Roberts has played in 91 games this season, marking his highest total since 2009, and Yankees manager Joe Girardi senses that the veteran second baseman may be wearing down as a result.
“I think that could possibly be going on,” Girardi said. “He’s been beat up pretty good this year physically. He’s answered the bell every day that we’ve called upon him and he’s played hard for us.”
Roberts has two hits in his last 17 at-bats and has reported some aches and pains, according to Girardi, who said that he plans to give Roberts a couple of days off to see if he can re-charge leading into the weekend series against the Red Sox.
“He’s dealing with soreness that players have,” Girardi said. “Legs get beat up, you hit balls off your feet, shins. It’s all part of it.”
Roberts, 36, has posted a split line of .237/.300/.360 with five homers and 21 RBIs in his first season with the Yankees, having signed a one-year, $2 million contract in January.
Staying in the lineup has financial advantages for Roberts, who has 348 plate appearances and is two shy of a $250,000 bonus. Roberts has already collected $350,000 in incentives, tied to reaching 250 and 300 plate appearances.
The last time Michael Pineda was healthy enough to face a lineup, he was wearing a smudge of pine tar on his neck, an offense that got the right-hander ejected from an April 23 start at Fenway Park.
That is expected to change on Sunday, when Pineda is being scheduled to get on the mound for one of the Yankees’ farm affiliates, targeting a mid-August return to the big league rotation.
“Four innings and 60 to 65 pitches will be his next move,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We’re not exactly sure where it’s going to be, they were talking about that today, but it wil be a regular game.”
Pineda, who served a 10-game suspension for the pine tar incident and has been on the disabled list since May 6 with a strained teres major muscle behind his right shoulder, threw 45 pitches on Tuesday in a simulated game at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla.
It is likely that Pineda would need three Minor League rehab starts before the Yankees would deem him ready for big league action.
“I think you’ve got to get him to where he can go 90 pitches and you feel good about it, where he’s not fatiguing,” Girardi said. “I think if you get there, then he’s a guy you think about.”
As anticipated, Mark Teixeira returned to the Yankees’ lineup at first base on Tuesday. Teixeira pinch-hit in the eighth inning of Monday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers, his first game action since July 20 because of a lower lat strain and back spasms.
“Pretty easy; I knew where to put him,” Girardi said. “That didn’t take me long. It was good to see that he woke up today and he felt fine.”
Girardi said that Francisco Cervelli’s performance over the last week, when Teixeira’s injury pressed Brian McCann into duty at first base, offers a reminder that Cervelli can be a serviceable starting catcher at the big league level.
Cervelli has hit safely in a career-high 10 straight games.
“Great job. I said it last year; Cervy’s talented,” Girardi said. “It’s unfortunate, some of the injuries he’s had – broken hand, broken wrist, concussion. But Cervy’s played for us and he’s played well. He’s been thrown into pennant races and everything. We just need to keep him healthy.”
Kelly Johnson, who was placed on the disabled list July 23 with a strained left groin, is expected to be ready for activation in the minimum 15 days. Johnson may be sent on a Minor League rehab assignment to gather at-bats, and it is likely he will see some increased time at second base down the stretch.
Mark Teixeira took on-field batting practice Monday for the first time since he sustained what the Yankees called a lower lat strain, and the first baseman hopes to return to the lineup on Tuesday against the Rangers at Globe Life Park.
“I’m very happy,” Teixeira said. “The back spasms are gone, which I’ve been dealing with for a long time, so that’s really good. It’s good to see that the treatments worked and the time off helped, so hopefully they won’t come back.”
Teixeira has not played since July 20 against the Reds; he had a platelet-rich plasma injection and at the time, the team said that he would miss three to four days. It has been longer than initially anticipated, but Teixeira has at least been able to avoid the 15-day disabled list.
“I wasn’t expecting all the little annoying things that come up. That’s part of the game,” Teixeira said. “Hopefully this is it, and I have two healthy months to finish the season, but missing a couple of games here, a couple of games there, it’s never fun.”
Teixeira said that last season’s wrist injury made him consider his baseball mortality, and the fact that he could no longer play through injuries that he might have in his 20s.
“I’ve played through so many things. I can’t play through them anymore,” Teixeira said. “That’s just the fact of the matter. The guys ask me, ‘How did you play in Texas for five years, 100 degrees every night?’ I was young. I was a kid. I played through everything.
“You fouled a pitch of your leg, go get ‘em. Strain something in your back, go get ‘em. That’s just the way it is when you’re young. I can’t play through those things (now). I don’t think I would have had to miss games with back spasms.”
Teixeira said that maintenance will be a key for him, and that he’d prefer to play until something hurts rather than take precautionary days off. But it’s pretty much inevitable at this stage that sooner or later, there will be another issue to deal with; as he said with a smile, “Father Time is undefeated.”
“I was very lucky that I could play through those things and stay on the field as long as anybody,” Teixeira said. “But at a certain point, you hit a wall. I hit a wall last year and hopefully I won’t have a lot of these, but if they do pop up, it’s just harder to play through it.”
Joe Girardi has more of an inside track to the Yankees’ trade rumor scene than the average observer, but the manager said that he prefers to give general manager Brian Cashman his space to work, rather than get excited about moves might happen.
“We talk on a daily basis anyway during the course of the day, so it doesn’t really change much,” Girardi said. “I know he’s always trying to improve our club, and I’m not going to keep bothering him and take up his time when there’s things he’s doing.”
Cashman has said that he has more work to do in what has been a busy July; upgrading starting pitching is a focus, but various media reports have also connected the Yanks to discussions of some level for outfielders Marlon Byrd (Phillies), Chris Denorfia (Padres), Alex Rios (Rangers) and Josh Willingham (Twins).
Girardi often says that he has to worry about the 25 players in his clubhouse, but he does regularly communicate his views on the roster and specific needs to Cashman, something that will continue even after Thursday’s non-waivers Trade Deadline.
“I try not to get excited, because as I always say, it takes two teams to really want to do a deal,” Girardi said. “And do I expect it? I never expect to get new people. I always think, ‘This is who we’ve got, this is who has to get it done.'”
The Yankees recalled outfielder Zoilo Almonte from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Monday, immediately inserting the 25-year-old to play left field and bat ninth against the Rangers.
It is Almonte’s third stint with the big league club this year, where he has batted .160 (4-for-25) with one homer. Almonte was batting .281 in 75 games at Triple-A, leading the RailRiders in homers (16) and RBIs (57).
In a corresponding roster move, the Yankees designated left-hander Jeff Francis for assignment, reducing the number of active pitchers on the staff to 12.
Francis was 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in two relief appearances, spanning 1 2/3 innings. He was acquired from the Athletics with cash considerations for a player to be named later on July 11.
Jacoby Ellsbury received a day off for rest on Monday against the Rangers. Ellsbury had played in all 10 of the Yanks’ games coming out of the All-Star break, batting .289 (11-for-38) with a double and two homers on the homestand. He said manager Joe Girardi told him about the day off on Sunday’s flight to Texas.
Masahiro Tanaka (partially torn right ulnar collateral ligament) stayed back in New York to continue receiving treatment at Yankee Stadium. Aug. 4 will mark three weeks of full rest since the right-hander received a platelet-rich plasma injection.
“We’re still waiting for that three-week mark. Nothing’s really going to change until the three week mark,” Girardi said. “He’s staying back and doing treatment every day. He feels better and better. You just kind of wait to see where you are after three weeks.”
Carlos Beltran (bone spur in right elbow) has increased to throwing at 100 to 120 feet. The Yankees are hopeful that Beltran, currently only a designated hitter, could return to play some outfield after this road trip.
Michael Pineda (strained muscle in upper back) is scheduled to throw three innings or 45 pitches in a simulated game on Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. The Yankees are hopeful that Pineda can rejoin the big league roster in mid-August.
Chris Capuano has been added to the Yankees’ roster, and manager Joe Girardi announced that the left-hander will start tomorrow against the Blue Jays. Shane Greene will be pushed back to start on Sunday, and Chase Whitley has been bumped to the bullpen.
Capuano, 35, was signed as a free agent by the Rockies on July 4 and made four combined starts with Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Colorado Springs, posting a 1-0 record with a 2.79 ERA. Earlier this year, the Springfield, Mass. product went 1-1 with a 4.55 ERA in 28 relief appearances for the Red Sox before being released.
“I’ve started most of my career,” Capuano said. “I took the sixth starter/bullpen role in the offseason with Boston as a chance to go back home. I felt really good the first two months with the routine, and then the last month I struggled in June. My goal is to find an organization that I could get back to starting with and get into a familiar routine.”
Capuano said that if you had told him about 25 hours ago that he’d be starting Saturday for the Yankees, he would have been just as surprised as anyone. Capuano said that his hometown is about a 50-50 split of Yankees fans and Red Sox fans; he grew up cheering for Boston, but his dad, Frank, is a big Yankees fan.
“My dad is ecstatic,” Capuano said. “He’s rooted for wherever I am, but I think his heart is in the right place now.”
Additionally, Mark Teixeira said that he is responding well to treatment, and the Yankees are going to give him another couple days to see if he can avoid the disabled list.
“I got a couple of hours of treatment in already and feel really good,” Teixeira said. “Today was, I think, the best day. We said after the [platelet-rich plasma] shot that we’d re-evaluate after two or three days and I feel good with where I am. We kind of have to take it easy the next few days and hopefully progress to taking full swings here really soon.”
Teixeira said that it’s possible that he could swing a bat today, and Girardi said that they should know more by Sunday. In the meantime, the Yanks are going with a two-man bench — only Zelous Wheeler and Brendan Ryan are available in reserve tonight against the Blue Jays.