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2015 MLB Free Agents: Rumors and Predictions for Marlon Byrd and Yoenis Cespedes

With the regular season coming to a close in the near future and the postseason almost ready to get underway, the focus for teams on the outside looking in is shifting toward next season.

Nailing the offseason is of the utmost importance for teams looking to rebuild or retool for next year, and with a number of impact players set to hit the open market—Steve Adams and Tim Dierkes of have gone through the trouble of compiling a list of said players—the rumor mill, while currently short on content, should pick up steam in the coming weeks.

Yoenis Cespedes and Marlon Byrd are two names swirling around the inner circles of Major League Baseball, and they just so happen to be among the biggest names available this offseason. So, as we turn our focus to the postseason and eventual offseason, here’s a look at the most recent rumors regarding those two players as well as predictions of where they might end up.


Marlon Byrd to Stay Put in San Francisco?

Marlon Byrd may have no say in where he ends up playing in 2016. The 14-year veteran has a vesting option written into his contract, and that option takes effect if he reaches 550 plate appearances prior to the end of the 2015 season.

Byrd is dangerously close to crossing that plate-appearance threshold and needs just 23 more in the team’s final five games to have that option vest. If it doesn’t, then the option converts to a team option, which will likely be declined. 

Operating under the premise that Byrd fails to reach 550 plate appearances, let’s assume the ensuing team option gets declined.

Even if all that happens, Byrd may end up back in San Francisco for 2016. According to Giants beat writer Henry Schulman, the Giants are interested in bringing back the 38-year-old:

Byrd has been solid in 2015 and has proved to be a worthwhile addition to the Giants roster despite the fact that they’re going to miss the playoffs this year. Over 129 games played (527 plate appearances), Byrd has compiled a .249/.294/.454 batting line with 22 home runs, 24 doubles, 72 RBI and 55 runs scored.

Byrd’s sub-.300 on-base percentage leaves a lot to be desired, and, as Schulman notes, whether he seeks a backup or starting role will be a major factor in his final landing spot. 

Prediction: Byrd re-signs with the Giants.


Yoenis Cespedes on the Giants’ Radar too?

According to’s Buster Olney, “There is speculation within other organizations that the Giants could be among the teams to pursue Yoenis Cespedes.” That said, Olney wonders if Cespedes‘ incredible second half has sent his price skyrocketing to a level the Giants would find uncomfortable.

There’s merit to both sides of the rumor.

Cespedes—with his plus defense and his ability to hit for power in pitchers’ parkswould be a great get for the Giants, who rank 12th in home runs through this point in the year among National League clubs. Additionally, the 29-year-old would be an upgrade over current right fielder and potential free agent Marlon Byrd.

Cespedes outpaces Byrd by wide margins in practically every offensive measure available—for reference, their OPS+ marks settle in at 138 and 103, respectively, according to

Unlike Byrd, though, Cespedes has taken off with his new club, logging an unbelievable 17 home runs, 44 RBI and 38 runs scored in just 52 games with the New York Mets. That, as Olney notes, might have pushed the price too high for the Giants, who have to worry about a Madison Bumgarner extension in a few years.

Whether the price has gone too high is irrelevant in this writer’s mind, as Cespedes‘ play in the second half has possibly earned him a blank check from the Mets as well as several other teams.

If he can get that six-year deal he told ESPN’s Marly Rivera about, then Cespedes won’t be in San Fran or Queens. 

Prediction: Cespedes spurns the Mets and the Giants and sells his services to the highest bidder.


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MLB Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding James Shields, Ben Zobrist and More

The MLB trade deadline is just two weeks away, and with the All-Star Game finally in the rearview mirror, the rumor mill is starting to heat up.

Big names like Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Jeff Samardzija and numerous others are potentially available, and new names seem to pop up every day in reported trade discussions. Here, we’ll discuss some players who have already been linked to trade talks, along with relative newcomers like James Shields and Jay Bruce.

So, with the July 31 trade deadline finally in sight, here’s a look at the latest buzz surrounding some of the biggest names being tossed around the rumor mill.


Johnny Cueto

At this point, it looks as though Cueto leaving Cincinnati is a relative lock. Recently, his name has been swirling around the insider circle, and recently, USA Today insider Bob Nightengale noted that three teams have been the most aggressive in their pursuit of Cueto.

Cueto is an ace in every sense of the word. To this point in the 2015 season, the 29-year-old righty boasts a 6-6 record to go along with a 2.73 ERA, a 0.90 WHIP and peripherals including 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings, 1.7 walks per nine and 5.14 strikeouts per walk.

All three teams mentioned by Nightengale look like legitimate landing spots for the former All-Star, but according to Jon Heyman, the Houston Astros are in hot pursuit. The CBS Sports insider stated, “The Astros just fell a half game out of first place after a very nice first half in which they led the AL West basically the whole way, and one person connected to their team said that ‘they know they need a starter.'”

The Astros are easily the best match for the Reds, as their farm system is as deep as any in baseball. Fans’ expectations for a return package should be reeled in a little, though, as Cueto is just a rental for the remainder of the season.

Fortunately for the Reds, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle notes that a half-year rental of a player like Cueto is exactly what the team is looking for:

But sources say a two- to three-month rental pitcher who will become a free agent this winter, or possibly someone whose contract runs for one more year, is the most likely acquisition for the Astros. In other words, [Cole] Hamels appears a long shot.

Cueto, sources said, is the most attractive potential acquisition to the Astros at the moment. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Yankees and Toronto are also interested in Reds pitching, a source said.

Cueto would be a perfect fit along with Dallas Keuchel atop the Astros’ starting rotation, but he’s going to cost a pretty penny. The Astros have a farm system deep enough to handle that sort of trade, though, so it’s a scenario worth keeping an eye on moving forward. 


Toronto Blue Jays

Staying on the topic of starting pitching, according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi, the Toronto Blue Jays have been asked routinely about the availability of young right-hander Marcus Stroman.

On the subject of making a trade to boost the starting rotation, Davidi noted that it’s “easier said than done, when word is they’re being regularly asked for Marcus Stroman in return by potential trade partners, even for rentals.”

The Blue Jays, as noted by Drellich and Nightengale in the previous section, are very interested in Cueto. Any deal with Cueto will likely include one of the team’s top pitching prospects—Daniel Norris, Stroman or Jeff Hoffman—but the team’s reluctance to include Stroman could be a bugaboo in their quest for adding a starter.

Davidi goes on later to suggest that a more likely trade scenario is one similar to the Samardzija deal between the Chicago Cubs and Oakland A’s last season.

The Blue Jays, Davidi reports, are more interested in acquiring a starting pitcher with extra years of club control, and he suggests a combination of soon-to-be free agents like Ian Kennedy or Joaquin Benoit along with Andrew Cashner or Tyson Ross, who have one and two years of club control left on their contracts, respectively.

Toronto needs help both in the starting rotation and the bullpen, but in order to keep pace with the rest of the American League East, they may need to relent and give up a starter like Stroman—or at least a top prospect.


Jay Bruce

Returning to the Reds rumor mill, Bruce is rumored to be available, according to multiple sources, including ESPN’s Buster Olney. 

Fox Sports MLB insider Ken Rosenthal also made mention of Bruce’s availability in a recent piece, stating, “For all the talk about Cueto, Chapman and right-hander Mike Leake, some around the Reds believe that right fielder Jay Bruce is as good a bet as anyone to be traded.”

Cueto, Leake and Chapman seem like sure things to be moved at this point, but Bruce is arguably the most intriguing trade chip the Reds hold.

Bruce is under club control through 2016, with a $13 million team option for 2017 and a $1 million buyout for that season. Bruce, one of the game’s premier right fielders when healthy, is affordable through the next two seasons and has been on a tear of late, averaging a .330/.385/.606 batting line with four home runs, 12 doubles, 13 RBI, 15 runs scored and 16-9 K/BB ratio over his last 25 games.

Bruce is peaking after having started the year off rather poorly, and adding him to the trade market could provide the Reds farm system with a huge boost.

This year’s list of potential trade chips is loaded with starting pitchers, and Bruce would be one of the few marquis position players available at the deadline.

A quick perusing of Bruce’s contract, via Baseball Prospectus, shows that he’s able to veto trades to eight teams—the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Marlins, Twins, Yankees, A’s, Rays and Blue Jays—but several of those teams could work as potential landing spots anyway given their status as division-title contenders.

Bruce would be an attractive option for a number of teams given his relatively team-friendly contract status, making him a prime candidate to move at the deadline.


James Shields

Starting pitching rules the market this year, and according to MLB insider Peter Gammons, James Shields is another name to add to the long list of starting pitchers who figure to be available at the deadline.

The interesting thing about Gammons’ story is that the Padres are the ones gauging teams’ interest in trading for Shields, not the other way around. If the Padres are looking to deal Shields, then that, along with the bevy of trade rumors including prized outfielder Justin Upton, surely signals that they’re looking to blow the whole thing up.

The Padres acquired Upton and Shields—among other acquisitions—prior to the 2015 season, and to this point, the moves haven’t paid off. Through 90 games, Upton and the Padres own a 41-49 record, good for fourth place in the National League West and 10 games back of the division-leading Dodgers.


Ben Zobrist

Our final update comes in the form of more news on Oakland A’s jack-of-all-trades Ben Zobrist. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, Zobrist is drawing interest from multiple teams.

Despite not having the best of years, Zobrist remains sought-after, including by the Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Nationals. Zobrist, 34, has played three positions this season — 25 games in left field, 25 at second base, and three in right field. Zobrist has played only four career games at third base but could play there if needed.

Zobrist can literally do it all, and the team that would eventually acquire him would be getting one of the hottest players in the American League West. Over his last 30 games—he’s only played 44 since returning from the DL in late May—Zobrist is slashing .308/.392/.495 with three home runs, nine doubles, 16 RBI, 21 runs scored and a 13-16 K/BB ratio.

Zobrist is a fit on any number of teams, as the 34-year-old can slot into practically any position on the field. The list of suitors keeps growing for Zobrist, and he’s now been linked to the four teams above as well as the Cubs and Angels.

Zobrist figures to be a hot-ticket item as we approach the deadline, and we could be looking at a good ol’ fashioned Yankees-Mets bidding war come July 31.


All stats current through play on July 16, 2015 and are courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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Scouting Reports for New York Yankees Prospects in the 2015 Futures Game

The All-Star Game is just around the corner, and some of the best players on the planet will take to Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Two days before that, though, some of the best prospects in the world will take to that same field on July 12 in the 2015 Futures Game.

The game has produced a plethora of young talent, and recent MVPs of the Futures Game include Jose Reyes (2002), Aaron Hill (2004), Nick Castellanos (2012) and Joey Gallo (2014), per

Those are just the MVPs, though. Consider the players below who suited up for the USA and World teams in last year’s game, along with their Baseball America prospect rankings for this season.

A proverbial who’s who of top 100 prospects, the Futures Game is always an exciting event, and this year, the New York Yankees will send two representatives to the game: outfielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez.

These two will be up with the Yankees soon enough, so ahead of Sunday’s game, here are full scouting reports on two of the club’s top prospects.


Aaron Judge

Judge isn’t the best prospect in the Yankees system, but he’s a worthy No. 2. The 23-year-old outfielder has plus raw power, and his game power—though rated at 20 by FanGraphs—is progressing by the minute.

Over 236 minor league games—including Arizona Fall League games—Judge has belted 34 home runs, good for a 162-game average of 23.3. Judge’s power should continue to progress as both his body and approach continue to mature. 

That said, it’s worth noting that the Fresno State University product has seen his plate discipline challenged consistently as he moves up the ranks. Since being drafted last year, Judge is the owner of a 23.3 percent strikeout rate; it was 25 percent during his time at Double-A Trenton earlier this year.

Now, since moving up to Scranton, Judge’s strikeout rate has leveled off a little, settling in at 21 percent over a small sample of 81 plate appearances.

Judge has been successful, however, in drawing walks, and he could fall into that Three True Outcomes mold that we’ve seen more and more in young players—e.g., Joc Pederson. Over 563 plate appearances last year, Judge walked at a steady 15.2 percent rate, and he’s continued drawing walks at a 9.7 percent clip in 2015.

Whether Judge can cut back on his strikeouts remains to be seen, but his ability in the outfield is less of a question. Judge runs well enough to be a corner outfielder at the big league level. The California native figures to lose some speed as he continues to fill out, but that shouldn’t force him out of the outfield.

In his prime, Judge figures to be a 25-plus home run hitter with below-average speed. His bat is a bit more of a question mark, but he shouldn’t have a problem hitting for a .250-plus average.

Overall, Judge should make for a first-division outfielder on a competitive team.


Gary Sanchez

An oft-forgotten prospect in the Yankees system, Sanchez has the tools to be a top-tier catcher on a competitive roster.

Sanchez has a rocket for an arm, though he sometimes appears lackadaisical behind the plate and led the Eastern League in errors and passed balls last year, per Baseball America. Sanchez’s arm is the only thing keeping him behind the plate at this point, but if he’s able to keep his focus and cut down on his defensive lapses, the 22-year-old has the chance to be an above-average option behind the dish.

Sanchez’s offensive game is much more polished. Though his strikeout rate has hovered around 21 percent for his career, it’s taken a bit of a dip through 241 plate appearances in 2015, finally dropping below the 20 percent mark—19.5 percent in 2015.

Over 2,240 plate appearances, Sanchez owns a walk rate of 8.2 percent and has a decent feel for the strike zone, as evidenced by a career .273 batting average. That said, according to, Sanchez “can lapse into an all-or-nothing approach at the plate at times, but he has enough offensive upside to profile as an everyday player if he has to move to first base.”

Sanchez’s calling card is his plus raw power. The young backstop has quick wrists and a strong lower half, and he is capable of generating above-average bat speed. To date, Sanchez has popped 83 homers in 527 games played, good for a 25 homer-per-year average.

At the big league level, Sanchez figures to be more of a 15-20 home run hitter, with the potential for 20-25 if he figures out how to limit his swings and misses.

The question for Sanchez’s future as a catcher is whether or not he’s able to figure things out behind the plate. Take the following excerpt from Baseball America‘s prospect handbook

“He’s still working to become more adept as a receiver and a blocker—he led the Eastern League with 17 errors and passed balls—and some scouts felt he struggled to establish a proper rapport with his staff,” Baseball America noted. “He also was benched for five games for issues away from the field.”

Sanchez needs to get his act together, but if and when he does, he has the potential to click in a big way.


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MLB All-Star Voting 2015: Predictions for Each League’s Biggest Snubs

Each year, a few select players have the misfortune of being labeled as “All-Star Game snubs.” The fan vote to determine starting position players is an imperfect system, as evidenced by the current crop of potential starters in the American League. Eight Kansas City Royals players rank within the top three vote-getters at their positions.

Because of this glaring imperfection, we’re stuck wondering what could have been. For the four players below, those “what if” moments could come sooner rather than later.

Players from each league will be labeled as “snubs,” but the four below—two from each league—have the potential to be the biggest All-Star Game snubs this season.

Now the polls are closed, and tonight we’ll get our first look at which players will make up each league’s starting lineup. The selection show for position players takes place tonight at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN. So with just over a week separating us and the 2015 MLB All-Star Game, we found it prudent to take a look at four players who could miss out on a trip to Cincinnati for this year’s mid-summer classic.

Before we get into that though, take a look at the chart below which details the projected starter at each position in each league, as determined by’s most recent voting results release.


All-Star Game Voting Leaders


American League Snubs

Every team has to have at least one representative, so several players are safe from “snub” status—e.g. Jason Kipnis of the Cleveland Indians—but a few players in the American League are going to get ripped off.

The first, and probably the most prominent, is Manny Machado. The 22-year-old is having a breakout season and is beginning to live up to the potential-hall-of-famer status that he was billed to as a prospect.

Over 80 games—344 plate appearances—the budding superstar boasts a .302/.357/.523 batting line, with 16 home runs, 18 doubles, 44 RBI, 51 runs scored, 11 stolen bases and a 55-28 K/BB ratio. Machado is leading the Orioles in their quest for a division title, and the Florida-prep product is an outside threat to log a 30-30 season.

Among qualified position players, Machado ranks in a fourth-place tie with Miguel Cabrera with a gaudy 3.6 fWAR. In addition to that, among third basemen, Machado ranks within the AL’s top-three in batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, wRC+, RBI, runs scored and stolen bases, per

The young third baseman is easily one of the most well-rounded third basemen in all of Major League Baseball, but he’s going unrecognized in the polls, raking in just under 2 million votes thus far.

The Orioles are pleading their case to get Machado into the All-Star Game.

The team has worked to get “#VoteManny” trending, but it doesn’t seem like O’s fans are taking the hint, as the four-year-veteran ranks nearly 10 million votes behind position-leader Josh Donaldson.

Machado still has a great chance to make the team as the Orioles’ lone representative on the AL roster, but he’ll have to compete with teammates Adam Jones and Zach Britton for that honor.

Behind Machado, Mark Teixeira figures to be the league’s second-biggest snub. The 13-year-veteran is the proud owner of a .245/.359/.537 batting line with 20 home runs, 15 doubles, 58 RBI, 37 runs scored and a 48-43 K/BB ratio.

Teixeira has been the biggest component to the success experienced by the New York Yankees’ offense this season, but his accomplishments have gone rather unnoticed to this point in the year. The 35-year-old is nowhere to be found in the latest voting results, and he’s sure to be passed over in favor of teammate Dellin Betances as the only Yankee player on the AL All-Star team.

Surprisingly enough, Teixeira has made just two All-Star teams in his 13 years, but his statistics this year may warrant a third showing. When pitted against other AL first basemen, Teixeira ranks third in fWAR (2.0), second in OBP, second in slugging percentage, third in wRC+, second in home runs and first in RBI, per

A five-time Gold Glove winner in the American League, Teixeira has always been one of the position’s premier defenders and, at the very least, would make a make a nice late-game replacement for manager Ned Yost. Unfortunately, it looks as though the two-time All-Star will miss out on a spot on this year’s roster.


National League Snubs

Do you know who’s having a huge year among National League catchers? Derek Norris. Know who’s not? Yadier Molina, Francisco Cervelli and Miguel Montero, yet they all rank ahead of Norris in the voting.

Norris made the American League All-Star team last year as a member of the Oakland Athletics, and the 26-year-old should represent the National League and the San Diego Padres in Cincinnati this year. That said, it doesn’t appear as though the young backstop will get the chance to assume his rightful spot on the NL All-Star team.

Norris strikes out quite a bit—23.9 K% this year—but that doesn’t overshadow the fact that, among NL catchers, the Kansas-prep product boasts the position’s second-best home run, RBI, runs scored and slugging percentage marks. Sure, his inability—or unwillingness—to draw a walk is a bit of a drawback, but Norris is an asset on both offense and defense, per

Norris boasts an above-average caught-stealing percentage—36 percent, compared to the 29 percent league average—and ranks in a second-place tie when sorting qualified catchers by defensive runs saved. In short, he’s pretty good defensively, and that sentiment is echoed by this Twitter user, who has done us all a major favor in highlighting Norris’s pitch-framing abilities:

The Padres may send just one player to the All-Star Game—most likely Justin Upton—and if they do, then Norris will certainly qualify as a “snub.”

As for the next biggest snub on the NL roster, it’s tough to argue against A.J. Pollock as the league’s biggest snub in the outfield.

Pollock, a 27-year-old Connecticut native, is having the breakout season that many expected from him as a first-round selection out of Notre Dame. Through 79 games, the four-year veteran finds himself slashing a strong .303/.347/.463, while popping 10 home runs, with 15 doubles, 36 RBI, 52 runs scored, 16 steals and a 54-22 K/BB ratio.

Pollock ranks fourth among NL outfielders in fWAR—3.3, behind Bryce Harper’s 5.0 mark—while his batting average, runs scored and stolen base marks all rank within the league’s top five at the position, per Meanwhile, defensively, the Notre Dame product ranks as a top-tier outfielder as measured by UZR/150 and defensive runs saved.

That said, Pollock is nowhere to be found in the most recent ballot results. Discouraging voter turnout aside, the young outfielder keeps making his case for inclusion on the NL roster with plays like this:

All told, Pollock has had a standout season, and his bat and glove would be a welcome addition to the National League’s roster come July 14.


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The Biggest Issues the New York Yankees Must Address at the Trade Deadline

The New York Yankees find themselves in an interesting position as we approach the trade deadline.

The team wasn’t exactly expected to compete this year, at least not for a division title. However, after 63 games, the Yankees are just one game back of the division-leading Tampa Bay Rays and firmly in the running for a wild-card spot.

The team needs to keep pace with the rest of the division, and the best way to do so is through the trade market. A number of interesting options are thought to be available come the July 31 trade deadline, including a number of starting pitchers, as well as Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

If the Yankees are serious about competing this year, then they’ll have to show a slight change in the direction of their franchise and exhibit a willingness to deal off some of their more highly touted prospects. While the idea of doing that may scare a number of fans who grew fond of their newfound willingness to hold on to, and develop young players, it’s important to keep in mind that this team, as presently constituted, has a very limited window to compete within.

So, assuming the Yankees take to the trade market in the coming weeks, here are a few areas the front office should look to improve upon before that July 31 deadline.


Shortstop/Second Base… Or Both

Let’s be frank, the Yankees’ middle-infield situation is arguably the least enviable in Major League Baseball.

Consider where each of Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew rank in several key offensive metrics among qualified players at their respective positions—keep in mind, there are only 21 qualified shortstops and 22 qualified second basemen in Major League Baseball.

Sure, Drew is the second-leading home run hitter among second basemen, but outside of that, there’s nothing to write home about with this duo. In fact, both Gregorius and Drew rank at or near the bottom of each category referenced above.

Meanwhile, look around the division, and it seems as though everyone else is much better offaside from maybe the Tampa Bay Rays.

Even on the Yankees’ own roster, this stands out as arguably the biggest weakness.

Only three of the team’s starting position players have a batting average below the .250 mark, those being Gregorius, Drew and Carlos Beltran. Similarly, the same three players sport on-base percentage marks below .300. 

Beltran could probably be replaced slightly easier given the lack of middle-infield depth around the league. That said, Gregorius and Drew have been some of the least productive players in baseball.

In fact, out of 167 qualified big leaguers, Gregorius and Drew rank 154th and 160th, respectively, in wRC+, per In short, the Yankees need something to change with their middle-infield situation.


One More Starter

This idea went from more of a luxury to a bit of a necessity given the recent string of events surrounding the team’s starting rotation.

So far this year, the team’s rotation has been pretty much what everyone expected it to be, a mix of bad and good. Take a look at the chart below to see how the team’s current rotation options have fared through the first 63 games of the season.

It’s not bad, but it’s not great either. 

Masahiro Tanaka, when healthy, has been downright dominant. Meanwhile, Adam Warren has been outstanding over his last seven starts, lowering his ERA from 4.78 to 3.78 in that time.

However, outside of that, a number of question marks exist.

CC Sabathia has been beyond hittable, allowing 11.2 hits per-nine, along with an unsightly 1.6 HR/9 ratio. Behind him, Nathan Eovaldi hasn’t been what the team hoped he would be, and Michael Pineda has been streaky.

Pineda, in particular, is a troubling case, as his last five starts have been nothing short of awful. Pineda came into his May 15 start with a sparkling 2.72 ERA, but he has since seen that mark balloon out to 3.74 after allowing a whopping 17 earned runs over five starts—28.1 innings pitched.

Maybe the team waits it out with the hope that their five starters can hold down the fort long enough before they have a surplus of options—Ivan Nova is set to return sometime in the very near future. Or, maybe they make a move to put them over the top and set themselves up for immediate success.

According to Fox Sports’ Jon Morosi, both the Yankees and Tigers had a scout at Wrigley to check in on Cincinnati Reds ace Johnny Cueto.

George A. King III of the New York Post expanded on those sentiments in his June 14 article. King noted that team scout Jeff Datz was sent to Wrigley Field on Friday (June 12) and Saturday (June 13) to observe right-handers Cueto and Mike Leake.

Both players are slated to hit the open market at the end of the 2015 season, with Leake being easily the more affordable long-term option of the two. That said, Cueto is easily the better option for a team hoping to make, and compete in, the 2015 playoffs.

Getting Cueto, well, that’s not going to be cheap. So far, according to King, players like “Ramon Flores, Mason Williams and Bryan Mitchell might be attractive as part of a package.”

The Reds are certainly searching for quality over quantity, as a trade of Cueto would signal a full-blown rebuild on their end. Don’t take King’s words out of context, though, as hoping for the Yankees to deal Flores, Williams and Mitchell, who rank as the team’s No. 25, No. 26 and No. 14 prospects, respectively—per—for Cueto is nothing short of a pipe dream.

In any event, the fact that the Yankees are checking in on Cueto and Leake shows that they aren’t content with their current rotation options. So, it’s fair to expect a move on this front.


All stats current through play on Jun 15, 2015 and are courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

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3 Biggest Takeaways for the Cleveland Indians Following MLB Opening Week

It’s only six games! It’s such a small sample size! Don’t care.

Well, I mean, I do care, but there’s always something you can take away from a couple of games, or one game, or one at-bat even. So, that’s what I’m going to do here with the first few games of the Cleveland Indians‘ 2015 season.

Just six games into the regular season, and there are some things we can already point to as potential major storylines moving forward. The three I’ve chosen to highlight here seem to be the biggest, and most relevant to their chances at a successful postseason run in 2015.

Let’s get started.


The Starting Rotation is Good…Well, the Top 3 Anyway

For most of the offseason, the Indians’ starting rotation was billed as a semi-under-the-radar option in the conversation of baseball’s best starting rotations. 

Between its top three members—Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer—the group has proved to be a rather formidable one. Kluber has been rock solid in his two starts, allowing just a 2.63 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP while striking out 17 and walking just three over 13.2 innings pitched.

Carrasco’s lone effort this season was one of the best of his career. The 28-year-old threw 6.1 scoreless innings in a winning effort against the Houston Astros, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out 10.

Bauer, who has always been an enigmatic talent, flashed his more dominant side in his first start of the year. The 24-year-old held the Astros scoreless, and hitless, over six innings while walking five (ugh) and striking out 11 (yay).

So, the front three have lived up to their end of the bargain, but what about the back two?

In their first starts of the season, Zach McAllister and T.J. House allowed five and six earned runs, respectively. The chart below details the full stat lines to this point in the 2015 season:

Yes, it’s only one start, and I think we’re all well aware of that. However, there’s something to be said for the fact that the two most suspect members of the rotation are the ones who underperformed.

McAllister and House were fringe candidates for the rotation even during spring training. If not for an early injury to Gavin Floyd, and a down performance from Danny Salazar, it’s quite possible that neither one would have even been considered for a spot in the rotation.

That said, they’re here now, and they need to figure things out if they’re going to support what has been a rather stagnant offense in the season’s early goings.


Yan Gomes Will Be Sorely Missed

He may not have been off to the hottest of starts in 2015, but Yan Gomes is a huge piece to the Indians lineup.

A Silver Slugger Award winner last season, Gomes put up a .278/.313/.472 batting line with 21 home runs, 25 doubles, 74 RBI and 61 runs scored. Arguably the best hitting catcher in the American League, Gomes was a major part of Cleveland’s success last season, posting a 4.4 WAR over 518 plate appearances.

In his time with the Indians, Gomes has also been a solid defensive option, posting a caught-stealing percentage of 35 percent; the league average in that time (2013-15) was 27 percent.

In addition to the control he exhibits over the run game, Gomes has been worth 12 defensive-runs saved with the Indians, adding further to the idea that he’s a great defensive catcher.

Unfortunately, this year, the 27-year-old could spend an extended period of time on the disabled list. On April 11, Gomes was the victim of a rather nasty collision at the plate, when Detroit Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis slid into Gomes’ outstretched leg.

According to Sports Illustrated, the move has already been made to send Gomes to the DL:

A sprained right knee is the injury Gomes is said to be dealing with, but information is still coming in at a rather brisk pace.

According to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Gomes’ injury is severe enough that he’s using crutches to get around. In fact, Hoynes noted that the next day, the veteran backstop relied on them to go out and accept the aforementioned Silver Slugger Award:

Shortly after that, SportsCenter tweeted that the team expects to be without Brazilian native for at least six to eight weeks:

It’s an unfortunate turn of events in the young catcher’s blossoming career, but it’s already becoming clear that he’ll be sorely missed. In his first game as the team’s starting catcher, Roberto Perez allowed three stolen bases and was saddled with a throwing error that allowed a run to score.


The Indians Bullpen Is…Suspect?

The Indians bullpen was, for the most part, very solid in 2014, allowing the fourth-best ERA among AL relief units. Across the board, the Indians were able to neutralize opponents during the latter stages of games. That ability is displayed in the table below:

So, here we have a bullpen that was, for all intents and purposes, very successful, having ranked in the top half, and quite often the top third, of nearly every meaningful statistical measure of bullpen success.

This year, the team returned a group that looks eerily similar to the one it went with for most of the 2014 season; however, it hasn’t experienced similar results.

Take a look at how the 2015 bullpen ranks in the same categories we examined above:

Surely the Indians bullpen will get better, right? Well, that’s the hope anyway, because right now, it’s borderline awful. Despite being used less frequently than both the average AL bullpen and the majority of AL bullpens, the relievers are putting up numbers that place them near the bottom-third of the league.

Will they bounce back? Possibly.

Will management look to shake up the bullpen’s composition in 2015? Also possibly.

One thing’s for certain, if the Indians are going to be successful, the bullpen will have to contribute a little more.


All stats courtesy of and are current through play on April 13, 2015 unless otherwise noted.

Tyler Duma is a Featured Columnist covering the New York Yankees for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter. 

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New York Yankees’ Biggest Storylines to Follow at the Start of 2015

The New York Yankees are always one of the most divisive teams in Major League Baseball. It’s also true, though, that the 2015 season brings about one of their most divisive on-field products in recent memory.

As is true of any professional sports team, there’s always a divide between what fans of that team feel their chances for success are and what fans of other teams feel. However, with the 2015 Yankees, it feels as though the predictions for this team range anywhere from a sub-.500 record to 90-plus wins.

With such a wide gap between the predictions set forth by detractors and supporters, it stands to reason that a lot of moving parts are at work here. Because of that, there are numerous storylines to watch early on in the Yankees’ campaign.

Over the course of this piece, we’ll look at five such storylines, all of which could have a major impact (good or bad) on the Yankees’ season.

So, let’s get to it!

Begin Slideshow

Complete New York Yankees’ 2015 Season Preview

With Opening Day rapidly approaching, the New York Yankees find themselves looking to win their 28th World Series—by far the most of any MLB franchise.

How realistic a goal is that? Well, that’s what I’m here to help you figure out.

Over the course of this article I’ll give you everything you need to know about the Bronx Bombers in 2015, including previews of the lineup, rotation and bullpen, as well as prospects to watch, predictions for the season’s opening series and more.

The Yankees are projected to win 80 games this season, according to the latest PECOTA win projections posted by Baseball Prospectus, but there’s room for them to fall short, and also to exceed those rather modest projections.

I guess that’s to say that this season of Yankee baseball is going to be very interesting, so allow me to break it all down for you.


All stats courtesy of and unless otherwise noted.

Begin Slideshow

Final Prediction for the Cleveland Indians’ Key Spring Position Battles

Prior to the start of spring training, I wrote a piece covering everything you need to know about the Cleveland Indians, including the following: prospects to watch, breakout candidates, the projected lineup, bullpen/rotation and position battles.

Spring position battles are a fun and fickle thing to watch. With the pace at which things change, new battles crop up and others fade away. For instance, in that piece, I looked at two position battles that I felt were the most important/tightly contested, and as we’ve progressed through spring training, one of those battles has essentially ceased to exist, and a new one has cropped up to take its place.

The left-handed relief situation I wrote about? That’s been taken care of. To take its place, a tightly contested battle for the fifth rotational spot has formed.

So, with less than three weeks between us and the start of the regular season, it became apparent that an update was needed. 

Let’s get to it.


Starting Shortstop

This one was really never in question. 

22-year-old Jose Ramirez entered spring training as the favorite to win the team’s starting shortstop job, and so far, he hasn’t relented in his quest to attain that status.

That’s not to say there haven’t been challengers to the throne, though, as both Mike Aviles and Francisco Lindor have put forth outstanding efforts of their own. The chart below illustrates the wonderful spring training performances given by all three players: 

Though there’s an argument to be made for Lindor strictly based on production, the front office is in no rush to start his free-agency time clock, and that forecasts a stint in Triple-A to start the 2015 season. Don’t worry; he’ll be back up with the big league club soon enough.

That leaves Aviles and Ramirez to duke it out for the job.

The pre-spring favorite for the job, Ramirez, has performed about as well as one could hope, though he still shows zero willingness to take a walk (zero drawn over 30 plate appearances). Part of this could just be him looking to get his swing in check for the upcoming regular season, but it does play into the larger trend displayed over the course of his career (5.4 percent walk rate in the majors and 7.1 percent in the minors).

Aviles is going to end up back in his super-utility role when the team breaks camp this spring, but not for a lack of trying. The fact of the matter here is that you have a near-career-long utility option up against a former top prospect for a starting job that neither is likely to retain beyond the 2015 season (see top prospects/Lindor).

Advantage, Ramirez.

Prediction: Starter: Jose Ramirez, Bench: Mike Aviles, Triple-A: Francisco Lindor


No. 5 Starter

In my spring training preview for the Tribe, I didn’t even consider the No. 5 spot in the rotation as a debatable “position battle.”

Gavin Floyd was signed to a one-year, $4 million deal, and it was assumed that he would help round out the rotation as the No. 5 starter. Beyond that, the first four spots in the rotation looked to be pretty well locked down between Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar.

However, a recent injury to the 32-year-old has Floyd’s season in jeopardy, and it’s clear that he will not be ready to start the 2015 season.

Beyond starting the season on the disabled list, Floyd may miss the entirety of the 2015 season, as the team’s official Twitter account confirmed last week that the 32-year-old was “out indefinitely.”

Then, earlier this week, Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer confirmed that the veteran righty both needed and underwent surgery, leaving the status of his 2015 season completely up in the air.

I guess this means it’s time for me to rethink my initial prediction, eh?

So, what options do the Indians have for this final rotation spot? The table below should help to set that up for us:

T.J. House is the best long-term option for this spot in the rotation. The 25-year-old offers what is easily the largest upside of the group, and his performance in 2014, as well as this spring, signifies a readiness for additional responsibility in 2015.

Over 12.2 innings of work, House has allowed seven earned runs, while striking out 12 and walking just one. House leads the team in strikeouts this spring, and his 12-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio is absolutely bonkers considering the fact that we’re only now entering the latter stages of March.

House would also provide the Indians with a left-handed arm in the rotation, something that they lack right now based on the roster projections provided by Roster Resource.

Whether this comes to fruition or not is dependent upon the managerial staff and front office, though. 

Josh Tomlin has some past starting experience, but the 30-year-old has struggled in his most recent attempt at starting, allowing a 4.53 ERA over 16 starts in 2014. Tomlin is likely to serve as the final option in the bullpen or as Triple-A depth should the rotation suffer another injury.

Shaun Marcum is also available to serve in a starting capacity, something he hasn’t done at the big league level since 2013. Injuries have plagued Marcum‘s career, but this spring, the 33-year-old has been nothing if not consistent, allowing just one earned run over seven innings pitched.

Finally, we arrive at Zach McAllister, who seemingly has to figure into the Indians’ plans for 2015. Given the fact that he has no options left, it’s a strong possibility that he’s the one to round out the team’s starting rotation.

McAllister was solid over 134.1 innings as a starter in 2013, but he was plagued by bad luck in 2014.

During his age-26 season, the veteran righty allowed a ghastly 5.23 ERA, fueled largely by a .333 batting average on balls in play (BABIP)McAllister saw that BABIP jump by 38 points between 2013 and 2014, despite showing improvement in his strikeout and walk rates during that time.

This spring, McAllister has struggled at times, allowing five earned runs over 10 innings pitched. However, over that same stretch, the Illinois prep product has also managed 11 strikeouts, the second most on the roster this spring.

McAllister is an intriguing bounce-back candidate, but House (aside from his last outing against the Mariners) has really earned a spot on the team.

Given his performance last season, his renewed commitment to conditioning and hard work, as well as his performance this spring, House is my pick to win the final spot in the rotation.

Prediction: No. 5 Starter: T.J. House, Bullpen: Zach McAllister, Triple-A: Josh Tomlin and Shaun Marcum


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.

Tyler Duma is a Featured Columnist covering the Cleveland Indians for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TylerDuma. 

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Best- and Worst-Case Scenarios for the New York Yankees Offense in 2015

The New York Yankees offense is an interesting bunch. The group features immense levels of talent, but question marks pop up throughout the lineup in the form of injury and production concerns.

That said, where there’s bust potential, there also tends to be boom potential. This holds true for the Yankees offense as well.

The Yankees will bank on players remaining healthy this year, and if they do, the team could easily surpass what are seemingly modest win-total projections for the 2015 season.

So the Yankees offense presents us with two contrasting paths for the 2015 season. One could bring about their first playoff appearance since the 2012 season, while the other could drop the Yankees all the way to last place in the American League East.

With both scenarios set, let’s take an in-depth look at how both can come about and what results they might produce for 2015.


Worst-Case Scenario

Let’s get the bad out of the way first.

To be fair, there’s plenty of cause for concern with the Yankees. That projected roster I linked above is riddled with injury possibility.

Take a quick look at the Yankees projected lineup and their games-played totals over the last four years.

Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, Chase Headley, Brian McCann, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran all have extensive injury histories (you can view those histories by clicking on their name and scrolling to the end of their Baseball Prospectus pages) and it’s totally fair to question whether or not these six players will be able to remain healthy over the course of the 2015 season.

If they don’t, there’s not a lot in the way of big league-ready minor league talent in the system. In fact, according to Bleacher Report’s Mike Rosenbaum, the only position players in his his top-10 rankings with ETAs during the 2015 season are Rob Refsnyder and Gary Sanchez.

Refsnyder could be called up to play outfield if the team finds themselves in dire straits, and depending on what point in the season he’s called upon, Sanchez could prove a viable option behind the plate.

Beyond that, though, things get a little cloudy.

If the Yankees lose Teixeira, Headley, Ellsbury or McCann, the season could go south in a hurry.

Carlos Beltran, in his age-38 season, is an ever-present injury concern, and his 2014 season could serve as a precursor for further decline as he nears the end of his stellar career.

Injury concerns aside, there’s reason to be concerned about the production the team will receive from the bottom three in that projected lineup, as well as Beltran. 

Rodriguez, Beltran and Drew are all coming off of seasons they’d rather soon forget.

Drew posted career-worst numbers across the board, and his 44 wRC+ last season was the worst among 263 players with at least 300 at-bats last season. Beltran clocked in with a much more respectable mark of 95 (just five points below average) but his advanced age could bring about further decline.

Rodriguez is arguably the biggest question mark in the lineup. The 39-year-old was serviceable when he last played, but that was back in 2013.

The possibility of injury, along with the uncertainty surrounding many of the team’s main contributors, could prove a disaster for the Yankees. Providing some combination both, the Yankees could suffer through another year of mediocrity and production fitting for a team near the bottom third of the league.

Assuming this scenario holds true, the Yankees will likely fail to reach that 80-82 record PECOTA predicted for them.


Best-Case Scenario

Where there’s legitimate reason to fret over the Yankees offense, there’s also some room for optimism. After all, the Yankees are healthyfor now.

So long as the team stays healthy, there’s plenty of room for them to surpass those modest win projections we talked about early. Providing the team stays moderately healthy, they’ll benefit greatly from a full season of Headley, Teixeira, McCann and Beltran.

Consider those four players and their ZiPS projections for the 2015 season:

These are solid seasons the ZiPS model has projected for Headley, Teixeira, McCann and Beltran. All four are projected for double-digit home run totals, and, aside from Headley, all of them are projected to exceed their WAR totals from the 2014 season.

Last year, Teixeira, McCann and Beltran managed seasons worth just 0.8 WAR, 2.3 WAR and -0.5 WAR, respectively, per Their projected improvements for 2015 should go a long way toward bolstering the team’s overall output, but they aren’t the only concerns.

At the bottom of the order, it’s tough to figure out what to expect from the combination of Gregorius and Drew.

With Drew, it’s pretty safe to say that he can’t possibly be as bad as he was last season. We highlighted his disappointing 2014 effort up top, and fortunately, in 2015, his ZiPS projections show a much-improved yet still very flawed player.

Per, the ZiPS model has Drew projected for a .211/.285/.360 batting line with nine home runs, 18 doubles, 40 RBI, 36 runs scored and 0.8 WAR. It’s not a good season, but it’s certainly much better than last year.

Realistically, Drew should still surpass those projections if he displays even a glimpse of his former self. Prior to being sent to Oakland, between 2006 and 2011, Drew averaged a .270/.330/.442 triple slash and, per-162 games, averaged 16 home runs, 12 triples, 38 doubles, 71 RBI and 84 runs scored. 

If I were a betting man, I’d put the 2015 version of Drew somewhere right in between his ZiPS projections, and his 2006-2011 averages. That makes for roughly a .240/.305/.400 batting line and a solidly average second baseman.

At short, Gregorius is entering his age-25 season, and his confidence is as high as ever. The young shortstop spoke with Bleacher Report earlier this month and told Mike Rosenbaum that “I’m just going to relax and play the game right and be the best I can be whenever I go out there. Don’t worry about anything else; just go game by game.”

Calm, cool and collected, Gregorius will be looking to fill some rather large shoes at shortstop, but if his demeanor is any indication, he appears to be up to the task.

Gardner and Ellsbury are much smaller question marks, and entering their age-31 seasons, they should find themselves in prime position to continue leading the offense.

That brings us to the biggest question mark of them all: A-Rod.

After a year on the shelf after a PED suspension, Rodriguez has a lot to prove. And at 39 years old, that may prove easier said than done.

Rodriguez struggled against inside fastballs during his limited 2013 showing, and age, combined with numerous injuries could cause him to struggle with those same pitches again in 2015.

That said, Rodriguez is making a strong statement with his play this spring. Over 21 plate appearances, Rodriguez owns a .353/.476/.588 slash line with a homer, a double, two RBI, a run scored and a 3-4 K/BB ratio. 

If Rodriguez hits and is able to produce anything close to what he did in 2012, he’ll help to make the offense a formidable one in the AL East.

When everything comes together, the Yankees could be one of the top-five offenses in the American League. This, combined with what looks like a rather strong starting rotation, could make the Yankees a viable candidate for one of the two American League wild-card spots.


All stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted. Advanced stats via

Tyler Duma is a Featured Columnist for the New York Yankees on Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @TylerDuma.

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