Yankee Blue Friday?
The New York Yankees made a splash on the Friday before the Winter Meetings, plugging two of their biggest holes in two separate transactions.
In the morning, the Yankees were part of a three-team deal that brought them shortstop Didi Gregorius from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Yankees sent RHP Shane Green to the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers then sent prospect Domingo Leyba and left-handed pitcher Robbie Ray to the Diamondbacks, who shipped Gregorius to New York.
The slick-fielding Gregorius will have the unenviable job of being the first player to attempt to replace Derek Jeter as the Yankees’ starting shortstop. The former Cincinnati Reds’ prospect spent two seasons with the Diamondbacks after being acquired by Arizona in a three-team deal before the 2013 season. Injuries limited him to just 80 games this past season, when he hit .226/.290/.363. Gregorius hit .252 with a 704 OPS during his rookie season in 2013.
The native of the Netherlands has struggled badly versus left-handers during his MLB career, but he has hit reasonably well versus righties (743 OPS). The Yankees may look to pair Gregorius with right-handed hitting shortstop Brendan Ryan and platoon them. Gregorius is an excellent defender and should help improve a Yankees’ infield defense that was among the worst in baseball last year.
Green had a solid rookie season for New York and could slide into the fifth starter slot for the Tigers next year. The 6’4’’ right-hander had a 3.78 ERA in 78.2 innings. He struck-out 81, walked 29 and had an ERA+ of 103. The addition of Green could give the Tigers enough depth to trade either David Price or Rick Porcello. At the very least, it gives them another option to fill out a rotation that is expected to lose free agent Max Scherzer.
The Diamondbacks were dealing from a position of strength, as they are one of the few teams in the league with multiple options at shortstop going into 2015. Even with Gregorius gone, Arizona has Chris Owings, Nick Ahmed and Cliff Pennington to choose from at shortstop.
Ray will compete for a spot in the Arizona rotation and could also fit into the D-Backs’ bullpen as a long reliever. Originally a Washington Nationals’ prospect, Ray was traded to the Tigers last year as part of the Doug Fister trade. Ray made his major league debut in 2014, posting an 8.16 ERA in 28.2 innings. He had a 4.22 ERA in 100.1 innings for Triple-A Toledo. Ray was a strike-out pitcher with fringy command while with Washington, but he pitched more to contact with the Tigers last year. TigsTown.com recently ranked Ray as the Tigers’ number three prospect:
From TigsTown.com: “Acquired as the centerpiece of the Doug Fister trade, Ray was not the same pitcher in 2014 as the one Dave Dombrowski and the Tigers sold to fans following his acquisition. As a left-hander that can touch 95 mph, Ray is immediately an intriguing project and if he can continue to refine his breaking ball to give him something that keeps right-handed hitters off balance, then he could carve out a career as a #4 starter. Without progress on his second offering, Ray profiles as a high leverage lefty reliever with stuff that could tick up in short relief outings.”
Leyba, a middle infielder, was ranked #27 by TigsTown.com. The 18-year-old made his US debut this season and played well at two levels (short-season A and Low-A). He hit a combined .323/.360/.423 in 67 games.
From TigsTown.com: “Leyba is quickly establishing himself as a serious prospect at the plate with an innate ability to get the bat on the ball and hit for average. He is a confident, aggressive hitter that likes to swing the bat, and he has an ability to work the ball around the field and can hit all types of pitches. Leyba is not a high-end athlete and will need add strength to develop his entire game. As a defender, Leyba does a solid job at second base and should be able to hold down the position long term. Not lacking for swagger, Leyba believes he belongs and he will continue to prove himself at the full-season level in 2015.”
Later in the day, the Yankees made a splash on the free agent market, signing lefty reliever Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36 million deal. YES Network’s Jack Curry was the first to report the deal. Miller split the 2014 season between the Boston Red Sox and the Baltimore Orioles. He dominated as a set-up man, posting a 2.02 ERA and striking out 103 in 62.1 innings while walking just 17. Miller also pitched extremely well for the Orioles in the post-season.
Miller’s signing likely signals an end to David Robertson’s tenure as the Yankees’ closer. New York can now choose from Miller and right-hander Dellin Betances for save opportunities. Robertson figures to get a contract with similar terms to the one Miller received from another team.