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Signed DH-R Billy Butler. [9/14]

That didn’t take very long. With Butler set free from his Oakland debacle, and the Yankees unexpectedly striving for a Wild Card slot, the stars aligned for Country Breakfast to get back in the saddle more quickly than I think anyone expected. Now, with Aaron Judge done for the season thanks to a knee injury, the team could certainly use any available talent capable of throttling left-handed pitching.

Take a look at the offensive lines from the team’s hitters this season against southpaws:

Carlos Beltran 126 7.9% 19.0% 0.405 0.640
Didi Gregorius 132 2.3% 7.6% 0.349 0.458
Rob Refsnyder 66 13.6% 16.7% 0.379 0.375
Starlin Castro 157 5.7% 19.1% 0.306 0.422
Chase Headley 153 8.5% 14.4% 0.333 0.362
Austin Romine 88 3.4% 11.4% 0.287 0.434
Ronald Torreyes 33 18.2% 12.1% 0.364 0.259
Brian McCann 87 12.6% 23.0% 0.310 0.351
Mark Teixeira 117 13.7% 16.2% 0.333 0.313
Brett Gardner 160 8.1% 20.6% 0.316 0.324
Alex Rodriguez 83 7.2% 26.5% 0.265 0.382
Jacoby Ellsbury 165 4.8% 15.8% 0.280 0.327
Gary Sanchez 34 11.8% 38.2% 0.206 0.310
Aaron Hicks 104 7.7% 19.2% 0.221 0.274

This is a team in trouble. By far the team’s best hitter against lefties, Carlos Beltran, now plays for the Rangers. Didi Gregorius and Robert Refsnyder both are a bit above-average, but the rest of the team is pretty awful. The entire outfield is very sketchy, and even the miraculous Gary Sanchez hasn’t hit left-handed pitchers (yet). Tyler Austin falls off this list as he doesn’t have 30 plate appearances against left-handers, and while he could be a bit of a saving grace, you can see why the Yankees may be so desperate in the run-up to the season finale. Not to mention that, via Baseball Prospectus’ Strength of Schedule tool, they have the toughest road to the end of the year.

I’m not completely certain that Butler can do much for the Bombers, even if he comes at discounted price. I made a note previously that he’s having trouble getting much exit velocity on his batted balls against lefties. (And Baseball Savant can back that up–check out his zone breakdown against LHP.) But given how ineffective the team’s other options are, why not try anything? Of course, if the Yankees do make the playoffs, Butler will be ineligible for the postseason roster due to his late acquisition. But hey, every possible edge could be needed to escape the scrum that is the non-Rays portion of the AL East. Maybe Butler can help, even if it is just a little bit.

(And, just for laughs, this is from BP’s Matt Sussman via Twitter.)

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Acquired RHP Josh Collmenter from Chicago Cubs for cash considerations. [9/14]

Acquired RHP Joe Wieland from Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later. [9/14]

If you ask general manager John Coppolella, the Braves’ rotation candidates have not covered themselves in glory this year. It’s entirely possible that many of the names you learned in 2016 (John Gant! Matt Wisler! Tyrell Jenkins!) will be useless to you in 2017, unless you plan on touring the International League. So why not take a flyer on a guy like Wieland or Collmenter–or better yet both–in the hopes that you can spin that straw into gold?

It has been a long road from fourth-round draft pick to here for Wieland, who once was a promising prospect in the Texas and San Diego systems, but a two-year Tommy John surgery hiccup derailed his trolley car. Though he hasn’t looked good in his limited big-league stints (his career ERA is 6.32 in 52.2 innings over four seasons), his Triple-A peripherals don’t look too unfortunate. His 8.1 strikeouts per nine in a starting role at the highest level of the minors gives stat-watchers hope that he’ll either figure things out at the big-league level, respond well to an impending relief conversion, or at least be a solid break-glass-in-case-of-emergency guy to stash in Gwinnett.

Collmenter is actually kind of a weird case: he’s been bad enough this year to think that a team would not pick up his $2 million mutual option for 2017. And yet, the Braves actually paid the Cubs to take on his contract–and they’re on the hook now for his $150,000 buyout–so I have to think they’re looking to bring him back next season. But the deceptive right-hander has fallen hard even from his 2015 season where he opened the year as the Diamondbacks’ Opening Day starter.

After a shoulder injury delayed the start to his 2016 season, Collmenter found himself bumped from the new-look Arizona rotation and demoted to cleanup duty as a reliever. He’s always worked with a very slow cut fastball as his primary offering, but this past year his velocity averaged 85 miles per hour and no one swung at his pitches outside the zone. (Among 478 MLB pitchers with 20 or more innings, Collmenter’s O-Swing percentage of 19.9 was dead last.) Every stop he’s had this year has featured a walk rate of over four batters per nine–a far cry from his career major-league mark of a little over two walks per nine–so he’ll have to do something in order to fix his command and start fooling hitters again, otherwise he’s cooked.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure either of these pitchers can be saved at this point in their careers. Wieland still has an above-average curveball, but even his high-minors ERAs recently start at 4.59 and rise from there. Collmenter is 30 and both his velocity and command are fading. But if they were hot commodities, they wouldn’t be moving to the Braves after the deadline for nothing but a PTBNL and a little cash. Perhaps they won’t make any difference to the big-league club–perhaps Collmenter shouldn’t be getting paid at all–but someone’s got to pitch in Triple-A, and there’s a tiny chance this could be another Jhoulys Chacin move that pays a medium-sized dividend.

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Claimed RHP Odrisamer Despaigne off waivers from Baltimore Orioles. [9/15]

Falling out of the Orioles’ rotation is like falling off a cruise ship in that both are pretty bad omens for your professional life.

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Acquired LHP Wade LeBlanc from Seattle Mariners for a player to be named later. [9/13]

BP’s Patrick Dubuque wrote the seminal article on Wade LeBlanc this year, and I know this is kind of David Roth’s (and Jeffrey Paternostro’s) beat, but let me give it a shot. From my original TA on LeBlanc’s move to the Mariners on June 28:

"His hard work earned him a spot with the Mariners, where he wouldn’t be blocked by Drew Hutchinson among others waiting for a big-league rotation role."

Here’s the Pirates’ depth chart from Roster Resource:

MID-RP Zach Phillips (L)

MID-RP Drew Hutchison (R)

MID-RP Wade LeBlanc (L)


(Digression: isn’t it kind of weird that the Mariners would bail on anyone with a working wing while they’re making their last gasps for a playoff slot? Cody Martin and Zach Lee are probably the team’s emergency starters!)

LeBlanc washed out of NPB last year, has a fastball that Dubuque nicknamed “Zeno’s Paradox” because it’s so slow, and yet has struck out more batters than ever before in this, his kinda-sorta season of redemption. He’s not good, he’s fine. He’s a left-hander, and that means he’ll get as many chances as necessary to prove himself, and he’s surviving on guile and pitchability despite a completely unsustainable home run rate (a dinger leaves the park at the rate of 2.5 per nine innings). He is, in essence, the perfect buy-low candidate for a Pirates team that has had some success with buy-low guys.

Anyway, the Pirates get another reclamation project at a bargain-basement price, and gives the team another cog in what may be the most interesting collection of left-handed relievers in baseball (they currently have six on their active roster, including their closer). Maybe LeBlanc will even get the start during Saturday’s doubleheader? LeBlanc’s future is a collage of “maybe”s, but when you take his performance this season and now mix in the fact that he’s in the Pirates organization, the future looks just a bit brighter.

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