The Yankees had been relatively quiet since they traded for Aroldis Chapman a few weeks ago, but Brian Cashman got to work yesterday to add depth to the team's minor league rosters. They worked out a deal with the Indians to acquire reliever Kirby Yates, and signed Jonathan Diaz, Donovan Solano and Tyler Jones to minor league deals as well. These are not the most exciting deals ever, but some of these players have a shot at playing in the majors next year.
Earlier in the week, I discussed the possibility of the Yankees making a trade with the Indians for some pitching, but this deal wasn't quite what I had in mind. The Yankees acquired Kirby Yates for cash considerations after he was designated for assignment by the Indians earlier in the week. He signed with the Rays in 2009 and came up through their system as a starter before eventually being converted to a reliever. Yates made his major league debut in 2014, and pitched to a 3.75 ERA with 10.50 K/9 through 36 innings out of the bullpen. Despite his success the previous year, Yates faltered in 2015. Through just 20 and one-third innings pitched, Yates gave up a whopping 10 home runs (4.43 HR/9), 23 hits and 18 earned runs giving him a 7.97 ERA and 8.64 FIP. The Rays designated Yates for assignment when the season concluded, and traded him to the Indians in late November. The right-hander could be in the mix to earn a bullpen spot, along with all the other minor league pitchers that made appearances last season.
Of the three players who signed minor league contracts, Donovan Solano has the most major league experience. The 28-year-old is primarily a second baseman, but also has experience playing third base, shortstop and left field. Solano debuted with the Marlins in 2012 and has hit .257/.307/.328 over 1145 plate appearances in the majors over the last four years. He'll likely become Scranton's third baseman, and has drawn a comparison to Gregorio Petit.
The Yankees also signed another infielder, Jonathan Diaz. He spent seven years in the Blue Jays' system without getting past Triple-A before eventually making his debut with the Red Sox (where he played five games due to just about every other choice being injured). Diaz found his way back to Toronto the following year and earned very limited playing time in 2014 and 2015. In 65 major league plate appearances, Diaz has hit just .145/.242/.164. He has primarily played shortstop throughout his career, but he also has quite a bit of experience playing second and third, as well as left and center field. He'll likely fill the role of utility man in Scranton.
The third player that the Yankees signed is Tyler Jones. The right-handed pitcher was drafted by the Twins in 2011 as a starter, but was converted to a reliever after just two seasons. In 2015, Jones split his time between the Braves' High-A and Double-A affiliates. He finished the season with a 2.50 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 3.3 BB/9. The tall right-hander has averaged 10.6 K/9 throughout his time in the minors, and is said to have a fastball capable of reaching the upper 90s. Jones has never pitched above Double-A, so he'll likely start the season in Trenton or Scranton, depending on whether the Scranton team has room for him.