The Yankees’ first Hot Stove League move came the other day, and, like your furnace in this fall’s mild weather so far, it was luke-warm at best.
Righty reliever Branden Pinder, who threw cheese but never had the command to be consistent in the majors, was designated for assignment, with lefty reliever Joe Mantiply picked up on waivers from the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees took a flyer on the 25-year-old Mantiply because, while he hardly throws as hard as Pinder – topping out at 91-92 mph – has the command the former Yankees reliever lacks.
He gets strikeouts with his corners-of-the-plate array. At Erie in 2016, he was 3-1, 2.47 ERA in 49 appearances at Double-A Erie. His strikeout/walk ratio was 62-11 in 51 innings. That impressed the Tigers, who called up the former Virginia Tech star in September, where he recorded an 0-0, 16.88 mark in five appearances covering 2.2 innings.
Mantiply occupies a spot on the Yankees’ 40-man roster. Whether he stays there or not is a legitimate question, mainly because there are others who seemingly need to be protected before December’s Rule 5 Draft, led by infielders Jorge Mateo and Miguel Andujar.
Both Mateo and Andujar had their issues in 2016. Mateo served a suspension, forfeiting a spot in the 2016 Futures Game when he demanded to know why he wasn’t promoted to Double-A Trenton, which he never saw last summer. Andujar showed some power and hustle at Trenton, but, even with soft hands, had struggles fielding.
One would expect, since Mateo is multi-talented and a top prospect, and Andujar, a great guy to deal with and a fun player who is the club’s best third-base prospect, will be protected. Two more moves would have to be made on the Yankees’ 40-man.
Two who likely will be exposed to being taken in Rule 5 are outfielder Jake Cave, who nearly earned a spot on the Cincinnati Reds last spring, and emerging left-hander Dietrich Enns, who was 14-4, 1.73 between Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in his first year as a starter.
With Cave, the arrival of outfielder Clint Frazier from Cleveland. along with the strong Double-A season put up by Dustin Fowler in Trenton this past summer, he is expendable, and likely will be selected again. Fowler, who is a better all-around player, does not have to be exposed to Rule 5.
With Enns, who has battled back from injury to baffle upper-minors batters with control and changing speeds, and can start or relieve, is lower on the totem pole than lefty starter J0rdan Montgomery and righty reliever Jonathan Holder. The pickup of Mantiply just might close the door on Enns with the Yankees unless things change with the 40-man.
The Yankees system’s talent level is to the point where some pretty solid minor-league players will be available to other clubs, whether through Rule 5 or as Minor League Free Agents. Infielder Cito Culver, a former first-roumd pick, who could land on a big-league roster as a utility player in the mold of Brendan Ryan, leads that group.
With Rule 5 coming sooner rather than later, and the weather getting colder as December nears, there very well could be more movement with the Yankees and their 40-man. Why Mantipy? The Yankees had good luck with pitchers Chad Green and Luis Cessa, who came from that Detroit system.