The Yankees Made A Trade, And I Almost Missed It: Tarpley to Miami
It took a long while for the New York Yankees to formally announce that they had resigned OF Brett Gardner to a contract for the 2020 season (and potential 2021 as well), as they were most likely trying to find a suitor for a lower-priority player on the 40-Man Roster.
Ultimately, that move didn’t ever come before they announced the signing, necessitating the DFA’ing of RHP Stephen Tarpley.
However, once he became the object the Yankees had to trade, they quickly found a new suitor, a team (partially) run by the former-Captain Derek Jeter himself: The Miami Marlins.
Let’s take a quick look early on this Saturday morning.
Yankees PR Tweet:
The @Yankees announced today that they have acquired minor league 3B James Nelson and cash considerations from the Miami Marlins in exchange for LHP Stephen Tarpley. — Yankees PR Dept. (@YankeesPR) January 15, 2020
What’d the Yankees Give Up in Stephen Tarpley?
If you’d like the short-and-sweet of it: nothing that was truly of any great value. And, while I hate to diminish any baseball player- nonetheless somebody who made the MLB- his value to the Yankees was not only very low after a poor 2019 campaign, but also because of the extreme pitching depth that the Yankees currently have.
Diving into what Tarpley had done for the Yankees, comes his upsetting 6.93 ERA in 24.3 Innings from the 2019 season at the MLB Level. With Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Tarpley pitched much better with a 3.13 ERA over 31.2 innings, but he probably never felt comfort as he was called up to the Majors from Triple-A or the IL- Tarpley landed on the IL with Left Elbow impairment from August 11th to September 10th- on 9 different occasions. This was definitely a circumstance of the Yankees historic use of the IL in 2019 due to a historic amount of players lost during the season, but it was obvious that Tarpley wasn’t thought of as a long-term MLB piece.
Even back in 2017, RiverAveBlues expected Tarpley to fall to the wayside and be selected in the Rule-5 Draft by some other team that needed a back of the bullpen arm. Instead, he was able to make his debut in pinstripes and stick around for an extra two seasons before succumbing to this fate.
While he had some talent, and had been a member of some Top-30 Prospects lists (he was #28 on RiverAveBlues’ 2019 Prospect Rankings), not many expected him to stick around long term in 2019, as he was expected to be a shuttle-reliever. Tarpley’s 2018 was good (3.00 ERA in 9 Innings), which earned him a spot on the ALDS roster, but that was probably more due to circumstance and need for a pitcher above anything else.
In short, Tarpley is just another arm for the bullpen on any middling team. To the Marlins, he could become a serious threat with his sinker, slider, and curveball combo. But, to the Yankees he was nothing short of trade bait, a player without a true role.
Given a 13-player complete pitching staff, with 5 spots going to starting pitching, Tarpley was near the 10th spot in terms of priority, maybe above Albert Abreu and/or Brooks Kriske.
What’d the Yankees Get in James Nelson?
As with Tarpley, there isn’t much to say that will make people excited about this move. Nor was this move intended to build hype into the farm system. It was a trade that allowed the Yankees to get some value out of a player they were set to lose anyway, and a trade that allowed the Marlins to get another piece to add to a middling bullpen on a middling team.
The 22-year old 3B spent his age 21 season at Class A Advanced (A+) in the Florida League, where he hit to a 0.228/0.279/0.296 (0.575 OPS) triple-slash with 4 HR’s and 36 RBI’s over 121 games. If you look at this and like to think his value comes because of defense, think again as in 2019 he had a 0.886 Fielding Percentage, committing 35 errors in 996.0 innings at 3B- or 1 error in just over every 3 games.
Like I said with Stephen Tarpley, I don’t like to bash baseball players. Guys who don’t make it out of rookie ball have exponentially more talent than I ever had at baseball and I can only dream of possessing that talent. However, it is my job to honestly critique them. Unfortunately for Nelson, it appears as though he has very little to critique because so little is written about him, his game, and his toolset.
Even Nelson’s Baseball America page has videos that instead of highlighting his skills, show RHP Jhoan Duran (Minnesota Twins), a video from 2018 of OF/1B Alex Krilloff (Minnesota Twins), and Part 1 of a Tim Tebow (New York Mets) press conference.
If there is one thing to say about Nelson that is positive, is that he’ll stick around in the field.
Since he got drafted in 2016 in the 15th Round by the Miami Marlins- then going by Ryan Nelson, his middle name- he has only landed on the IL twice, both for periods of time less than 15 days. Once in 2017 with a Left Hamstring spasm and once in 2018 with an undisclosed injury.
Nelson’s 2017 campaign did earn him honors across the Miami Marlins organization, as he hit to a 0.309/0.354/0.456 (0.810 OPS) with 7 HR’s and 59 RBI’s in 102 games as a 19-year-old in A Ball Greensboro, which earned Nelson organizational, league, and postseason All-Star honors.
The hope is that the Yankees can tap into this potential again and revive a player who has had a poor two seasons after a bump-up in league play. He’ll be just a hair short of being a league average player by age as a Class A+ player in 2020, but if he finds his game he had at Class-A ball again in 2020, a jump to Double-A isn’t out of the question.
Honestly, if this is the last of James Nelson that I hear, I wouldn’t be surprised. But, Brian Cashman and his staff have earned the benefit of the doubt, that I wouldn’t be completely surprised to see him start to appear on Yankees Top-30 prospects lists in due time.