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Wheeler's rights sold to Rakuten as Yanks make moves

Austin, Williams among four prospects protected from Rule 5 Draft
MLB.com @BryanHoch

The Yankees sold the rights of infielder Zelous Wheeler to the Japanese Pacific League's Rakuten Golden Eagles on Thursday, one of several moves they made before the 11:59 p.m. ET deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 11.

New York also added outfielders Tyler Austin and Mason Williams and right-handers Danny Burawa and Branden Pinder to the 40-man roster, which now stands at 38.

The Yankees sold the rights of infielder Zelous Wheeler to the Japanese Pacific League's Rakuten Golden Eagles on Thursday, one of several moves they made before the 11:59 p.m. ET deadline to protect prospects from the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 11.

New York also added outfielders Tyler Austin and Mason Williams and right-handers Danny Burawa and Branden Pinder to the 40-man roster, which now stands at 38.

"I think they were all layups for various reasons," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "We added who we felt we had to add. You'd prefer that you didn't have to add anybody and guarantee that you'd get them back, but that wasn't the case with any one of these guys."

The Yankees received $350,000 in exchange for Wheeler, 27, who signed as a Minor League free agent with the Yankees last November and began the year at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before making his big league debut on July 3.

In 29 games at third base, left field and right field for New York, Wheeler went 11-for-57 (.193) with two home runs and five RBIs. Cashman said that the Wheeler transaction was in the works for about three weeks.

"They expressed interest and we thought through it, and you have to get the player involved," Cashman said. "He is excited. I think he's got the right temperament for Japan and I think their fans are going to love him."

Austin is ranked as the Yankees' No. 15 prospect by MLB.com. The 23-year-old spent this season at Double-A Trenton and hit .275/.336/.419 with nine homers and 47 RBIs. He improved to .336 after the All-Star break and also hit .304 during a recent 19-game stint in the Arizona Fall League.

Video: Tyler Austin overcomes injuries and performs in 2014

Williams, the No. 17 prospect, also spent the year at Trenton, but the 23-year-old struggled, hitting .223/.290/.304 with five homers and 21 stolen bases.

Burawa, 25, split his season between Double-A and Triple-A, posting a 4.70 ERA in 59 1/3 innings spread over 42 relief appearances. He struck out 73, but also walked 30.

Pinder, also 25, played for the same two affiliates, as well as the Yankees' Gulf Coast League affiliate. He produced a 2.04 ERA in 39 2/3 innings across 29 appearances, including four starts. Pinder walked nine while striking out 37.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and read his MLBlog, Bombers Beat.

 

New York Yankees, Zelous Wheeler