Mailbag: Harper, Iwakuma, Davis, Draft, Holland, Fister

Pretty big mailbag this week. Twelve questions and some of the answers are longer than usual too. You can email us questions, comments, links, guest post pitches, or anything else at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

Harper. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)
Harper. (Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Many asked: What would it take to acquire Bryce Harper?

I had a feeling this was coming after the Harper-Jonathan Papelbon spat. The Nationals are a total mess right now and I can’t imagine Harper’s recent comments are sitting well with the brain trust — “I’ve got three more years to play at Nationals Park,” he said to Chase Hughes before saving himself with “and hopefully many more” — but they’d be stupid to trade him. Harper can’t request a trade either. He has no recourse.

Anyway, let’s answer this as a hypothetical. Harper will turn 23 later this month and he’s wrapping up one of the best offensive seasons in history. The kid went into last night’s game hitting .331/.463/.649 (197 wRC+) with 41 home runs. I mean, good grief. Harper also grades out as a strong defender, and although the Nationals have done their best to sully his reputation, Harper plays extremely hard. (Jeff Passan recently dug into Statcast data to show Harper has one of the fastest average times to first base, so yes, he does hustle.) He plays too hard, if anything. He’s hurt himself with aggressive slides and crashing into walls.

Even though he’s only 23, Harper is wrapping up his fourth MLB season and will be a free agent after 2018. You’re acquiring three years of him. Agent Scott Boras surely wants to get Harper out onto the open market at age 26 so he can smash contract records. What are three years of a soon-to-be 23-year-old megastar worth? There actually is a trade we can reference: Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera was about to turn 25 and also three years from free agency when he was traded from the Marlins to the Tigers. Not an exact comparison but close enough.

To get Cabrera, the Tigers gave up two top ten prospects in Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin — that’s top ten in all of baseball, not just the organization — and four other prospects, plus they took on the expensive years of declining Dontrelle Willis. There is some precedent for a young player this good being traded, but the key difference between Harper and Miggy is their team. The Nationals are not looking to shed money like the Marlins were. There’s no urgency to move him.

I’m not sure the Yankees can out together a package good enough to get Harper. Luis Severino plus Aaron Judge plus Dellin Betances ain’t gonna get it done. Who else can they add to sweeten that pot? Didi Gregorius? Michael Pineda? If the Nationals put Harper out there, they’d get better offers, I’m sure. Would the Dodgers say no to Corey Seager and Julio Urias plus other stuff? I doubt it. Harper is truly a once in a generation talent.

Jonathan asks: Assuming the Yankees at the very least have a second wildcard spot, do you think we should consider this an extremely successful year? Considering the age of the team, the injury risks, I did not think this was a potential playoff team. Do you think the Yankees fan base, at the end of the year, can finally be happy about a team that didn’t win the World Series?

Nah, Yankees fans are never happy unless they win the World Series. Fans of every team are like that, really. I didn’t expect the Yankees to contend coming into the season — I thought they were more likely to devolve into major ugliness on the field than contend — yet here they are. So yes, they have exceeded expectations. At the same time, blowing a seven-game lead in the AL East is very disappointing. Success is relative. I’d consider this season a success based on preseason expectations but I can also see the other side of the argument too.

Iwakuma. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
Iwakuma. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Dean asks: Aside from Davis Price, how about other free agent options, like Jordan Zimmerman (likely gets qualifying offer) or Hisashi Iwakuma? Less cash outlay, but less pitcher.

Zimmermann’s definitely getting a qualifying offer but that’s no big deal. He’s very good — a 3.66 ERA (3.76 FIP) in 201.2 innings this season is considered a down year for Zimmermann — and giving up a first round pick for a pitcher of his caliber is no problem. Zimmermann seems headed for five years and $100M+. For some reason I think he winds up somewhere unexpected, with the Brewers or Mariners or something. No idea why, just a hunch. Either way, I don’t expect the Yankees to shell out $20M+ annually for a pitcher on a long-term deal this winter.

Iwakuma is a different story and I think the Yankees could make a serious run at him. He turns 35 in April, so he won’t require a long-term deal, and he has a 3.22 ERA (3.54 FIP) in 106.1 innings since coming back from his lat strain. That’s right in line with last year (3.52 ERA and 3.25 FIP). Iwakuma has three things the Yankees love: a swing-and-miss pitch (splitter), a super low walk rate (career 4.9%), and Grade-A competitiveness. The scouting reports on Iwakuma coming out of Japan said he was a total bulldog, and we’ve seen that in his time here.

Convincing Iwakuma to come to the East Coast might not be easy — those trips home to Japan are much quicker from Seattle than they would be from New York — especially since new Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has said keeping Iwakuma is a top priority. I could see the Yankees going after Iwakuma and looking to overpay on a one or two-year deal. Say $18M annually or so. That’s basically what they did with Hiroki Kuroda. That’s the kind of pitching deal I think they’re pursue this winter.

Mark asks: Do you think the Yankees will erect a monument to Yogi Berra next season? Seems like a fitting tribute to an American icon who transcended baseball with his heroic service in WWII and countless charitable acts. I know he already has a plaque in Monument Park, but it seems to me he deserves special recognition as a legend among legends.

Yes, I believe it’s very possible. There are six monuments in Monument Park: Miller Huggins, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and George Steinbrenner. All of them were decided posthumously within a year of their death except for Huggins, the first monument. His came three years later. Yogi is one of the best players in franchise history, one of the best catchers in baseball history, and someone who used his fame for the betterment of others. That’s monument worthy for me. Berra is an all-time great both on and off the field. Those guys gets monuments.

Joe asks: Would you pitch CC Sabathia who has been pitching great since coming off the DL in the one game wild card game so that you have Masahiro Tanaka for two games in the ALDS?

Sabathia is forever cool with me but no way. I know Tanaka had a rough first inning the other night, but I chalk that up to rust. He’s the guy I want on the mound in the winner-take-all game. It has nothing to do with his contract at all. I trust Tanaka more than anyone on the staff. Severino’s been great! But he’s also 21 years old with ten starts under his belt. I know Sabathia pitched well last night and since coming off the DL, but I don’t want him on the mound in a must win game if Tanaka is available.

Brandon asks: Do you ever see the MLB changing their trading of all draft picks policy, and if so do you think the Yankees would be one of the teams more willing to move draft picks or less willing? For example would they have considered trading their first round pick this year instead of a Severino or Bird?

I do see it changing eventually. I’m not sure if they’ll allow pick trading in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (expires after 2016), but I think it’ll happen at some point. Right now only the Competitive Balance Lottery picks can be traded. I think eventually MLB will realize pick trading will create more interest in the draft and come up with a system. Make only the top two or three rounds tradeable. Something like that.

The Competitive Balance picks seem to have little trade value. They’ve been dealt for middle relievers or kicked in as the third piece in a multi-player package. I absolutely think the Yankees would have been more willing to trade their first rounder than a prospect like Severino or Greg Bird, who were close to MLB at the time of the trade deadline. The pick is effectively a low level prospect still several years away from the show, and a lot can go wrong between now and then. Severino and Bird have way more trade value given their proximity to MLB. My guess is a bunch of first round picks would be traded each year. Actual players already in your system are more valuable.

Davis. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
Davis. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Nathan asks: Would you try and sign Chris Davis this offseason? I know there is no position for him and he may not age well, but isn’t the possibility of 40-50 HRs worth a possible 3-4 deal?

The no position thing is kind of a big deal, right? Davis couldn’t play first (Mark Teixeira and Bird), couldn’t DH (Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran, Teixeira, Bird), and couldn’t even play right field (Beltran). I guess the Yankees could stick him at third base — Davis has started 85 career games at the hot corner — but that seems … unwise. Davis can hit 40+ homers anywhere with his power. Yankee Stadium might not help him much because most of his homers are bombs. Davis is going to get paid. He’s another $20M+ a year guy. I think people are going to end up shocked at Davis’ contract come this winter. Power pays. I just can’t see the Yankees spending big for another first base/DH type.

Owen asks: Given Aaron Judge’s struggles at AAA, would it be more realistic to see him called up around July rather than April next year?

Yes, definitely. Had Judge mashed at Triple-A this year, we’d be wondering how they get him in the lineup next year. That didn’t happen though, so another couple hundred at-bats in Triple-A are in the cards. No big deal. Development isn’t linear. Let him go back to Triple-A, make some adjustments, and if he earns a midseason call-up, great. That plan works for me.

Jacob asks: Should the Yanks go after Greg Holland if the Royals non tender him? What kind of contract would he get?

In a weird way the Royals are probably slightly relieved Holland got hurt. They can’t afford two $8M+ relievers given their modest payroll, so chances are they were going to have move either Holland or Wade Davis this winter. Holland’s injury makes it an easy call. Don’t get me wrong, they’d rather have Holland healthy for the postseason, but that’s not possible.

Anyway, the Royals will non-tender Holland this winter and I think he’ll re-sign with the team on a small-ish two-year deal. He’s having his Tommy John surgery today, so even if Holland comes back ahead of schedule next year, you’re still only getting a handful of innings. You have to lock him up for 2017 as well to get some kind of return. (Holland will qualify for free agency after 2016, so a one-year deal means he’s gone next winter.)

I could see something like two years and $8M working for Holland. Give him $2M next season while he rehabs, then $6M in 2017. Throw in a bunch of incentives too. If the Yankees can get Holland on a deal like that this offseason, great, go for it. Relatively low-risk move. Holland probably ends up staying with the Royals if he agrees to a deal like that though. That’s the only organization he’s ever known.

Holland. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Holland. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Dana asks: What do you think about the Yankees signing Doug Fister in the offseason? His price will be reasonable after a down year, and he has a history of success. I trust him more than I do Ivan Nova.

Coming into the season, I thought the Yankees were going to be all over Fister this offseason. He’s been really good over the years, he’s super tall (6-foot-8), and the Yankees drafted him once upon a time (sixth round in 2005), so he might still has some fans in the organization. Fister was so bad this year he had to be moved to the bullpen (4.60 ERA and 4.64 FIP in 15 starts), and there’s also this:

Doug Fister VelocityFister was never a big stuff guy, he succeeded with location and a deep arsenal, but he’s now living in the 86-88 mph range with his heater. That’s not good. Velocity isn’t everything but it’s not nothing either. It’s not a coincidence Fister’s gotten smacked around this year. He has less margin for error.

Whether it’s age-related decline (he’ll be 32 in February) or something else (injury?), that’s a worrisome trend, and I don’t think it’s a guarantee Fister returns to being even league average without finding some more velocity. He seems to be headed for the Justin Masterson contract. A one-year, $9M-ish he can’t possibly be that bad again deal. Fister is worth a longer post in the offseason. My abbreviated mailbag answer is stay away.

Bill asks: Say in the wildcard game the yanks face a tough lefty like Keuchel, you think Joe Girardi goes with Young over Ellsbury or Gardner? Young hasn’t hit lefties much lately and can’t imagine sitting either one of Brett or Jacoby in a winner take all.

No. I think Girardi will go with his best lineup in the wildcard game regardless of who is on the mound. That means both Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, Brian McCann instead of John Ryan Murphy, and Dustin Ackley over Rob Refsnyder. All things considered, Chris Young did a great job as the fourth outfielder this year. Murphy and Refsnyder have fared well while getting the platoon advantage all the damn time. I just think in a winner-take-all game, you have to go with your best players, and I think Girardi feels the same way as well.

Travis asks: Could a case be made to protect Dietrich Enns (a LHP with good MiLB numbers who could possibly stick as a LOOGY in MLB), Chaz Hebert (a LHP who had success in a SSS of 3 starts at AAA, but otherwise hasnt pitched above A+) and Rookie Davis (a hard throwing RHP who ended in AA).

All three players are Rule 5 Draft eligible and Davis will definitely be added to the 40-man roster. He’s one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, and his fastball/curveball/improved command combo gives him a chance to stick in MLB as a reliever in 2016 should the Yankees leave him unprotected. Enns and Hebert are probably going to get lost in the numbers crunch. (Hebert is going to the Arizona Fall League, so maybe the Yankees are considering adding him to the 40-man and want a longer look. Or maybe they’re auditioning him for a trade.) Spots on the 40-man will be at a premium this year and I think those two are on the outside looking in. The Yankees figure to lose a decent player or two in the Rule 5 Draft this winter. So it goes. You can’t keep everyone.

Mailbag: Peraza, Wildcard, Cherington, Bird, Clarkin, Jeter

Got eleven questions for you in the mailbag this week. Send any and all questions to us at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com throughout the week.

Peraza. (Presswire)
Peraza. (Presswire)

Michael asks: What would it take to acquire Jose Peraza? Are their any similar 2b prospects that might be available this offseason?

Peraza was traded from the Braves to the Dodgers at the trade deadline, but we can’t use that to estimate his trade value because it was a massive 13-player, three-team trade involving established big leaguers (Matt Latos, Alex Wood, Jim Johnson, Mike Morse), a big money Cuban player (Hector Olivera), and other prospects. Peraza is only 21 and he didn’t hit much in Triple-A this summer (94 wRC+), though he’s still young with a ton of speed and legitimate middle infield defensive chops, meaning he’s a top 100 caliber prospect.

The Dodgers are a win now team, and even with Corey Seager looking like a future superstar, they’ll still have a middle infield opening next season because Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, and Chase Utley are all set to become free agents. Peraza could be penciled as the starting second baseman. I doubt Los Angeles would be interested in a prospect for prospect swap. They’ll want an actual big leaguer. One year of Ivan Nova doesn’t seem like enough — I’d want more if I were the Dodgers — but what about two years of Michael Pineda for Peraza plus more? I’m not saying I’d do it, but that is probably the kind of deal we’re talking about.

As far as similar second base prospects … there really aren’t any. There are very few actual second base prospects in baseball to begin with. The vast majority of big league second basemen are ex-shortstops.’s top 100 prospects list includes only four second basemen: Peraza, Red Sox 2B Yoan Moncada, Pirates 2B Alen Hansen, and Rockies 2B Forrest Wall. That’s it. It might be a while until the Yankees are able to find a long-term solution at second. Not many exist.

Dan asks: In a one game playoff against the Astros, how well do you think the Yankees would do against Dallas Keuchel? Seems like a nearly impossible task.

The impossible task is predicting what will happen in a random baseball game. Keuchel has been incredible this season (2.51 ERA and 2.90 FIP) and yes, he has destroyed the Yankees in his two starts against New York (16 scoreless innings), but that means nothing come the wildcard game. Anything can happen in any given game. That doesn’t make me feel any better about the Yankees possibly facing Keuchel, I’d rather them not face one of the ten best pitchers in baseball in a winner-take-all game, but it’s not a guaranteed loss either. Masahiro Tanaka is pretty good too, you know. Keuchel’s excellent and there are many reasons to believe runs would be at a premium should the Yankees face him in the wildcard game. How you or I feel doesn’t really matter.

Keuchel. (Presswire)
Keuchel. (Presswire)

Brad asks: Say the Yankees wrap up the first wild card berth, but there is a multiple team tie behind them for the second wild card. Houston, Minnesota, Cleveland and LA are all within 3 games of each other in the loss column. How would a 3 or 4 team tie in that scenario play out?

As long as the Yankees aren’t involved, I’m rooting for the second wildcard spot to come down to total chaos. Give me a big three or four-team tie and lots of tired players and pitchers down the stretch. Here’s what the rules say about three and four-team tiebreaker scenarios for the wildcard spot:

Three-Club Tie for One Wild Card Spot:
After Clubs have been assigned their A, B and C designations, Club A would host Club B. The winner of the game would then host Club C to determine the Wild Card Club.

Four-Club Tie for One Wild Card Spot:
After Clubs have been assigned their A, B, C and D designations, Club A would host Club B and Club C would host Club D. The winners of each of those games would then meet, hosted by the winner of the game between Club A and Club B, to determine the Wild Card Club.

The Team A, B, C, and D designations are based on head-to-head records and intradivision records and stuff like that. Click the link for the full explanation if you’re interested. It’s rather complicated. In the three-team scenario, you want to be Team C because you only have to win one tiebreaker game to win the wildcard spot. In the four-team scenario, it doesn’t matter. You have to win two tiebreaker games to win the wildcard spot no matter what. The Yankees are in great shape to claim the first wildcard spot, so feel free to join me in rooting for a massive tie for the second spot. I am forever on Team Chaos.

Bob asks: I read where Jorge Mateo will be playing in the Instructional League this fall as a second baseman. A few weeks ago, the Yankees named several of their top prospects for the Arizona Fall League. What is the difference between the Instructional League and the Arizona Fall League and what determines which prospects are assigned to these fall leagues?

The caliber of competition is much greater in the AzFL. It is mostly Double-A and Triple-A players there. Also some rehabbing big leaguers too. Instructional League is for players newest to pro ball like recent draftees and international signees. The youngest prospects, basically. Also, the coaching staffs in the AzFL are pieced together from different organizations. Instructional League is run by your coaches. The Yankees could have sent Mateo to the AzFL if they wanted — each organization can send one player who’s yet to play above Single-A — but then he’d be working on a new position with coaches from other organizations in actual games. Instructs are much more informal. He could get as much help as he needs from people working for the Yankees.

Ram asks: Is Jim Hendry still with the organization? If not, do you think Ben Cherington would ever be interested in that type of position? I know he doesn’t want to be a GM next year and the man’s incredibly well respected.

Hendry is still in the organization as a special advisor to Brian Cashman. He’s been with the Yankees since February 2012, a few months after being fired as Cubs GM. Hendry’s time as Cubs GM didn’t go well, but he’s very well-respected for his scouting acumen and is definitely a front office asset. In fact, he reportedly led negotiations with Scott Boras for first round pick James Kaprielian this summer.

Jon Heyman recently reported Cherington turned down an opportunity to interview for the Mariners GM job and is looking to spend time away from full-time GM work, so a special advisor role could suit him well. The Red Sox have been a disaster the last two years and most of the last five years, but Cherington’s a very bright dude who was a huge part of Boston’s success from 2004-13. (He was there before Theo Epstein). If he’s open to an advisory role, the Yankees should try to scoop him up. The more smart people in the front office, the better. (Especially with assistant GM Billy Eppler possibly on his way out this winter.)

Mike asks: Can you guys explain the playoff seeding? If the Yankees don’t overtake the Blue Jays and wind up having to play the Astros or Rangers in a play-in game, let’s pretend for a second that they win that game. The Yanks will still likely have a better record than whoever comes out of the AL West. So, in that case, who do they draw for the ALDS?

The winner of the wildcard game will play the team with the best record in the AL no matter what. Right now that’s the Royals but the Blue Jays are within striking distance and could pass them before the end of the season. It wouldn’t matter if the Yankees have a better record than the AL West division champ. Wildcard game winner plays the team with the best record in the league. Even if they’re in the same division. (The Yankees and Orioles played in the 2012 ALDS after the O’s won the wildcard game, remember.) Toronto is firing on all cylinders right now and I’d rather not see the Yankees face them in a best-of-five ALDS. Go Royals, I guess.

Bird. (Presswire)
Bird. (Presswire)

Samuel asks: After Tuesday’s game winning blast, can we reasonably say that Greg Bird has equaled or possibly even surpassed the production that we would have expected from Tex? (Offensively)

I think that’s fair. Bird went into last night’s game hitting .256/.333/.552 (139 wRC+) with ten homers in 35 games for the Yankees since being called up. Mark Teixeira hit .255/.357/.548 (143 wRC+) with 31 homers in 111 games before getting hurt, including .295/.378/.610 (169 wRC+) with nine homers in 29 games after the All-Star break. I don’t think Teixeira would have put up a 169 wRC+ for the entire second half, but I suppose it’s possible. Bird’s production has come mighty close to what we could have realistically expected from Teixeira down the stretch — Teixeira almost certainly would have walked more and struck out less — though I wouldn’t say he’s exceeded it. Defensively there’s no comparison, obviously. Teixeira has few peers in the field. Bird has been very good since coming up. The Yankees haven’t suffered much if at all offensively at first base following Teixeira’s injury.

Frank asks: Ian Clarkin. Did the Yanks somewhat deliberately not activate him this year so to not add to his time accumulation for team control?  If so, was it possible his injury may have been significantly less severe?

No. There’s no benefit to sitting out the year. It changes nothing. Clarkin will still be Rule 5 Draft eligible (2017-18 offseason) and minor league free agency eligible (2019-20 offseason) at the same time regardless of the injury. It also has no bearing on his big league arbitration or free agency eligibility either. There’s zero benefit to Clarkin sitting out the season, on the field or otherwise. Players that age and that stage of their development need innings. There’s no conspiracy there based on years of team control or anything. The injury doesn’t change that at all.

R.J. asks: If the Yankees end up in the wildcard, would you consider  (if you were manager) using your pitchers like an all-star game where Tanaka pitches 2 innings, Pineda 1 or 2, Sevy 1, CC 1 and bridge it to Dellin and Miller? Tanaka wouldn’t throw 80-100 pitches and he’ll be able to pitch say game 2 or 3 rather than game 4. Plus if throws a managers lineup off when CC comes in.

No, definitely not. I’m not a fan of using a “bullpen game” in a winner-take-all wildcard game at all. The more pitchers you use, the more likely you are to run into someone who just doesn’t have it that day, and that’s especially true when you’re talking about bringing starters out of the bullpen. Pineda, Luis Severino, and CC Sabathia have basically zero bullpen experience in their careers, remember. (They have 18 combined relief appearances in their careers, 13 from Pineda in rookie ball.) Give me a full start from Tanaka. I trust him implicitly. He just needs to get them through five innings in the wildcard game before Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller come into play, and Tanaka is capable of doing that and much more.

The Cap'n. (Presswire)
The Cap’n. (Presswire)

Adam asks: Now that Yogi is gone, who is the Greatest Living Yankee? I guess it’s Jeter, with honorable mention to Whitey Ford.

Derek Jeter for me. Jeter followed by Ford followed by Mariano Rivera. After that you have Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Alex Rodriguez, Willie Randolph, and Ron Guidry in some order. You could do this the boring way with WAR — based on bWAR, it would be Jeter (71.8) followed by Rivera (56.6), A-Rod (55.8), Ford (53.6), and Pettitte (51.6) — but anytime you’re talking about the “greatest living” player, I think there’s an unquantifiable “star” factor that has to be considered. Jeter wasn’t just a great player on the field, he was a mega-star in New York and at the center of a Yankees dynasty. Ford was part of a long-running dynasty too — he has six World Series rings, you know — and while I wasn’t alive in his era, I have a hard time believing he was popular as Jeter. Jeter is on the short list of the most popular athletes in New York sports history. That combined with his on-field production makes him the Great Living Yankee in my opinion.

Tom asks: Would you be in favor of a rule, that is reviewable, if a ground rule double is hit with a man on first and the runner has touched 3rd base before the ball goes over the fence the runner scores?

Yes, absolutely. We see ground-rule doubles cost teams run all the time — especially when there are two outs and the runner is going on contact — and it would be nice to have a way to correct that. The umpires are actually allowed to let the runner score if they feel he would have scored on the play, but they never call it. I don’t remember seeing it once. These types of plays could be tricky but the third base bag gives you a very nice back-and-white reference point. Did he touch the bag before the ball goes over the wall? If yes, then he scores. If not, he doesn’t score. Nice and easy. No judgement involved, just the hard yes or no answer based on visual evidence.

Mailbag: Eovaldi, Tanaka, Cashner, Pirela, 40-Man, Braun

Got a dozen questions and eleven answers in this week’s mailbag. You can send us questions at any time by emailing RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. Did you know you can copy and paste the email address into Gmail as is, and it’ll automatically convert the (at) and (dot) into the appropriate symbols for you? True fact.

(Steven Ryan/Getty)
(Steven Ryan/Getty)

Wyatt asks: Whats your take on Nathan Eovaldi in the pen in the playoffs? The trio of Eovaldi-Betances-Miller has the potential to be nasty at the back end of the bullpen.

Paul asks: Let’s say Eovaldi comes back in best-case-scenario fashion. I’m assuming he would still be legitimately considered (and likely a favorite) for a postseason rotation spot? There wouldn’t be concerns about building up his pitch count after such a short period away, right?

Going to lump these two together. The best case scenario for Eovaldi is still not pitching at all during the regular season. The plan was two weeks of rest plus a two-week throwing program, which puts him on target for a return right at the start of the ALDS, basically. I can’t imagine the Yankees would plug Eovaldi into their postseason rotation fresh off his throwing program, with no tune-up appearances. Like half the rotation would have to get hurt for that to happen.

For that reason, I think Eovaldi’s destined for the bullpen in the postseason, should the Yankees get beyond the wildcard game. He might only be a one-inning reliever after missing a month too. Eovaldi out of the bullpen could be really crazy. The guy averaged 99.01 mph with his fastball in August. As a starter. What’s he going throw in relief? 105? In all seriousness, Eovaldi airing out in one-inning bursts could be a major lift in the middle innings, assuming there is no lingering impact from his elbow issue, which is always a big if. It’s hard to see how the Yankees could work him back into the rotation given his current timetable.

Matt asks: With the whole Yankee rotation under contract for next season, what would you think about the Yankees signing a big free agent like David Price and having Masahiro Tanaka opt for surgery this off season? It will eliminate his ticking time-bomb of an elbow and give them a substantial replacement. Then when Tanaka comes back the rotation will be thinned out. I’d rather see Tanaka get the surgery in the off season then need it in the middle of a playoff race.

No! No surgery until the doctors say Tanaka needs the surgery! The doctors all said Tanaka’s elbow was sound and healthy enough to pitch late last year, he’s pitched with it all season and done really well, so why fix what isn’t broken? Sure, the elbow might give out at some point, perhaps in the middle of a postseason race, but that’s true of every pitcher ever. If the plan is to sign someone like Price, wouldn’t you want Price and Tanaka in the rotation at the same time? Besides, the Yankees can’t make Tanaka have the surgery. It’s his call. Same way your employer can’t force you to have surgery. General rule of thumb: say no unnecessary surgery. Josh Johnson is a pretty great Tommy John surgery cautionary tale.

Noah asks: Keep up the great work with the site! My question is simply why do you often only say the standings in terms of the losses rather than just overall games behind. I also hear announcers often put more emphasis on the loss column than the win column. Why is that?

During the season, the loss column does the best job explaining the gap between two teams in the standings because you can’t take away losses. You can always add wins, but losses are there to stay. The win column and loss column all mean the same thing after Game 162, but during the season the loss column tells you exactly how many games you need to make up. Overall games behind is fine too, but it adds half-games and those are annoying. I prefer the straight up loss column. Tells you exactly far behind you really are. The Yankees are three behind the Blue Jays in the loss column. That means Toronto has to lose at least four more games than New York the rest of the way for the Yankees to win the division outright. See how easy that is?

(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
(Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Matt asks: As much as I’d love for the Yankees to go after David Price in the offseason, something tells me they won’t spend the money. One alternative could be Andrew Cashner after all the rumors about moving him this summer. What kind of package would it take to get him?

Cashner will be a free agent after next season and to me is very similar to Jeff Samardzija in that he’s more stuff and hype than results. People keep waiting for the inner-ace to emerge but it hasn’t happened, and at this point it’s unlikely to happen. That doesn’t mean Cashner is bad though. He’s a fine big leaguer. One year of Samardzija netted a package of four okay players last winter, but a) A’s GM Billy Beane has made some weird trades lately, and b) Samardzija has been way way waaay more durable than Cashner in his career, so the price should for Cashner should be lower. Three decent to good prospects seems like a fair asking price. That’s what the Rangers gave up Yovani Gallardo, for example. One of the lefty hitting outfielders, one of the Triple-A relievers, and a mid-range prospect like Rookie Davis or Bryan Mitchell for one season of Cashner? That seem in the ballpark?

Luke asks: I know he can’t stay healthy, but how about Slade Heathcott as the 4th OF next year? Chris Young has been excellent but you have to think he finds a 2-3 year deal elsewhere next year. If not Heathcott, what are the odds they stay in-house with their OF depth for that 4th spot?

In a vacuum, Heathcott or Mason Williams would be a fine fourth outfielder next season. I wouldn’t have a problem with the Yankees going that route. That said, this isn’t a vacuum, and the Yankees kinda need a right-handed hitting fourth outfielder because both Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury are lefties, and Carlos Beltran is a switch-hitter with much better numbers against righties. The team needs to add some balance to the roster and a righty hitting fourth outfielder is one way to do that. Heathcott, Williams, and Ben Gamel are all at a disadvantage because they’re lefties. A righty hitter makes a lot more sense for the roster.

Greg asks: Assuming that the Yankees actually do add a left fielder (Jason Heyward, Heathcott etc.) and try to flip Gardner for an answer at second base, is there anyone out there that is a equal 1 for 1 swap? A second baseman that is both somewhat young (around 30) and under team control for the next few years?

Not really. Gardner is signed for three more years and there are a lot more outfielders like him than there are quality second baseman signed for two or three more seasons. Brandon Phillips would be one, but hell no. We’ve discussed him ad nauseam. Danny Espinosa is under team control through 2017 and a Gardner-Espinosa swap might actually be fair given the difference in salaries. That assumes Espinosa really is back to where he was from 2011-12, before all his injuries, however. Logan Forsythe is also under control through 2017, but I don’t see why the Rays would trade him for Gardner. There’s really no good fit. Quality second baseman are very hard to find. The Yankees could easily be stuck cycling through stopgaps for another few years before a long-term answer comes along.

Justin asks: Can Jose Pirela be the heir to the Chris Young righty bat off the bench?

It’s possible, sure. I think the Yankees are more likely to bring in a veteran righty bench bat though. That seems to be their thing. I also think they’re more likely to look for the next Chris Young than bring back the actual Chris Young at an inflated price. Pirela has nice numbers against southpaws in his MLB career but his swing suggests he should never face righties — the kid takes an off-balance hack at everything, it seems — plus he’s not good in the field regardless of position. Versatility is nice, but only if the player can actually play solid defense. Pirela would have to crush lefties to have any value to the Yankees. I think he’s going to end up going up and down as an extra utility man next season. Handing him a bench job in camp or even letting him compete for the fourth outfielder’s job seems like something the Yankees wouldn’t do.

Eric asks: Would missing the playoffs change the Yankees offseason plan? Yes, many players under contract for next year complicates the roster but certainty 3 straight years of no playoff revenue may change the front offices mind?

I’m sure it would. How could it not? Three straight years with no postseason is a very big deal around these parts. Hal Steinbrenner is a very rational guy, he’s not like his father when it comes to baseball, so I don’t think missing the postseason would mean radical changes. Maybe they’re more aggressive signing a free agent or trading prospects, but would they really do some thing drastic? It seems unlikely. I think both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi are safe at this point, and I expect the Yankees to stick with their current plan, whatever it may be.

Joe asks: What about the upcoming 40-man roster crunch? (Sorry Joe, had to shorten the question.)

Moreno. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Moreno. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

The Yankees currently have 46 players on the 40-man roster when you include the 60-day DL guys (Mason Williams, Chase Whitley, Sergio Santos, Diego Moreno, Jacob Lindgren, Domingo German), and they only have three players due to become free agents after the season (Chris Capuano, Stephen Drew, Chris Young). That assumes Brendan Ryan exercises his $1M player option. So yeah, the 40-man is pretty full.

Looking at the roster, I’d say the following players are most at risk of losing their 40-man spot in the offseason: Andrew Bailey, Chris Martin, Austin Romine, Rico Noel, Santos, Moreno, and Ryan. (The Yankees could drop Ryan even if he picks up his option, but they’d still owe him the money and would need a new shortstop-capable backup infielder to replace him.) Remember, there is no DL in the offseason, so those 60-day DL players will have to be activated right after the end of the World Series.

The Yankees have some quality prospects set to be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter — Ben Gamel, Jake Cave, Rookie Davis, Tony Renda, and Johnny Barbato are the most notable now that Greg Bird and James Pazos were already added to the 40-man — so most of those open 40-man roster spot will be filled soon. I wonder if the Yankees will try to clear space with a reverse Manny Banuelos trade, meaning deal two young relievers for one prospect, or something like that. Space on the 40-man figures to be tight this winter. Then again, that always seems to be the case.

Craig asks: Rookie Davis. What are your thoughts on him? Any chance we see him in 2016?

I think it’s possible we’ll see him next season. Like I said, Davis is Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, so he’s going to be on the 40-man roster, plus he’ll start next season with Double-A Trenton. Whenever a guy is that close, you have to think of him as a big league option later in the season. Davis looks like he rolled off the pitching prospect assembly line — 6-foot-5, 245 lbs., low-to-mid-90s heater, hammer curve, decent changeup … a scout’s dream — and he made some huge strides with his command this season. There’s a little Shane Greene in him, in that he was a big stuff/bad command guy who just figured it out one year. If we do see Davis in 2016, it’ll be in the second half, and I’d be surprised if he had a Severino-esque impact right away. His real coming party is likely scheduled for 2017.

Matt asks: If the Brewers really do want to trade Ryan Braun, how interesting would a Ellsbury-Braun swap be? Braun could play left while Gardner slides back to center. It would be especially interesting if we could get Wily Peralta included in there as well, eh?

Braun has had a great bounceback year — he went into last night’s game hitting .291/.361/.509 (133 wRC+) with 25 homers — now that his hand is finally healthy, but he’s basically a DH at this point, and another DH is the last thing the Yankees need. The money is a wash — Braun has five years and $105M left on his contract after this season, Ellsbury five years and $110M — so this would be a pure baseball swap.

Are the Yankees better off with Braun and his baggage or Ellsbury? I think you could argue both sides very strongly. (I don’t see why the Brewers would kick in Peralta though.) Even with his performance-enhancing drug issues, Braun is still crazy popular in Milwaukee and helps the Brewers push their brand. That has real value to the team. Ellsbury wouldn’t offer that at all. There’s no connection to him. I think the Yankees have way to many DH candidates already on the roster and in the upper levels of the minors (Gary Sanchez, Eric Jagielo, even Greg Bird) to make that swap. If the Yankees can trade Ellsbury this winter, I think they should, but I’m not sure a bad contract for bad contract swap for Braun is the best way to go about it.

Mailbag: Harvey, Didi, Rotation, Bird, Cano, Hall of Fame

Nine questions and eight answers in this week’s mailbag. The “For The Mailbag” form is gone now, so to send us questions, just email us at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. The pickin’s were pretty slim this week. About half the submissions were some form of this week’s first question.

Harvey. (Presswire)
Harvey. (Presswire)

Many asked: What would it take to get Matt Harvey this offseason?

I had a feeling this was coming. To say Harvey’s recent workload fiasco did not go over well would be a big understatement. Many Mets fans were ready to kick him out the door, and his clunker against the Nationals (seven runs in 5.1 innings) didn’t help matters. Of course, the fans have no say in this, and I would be surprised if the Mets shopped Harvey this winter. They might listen — everyone listens — but I don’t think they’ll be eager to move him.

Just for fun though, let’s talk this out. Pitchers of Harvey’s caliber who are three years away from free agency do not get traded all that often. Very rarely, in fact. The only reasonable approximation I could come up with is the trade that sent Dan Haren from the Athletics to the Diamondbacks in December 2007, which was a baseball lifetime ago. Haren was also 26 and three years away from free agency at the time, and while Haren then wasn’t as good as Harvey now, he was still an excellent young pitcher.

The D’Backs traded six players for Haren and bullpen prospect Connor Robertson (David’s brother!). Here are those six and their rank in Arizona’s farm system at the time according to Baseball America: Carlos Gonzalez (No. 1), Brett Anderson (No. 3), Aaron Cunningham (No. 7), Chris Carter (No. 8), Greg Smith (No. 13), and up-and-down arm Dana Eveland. The D-Backs had a top three farm system back then, so they gave up a ton of talent to get Haren.

That trade happened a long time ago though and player valuations have changed. The Mets don’t want prospects for Harvey anyway. They’ll want ready made MLB players. Their window to win is right now, not two or three years from now. Given their shortstop need, Didi Gregorius would have to be included. How could the Mets do the deal without him? Then you’ve got to add prospects on top of Gregorius. Aaron Judge and James Kaprielian? Luis Severino and Jorge Mateo? I’d want Gregorius, Judge, Kaprielian, and more for Harvey. (Reminder: My trade proposal sucks.)

Anyway, I doubt the Mets would trade Harvey to the Yankees. That seems like something the Wilpons would not approve. Their biggest fear is getting burned on a blockbuster trade with the Yankees. I do think GMs Brian Cashman and Sandy Alderson would do it if they felt it improved the team, but a deal of this magnitude involves ownership. The other 28 teams are going to be after Harvey as well. The Mets will get plenty of great offers. I would be shocked if the Wilpons let him go to the Yankees.

Andrew asks: What do you attribute the light attendance at Yankee Stadium these last couple of weeks? Team is in a pennant race for the first time in three years, A-Rod has been resurgent, exciting young players. What gives?

The attendance (or lack thereof) was especially noticeable during the Orioles series for whatever reason. The Yankees do lead the AL in attendance this season, both total (2,760,549) and per game (40,008) — they’re third in total attendance behind the Cardinals and Dodgers, and fourth in per game attendance behind the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Giants — but they’re down 2,236 fans per game from last season. That is somewhat expected because there’s no Derek Jeter retirement tour. I’m guessing there are several factors at play here and it’s not just one thing. The Yankees are good this year and they’re in a division race, so that isn’t the problem. It could be ticket pricing, or maybe fans don’t care about a Jeter-less team, or perhaps they’re all jumping ship and rooting for the Mets. I don’t have an answer and I’m note sure it’s possible to give a complete one anyway.

Didi. (Presswire)
Didi. (Presswire)

Sam asks: Didi has hit .314/.354/.429 since the All-Star break whereas both first time All-Star Brett Gardner (.201/.303/.278) and Jacoby Ellsbury (.223/.264/.352) have really seemed to fall off, whether because of injury or otherwise. Why not put Didi higher in the lineup?

There are a few reason why this hasn’t happened, I think. One is the fact the Yankees aren’t going to drop Ellsbury in the lineup less than two full years into a seven-year contract. That’s just not going to happen no matter how much he struggles. Gardner’s situation is a little similar — this is year one of his four-year extension and he’s been no worse than the second best player on the team for three years running now. Joe Girardi‘s pretty loyal and I don’t think he’d drop Brett.

As for Gregorius, I think there is an element of “this is working so let’s not mess with it” at play. Replacing Jeter seemed to overwhelm Didi back in April and May. What happens if you ask him to hit first or second in a postseason race? I don’t think it would be a big deal, but I could understand why Girardi and Yankees may be hesitant. I’m cool with letting Gregorius rake at the bottom of the lineup. If Ellsbury and Gardner don’t start hitting, the Yankees aren’t going anywhere anyway, no matter where Girardi slots them in the lineup.

P.J. asks: Assuming both the Yankees and Rangers get the 2 American League Wild Card spots, who should the Yankees start in that game?

Wyatt asks: How do you see the postseason rotation shaping up? I think Tanaka, Eovaldi, Pineda and Severino.

Might as well lump these two together. As I said last week, I would start Masahiro Tanaka in the wildcard game, regardless of opponent. Rangers, Twins, Angels, Astros, whoever. It amazes me anyone would even seriously consider starting someone else. He is clearly the guy for me. Should the Yankees not win the AL East, hopefully they’ll be in position to set up their rotation and start Tanaka in the wildcard game, and not need to start him in Game 162 just to get in or something.

Nathan Eovaldi‘s injury complicates the postseason rotation situation — Wyatt sent his question in before Eovaldi’s injury — and how I would line it up is likely very different than how the Yankees would. I’d go Tanaka in Game One followed in order by Michael Pineda, Severino, and CC Sabathia. (Sorry, Ivan Nova.) The Yankees would probably go Tanaka, Pineda, Sabathia, Severino. I also think there’s a non-zero chance they’d start Nova over Severino. You know they’ll give Sabathia an October start. They’ve given us no reason to think otherwise. Hopefully we can discuss this again in a few weeks. Let’s worry the Yankees getting to the postseason first.

Adam asks: Does Greg Bird start next season with the big club? He seems perhaps too unidimensional for a bench role early in the season with this roster.

Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are not only going to be on the roster next season, they’re going to play every single day. Barring injury, the only way Bird gets at-bats is as a pinch-hitter and occasional spot starter. So yes, he is too one dimensional for the bench. The four-man bench will include a backup catcher (John Ryan Murphy), a backup middle infielder (Brendan Ryan?), a backup outfielder (Dustin Ackley), and then a fourth guy. Bird could be the fourth guy, but a right-handed hitter who could play somewhere other than first base would fit the roster better. I’m totally cool with sending Bird back to Triple-A to start the season. Teixeira and/or A-Rod will probably get hurt at some point anyway — Bird hasn’t been all that durable either, he’s had shoulder and back problems — which will free up playing time. It could very easily work out where Bird, Teixeira, and A-Rod each end up playing something like 100-120 games. If everyone’s healthy though, yeah, I say send Bird to Triple-A to work on his defense. It won’t be the end of the world.

Anonymous asks: In light of the Mets current success, do you envision the Yankees abandoning their fiscal, belt tightening policy and go big for big agents this coming off season?

I don’t think anything the Mets do this season will impact the way Yankees behave going forward. George Steinbrenner would have gone bonkers over the Mets winning but Hal Steinbrenner seems much more measured. The Mets winning the NL East or even the World Series has minimal impact on the Yankees. It won’t change their roster, change how they project going forward, nothing. Changing gears and altering a team-building plan because a crosstown team — not even a division rival! — does something is no way to create a successful team. The back pages aren’t worth the fight. Who cares about the Mets? Outside of the Subway Series each season, they’re irrelevant to the Yankees.

Harvey. (Presswire)
Harvey. (Presswire)

Matt asks: To beat a dead horse harder, would you trade Ellsbury for Robinson Cano + money at this point? We could slide Gardner to center and sign Justin Upton or Jayson Heyward. Thanks!

I guess that depends how much money, right? If the money worked out so it was a wash, I’d do it in a heartbeat even though Cano’s contract is longer. Love Robbie, he was an incredible Yankee, but I wanted no part of him on a ten-year contract. At the same time, if I had known the backup plan was seven years for Ellsbury, I’d have done ten for Cano instead. Cano started very slow this year but has hit .328/.381/.522 (153 wRC+) since July 1st, which is regular old Robbie. Sometimes a bad slump can be explained by non-baseball reasons. Simply put, I think his decline phase will be more productive than Ellsbury’s. I’d do the trade if the money was a wash. But why would the Mariners do it? No reason for them to make that trade.

Neil asks: Give me your current list of top 10 most likely Hall of Famers among active players (more or less in order).

I assume you’re asking who I think will get in, no who would get my vote. A-Rod, for example, has a first ballot Hall of Fame resume and I would vote for him, but he’ll never get in. So he’s not in my top ten. Here are my ten in approximate order of likelihood of induction:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Ichiro Suzuki
  3. Adrian Beltre
  4. Miguel Cabrera
  5. Felix Hernandez
  6. Clayton Kershaw
  7. David Ortiz
  8. Robinson Cano
  9. Carlos Beltran
  10. Mike Trout

Pujols and Ichiro are no-brainers and while Beltre’s not a lock, he’s close to it. He seems to be getting more and more support each year. Miggy, Felix, and Kershaw have already built their Hall of Fame foundations and now just need to do some compiling. Ortiz is tricky because of the whole performance-enhancing drug thing. He’s largely gotten a free pass (as did Andy Pettitte!) but Hall of Fame voters have refused to look the other way thus far.

Cano probably needs another elite year or two on his resume, plus a few good years after that to beef up his counting stats, then I think he’s in. (I’d expect him to wear a Yankees hat on his plaque.) Beltran is borderline. You could argue both ways convincingly. Trout is well on his way to Cooperstown but is only 24. He has a lot of years left to play and that means lots of time for things to go wrong. I’m not missing anyone obvious, right? Chase Utley is probably No. 11 on the list, though he seems perpetually underappreciated and might not get enough support.

Mailbag: Samardzija, Cano, Strasburg, Gregorius, Lineups

Ten questions in the mailbag his week. Email any mailbag questions to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com throughout the week. The “For The Mailbag” form is kaput.

Samardzija. (Jamie Squire/Getty)
Samardzija. (Jamie Squire/Getty)

Daniel asks: Do you think Jeff Samardzija can be had on a 1-year pillow contract? He’s made over $30m in his career so he might be interested in holding out for a big deal after 2016 instead of taking a medium-sized deal after this season. Think 1/$15m could work?

I think it’s possible. He’s having a really down year (4.87 ERA and 4.13 FIP) but was excellent just last season (2.99 ERA and 3.20 FIP), so it’s not like you have to look far back to see the last time he was really good. Samardzija is only 30, and while he’s established himself as a workhorse (sixth in innings since 2013), his arm is ostensibly fresher than most 30-year-olds’ because he spent a few years as a reliever and split time between baseball and football as an amateur.

At the same time, this might be Samardzija’s last best chance at a big payday. If he has just an okay year in 2016, the contract offers might not be so great after the season for a guy closing in on 32 who is more hype than production. How much is he willing to bet on himself? That’s the real question. The Yankees do have several ties to Samardzija — Larry Rothschild was his first big league pitching coach and special assistant Jim Hendry was the Cubs GM when they drafted Samardzija — so I do think he’ll be on their radar this winter, especially if he’s willing to take a one-year pillow contract. That would fit the roster/future payroll nicely and free up Ivan Nova for a trade.

James asks: What would the Yankees have gotten had they traded Robinson Cano in the final year of his contract? Considering the Yankees (should have) known he was going to get a massive contract should they have traded him?

I could have sworn I remember reading somewhere that the front office wanted to explore trading Cano back in 2013 because they knew they were unlikely to re-sign him, but ownership nixed the idea. Can’t find it now though. Maybe it was a dream. Anyway, Cano was a super-elite player back then and even one year of him would have netted a handsome prospect package. David Price was just traded for a top 20 overall prospect (Daniel Norris), a big league ready starter (Matt Boyd), and a Single-A lottery ticket (Jairo Labourt). A similar package for Cano would have been appropriate. From what team? Who knows. The trade landscape was very different back then. Not trading Cano looks like a mistake in hindsight. I think the bigger mistake was not doing enough that season to get him help to make a run in Mariano Rivera‘s final season.

John asks: What happens to the players on the Gulf Coast League teams after their season ends? Do they all just go home, or do some or all of them hang around Tampa waiting to see if they’re needed at the other minor league squads until those seasons are done?

Many are sent home after the season but some are assigned to other affiliates — Donny Sands joined Low-A Charleston, for example, and some pitchers joined other teams — for the final week of the regular season and postseason. Others are kept around Tampa to stay sharp leading up to Instructional League, which starts fairly soon. In a week or so. Once the minor league season ends for all affiliates, guys either go home or are assigned to Instructs.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
(Patrick Smith/Getty)

Kevin asks: Who would say no to a trade along the lines of Brett Gardner, Ivan Nova and Gary Sanchez for Steven Strasburg and Danny Espinosa trade this offseason?

The Nationals would. They won’t sell low on Strasburg like that. Gardner is awesome, and he would definitely help the Nationals, but a 32-year-old is not going to be the centerpiece of a deal for Strasburg. Nova will be a free agent after next season and Sanchez is just a prospect. Strasburg is a borderline ace when healthy. (I know people like to say he hasn’t lived up to the hype, but he had a 3.02 ERA and 2.84 FIP in 649.1 career innings coming into 2015. What more do you want?) Espinosa’s bat has bounced back now that he stopped trying to play through injuries — he played through a broken wrist and a torn rotator cuff in recent years — so he’s a quality two-way middle infielder under control through 2017. Three years of Gardner, one year of a back-end starter, and a Triple-A prospect isn’t enough to get one year of a potential ace and two years of a quality middle infielder.

Chris asks: Domingo German. Looking at the 40-man roster on the Yankees site, it looks like he’s only on the 15-day DL. It would seem to be the simplest way to open a spot on the 40-man roster. Am I missing something? Is putting him on the 60-day something that costs them something in terms of his clock?

German was on the High-A Tampa DL all season after having Tommy John surgery during Spring Training. He was in big league camp because he’s on the 40-man roster — the Marlins added him last offseason because he was Rule 5 Draft eligible — but the team was able to send him down despite the injury because he’s yet to make his MLB debut. They did the same with Manny Banuelos following his Tommy John surgery a few years ago. Anyway, German would have accrued service time had the Yankees placed him on the big league 60-day DL to clear a 40-man roster spot. They would have lost an entire year of team control. (They called German up to 60-day DL him and clear a 40-man spot earlier this week, but one month of service time isn’t a huge deal.) The Yankees had to either burn a year of control or burn a minor league option with German this season, and they went with the option. I don’t blame them.

Nico asks: Is it theoretically possible that a team could put a player who they know to have non-public injury problems on waivers, then just let the claiming team have him? I’m assuming it’s against the rules somehow, but how so? Are waiver claims subject to a physical?

Injured players inevitably end up on waivers — not on purpose, of course — and if the claiming team finds the player is hurt, the league will void the claim and send him back to his former team. The injury is going to show up eventually and they can determine if it was suffered before or after the claim. This happened a few years ago with Brian Schlitter. The Yankees claimed Schlitter from the Cubs in January 2011, the Phillies claimed him from the Yankees in February 2011, then the Phillies found an injury in Spring Training, so the league cancelled all the claims and Schlitter went back to the Cubs. Anthony Varvaro’s waiver claim was rescinded earlier this year due to injury, as another example. Intentionally placing an injured player on waivers in an effort to foist him onto another team isn’t cool, man. It’s straight up unethical.

Nik asks: Austin Romine is 26 now. We’ve been hearing his name forever. How long before the Yanks cut bait on him? It seems he’s always “in the mix” but yet the Yankees keep drafting or trading for someone who ends up ahead of Romine on the pecking order.

They essentially did cut bait with Romine earlier this year when they outrighted him off the 40-man roster. He cleared waivers and was able to spend the year in Triple-A Scranton, which was nice from a depth perspective, but he has been passed on the catching depth chart by John Ryan Murphy and Sanchez. The only reason Romine received a September call-up is Sanchez’s hamstring injury. His development stalled out a few years ago — injuries played a part in that — and it didn’t work out. So it goes. Romine figures to be among the first 40-man roster casualties this winter — the Yankees could try to trade him first, but his trade value is nil — and this time he’ll be able to elect free agency should he clear waivers, which I’m sure he’ll do in hopes of joining an organization able to give him a greater opportunity.

Drew. (Jim Rogash/Getty)
Drew. (Jim Rogash/Getty)

Gene asks: I can’t believe I’m saying this,  but would it make sense to bring Stephen Drew back next year if he’d take a similar deal? He’s over .250 since the break, good and versatile in the field, and by all accounts well liked.

Drew has hit .251/.323/.483 (120 wRC+) with 12 home runs and good strikeout (14.8%) and walk (9.2%) rates since June 1st, which covers 229 plate appearances. He’s insanely hot right now, he won’t keep this up, but it’s not just a one or two week hot streak either. Drew’s been quite good at the plate for a while now, and his defense was never bad either. Let’s see how he finishes the season before worrying about re-signing him, but yes, it could make sense to bring him back, especially if he’d take another one-year contract. If Drew and Scott Boras try to parlay his late-season success into a two or three-year deal, then walk away. Drew was really bad for a long time there. Can’t forget that. This is an offseason issue though. For now let’s just hope he maintains his recent production and gives the Yankees something to think about this winter.

Dave asks: The Yankees have done an excellent job scouting & developing Didi Gregorius. They’ve given him the time to adjust and get comfortable. Beyond Brian Cashman, who in the organization should be given credit for his success?

It’s impossible to know the full answer to this. Jon Heyman reported back in April that special assistant Gene Michael “loved” Gregorius, so I’m sure he was part of the decision making. Eric Chavez, who played with Didi in Arizona and now works in New York’s scouting department, has said he was consulted as well. I’m guessing the Yankees used Chavez to get a feel for Gregorius’ makeup and clubhouse skills, traits they value highly. I have to think the analytics department, run by assistant GM Michael Fishman, played a role in the trade as well. It’s never just one person. Lots of people forget the “manager” part of “general manager.” The GM is only as good as the people working for him. As for Didi’s on-field development … gosh, it could be a million people. The coaching staff certainly, also his teammates. We’ve heard Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran both took an active role in helping Gregorius early in the season. Acquiring and developing a young player is never a one-man job. Lots of people deserve credit when it goes right.

Greg asks: When Joe Girardi makes the annual starting line up card consisting of (almost) all September call ups, who will be on it?

I always enjoy seeing “no effs given” lineups in September, either after a team is out of the race or has already clinched the division title or something. You know what I mean, the lineups with no regulars and a bunch of call-ups. The Yankees only called up four position players on September 1st — not counting Dustin Ackley, who was activated off the DL — so they couldn’t field an entire lineup of call-ups, just most of one. These would be my lineups in various roster states. (No, I didn’t spent too much time thinking about this. Why do you ask?)

Current Roster Heathcott called up Sanchez healthy Slade + Sanchez
1. LF Dustin Ackley LF Dustin Ackley LF Dustin Ackley LF Dustin Ackley
2. 3B Jose Pirela 3B Jose Pirela 3B Jose Pirela 3B Jose Pirela
3. RF Chris Young C John Ryan Murphy RF Chris Young 1B Greg Bird
4. 1B Greg Bird 1B Greg Bird 1B Greg Bird DH Gary Sanchez
5. C John Ryan Murphy 2B Rob Refsnyder DH Gary Sanchez 2B Rob Refsnyder
6. 2B Rob Refsnyder CF Slade Heathcott 2B Rob Refsnyder CF Slade Heathcott
7. DH Austin Romine DH Austin Romine C Austin Romine C Austin Romine
8. SS Brendan Ryan SS Brendan Ryan SS Brendan Ryan SS Brendan Ryan
9. CF Rico Noel RF Rico Noel CF Rico Noel RF Rico Noel

They’re lineups, so there’s no right answer as long as you don’t do something like bat the best hitter ninth. With any luck the Yankees will get everyone healthy this month, clinch early, and trot out one of those call-up lineups in Game 161 or 162. Those games are always fun in a Spring Training kinda way.

Mailbag: Eovaldi, Dellin, Warren, Walker, Gamel, Umpires

Got a dozen questions in this week’s mailbag and some of the answers are longer than usual. So this is an extra large mailbag. The “For The Mailbag” form is gone from the sidebar and won’t return. If you want to send us a mailbag question, email us at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. The email address is in the sidebar at all times in case you forget.

Eovaldi. (Presswire)

P.J. asks: Do you think there is any chance the Yankees will sign Nathan Eovaldi to an early extension? I know he’s under team control through the 2017 season. He’s just 25 and pitching extremely well. I would think a early extension say locking up 2 years of his FA through the 2019 season would be good for both parties? Something in the neighborhood of $45 to $50MM over 4 years (2016 through 2019) would seem fair I think.

Yes, I do think there’s a chance the Yankees will try to sign Eovaldi long-term this offseason, certainly moreso than Michael Pineda. Nothing personal, just health reasons. I love Big Mike, but man, his injury history is scary. Eovaldi has made some tremendous strides this year and the splitter is a tangible reason for those strides. This isn’t a small sample size statistical fluke. He’s a different pitcher now than he was even in April thanks to the split-finger pitch.

Eovaldi will have just over four years of service time after this season, so he’s two years removed from free agency. Only four starters have signed a multi-year extension at that service time level over the last four years, according to MLBTR’s Extension Tracker:

  • Jordan Zimmermann: two years and $24M
  • Matt Harrison: five years and $55M, plus one option year
  • Tim Lincecum: two years and $40.5M
  • Brandon Morrow: three years and $21M, plus one option year

Gosh, how about that list for some cautionary tales? Harrison, Lincecum, and Morrow all broke down during their contracts — Harrison and Morrow physically, Lincecum performance-wise — and even Zimmermann’s performance took a step back in year one. Zimmermann and Lincecum only signed two-year deals that gave their teams cost certainty over their two arbitration years but did not buy out free agent years, and both were elite pitchers at the time.

Those four players really don’t help us get a sense of what it would cost to sign Eovaldi, who is probably looking at $6M or so through arbitration after the season. Harrison probably works the best but he was much more effective than Eovaldi at the time of signing his deal — he had a 132 ERA+ in 399 innings in the two years leading up to extension while Eovaldi has a 90 ERA+ in 343.2 innings from 2014-15. Morrow? He bounced back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation, plus he battled injuries.

Eovaldi did not receive a big signing bonus when he was drafted ($250,000 as an 11th rounder) and his $3.3M salary this year is his first significant payday. He might jump at the security of a multi-year contract. The $45M to $50M over four years that P.J. suggested might be a little pricey but I do think it’s in the ballpark. Let’s say $6M next year (second arbitration year), $9M the year after that (third arbitration year), and then $12M each for the two years after that (both free agent years). That’s four years and $39M. Throw in a $1M signing bonus and call it an even four years and $40M. Sound reasonable? Maybe! Something tells me this won’t be the last time we discuss an Eovaldi extension.

Adam asks: How many years does a team have control of minor leaguers (International FA/College/High School) before they have to be added to 40-man?

This is all driven by the Rule 5 Draft. Players who have to be added to the 40-man roster but are not are then eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, which means another team can take them and try to keep them on their big league roster all season. Here’s what the rulebook says about 40-man roster eligibility:

  • Players who were 18 or younger on the June 5th preceding their signing get four years before being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.
  • Players who were 19 or older on the June 5th preceding their signing get three years before being eligible for the Rule 5 Draft.

It goes by age and signing date regardless of whether the player was drafted or signed as an international free agent. Generally speaking, high school players from the 2011 draft, college players from the 2012 draft, and international players from the 2011-12 signing period have to be added to the 40-man roster this offseason. A few years ago eligibility was pushed back a year — players 18 or younger used to only get three years while players 19 or older got two before being Rule 5 Draft eligible — and that took some of the luster of the Rule 5 Draft. That extra year of control means more suspects are weeded out from the prospects.

Dellin. (Presswire)
Dellin. (Presswire)

Adam asks: Is anyone talking about or worried about Dellin Betances’ workload? On pace for another 87 innings this year. I realize he is a large, strong dude, but he is used quite a lot.

I can’t remember seeing anyone talk about it, but yeah, I do have some concern about his workload. Dellin threw 90 innings in 70 appearances last year and is already at 66 innings in 58 appearances this year, so he’s on pace for roughly 85 innings and 76 appearances. That’s an awful lot of work by today’s reliever standards — David Robertson has never made more than 70 appearances or thrown more than 66.2 innings in a season, for example — so of course there is some concern.

Dellin was a starter in the minors, but pitching on a set schedule as a starter and sporadically as a reliever are very different things. Also, Betances has an average Leverage Index of 1.73 when entering games this year, tenth highest among 140 qualified relievers. So it’s not just a lot of innings, it’s a lot of intense, stressful innings. Dellin has already walked more batters this year than he did last year (27 to 24) and it seems like he isn’t as razor sharp as he was a year ago. He’s still great! But there have been a few more hiccups this summer. Perhaps that is due to the workload. Betances is awesome and he’s a big strong guy, and so far that workload has not stopped him from being elite. Going forward though, it’s not unreasonable to be a tiny bit worried.

Nathan asks: What are the chances that Adam Warren could be traded after this season a la David Phelps and paired with a prospect (Rob Refsnyder or Gary Sanchez) for another cost controlled pitcher or infielder? Seems as if the Yankees are dead set on not letting Warren start and another team could probably use that.

I could see it, sure. Warren’s a good pitcher but he’s not indispensable. As always, it would depend on the return. Phelps and Martin Prado netted them a pretty exciting young pitcher in Eovaldi (plus other stuff), so is another trade like that out there? If so, the Yankees would be foolish not to at least consider it. I do think Warren is pretty valuable to the Yankees though, moreso than Phelps was simply because he’s a better pitcher (3.37 ERA/3.77 FIP vs. 4.29/4.15) and more durable. Warren’s been completely healthy throughout his career while Phelps has had an arm injury in each of the last four seasons. I think the Yankees would be much more hesitant to part with Warren than they were Phelps. If I were another team though, I’d absolutely try to pry Warren loose this winter and stick him in my rotation.

Todd asks: So after not hitting almost his whole minor league career, I haven’t seen Cito Culver’s name in a while. Has our former #1 draft pick been released?

Nope, he’s still in the system. Culver, who turned 23 on Wednesday, has spent most of the year as the everyday shortstop for Double-A Trenton, though he did also spend some time with Triple-A Scranton when they needed an extra infielder. He went into last night’s game hitting .199/.252/.276 (52 wRC+) in 381 plate appearances this year, which is, uh, not good. Culver is a career .227/.306/.312 (80 wRC+) hitter in over 2,600 minor league plate appearance since being the 32nd overall pick in the 2010 draft. Swing and a miss, that pick was. (To be fair, everyone wanted Nick Castellanos with that pick, and he’s stunk too, but at least he reached MLB.)

Michael asks: What do you see as Dustin Ackley‘s role once healthy for September? The playoffs? And for next year?

Same as Garrett Jones, basically. Except I imagine Greg Bird will get any backup first base reps — as well as any big left-handed pinch-hit plate appearances — in September and maybe even the postseason. I guess that leaves Ackley as the fifth outfielder who plays once or twice a week down the stretch, maybe less depending on the various postseason races. Next year could be a different story, especially if the team asks him to work at second base over the winter, which I think will happen. (It’s not a new position, he’d just be getting reacquainted with an old position.) I think the Yankees want to turn Ackley into their Brock Holt, the guy who plays semi-regularly to give everyone else a rest. Next year he could see time at second base, first base, and all three outfield spots, maybe starting two or three games a week. Assuming he hits a little, of course. That’s a big if.

Gamel. (Bill Tarutis/Times Leader )
Gamel. (Bill Tarutis/Times Leader )

Geoffrey asks: What about Ben Gamel? Aaron Judge obviously attracts the most attention, but Gamel is clearly having a very impressive year in AAA. How do you think he fits into the Yankees’ plans? Trade chip?

Gamel’s having a fantastic year. A breakout year, really. The team’s tenth round pick in 2010 hit .276/.352/.392 (112 wRC+) at mostly High-A two years ago and .261/.308/.340 (80 wRC+) at Double-A last year, but this season he’s hitting .304/.360/.474 (140 wRC+) for Triple-A Scranton. Gamel always had a promising hit tool, the question was his power, and it’s taken a step forward this season. He went into last night’s game with nine homers after hitting two last year and ten total from 2011-14.

The problem with Gamel — this isn’t so much a “problem” as it is a set of circumstances — is that he’s a left-handed hitting outfielder in an organization loaded with them. The Yankees have Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury on the big league roster. They also have Mason Williams and Slade Heathcott on the 40-man roster. Both Gamel and Jake Cave will be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter, so they’ll have to be added to the 40-man as well. That’ll be six lefty hitting outfielders on the 40-man and at Triple-A or above going into next season. (Easy to see why they could afford to trade Ramon Flores, right?)

That’s a lot of one thing. Yes, you need multiple outfielders, but not that many of the same type of outfielder. Gamel is at a disadvantage because he’s worst defender of those six lefty hitting outfielders, and also has the least prospect pedigree. My guess is the Yankees add Gamel and Cave to the 40-man in the offseason and look to trade one or even two of these outfielders. Maybe Williams and Cave. Or Heathcott and Gardner. Who knows. The outfield depth is good for the Yankees but bad for Gamel.

John asks: If Major League Baseball was serious about protecting arms, why not expand rosters to say, 30 players? More arms = more rest, less innings from starters, etc.

I don’t think rosters will expand to all the way to 30 players — that’s a couple extra million bucks the owners would have to fork over in salary, per diem, and travel costs! — but I do think we’ll see a 26th man added to the roster reasonably soon. Maybe not this coming round of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations (after next season), but perhaps in the next round after that. Adding the 26th man for doubleheaders seems to have been the first step towards increasing the active roster from 25 players to 26. Starters are throwing fewer innings (not just for the Yankees, I mean all around the league) and games are much more competitive because of the league-wide parity, so relievers are getting burnt out. The MLBPA has reasons to push for a 26-man roster beyond the usual “add a roster spot and that’s another player making good money” stuff. This could potential keep players healthy and extend careers. That’s good for everyone, including fans.

Justin asks: If the Yankees did end up trading for Johnny Cueto or David Price, what would happen if they refused to cut their hair or beard? Their contract with their former teams wouldn’t have any appearance stipulations. Would the Yankees really trade a top prospect and then bench an ace over their hair policy?

I’m not sure but they might be able to suspend them for breaking team rules, and suspensions are pretty pricey for guys at that pay scale. There are no appearance clauses in contracts but teams do have rules, some more strict than others. The Yankees have their hair/facial hair policy and require players to wear suits on road trips. Other teams are much more relaxed. Maybe the union could file a grievance over something like this. Not really sure. Sitting out or getting suspended because you refuse to cut your hair or shave your beard wouldn’t kill the market for guys like Cueto or Price, but teams and other players would notice. Refusing to conform to team rules gives off a “not a team player” vibe.

Walker and former Yankees starting catcher Chris Stewart. (Presswire)
Walker and former Yankees starting catcher Chris Stewart. (Presswire)

Adam asks: Greg Bird to Pirates for Neil Walker. Thoughts?

I think that is fair but I don’t think the Yankees would do it, based on the way they held on to their top prospects at the trade deadline. The Pirates need a first baseman — Pedro Alvarez is almost certainly going to be non-tendered this offseason — and Bird would be a great cheap, long-term option for them. Walker is one of the most productive second baseman in baseball, but he’ll also be a free agent after 2016, and Pittsburgh has a ton of infield depth, with Jung-Ho Kang, Jordy Mercer, and Josh Harrison at the MLB level plus Alen Hanson in Triple-A.

Both teams would be dealing from a position of strength to address a weakness. The Pirates have a ton of infielders and need a first baseman. The Yankees need a second baseman and have several first base candidates if you include Sanchez and Eric Jagielo. I just don’t think the Yankees would trade Bird for one year of the switch-hitting Walker, who went into last night’s game hitting .267/.327/.431 (110 wRC+) but has been graded as a below-average defender for years now. Maybe Ivan Nova for Walker works? One impending free agent for another? My guess is the Pirates would balk at a one-for-one deal. Walker’s one of the top second baseman in the game and Nova’s a good but not great starter.

Andrew asks: So, say the Yankees and Blue Jays end the season tied for the AL East title and the first wild card spot. Is there a one-game playoff to decide who gets which spot or is it decided based on head-to-head record (i.e. 2005 Red Sox-Yankees).

They’d play a tiebreaker game to decide the division in that case. Under the old single wildcard system they would simply use head-to-head record, but, under the current system, they’d actually play a game to decide the division title. (Home field advantage in the tiebreaker game goes to the team with the better head-to-head record during the regular season.) There’s a huge difference between winning the division and getting stuck playing in a winner take all wildcard game, and both MLB and the MLBPA don’t want that being decided by something as trivial as head-to-head record. So far there’s been just one tiebreaker game under the current playoff system: the Rays beat the Rangers in Game 163 in 2013 to decide the second wildcard spot. Here’s the box score. Tampa Bay went to the postseason, Texas went home.

Samuel asks: How far ahead are teams made aware of which umpires are calling which games? As a follow up question to that — obviously there are “pitcher’s umpires” and “hitter’s umpires” is there a place that shows a list of who is most friendly to both?

I’m not sure how far in advance teams are told about the umpire crew. The umpire schedule is presumably set before the season, so there’s probably a master list somewhere every team can access. Just a guess. I don’t want to spoil much, but I’m working on a post about the strike zone and umpires for CBS, and every player has said their teams have umpire scouting reports available. The pitchers and catchers use them way more than hitters, which makes sense. The hitters don’t really seem to worry too much about who is behind the plate. Baseball Savant, which is so good it’s intimidating, has an umpire option that allows you to see PitchFX data for umpires. Here’s the called strike on pitches out of the zone leaderboard. Angel Hernandez has the highest rate of called strikes on pitches out of the zone this year (6.864%) while Tom Woodring has the lowest (3.879%). Can’t say I’m surprised to see Hernandez atop that leaderboard. He’s the worst.

Mailbag: Ackley, Didi, Mateo, Tanaka, Bird, Sabathia, Judge

Got ten questions for you in the mailbag this week. The “For The Mailbag” form is gone and it’s never coming back. If you want to send us a question, email us at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. There’s a reminder in the sidebar should you ever forget the email address, but that’s a pretty easy one, right?


Chip asks: Does it makes sense to move Dustin Ackley back to 2b this coming winter so that he can be ready to play there when Spring Training rolls around?

Sorry Chip, I had to shorten the question. Anyway, yes I do think it makes sense and I think the Yankees will have Ackley work out at second base over the winter and in Spring Training because why not? There’s nothing to lose. It’s not a new position, he’s just getting reacquainted with an old position, so in theory it shouldn’t be a huge undertaking to get back into the second base groove. Adding that little bit of versatility can only help.

Now, as for Ackley starting at second next year, I think that should be the Plan C or D, not Plan A. The Yankees have Rob Refsnyder, who is as close to big league ready as he’s going to get, and there are some are some quality second baseman set to become free agents after the season. Ben Zobrist, Howie Kendrick, Chase Utley, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Daniel Murphy are the most notable. Obviously some are more desirable than others. If the Yankees can’t get a good deal on a free agent and Refsnyder isn’t up to the task, then turn to Ackley at second. I wouldn’t make him Plan A. We’ve got more than 2,200 plate appearances telling us he’s a below-average player. Make him earn an everyday job.

David asks: If Didi Gregorius continues to play and improve what do you think the Yanks will do with the “untouchable” Jorge Mateo when he is ready for the Majors – 3rd base, 2nd base, or trade him?

I’m going to cop out and say “worry about this when the time comes.” Mateo is still in High-A, remember. What’s the best case scenario timetable for him? Start next year in High-A, move up to Double-A at midseason, then start 2017 in Triple-A and maybe get called up at midseason? That’s the best case. I think Mateo is more likely to have to wait until 2018 to be a big league option. Gregorius will be just one year away from free agency at that time. Mateo could be ready just in time to replace Didi before he leaves as a free agent. If Gregorius is still worth a regular lineup spot and Mateo is big league ready at some point in the next few years, celebrate. Having too many good young shortstops is a wonderful luxury.

Jhonny asks: Michael Pineda returns healthy. Now you have: Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Nathan Eovaldi, Ivan Nova, Luis Severino. Who’s going to the bullpen? It obviously should be CC, but that’s not going to happen. Thoughts?

No one. I expect the Yankees to use a six-man rotation once Pineda returns. Big Mike is making his second minor league rehab start tonight, so if he makes his next start in the big leagues next week, the Yankees will only have to go a few days with either a short bullpen or a short bench (a short bench, I bet) until rosters expand on September 1st. Then obviously once rosters expand, it’ll be much easier to stick with the six-man rotation full-time. The Yankees have gone to great lengths to give their rotation extra rest whenever possible this year and there’s no reason to think they’ll stop in September. They’ll actually have six healthy starters and expanded rosters will allow them to pull it off. Unless there’s an injury or Severino needs to be shut down for workload reasons, I would be surprised if they didn’t use a six-man rotation in September. Everything they’ve done this year points in that direction.


Jonathan asks: Do you think the decision to not have Masahiro Tanaka undergo surgery had anything to do with his opt-out clause in two years? Possibly to maximize Tanaka’s value before he opts out for a longer deal with another team? How much of a factor do you think the opt-out clause is influencing the Yankees medical decision with Masahiro?

I don’t think it’s a factor at all. Surgery is something you try to avoid and the doctors recommended going to rehab route, so that’s what they did. The doctors couldn’t care less about Tanaka’s opt-out situation. The opt-out is just an unfortunate little wrinkle in this whole saga. The Yankees want as much out of him as possible, but at the end of the day it is Tanaka’s choice, remember. The Yankees can’t make him have surgery any more than your employer can make you have surgery. It’s as simple as multiple world renowned doctors saying he doesn’t need his elbow cut open, so they didn’t cut him open. It’s a boring answer but that’s what happened.

Daniel asks: With the impending 40-man roster crunch, should the Yankees look to move 3-4 prospects in the offseason for an upgrade at positions of need (maybe 2nd or in the rotation)? It seems like it would make sense to deal from their depth at outfield, bullpen, and catcher.

I feel like we say this every season but it never happens. Trading three or four players for one or two players to simultaneously plug roster holes and clear 40-man roster spots sounds like a great idea, but you have to find another team willing to clog up their 40-man roster with fringy big league players, and that’s tough to do. The only time I can remember this happening was the Mark Melancon-Joel Hanrahan trade a few years ago. The Red Sox traded Melancon and three spare parts for Hanrahan and the no one knew he would be good version of Brock Holt. The Yankees should look to make a trade like this and if they can do it, great. They’re just really hard to pull off. Lots of my stuff for a little bit of your better stuff trades rarely happen.

Justin asks: Coming up the Yankees have a three game series a the Braves, and in September a three game series at the Mets. Can they afford to not have A-Rod in the lineup for those games especially with the division being as close as it is? Is it possible to see A-Rod go to 3B and Chase Headley to 2B during those series?

Possible? Sure, it’s always possible we see Alex Rodriguez at third. It’s just extremely unlikely at this point. The Yankees have been committed to keeping Alex at DH to keep him rested, and given his recent slump, I’m sure they’re looking forward to getting him off his feet for a few consecutive days. Also, there’s zero chance Headley plays second. He’s never played the position ever. Not even in college. Headley was at third, Stephen Drew was at second, and A-Rod was on the bench during the team’s NL park interleague series earlier this year and I’m sure that will be the case going forward.

Ruby asks: With Greg Bird looking like he truly belongs and Mark Teixeira having proven that he still has All-Star abilities, can you see the Yanks trading Teixeira over the winter?  What could the Yanks get in return for Teixeira?

Let’s pump the breaks a little on Bird. I love him as much as anyone, but he’s got a week’s worth of plate appearances under his belt, so I wouldn’t go trading Teixeira just yet. I’m not sure there’s anything Bird can do the rest of the way to convince me Teixeira is expendable. Besides, Teixeira has full no-trade protection thanks to his ten-and-five rights and has indicated he is unwilling to go anywhere else. I joked about trading him to the Pirates — they need a first baseman and a real cleanup hitter behind Andrew McCutchen — on Twitter the other day but that was just a joke during Bird’s two-homer game. I’m not sure how much value a very good yet expensive two-way player has on the market anyway. I feel like the Yankees would have to eat some money to facilitate a trade, and Teixeira has been too good this year to eat money to move him. A-Rod and Teixeira have stayed relatively healthy this year, but what about next year? It’s not hard to see a scenario in which Teixeira gets 120 games, Bird gets 100 games, and A-Rod gets 100 games in 2016.


Mike asks: In last night’s game CC was excellent, but I couldn’t help but feeling that that 7th inning was doomed to end badly. He’s struggled the third time through the order, but, paradoxically, he also leads the team in innings pitched. Does it make sense to pull CC earlier, even when he’s pitching well, before he makes a mistake – or do the Yankees really need him to eat those innings? Feels like a weird Catch 22.

They needed Sabathia to eat innings the other night because the bullpen was taxed — Bryan Mitchell took the line drive to the face the night before. That was an outlier compared to the rest of the season. Sabathia has recorded an out in the seventh inning in just seven of his 23 starts this year — he started the seventh and did not record an out in one other occasion — and after years of being baseball’s preeminent workhorse, he’s averaged just 93.3 pitches per start this year. He’s thrown 100+ just five times. It used to be a surprise when Sabathia didn’t thrown 100+ pitches. The other night was a bit of a special case because the bullpen was taxed. Otherwise Joe Girardi has been quick to pull Sabathia this season because he does struggle the third time through the lineup, and I definitely expect that to be the case in September, when the bullpen will have all those extra bodies thanks to expanded rosters.

John asks: Drew hit a horrible .153 for the first two months of the season, but beginning June 1st his average has been more like .230-.240.  With Brendan Ryan also hitting above .240 and both able to play multiple positions well, do you figure that the team really isn’t looking for an alternative at 2B anymore?  Seems like .240 going forward is adequate, and I doubt anyone good and cheap is going to drop into Brian Cashman‘s lap.

At this point there is no decent second basemen left on the market, so even if the Yankees were still looking for one, the pickins are slim. Chase Utley is a Dodger and I’m not sure he would have been much of an upgrade anyway. The Marlins seem to be holding onto Martin Prado, and besides, he went into last night’s game hitting .269/.314/.348 (82 wRC+). That is pretty crummy. Right now the best option at second base is simply stand pat, stick with Drew against righties and maybe give some of Ryan’s platoon at-bats to Refsnyder in September. Once Zobrist came off the board, there were no realistically available second basemen who could be considered substantial upgrades.

Dylan asks: If Carlos Beltran continues to rake, and is the de facto starting RF next year, do the Yankees call up Aaron Judge to be the 4th outfielder off the bench? I know you always talk about the value to rookie catchers to come up as back-ups, but would the same hold true for OF?

Yeah I think Beltran will be the starting right field next season, at least at the start of the season. Judge is striking out a ton in Triple-A and can use more time at that level. I don’t think he would be a good option for fourth outfielder. Catcher is a different animal. Those guys have a lot more to worry about than hitting. I think there’s a lot of value in a young catcher sitting in on big league game plan meetings and catching the staff in the bullpen and what not. An outfielder doesn’t do any of that. I say let Judge start the year in Triple-A so he can play every single day. He needs at-bats more than anything.