Mailbag: Shields, Teixeira, Beltran, Castro, Uribe, Mateo

We received a lot of questions over the last week that were moot by time I checked the inbox yesterday. Questions about signing or trading for guys who signed or were traded at the Winter Meetings. That sort of stuff. I still managed to pull eleven questions out of the pile. Email us questions at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

Shields. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Shields. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Bill asks: Any possibility that the Yankees could trade Shields and instead of asking for the Padres to eat salary, they have to throw in young talent instead? Shields isn’t what he used to be but could be a nice innings eater for 3 years which this team desperately needs.

The Yankees could try, but I don’t think the Padres will kick in a young player or two in exchange for taking James Shields’ entire contract. He’s not that much of an albatross. Shields has three years and $65M left on his contract, though he has an opt-out after 2016, so if he’s good, you get him for one year. If he’s bad, you get him for three. Not exactly the most favorable contract situation you’ll find.

Shields will turn 34 in a week and a half, and he had a 3.91 ERA (4.45 FIP) in 202.1 innings for San Diego this year. His strikeout rate (25.1%) was easily the highest of his career, but he also gave up a ton of home runs (1.47 HR/9 and 17.6 HR/FB%). Shields has had weird homer spikes like this before (1.50 HR/9 and 13.8 HR/9 in 2010) and rebounded, though he is older now, so it might not be a blip. He’s worth a deeper look in the non-mailbag format. Of course, the Yankees probably aren’t trading for him because he’s both older and expensive. That’s not how they do business these days.

R.J. asks: Mike, Would you spend 200+ Mil on an ace or spread the money between two or three pitchers? If Price blows his elbow out or hits the DL for an extended period of time, that deal looks disastrous. I don’t know why, but I have the same feeling about this deal like I did about the Simmons trade. We’ll live.

I think both approaches are viable — spend big on one guy vs. spreading the money around — and I guess it depends on the team and their situation. If David Price gets hurt, the Red Sox have the ability to cover for that given their payroll and farm system. If Zack Greinke gets hurt, the Diamondbacks are pretty screwed. They don’t have the same resources.

One elite player is worth more than two above average players. One +6 WAR guy is better than two +3 WAR guys because there’s an opportunity cost associated with that second roster spot. So if you have the resources and can afford the elite player, go get him. That’s not possible for every team. Give me Price over, say, Mike Leake and Jeff Samardzija. That’s a risk the Yankees can afford to take.

Jake asks: If the Yankees find themselves out of contention by the time of the trade deadline, would they consider trading Mark Teixeira (if Tex lifts his no-trade clause) and/or Carlos Beltran by eating their contracts for the remainder of the year in order to bring back a haul of prospects?

We’ve been getting this same question every offseason for the last two or three years now. Only the names change. The answer stays the same: the Yankees would have to crater in a huge way to sell at the deadline. If they are even remotely in the postseason race, they’re more likely to add pieces than subtract. The Yankees are doing this on-the-fly rebuild but they’re also trying to win, and trading away guys like Teixeira and Beltran won’t help them win. The Yankees would have to be very far out of the race — like bottom five record in MLB — to sell. I can’t see it happening any other way.

Mark asks: Most articles I see say CC has a vesting option for 2017. Basically if his left arm doesn’t fall off he gets his $25m. But there have been articles that said it was a club option with a $5m buyout. Could you clear that up?

It’s both. It’s a $25M club option with a $5M buyout, but as long as CC Sabathia‘s shoulder remains intact, the option will vest. If it doesn’t vest, it’s a club option the Yankees could conceivably exercise to bring Sabathia back for 2017. That’ll never happen though. The Yankees can not buy Sabathia out if the option vests. Once it vests, he’s locked into that $25M salary for 2017.

Starlin. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)
Starlin. (Jared Wickerham/Getty)

Alex asks: Will the team be able to use Starlin at 3B and/or corner OF such that he becomes a super utility guy, or is the plan for him to be the 2B?

Brian Cashman mentioned playing Castro at shortstop and third base at times — Starlin’s has never played third at the MLB level and only has a handful of minor league games at the hot corner, all in rookie ball — but did say he will primarily be the second baseman. He didn’t mention anything about the outfield. Castro is still in the process of learning second base — he’s played only 258 innings at the position so far, so he’s still learning — so I’m not sure dumping third and the outfield on him right now is the best idea. It sounds like the plan is second base primarily with a little shortstop when Didi Gregorius needs a break, and maybe a little third when Chase Headley needs a day.

Nathanial asks: If you could ask two questions to anyone within the Yankees’ organization, and be guaranteed completely honest answers, who would you ask and what would the questions be?

Oh boy. This is a good question. I’d ask Hal Steinbrenner why payroll has not increased at a rate equal to league-wide inflation the last ten years, especially after the new Yankee Stadium opened. I’d also ask Cashman if he thinks he is given an appropriate level of resources given the team’s market and financial situation. I know I’ve been harping on the payroll a lot lately, and the Yankees do spent a ton of money relative to the rest of the league, but geez, the fact payroll hasn’t changed at all in the seven seasons since the new ballpark opened really bugs me.

Dan asks: As currently constructed, the Yanks still need someone who can backup third, and be a righty bat off the bench. How about Juan Uribe? He should be cheap, and fits their needs.

Uribe’s great and would fit the team’s needs, especially since he can still play second base. He’s not an everyday option there, but he can do it on occasion. The 36-year-old hit .253/.320/.417 (104 wRC+) with 14 home runs in only 397 plate appearances last year, including .272/.350/.543 (146 wRC+) against lefties. Uribe is a shockingly good defender, he can still hit, and he’s an A+ clubhouse dude. I’m all for it. If the Yankees could get him for a year and, say, $3M or $4M, do it.

P.J. asks: With the Starlin Castro signing what will happen to Jorge Mateo going forward? It would now appear he’s blocked at SS by Gregorius and at 2nd by Castro.

This is a cop out answer but it’s the only answer right now: it’s too early to worry about this. Mateo is a very good young prospect. He has also played only 21 games above Low Class-A, and those were all at High-A. The absolute best case scenario is what, a late 2017 MLB arrival? It’s more likely Mateo won’t be ready until 2018 sometime. Lots can happen between now and then. Gregorius will only be a year away from free agency at that time, so we could end up doing the “let Didi walk/replace him with Mateo in a year” song and dance we’re doing right now with Greg Bird/Aaron Judge and Teixeira/Beltran.

Andrew asks: How badly did the Yankees mess up in not trading Cano/Swisher/Granderson before they hit free agency? Especially with the last two, there were some free agent outfielders they could’ve signed to replace and so would not have had to lost those players for nothing. What are your thoughts?

Before we start, I have to point out trading Nick Swisher was not a realistic option. His final season with the Yankees was 2012 and they won the division that year. He was also one of their best players. I know what Andrew’s asking, but Swisher’s not someone who should be lumped into the “why didn’t they trade him!” group. Also, Curtis Granderson was hurt at the time of the 2013 trade deadline, so he was essentially untradeable.

Bob Cano. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Bob Cano. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Anyway, at the time I thought the big mistake was not adding more pieces at the deadline to help Robinson Cano and David Robertson, not not trading them. The Yankees were 3.5 games back of a postseason spot the morning of the 2013 trade deadline. They were three back the morning of the 2014 trade deadline. For me, that’s “go for it” territory, especially when you’re talking about the Yankees.

In hindsight, not trading those guys looks awful. I could have sworn I remember reading somewhere that the baseball operations folks wanted to trade Cano at the deadline because they knew they weren’t going to re-sign him, but ownership said no. I can’t find it now. The Athletics and Braves were the two contenders who really needed second base help at 2013 deadline, though who knows what the Yankees could have gotten in return for Robbie. Those clubs didn’t have the best farm systems at the time.

If you could somehow force the Yankees to give you an honest answer, I think they’d say they know they screwed up by not trading Cano and Robertson (and Hiroki Kuroda?). They were valuable assets who left for only a draft pick, which … meh. Draft picks are nice but they’re not much. Maybe that’s why they’re trying to trade Andrew Miller and Brett Gardner now. So they don’t miss that chance to maximize value again. Based on what we know now, not trading those guys was a big mistake.

Jackson asks: It’s a safe bet next year that the Yankees will make qualifying offers to Beltran and Tex, they well decline and the Yanks get two additional draft picks, right?

Noooooooo. Not safe to assume that at all, especially with Beltran. Even if he repeats his 2015 season in 2016 season, he’ll be a 39-year-old whose best position is DH, so his market will be fairly limited. The qualifying offer is going to be worth $16M or so next year, and I think Beltran would jump all over that. He’d need to have a monster 2016 season to reject a qualifying offer. Something like .300/.380/.500 with 30 dingers or so. Otherwise he’s just the kind of the player every team seems to be trying to get away from nowadays.

Teixeira’s a different story because he’s slightly younger than Beltran (36 in April) and remains a two-way threat. He can still mash dingers and pick it at first base. If Teixeira stays healthy — that’s a big if these days, even though I fully acknowledge the shin injury was really fluky — and has a strong year, I could see him rejecting a qualifying offer. He’d put himself in line for a nice two-year deal, maybe two years and $28M or something like that. It’s much more likely Teixeira will get a qualifying offer than Beltran, but I wouldn’t say it’s safe bet at all.

Josh asks: There was a question in last week’s mailbag about Dave Winfield. I remember hearing during the HOF inductions that he never played a minor league game in his life. That strikes me as pretty rare – especially for players who don’t come to the MLB as bonafide professionals from another country. But how rare is it? Could it ever happen again? Is there anyone active now who came right into the majors and never needed a rehab stint?

There’s no one in MLB right now who has never played in the minors. The closest is Mike Leake, who was drafted in 2008, threw 19.2 innings in the Arizona Fall League that year, then made the Reds out of Spring Training in 2009. (He also made two Triple-A appearances in 2011 after being demoted.) Baseball Almanac has a list of players who went straight to MLB after being drafted and SABR has a list of players who never played in the minors at all. I’m not sure how complete the list is though. Could it happen again? Yeah, it just seems really unlikely, especially because service time is such a big concern now. Baseball’s really hard. Jumping from college to MLB seems almost impossible without some minor league tune-up time.

Mailbag: Lawrie, Valencia, Fernandez, Alvarez, Flowers

Relatively short mailbag this week. Only eight questions. Some of the answers are pretty long though. Remember, you can email us your questions at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

Lawrie and Valencia (and Mark Canha). (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Lawrie and Valencia (and Mark Canha). (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Many asked: What about Brett Lawrie or Danny Valencia?

This question is really many asking about Lawrie and one asking about Valencia, but I figured I’d lump them together since the Athletics have indicated they’re open to moving either player in the wake of the Jed Lowrie pickup. Lawrie is the young upside guy who is totally extreme and in your face bruh. Valencia’s the boring older veteran who quietly produces.

Shall we compare the two side-by-side? We shall. Here are their 2015 stats:

Brett Lawrie Danny Valencia 2015

And here are their 2013-15 stats as well:

Brett Lawrie Danny Valencia 13-15

Lawrie was traded for Josh Donaldson (!) while Valencia has been traded for cash and non-prospects, and been claimed off waivers. In fact, the A’s claimed him off waivers in August because the Blue Jays were unable to trade him. Funny how that works.

Both players are primarily third basemen. Lawrie has played a bunch of second in his career, including this past season, when Valencia took over as Oakland’s regular at the hot corner. Valencia has also played first base and left field (and a tiny bit of right). They’re both right-handed batters with a history of hitting lefties. It’s pretty easy to see how both could fit the Yankees roster, right? Right.

My head says get Lawrie because he’s younger and has more upside while everything else says get Valencia because he’s not Lawrie. We saw Lawrie all those years with the Blue Jays. Is there a more irritating player in baseball? I don’t think so. Valencia just might be the better player these next two years — they’re both under team control through 2017 — and I think he’d cost much less to acquire too.

Lawrie’s ability to play second base is nice, and yes, the Yankees have been targeting out of favor young guys like him, but they’ve also put a lot of time and effort into building a strong clubhouse. Lawrie might be a crazy person. I’m not sure if the team would go for that.

Samuel asks: What do we know about Jose Miguel Fernandez? Is he a possibility to fill the vacancy at 2b? Any idea what kind of contract he might command?

Fernandez, 27, defected from Cuba earlier this week, according to Ben Badler. He still needs to go through the process of getting cleared by the Office of Foreign Assets Control and MLB before he can sign, and it’s tough to know how long that will take. Sometimes it happens in a matter of weeks, sometimes it takes eight or nine months. Either way, Fernandez is looking for an MLB contract. Here’s a mini-scouting report from Badler:

With his bat-to-ball skills and ability to manage the strike zone, Fernandez is a potential high OBP threat in the major leagues, although his power is below-average. Speed isn’t part of Fernandez’s game, and his thickening lower half (listed at 5-foot-10, 185 pounds) has hampered his range at second base, where he’s at best an adequate defender. Fernandez also spent time at third base during the 2013-14 season, though his arm strength is better suited at second.

Fernandez hasn’t played in actual games in more than a year now because he was suspended following other defection attempts, so scouts haven’t seen him in a while. Badler says Fernandez hit .326/.482/.456 with 65 walks and ten strikeouts in 314 plate appearances during the 2013-14 season, his last full season in Cuba.

I dunno, that scouting report seems … not all that exciting? The high OBP potential is great, not making outs is the single most important skill in baseball, but everything else seems so meh. Not much power, questionable defense, no real versatility. Is Fernandez looking at a Hector Olivera contract (six years, $62.5M) or an Andy Ibanez contract ($1.6M bonus)? Based on the tiny little bit I know, an Olivera sized contract seems like way too much for that skill set.

Big Hendo. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Big Hendo. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Andrew asks: Is Henderson Alvarez a target after being non-tendered by the Marlins?

Yes but it’s important to understand what Alvarez is right now. He had surgery to repair some kind of tear in his shoulder in late-July and isn’t expected to be ready until at least May, if not later, so he’s not immediate rotation help. Alvarez threw hard before surgery (average 92.8 mph with his trademark two-seamer) but didn’t miss any bats (career 12.6 K%), so any loss of velocity could be a real problem.

That said, Alvarez is an extremely fun pitcher to watch because he’s a bit of a showman on the field and (usually) throws one super-slow low-60s curveball per start just to mess around with hitters. He also has a novelty windup he uses for the first pitch of the game:

Alvarez is only 25 and he would remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2017, so it’s not like you’ll sign him, rehab him from surgery, get a handful of innings, then watch him go back out on the open market. He was very good when healthy in 2014 (2.65 ERA and 3.58 FIP in 187 innings) because he makes up for the lack of strikeouts by limiting walks (4.3%) and getting grounders (53.8%). When healthy, he’s really good. Unconventional, but really good.

A minor league contract makes all the sense in the world and of course the Yankees should do that if possible. I think it’s likely to take a big league deal to get him though. The cost of just okay pitching is sky high — $12M a year for J.A. Happ! — that I think at least one team out there will be willing to give Alvarez a 40-man roster spot just to see if he can help them in the second half. Also, the Yankees ostensibly have seven starters for five spots. Wouldn’t Alvarez want to go somewhere that offers a greater opportunity?

Dan asks: Assuming they don’t sign Chris Davis. Doesn’t trading Mark Teixeira to St. Louis make sense for the Cards? What type of return could you see him bringing, assuming the Yanks ate some money?

On paper, Teixeira makes sense for the Cardinals. And again, for like the tenth mailbag in a row, I have no idea why the Yankees would be interested in trading away arguably their best hitter, nevermind eating money to make it happen. The Cardinals are actually short on starting pitching right now, so they’re not going to talk Carlos Martinez or Michael Wacha. They wouldn’t do that even if they had ten extra starters. What else could they offer? Stephen Piscotty or Randal Grichuk? The Yankees don’t need outfielders. I hereby declare a moratorium on Teixeira trade ideas. It’s not happening. Trading him makes the Yankees worse and then there’s the whole he has a no-trade clause and has said he doesn’t want to leave thing.

Marc asks: T or F: Tyler Flowers is a great option for back up catcher.

I’ll go with true, but we can scale it down from “great” option to “good” option? A great backup catcher is a guy who hits and plays strong defense. We have almost 1,400 plate appearances telling us Flowers can’t really hit (career 83 wRC+), and he’s been no better than average throwing out base-runners. He’s also prone to passed balls, though I blame Chris Sale’s slider for some of that.

Flowers. (Jon Durr/Getty)
Flowers. (Jon Durr/Getty)

The one thing Flowers appears to do exceptionally well is frame pitches. He ranked as the second best pitch-framer in baseball this past season according to StatCorner — behind only ex-Yankee Frankie Cervelli — and we know the Yankees value framing very highly. This was the first season Flowers rated as an elite framer, he’s been closer to average or even below-average in the past, though I do think framing is a skill that can be learned, at least to some extent.

Pretty much every half-decent free agent catcher has already signed this offseason, and they all received similar annual salaries: Alex Avila ($2.5M), A.J. Pierzynski ($3M), Brayan Pena ($2.5M), Geovany Soto ($2.8M). Signing Flowers for, say, one year and $2.5M allows the Yankees to start Gary Sanchez in Triple-A and have a better backup than Austin Romine. Flowers would also remain under team control as an arbitration-eligible player in 2017. That makes sense, for sure. I wouldn’t lose any sleep if they don’t sign him though. I’m skeptical of “his only standout tool is pitch-framing” guys.

Stuart asks: Could the story at this link be the reason the Yankees’ spending has flattened out? Are the Yanks perhaps under pressure to keep their payroll in check?

I guess it’s possible. I think Tigers owner Mike Ilitch was just speaking casually — I suggest reading the link, Ilitch may have hinted at collusion — maybe referring to other board members or something like that. The owners don’t want to spend money. We know that. If they had their way they’d set a hard salary cap at $50M.

I honestly think the luxury tax is to blame for the Yankees’ payroll leveling out. It’s dead money and Hal Steinbrenner doesn’t like paying it. I’d hate paying it if I were an owner too. Collusion is a juicy topic, and maybe I’m just naive, but I don’t see how agreeing to limit spending helps New York. That benefits small market teams with lower payrolls the most.

Ryan asks: In 1981, Dave Winfield signed with the Yankees for 10/$23M, making him the highest paid player at the time on a long term contract. With that said, what do you think ’81 Winfield, an easy five-tool player, would get if he was available in today’s market?

Winfield had just turned 29 when he signed that contract with the Yankees, and he was a monster from 1978-80, hitting .298/.376/.500 (150 OPS+) with 78 home runs and 16.5 WAR. I think he’d get $30M annually in today’s market, likely over six or seven years. The team that offers the seventh year might be the one to get him. So that’s seven years and $210M? Considering David Price, a 30-year-old pitcher who is inherently a bigger risk, got seven years and $217M, I think I’m light. Winfield might have gotten eight years and $240M. (Winfield had a 135 OPS+ and 27.4 WAR during the eight years that would have been covered by the contract.) He was a superstar and would have been paid appropriately.

Marc asks: Could you see the Yanks making a play to acquire Zunino as the right-handed compliment to McCann? Seems like he fits the young high-upside/hasn’t met potential type of player they have been acquiring lately.

I really think Mike Zunino might be a lost cause at this point. The Mariners rushed him to the big leagues for whatever reason and he’s hit .193/.252/.353 (71 wRC+) with a 32.1% strikeout rate and a 5.1% walk rate in over 1,000 plate appearances. He’s a good defender and rates as a great pitch-framer, but man, that’s an unplayable bat. Zunino can hit a mistake 450 feet but otherwise has no contact ability or plate discipline.

Seattle added Chris Iannetta and Steve Clevenger in recent weeks and the plan is to use them behind the plate with Zunino playing everyday in Triple-A. That’s the best thing for him. I don’t think being a backup helps him at this point. If the Mariners are willing to give him away in a busted prospect for busted prospect trade (Zunino for Slade Heathcott?), sure, do it. I don’t think they’d sell so low on him though. Send him to Triple-A and hope he either figures it out or rebuilds some trade value.

Mailbag: Fernandez, Harvey, Happ, Frazier, Ortiz, Comcast

Got a dozen questions in this week’s mailbag. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us your questions throughout the week.

Fernandez. (Rob Foldy/Getty)
Fernandez. (Rob Foldy/Getty)

Many asked: What would it take to get Jose Fernandez?

There’s been some chatter the last few days about the Marlins potentially trading Fernandez, their pitching franchise cornerstone, because of some off-the-field drama. The team didn’t include agent Scott Boras in talks about Fernandez’s workload limits for next season, for example. And apparently he’s a jerk in the clubhouse. Andy Slater had a little more on that.

Fernandez, who turned 23 in July, is so obviously talented, but his trade value might not be as sky high as you’d expect. Don’t get me wrong, it’s extremely high, but we’re talking about a player now only three years from free agency. Also, Fernandez isn’t all that far removed from Tommy John surgery, which is sorta scary. That said, he had a 2.92 ERA (2.24 FIP) in 64.2 innings after returning last year, so he showed no ill-effects.

Maybe Fernandez is a bit of a jerk in the clubhouse, but I have zero concerns about his mental toughness. Fernandez was thrown in jail in Cuba three times for attempting to defect before successfully leaving the island in 2008. Also, he jumped into the Gulf of Mexico to save his mother after she fell overboard when they hit turbulent waters. I don’t think pitching in New York or the AL East will scare him. Fernandez has been through worse no matter how messy things get on the mound.

The talent is undeniable. Fernandez was legitimately one of the best pitchers in baseball back in 2013 (2.19 ERA and 2.73 FIP in 172.2 innings) despite skipping over Double-A and Triple-A. He made the Marlins out of Spring Training despite never pitching above High-A ball. The movement Fernandez gets on his pitches seems impossible:

It’s pretty much impossible to come up with a comparable trade to use as a reference point for Fernandez. Three years of a bonafide ace who is only 23 but was limited to 116.1 innings the last two years due to Tommy John surgery? How do you value that? Fernandez is extremely talented and you bet on that talent, but the elbow reconstruction is a red flag.

My trade proposal sucks, but I’m thinking any deal for Fernandez starts with Luis Severino and includes two other top young players. Something like Severino plus Aaron Judge plus Jorge Mateo plus a fourth player — maybe one of the MLB ready relievers? — for Fernandez? Does that sound even remotely realistic? I really have no idea. If Fernandez is indeed available, I’d want the Yankees to go all-out to get him, regardless of what some anonymous teammates say to the media.

Mike asks: Could a team trade a guy who has accepted a QO to another team, whom could then work out a multi-year deal, instead of the one year 15.8M salary guaranteed by accepting the QO? Who holds the cards, if the player wanted the security of a multi-year deal and was willing to be traded early in the offseason, or is there a date they have to wait to be traded once accepting the QO?

Here’s a rule I didn’t know existed until just recently: players who accept the qualifying offer can not be traded until June 15th of the following season. I had no idea. I don’t remember who the player was (David Robertson, maybe?), but I definitely remember saying something like “make him the QO because even if he accepts, he’ll have trade value at that salary” about a player. That’s wrong. Players can’t be traded until midseason after accepting the QO for whatever reason. As for the multiyear contract, the player and team could work out a multiyear deal even after he accepts the QO. No problem there. The MLBPA wouldn’t stand in the way of the player getting more money.

Benjamin asks: #mytradeproposalsucks but take away the two teams involved, would a trade built around Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances for Matt Harvey make sense from a baseball prospective?

Like Fernandez, Harvey’s trade value is obviously high but it’s not oh my gosh give up everything high. He’s also three years away from free agency and will be paid well through arbitration, plus Tommy John surgery isn’t that far in the rear-view mirror. Unlike Fernandez, Harvey has pitched a full season since having his elbow rebuild.

Anyway, that trade doesn’t make sense for the Mets. They’ll want younger players for Harvey. They won’t trade him for a two-player package headlined by a 32-year-old outfielder making nearly $13M a year. Betances is awesome but he is still only a reliever. Ace-caliber starters are worth a heck of a lot more than elite relievers. The Yankees would do that trade in a heartbeat. It doesn’t make sense for the Mets. They could do a lot better.

Happ. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)
Happ. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty)

Bill asks: Any Interest in J.A. Happ? Similar stuff to Chen who the Yanks are interested in and could come much cheaper.

The Pirates and pitching coach Ray Searage have had a ton of success with reclamation project arms. They scooped up A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, Edinson Volquez, and Happ off the scrap heap and turned them into quality starters in recent years. Do it once and maybe you got lucky. But four times in the span of four years? Then it’s a legitimate skill.

Happ, who is somehow already 33, had a 4.64 ERA (4.12 FIP) in 108.2 innings for the Mariners this past season, then a 1.85 ERA (2.19 FIP) in 63.1 innings for the Pirates after being moved at the trade deadline. His strikeout (27.7% vs. 17.5%) and walk (5.2% vs. 6.8%) rates both improved while his grounder rate (40.4% vs. 42.1%) declined slightly. The biggest change appears to be Happ’s fastball usage — he threw it 66.7% of the time with Pittsburgh but only 51.5% with the Mariners.

We’d have to take a deeper look in a non-mailbag format to see when exactly he increased his fastball usage — ahead in the count? behind in the count? to righties? with men on base? etc. — but that’s a significant difference. He’s not suddenly a true talent 1.85 ERA (2.19 FIP) pitcher, but Searage apparently made some adjustments that change Happ’s outlook. It’s fair to wonder if he can continue that performance away from Searage and/or in the AL. The fact there appears to be a tangible explanation for his improvement intrigues me. Happ’s an interesting free agent sleeper, which is definitely not something I thought I’d say ever.

dmalb2 asks: I remember a while back that Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle got traded by the Marlins to the Blue Jays, and Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins owner, got criticized for trading those guys so soon after signing them. They had been with the team for only a year. How would that be different from trading Andrew Miller after just one season? Would that sort of move give the Yankees a bad name among the players?

I guess it’s possible the Yankees get a bad rap because of that, yeah, but this really is an apples to oranges comparison. The Marlins have a history of doing this — they traded Carlos Delgado one year after signing him, remember — and their reputation sucks in general because of their various fire sales. The Reyes and Buehrle deals were so heavily backloaded — Reyes made $10M in year one while Buehrle made only $6M — that it’s easy to think trading them away was the plan all along. (It was.)

The Yankees have a history of paying very well and trying to win each and every year. Trading Miller after one season would definitely be the exception, not the norm around these parts. Some players on the outside might not like it, but I think the majority would understand this is a business and sometimes that’s how things go. Trades happen. If it becomes a pattern, then maybe it raises a red flag. One trade wouldn’t change much, I hope.

Jacob asks: What would be an equivalent package from the Yankees’ farm system to what the Angels just gave up for Andrelton Simmons, and what are your general thoughts on that trade?

The two prospects are along the lines of Severino and healthy Ian Clarkin or Rookie Davis. (The Yankees don’t have an Erick Aybar.) I am totally cool with sticking with Didi Gregorius over acquiring Simmons. Zero doubt about it. Gregorius is a very good shortstop who pretty much equaled Simmons’ production this year. No reason to give up that sort of package for what might only be a marginal upgrade.

The trade itself was a little weird. It seems like the Braves are planning to field a team of 25 pitchers when their new ballpark opens in 2017. I guess they can use the young pitching to trade for position players, but the attrition rate is so high that they’re going to inevitably get nothing out of some of these guys. Maybe mix in a position player in the next trade? As for the Angels, they got an upgrade at shortstop but used their two best trade chips and still don’t have a catcher, third baseman, or left fielder. Not sure that was the best use of resources if the goal is contention in 2016, as it should be. Aybar’s fine at shortstop.

Andrew asks: Who would you rather the Yankees sign to their respective deals that they are predicted to get? Heyward and his predicted $200 million deal or Upton and his predicted $150 million deal?

Give me Jason Heyward. I’m of the belief Heyward’s offense will match Justin Upton’s very soon, within a year or two, and the differences in base-running and defense are massive. Factor in their ages — to be fair, Upton is only 28, so it’s not like he’s old — and I think Heyward’s worth the extra years and money. Upton’s good too! I’d be happy if the Yankees added him. I just prefer Heyward, even considering the higher cost.

Ryan asks: Not Yankee related but who got the better return on the 2 Kimbrel deals? Padres or Braves?

The Padres got the better prospect package but it’s tough to compare the two. A huge part of the first Craig Kimbrel trade was shedding more than $55M in salary obligations, most of which belonged to B.J. Melvin Upton. The Braves acquired Carlos Quentin, who was designated for assignment immediately, the useful Cameron Maybin and Matt Wisler, and a sleeper in Jordan Paroubeck. It’s hard to say how much Atlanta valued/needed that salary relief. Saving $55M+ in real dollars vs. getting the prospects the Padres acquired? There’s a decent chance the $55M proves more valuable.

Frazier. (Joe Robbins/Getty)
Frazier. (Joe Robbins/Getty)

Matt asks: How great would Todd Frazier’s right handed power look balancing the lineup out? He’d make a lot of sense if we can move Headley to a team that doesn’t have the prospects to get Frazier.

Frazier would obviously be a great fit for the Yankees at third base. He’s a better defender than many may realize and he’s a legitimate 30-homer threat who would add some much needed balance to the lineup. Frazier’s not a huge AVG or OBP guy — even this year he had a .309 OBP — so you have to live with that in order to get the power. He’s two years away from free agency.

I’m not sure what an appropriate package for Frazier would be — not too many comfortably above-average players are traded two years before free agency — but this is not a “Chase Headley and Ivan Nova” kind of trade. The Reds are rebuilding and want young players. Asking for Severino would be fair game in my book, though I don’t think the Yankees would make that trade. Something like Judge and James Kaprielian plus a third player might be more realistic. (My trade proposal still sucks.)

Spencer asks: Do you think the Yankees will target a minor league 2B like Darwin Barney or Jemile Weeks to give insurance, should the whole Refsnyder/Ackley plan not work out? Is there any merit to considering Carlos Corporan as a candidate for the backup catcher/AAA backup role? He can’t hit but seems to be a good defender.

I don’t know if they’ll target Barney or Weeks specifically, but yes, bringing in a middle infielder on a minor league contract for Triple-A seems like a necessity. The Yankees don’t have a shortstop for Triple-A right now (sorry, Cito) and I guess Tony Renda plays second base if Rob Refsnyder is in the big leagues. Stashing a veteran middle infield dude down there makes a world of sense.

The same goes for catchers. The Yankees did re-sign Eddy Rodriguez a few weeks ago, but they could go into the season with Gary Sanchez backing up Brian McCann, Austin Romine out of the organization, and Rodriguez plus someone else at Triple-A. Corporan is one possible target — he’s another pitch-framing guy who can’t hit — as are Tim Federowicz and Mike McKenry, among others. Even if Romine backs up McCann with Sanchez in Triple-A, Rodriguez could start at Double-A — he was there last year — with the minor league deal guy backing up Sanchez.

Jarrod asks: Given your recent BBWAA membership (congrats!), I thought you could help settle a discussion between me and a mate. If David Ortiz has a similar 2016 to what he had in 2015, would you vote him into the HOF and why or why not?

Yes, definitely. He doesn’t even need a good 2016 to be a Hall of Famer in my book. He is one right now. Ortiz is arguably the greatest DH ever — no worse than what, third best? — and he’s a transcendent player who was a key piece of the Red Sox’s recent run of success. You can’t tell the story of baseball history without Ortiz. Whether he actually gets into the Hall of Fame is another matter. The voters have been punishing guys with performance-enhancing drug ties — heck, they’re punishing guys who look like they have PEDs ties — and Ortiz figures to get lumped into that group. I’d vote for him. We’re all Yankees fans, we all hate Ortiz’s guts, but respect the career. He’s been incredible.

Mike asks: I live in Northern NJ and have Comcast and as of right now I don’t have any access to Yankees Baseball on YES. Is MLB.tv an option or am I subjected to blackouts? Please help!

MLB.tv won’t help, sorry. You’ll still be blacked out of live games. The good news is YES and Comcast are reportedly still negotiating and it is only mid-November, so there’s still a few months to go before Spring Training. Hopefully the two sides can get it resolved by then. It would be a damn shame if this turned into a Time Warner/Dodgers situation. (All non-TWC customers in Southern California have been blacked out of SportsNet LA for two years now.)

Mailbag: Plouffe, Campos, Shields, Judge, Sanchez, Judge

Fourteen questions in this week’s mailbag. There were a bunch of “what about this guy for the fourth outfielder spot?” questions sitting in the inbox that went straight to the trash thanks to the Aaron Hicks trade. Anyway, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send questions.

(Hannah Foslien/Getty)
(Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Alex asks: Could Trevor Plouffe be the Zobrist-esque player the Yankees want? Twins have four players for three spots with the addition of Byung-Ho Park, and they’re down an outfielder after Torii Hunter retired. Gardy & prospects for Plouffe, then sign a big OF. Thoughts?

Plouffe’s days as a utility guy are over. He hasn’t played anywhere other than first and third base (and DH) since 2012. Back in the day he played the corner outfield spots and even a little middle infield, but yeah, it’s been three years since he’s done that. Plouffe is what he is at this point …

Trevor Plouffe

… and that’s a solid right-handed corner infielder. Casey McGehee with power. (For what it’s worth, some Twins fans I know say Plouffe isn’t as good in the field as the stats indicate.) MLBTR projects Plouffe to get $7.7M through arbitration this offseason and that’s pretty pricey for a guy with no obvious place to play, right? He’d be a part-time third baseman, a part-time first baseman, and a part-time DH with the Yankees.

If the Yankees weren’t tied down with Alex Rodriguez at DH and didn’t have Greg Bird sitting in Triple-A, Plouffe would make more sense. But now, with no real versatility, I’m not sure were he fits on the roster. That’s an expensive part-time player. Also, there’s no chance I’d trade Brett Gardner for a guy who’s a year away from being a non-tender candidate. (And besides, the Twins have plenty of outfielders. That’s why Hicks was expendable.)

Torrey asks: Even though he hasn’t pitched above A ball, do you think Campos is a candidate for the bullpen this season? Is that his upside now?

I do. I don’t think the Yankees would have re-added Vicente Campos to the 40-man roster if they didn’t consider him a 2016 big league option. The 40-man is too tight right now to tie up another spot with a pitcher who won’t be able to help next season. (Domingo German is already filling that spot, and Rookie Davis figures to join him soon since he’s Rule 5 Draft eligible.)

Campos had starter stuff — mid-90s heater, slurvy breaking ball, changeup — and command before getting hurt, but he’s had all sorts of elbow problems in recent years and lost a lot of development time the last few years. He threw only 167 total innings from 2012-15. The Yankees figure to keep Campos in a starting role in the minors just to get him innings, but I think his ultimate role is reliever now. He’s had too many injuries.

Here’s a fun comp: Joakim Soria. Soria’s another guy who had a starter’s repertoire and command but couldn’t stay healthy. He moved to the bullpen, continued to throw all his pitches like a starter, and dominated. Wade Davis is another guy who throws all his pitches in relief. Maybe Campos works out of the bullpen that way.

Simon asks: Does the MLB do sign and trades like they do in the NBA? I don’t think they do? How come they don’t do that?

There’s no need. I don’t know a ton about the NBA, but my understanding is the sign-and-trade move is all about the salary cap. The cap rules say you can re-sign your own player to a contract larger than the maximum he can receive from another team as a free agent. It’s a way for the player to get more money and his former team to get something in return. (Right? Correct me if I’m wrong.) There’s no need for that in MLB. There’s no cap or contract limits. Teams can give free agents whatever they want.

Paul asks: Is there a future Hall of Famer on the roster right now? CC and Beltran are the only ones I think have a chance and CC’s hanging by a thread.

I don’t think so, no. A-Rod obviously has a first ballot Hall of Fame resume, but he’s never getting in. CC Sabathia was on the Hall of Fame track until injuries set in these last few years. I suppose there’s still a chance he could salvage his case with three or four solid years, but it’s hard to see that happening. Carlos Beltran is the best Hall of Fame candidate on the roster and I think he’s borderline. He’s one of those guys who will hang around on the ballot a long time and people will debate each year. My hunch is Beltran doesn’t get in, though I do think his chances improved when the BBWAA got rid of the legacy voters last year.

Jason asks: Is it possible that Cashman refusing to trade any top prospects at the deadline, continuously making it clear he does not want to move any of them, and even giving Severino and Bird extended playing time in the MLB this season, is just one, or at least part of one, very long drawn out plan to raise their trade value for a run at a big trade?

Ah yes, the long con. I don’t think this is the plan though. That’s way too risky. Luis Severino could get hurt at any moment and Bird might get exposed as a platoon DH with more playing time. I sincerely believe they wanted to incorporate these players into the big league roster and build around them going forward. That said, if the right trade offer comes along, I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to trade either (or both) Severino or Bird. Would Brian Cashman really say no to Severino and Bird for, say, Bryce Harper? Nope.

Shields. (Christian Petersen/Getty)
Shields. (Christian Petersen/Getty)

Matt asks: Jacoby Ellsbury for James Shields. The Padres wanna move him, they need an outfielder, opens the door for Heyward/Upton in left field, thoughts?

The Yankees would have to eat money. The Padres are trying to trim payroll this offseason — hence yesterday’s Joaquin Benoit for two low level prospects trade — and there’s a ~$45M difference between the Ellsbury and Shields contracts. (Shields’ deal is heavily backloaded. He made $10M this season and gets $21M in each of the next three seasons.) I’d make that trade in an instant if I were the Yankees, even with the understanding Shields is probably a mid-rotation innings eater these days, not an ace. Bad contract for bad contract, but Shields’ bad contract ends two years earlier, it clears an outfield spot, and adds a much-needed innings dude for the rotation. I have to think San Diego would need a nice chunk of money to make that deal.

Mike asks: Is there any chance the Yankees sign Shawn Kelley again? Is Mike Mussina a HOF’er and does he get in this year?

Yes there’s a chance they re-sign Kelley — he had a 2.45 ERA (2.57 FIP) in 51.1 innings around back trouble in 2015 — but I think the Yankees are more inclined to give their young righties a chance first. Maybe if Kelley’s market doesn’t develop as hoped this winter, they swoop in and sign him in January. Otherwise I think they plan to give guys like Branden Pinder and Nick Rumbelow a longer look in 2016.

As for Mussina, I do think he’s a Hall of Famer but I don’t think he has much of a chance of getting in this year. His voting percentage went from 20.3% two years ago to 24.6% last year. He’s got another eight years on the ballot, which remains overstuffed because most voters aren’t voting for performance-enhancing drug guys. I don’t think Mussina is a slam dunk Hall of Famer. You can definitely make a case he isn’t. I think he is worthy though and yet I can’t see him getting in this year. Moose will have to wait a while.

Peter asks: Is Zobrist still a viable SS option? If so then doesn’t signing him solve most of the position player needs? He can rotate into 2B/RF and be the backup SS, covering the 3 most upgradeable positions with one player.

Ben Zobrist did not play any shortstop last season but he started 23 games (and played 31 games) at the position for the Rays in 2014, so it’s not so far in the rear-view mirror that it’s a non-option. I think you could rely on him as a backup at the position, but if there’s an injury to Didi Gregorius, you’d probably rather run someone else out there on everyday basis. Signing Zobrist could conceivably allow you cut Brendan Ryan — Zobrist becomes the everyday second baseman and backup shortstop with Dustin Ackley or Rob Refsnyder the backup at second — and free up a bench spot.

Matthews asks: Last week’s mailbag had a question regarding what you would consider a fair deal for Starlin Castro. From my perspective, Baez is the more interesting target (despite the high strike out total). What sort of package do you think it would take to land him? Given Epstein-Ellsbury have history from Boston, and the fact that they don’t currently have a true center fielder/leadoff man since Fowler is a free agent, could we try center a deal around Ellsbury (with cash) plus other pieces?

I think Theo Epstein & Co. have reached the point where they know they can’t keep everyone. With Addison Russell locked in at short, there’s only one spot (second base) for Castro and Javier Baez. I also think they’re in a tough spot because they’re not going to get a huge return for either guy at this point. Their stock is down. I also think the Cubs have some fear they’ll trade Baez and he’ll turn into a 40+ homer shortstop for someone else.

Anyway, am I pro “get rid of Ellsbury and his contract,” and I’d trade him for Baez (or Castro) straight up. I don’t think the Cubbies would do it unless the Yankees kicked in a whole bunch of money, which sort of defeats the purpose. Chicago has shopped Baez for aces — David Price and Cole Hamels, reportedly — so they’re shooting for the stars. This isn’t a “Michael Pineda and a prospect for Baez” situation. It’ll cost something that hurts to get him.

There’s a decent chance you get zero return from Baez because he has no plan at the plate at all, but it’s legit superstar upside. I’d definitely take a shot on him at second given New York’s internal options.

dfed87 asks: With the news that the Mariners want Gardner and the Yankees like Paxton, I have to ask, wouldn’t they be better off trying to sign Brett Anderson? They are both close to the same age, both could fall apart if you stared too long, and you get to keep your best trade chip.

I think that’s a reasonable alternative, yeah. Anderson will cost you a draft pick and a decent sized contract — he’s going to take the largest offer after all those years of injuries, right? — with no guarantee of better health. Paxton’s appeal is his four years of affordable team control, upside as a hard-throwing southpaw, and youth. (Anderson is only nine months older than Paxton, however.) He’s worth acquiring in my opinion. I just wouldn’t trade Gardner for him. My concern with Anderson is the injury history, and at this point the Yankees need a guy they can count on for innings. They have enough dudes with health concerns.

Judge ... and Sanchez! (Rob Carr/Getty)
Judge … and Sanchez! (Rob Carr/Getty)

Brian asks: Could the Murphy for Hicks deal be a precursor to a deal involving Judge (not Gardner)? If so, what type of return might he command?

That would really surprise me. I think the Yankees would much sooner trade Gardner than Aaron Judge. They seem very focused on getting younger and Judge is a big part of that. Lets’ talk this one out for fun though. Judge is a top 30-ish prospect in MLB right now. You could argue higher or lower, but top 30 or so sounds good enough to me. Here’s what some recent top 30-ish prospects (per Baseball America) netted in trades in recent years:

  • No. 34, 2015: Matt Wisler, headliner in a package for three years of Craig Kimbrel.
  • No. 30, 2014: Andrew Heaney, headliner in a package for four years of Dee Gordon and one year of Dan Haren
  • No. 22, 2013: Mike Olt, headliner in a package for a half-season of Matt Garza.
  • No. 28, 2012: Wil Myers, headliner in a package for two years of Shields and four years of Davis.
  • No. 31, 2011: Casey Kelly, headliner in a package for one year of Adrian Gonzalez.

You’d like to make a Heaney or Myers trade, or at least a Wisler trade. A Kelly trade could work — Gonzalez was a monster back then — depending on which impending free agent you get. One year of, say, Stephen Strasburg or Jose Bautista would work just fine. (Obviously Bautista’s not happening.) An Olt trade? Nope. That’s bad even though Olt flamed out. Prospect rankings aren’t a great way to gauge value but they work fine for this exercise. Those five give us an idea of what Judge may be able to fetch in a trade right now.

Tom asks: What is better for Sanchez’s development – Playing once a week in the bigs and learning hitting from A-Rod and defense from McCann and Girardi or playing everyday in Triple-A?

Personally, I think Gary Sanchez is better off playing every day in Triple-A to continue working on his defense. I don’t matter though. All that matters is what the Yankees think. They were prepared to use Bird as a part-timer late in the season — Mark Teixeira‘s injury turned Bird into an everyday guy — and may be willing to do it with Sanchez. There are ways to work on catching without playing games — catching bullpens, mostly — but there’s no real way to simulate game action. I think the best thing for Sanchez is playing every day in Triple-A while the best thing for the Yankees is using him as McCann’s backup. Make sense?

Jacob asks: How similar of an offensive player is Aaron Hicks as compared to Brett Gardner? Is he the same scrappy patient hitter?

No, they aren’t all that similar. They do have similar strikeout and walk tendencies — Hicks has career 22.2 K% and 10.1 BB% while Gardner is at 20.8 K% and 9.3 BB% the last three years — but Hicks has much more over-the-fence power. He hit eleven homers in 390 plate appearances this season. Gardner hit five in 569 plate appearances at age 26. I wouldn’t call Hicks a scrappy leadoff type, at least not to the extent Gardner is. He’s got some pop and is more of a potential 20-20 guy than the 8-40 guy Gardner was in his mid-to-late-20s.

Rich asks: Last year there was some references to Omar Minaya possibly joining the front office (a move I would love). Hearing anything this year? I think he has an eye to see talent and asst gm title waiting for him!

Nothing at all. The Yankees were discussing adding Minaya to the front office last winter, it didn’t happen, then he left his post as the Padres vice president of baseball operations for a job with the MLBPA. He’s now a special advisor to union chief Tony Clark. Minaya made some bad moves as Mets GM a few years ago, no doubt about it, but he has a great reputation for his scouting and player evaluation acumen. Based on the little I know, Minaya would be a tremendous asset in the front office, as long as he’s not the guy calling the shots.

Mailbag: Raburn, Sanchez, Schwarber, O’Day, Profar, Rios

Got 14 questions for you in this week’s mailbag. Our email address is RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. Use that to send us any and all questions, comments, links, etc.

Raburn. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Raburn. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Alex asks: How about Ryan Raburn for our lefty mashing 4th outfield spot?

I was surprised the Indians let Raburn go. It was only a $3M option — to be fair, $3M to the Indians is not the same as $3M to the Yankees — but he seems tradeable at that salary. Raburn has hit lefties very hard since landing in Cleveland. He hit .325/.415/.589 (173 wRC+) against them this year and .278/.364/.514 (142 wRC+) in three years with the Tribe. Raburn is not young (34) and he’s strictly a corner outfielder now — he hasn’t played third base since 2011 and has only 17 innings at second since 2012 — so there’s not a ton of versatility there. He could work as a fourth outfielder though, sure.

Marc asks: After reading the Sanchez post, do you think his huge summer and fall make him a preseason Top 100 prospect? If so, how many other Yankees join him on that list?

I do. I thought Gary Sanchez should have been a top 100 prospect last year, but alas. He’s not top 10 or top 25 or anything crazy like that, but he belongs in the back half of a top 100 list for sure. Luis Severino and Greg Bird graduated to the big leagues this summer, so they won’t be on any prospect lists next season. In addition to Sanchez, Aaron Judge and Jorge Mateo are safe bets to appear on top 100 lists next spring. James Kaprielian might sneak on a few since he seems to have some very big fans.

Michael asks: What would you think of Anibal Sanchez as a potential trade target? Tigers have a bloated payroll. He’s a potential bounce back candidate. Would only be a two year commitment.

I think the Tigers are more likely to keep Sanchez and try to win next year. Before pulling the trigger on a trade, you’d have to figure out why he went from 0.38 HR/9 and 4.6 HR/FB% from 2013-14 to 1.66 HR/9 and 16.0 HR/FB% in 2015. His velocity is fine but he had on-and-off shoulder problems this year, which could have caused his stuff to flatten out. If Sanchez is not fully healthy, or at least not as strong as he was a few years ago, he might not be a bounceback candidate at all. He might just be in decline. Sanchez has two years and $38.6M left on his contract. Based on this quick glance, I say avoid.

P.J. asks: If the Padres do NOT pick up Clint Barmes option is he a better possibility for the Yankees as a backup SS instead of Ryan?

The Padres did indeed decline their $2M option for Barmes earlier this week. The 36-year-old hit .232/.281/.353 (75 wRC+) overall this past season, and that includes a .242/.299/.374 (85 wRC+) line against southpaws. Ryan had a 64 wRC+ overall and a 109 wRC+ against lefties. (I don’t expect him to do that again though.) They’re both good defenders but Barmes is strictly a shortstop — he’s played ten innings at third base since 2008 and 65 innings at second base since 2010. Ryan has already shown he can play all over the infield and even right field in a pinch. If anything, I’d say this is a lateral move. (The Yankees would still have to pay Ryan after releasing him too, remember.)

He looks like a Schwarber. (David Banks/Getty)
He looks like a Schwarber. (David Banks/Getty)

Kevin asks: Who would say no? Luis Severino for Kyle Schwarber.

This one of those “both teams would say no” trades. I think it favors the Yankees slightly but I am the low man on Schwarber. Some see a future MVP candidate, I see a a guy without a position and a significant platoon split. He’s going to destroy righties though. At the same time, some see Severino as a reliever. I myself have some doubts about his ability to hold his stuff for 180+ innings year after year, but don’t listen me, I’m wrong all the time. Also, I’m not sure where the Yankees would actually play Schwarber. Make him a catcher/first base/corner outfield/DH rover?

David asks: With all the talk about trading players with NTC, it makes me curious: how does it work? How far down the line does a team go in trade talks before seeing if the player is willing to waive it? I feel like we hear about it around the trade deadline when a team is out of the race and trying to dump salary for prospects, so isn’t so concerned about offending the player or PR fallout if the player refuses to waive the NTC, but no so much in the off-season.

I have no inside information on this. I’m guessing it’s on a case-by-case basis. Sometimes they might approach the player beforehand and other times they might get a little further along in the process. It depends on the player, I suppose. If the Yankees wanted to trade, say, CC Sabathia, I think they’d work the trade out to the point of near completion instead before looping him in. That way you can present him the entire trade and explain the thinking, etc. It might be a little disrespectful to ask Sabathia if he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause simply because you want to get rid of him but don’t have anything worked out yet. At the very least, you’d need to have a serious trade partner I think. For someone else, who maybe isn’t as tenured or ingrained as Sabathia, maybe you approach them ahead of time. I don’t really know.

Jordan asks: What would you think of Marlon Byrd as next year’s designated lefty-masher? He absolutely destroys lefties and, while he probably is a little more expensive than the reclamation-types they usually go for, he seems like a good fit (I don’t know that he’s in line for a starting gig at his age).

That could work, definitely. Byrd hit .271/.324/.496 (121 wRC+) against lefties this year and .292/.335/.519 (133 wRC+) against lefties since resurfacing with the Mets three years ago. I wouldn’t give him an everyday job at this point — he’s 38 and he hit .247/.290/.453 (100 wRC+) overall with declining defense this season — but the Chris Young role? Sure, that could work. Even if he continues to slip a bit and you get a .250/.310/.450 hitter against southpaws, that’s pretty great by bench player standards.

P.J. asks: Which relief pitcher would be a better option for the Yankees as a FA pickup and why, Clippard or O’Day?

Darren O’Day by far. I don’t know if Tyler Clippard was hurt this year or what, but his strikeout (29.5% to 21.3%) and walk (8.3% to 10.3%) rates both took huge steps back this summer. By time the postseason rolled around he couldn’t locate anything and his trademark pop-ups had all become fly balls and line drives. I don’t love O’Day — a guy approaching his mid-30s with a trick delivery scares me, he’s not too far away from being a righty specialist — but right now I’ll take him over Clippard, hands down. I don’t think the Yankees will hand out big money to a reliever this offseason though. If anything, they’ll trade for Craig Kimbrel or someone like that.

Adam asks: Do you think Cashman is likely to pursue Chapman and/or Kimbrel again this off-season? If so, who would you prefer and what’s the most you would give up?

Kimbrel because he’ll actually be available. I’m not quite sure what the Reds are doing — they reportedly listened to offers for Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline, but the asking price was insane — but we know Kimbrel will be on the market. The Padres looked into trading him at the deadline and they need to clear some payroll this offseason to offset James Shields’ backloaded contract. The reported “Mateo plus some secondary stuff for Kimbrel and Jedd Gyorko” deal at the trade deadline seemed fair to me. Don’t you think? I’d do that. (I’d prefer Chapman to Kimbrel but we’re splitting hairs.)

Paul asks: Do you think the Rangers could make Profar available? Would love to take a chance on him for second base. What do you think the cost would be?

I don’t think they will. His value is way too low to trade him now. Jurickson Profar is still only 22, but he’s missed the last two seasons due to shoulder surgery, and he’s just now starting to play regularly in the Arizona Fall League. He’s doing well (.286/.372/.543) but is limited to DH duty because he can’t throw yet. Thinking about this from the Rangers’ point of view: Profar is way too talented to trade now. His value is too low. The smart move for them is to hold onto him, let him rehab, then see what happens when he’s fully healthy. I’d like the Yankees to take a chance on him for sure. I just can’t see Texas selling so low.

More like Profall amirite. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)
More like Profall amirite. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty)

Rays asks: What would Starlin Castro cost the Yankees, assuming they’re interested? He’s expensive and has flaws — doesn’t walk much, barely adequate defender — but he’s young, can play both middle infield positions and balances the lineup with his right handed bat.

There’s a “Brett Gardner for Castro” movement going on right now — mostly in the RAB comments, really — that is crazy talk. I’m sorry Gardner had a bad second half, but Castro has hit .265/.305/.383 (89 wRC+) over the last three years and been close to replacement level overall due to his defense. I get that you’re buying his age 26-29 seasons, but good gravy. I’m not trading a solid at worst, above-average at best player (Gardner) for a bounceback candidate (Castro).

The Cubbies would definitely move Castro right now. They tried to move him at the trade deadline, and when they couldn’t, they benched him for a few days and moved him to second base. Castro has four years and $38M left on his contract and he’s gone backwards the last few years when he should be taking steps forward. Given the salary difference, I think I’d trade Rob Refsnyder for Castro straight up, and that’s probably as high as I’d go. Castro hasn’t hit the last few years, hasn’t played good defense ever, has a history of being a bit of a headache, and is owed some decent money.

Thomas asks: What about Alex Rios as a 4th OF? What type of contract would you expect him to get and what numbers (specifically against lefties) can we expect?

Rios gives me a “the Yankees sign him to be the fourth outfielder, everyone complains, then he inexplicably rakes” vibe for some reason. He had an awful regular season in 2015, hitting .255/.287/.353 (72 wRC+) overall and .229/.267/.303 (54 wRC+) against lefties. That said, his numbers against southpaws were really good the last few years.

AlexRios leftiesIf there was any way to reasonably expect the 2012-14 version of Rios against lefties, sign me up. But 2015 happened, and his overall game has been in decline for a few years, so we can’t just brush it aside. Maybe he’s not a true talent 54 wRC+ hitters against lefties all of a sudden, but he’s probably not a 141 wRC+ guy either.

Rios turns 35 in April and he’s definitely looking at a one-year contract. Signing him to be the fourth outfielder seems plausible if the Yankees believe he’ll be better able to help in a limited role.

Fred asks: Do you think the fact that Daniel Murphy’s defensive shortcomings proved so costly in the World Series will make the Yankees hesitant (or, should I say, even MORE hesitant) to hand the 2B job to the defensively-challenged Rob Refsnyder?

Nah, I don’t think the Yankees think like that. It might scare fans more, but the Yankees know Refsnyder’s defense is not an asset, and they’re aware of the potential consequences. Both Brian Cashman and Joe Girardi said they were happy with Refsnyder’s improvement after he was sent down in July, though I still don’t think the team considers him to be even an average defender. Murphy had some catastrophic errors in the World Series. It was bad. I don’t think Murphy fielding those balls would have made the Yankees any more comfortable with Refsnyder though.

Steve asks: Do you know of any good listing for a teams/GM’s trade history? I was just thinking, for example, how many deals the Yankees have done with the Pirates over the years, but was wondering if they were the team that hooked up with the Yankees the most recently or at least since Huntington/Cashman were both in their positions. Who has never done a trade with the Cashman-led Yankees (beyond waiver claims)? Questions like that.

I know of two sources. First, the Baseball Reference Trade Partners tool, which lets you pick two teams and see all of their trades. Here’s the Yankees and Pirates. They’ve hooked up for nine trades since 2006. The second is the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, which is way more customizable. You can search all transactions (trades, free agent signings, etc.) by team, by GM, by position, whatever. The data only goes back so far though, five years or so.

Cashman has made 13 trades with the Padres, his most with any team during his 17 years as GM. Here’s the list. Cashman has also made 12 trades with the Diamondbacks. Here’s that list. Not surprisingly, the fewest trades have been made with the Red Sox and Rays. One each. That’s it. The only Red Sox trade was Kelly Johnson for Stephen Drew, and the only Rays trade was cash for Nick Green, and that’s not even a real trade. Cashman has made at least one trade with every other franchise during his time as GM. The longest trade “drought” is with the Blue Jays. The last trade with them was the Raul Mondesi deal in 2002.

Mailbag: Puig, McCann, Teixeira, Didi, Murphy, Davis, Niese

Got eleven questions in the mailbag for you this week. You can email us any questions or links or comments or whatever at RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com.

(Stephen Dunn/Getty)
(Stephen Dunn/Getty)

Griffin asks: Do you think it could be realistic for the Yankees to acquire Yasiel Puig this offseason?

I don’t think so. I do believe Puig will be traded this offseason, or at least we’re going to hear a lot of rumors about him possibly being traded, but the Yankees care too much about clubhouse chemistry and makeup to go after Puig. (I don’t mean “too much” in a bad way. I’m just saying it’s a priority for the.) He is insanely talented and a really great player when healthy, but he’s a headache and has reportedly had some run-ins with teammates, like this one. Puig is an electrifying player and the Yankees would be a better team on the field with him. They’d likely be a worse team in the clubhouse though, and the Yankees value that cohesiveness very highly. I can’t see it happening for that reason.

Matty asks: What do you see more likely to happen: the Wild Card game becoming a 3 game series or the Division series becoming a best of 7?

The LDS becoming a best-of-seven. A best-of-three wildcard round would be a real headache. After the end of the regular season, MLB needs to leave a day free for potential tiebreaker games, then squeeze in a best-of-three series without forcing the division winners to sit around waiting too long. So the regular season ends Sunday, tiebreaker day is Monday, the best-of-three wildcard round runs Tuesday through Thursday, then the LDS begins Friday?

Maybe that works — Game One of the NLDS was Friday this year, after all — but there’s all that travel and stuff to sort out. It’s a logistical nightmare. I suppose they could play Game Two and a potential Game Three of the wildcard round as part of a doubleheader, but again, that’s not really fair. It would be fun as a fan, don’t get me wrong, but you’d be pushing the players a little too hard late in the season. I don’t like the winner-take-all wildcard game format and would prefer a best-of-three. I just don’t see how they can pull it off in a way that is fair to everyone.

Chris asks: I love the idea of pursuing Heyward this offseason. Clearly, the increase to the overall payroll is a huge barrier here. Perhaps the Yanks could move Gardner and McCann to create payroll space. Gardy is pretty easily moved and I wonder if McCann is not at all overpriced with 3/$51M left on the contract. Murphy starting at C serves the youth movement as well. Perhaps the question is only academic given that McCann has a full no-trade clause.

Yeah, moving Brian McCann would be tough because of his salary — $17M per year for a catcher is a ton — and no-trade clause. It’s a good idea in theory. A John Ryan Murphy/Gary Sanchez tandem at catcher could be surprisingly productive, plus it would add some right-handed balance to the lefty heavy lineup, but getting rid of McCann seems very hard to do. Which teams would even be interested? Tigers, Angels, Mariners, Rangers, maybe the Nationals? Not too many contending teams — there’s no reason to think McCann would waive his no-trade clause to go to a rebuilding club — are in position to take on a high-priced catcher, even if the Yankees eat some money to facilitate a deal.

James asks: Can you see Teixeira spending the offseason working on learning how to play third base?

No, definitely not. Mark Teixeira did come up through the minors as a third baseman — he originally moved to first base with the Rangers to make room for Hank Blalock (!) — but that was a very long time ago. He hasn’t played third base since 2003 and even now he’s at the age when most third baseman move across the diamond to first base, not vice versa. (He turns 36 in April.) There was some chatter about moving Teixeira to third base back in 2009 when Alex Rodriguez started the season on the DL, but the Yankees quickly shot that down. If I’m remembering correctly, Teixeira said something like “there’s a reason I don’t play third base anymore.” So yeah. Can’t see it happened.

Davis. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)
Davis. (Tom Szczerbowski/Getty)

Sal asks: How about Rajai Davis joining the Yanks this year? He’s hit lefties very well over the course of his career. I know he’s never been raved about defensively, but he could be used to spell Gardner/Ellsbury against southpaws: he does have a .798 career OPS against them. At 35, he won’t be fetching a big multi-year deal, and definitely won’t get the QO.

Remember how Davis used to torment the Yankees when he was with the Blue Jays? He was such a pain in the ass. Davis is an excellent righty platoon outfielder, hitting .302/.341/.510 (135 wRC+) against lefties with the Tigers the last two years. He crushed southpaws with Toronto too. Davis isn’t a 40+ steal guy anymore and his defense is just okay, less than what you’d expect from a speed guy, but he’s still a quality platoon option.

I still think Davis could pull in a two-year contract this offseason even at age 35 (he just turned 35 last week). Maybe something like two years and $12M? (He just completed a two-year, $10M contract.) I like Davis and think he’d be a really great Chris Young replacement. The only question is whether the Yankees want to commit that much money to an extra outfielder. (And whether Davis feels he can get a better opportunity for playing time elsewhere.)

Mark asks: I was wondering if you could break down 2015 Didi stats vs 2014 Jeter stats and explain why Didi gets praised and Jeter gets bashed.

Sure thing. Here are Derek Jeter‘s 2014 season and Didi Gregorius‘ 2015 season side-by-side:

PA AVG/OBP/SLG HR wRC+ SB-CS DRS UZR fWAR bWAR
2014 Jeter 634 .256/.304/.313 4 74 10-2 -12 -8.3 -0.1 +0.2
2015 Didi 578 .265/.318/.370 9 89 5-2 +5 +7.4 +3.1 +3.3

Gregorius will never in a million years have Jeter’s career, but the 2015 version of Didi was much better than the 2014 version of Jeter. He out-hit him in every way — more power, more average, more on-base ability — and was a far superior defender. You don’t even need to look at the defensive stats. Your eyes should have told you Gregorius was a way better gloveman than Jeter this summer.

Jeter was an all-time great Yankee. Yet, at the end of his career, he was a drain on the Yankees. Going from Jeter in 2014 to Didi in 2015 was a substantial upgrade even though Gregorius had plenty of rough patches himself.

Greg asks: Now that 20, 42, 46, and 51 have been retired by the Yankees, what happens to number 21?

I have no idea what the Yankees are planning to do with No. 21. They dedicated a plaque in Monument Park in Paul O’Neill’s honor, so now what? Are they going to not retire the number but keep it out of circulation? The plaque in Monument Park is pretty cool and that seems like enough to me. I say give No. 21 to someone like Greg Bird or Luis Severino, a young homegrown guy who impressed and already won over fans this year. O’Neill hasn’t played in 14 years now. Let’s get the number back on the field.

T.J. asks: With Alex Gordon likely opting for free agency, what about a bundle deal of Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran to the Royals? Beltran might waive his no-trade to go back to a proven winner and his original team. This would open up all sorts of possibilities in free agency.

That’s pretty interesting, I hadn’t though about that. Beltran has a full no-trade clause and has wanted to play for the Yankees forever, so I don’t think he’d waive his no-trade clause at this point, even to go to a contender like the Royals. (Boy, that is a weird sentence, huh?) Gardner would make a lot of sense as Gordon’s replacement because he fits their speed and defense mold — he probably strikes out a little too much for Kansas City’s liking though — and is relatively affordable. Gardner with three years and $39.5M guaranteed left on his contract is a really great deal. The Royals aren’t going to be in any of the big free agent outfielders (Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, etc.) and Gordon is heading for $100M or so himself, so Gardner might make a lot of sense for them. Interesting.

Mike asks: What is more likely (even if it’s 0.002 to 0.001% chance) – the Yankees and Mariners make a Ellsbury/Cano deal, or the Yankees sign Daniel Murphy?

The Yankees sign Murphy, by a mile. There is no reason think the Mariners would be open to a Robinson Cano-for-Jacoby Ellsbury swap, even with other stuff thrown in. Cano is the substantially better player, so much so that shedding the extra three years and $70M isn’t worth it. They’re both terrible, awful, no good contracts. But at least Cano is still a great player. (He finished the season at .287/.334/.446, 116 wRC+ after the dreadful start, so yeah.) I Don’t think the Yankees will sign Murphy either, but gosh, I can see that happened long before I could see a Cano-for-Ellsbury swap.

Niese. (Getty)
Niese. (Getty)

Matt asks: Given the Yankees presumed reluctance to add another “big name/contract” starter this offseason, with the exception of maybe Jeff Samardzija, what do you think it might take to acquire Jonathan Niese? His name has been brought up in previous mailbags, going back sometime now, and I’m sure there will be more than a couple clubs inquiring about his availability during the off-season.

Niese turned 29 earlier this week and he didn’t have a good regular season, pitching to a 4.13 ERA (4.41 FIP) in 176.2 innings. He sat in the 3.50 ERA/3.70 FIP range the last few years while dealing with on and off elbow and shoulder problems. Niese’s contract is affordable — he’s owed $9M next season with club options for 2017 ($10M) and 2018 ($10.5M) — and I don’t think the Mets will be desperate to move that money, especially with Bartolo Colon coming off the books this winter.

Going forward, I think you have to treat Niese as more of a 4.00 ERA guy than a 3.50 ERA guy — maybe even a little higher than that in the AL — because his strikeouts are way down (14.7% in 2015) and he doesn’t crack 90 mph often these days. This might just be who he is at this point of his career. Who in recent years fits as a comparable trade we can reference? Mat Latos? Ian Kennedy? Those seem like the best fits, which means we’re probably talking about two good but not great prospects.

The Yankees have a lot warm bodies for the rotation and while adding depth isn’t a bad thing, I think they should look for an impact starter this winter. Not another depth guy like Niese. He doesn’t move the needle a whole lot. Also, I think the Mets will keep Niese as rotation insurance. Their young starters sure are throwing a lot of stressful innings this postseason. They have to be mindful of any carryover effect next year.

James asks: Tino Martinez is listed as a special assistant to the General Manager. What are the responsibilities of that position? The list I saw on Wikipedia also shows Reggie Jackson & Stump Merrill as holding the same position.

Tino and Reggie do a lot of work on the minor league side, from what I understand. They’re roamers, basically. They travel to the various affiliates and work with the team’s prospects during the season. I believe Tino also helped do some trade deadline prep work, going out and scouting players and whatnot. I have no idea what Merrill does but I think he’s based in Tampa. George Steinbrenner handed out a lot of these “special assistant” jobs — George was generous if nothing else, he made sure guys had jobs for life — and a lot of them were do-nothing gigs. That’s not the case with Tino and Reggie though. They’re constantly going around and working with minor leaguers.

Mailbag: Murphy, Betances, Kuroda, Ellsbury, Severino

Got a dozen questions for you in the mailbag this week. Our mailbag email address is nice and simple: RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. There you go.

(Jonathan Daniel/Getty)
Babe Murphy. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

Many asked: So what about Daniel Murphy?

We got a bunch of Daniel Murphy questions this week. It was inevitable. He’s had a monster postseason and will be a free agent soon, plus he plays a position of need for the Yankees, so at the very least he’s worth discussing. Just don’t overvalue him based on October. What Murphy does this postseason has no value to the Yankees. Don’t get caught in the trap of thinking this postseason makes him a must sign.

Anyway, Murphy turns 31 in April and he hit .281/.332/.449 (110 wRC+) this season, which is almost identical to his career .288/.331/.424 (109 wRC+) batting line. Murphy hit a career-high 14 home runs this year, including nine in the second half, and it’s worth noting the power spike came after he worked with hitting coach Kevin Long. Long has a history of helping guys reach their power potential by teaching them to better pull the ball. See Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano for examples.

Murphy has consistently graded out as a well-below-average defender — the defensive stats said he was about average this year, but the Mets moved him between second and third and first, and playing multiple positions always seems to screw up the numbers — and the only thing he does at an elite level is make contact. His 7.1% strikeout rate this year was the lowest in baseball. (He has a career 12.2% strikeout rate.)

I think Murphy’s going to end up with something like four years and $13M annually, plus he’ll cost a draft pick since the Mets will make him a qualifying offer. He’s a fine player having an out of this world postseason, and would be an upgrade for a lot of teams at second base, including the Yankees. I think I prefer trying Dustin Ackley and Rob Refsnyder though.

Jonathan asks: Looking at the Yankees roster, the guy with the most value seems to be Betances. Even with his September slump, he was arguably the best relief pitcher in baseball for two years in a row. Do you think the Yankees could get a good young player for him? You could argue you are selling high on Betances.

I’m certain the Yankees could get a good young player for him. Maybe even two if the other team is desperate. As good as he was this year, Dellin Betances did struggle with his control, extremely so late in the season. He walked eleven batters in his last 13.2 innings. That’s not good. I know Betances has a history of control issues, but that’s the problem, right? You don’t want pre-2014 Dellin.

I don’t advocate trading Betances but I don’t think it should be off the table either. If another team really values him and is willing to give up, say, a quality young starter with similar service time, how could the Yankees say no? Dellin is always going to be a very boom or bust type. When he’s on, he’s untouchable. But I feel like when it goes, it’ll be quick and ugly. Among guys on the active roster, I’d say Luis Severino has the most trade value, followed by Didi Gregorius and Betances.

#HIROK (Japan Times)
#HIROK (Japan Times)

Michael asks: How about an update on our old friend Hiroki Kuroda?

Kuroda was pretty great for the Hiroshima Carp this year, pitching to a 2.55 ERA with a 15.5% strikeout rate and a 4.2% walk rate in 26 starts and 169.2 innings. He didn’t get any run support though, so he only had an 11-8 record. Poor Hiroki never gets run support. The Carp went 69-71 and missed the postseason, though Kuroda allowed two hits in eight shutout innings against the Hanshin Tigers last month to keep their playoff hopes alive. “I thought I did okay,” he told the Japan Times.

There has not yet been any sort of official announcement, but the expectation is Kuroda will retire this offseason. He left MLB because he wanted to go home to pitch one final season with his original club. Kuroda is an all-time favorite of mine. He was a great Yankees during his three years with the team. If this is it, congrats to him on a pretty excellent career that spanned two continents.

Daniel asks: Do you think the Cubs would entertain a trade of Ellsbury and some combination of cash and/or mid level prospects for Starlin Castro? The Cubs could use Baez at 2nd and the Yankees could move Gardner to center, while using a combination of Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Ben Gamel or even Rob Refsnyder in left.

I think the Cubs might be the most (only?) realistic destination for Jacoby Ellsbury, not that I expect a trade to happen. He has a history with Theo Epstein & Co., and the Cubs are contenders now, so you don’t have to sell him on the idea of going to rebuilding team. Plus the Cubbies need a center fielder and leadoff hitter. I think Chicago would at least entertain the idea.

I’m not sure if Ellsbury for Castro is realistic — there might have to be other stuff involved, especially since the money is so uneven — though I get the sense Castro is not someone the Yankees would pursue because he’s bad defensively and, fair or not, has a reputation for having makeup issues. He performed much better after moving to second base this year, though it could be sample size noise.

Christopher asks: There is often talk of MLB expanding the active roster from 25 to 26 or 27. If that happens, could you see a jump of the 40 man roster to 42 as well? It would seem the MLBPA would be for that and would also prevent teams from losing players that they really don’t want to during the season. Also gives more flexibility during the year too.

The MLBPA would definitely be in favor of a larger 40-man roster — the more roster spots the better from their perspective — but that might end up being a concession. The owners say “we’ll give you a 26-man active roster but it stays a 40-man roster,” that sort of thing. So the union doesn’t pick up more members, but some members (30, to be exact) get more pay and benefits and stuff. I think rosters will expand to 26 players reasonably soon and I guess there’s a chance the 40-man will become a 41 or 42-man roster as well. I’m not sure I could give a better answer than that. Sorry.

Shane asks: Can you do a quick projection of what the 2017 season salary looks like? I know some players come off the books and some of the young guys are going to take over some positions by opening day 2017. Getting under that salary cap in 2017 seems very possible.

The Yankees will start shedding their huge money contracts after next season. Right now, Cot’s says the Yankees have $120.6M in guaranteed contracts on the books for 2017, and their most notable arbitration cases will be Gregorius, Betances, Nathan Eovaldi, Michael Pineda, and Adam Warren. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after next season, and I have to think the luxury tax threshold will go up at that point. It has to, right? The current $189M threshold is too low given MLB’s sky high revenues. It should be closer to $200M, if not even higher. Who knows what will happen to the roster in the next 18 months, but right now it looks very possible for the Yankees to get under the luxury tax threshold in 2017, whatever it may be.

Chen. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)
Chen. (Mitchell Layton/Getty)

Jeff asks: What are the chances the Yankees go after Wei-Yin Chen? He’s solid, shouldn’t cost an exorbitant amount of money and we all know the Yanks could use a reliable lefty starter.

I think the chances are small because the Orioles are expected to make Chen a qualifying offer after the season. He is only 30, he’s productive, and he’s a Scott Boras client. Chen is definitely going to reject the qualifying offer and test the open market, where he could end up getting four or five years at $15M annually. He’s a solid pitcher and would help the Yankees. I just think if the Yankees are going to give up their first round pick for a starter, they’d aim a little higher. Maybe they’d give up their second rounder to sign Chen if they give up their top pick to sign Jason Heyward or something like that.

Paul asks: Is Severino going to have an innings limit next year? Think they’ll try to get him extra rest here and there to avoid an issue? They’re likely to do a sixth starter when possible anyway, right?

Probably, right? I know Brian Cashman said Severino has no restrictions on his workload this year, but I never really believed that. I think they said that to avoid a Stephen Strasburg/Matt Harvey situation where his workload became a daily question. Severino is only 21 and he threw 161.2 total innings this season, up from 113 last year. I could see the Yankees pushing him up into the 190-inning range next year, maybe even 200 if he really dominates. So I guess the answer is yes, Severino will have some sort of innings limit next year — I doubt they’d let him throw like 230 innings or something — but it’ll probably be high enough that we won’t have to stress about it all summer. (I’m sure the team will look to use a spot sixth starter at times anyway.)

Vidhath asks: There’s a few areas of depth that we have right now in both our farm system & mlb roster. With John Ryan Murphy seemingly able to hold his own both at the plate and behind it, what are your thoughts on a package deal of him and one of our lefty outfielder prospects and triple A relief pitchers. Are there any teams that would line up well and have these types of needs? What could we expect to get back in return?

I’m the world’s biggest Murphy fan but I could totally see trading him this winter. I don’t think the lefty outfielders or the Triple-A relievers have much value though — of all those guys, I’d say Mason Williams has the most trade value, and he’s coming off shoulder surgery — so they wouldn’t help net anything spectacular. After all, the Yankees traded a lefty outfielder (Ramon Flores) and a Triple-A reliever (Jose Ramirez) this summer and got … Dustin Ackley. So yeah, not a ton of value there. Murphy would drive the package himself. There are a ton of teams that need catching. If the Yankees made JRM available, they’d have plenty of suitors. A young starting pitcher with similar service time makes the most sense from New York’s point of view. I say keep Murphy and start scaling back Brian McCann‘s workload.

David asks: Hey Mike, as a long time Yankees fan from Canada I’d love to hear your thoughts on your visit to TO and the Rogers Centre.

I was only there for three days and I didn’t have much time to explore, but the city itself is wonderful. I really enjoyed it. (My hotel was downtown, walking distance from the park.) Rogers Centre was neat in a retro ballpark kinda way. I wish the roof had been open though. I’m not a fan of indoor baseball. The crowd was very loud but not the loudest I’ve ever heard. I’ve heard postseason crowds at the old Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park (I was there for the 2013 ALCS) that were deafening and sent you home with a brain-splitting headache. I wish I had more time to explore the city. Everyone told me it’s great and I saw nothing to the contrary.

Mattingly. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)
Mattingly. (Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Joe asks: I am a big Girardi supporter and feel like he doesn’t get as much credit as he should because of the Yankees payroll and the expectation to win every season. But could you see Don Mattingly ever coming back in the next 5-10 years to manage the New York Yankees?

Yes, I could see that, after Mattingly gets a little more experience. I know there’s always some concern about hiring legacy players as managers because they’re unfireable — could you imagine if the Orioles hired Cal Ripken Jr.? — but I don’t think that would be an issue with Mattingly. At least not if Cashman is still around. He’s pretty ruthless. He’d probably enjoy firing Mattingly. Anyway, yeah I could see the Yankees going after Mattingly whenever the Joe Girardi era ends, which doesn’t appear to be anytime soon. The real question is whether Mattingly wants to come back after being snubbed for the job eight years ago.

Anonymous asks: Go ahead, burst my balloon, but Mark Reynolds looks like a fit for a Yankee reunion.

They do need the right-handed thump, and Reynolds could back up both first and third bases, so in that sense he’s a fit. The bench would then be backup catcher (Murphy), backup middle infielder (Brendan Ryan?), backup outfielder (???), and Reynolds. Ackley would be the backup outfielder almost by default, and he may end up platooning with Refsnyder at second. I doubt many will agree with me but I think Reynolds fits the roster better than Greg Bird. It would be awesome to find a right-handed hitter who could play first base, third base, and the corner outfield for the bench. The rich man’s version of Jose Pirela, basically. I just have no idea who that player is. Does one even exist?