Mailbag: McCutchen, Sabathia, Chatwood, Miller, Britton

We’ve got ten questions in this week’s mailbag, which I guess this makes this a small mailbag by today’s standards. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything.

(Justin Berl/Getty)
(Justin Berl/Getty)

Chris asks: Assuming that the Yankees move Brett Gardner this off season, are you in or out on Cutch22 if he is made available? He only has 1 year left @ $14 million with a team option for another $14.7 million for 2018 which is quite reasonable and he’d defiantely benefit from 82 games at YS. That being said would he be worth an Aaron Judge and then some?

I’m surprised it hasn’t come out that Andrew McCutchen was playing the entire season hurt. I’m not sure how else to explain it. The guy hit .313/.404/.533 (157 OPS+) from 2012-15 and averaged 25 home runs and 19 steals per season. This year he dropped down to .256/.336/.430 (103 OPS+) with 24 homers and six steals. What the hell happened? McCutchen is only 29 too. (He turns 30 next week.) It’s not like he’s over the hill.

There’s been speculation the Pirates will look to trade McCutchen this winter, opening a spot for top prospect Austin Meadows — the team has acknowledged discussing moving McCutchen to left and the defensively superior Starling Marte to center — and I’m sure they’ll listen to offers. There’s no reason not to. I don’t see this as a buy low situation though. McCutchen is the face of the franchise and they’re going to want full value for him, as if he’s still a star.

Hypothetically, I love the idea of going after McCutchen because he is still a megastar and a franchise cornerstone type of player. Without looking into it too deeply, I think his down year is more likely a fluke or injury related than a decline in skills. The Pirates needs arms, so they’ll probably want Luis Severino as part of the package, plus other stuff. At least one more top prospect for sure, probably two. I’m in and I acknowledge there’s basically no chance this happens.

Warren asks: In your middle infield power makes up for outfield post you mentioned you think the ball is juiced. Please explain!

Power numbers were up substantially this season. There is more to it than just home runs — power-on-contact and exit velocities were up too — but check out the homer-per-game rates over the last few seasons:

2016: 1.155 homers per game
2015: 1.010
2014: 0.861
2013: 0.959
2012: 1.015

There were 1,424 (!) more home runs hit in 2016 than there were in 2014. It’s no secret offense had been lagging in recent years. Look at the 2012-14 homer rates. Commissioner Rob Manfred has talked about wanting to increase excitement and more dingers sure seems like a way to do that. In fact, this year was the second most homer happy year on record, behind only 2000 (1.171 HR/G).

I think MLB started juicing the baseball in an effort to add more offense, hence the homer spike. “Juicing” the baseball simply means the core of the ball is wound tighter, so it jumps off the bat more. It’s been suggested — I’m not sure it’s ever been proven though — that MLB has done this at various points in history when offense sagged too low for the league’s liking. This is just a conspiracy theory. It sure would explain the massive and sudden spike in power numbers.

Dean asks: Better move: (1) sign Encarnacion to bat behind Sanchez and Bird or (2) trade (everyone but Sanchez, likely) for Mike Trout? Yanks clearly need a big bat and Edwin may be the best option in terms of age, AL East pedigree, and production at age 33. Allows them to spot him for Bird at 1B and mostly DH. But getting Trout…

Trout. Trout Trout Trout. The 33-year-old DH or 25-year-old Mickey Mantle? Yeah, easy call. I know you’d have to trade basically your entire farm system to get Trout, but I think it’s worth it. It’s not like all the prospects are going to work out anyway. Trout’s not just the best player in baseball at this point. He’s historically great and on his way to becoming a top ten (top five?) player all-time. And he’s only 25! You dream of acquiring players like that.

As good as he is, there’s a new Edwin Encarnacion available every other year or so. Trout’s a once in a generation player. The Yankees are in the middle of a youth movement, right? Well, there’s no better centerpiece for that youth movement than Mike freaking Trout. Prospects are a renewable resource. Any GM saying they wouldn’t back up the truck to get Trout is either lying or hugging their prospects too tight.

Mickey asks: Given CC’s resurgent season, how much does this help his hall of fame case? Seems to me the league is rooting for him, especially after admitting he had a problem and getting clean in rehab. Thanks.

It helps but I don’t think it has him back on the Hall of Fame track. He’s going to need a few more years like this, possibly three or four, to get serious Hall of Fame consideration. I love CC Sabathia, but if Mike Mussina still can’t get in, he doesn’t have much of a prayer, even with the Cy Young and World Series ring. Sabathia seems to be one of those players who is universally beloved by fans and respected throughout the league. That helps. At the end of the day, those rough three years took a huge bite out of his Hall of Fame candidacy. A plaque in Monument Park would be a fine alternative.

Chatwood. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)
Chatwood. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Anonymous asks: How much would it cost to get Tyler Chatwood? His home/road splits are unreal, with an ERA under 2 on the road so if you get him out of Coors could have a legitimate young front line starter.

It’s weird, the Rockies actually have some young pitching now, enough that they could entertain trading a spare starter. Jon Gray, Tyler Chatwood, and Jeff Hoffman are a nice rotation core. Chatwood and Chad Bettis are depth, as is German Marquez. Anyway, here are Chatwood’s splits this season:

At home: 6.12 ERA (4.97 FIP) in 78 innings
On the road: 1.69 ERA (3.60 FIP) in 80 innings

That works out to a 3.87 ERA (4.32 FIP) in 158 innings. I don’t think we can simply take a Rockies’ player’s numbers on the road and assume that’s the real him though. That applies to everyone, pitchers and hitters. It’s more complicated than that. There are three big pitcher’s parks in the division too, after all.

Chatwood will turn 27 in December and he’s actually going to be a free agent after next season, so it’s not like you’re getting this guy long-term. He debuted with the Angels in 2011 and has had a lot of injury issues throughout his career, most notably two Tommy John surgeries. The second sidelined him for most of 2014 and all of 2015. That’s pretty scary.

My thinking right now is pass on Chatwood given three things: One, his injury history. Pretty self-explanatory. Two, his lack of team control. This guy can be a free agent in a year. And three, we still don’t know exactly who he is, performance-wise. Is he really an above-average starter outside Coors? Or was his road performance just a mirage this year? Chances are the real him is somewhere in the middle of his home and road numbers, but where?

David asks: After Adam Warren pitched on Sunday, 10/2/16 you wrote in your recap ” Bold prediction: none of the four relievers used Sunday are on the 2017 Opening Day roster.” I think Warren is a useful player. Please explain your logic. Will he be traded or released?

The Yankees used four relievers Sunday and one (Blake Parker) is gone already. He was claimed off waivers by the Angels earlier this week. Tommy Layne, Richard Bleier, and Warren are still hanging around. With the 40-man roster crunch looming following the World Series, their spots may not be secure much longer.

Anyway, I threw that line in the recap basically as a guess. I don’t have any inside info and nothing leads me to believe the Yankees are looking to dump Warren. He’s a good player and you don’t release those guys, especially not when you have New York’s pitching situation. That said, I didn’t think Warren would be traded last offseason and he was. We shouldn’t rule out something similar happening this offseason.

Sam asks: Could Robin Ventura be targeted to replace Girardi? Thanks for a great season, as usual!

Brian Cashman made it pretty clear during his end-of-season press conference that Joe Girardi will remain the manager next season. Once his contract is up after that, who knows? It’ll ultimately be ownership’s call. Same with Cashman. His contract is up next year too. Cashman likes Girardi and ownership seems like him too. I’m not surprised they’re not making a change.

Whenever they do make a change — it’s going to happen eventually, if not next year then down the line — I think Ventura would actually be among the managerial candidates the Yankees consider. When they hired Girardi, the Yankees interviewed only three people, and all three were familiar with the franchise: Girardi, Don Mattingly, and Tony Pena. That makes it seem they wanted someone who knew firsthand how chaotic New York can be.

Ventura wasn’t a Yankee very long but he was reportedly an extremely popular teammate and he’s highly respected around the league. Does that make him a good manager? Not necessarily, but I don’t think it hurts. I can’t speak to Ventura’s managing ability in terms of on-field decisions. I didn’t watch him enough the last few years. I do think he’s someone the Yankees would consider when the time comes to make a managerial change though.

Brendan asks: Something I was wondering while washing the dishes last night: Let’s say the Yankees make all the same moves at the trade deadline except they hold on to Andrew Miller. Do you think they’re playing in the Wild Card game? The bullpen blew a lot of leads down the stretch, three in the Boston series alone, and just having a weapon like Miller at the ready eases Betances’ workload and maybe he doesn’t implode the way he did.

No. The Yankees finished five games back of the second wildcard spot and Miller was not adding five wins by himself in the final two months. As much as Dellin Betances struggled down the stretch, he blew two saves after the trade deadline — the Yankees came back to win after one of the blown saves too — and suffered only two losses. One of the blown saves and losses was the same game too, the Hanley Ramirez walk-off homer game. It just seems worse because Betances was bailed out in those two games against the Blue Jays (the Gardner catch and Layne’s escape job).

Miller. (Jason Miller/Getty)
Miller. (Jason Miller/Getty)

The Yankees unquestionably would have been better with Miller after the trade deadline than without, and of all the moves they made at the deadline, that’s the one only you can second guess. Trading the impending free agents was a no-brainer. Miller had two years left on his deal, so the Yankees theoretically could have kept him and traded him at a later point. There was zero indication the team would go on a run in August and early-September though. They stunk in July. Turning a reliever, albeit a great reliever, into prospects as good as Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield plus two others was a fantastic rebuilding move for a team in need of a rebuild.

Michael asks: Would this offseason be a good time to deal Dellin Betances? He has been used a lot by Girardi and is going to get increasingly more expensive. We can get Chapman to return as closer. Also what would be a good return for Dellin? My wish Giolito and Koda Glover.

As I’ve said a million times, no one should be untouchable, and that includes Dellin. His trade value is basically Miller, right? Elite reliever with three full years of team control left. (Miller had two and a half years of control left, but close enough.) The market for that player has been established. Two top prospects and two others. A few months ago I was hoping for one top prospect and one or two others. I way undersold the bullpen market. It’s bonkers.

I’m comfortable with Betances in any role next season. Well, except starter, but you know what I mean. His poor September didn’t scare me into thinking he doesn’t have what it takes to close. (Funny, no one said that in August.) If the Yankees can flip him for more great young players, go for it, especially since there are several high-end relievers in free agency. Relievers are fetching a ton even though they’re no less volatile, especially a dude like Dellin.

Mike asks: In that crazy AL Wild Card game, when would you have used Zach Britton? To start the 9th? Middle of the 9th? Start the 11th? Middle of the 11th? Or at some other point during the game?

I would have used him to start the ninth inning. The game was tied 2-2 and Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Bautista were due up. The Blue Jays were sending their best to plate in a winner-take-all situation and I would have wanted my best on the mound. The Orioles got through that inning unscathed, but that doesn’t mean it was a good idea to use Brad Brach and Darren O’Day. Bad decisions someones lead to good results.

Ideally you’d like to squeeze two innings from Britton in that situation, maybe even three if he gets some quick ground balls and keeps his pitch count low. Ubaldo Jimenez is literally the last reliever I would have used. After everyone else pitches, Ubaldo’s the guy you sent out there and ride into the sunset. Whatever happens at that point, happens. Can’t believe Buck Showalter lost an extra innings Wildcard Game without using Britton. Unreal.

Mailbag: Sanchez, Williams, Severino, McCann, Headley

Got a dozen questions in the mailbag this week. This is the last mailbag of the regular season, you know. Crazy. Anyway, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us anything.

(Rich Gagnon/Getty)
(Rich Gagnon/Getty)

Pete asks: If Sanchez continues to rake and hits, say, 4 more HRs over the last 11 games and the team squeaks into the playoffs, does he get much MVP love? Should he?

Even without the extra homers and the postseason trip, I still think Sanchez is going to wind up with a tenth place MVP vote or two. Twenty-eight different players received an AL MVP vote last season, including guys like Kevin Kiermaier and injured Mark Teixeira. Sanchez getting a tenth place vote wouldn’t surprise me at all. In fact, I kinda expect it to happen.

Now, should he get any MVP votes? Of course not. There is zero argument to be made that Sanchez is one of the ten most valuable players in the AL this season. Heck, you could argue he isn’t even one of the ten most valuable players in the AL East. Sanchez is going to get a ton of Rookie of the Year support and he just might steal the award away from Michael Fulmer. Any MVP love will be the result of the silly down ballot shenanigans we see every year though.

Casey asks: Not that it will happen, and not that I want it to happen, but say the Yankees were to cash in on Sanchez’s high stock right now. What would they get back for him? I know our trade proposals suck, and there probably aren’t many good comparisons out there, but just looking for a rough ballpark.

Now that Buster Posey’s power is slipping, you could argue Sanchez will be the best hitting catcher in baseball as soon as next season. Right? I don’t think that’s completely impossible. It’s either Sanchez, Posey, Jonathan Lucroy, or Yasmani Grandal. Sanchez’s trade value is astronomical because he’s young, cheap, and provides big offense from a premium position. Plus he adds value defensively with his arm.

All of that makes Sanchez one of the most valuable commodities in the game. The list of players the Yankees should be willing to trade him for is short. Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant … we’re talking those types of players. Sanchez plus stuff for Chris Sale has turned into Sanchez for Sale straight up. Quality catchers are insanely valuable. That’s why they get huge free agent contracts and are drafted earlier than expected. Put Sanchez on the market and the Yankees could get almost anything they want.

Michael asks: If Mason Williams has no spot in the Bronx, what might his trade value be? Could he be worth somebody like, for one example, Shane Greene – a busted SP who might have a little untapped potential?

Ben Gamel. That’s Williams’ trade value. Gamel just showed us the trade value of a lefty hitting outfielder who may or may not be much more than a bench player. (Ramon Flores did the same last year.) Williams has far better tools than Gamel and more upside, but the shoulder surgery and relatively short track record of excellence kinda negates that. Generally speaking, there’s not much separating players like this even though their tools may differ.

Using Williams in a busted prospect for busted prospect trade to get a pitcher is probably worthwhile since the Yankees do have outfield depth and need pitching. Trading him isn’t imperative though. Williams could easily end up spending 100 days on the big league roster next season due to injuries, especially if the Yankees trade Brett Gardner. I think Williams is worth more to the Yankees as a depth piece than anything he could fetch in a trade.

Eric asks: Would it make sense to trade Severino for another struggling young starter? A starter like Jose Berrios or Archie Bradley?

This seems like making a move for the sake of making a move. Unless the Yankees are pretty sure Luis Severino is broken for good and will never be a successful starter, trading him for another struggling pitcher seems like more risk than reward. Berrios is talented but he’s had an unbelievably terrible start to his career. I read an article not too long ago — I can’t find it now, unfortunately — that showed almost every pitcher who got off to a start similar to Berrios’ never recovered to have a productive career. Bradley? Eh. I’d take him, Berrios too, but giving up Severino for him is too much. I wouldn’t make Severino untouchable. Not in anyway. But I’m not trading him for a broken pitcher. The Yankees aren’t at that point with Severino yet. He’s not a change of scenery guy.

Liam asks: Ken Rosenthal had an idea on twitter that there should be a Jose Fernandez spirit award where each team nominates a player who has played the game with most enthusiasm and spirit and then pick one of those 30 players for the main award. Hypothetically who would be the Yankees nominee this year?

It was actually Harry Pavlidis’ idea, but more people follow Rosenthal on Twitter, so he got all the credit. Anyway, yeah some kind of award celebrating the spirit and joy in baseball would be a wonderful tribute to Fernandez. Nominating one player per team and then picking one winner, a la the Roberto Clemente Award, would be a great idea. This award has Adrian Beltre written all over it, doesn’t it?

As for the Yankees, maybe it’s just me, but Didi Gregorius seems like the obvious candidate for a hypothetical Jose Fernandez Award. Him or Ronald Torreyes. Didi picking up the 5-foot-6 Torreyes so he can high-five people after home runs …

Aaron Judge Ronald Torreyes

… is one of my favorite things about this season. I’m not even sure who else it would be aside from those two. The Yankees are getting younger, but they’re still kinda boringly corporate, so we don’t have much to pick from right now. Too bad Alex Rodriguez isn’t around anymore.

Tom asks: Assuming McCann is traded and Encarnacion is too pricey, who do like best for primary DH/5th OF out of Beltran/Bautista/Trumbo/somebody else?

Spending big on a DH doesn’t seem like a particularly great idea. Out of those options I’d take Carlos Beltran on a one-year deal, but I don’t even love that plan all that much. The Yankees are going to need to give Sanchez some DH time, plus it wouldn’t hurt to give Greg Bird and Aaron Judge time there too. A rotating DH spot wouldn’t be the worst idea. That creates more playing time for guys like Aaron Hicks, Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder, whoever. This free agent class is so bad that guys like Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo are going to get insane contracts simply because there’s nowhere else to spend the money. Big money DHs is not a pool worth swimming in.

Michael asks: How do you think the Ramos injury affects the market for McCann this offseason? He is now better than all of the available free agents.

The Wilson Ramos injury is devastating in multiple ways. The Nationals just lost their starting catcher and best right-handed hitter before the postseason. Ramos was about to hit free agency coming off a monster season, and instead now he’s having his second major knee surgery in four years. Brutal. He was, by far, the best available catcher this offseason.

With Ramos down, the best free agent catchers are Matt Wieters and Jason Castro. I feel like Wieters is going to wind up back with the Orioles — they seem to value him more than anyone else — and Castro … eh. The Ramos injury could definitely open up the trade market for McCann. Teams will no longer have the option to spend money on a superior player. Their options are either trade for McCann or hold your nose with Wieters and Castro. The Ramos injury sucks. In the big picture, it’s good for the Yankees because there’s one fewer alternative to McCann now.

Jackson asks: It seems that another potential landing spot for McCann would be in NY, with the Mets. They are disappointed in dArnaud and McCann would likely not object to a (non) move cross town. Other than the fact that it’s the Mets, why wouldn’t this work? Would a two player return headed by Ynoa and/or Smoker be reasonable?

In theory, yes. The Mets need a catcher because Travis d’Arnaud can’t stay healthy and has gone backwards. Also, Kevin Plawecki kinda stinks. That said, I would be shocked if the Mets took on a $17M a year catcher. Even if the Yankees paid down, say, $7M a year, they still might not go for it. Their rotation is going to get mighty expensive this winter, and they need to figure out second base. d’Arnaud and Plawecki are young enough that sticking with them next season wouldn’t be completely crazy. I think the Mets are too cash-strapped to take on McCann, even at a discounted rate.

Jonathan asks: If The Yankees were to trade Headley this offseason,who would play third?

That’s kinda the problem. Moving Chase Headley in the offseason sounds great — similar to McCann and Ramos, the Martin Prado extension means there’s one fewer third base alternative available — but the Yankees need competency at third base themselves, and I’m not sure who else can give that. I like Torreyes as a bench player. Give him 600 plate appearances as the everyday third baseman and you might get an AVG/OBP/SLG slash line that starts with .2s across the board.

The Yankees’ best third base prospect is Miguel Andujar, and while he had a nice 2016, he’s not someone who makes you say “let’s trade Headley because Andujar will be ready in 18 months.” There’s always the Starlin Castro option, and I do think the Yankees will look to give him time at the hot corner next season. Maybe trade Headley, sign a backup plan like Kelly Johnson, and go with Castro and Refsnyder at third? Eh. That might not work out too well. Listen to offers for Headley. For sure. But trading him likely means a downgrade at the hot corner.

Eric asks: I must have missed something. Where did #YoSoyGary come from? Is there some sort of backstory?

I came from Sanchez himself. On Twitter he signs his tweets with #IamGary and #YoSoGary, and it kinda took on a life of its own. There are even t-shirts for sale now too:

YoSoyGaryTake all of my money.

Michael asks: What’s your opinion on giving Didi an extension? He’s been such an important player for them and he’s only 26, but they do have Mateo and Torres arriving possibly by 2018, not to mention Wade, Holder, Park, etc.

An extension for Gregorius shouldn’t depend on other players in the system. Is he a quality player worth locking up? If the answer is yes, then do it, because at worst it makes him a more valuable trade chip. If down the road you have Gregorius signed affordably and both Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo knocking on the door, great. That’s a wonderful “problem” to have.

Signing Gregorius to an extension now makes more sense than it did a year ago. Last year he had a fine overall season and a very good second half, but we still weren’t sure exactly what he was as a player. Didi broke out this year, especially in the power department, and that’s going to get him paid through arbitration. A 20-homer shortstop with his defense is worth signing long-term.

The only service time comparable I can find is Dee Gordon’s five-year, $50M extension with the Marlins. Gordon had a batting title, two stolen base titles, and two All-Star Game selections to his credit at the time though. Gregorius has none of that. So would something like five years and, say, $40M to $45M work instead? Either way, I wouldn’t let the team’s shortstop prospect depth stand in the way of a Didi extension.

Anonymous asks: The Cubs gave Theo Epstein a 5 year/$50 million extension. What do you think Brian Cashman is worth? And do you think Theo was overpaid, underpaid, or paid the right amount?

Andrew Friedman broke the executive pay scale when he left the Rays for a five-year deal worth $35M with the Dodgers. That was two years ago now, and Epstein has a far more impressive resume, so it’s no surprise he’s getting $10M a year. (Fourth starter money!) I really have no idea whether he is underpaid or overpaid. A smart executive seems tremendously valuable, but there are lots of smart guys out there qualified to run a baseball team. And besides, at the end of the day, the players still have to perform. Executives only have so much control.

As best I can tell, Cashman’s current contract is worth $3M annually, which made him one of the highest paid GMs in the game at the time it was signed. Using the Friedman-Epstein scale, Cashman probably falls into the $7.5M a year range? Maybe even a little higher. Friedman did well in Tampa, but running a big market team is a very different animal, and basically no one pumps out winning teams better than Cashman. The Phillies and Angels and Red Sox have all shown it takes more than money.

Mailbag: McCarthy, Mateo, Drury, Moore, Straily, Sanchez

There are 13 questions in this week’s mailbag. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything throughout the week. Questions, links, comments, whatever.

McCarthy. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)
McCarthy. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Lou asks: What are your thoughts about a possible reunion with Brandon McCarthy? Dodgers almost packaged him with Puig to Brewers and McCarthy pitched well his first time with Yankees. Could be a good #4 and lessen dependence on Cessa, Green or Warren as starters and not pressure Severino at outset.

I wanted the Yankees to re-sign McCarthy two years ago but definitely not at that price. The $12M annual salary is fine. It’s a bargain in this market, if anything. The years are the problem. Four years for a guy with zero track record of staying healthy is asking for bad news. I wouldn’t even have done three years and I’m pretty sure I wrote that at some point that offseason.

McCarthy, now 33, made four starts last year before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery. He came back this year, made eight starts, then had to be shut down with a hip problem. Chances are he’s done for the season. McCarthy has thrown only 54.2 innings the last two years, and even then he was hurting, so we don’t really know what his stuff looks like nowadays. I don’t think it’s safe to assume he’ll be the guy we saw with the Yankees two years ago again.

As with any move, it all depends on the price. If the Yankees can get McCarthy cheap, as in one or two low-grade prospects, then it might be worth taking on his salary as long as the medicals check out. He was reportedly set to be included in the Ryan Braun-Yasiel Puig trade as a way to offset salary, not as a legitimate chip with trade value. As long as he’s healthy and comes super cheap, I’d roll the dice. The upcoming free agent class is so bad.

Michael asks: Mike, in the chat this past week you said Billy Butler becomes an FA after this season, regardless. Is this always the case? If a player is released with say 5 years left on a contract (hypothetically), every year he becomes a free agent with the team he signs with on the hook for the league minimum?

Yes. The player’s contract with his former team does not apply to his new team. Released players can sign a new multi-year deal with another team, but that never happens. These guys get released for a reason. Jose Reyes had two years left on his contract when the Rockies released him, and the Mets signed him to a one-year contract with a club option for 2017, all at the league minimum. They wanted to be able to bring him back in case he plays well. Yes, the Mets could have simply re-signed him after the season, but now there’s no competition. They can pick up the option and not have to worry about Reyes, say, signing with the Nationals because they’re offering more playing time. The player’s old contract means nothing. Butler will be a free agent after the season.

Dan asks: You mentioned Jorge Mateo earlier as one of the guys you would add to the the 40 man roster. He has played poorly in High A Tampa, is he really a risk to be taken in the rule 5 draft?

Yes, absolutely. Too much upside and too much athleticism at a hard to fill position. A rebuilding team like the Padres, who have had a hole at shortstop for basically their entire existence, would grab Mateo in an instant and figure out a way to make it work. They could use him as a utility infielder at the start of the year and gradually increase his playing time. Mateo is a top 50 prospect in the game. Maybe top 30. Give teams a chance to pick him up for nothing — well, nothing other than the $50,000 Rule 5 Draft fee — and they’re going to take it.

Michael asks: To continue the theme of D-Backs players from last week, would the Yankees have interest in Brandon Drury instead of Jake Lamb? Lamb’s hit better this year but Drury has more positional flexibility and is a nice player in his own right – might be better than Castro right now. Any thoughts on him?

Drury is basically what the Yankees hope Rob Refsnyder can be. He’s a super utility type who can play second, third, and the two corner outfield spots while putting up decent offensive numbers from the right side of the plate. The 24-year-old Drury is hitting .277/.326/.449 (100 wRC+) with 15 homers in 460 plate appearances this year, but the numbers hate his defense, which is why both versions of WAR has him at replacement level.

As with most bench players, I think Drury is pretty replaceable and not worth paying big to acquire. A lot of people seem enamored with the idea of a super utility guy who is in the lineup at a different position every day and actually provides offense too, but that player doesn’t exist. Even Ben Zobrist at his peak was a full-time second baseman who occasionally played elsewhere. Is Drury better than Refsnyder? Yeah, probably. I definitely do not believe he’s better than Starlin Castro though.

Drury. (Norm Hall/Getty)
Drury. (Norm Hall/Getty)

Ethan asks: Given the terribleness of the bullpen and the complete lack of starting pitching this year could you see the Yankees spending big on bullpen? Maybe going for Jansen and Chapman to recreate their 3 headed monster as well as 2 or 3 quality arms?

As I’ve said, I think the Yankees will definitely add another top notch reliever this offseason, likely Aroldis Chapman because it costs nothing but money. I think earlier this year we saw the “load up the bullpen because the rotation stinks” plan doesn’t really work though. Bullpen usage is based on the game situation created by the other players on the roster. If the starter stinks or the offense comes up empty, Chapman or whoever else isn’t much help. Would adding another great reliever be a good move? Of course. But it doesn’t mitigate the need for rotation help in any way.

Richard asks: Do the Yanks and Giants match up in a trade? If so, what type of package to you think it would take to land Matt Moore?

Basically what the Giants gave up to get Moore, right? His value hasn’t changed much the last few weeks. The Giants gave up a good young big leaguer with four years of control (Matt Duffy), a top prospect in Low-A (Lucius Fox), and another lottery ticket prospect (Michael Santos) to get Moore. San Francisco isn’t rebuilding. They’re not going to take a bunch of prospects. They’ll want players who can help in MLB immediately.

Also, I’m not sure I’d want to spend big on Moore even given New York’s need for pitching and the crummy free agent class. He hasn’t looked all that good since returning from Tommy John surgery last year — he has a 4.62 ERA (4.51 FIP) in 245.2 innings since returning — and things just don’t look as easy as they once did. Moore used to throw 95-98 mph and look like he’s playing catch. Now there’s effort behind every pitch.

I know Moore is young (27) and cheap (owed $26M through 2019 via club options), but that stuff is only good if he’s effective, right? The Rays know pitching. They could have kept Moore at an affordable rate for another three years and waiting until he rebuilt some trade value. Instead, they cut bait with his stock down a year after surgery. That’s a red flag. I thought Moore was going to be a megastar when he first broke in. That never materialized, and now he’s damaged goods.

Alex asks: Is Gio Gallegos an actual bullpen prospect? His stats look good. Is it enough to get a look in spring training and/or a spot on the shuttle?

Yes and no. He’s not a top bullpen prospect or anything but he has a chance to pitch in the big leagues at some point. Don’t obsess over minor league reliever stats. There are literally hundreds of bullpeners in the minors with sexy numbers. Gallegos had a 1.17 ERA (1.97 FIP) with a 36.5% strikeout rate and a 5.7% walk rate in 84.2 innings between Double-A and Triple-A this year, and that’s awesome. He was dominant. More importantly, Gallegos has a mid-90s fastball and a breaking ball that might not be consistent enough to miss bats in the big leagues. He’ll be Rule 5 Draft eligible this winter and the Yankees have no room for him on the 40-man roster, so Gallegos could end up getting a look in Spring Training with another team.

Kenny asks: Mike, would taking a flier on Dan Straily next season be worth it? His numbers don’t speak to how well he has pitched this season, and he has AL experience with Oakland. What would it take to get him (assuming he’s not a FA) and how do you think he would fare being our #3-4 next season? A few top 20 prospects?

The Reds have had Straily in the rotation for most of the season because they didn’t have any better options. He’s been okay, pitching to a 3.83 ERA (4.82 FIP) in 178.2 innings. His strikeout rate is good (20.3%), but Straily does two things that usually don’t work well together: he walks people (9.3%) and he doesn’t keep the ball in the park (1.41 HR/9). That’s not limited to this year either. Straily’s career rates are 9.4% walks and 1.37 HR/9.

Moving an extremely fly ball prone righty (31.3% grounders this year) with an upper-80s fastball who walks people into the AL East and Yankee Stadium probably won’t have a happy ending. It’s not just the short porch. Straily would have to pitch in the other hitter friendly ballparks in the division too. Unless the Yankees think they can teach him a sinker or something, I think the downside far outweighs the upside here.

Straily. (John Sommers II/Getty)
Straily. (John Sommers II/Getty)

Rich asks: Bud Norris DFA by Dodgers, do we take a flyer the last 2 weeks of the season on him???

True story: I once wanted the Yankees to trade for Norris, back when he was with the Astros. He went to the Orioles instead and gave them a good 2014 season (3.65 ERA and 4.22 FIP), but that’s about it.

Anyway, the “actually, Bud Norris is good now” stories that made the rounds after the Dodgers got him were so predictable and laughably wrong. He had a 6.54 ERA (5.15 FIP) in 42.2 innings with the Dodgers and over the last two years he has a 5.79 ERA (4.62 FIP) in 196 innings. He also has a reputation for being a major jerk (example). So no. The Yankees should not take a flier on Bud Norris. They’re not that desperate for pitching.

Bob asks (short version): The Padres waited until after the Triple-A Championship Game to call up their top prospects. The Yankees didn’t. What’s going on here? Would SWB’s management/ownership be angry at the Yankees for these actions and possibly endanger their contractual agreement?

The Padres are the exception here, not the Yankees. Almost every team prioritizes the needs of the big league club over the minor league postseason. I have no idea why the Padres waited so long to call up top prospects like Austin Hedges, Manuel Margot, and Hunter Renfroe. You’d think they’d want to get as much of a look at them as possible in September. The Triple-A title is relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Being affiliated with the Yankees is far more valuable to the RailRiders than winning a championship. They’re not going to be upset over having their roster gutted every September. And, if they are, other Triple-A franchises will line up for a chance to be affiliated with the Yankees brand.

Dan asks: I know you’ve said before that no prospect is untouchable but with the new additions from the trade deadline do you still feel that way? If so which ones? I know prospects are completely unreliable but everyone falls in love with them. (Can’t what to see Frazier drop bombs in pinstripes)

Still feel that way. Among the guys still in the minors, Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres are the two guys I’d least like to give up, but if they can get the Yankees a good young starter, they’d be foolish not to make them available. I consider Frazier the better prospect, though I’d trade him before Torres, weirdly. The Yankees are loaded with outfielders at the upper levels. Torres is going to play the infield, likely either short or third, and a potential star at those positions is more necessary long-term than a big outfield bat.

Mike asks: Which is more likely to happen, Tanaka winning the AL Cy Young Award or Sanchez winning the AL Rookie Of The Year Award?

Gary Sanchez winning Rookie of the Year. Masahiro Tanaka‘s been awesome, but there are a whole bunch of other guys performing just like him. Sanchez has burst onto the scene with a historically great start to his career. He has no peers. I mean, he’s hit 19 homers in 44 games this year. I would have been thrilled if he hit 19 homers across the full season as the starting catcher. I think Sanchez winning Rookie of the Year is far more likely than Tanaka winning the Cy Young at the moment.

Julian asks: I’ve noticed that Eric Young Jr has only pinch ran once since rosters expanded when they called him up to pinch run. Why are they not using him more?

He’s pinch-run twice, actually. Young has appeared in three games as a Yankee:

  • September 2nd: Played an inning in center field at the end of a blowout loss.
  • September 6th: Pinch-ran for Brian McCann with two outs in the eighth inning of a game the Yankees led by one. Chase Headley homered two pitches later. This was the Brett Gardner catch game against the Blue Jays.
  • September 18th: Pinch ran for Sanchez with two outs in the ninth inning of a game the Yankees trailed by one. Mark Teixeira flew out to end the game four pitches later. Young never attempted to steal.

The Yankees haven’t had very many opportunities to use Young as a pinch-runner this month. I don’t remember any “why isn’t he pinch-running?” moments at all. This could change in a hurry. Young could pinch-run three times this weekend for all we know. Generally speaking though, the September pinch-runner rarely has a big impact. He’ll appear in a handful of games and that’s it.

Mailbag: Votto, D’Backs, Pineda, Hill, Torrens, Rutherford

There are 14 questions in the mailbag this week, the third-to-last mailbag of the regular season. Crazy, I know. Time goes by a little quicker with each passing season. Use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us any questions throughout the week.

And he chokes up too. (Jamie Sabau/Getty)
And he chokes up too. (Jamie Sabau/Getty)

Ben asks: Does Joey Votto interest you in the off season to be the first baseman/DH next year even with the ludicrous contract, his offensive skill should age very well relative to other similar players.

In terms of on-field performance, adding Joey Votto to the Yankees would be amazing. He’s such a great hitter. One of the best of his generation and still somehow underrated. In fact, look at the offensive leaders since the mound was lowered in 1969 (min. 3,000 plate appearances):

  1. Barry Bonds: 173 wRC+
  2. Mike Trout: 167 wRC+
  3. Mark McGwire: 157 wRC+
  4. Joey Votto: 156 wRC+
  5. Frank Thomas: 154 wRC+

Yeah. Amazing. Votto’s hitting .318/.433/.529 (153 wRC+) this season and .418/.504/.655 (202 wRC+) in the second half, and it’s just another typical Joey Votto year. Ridiculous.

Adding his bat to the lineup would be huge. Adding Votto’s bat and his contract is where it gets dicey. He’s got $179M coming to him from 2017-23 and that’s way too much for a guy who is already 33 and limited to first base. The Yankees gave Mark Teixeira eight years and $180M when he was 28. Votto’s got seven years and $179M coming at age 33. Yikes.

Votto is a hitting savant. He studies video and analytics and all sorts of other stuff in an effort to make himself better. His latest trick is cutting down on his strikeouts. As long as he stays healthy, I think Votto will be productive for a very long time. That contract though … it’s a killer. Hard to see that one having a happy ending. How much would the Reds have to eat to make that deal palatable? $7M a year?

Anthony asks: What’s the timing for the new CBA vis-a-vis the FA signing period? Specifically, will the FO know what the “new $189mm” is before we have to bid on FAs?

Oh I’m sure the teams and owners will have an idea of what the luxury tax threshold will be going forward before the start of the offseason and before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is finalized. They’re negotiating the CBA with the MLBPA, after all. It’s safe to assume the threshold will go up next year. If it doesn’t, the union will have failed miserably. Revenues are only going up and the players deserve their piece of the pie. We might not learn what the new luxury tax threshold is for a few more weeks, but chances are the owners will have a ballpark number much sooner, if they don’t already.

Jerry asks: In the Saturday game against Tampa, Torreyes went to the mound and said something to Tanaka. What language do they use?

English! Masahiro Tanaka speaks English. Ronald Torreyes too. Tanaka doesn’t speak English fluently of course, but he knows the basics and can communicate with his coaches and catchers. Tanaka, like many foreign players, gives interviews through translators because he feels more comfortable in his native language (duh) and wants to make sure the things he wants to say come out correctly.

Nick asks: Crazy idea-but would Greinke be available? This idea is dumb and I should get back to work.

The Diamondbacks would be foolish not to make Zack Greinke available, right? They stink and he’s a soon-to-be 33-year-old pitcher owed $172.5M from 2017-21. He’s going to soak up about one-quarter of their payroll going forward, if not more. Arizona should definitely look to unload that contract this winter, but, then again, who knows why that team does anything. I’m inclined to give a flat “pass” on this one. Greinke’s really good and I think he’ll age well because his success is built on command and not raw stuff, but yeah, I’m not betting that much money on him holding up in his mid-to-late-30s.

J. Clam. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty)
J. Clam. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty)

Adam asks: In your opinion what do you think it would take for the Yanks to acquire Jake Lamb from Arizona. Fangraphs says his defense stinks, he’d be a perfect fit at DH for the Yanks next year.

The numbers hate Lamb’s defense this year for whatever reason, but they loved him last year, and the scouting reports all said he’s a solid defender when he was coming up through the minors. I wouldn’t write him off at the hot corner yet. Is he Chase Headley over there? No. But Lamb can play the position. Either way, he’s a bat-first player.

Lamb, 25, has broken out this year, going into last night’s game with a .258/.337/.534 (122 wRC+) batting line and 28 home runs. He’s going to strike out (25.8%) and he can’t hit lefties (69 wRC+), so he’s limited offensively. I’ve been a fan of Lamb’s for a long time and I see him as a better version of Pedro Alvarez. The Yankees could be very short on lefty power next season if they trade Brian McCann and Greg Bird doesn’t hit the ground running, and Lamb would help solve that problem.

What would it take? Well, Lamb is four years away from free agency, and the only decent trade comp I can come up with is Khris Davis. He was another young slugger four years from free agency, though Davis is legitimately a brutal defensive left fielder. Lamb’s an okay third baseman and that makes him more valuable. The Athletics gave up one of their top five prospects (Jacob Nottingham) and a Grade-C second piece (Bubba Derby) for Davis. That seems like the starting point for Lamb, not the end point.

Eliot asks: If the Arizona Diamondbacks decide to make Shelby Miller available in the offseason should the Yankees check in on him? He is still young (turning 26 a few days after the regular season ends) and is not that far removed from having a great season. I was thinking that this could be a similar acquisition to Nathan Eovaldi. What do you think it would cost to acquire him if the Yankees decided to go after him?

Another question about a D’Backs player. Three this week after none in like six months. Anyway, yeah the Yankees should check in on Miller if Arizona makes him available. I have no idea what the D’Backs did to him, but his problems seem to be mechanical more than anything. They’re not injury related as far as we know and it’s not like he has the yips. Shelby’s delivery needs to be cleaned up (a lot) and he’s still young enough and talented enough that the reward could be considerable.

Because the D’Backs sent Miller to the minors for a big chunk of the season, they delayed his free agency a year, meaning he’s now under team control through 2019. That extra year is pretty cool. If Arizona is looking for a Dansby Swanson-caliber prospect plus more for Miller, they can forget it. Not happening. But if they’re open to taking two or three lesser young players, it could work. I’m going to go all my trade proposal sucks on you now: Chad Green, Dustin Fowler, and a lower level shortstop like Hoy Jun Park or Wilkerman Garcia for Miller. Eh? Eh?

Chris asks: Where do you expect to see Chance Adams on next year’s MLB prospect lists, if at all? What are his career prospects and is it reasonable to expect him up at some point next season given his dominance in the minors?

I don’t think Adams will appear on any top 100 lists next spring even though the scouting reports we’ve seen this season were all glowing. Seriously, not one “eh, he’s probably just a reliever” report. By all accounts Adams held his stuff deep into starts and deep into the season, so there are no real concerns about his durability even though he’s not the biggest guy (listed at 6-foot-0 and 215 lbs.). One year in, the transition to the rotation has been a smashing success.

I haven’t thought too much about my own top Yankees prospects list yet but Adams definitely has a chance to be in the top ten somewhere, likely in the 6-10 range. In this system, that’s really good. Adams might not be top 100 caliber yet — I bet he’d sneak onto some top 150 prospects lists though — but he’s still a very good prospect and a steal in the fifth round. He figures to start next season in Triple-A, which means he’s only a phone call away from the big leagues.

Jim asks: The Yankee rotation is shaky headed into next season. Doesn’t it almost seem they need to make a run at Michael Pineda in the offseason? The alternatives next season may be even worse than him and there’s always that elusive potential upside if he can figure it all out.

As frustrating as Pineda can be, the upcoming free agent classes are so weak that it would be worth exploring an extension with him now. If nothing else, it would make him more desirable on the trade market. Shopping one year of Pineda this offseason would get the Yankees something, probably something more than we expect, but obviously multiple years of him would be more desirable.

What about three years and $39M covering 2017-19? That allows Pineda to become a free agent again at 31. He received a $35,000 bonus as an amateur out of the Dominican Republic and has banked roughly $8.5M in his career to date, so he’s made some money, but not “my family and my kids and my grandkids are set forever” money. Pineda might jump at the big payday after the shoulder injury. An extension is worth exploring, for sure.

Mad as hell Rich Hill. (Rob Foldy/Getty)
Mad as hell Rich Hill. (Rob Foldy/Getty)

Mike asks: I know this is a Yankee blog, but what is your opinion about the Rich Hill being pulled 6 outs away from a perfect game?

I understand why Dave Roberts pulled him, but I thought he was being overly protective. At worst, Hill would have faced six more batters. Six! He was closing in on some major history. At the same time, if the trainer felt Hill was starting to develop blisters, taking him out was the right move. The Dodgers’ goal is to win the World Series, not get Rich Hill a perfect game. I wanted to see him left in, but it’s not my neck on the line if he develops a blister and isn’t 100% for the postseason.

Eric asks: Is there any chance Luis Torrens gets picked in the rule 5 draft?

There’s always a chance but I would strongly bet against it. Torrens is only 20 years old and he’s played only 161 minor league games since signing in 2012 due to his shoulder surgery and general inexperience. It’s really hard to see him making the jump from Low-A ball to the big leagues as a catcher. Someone might take him, but he won’t stick. It’s a waste of the roster spot. There have only been four catchers taken in the Rule 5 Draft over the last decade:

  • 2014: Diamondbacks took Oscar Hernandez from the Rays and he stuck because he spent most of the season on the DL with a broken bone in his wrist.
  • 2013: White Sox took Adrian Nieto from the Nationals and he stuck, though he was 24, not 20.
  • 2008: Orioles took Lou Palmisano from the Brewers and immediately traded him to the Astros. He didn’t make the team and Milwaukee declined to take him back, so he went to Double-A.
  • 2008: Diamondbacks took James Skelton from the Tigers. Didn’t make the team, so Arizona made a trade with Detroit to retain his rights. They then sent him to the minors.

It seems like teams are getting better at digging up hidden gems in the Rule 5 Draft these days. Luis Perdomo, Joe Biagini, and Matt Bowman look like keepers this year. Last year the Phillies struck gold with Odubel Herrera. Catcher is a tough place to hide a young player who likely isn’t MLB ready though. That position comes with a lot of responsibility. Leaving Torrens unprotected this offseason is an easy call. It’s so very unlikely he’d stick.

Neil asks: Is Severino on his was to being the next Betances? Keep holding out hope he will be a starter, but ends up being pretty awesome in late inning relief?

Luis Severino now and Dellin Betances then are very different situations. Betances was 25 when he moved to the bullpen, after hundreds and hundreds of minor league innings told us he was not going to be able to repeat his mechanics and throw enough strikes to start. Severino’s delivery isn’t the prettiest in the world, but he can repeat it and throw strikes. The only real questions are a) can he find his changeup again, and b) can he locate his offspeed stuff more consistently? Dellin’s problem was basic strike-throwing.

Severino is only 22. Betances was in High-A at that age. It’s way way way too soon to pull the plug on Severino as a starter, and I don’t think the Yankees will. As good as he was last season, I do think the Yankees rushed Severino through the minors to his detriment. Learning how to not hang every slider you throw is something that should happen in Double-A and Triple-A, not in MLB when the team expects you to become the next staff ace. At this point I feel Severino will be a dominant reliever at worst, but it’s still way too soon to pull the plug on his career as a starter.

Bobby asks: I know the common refrain to questions about empty seats at the Stadium is that the Yankees sell a lot of tickets and the old stadium wasn’t loud all the time either. I get it. But you can’t tell me that the flat atmosphere at the games this month, considering how young and exciting this team has been, isn’t of concern. How is it that the most energy and most full section the stadium’s seen the entire month has been from a renegade band of Dodgers’ fans?

Attendance changes don’t happen as quickly as people seem to think. The team doesn’t go 6-1 one week and then bam, the ballpark is packed the next week. There’s always a lag and it can be pretty long. Last place teams usually don’t see the big attendance drop until a full year later. Yankee Stadium is empty now because they stunk in April and May and people lost interest. The strong finish and the general likeability of young players may not be reflected in the attendance until next year.

Rutherford. (@MiLB)
Rutherford. (@MiLB)

Dennis asks: If Blake Rutherford is put on the “fast-track” to the majors, when do you think we’ll see him? Do you see Blake as a potential “fast mover” through the system? 

Fast-mover by high school player standards, sure. I could see Rutherford splitting next season between Low-A and High-A, then starting 2018 as a 20-year-old in Double-A. That would be about as fast as it gets. Clint Frazier, the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft, spent his entire age 20 season in High-A, which is pretty aggressive. Rutherford would be a full year of ahead of where Frazer was at the same age if he cuts through Single-A next season.

Rutherford might go on more of a “split” development path. Start next season in Low-A, finish in High-A. Start the following season in High-A, finish in Double-A. The start the season after that in Double-A, finish in Triple-A. Point is, Rutherford’s not a guy who is going to have to wait a year or two to get to full season ball. He should be there next season, and the number of high school kids who open their first full season in Low-A is pretty darn small.

Stephen asks: How do you choose which players to feature on Down on the Farm? Obviously legit prospects are always there, but where do you draw the line after that?

I cut back on the number of players included in DotF a few years ago for the sake of my sanity. Legitimate prospects are always included, so if you’re wondering why, say, Frazier or Rutherford isn’t included one night, it’s because he didn’t play, not because I decided to omit him. After that I usually just go with players who have big games and do something notable, or have some sort of hot streak going. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, really. If a fringe or non-prospect has a good game, I’ll throw him in too. The legitimate prospects are the priority though.

Mailbag: Trade Targets, Clarkin, Options, Otani, Girardi

Big mailbag this week. Seventeen questions and some of the answers are not short. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is where you can send us questions, links, comments, whatever.

Shelby. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty)
Shelby. (Jennifer Stewart/Getty)

Sam asks: The starting pitcher free agent market this winter is pretty bleak, and the Yankees probably aren’t going to trade for Sale or Fernandez. Who are some mid level starters you expect Cashman to target via trade this winter?

It’s funny, the Yankees’ starting pitching trade targets seem to be getting less and less high-profile with each passing trade. Here’s the recent list of trades for rotation help:

  • 2010: Javy Vazquez. Established big leaguer coming off a Cy Young caliber season.
  • 2012: Michael Pineda. High-profile young player coming off a strong rookie season.
  • 2014: Brandon McCarthy. Big league veteran, but a reclamation project.
  • 2015: Nathan Eovaldi. Young player but something of a reclamation project.
  • 2016: Luis Cessa and Chad Green. Young players with zero MLB experience.

Maybe this offseason they’ll continue the trend trading for a starter picked in the Rule 5 Draft. Anyway, I do expect the Yankees to be in the market for rotation help this offseason, specifically a starter they can control for a few years. They certainly have the prospect ammo to make any kind of trade. A blockbuster or something smaller. Here are some possible targets:

  • Chad Bettis, Rockies: Bettis has terrible numbers thanks mostly to Coors Field, but I’m a big believer in his deep arsenal and bulldog mentality. Put him at sea level and he might really thrive. The Rockies actually have a ton of young pitching right now too, so they can afford to move one.
  • Mike Clevinger, Indians: Clevinger is a quality prospect — I wrote about him before the trade deadline — who doesn’t have a spot in Cleveland’s rotation. He might only be their seventh starter right now behind Cody Anderson.
  • Anthony DeSclafani, Reds: A sneaky good young pitcher (3.64 ERA and 3.73 FIP from 2015-16) under control through 2020. DeSclafani is a potential building block for the Reds though, so he won’t come cheap.
  • Gio Gonzalez, Nationals: The recent Stephen Strasburg injury may throw a wrench into things, but the Nats have young pitching coming and need to clear space in their rotation. Gonzalez is an obvious trade candidate.
  • Shelby Miller, Diamondbacks: He’s broken, but the D’Backs are kinda clueless, and Miller represents a buy low candidate. Shelby spent enough time in the minors this year to delay free agency too. He’s under control through 2019.
  • Tyler Skaggs, Angels: He’s come back well from Tommy John surgery and the Angels need as many prospects as they can get. Skaggs is arguably their best non-Mike Trout trade chip.
  • Taijuan Walker, Mariners: Walker keeps going backwards and new GM Jerry Dipoto didn’t draft him, so there’s not much of a connection there. There’s still some top prospect shine here despite his thorough mediocrity.

The upcoming free agent classes are so bad that the pitching trade market is going to be kicked into overdrive. I expect asking prices to be through the roof and more than a few “they gave up all that for him?!” trades to go down. The Yankees seem to do really, really well in trades. Hopefully it continues this offseason.

John asks: Let’s get way ahead of ourselves and assume the yanks clinch a wildcard spot. I would think that Tanaka pitches that game. Who would you then want lined up to pitch the 5 potential ALDS games?

There’s a decent chance the Yankees won’t have the luxury of lining up their rotation for the postseason. Their season could easily come down to having to win Game 161 or 162, and they may need Masahiro Tanaka to start one of those games. My ideal postseason rotation given the current options would be Tanaka, CC Sabathia, Pineda, and Cessa, in that order. Hopefully that means Tanaka in Game One of the ALDS and Sabathia in Game Two. Chances are it means Tanaka in the wildcard game and Sabathia in Game One.

Keep in mind the postseason schedule allows the wildcard game starter to start Game Three of the ALDS on normal rest, so if Tanaka starts the wildcard game, the ALDS rotation would then be Sabathia, Pineda, Tanaka, Cessa. The Yankees’ best chance to do something meaningful in the postseason is to have Tanaka start as many games as possible. Starting the wildcard game then bringing him back for Game Three of the ALDS is a no-brainer, and I’m a Cessa fan.

Richard asks: What is your current opinion of Ian Clarkin? He’s thrown less than 200 total innings since he was drafted with more than half of those at Tampa this year, but his stats aren’t very impressive. Is he still in your top 10? Will he start next year in Trenton or Tampa?

I had Clarkin ninth on my post-draft top 30 prospects list and nothing’s really changed. He’s going to get pushed down a spot — Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez graduate while Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, and Justus Sheffield have been added — but his prospect stock is unchanged from midseason. It would be nice if he didn’t catch a spike and tear his meniscus, but that’s life. Last year’s elbow injury certainly took a bite out of his prospect stock. The important thing is the elbow stayed healthy this year and he showed the same stuff as before the injury. The bat-missing curveball, changeup, and cutter were all there. I’m still a fan. I expect Clarkin to start next year in Double-A.

Clarkin. (MLB.com screen grab)
Clarkin. (MLB.com screen grab)

Tom asks: Of the injured RPs (Lindgren, Mullee, Pinder, Rumbelow), would the yankees try to get them off the 40? I’d think chances are low that teams would claim fringy relief prospects rehabbing surgery.

Yes. They basically have no choice but to shed two or three of those guys. Chase Whitley was claimed off waivers last year while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, so I guess it’s not completely impossible one would get popped, but it seems unlikely. Conor Mullee (29 in February) and Branden Pinder (28 in January) are the oldest of those four players, so they’d be the first to go, I imagine.

Jacob Lindgren is the one I would be least willing to put on waivers (even though he will miss all of 2017) because he’s the best of the bunch. He’s the youngest and has, by far, the best individual pitch in his slider. Rather than put him on waivers, the Yankees could non-tender him on the December 2nd deadline, then re-sign him to a minor league deal a la Vicente Campos and Slade Heathcott two years ago. That would allow him to avoid waivers. The Yankees will need 40-man spots the day after the end of the World Series though, so they can’t wait to do the non-tender/re-sign trick with everyone.

Kelvin asks: With the recent call-ups of top prospects around the league, and before any off-season trades, will the Yankees farm system still be a top 5 farm after Sanchez and Judge graduates? Or will they fall around the 6-8 spot?

I think they’ll still be top five even after Sanchez and Judge graduate, which will happen fairly soon. The cutoff is 130 at-bats and Sanchez is at 119 right now. Judge has 73. Even without those two, the Yankees still have four no-doubt top 100 prospects (Frazier, Torres, Sheffield, Jorge Mateo) and very likely a fifth (Blake Rutherford). Also, their system is unmatched when it comes to players who project to be average-ish big leaguers. You’ve got to dig deep into their top 30-50 prospects before you start finding guys who project to be a utility player or matchup reliever. The Brewers have the best farm system in baseball right now. The Yankees are a notch below them but still top five, in my opinion.

Eric asks: Is this the offseason that we go under 189?

Yes with a catch. The luxury tax threshold may not be $189M next season. It figures to go up with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It might be $200M. Maybe even $205M or $210M. Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran are coming off the books, and Andrew Miller‘s contract has been moved too. Yeah, the Yankees are stuck with Alex Rodriguez‘s salary, but that was always going to be the case. With cheap young players available to step in at first and in the outfield, the Yankees are in good shape to get under the luxury tax threshold, whatever it may be next year. They even figure to have room to add a big contract (coughAroldisChapmancough).

James asks: It seems like there have been a lot of players with 3 HRs in a game this year. Is it perception or reality?

It’s reality. There’s have been 19 (!) three-homer games this season. The list: Aaron Hill, Adrian Gonzalez, Andrew McCutchen, Brian Dozier, Charlie Blackmon, Corey Seager, Danny Valencia, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Donaldson, Khris Davis, Kris Bryant, Lorenzo Cain, Manny Machado, Max Kepler, Michael Saunders, Mookie Betts (twice), Victor Martinez, and Yasmani Grandal. Cain did it against the Yankees. Here are the number of three-homer games in recent years:

  • 2016: 19 and counting
  • 2015: 11 (A-Rod, Adrian Gonzalez, Bryce Harper, Edwin Encarnacion, J.D. Martinez, Jarrett Parker, Joey Votto, Kendrys Morales, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Lucas Duda, Yoenis Cespedes)
  • 2014: 3 (Chris Davis, Lonnie Chisenhall, Ryan Braun)
  • 2013: 8 (Carlos Gonzalez, Dioner Navarro, Josh Reddick, Juan Uribe, Miguel Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Ryan Zimmerman, Will Middlebrooks)
  • 2012: 12 (Adrian Beltre, Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Davis, Curtis Granderson, Dan Johnson, Evan Longoria, Ike Davis, Jason Kubel, Joey Votto, Josh Hamilton, Melvin Upton, Ryan Braun)

There have been nearly as many three-home runs games this season as there were from 2013-15 combined. It could be a statistical anomaly. Home runs are way up this year though — there’s an average of 1.17 homers per game this season, up from 1.01 last year and 0.86 the year before — leading to speculation that the ball is juiced. I hope that’s the case. I like dingers.

Ford. (The Times of Trenton)
Ford. (The Times of Trenton)

Travis asks: Can you look at Mike Ford’s numbers and tell me whether or not he should be considered for a roster spot? He is Rule 5 eligible and seems to be able to hold his own at the plate.

My favorite Mike Ford fact is that he was the Ivy League Player of the Year and Pitcher of the Year at Princeton in 2013. He hit .320/.443/.503 with six homers in 41 games, and had a 0.98 ERA with 32 strikeouts and 13 walks in nine starts and 64 innings. The Yankees signed him an undrafted free agent that summer and he’s been in their farm system ever since.

Ford, who is about two months younger than Judge, hit .280/.417/.455 (144 wRC+) with five homers, 34 walks, and 25 strikeouts in 42 games for Double-A Trenton this season around a thumb injury. He’s a much better hitter and prospect than Kyle Roller, another lefty hitter relegated to first base and DH only, though the offensive bar for first base prospects is really high. That’s why Greg Bird, as good as he is, only barely scratched top 100 lists at his prospect peak.

There will be a premium on 40-man roster space this offseason and I can’t imagine the Yankees will protect Ford from the Rule 5 Draft. There’s just no room. I’m not sure he’ll be much more than a Quad-A type anyway, which doesn’t mean he won’t spend a year or three in the big leagues. Sometimes though guys turn into Brandon Moss. The Yankees did a real nice job signing Ford. They landed a legitimate prospect — albeit a third tier prospect — as an undrafted free agent.

Preston asks: As of 9/6 Fangraphs is projecting the Yankees rosW% at .434, worst in the AL. That’s crazy right? What do you think their actual playoff odds are, if they didn’t have that crazy pessimistic ros projection?

rosW% = rest of season winning percentage. It’s so low for two reasons. One, the projections used by FanGraphs don’t love the Yankees’ roster and expects them to play worse than they have been the rest of the way. Two, the Yankees have an insanely tough schedule the rest of the season. They have six games left with the Rays, and the other 17 are against the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Orioles, and Dodgers. Really good teams. That rosW% is the result of the projections seeing a bad team facing a tough schedule. I think it’s low, but I’m a raging homer, so what do I know. Their playoffs odds are low. Certainly not 50/50. I’d say 25/75 sounds good, and even that’s on the optimistic side.

Jackson asks: If Austin plays well to the end of the season, could you see the Yankees sending him to one of the winter leagues to brush up on his third base skills and then try to move Headley? Or do you see him fighting it out with Bird at first base, regardless?

Nope. Tyler Austin isn’t even a good defensive first baseman. He’s just okay. Third base is asking for trouble. Austin has played 35 career games at the hot corner in the minors, including three this year, but that doesn’t mean much. Even Pete O’Brien played some third in the minors. Austin’s best position is the batter’s box. He’s a first baseman who can also play a little outfield for you. Third base is an “emergencies only” position for him. It’s not worth pursuing seriously. Give him a game or two there in Spring Training and that’s it.

Bill asks: I don’t think he will win with teams like Cleveland and Texas having the years they are having, but shouldn’t Girardi get some votes if not win the award if this team stays this close the rest of the way? Traded 3 of their best players and have played better since.

He’ll get votes, I’m sure. I don’t think Joe Girardi has had a particularly good year strategically, but it doesn’t matter what I think. He’s received Manager of the Year votes every year since 2009, and if the Yankees do indeed stay in the race right to end, he’ll again get plenty of support. Terry Francona is probably the favorite right now. I could see Girardi finishing in the top three if the Yankees make a spirited run these last few weeks.

Justin asks: Who has options left and who is out of options for the 2017 season?

Not counting retreads (Anthony Swarzak, etc.) and established big leaguers (Brett Gardner, etc.), the only players on the 40-man roster who will be out of options next season are Sanchez, Austin Romine, and Aaron Hicks. Austin, Bird, Bryan Mitchell, Luis Severino, Mason Williams, Chasen Shreve, and various other relievers all have at last one option remaining. Some have more than one left. Romine seems like the only one of the out of options guy in danger of losing his roster spot, and his future with the Yankees could depend on a potential Brian McCann trade.

Bill asks: What’s your take on Shohei Otani? Do you think he’ll be posted? If so, should we go for him and what do you think it would take? Thanks!

My take on Otani: he’s very good, better as a pitcher than a hitter despite his numbers this season. (He’s hitting .325/.426/.599 with 20 homers in 326 plate appearances.) I think it would be a complete waste of time to let him pursue hitting and pitching here. His upside is far greater on the mound. At the plate his best case scenario is … Seth Smith? Meh. Not worth pursuing. It’s hard to do one thing well, pitching or hitting. I wouldn’t ask him to do both.

Otani. (Masterpress/Getty)
Otani. (Masterpress/Getty)

I have no idea if Otani will be posted this offseason. It’s up to his team, the Nippon Ham Fighters. Right now they know the largest posting fee they can get for him is $20M. That’s true no matter when they post him. Otani is only 22 and he’s five years away from international free agency, so it would be completely understandable if they want to keep him another few years and try to win with him, then take the $20M down the line.

If he is posted this offseason, yes, the Yankees should absolutely go after him. Otani has legitimate ace potential — he’s more Yu Darvish than Tanaka in terms of pitching style — and he’s still so young. He fits the youth movement perfectly. Tanaka was 24 when he landed a seven-year deal worth $155M. Pitching prices have only gone up, so I think Otani winds up with seven years and $175M or so. A $200M deal would really surprise me, but I suppose it’s not impossible.

Jimmy asks: Who has been the best team in each league since the trade deadline? Cause it seems to me that the Yankees have been really good (possibly the best?) and I’d be interested to know what you think.

The three best records in the AL since August 1st: Royals (22-12), Yankees (21-13), and Rangers (21-14). The three best in the NL: Cubs (25-9), Nationals (20-13), and Dodgers (20-14). So, by winning percentage, the Yankees have the third best record in baseball since throwing in the towel at the trade deadline and trading away three of their best players. Go figure. The Yankees certainly haven’t dominated since the deadline, they’ve won their fair share of nail-biters, and those nail-biters give them the second best record in the AL since ostensibly giving up on the season. The rebuild lasted like a week and a half.

Geoff asks: Headley’s great diving play down the line tonight undoubtedly saved 1 run, quite possibly 2. How does that factor into Defensive Runs Saved? Is it just +2 runs saved?

No, it’s not a literal “runs saved” number. That diving stop the other night might have saved two runs in the game, but it goes into the books as something else. In a nutshell, that play is recorded based on the batted ball direction, speed, and type (grounder, line drive, etc.) and compared to how often similar batted balls are turned into outs. Here’s the Headley play we’re talking about:

Let’s say similar batted balls are turned into outs 27% of the time, or +0.27. (I have no idea what that number actually is. I made +0.27 up for argument’s sake.) Headley is credited with 1.00 for making the play minus the expectation of the play being made, the +0.27. That gives him +0.73. The runners, the numbers of outs, the score, none of that is factored in. DRS just looks at the batted ball and whether the play was made.

Now, that +0.73 represents plays made, not runs saved. DRS adds up all the plays made (or not made, for bad defenders) throughout the season, then runs it through some big gory calculation that converts plays into runs. So far this season Headley is at +5 DRS, so all those dozens of plays made work out to five runs saved compared to the average this baseman. That’s seventh in MLB. Nolan Arenado leads all third baseman (by a mile) at +19 DRS.

I know that +5 DRS doesn’t seem right — after all, we watched Headley save at least one run with that play the other night — but remember Headley is only part of the play. The pitcher had a role in it, as did the first baseman for making the scoop. Headley didn’t save that run by himself. He had some help, which is why he only gets partial credit.

Marc asks: Lots of season left but a big obstacle is always trying to leapfrog too many teams to advance in the standings. Looking at the match ups the teams ahead of them have this weekend, a good weekend with the Rays could get the Yankees ahead of two teams. How likely do you think it is the Yankees are in 3rd in the East or WC come Monday?

The Yankees are in third place in the second wildcard race right now. They’re two back of the Orioles and one back of the Tigers. I didn’t realize the weekend schedule had so many head-to-head matchups between postseason contenders. Here’s the schedule (all three-game series):

  • Red Sox at Blue Jays: Fighting for first place in the AL East. Loser likely gets first wildcard spot.
  • Orioles at Tigers: Orioles are in the second wildcard spot and the Tigers are one game back.
  • Cubs at Astros: Astros are two games back of the second wildcard spot.

Hopefully the Cubbies do their thing and beat up on the Astros this weekend. That would really be a big help. If you’re holding out hope for the AL East title, you want the Blue Jays to take two of three from the Red Sox. Toronto is a game back now and winning two would keep both teams relatively close. If you’re giving up on the division, then you want the Red Sox to sweep. That will keep the Blue Jays much closer in the wildcard race.

As for that Orioles-Tigers series, the worst case scenario would be a sweep by either team. You don’t want someone to run away with it. Because the Yankees don’t play Detroit again this season, the best thing would be the O’s winning two of three. The Yankees wouldn’t have to rely on crummy AL Central teams beating the Tigers as much the rest of the way, and since they have games left with the Orioles — the final series of the season! — they can make up ground themselves. Got it? Good.

Michael asks: If the Yankees make it to a WC game would they carry three catchers? If not I assume they’d keep Sanchez and McCann (as the DH) but then not have a BUC and lose the DH if something happened. Your thoughts?

The Yankees carried three catchers in the wildcard game last year, remember. Sanchez was on the roster as a bench bat behind McCann and John Ryan Murphy. The wildcard game is considered its own postseason round, so it gets it own roster. It’s separate from the ALDS roster. Because of that, teams leave off their unavailable starters and carry extra relievers and bench players for the wildcard game. If the Yankees plan to use McCann at DH, then carrying a third catcher makes sense. You want to be able to pinch-run for Sanchez and not forfeit the DH, and/or pinch-run for McCann and not lose your backup catcher. Three catchers seems like a slam dunk given the current roster.

Mailbag: Torres, Replay, Sanchez, QOs, Torreyes, Sheffield

I somehow managed to answer 17 questions this week. Don’t know how that happened. Some of the answers are kinda long too. So monster mailbag this week. Yeah. As always, the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address is the place to send us anything. (Also, I’m way behind on guest post submissions. I’ll get to them soon.)

Torres. (Greg Lovett/New York Times)
Torres. (Greg Lovett/New York Times)

Brian asks: Could you see the Yankees moving Gleyber Torres to 3rd base? It has worked out well for the Orioles with Machado and also Bregman is doing well in that role for the Astros. Since Headley is average at best, we could trade him as we bring up Torres for 3rd and have a solid group of young infielders for several years.

Definitely possible, especially with Didi Gregorius establishing himself as a rock solid big league shortstop. Torres fits the typical third base offensive profile better than Jorge Mateo, and I also think he’s the more fundamentally sound defender. Not that Mateo is bad in the field, but Torres is more sure-handed and reliable. Mateo has a knack for being a little too flashy. Torres won’t wow you in the field. He just makes plays.

Shortstops are typically the best athletes on the field and that makes them the best candidates to move to other positions. Sliding over to second or third is a fairly common move, but we’ve also seen shortstops move to the outfield. Billy Hamilton did it, and in a roundabout way Mookie Betts did it to. (He was drafted as a shortstop, then moved to second, then to center, then to right.) There’s no reason to think Torres couldn’t play third. He has the tools. I don’t think the Yankees should move him just yet, but if they determine in the future that’s the best way to get him into the lineup, then move him over. I think Torres would pick up the hot corner quickly.

Mark asks: Any worry of a strike or lock out this off season? Or is everyone rolling in the deep, that no matter how the cba turns out, everyone is a winner?

I’m not worried about a work stoppage and there’s no indication the two sides have reached a sticking point in Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. MLB is insanely healthy right now. Everyone is making a ton of money and everyone involved knows the best thing for business is to keep it going. A work stoppage would do a lot of unnecessary harm. Commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters at the owners’ meetings a few weeks ago that talks were progressing and he expects a deal to be reached. I fully expect the two sides to have a new deal in place this offseason. Not worried at all. MLB and MLBPA have too much to lose.

Sam asks (short version): Are you happy with instant replay? What causes the MLB offices to not overturn calls that are seemingly obvious?

The folks in MLB’s central review office need clear and convincing evidence to overturn a call on the field. A lot of plays that look like they should be overturned aren’t because the replays are deemed inconclusive. That’s the best answer I can give. We’ve all seen plays where there appears to be obvious grounds to overturn the call, but it doesn’t happen for whatever reason. I can’t explain those.

As for the replay system in general, I am happy with it, though there are ways it can be improved. I’d like to see them speed up the process somehow. Is there a reason the crew chief can’t keep a direct line cell phone in his pocket and call the review crew that way rather than go over for the headsets? Just spitballing here. The other thing I don’t like about replay are the ticky-tack reviews on a player who might have popped up off the base for a fraction of a second after a slide. Like this:

Yes, it’s important to get the calls right. Ultimately that is why the replay system is in place. Calls like that are not the reason replay was implemented though. That’s an unintended consequence. I’m not sure how you could eliminate those, but plays like that are by far my least favorite aspect of replay.

Joseph asks: In light of the team’s recent success and playoff run attempt, would you undo any of the trades made before the deadline this year?  (I wouldn’t, feel like we need to store as many assets as possible to trade for at least one top of the rotation starter eventually, although I do miss Miller every day).

I don’t think so. The only one you would even consider taking back is the Andrew Miller trade because he is under contract another two years, and the Yankees could have always traded him for a monster package somewhere down the line. There’s no doubt the Yankees would be a better team right now with Miller and Aroldis Chapman, but they were smart to take a big picture view at the deadline. They had to. The franchise was desperate for an infusion of young talent. That the Yankees managed to claw their way back into relevance in the postseason race is all gravy in my opinion.

Andrew asks: With Sanchez having the month he’s having, possible extension candidate?  Great arm behind plate, crazy advanced hitter.  Something along the lines of Longoria’s deal from a few years ago enough to get it done?

It might be a little too early for this. Generally speaking, yes, Sanchez is the kind of young player you’d look to lock up long-term, especially given his position. The kid just had what might legitimately be the best month of his entire career though. His leverage is at an all-time high. Waiting until the offseason, or even next offseason, might not be the worst idea.

Just for fun, here are some players who signed long-term extensions with less than a half-a-season of service time (via MLBTR’s Extension Tracker):

  • Jonathan Singleton: Five years, $10M with three club options ($35M max)
  • Salvador Perez: Five years, $7M with three club options ($26.75M max)
  • Evan Longoria: Six years, $17.5M with three club options ($44M max)

The Longoria deal seems most relevant to Sanchez. They were both high profile prospects who received big signing bonuses as amateurs, so they already had some financial security. Perez received a $65,000 bonus as an amateur and jumped at the guaranteed money. Singleton received a $200,000 bonus out of the draft and he actually signed his extension with the Astros as a minor leaguer. They only called him up after he agreed to the deal.

If the Yankees were to wait and sign Sanchez to an extension after next season, contract benchmarks based on players with similar service time would include Christian Yelich (seven years, $49.75M), Jedd Gyorko (five years, $35M), Yan Gomes (six years, $23M), Starlin Marte (six years, $31M), and Anthony Rizzo (seven years, $41M). What do you think, worth the wait? Putting the Longoria extension in front of him this coming offseason is worth a try, I’d say.

Sanchez. (Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)
Sanchez. (Christopher Pasatieri/Getty)

Jerry asks: I’ve looked at MLB.com’s scouting report on Gary Sanchez and his hit tool is only rated 45. Is his hit tool really below average because it certainly doesn’t look like it?

MLB.com gives him a 45 hit tool and they’re probably the low man on him. I’ve seen other publications (Baseball America, Keith Law, etc.) say they believe Sanchez can be a .270-.280 hitter in the big leagues, which is closer to a 55-60 hit tool on the 20-80 scale. A 50 is average and these days non-pitchers are hitting .259 collectively. Sanchez sure looks advanced for a hitter, right? He knows the strike zone and seems willing to go the other way. Based on everything I’ve seen and read over the years, I think a 50 hit tool is the minimum here. Anything less seems really light.

Frank asks: I have noticed that SP Will Carter has an amazing ratio of 36 ground outs to every 10 fly outs in AA Trenton. He pitches to a 4.42 ERA but I was wondering how much the quality of the minor league infields, as well as, minor league infield defense has played a part in his high ERA? Also do you think there would be a significant improvement should he pitch in the majors, given these factors?

Oh yes, that stuff absolutely plays a role in a pitcher’s ERA. Minor league fields are well groomed but not nearly as well as Major League fields, so there are bad hops and things like that. Minor league teams just don’t have the resources to care for them as well as MLB teams. Also, as talented as players like Mateo and Tyler Wade are, they’re still minor leaguers and they’re going to make mistakes on defense. It’s part of the learning process. Carter has a heavy mid-90s sinker and a 67.8% ground ball rate in the minors. Put him on a Major League field in front of a Major League defense, and his ground ball ability will be a real asset.

Adam asks: I counted 10 definites (Jansen, Trumbo, Ramos, Encarnacion, Napoli, Walker, Prado, Desmond, Cespedes, Bautista) and 3 strong maybes (Saunders, Fister, Lind) to receive the QO.  Is there anyone obvious that I am missing? and will this be the lowest amount of QO’s given since inception of the rule? Thanks

I think you’re being a wee bit generous with the qualifying offers. Adam Lind is essentially a DH and he’s hitting .230/.267/.429 (85 wRC+) this season. The qualifying offer is expected to be $16.7M this offseason. Put that in front of Lind and he’d take it in a heartbeat. I can’t see Mike Napoli getting the QO either, even as good as he’s been. He has a chronic condition in both of his hips. Neil Walker’s recent back surgery might take him out of the running too.

Adam is missing three QO candidates, in my opinion: Justin Turner, Matt Wieters, and Dexter Fowler. Turner and Fowler are no-brainers right now. Wieters is a bit more up in the air because he hasn’t had a great season, but still, quality catchers are hard to find. That gives us ten definites (Turner, Fowler, Kenley Jansen, Mark Trumbo, Wilson Ramos, Edwin Encarnacion, Martin Prado, Ian Desmond, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Bautista) and four maybes (Wieters, Walker, Michael Saunders, Doug Fister).

Last year’s free agent class was ridiculously good and a whopping 20 players received the QO. That is by far a record. Only nine received it during the 2012-13 offseason, then 13 in 2013-14, and 12 in 2014-15. Looks like we’re heading for another 12-13 or so this year. I guess we could consider that a “normal” offseason at this point. I would be surprised if the Yankees forfeited a draft pick to sign one of those potential QO players this winter.

Eric asks: Do the Yankees sign a LH Reliever such as Boone Logan or Brett Cecil? Even if the Yankees bring back Chapman, he’s the closer so they would seem to be without any LH reliever options?

Outside of Miller, who was a special case because he is so much more than a left-on-left matchup guy, the Yankees have not had much luck signing free agent lefty relievers in recent years. Both Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano blew up on them (we’ll always have the 2009 World Series, Damaso!), and Matt Thornton was mediocre at best. The Yankees dumped him on a trade waiver claim four months into a two-year contract.

The list of non-Chapman free agent lefty relievers this coming offseason includes Logan, Cecil, Thornton, Mike Dunn, Javier Lopez, Marc Rzepczynski, and Travis Wood. Dunn has had some arm problems this year, otherwise he’d interest me the most out of those guys. Wood is more than a lefty specialist. He can go full innings if necessary, so he’d probably be my top target.

The Yankees have Chasen Shreve, James Pazos, Richard Bleier, and Tommy Layne on the 40-man roster right now. Dietrich Enns and/or Tyler Webb could be added this winter to avoid Rule 5 Draft exposure. I think the Yankees will stay in-house for lefty middle relievers. (By the way, I think the odds of them signing Chapman are, like, 85%.)

Torreyes. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)
Torreyes. (Otto Greule Jr/Getty)

Quintin asks: Torreyes is undersized and has no power, but has been fairly productive when given the chance to play. Could he be a starter for a contending team, or is he just a utility player?

I liked the Ronald Torreyes pickup and wrote that a few times before the season. I think he’s a really good utility infielder, someone who won’t kill you if you’re forced to play him everyday for two weeks while someone is on the DL, but not a guy you want to run out there for 150 games a season. I know Torreyes was insanely hot last week, but remember, he was hitting .218/.274/.308 (54 wRC+) as recently as August 18th. His hot week pushed that up to .298/.348/.452 (115 wRC+).

Torreyes is still only 23 — he’s two months older than Greg Bird and three months older than Gary Sanchez — and he’s a contact machine, which makes him prone to these ridiculous BABIP fueled hot streaks. He did it in April and he did it again last week. Torreyes has no power, but he gets the bat on the ball, he plays solid defense, and he’s a high-energy player who is a very popular teammate. I’m wrong about players all the time, so if Torreyes becomes an everyday player at some point, great. I see him as a really nice utility guy, someone who can be on a championship team’s bench.

Michael asks: Mike- with seven teams vying for the two WC spots separated by only 3.5 games (as of 8/30) can you please explain the tiebreaker system should it come to that.

I am #TeamChaos and would love to see a three or four-team tie for a wildcard spot one of these years. A two-team tie is simple. The two teams just play a Game 163 and the winner is the second wildcard team. This happened in 2013, when the Rangers and Rays tied for the second wildcard spot. Tampa beat Texas in Game 163 and then beat the Indians in the wildcard game.

For a three-team tiebreaker, the three clubs are designated Team A, B, and C based on a ton of criteria. Head-to-head records, intra-division records, all sorts of stuff. Team A plays Team B, then the winner plays Team C. The winner of that game gets the wildcard spot and advances to the postseason. You want to be Team C in that scenario. You one get to play fewer one winner-take-all tiebreaker game.

A four-team tiebreaker is boringly straight forward. The four teams are designated Team A, B, C, and D through all that messy criteria, then Team A plays Team B and Team C plays Team D. The two winners meet, and the winner of that game then advances to the postseason as the second wildcard team. MLB has all the tiebreaker scenarios worked out. Here are all the gory details.

George asks: Thoughts about the possibility of not having a “clubhouse leader” or “veteran presence” next year, especially if they trade McCann? I remember reports about how huge Miller was, and going back even Jeter and Posada. CC seems like a great model for the pitching staff (owning up to mistakes, overcoming addiction,…), but the position players don’t seem to have a go to guy especially after ARod’s jettison.

I do think this is something the Yankees take seriously. Based on everything I’ve read and heard, CC Sabathia is the leader of the pitching staff and Brett Gardner and Brian McCann are essentially co-captains in the clubhouse. They’re the leadership guys. Sabathia is almost certainly going to be around next year. Gardner and McCann could be traded though and that will leave a leadership void. Mark Teixeira will be gone too.

Ultimately, I think you have to focus on talent and put the best players on the field, and hope the leadership core develops. Back in the day the sabermetric credo was that intangibles didn’t matter, or that they didn’t have nearly as much impact as everyone believed. I agree that intangibles and leadership should not be the tippy top priority, but it’s silly to say they don’t matter. They obviously do. I don’t think the Yankees would hesitate to trade Gardner and/or McCann for clubhouse reasons, but I do think the leadership void is something they’d look to address.

Ross asks: I noticed that when Ben Gamel got traded, he was immediately put in 15th place for the Mariners top 30 on MLB.com.  Gamel was 24th on Yankee list.  Orozco was 19th on the Mariners list and Stephen Tarpley was #17 for the and Tito Polo was #27 for the Pirates and with Gamel’s top 30 spot, none of those three cracked the Yankee top 30 (Freicer Perez took the new 30 spot).  Is their depth that crazy deep or did MLB.com mess up not putting any of those guys top-30?

No, MLB.com didn’t screw up. The Yankees have that much depth in their farm system right now. The deadline trades added 12 (12!) legitimate prospects to the system, a system that was on the rise this season as it is. The Yankees have some high-end talent at the top of the farm system (Clint Frazier, Gleyber Torres, etc.) but they also have a ton of guys who project to be average-ish big league players. Guys like Thairo Estrada and Donny Sands have really nice skill sets and they can’t sniff the top 30 right now (in my opinion). Overlooked pitchers like Will Carter and Caleb Smith have a chance to contribute at the MLB level too. The depth in the system right now is just absurd. I’ve never seen it better.

Sheffield. (@MiLB)
Sheffield. (@MiLB)

Michael asks: Think we could see Justus Sheffield as early as sometime in 2017? What about Kaprielian?

I wouldn’t completely rule it out, but I do think 2017 is unlikely for both guys. Sheffield is just now getting to Double-A, and he figures to start next season at that level too. The Yankees are probably going to take it very easy with James Kaprielian given his elbow injury. I doubt they’ll rush him up the ladder next season. The fact neither of these guys is on the 40-man roster works against them too. I’d call late 2017 a slight possibility for both Sheffield and Kaprielian with early-to-mid-2018 more likely.

Nick asks: Would sending Severino to the AFL be an option?  Let him get a few extra innings and work on his changeup there.

I don’t think so. The Arizona Fall League is not the best place to send a young starter to work on things. It’s a very hitter friendly league. There’s no reason Luis Severino couldn’t go to the Arizona Fall League, he doesn’t exceed the service time limit, but it’s usually not a place for top young pitchers. Not unless they missed significant time with injury. Winter ball could be more likely for Severino, and even that I think is a long shot. They might send him home after the big league season and let him recharge the batteries, then come to Spring Training ready to work next year.

Luke asks: Where is Slade Heathcott these days?

Heathcott signed with the White Sox a few weeks after being released by the Yankees. He’s hit .227/.373/.330 (109 wRC+) with a 26.1% strikeout rate in 32 games for their Triple-A affiliate, and MLB.com does not rank Slade among the top 30 prospects in a weak ChiSox farm system. I don’t know what Chicago’s 40-man roster situation is, but they’ll have to add Heathcott after the season to prevent him from becoming a minor league free agent.

Travis asks: Considering the almost identical stat lines between Taylor Widener’s 2016 debut and Chance Adams’s 2015 debut, do you think the Yankees may try to convert Widener to a starter for 2017? I know he has had some injury concerns the last year or so, but I wasnt sure to what extent.

Widener was the Yankees’ 12th round pick out of South Carolina this season, and he has a 0.52 ERA (1.61 FIP) with 52 strikeouts and 6 walks in 34.1 pro innings. That’s a 43.0% strikeout rate and a 5.0% walk rate. Widener did have some injuries in college, most notably ulnar nerve transposition surgery last fall. He’s also had some back and knee problems over the years. The nerve injury is serious stuff, but he seems to be over it.

I suspect we’re going to hear a lot of “this guy might be the next Chance Adams” going forward, but it’s unfair to put that on anyone. What Adams did this year is like 95th percentile outcome stuff. Best case scenario. Widener has a mid-90s fastball and a hard slider, though he lacks a changeup, and that’s why most project him as a reliever. It’s worth noting the Yankees have him working 3-4 innings stints, so perhaps they’re considering him for a starting role. Widener could be in for the Jonathan Holder plan. Try him as a starter for a year, and if they don’t like what they see, stick him back in the bullpen.

Mailbag: Sanchez, McMahon, Eovaldi, Cano, CC, Rutherford

Small mailbag this week. Only ten questions. Back in the day ten questions equaled a huge mailbag. Times have changed, huh? As always, the best way to send us questions is the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address. Fire away.

The moment Al passed Face of the Franchise status over to Gary. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
The moment Al passed Face of the Franchise status over to Gary. (Getty)

Many asked: Can Gary Sanchez win Rookie of the Year?

Yes he can and no he won’t. The late call-up doesn’t mean Sanchez is ineligible to receive Rookie of the Year votes or anything like that. It just means he’s going to have way fewer at-bats than other top Rookie of the Year candidates. If Sanchez plays every single game from now through the end of the season, he’ll finish with 55 games played. The fewest games played by a Rookie of the Year position player is 52 by Willie McCovey, who hit .354/.429/.656 (188 OPS+) with the 1959 Giants.

The next fewest? Eighty-eight by Ryan Howard. Sanchez winning Rookie of the Year with only 55 games played would not be completely unprecedented, but there is a reason it has only happened once. Usually there are very qualified Rookie of the Year candidates who have played a full season or at least close to one. Sanchez will get some down ballot Rookie of the Year votes if he continues at this pace, I have no doubt. Michael Fulmer and Tyler Naquin have also had incredible seasons and will finish with nearly three times as much MLB time as Sanchez. That matters.

Michael asks: Took a look at the SP market this winter. First of all, woof. Second of all…Nova might be, uh, maybe the best option, given age and injury risk (looking at you, Rich Hill and Andrew Cashner). What kind of coin does he collect, and should the Yankees consider a reunion?

Yeah, the upcoming free agent pitching class is really bad. Hill is probably the best starter on a rate basis, but there’s no reason to think he can give you 180 innings next season. Looking over at the list of free agents, Ivan Nova seems like the best reclamation project available, but because the market is so thin, I think he’s going to wind up getting paid sure thing money. Three years and $36M? The J.A. Happ deal? It wouldn’t surprise me. Nova had his first real good start with the Pirates the other day and if he can pitch to a 3.75-ish ERA the rest of the way, he’s going to get a nice contract. And no, I don’t think the Yankees should consider a reunion. Been there, done that. Onward and upward, not backward.

Andrew asks: Are the Yankees following the Cubs’ rebuild strategy? Seems like the Yanks are stacking as many young bats as they can, while the pitching is kinda light at the moment. Seems the Cubs beefed up their pitching through free agency and trades when the young guys were ready with Lester, Lackey, Arrieta, etc. Do you see the Yankees deploying the same strategy?

I think it’s just a coincidence. The Yankees did use their top draft pick in both 2014 (Jacob Lindgren) and 2015 (James Kaprielian) on pitchers, remember. (The Cubs haven’t picked a pitcher in the first round since 2010, the year before the Theo Epstein regime came in.) Plus they spent all last offseason trying to land a young controllable starter. It just so happens that right now they have a bunch of bats coming, and when they made their deadline trades, the best available players were hitters. The Cubs had no top pitching prospects to trade for Aroldis Chapman and the Indians had way more bats than arms to deal for Andrew Miller.

Building around young bats is a way better strategy than building around young arms in my opinion. Pitchers get hurt all the time. You need pitchers, sure, but they’re risky as hell. What’s the last truly great rotation three or foursome that stayed together for an extended period of time? Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito with the Athletics? Look at the Mets. Pitchers break down. It’s what they do. Add in the fact offense is down relative to where it was 5-10 years ago, and hoarding bats makes sense. The Yankees have all those young position players either in MLB or on the cusp of MLB. They’re probably going to have to go outside the organization for arms.

Chris asks (short version): What about buying low on Rockies third base prospect Ryan McMahon?

McMahon, 21, has been a top 100 prospect for a few years now — Baseball America ranked him No. 43 prior to this season — because he has huge power and it plays in games. He came into this season as a career .295/.374/.521 (140 wRC+) hitter with 48 homers in 327 pro games, all at High-A and below.  This year McMahon is hitting a weak .239/.327/.387 (99 wRC+) with ten homers in 121 Double-A games, however.

McMahon. (Chet Strange/Hartford Courant)
McMahon. (Chet Strange/Hartford Courant)

There are two ways to look at this. One, McMahon’s struggles are the result of the Hartford Yard Goats’ stadium situation. They don’t have one. The team has been on the road all season a la the 2012 Scranton Yankees. Scranton was on the road because the ballpark was being renovated. Hartford is on the road because of political and legal issues with their currently under construction ballpark. (Actually, construction has stopped for the time being.) Playing on the road all the time stinks.

And two, McMahon is getting exposed by advanced pitchers. He’s had swing-and-miss issues throughout his career — his strikeout rate by level: 23.5% (rookie), 25.9% (Low-A), 27.5% (High-A), and 30.3% (Double-A) — and there’s some length to his swing. McMahon has big time power and he has the tools to be a good third baseman, though there are definite red flags here. The ballpark situation is a convenient excuse, but is it the right excuse?

The Rockies are pretty darn good at developing position players, and while being open to trading McMahon could raise an eyebrow (what do they know that we don’t?), we have to remember Nolan Arenado is going nowhere at third base. McMahon is blocked — the Rockies have introduced him to first base this season, for what it’s worth — and trading him would make complete sense. I don’t know what a fair trade would be, but if the Rockies do put McMahon out there, the Yankees should look into it. His lefty pop is legit. He’s not without risk though.

Michael asks: Eovaldi – would you offer Eovaldi a 2 year deal similar to Jon Lieber i believe for (2003-2004). Pay him the minimum for 2017 with an incentive if he’s able to pitch in September. then a reasonable low base salary for 2018 with more incentives?

Yes, though I don’t think the league minimum is going to cut it at this point. The Royals have set the market for really injured pitchers the last two offseasons. Two years ago they signed Kris Medlen to a two-year, $8.5M deal as he rehabbed from his second Tommy John surgery. This past offseason they signed Mike Minor to a two-year, $7.5M deal as he rehabbed from shoulder surgery. Eovaldi is probably looking at similar money.

Of course, Medlen and Minor are cautionary tales. Medlen has been pretty bad since coming back from his second elbow reconstruction (5.12 ERA and 4.44 FIP) and Minor is getting knocked around on his rehab assignment. The second Tommy John surgery is much riskier than the first. I don’t think there’s any way you could expect Eovaldi to pitch next season. Pushing him back that quickly would be dangerous. Whoever signs him will do so hoping he’s ready to go come Spring Training 2018. I’d be cool with giving him two years and $8M or so with the understanding you’ll get nothing in 2017.

Carl asks: Given that Cano was never a top 100 prospect, are there any prospects in the system that could be very underrated right now?

Robinson Cano should have been a top 100 prospect in 2005. He was the top prospect in the organization at the time, and a near-MLB ready middle infielder who can hit to all fields should be a top 100 guy. Alas. Anyway, I’m sticking with Tyler Wade as my underrated prospect even though I’ve ranked him pretty high recently. He’s not going to hit for power. That’s just not his game. But Wade has the bat control and plate discipline to hit leadoff, plus he’s a really good defensive shortstop. He’s almost like the shortstop version of Brett Gardner, or at least the Brett Gardner who came up through the system. (Gardner has exceeded all expectations as a big leaguer.) Wade’s a bit of a boring answer but I really believe in him. He’s going to start for someone for a long time.

Michael asks: With Gary Sanchez wearing #24 it got me thinking, does Robinson Cano ever go into Monument Park? Despite leaving for more money, Cano’s peak year were the best second baseman seasons in Yankee history and he won a championship here.

I think he should. Cano is no worse than the fourth best second baseman in franchise history behind Willie Randolph, Tony Lazzeri, and Joe Gordon. Lazzeri and Gordon are in the Hall of Fame but not Monument Park. Randolph is in Monument Park but not the Hall of Fame. Go figure. Cano is the best hitting second baseman in team history in terms of batting average (.309), homers (204), OPS (.860), OPS+ (126), and wRC+ (126), and he was the Yankees’ best player from 2010-13. He has the World Series ring plus five All-Star Game appearances and four top six finishes in the MVP voting. So he left as a free agent. Who cares? Cano is arguably the best second baseman in franchise history and that makes him Monument Park worthy in my book. Will he get in? My guess right now is no.

Robbie. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)
Robbie. (Jim McIsaac/Getty)

Michael asks: What’s a manager worth if you could value you them by WAR? I’m sure it’s tough to put a value on a manager and I think that there are numerous ways with which measure a teams performance but is there a way to measure the day in and day out impact on the team and individual players and come up with a true value?

I’ve long believed that a bad manager can cause more losses than a good manager can create more wins. It’s not just bad lineup decisions and pitching changes. Bad managers typically have unhappy clubhouses, and when the players aren’t happy, they don’t perform. We’ve seen it countless times over the years. A good manager keeps his players happy and motivated in addition to making smart strategic moves. My guess — and this is a total guess — is a good manager can be worth something like 3-4 wins over the season while a bad manager could cost the team upwards of 7-8 wins. That sound reasonable?

Adam asks: Has CC’s 2017 option officially vested now that there are officially less than 45 days left in the season? ( the stipulation was spend more than 45 days on the DL for there to be a buyout, i believe) Thanks

No because only one of the three conditions of CC Sabathia‘s vesting option has to be met, not all three. Here are the the conditions of the option. As soon as one happens, the vesting option becomes a club option, which the Yankees can buy out for $5M (they can’t buy out the option if it vests):

  1. Sabathia does not end 2016 on the DL with a shoulder injury.
  2. Sabathia does not spend more than 45 days on the DL with a shoulder injury.
  3. Sabathia does not make more than six relief appearances due to a shoulder injury.

As Adam said, the second condition is no longer a possibility. There are 37 days left in the regular season and Sabathia has not been on the DL with a shoulder issue at all. He could still finish the season on the DL with a shoulder injury though, which would void the option. Ditto the six relief appearances thing.

Teams typically do not place players on the DL in September because there’s no need with expanded rosters. If Sabathia does hurt his shoulder and it’s minor, say inflammation or something like that, would they put him on the DL to prevent the option from vesting? The MLBPA wouldn’t like that. I think it would have to be something serious like a tear. Something serious enough to put Sabathia on the 60-day DL so they could clear a 40-man roster spot for another player.

Marc asks: Blake Rutherford. Is he the prospect with the highest ceiling and could he be a fast riser in the system? He seems like he may be the best bat in the system since Nick Johnson.

Rutherford’s in the conversation for sure. Guys like Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo have crazy high ceilings as well though, and they are closer to the show than Rutherford, which is why I have them ranked higher at the moment. The kid can really hit and I do think he’ll be a fast riser relative to other high school draftees. I could see Rutherford blowing through Low-A and High-A next season, then starting 2018 as a 20-year-old in Double-A. He might be my favorite prospect in the system right now.