Mailbag: Gray, Archer, Holliday, Moustakas, Sheffield

Only eight questions in the mailbag this week. It was ten before the Brian McCann trade made two questions obsolete, but also I’ve been in a fewer questions/longer answers groove the last few weeks for some reason. As always, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us anything.

Gray. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)
Gray. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Bryan asks: The Rockies always need pitching so I’m not betting on them dealing it away, but what would your interest level in Jon Gray be and what would you be willing to give up? Young, tall, hard throwing, and I’d assume they like him after trying to get him in the ’11 draft.

Interest level: Extremely high. Willing to give up: Lots. I’m all in Gray. The 4.61 ERA is ugly, I know it is, especially since it was actually worse on the road (4.91) than it was at Coors Field (4.30), but the guy had a 3.60 FIP with a 26.0% strikeout rate in his first full season as a big leaguer. That’s a good sign. He also had a better than average 88.7 mph exit velocity, which is on par with other weak contact pitchers like Justin Verlander (88.2), Jacob deGrom (88.7), and Jose Quintana (88.9).

(Amazingly, MLB.com doesn’t seem to have video of Gray’s 16-strikeout game in September.)

Gray turned 25 earlier this month and he comes with five years of team control. This is the kind of dude you go all out to acquire. Swing and miss power stuff — Gray had better than average swing-and-miss rates with his fastball and slider, and an average swing-and-miss rate with his changeup — and a half-decade of control. He might not be an ace right away because being an ace is hard, but the tools are there. He’s a rotation cornerstone going forward.

The Yankees did draft Gray out of junior college in 2011, though I don’t think that matters much. His dominance and potential is not some secret. There are 30 teams who want this guy. The Rockies actually have a good amount of young pitching these days (Gray, Tyler Anderson, Jeff Hoffman, German Marquez), so while they might be in position to trade a starter, I’d be floored if it’s Gray. He’s their best pitcher and someone to build around. If they put him on the market and demand, say, Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield, plus some other stuff, how do you say no?

Jon asks: Any chance the Yanks could swing a trade for Chris Archer this offseason? What do you think it would cost them?

I’ll start out by saying no, I don’t think there’s a chance the Yankees could trade for Archer. Not because they don’t have the prospects to make the deal. They certain do. I just don’t think the Rays will trade him within the division. Archer had a down year in 2016 but there will still be plenty of interested teams if they put him on the market, enough that Tampa could get a great package without getting the Yankees involved.

That said, pursuing Archer would be worthwhile and a no-brainer for the Yankees. He just turned 28 — fun fact: Archer is 36 days older than Masahiro Tanaka — and he’s owed only $38.5M over the next five years when you include the club options.  That’s a bargain price for a pitcher of his caliber. Archer’s is a long-term rotation piece and the Yankees need a few of those going forward. The fact he’s already had success in the AL East is a plus.

Archer’s performance did take a step back this year — he had a 4.02 ERA (3.81 FIP) in 2016 after putting up a 3.23 ERA (2.90 FIP) last year and a 3.33 ERA (3.39 FIP) the year before — though the only significant change in his underlying performance was his home run rate, and everyone gave up more homers this year. The slider is still electric and the velocity is there. As long as Archer is healthy, I’m in.

My trade proposal sucks, but I’m thinking Tampa needs some combination of three top prospects or young players ready to step right into the MLB roster, plus some secondary stuff. Trading for a pitcher as good and affordable as Archer should hurt like hell.

Matt asks: With the Cubs possibly looking for a lefty swinging outfielder (if Dexter Fowler declines the QO), and the Yanks surplus of outfielders, would the Cubs have any interest in acquiring Brett Gardner? And if so, would Ian Happ be a possible trade target for the Yankees?

No on Happ. I can’t imagine the Cubs would give him up for Gardner. Way too good of a prospect. Gardner could be a fit for the Cubs though, considering they need a center fielder and leadoff hitter given Fowler’s impending departure. Perhaps they’d even have interest in Jacoby Ellsbury given Theo Epstein’s history with him from their Red Sox days. That’d be swell. Gardner seems more likely though given his far less painful contract. Too bad the Cubbies don’t have any real pitching to trade. I’m a Rob Zastryzny fan, but not enough to take him back as the centerpiece in a Gardner deal.

Holliday. (Jon Durr/Getty)
Holliday. (Jon Durr/Getty)

Reggie asks: Now that he’s a free agent , wouldn’t Matt Holiday make a good option as a DH/emergency outfielder? He might be a quality veteran bat to be had on a two-year deal.

Holliday turns 37 in January and is in clear decline — his wRC+ the last four years: 147, 132, 124, 109 — so I’d try to limit it to a one-year contract, but yes, I think he could be a good DH candidate. Holliday would have to be cool with playing some first base though. He played ten games there for the Cardinals this year, so I assume this won’t be a problem. He’s not very mobile in the outfield these days, and limiting him to first and DH may keep him healthier.

This past season Holliday hit .246/.322/.461 (109 wRC+) around a broke thumb that was suffered on a hit-by-pitch. There are some worrisome trends in his underlying performance. His walk rate, which hadn’t been below 10.4% since 2007, dropped to 8.2% in 2016. When an older player stops walking, it usually stems from hunting fastballs early in the count because he knows can’t react to soft stuff as well as he once did. Also, Holliday’s ground ball rate has climbed from 45.6% to 48.1% to 50.0% the last three years. More balls on the ground is a classic sign of aging.

I’d target Carlos Beltran over Holliday as a one-year DH, but Holliday is probably option No. 2. I’d take him over Mike Napoli, who certainly has more power, but has extreme contact issues and gets chewed up by even decent righties. Holliday is what announcers like to call a “professional hitter.” He grinds out at-bats and is a right-handed hitter with a true all-fields approach (via Baseball Savant) …

Matt Holliday spray chart

… and I’d rather hitch my wagon to that guy than the grip it and rip it Napoli. I’m a little wary of hitters on the wrong side of 35 after watching Alfonso Soriano, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez go from great to useless in an offseason, but if the Yankees are going to sign someone like that to be their DH next season, Holliday wouldn’t be a bad choice. I’d prefer Beltran because he’s a switch-hitter and there’d be less of an adjustment period, but Holliday would work too.

Ladislao asks: Hey quick question for mailbag, what do you think about Eric Thames who is playing out in the KBO? He has power and speed and wasn’t terrible when he last played in MLB. Could he be a productive cheaper OF/DH/1b option?

Thames, who you might remember from his time with the Blue Jays a few years ago, has spent the last three seasons in Korea and his numbers are insane. He hit .317/.425/.676 with 40 home runs this year, which is down from the .381/.497/.790 and 47 home runs he hit last year. Keep in mind the KBO is very hitter friendly. The league as a whole hit .290/.364/.438 overall this year. It’s an entire league of Buster Poseys (.288/.362/.434 in 2016).

Thames turned 30 earlier this month and he’s probably worth a deeper look outside a mailbag setting. My big question is this: how did he improve? Is he still the same guy he was in MLB, and he just spent the last few years feasting on inferior pitching? Or did he make legitimate progress in some way? Byung-Ho Park had huge numbers in KBO (.343/.436/.714 in 2015) but he fell flat on his face with the Twins (.191/.275/.409), which was a reminder not everyone makes the transition as easily as Jung-Ho Kang did with the Pirates last year.

Moose tacos. (Ed Zurga/Getty)
Moose tacos. (Ed Zurga/Getty)

Michael asks: If the Yankees did end up dealing Headley, how do you see them filling 3rd base?  Also what would it take to get Mistakes, ones year to free agency and coming if an injury?

Shout out to Michael for the A+ autocorrect. I’m assuming Mistakes is Moustakas, as in Mike, who is indeed one year from free agency and coming off a torn ACL. The Royals are at a crossroads right now. Basically their entire core will become free agents after 2017. I’m talking Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Wade Davis, Alcides Escobar, and Danny Duffy. They’re going to be left with Salvador Perez, Alex Gordon, and Ian Kennedy. That’s about it.

Kansas City, who reportedly listened to offers for Davis at the deadline, has to decide whether to tear it all down now and begin a rebuild, or try to win one last time with the core in 2017. Personally, I think they should go for it, and if things aren’t looking good at midseason, tear it all down at the trade deadline. They might not get the best possible trade return that way, but they’d still get plenty. More than a bunch of draft picks, anyway.

Moustakas would certainly be a fine option at third base for the Yankees even after the injury. You get him for a year, and if he plays well, the Yankees could either re-sign him (he’s only 28) or make him the qualifying offer and get a draft pick. As always, it comes down to cost. If the Royals make Moustakas available, teams are going to flock to him before looking at Chase Headley, so he won’t come cheap.

Sam asks: Could the Yankees trade several lesser prospects (the ones they’d probably lose in the rule-5 draft, maybe others of that ilk) plus some money, along with ARod’s contract to a big-market team with small payroll (I’m thinking the Phillies)? The Phillies would, in effect, be buying some prospects.

In theory, yes, they could do this. The problem with this is lesser prospects who might get popped in the Rule 5 Draft don’t have much trade value. The Phillies are certainly in position to absorb Alex Rodriguez’s contract as a way to net some prospects, but Rule 5 Draft fodder ain’t gonna get it done. Guys like Gio Gallegos and Tyler Webb don’t move the needle a whole lot. If you want to unload A-Rod‘s contract on another team, it’s going to take real prospects to make it happen. Eating $21M in salary should net you a Jorge Mateo or an Aaron Judge, not random fringe players, and I’m not trading those guys to dump $21M. The Yankees can afford that dead money.

Dennis asks: What is your opinion on Justus Sheffield? Does he have top starter potential? And do you possibly see him splitting this upcoming season between AA and AAA and then coming to Spring Training 2 years from now with a chance to crack the rotation.

Yes I see him possibly splitting next season between Double-A and Triple-A. I think Sheffield is likely to spend most of the year in Double-A before a late season promotion to Triple-A rather than a true 50/50 split at the levels. He is still only a 20-year-old kid, remember. Getting to Double-A at age 20 is quite an accomplishment. Hopefully Sheffield doesn’t get the same “he had 60 good innings hurry let’s promote him!” treatment as Luis Severino. Patience, yo.

As for his long-term potential, Sheffield figures to be more a very good mid-rotation guy than a true No. 1 starter. Aces are rare. There’s like 12-15 of them in baseball at any given time. Sheffield has above-average velocity and an out-pitch curveball, as well as an improving changeup, and right now his biggest need is to improve his command of his secondary pitches. He’s looking more like a +3 or +4 WAR starter long-term rather than a +6 WAR guy. That’s really good!

Mailbag: Goldschmidt, Hammel, Cabrera, Zimmermann

Only nine questions in the mailbag this week, but they’re nine good ones, and some of the answers are longer than usual. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us questions and comments throughout the week.

(Dustin Bradford/Getty)
Goldy. (Dustin Bradford/Getty)

Nate asks: I’m hearing rumors that Goldschmidt could be traded. What kind of package would it take for the Yankees to land him?

They aren’t really rumors, it’s mostly just speculation. The Diamondbacks just hired Mike Hazen away from the Red Sox to be their new GM, and anytime a new GM is hired, the assumption seems to be he’ll tear it all down and rebuild. With Arizona, you could argue that rebuild is necessary. I think they might be a little closer to contention than the consensus though. Who knows.

If the D’Backs do put Paul Goldschmidt on the market — and assuming Hazen doesn’t trade him to Boston for a bunch of prospects he fell in love with while there — then yes, the Yankees should absolutely, 100% be in on him. Goldschmidt is a bonafide franchise player and MVP caliber performer. You open the farm system and make everyone available, even the Gleyber Torreses and Clint Fraziers.

The facts: Goldschmidt turned 29 in September and he hit .297/.411/.489 (134 wRC+) with 24 home runs and 32 steals in 37 attempts in 2016. That was his worst season since 2012. The guy hit .309/.412/.556 (158 wRC+) from 2013-15 and averaged 29 homers and 15 steals per season, and he’s maybe the smartest hitter in MLB in terms of making adjustments and reading pitchers. Goldschmidt is also a top notch defensive first baseman and an all-around swell guy. Assuming his club options are picked up, he’s owed only $34.475M from 2017-19. Peanuts.

I can’t think of a comparable player who’s been traded in recent years. Josh Donaldson? He was four years from free agency, not three, and the Athletics gave him away. Miguel Cabrera? He was two years from free agency and that was nearly a decade ago now. Hanley Ramirez? He was two and a half years from free agency when the Marlins sent him to the Dodgers, and the Marlins were sick of him. There’s no good trade benchmark.

If I were the D’Backs, I couldn’t trade Goldschmidt to the Yankees without getting Gary Sanchez in return. He’s a must have. Sanchez, Torres, and Greg Bird is my starting point, then I want another piece or two. I’m thinking one of the MLB ready starters (Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Bryan Mitchell, etc.) and a lower profile prospect like Chance Adams. Sanchez, Bird, Torres, Adams, and say Cessa for Goldschmidt. Yay or nay? I think you could argue a) it’s not unreasonable for the D’Backs to demand that, and b) it doesn’t make sense for the Yankees to do that at this point in time.

Eugene asks: In the never gonna happen department, is someone like Andrew Cashner a candidate to become the next Miller-ian relief monster? He’s a tall semi-failed starter named Andrew with facial hair.

No. The big difference between Andrew Miller and all these “throws hard as a starter but still kind sucks anyway” guys like Cashner and Nathan Eovaldi is his slider. Miller has that devastating slider to go with his big fastball. (It also helps being 6-foot-7 with those long arms and long extension.) Cashner and Eovaldi don’t have that dominant secondary pitch. I do think those guys would be more effective in relief — almost everyone is more effective in relief — but not Miller-esque. Miller’s a different animal.

Matt asks: I know this is nitpicky but it’s been reported several places (including the BA Yankees top 10) that Cashman had the choice between Gleyber Torres and Eloy Jimenez. I know what the rankings say and that decision like this should be about talent and not position but I’ve definitely been left wondering if this was a mistake. With the glut of SS prospects the Yankees have and the lack of power in the MLB, was passing on a guy like Jimenez, who has the pedigree, athleticism, and power to be come a middle of the order bat in favor of Torres a mistake?

That’s what was reported at the time of the trade. The Yankees had their pick of Torres and Jimenez, and opted for the shortstop over the corner outfielder even with their glut of shortstops. Why? Because shortstops tend to be the best athletes are most capable of moving to other positions. The Yankees have some quality corner outfield bats — to be fair, they hadn’t yet acquired Frazier at the time of the Aroldis Chapman/Torres trade — but not as many as they do shortstops.

Jimenez, 19, hit .329/.369/.432 (169 wRC+) with 14 homers in 464 plate appearances in Low-A ball this year. He really jumped into the national spotlight at the Futures Game this summer.

For what it’s worth, Baseball America ranked Torres and Jimenez as the 27th and 46th best prospects in baseball, respectively, in their midseason top 100, about three weeks before the trade deadline. Keith Law (subs. req’d) had Torres 26th and Jimenez 29th at midseason. MLB.com currently has Torres 17th and Jimenez 23rd. So they’re close. These are two very highly regarded teenage prospects.

There’s really no wrong answer here. The Yankees could have had the brute force corner outfield masher, or the more well-rounded shortstop. I would have gone with the shortstop as well. There are some plate discipline concerns with Jimenez, and he’s already playing a non-premium position. Gleyber projects to be a pretty damn good hitter himself, and he does more on the bases and in the field. I’d be happy with either guy. All other things being equal though, give me the shortstop and the better athlete. (And the guy who is a level closer to MLB too.)

P.J. asks: Assuming Jason Hammel is healthy and considering he’ll pitch most of 2017 at 34 years old is he worth it for the Yankees to make a serious run at this winter on a 2 or 3 year deal? Does he fit the bill as a #2 to slot in behind Tanaka and in front of Sabathia?

I was really surprised the Cubs declined Hammel’s $12M option. They had to pay him a $2M buyout anyway, so it was essentially a $10M decision. In this market $10M buys you about 120 league average innings, maybe less. For what it’s worth, Jesse Rogers says the Cubs let Hammel make the decision. He could either return to Chicago or test the market, so of course he picked free agency. Weird.

Anyway, I’m not sure I’d pencil Hammel in as a No. 2 starter, but I do think he’d be a solid addition to the rotation. He had a 3.83 ERA (4.48 FIP) in 30 starts and 166.2 innings this year, though his peripherals were pretty mediocre: 20.8% strikeouts, 7.7% walks, 42.1% grounders, and 1.35 HR/9. Hammel played in front of a historically great defense this season, something he probably won’t get to do next year regardless where he signs.

MLBTR projects three years and $42M for Hammel and that sounds about right to me. He just turned 34 in September, and it’s worth noting he ran out of gas the last two seasons. Hammel really limped to the finish, so much so that he wasn’t even on the Cubs’ postseason roster. I don’t think he’s a No. 2 at all, but I do think Hammel would be a nice add to the back of the rotation. He’d help, for sure.

Michael asks: Any interest in trading for Evan Longoria? His contract is not unreasonable and the Rays might be anxious to move him as they rebuild before his 10/5 rights kick in.

It would behoove the Rays to make him available, I think. Longoria just turned 31 and his best years are likely behind him. There’s also six years and $99M left on his contract, and for a small payroll club like Tampa, that could turn into a real albatross whenever his game slips for good. Chances are Longoria’s trade value is only going down from here, so this is their best chance to deal him and his remaining contract for a big prospect package.

As good as he is, I’m actually going to say pass on Longoria. I doubt the Rays would trade him to the Yankees anyway, but still. I’m totally cool with riding it out with Chase Headley for another two years, seeing what happens with Miguel Andujar, and leaving the door open for the Manny Machado (after 2018) and Nolan Arenado (after 2019) free agencies. Plus there’s a chance Torres winds up at third base in deference to Didi Gregorius too.

Jesse asks: Given the high trade value of elite relievers, does it make any sense to sign more than one of the top bullpen arms, then trade one at the deadline again?

Sure, in theory, but I imagine those guys are going to want a no-trade clause as part of their free agent contracts. They’re in position to demand it. Chapman was traded twice in the last year and Mark Melancon has been traded four times total. I doubt they want to go through that again. Kenley Jansen has never been traded, but he doesn’t need to experience it to know it can be hectic. These guys will get no-trades, I’m sure.

Also, one thing to keep in mind is potential damage to the team’s reputation. The Marlins have been signing players to big free agent contracts and trading them a year later for a while now. It doesn’t look good. A few players have turned down more money from the Marlins to sign elsewhere because of that. C.J. Wilson is the most notable. We can say “sign this free agent and just trade him,” but agents and other players around the league will notice, and you don’t want to develop a reputation for being player unfriendly.

Miggy. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)
Miggy. (Hannah Foslien/Getty)

Julian asks: I know we all want Greg Bird to fit in and immediately succeed as the new full time first basement, but with the Tigers apparently putting Miggy (Miguel Cabrera) on the table – should the Yankees look to him as another option? He’s expensive, but still only 33 and owed a ton of money for a long time but if the Tigers ate some (similar to Prince Fielder) would it be worth it?

Expensive is putting it mildly. There’s $212M (!) left on Cabrera’s contract through 2023. He turns 34 in April and is signed through age 40. Cabrera is still great! He hit .316/.393/.563 (152 wRC+) with 38 home runs this year and will go down as one of the ten best right-handed hitters in history when it’s all said and done. Maybe even one of the top five. I don’t want to undersell his greatness. Miggy is truly one of the best hitters baseball has ever seen.

Now, that said, this is the kind of contract the Yankees have been trying to get away from the last few years. Contracts with huge dollars committed to players over 30 whose best years are behind them. As good as Cabrera is, he’s not the hitter he was three or four years ago, and chances are he’s only going to get worse from here. Goldschmidt is in his prime and he’s signed dirt cheap. Cabrera isn’t. If the Yankees were a bonafide contender looking to get over the top, circumstances would be different. But they’re not. They’re a quasi-rebuilding team that needs more youth, not another albatross.

Chris asks: Any interest in Zimmermann with the Tigers? If so, what sort of haul would you expect it to take in terms of prospects?

Remember back in April when everyone was like “see I told you we should have signed Jordan Zimmermann, best contract of the offseason!” because he made three or four great starts? Good times. The guy finished the year with a 4.87 ERA (4.42 FIP) in 105.1 innings while visiting the disabled list a few times. The Tigers would probably love to unload this contract now.

The only way I’d trade for Zimmermann right now is in a bad contract-for-bad contract swap with Jacoby Ellsbury. There’s four years and $92M left on Zimmermann’s deal and four years and $89.5M left on Ellsbury’s deal. The Yankees need a starter more than they need an outfielder. I don’t see why the Tigers would want do that though. They’re trying to get younger and shed payroll. Zimmermann-for-Ellsbury does neither.

There are too many red flags for me to consider giving up actual prospects for Zimmermann and his contract. His strikeout rate (14.7%) was by far a career worst this year, and both his walk (5.8%) and homer (1.22 HR/9) rates were his worst since his rookie year way back when. There’s also this, via Brooks Baseball:

Jordan Zimmermann velocity

Hmmm. Ominous trend is ominous. Yeah, I’m going to say steer clear. I do think Zimmermann-for-Ellsbury would be worthwhile for the Yankees because it clears a logjam in the outfield and potentially addresses a need in the rotation. You’ve got to pay all that money anyway. You’d just be redistributing it to another part of the roster. But actual prospects with real value for Zimmermann? Nah. Not at this point of his career.

Steve asks: Classic hindsight question: given the SP “market”, was holding Nova and making a qualified offer the better route?

No way. Ivan Nova was so very far from a qualifying offer candidate when the Yankees traded him. The only reason he and his agent are talking about a $75M deal (!) right now are those eleven good starts with the Pirates, more than half of which were against the rebuilding Reds, Brewers, and Phillies. Could you imagine dropping a one-year deal worth $17.2M in front of Nova earlier this season? Not a chance. Someone’s going to pay big money to Nova assuming the Pirates version is the real him, and based on Ivan’s track record, they’re going to be disappointed.

Mailbag: A-Rod, Sanchez, Melancon, Colon, Desmond

(Drew Hallowell/Getty)
(Drew Hallowell/Getty)

Got eleven questions in the mailbag this week. I didn’t have the energy for more. Sorry. As always, RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send your questions.

Roberto asks: What do you think the odds are of A-Rod serving as a hitting coach further down the road (similar to Bonds), and if so, could you see it being with the Yankees?

Very small. Alex Rodriguez wants to own a team, not coach or manage. I’m sure he’ll happily do the guest instructor thing — and the broadcaster thing, for that matter — for a while because he loves the game, but a full-time coach? Nah. Alex is not going to put himself through the grind anymore. He’s made too much money to do that. A-Rod wants to own a club one day — Future Rays Owner Alex Rodriguez sure has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? — and he’ll work towards that.

Chris asks: What do you think Yo Soy Gary’s ceiling is? Posada like?

That’s not fair to Gary Sanchez. Jorge Posada is a borderline Hall of Famer who caught 120+ games a year for nearly a decade while putting up huge offensive numbers. If Sanchez does anything close to that, it’ll be incredible. I do think Gary has All-Star upside. Perennial All-Star upside. Sanchez has the talent to hit something like .280/.340/.480 with 25+ dingers on an annual basis, and in this day and age, that’ll make him one of the best catchers in baseball. Plus he’s a decent enough defender with a rocket arm. Can I say Brian McCann-like rather than Posada-like? McCann was really good for a really long time, you know.

Jason asks: Is Melancon a better choice than Jansen or Chapman? Is he even in the same ballpark? I know you don’t like the off-the-field stuff with Chapman and neither do I. His lack of a second pitch also worries me. Jansen will be given the qualifying offer and will cost a first round pick. If you had your druthers, which reliever would you sign and how much would you be willing to pay him?

In the ballpark, sure, but Mark Melancon is clearly a notch below Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen. Still really good! Just a notch below the other two. I prefer Jansen even with the draft pick compensation. Something about 96 mph cutters with command gets me excited. My guess is Jansen — and Chapman for that matter — winds up with something like $16M a year for four or five years.

Melancon is insanely consistent year-to-year. You can pencil him for a 24% strikeout rate, a 4% walk rate, and a 57% ground ball rate (or thereabouts) every year. His velocity is slipping a little bit now that he’s over 30, though raw velocity isn’t as important to Melancon is it some other guys (coughChapmancough). He uses a cutter and curveball to disrupt timing and miss barrels. Melancon might get four years and $40M or so, and he won’t cost a draft pick either.

(Patrick Smith/Getty)
Melancon. (Patrick Smith/Getty)

Travis asks: If the return was high enough (remember it IS Dombrowski at the helm), would you trade Betances to Boston and sign two of Jansen, Chapman or Melancon?

Would I trade Dellin Betances to the Red Sox? Sure. Depends on the return, of course. It’s not my neck on the line though. I can’t imagine ownership is willing to stomach trading a very popular — and very productive — homegrown Yankee to the Red Sox of all teams. They could get the greatest prospects in all the land in return and that’s still enough to make you squeamish. Imagine watching Betances close out a World Series for the Red Sox. Yuck.

As I’ve said more times than I can to count, I’m open to trading anyone. The Yankees have no untouchables as far as I’m concerned. The bullpen market is pretty insane right now, and if a team wants to pony up big for Dellin, the Yankees would be foolish not to listen. Especially since they could restock the bullpen with top notch arms through free agency.

Jackson asks: Do you think Ronald Torreyes could fetch any trade value this winter? He’s still only 23, can play three positions (and outfield in a pinch) and had some stretches where he hit very well. It seems like there is no place in the organization for him going forward besides being a utility man but would another team want to take a chance on him? Love the blog, thanks for all that you do.

His trade value is tiny. The guy’s been on waivers like five times in the last two years. Torreyes is a really nice utility player. He makes a ton of contact and can play all over the infield, plus he plays with a ton of energy. That’s basically everything you want in a bench player. But the Yankees got this guy (and Tyler Olson!) for Rob Segedin, remember. There are other Ronald Torreyeses out there waiting to be traded for other Rob Segedins. These players aren’t that hard to find. Torreyes is a useful piece. He just has no trade value. Players like this very rarely do.

Steve asks: What are your thoughts on a potential Bartolo Colon or Hiroki Kuroda reunion (assuming of course he changes his mind about retiring)? With a weak FA SP market, if they can’t find any of the young cost controlled starters they are looking for on the trade market, maybe higher value one year deals with one of these guys would not be the worst investment in the world, especially if the 2017/18 FA class is the one they want to wait for for long term investments.

I have no reason to think Kuroda will un-retire — he just retired last week! — but if he does, give him a one-year contract. Nothing but love for Kuroda. Bring him back no questions asked. As for Colon, I don’t trust him in the AL, especially in a small ballpark. These days his four-seamer and two-seamer average 86-89 mph and they’re basically all he throws. The guy is going to turn 44 in May. Not sure how much longer he’ll be effective. I’d rather not be left holding the bag whenever it finally goes for good. It seems inevitable the Mets will re-sign him anyway, so this is a moot point. There’s just way too much downside to Colon. Same with Kuroda given his age (42 in February), really, but I love him and am irrational about it. So sue me.

Reginald asks: Since Lourdes Gurriel’s birthday has passed and he can be signed as a free agent without any international restrictions, what is the possibility of the Yankees signing him to further the youth movement? AND has there been any more movement concerning him?

No movement yet, as far as I know. Gurriel held a workout a few weeks back and that’s really it. His 23rd birthday was last month, which means the international spending restrictions no longer apply, allowing him to sign a contract of any size. There’s no real rush to sign now though. The season’s over. It’s not like Gurriel is missing out on games. He’ll sign soon enough. As for the Yankees, the odds of them signing any big name Cuban free agent are low. They haven’t signed one since Jose Contreras. Until they give me reason to believe they’re willing to be aggressive with that market again, I assume they’ll dip their toe in the pool but not dive in.

Dave asks: Howdy, Mike. After reading Pleskoff’s scouting report on Kaprielian, it appears that the Yanks’ best starting pitching prospect has a ceiling of a # 2/3. That’s very useful, but is it fair to say – given the present state of the game, with fewer & fewer aces hitting the FA market – that the Yanks only path to acquiring a true ace is via trade?

Yep. I agree with that. Well, I mean, the Yankees already have an ace in Masahiro Tanaka. Maybe one day he’ll get the recognition he deserves. The team’s only path to acquiring another true ace is trade, and they have the prospect ammo to make it happen. They could absolutely put together a package good enough to get Chris Sale, for example. The question is whether they want to make a move like that, or keep the kids for themselves. I can see both sides of that argument. Right now, I’m on team #KeepTheKids. The Yankees desperately need offensive help and they have some premium bats coming. Grow the bats, buy the arms.

Desmond. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)
Desmond. (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Adam asks: What about Ian Desmond as a signing for the Yankees? He had a solid year and will cost a draft pick, but his potential defensive flexibility makes him an enticing “backup” for most infield and outfield spots. In particular, I wonder if he might displace Castro or Headley or perhaps even Gardner or Ellsbury if one is traded. What might it take to sign him?

It already feels like Desmond’s next contract will be loaded with regret for whichever team signs him, assuming it’s a decent deal and not another one-year contract. He hit .322/.375/.524 (138 wRC+) in the first half this year and .238/.283/.347 (65 wRC+) in the second half. That’s after hitting .233/.290/.384 (83 wRC+) last year. Desmond’s first half this year was the outlier, not the second half.

Also, I don’t see how he has defensive flexibility. He’s never played an infield position other than shortstop, and he has one year of experience in the outfield. I don’t think you can pay Desmond big bucks and assume a) the first half was the real him, and b) he can play a bunch of positions he’s never played before. He took to the outfield this year, so maybe he can do it. How much would you be willing to bet on it though? Desmond is a boom or bust player, and now that he’s over 30, the scales0 tip more toward bust with each passing day.

Andrew asks: Could you please discuss how many options Jacob Lindgren has left and if he will qualify for a fourth option because he has been injured? Also if the Yanks put him on the 60 Day DL for all of 2017, will he accrue MLB service time which would impact his becoming arbitration eligible some day?

Lindgren has one minor league option left and he’ll qualify for a fourth. The Yankees burned his first minor league option last season, when they sent him down following his initial call-up. They burned his second option this year, when they sent him down at the end of Spring Training. Because Lindgren suffered his elbow injury while in the minors this year, I’m pretty sure the Yankees can option him down again next year rather than place him on the MLB DL and allow him accrue service time.

There are a few different ways for a player to qualify for a fourth option and I don’t fully understand all of them. The easiest way is the one that will likely apply to Lindgren. If a player burns his three options within the first five professional seasons, he gets a fourth option. So assuming the Yankees use Lindgren’s third option next year rather than put him on the MLB DL, they’ll get a fourth option for 2018. Got it? Good.

Justin asks: What teams would (if any) have any level of interest in Jacoby Ellsbury?

Gosh, I don’t know. Teams that need a center fielder and either a leadoff or two-hole hitter are the obvious starting point. I guess that means the Nationals and Rangers? Possibly the Tigers too? The Astros, Indians, White Sox, Giants, and Cubs could also fit that criteria depending on how free agency shakes out. The Yankees are going to have to eat a bunch of money to trade Ellsbury. That’s just the reality of the situation. Either they’ll have to eat money or take a terrible contract in return. The odds are very strongly in favor of Ellsbury remaining with the Yankees next year and for the final four years of his contract.

Mailbag: Ellsbury, Heyward, Pujols, Bedrosian, Schwarber

I’ve got ten questions in the mailbag this week, which I guess makes this a small mailbag. Any and all questions should be directed to RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com. Fire away.

I'm no hitting coach, but this looks all wrong. (Jason Miller/Getty)
I’m no hitting coach, but this looks all wrong. (Jason Miller/Getty)

Chris asks: I know My Trade Proposal Sucks, but I’m wondering with the World Series starting and Jason Heyward getting benched Game 1, would the Cubs and Yankees swap Heyward for Ellsbury? I know Heyward is much younger, but we’ll need a big contract swap or eat a ton of money to get away from Jacoby.

I wanted the Yankees to sign Heyward last offseason. I really did. I thought his offensive production would get better in his age 26 season, not take such a huge step back that he was one of the worst hitters in baseball. Heyward and Ellsbury are very similar players, right? Below average hitters and above-average glovemen. Heyward’s better than above-average in the field, but the shape of their production is similar. Glove before bat. Heyward is much younger, but he was also worse this year and is owed more money.

This trade would be four years of Ellsbury for six of Heyward. I’d rather have Heyward’s next six years than Ellsbury’s next four, but yeesh, I don’t say that with much confidence. Both teams would love to get out from under these contracts right now whether they’re willing to admit it or not. I’d rather just keep the guy who comes off the books sooner than try to get cute and buy low on a dude who had a 72 wRC+ this year and has another $162M coming too him.

Andrew asks: Any interest in an Ellsbury for Pujols bad contract swap? Would fill a hole on both sides, giving us some power and a backup option for Bird while giving the Angels an actual outfielder to play LF. Or would you be scared off by the extra year, money, and injury risk that comes with Pujols?

This one is an easy no for me. Ellsbury for Heyward is at least worth thinking about given Heyward’s age and athleticism. Pujols can still sock dingers, but that’s about it. He doesn’t hit for much average or get on base anymore. He’s going to be 37 in January, he can’t run or play the field, and he’s owed (gulp) $140M over the next five years. The Yankees owe Ellsbury $90M over the next four years. We’ve seen more than enough ex-star sluggers over the age of 35 lose it in pinstripes, haven’t we? There aren’t many players I would not trade Ellsbury and contract for at this point. Pujols is one of them. It’s the worst contract in baseball, hands down.

Michael asks: It’s easy to see the Yankees in the market for a top reliever, but what about the trade market? This winter, guys like Greg Holland (actually a FA, my bad), Wade Davis, David Robertson might be available. Are there any pieces that stand out as interesting for NYY? (Personally, a possible buy-low on Davis intrigues me.)

Davis is going to be the big name on the bullpen trade market. He’ll be a free agent next offseason and the Royals probably won’t re-sign him — Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen are going to break the bullpen salary scale this offseason — so they figure to make him available in trades. His name was out there at the deadline before he got hurt, so this isn’t coming out of nowhere.

I don’t think it would be wise for the Yankees to trade a big package of prospects for one year of a reliever, even one as good as Davis. That’s a move you make when you’re a World Series contender, not a team in transition. (The Chapman trade was an exception because he came so cheap.) Robertson is signed for two more years and there were some red flags in his performance this year. Would the Marlins make A.J. Ramos available given Kyle Barraclough’s emergence? Tyler Thornburg and Tom Watson are trade candidates too.

Like every other team, the Yankees should explore every possible avenue to get better this season. Trade, free agency, waivers, whatever. When it comes to the elite reliever market, it would make more sense to just spend the money and sign Chapman and/or Jansen rather than trade away top prospects for someone like Davis or Ramos or whoever. The Yankees have money. Spend it and keep the prospects. Best of both worlds.

Bedrosian. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Bedrosian. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

Chris asks: Assuming Chapman and Jensen’s services are coveted by many teams this off-season and the Yankees are no lock on any free agent lately, what do you think of the Angels Cam Bedrosian as a possible late inning bullpen piece to set up for Dellin?

For some reason I thought Bedrosian had Tommy John surgery this year, but apparently not. I guess I got him confused with all the other Angels pitchers who had their elbows rebuilt. Bedrosian — yes, he’s Steve’s kid — did have surgery in September to remove a blood clot from his arm pit, and he’s expected to be ready to go for Spring Training. Blood clots are scary, but by all accounts he’ll make a full recovery.

The 25-year-old Bedrosian had a phenomenal year in 2016, pitching to a 1.12 ERA (2.13 FIP) with 31.5% strikeouts and 49.5% grounders in 40.1 innings. He walked a few too many (8.5%), but not a ridiculous amount. Bedrosian has really good stuff too. He lives in the mid-to-upper-90s with his heater and backs it up with a wipeout slider. Not a whole lot went right for the Angels this year. This guy was a positive before the blood clot got in the way.

The Halos need basically everything. Well, except a center fielder. They won 74 games. There’s plenty of room for improvement on the roster. I wonder if Billy Eppler would be willing to cash Bedrosian in as a trade chip to plug other roster holes. Maybe the Justin Wilson trade is a good benchmark? Two good but not great prospects? Say, Chad Green and Rob Refsnyder for Bedrosian? I know, I know. My trade proposal sucks.

Paul asks: What are the average woba or wrc+ for each position? Does it vary year to year?

Yep, it varies year to year the same way the league batting average and slugging percentage and ERA and everything else varies. It all fluctuates. Generally speaking though, the league average offensive production from each position stays the same relative to each other. First basemen outhit shortstops, etc. Here are the 2016 averages:

Catcher: .242/.310/.391 (.304 wOBA and 87 wRC+)
First Base: .255/.344/.447 (.334 wOBA and 108 wRC+)
Second Base: .270/.329/.425 (.324 wOBA and 101 wRC+)
Shortstop: .262/.319/.407 (.312 wOBA and 92 wRC+)
Third Base: .264/.331/.442 (.331 wOBA and 106 wRC+)
Left Field: .251/.321/.417 (.318 wOBA and 97 wRC+)
Center Field: .259/.324/.407 (.316 wOBA and 96 wRC+)
Right Field: .257/.327/.425 (.324 wOBA and 101 wRC+)
Designated Hitter: .258/.330/.480 (.343 wOBA and 115 wRC+)
Pitchers: .133/.165/.172 (.152 wOBA and -15 wRC+)

Boo pitchers, hooray DHs. I mean, seriously. Pitchers totaled over 5,300 (!) plate appearances in 2016. Imagine how many more runs would be scored around baseball if we replaced pitchers with DHs. It would be so much more exciting. You won’t even notice double switches are gone.

Anyway, I’m surprised to see left field production was so low this year. Teams historically stash a masher out in left, but not any more. Think about it. How many truly great left fielders are there in baseball today? I count three: Yoenis Cespedes, Christian Yelich, and Starling Marte. That’s it. I guess Ryan Braun is still great too. And healthy Michael Brantley, but he’s not healthy. These are dark times for left field.

Liam asks: My question is: With the possibility that Tanaka could opt out of his contract after next season, would it be smart to put him on the trade block this offseason? Who would be realistic trade partners?

Yes and pretty much every contender. Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Rangers, Astros, Giants, Nationals, Cardinals … all of ’em. Even the smaller market teams like the Indians and Pirates could swing it for a year, not that I think they’d actually go through with it. Masahiro Tanaka is an ace. He is. It’s weird people try to downplay his performance. He’s an ace and any team with a realistic chance to win the World Series should want him. Tanaka makes every rotation better. It would be foolish not to listen to offers for Tanaka given the impending opt-out, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees should give him away. They need high-end arms too.

Kenny asks: Mike, could the Yankees bring back Pat Venditte to serve as an innings eating long man? I know he hasn’t exactly dominated the big leagues, but it’s essentially a day off for the bullpen in blowout games. And does he have any options remaining?

No. Come on. Does this question get asked about a non-switch pitcher? Anyone eager to bring Preston Claiborne back? Venditte is 31 and he has a 4.97 ERA (5.02 FIP) in 50.2 career big league innings, including a 5.73 ERA (6.15 FIP) in 22 innings this year. No offense to the guy, but he doesn’t have the stuff to get Major League hitters out. Never really did. PitchFX says his fastball averaged 85.4 mph from the right side and 83.3 mph from the left side in 2016. Nope. Nope nope nope. I think there’s value in having a veteran long man you can run into the ground in blowouts and things like that, but the Yankees can do better than Venditte. They have enough bullpen arms. There’s a competent long man among them.

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

Brock asks: Better trade: the proposed Miller for Schwarber or the actual Chapman for Warren, Torres, McKinney, Crawford? From my biased point of view, the Yanks gave up less to get more. I don’t recall who balked at the Miller/Schwarber deal, but if you’re Theo, how do you rationalize accepting one but not the other? Is it simply that the Cubs didn’t want to give up ML-talent?

Chapman for that package, hands down. The Cubs supposedly made Kyle Schwarber completely off limits anyway, so this is a moot point. Could you imagine trading Andrew Miller for a guy who is essentially a platoon DH coming off a major knee surgery though? Yeesh. Schwarber’s good! But he’s not some generational talent or anything. The guy hit two singles the other night and people are acting like it he pulled a Willis Reed.

What are the odds Schwarber is an appreciably more valuable player than Greg Bird going forward? Pretty small, I think. Give me the high-end shortstop prospect, the big league swingman, and two others for the rental reliever. Easy call. Chapman for Schwarber would maybe be a different story, but Miller for Schwarber? Not a chance. Anyone thinking the Yankees are better off with a (still not 100% healthy!) Schwarber instead of the package they received for Miller is getting too caught up in the moment.

George asks: Instead of a separate Int. draft, where poor teams get protected picks, early slots, etc. would it be possible to include international players in the regular draft, and maybe add 2-3 rounds. The money/slot might also have to change. That would seem to add talent for teams with lower picks, and not penalize teams with good records twice.

Have one amateur talent draft that combines high school, college, and international kids would be the best way to go, if an international draft is unavoidable. I don’t see why the crummiest teams should get first dibs on the best draft and international prospects. That’s too much of a reward for being bad. They wouldn’t even need to add rounds to the draft. Forty rounds is plenty. Teams can fill out their minor league rosters with undrafted free agents.

MLB is said to be pushing for an international draft — they have been for years, really — and part of the current proposal includes making kids wait until they’re 18 to sign. If they do that, it would make it easier to combine the talent pools. Lumping 16-year-old kids from Latin America in with high school and college kids from the U.S. would have been a little weird. I don’t like the idea of two separate drafts at all. Combining the two talent pools into one draft is the lesser of two evils.

Daryl asks: I know when discussing closers and this off season, many think Chapman will be back, including you. Each time you mention it, you don’t think it’s the right move. Why? Besides just “relievers are volatile”? Where would you prefer 15mil x 4yr go?

For me, it’s mostly off the field stuff with Chapman. I know a lot of people don’t care about that and that’s cool. You’re welcome to feel however you want. He’s a great pitcher. There’s no doubt about that. I do wonder what happens when he inevitably loses a little velocity — for a guy who throws that hard, he gives up an awful lot of foul balls, doesn’t he? — but that might not happen for a few years. He’s still only 28.

Four years and $15M annually seems like Chapman’s floor to me. That’s only $3M more per season than Jonathan Papelbon’s record contract for relievers, which was signed five years ago now. Salaries have increased a ton since then. That extra $3M might not even cover general league-wide inflation. In this market, Chapman is probably worth something like $17M a year for four or five years. I just don’t like the off-field stuff. This isn’t performance-enhancing drugs here. This is much more serious.

Mailbag: Cubs, Torres, Mateo, Miller, Judge, Bird, Tigers

I’ve got 14 questions in the mailbag this week. RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com is the place to send us questions at any time.

Soler. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)
Soler. (Sean M. Haffey/Getty)

Michael asks: The Cubs right now have a surplus of position players, and it seems either Jorge Soler or Ben Zobrist will be the odd man out. Do you think the Yankees could look to trade for either one of those guys?

Soler’s going to be the odd man out, I bet. Zobrist does too many things to trade. He can play anywhere and he’s productive. Soler stinks in the field and there are more than a few holes in his swing. The Cubs shopped him around for pitching last offseason — I remember Shelby Miller and Alex Cobb rumors — and I bet they’ll do it again. They’re stuck with Jason Heyward in right, they have Albert Almora for center, and then Kyle Schwarber figures to take over left field again because there’s nowhere else to play him. There’s no room at the inn for Soler.

I don’t love Soler — I think he’s more likely to be the next Juan Encarnacion than the next Yoenis Cespedes — but there’s always a point where it makes sense to take a chance on the talent. I’m not really sure what the Cubs would want in return. Still pitching? The Yankees don’t have much of that to offer. Luis Cessa and Chad Green ain’t getting Soler. Luis Severino straight-up in a change-of-scenery deal? I’d be surprised if the Yankees went through with that.

Bob asks: Gleyber Torres and Jorge Mateo are two highly rated SS prospects currently on the Yankees Tampa class A farm team. Can you compare and contrast their abilities and potential upside since the their scouting reports seem similar in content? Also, why did the Yankees assign Torres to the AzFL and not Mateo?

I don’t really have an answer for the Arizona Fall League question. The Yankees are giving Torres time at second base and they may have felt the AzFL was a good chance to get him reps there. In some cases, like Greg Bird, it’s easy to understand in the AzFL assignment. In others it’s not so clear. It’s not arbitrary though. The Yankees have their reasons.

Torres is a better prospect than Mateo. For starters, he just out-performed him at the same level (by a lot) despite being 18 months younger. I mean, hitting .273/.355/.428 (121 wRC+) with 33 doubles, 13 homers, 24 steals, 10.5% walks, and 20.4% strikeouts as a 19-year-old in the Florida State League is nuts. Torres had an unbelievable season in 2016. Mateo had pretty much the exact opposite.

Let’s compare Torres’ and Mateo’s scouting grades using the 20-80 scouting scale. Quick primer: 20 is terrible, 50 is average, and 80 is great. Here are their MLB.com and FanGraphs grades (MLB/FG).

Hit Power Run Throw Field Overall
Torres 55/50 50/50 55/50 60/55 55/55 55/45
Mateo 55/50 45/45 80/80 60/55 55/55 55/50
Advantage Push Torres Mateo Push Push Mateo?

These are future grades, not present grades. A present 55 hit tool means you’d expect these guys to hit like .275 in MLB right now, and no. Just, no.

Anyway, these two are pretty close! Mateo has a major advantage in speed but Torres has a touch more power. I’m a bit surprised to see FanGraphs so low on Torres’ overall future potential (45), though they’re the outlier. Almost every report on Torres has been glowing. The bottom line is both guys are excellent prospects. Torres had a better 2016 season and is younger, which is why he’s more highly rated at the moment. The Yankees have both, so this isn’t an either/or situation. Having two great shortstop prospects is pretty awesome.

Wai asks: To continue the discussion on Mike Freaking Trout, if you can choose any one single player to build your team from scratch, would you choose the best position player or the best pitcher? Who would that guy be in terms of today’s baseball?

Best position player. Pitchers get hurt too much. I’d target an up-the-middle player because those positions are so hard to fill. If I were building a team from scratch, my top three cornerstone targets would be Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Francisco Lindor, in that order. I’m not overreacting to Lindor’s postseason. Longtime readers, especially folks who frequent the weekly chat, know I’ve been on the guy for years. He’s a star. Your franchise building block would ideally be an up-the-middle player with two-way impact. Harper’s raw talent is just too great to ignore though, which is why he’s second. (Plus he could probably play a good enough center field if given the chance.)

Adam asks: Can you see any scenario in which the Yanks Reacquire Miller in the offseason if A) Indians win the WS and B) decide they don’t want to pay the remaining salary?

I was talking to someone about this the other day, the possibility of the Indians trading Andrew Miller in the offseason after running him into the ground in the postseason. I could see it. They’re a small payroll club — they were 22nd in Opening Day payroll — and they might not be able to afford a $9M reliever, even with the financial windfall that comes with reaching (and possibly winning) the World Series.

I do think the Indians will keep Miller though. He’s a bargain at that salary. What would he get as a free agent right now, $15M a year? Maybe $18M? The Yankees need young players like Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield more than they need a dominant reliever at the moment, but Miller is so good and he is under control another two years that it would make sense to go after him. Now, that said, the Yankees could just sign Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen this winter and keep their prospects. Either way, I think the Indians keep Miller for at least 2017.

Miller. (Elsa/Getty)
Miller. (Elsa/Getty)

Drew asks: Anthony Rizzo struggled upon his MLB debut with a 30.1% strikeout rate. He always had a lot of power, but the strikeouts were a big concern early on. This takes me to Aaron Judge. Do you think that if the strikeout problems continue well into next season for Judge that the Yankees should consider modifying his approach and develop a Rizzo-esque short, compact protection swing?

The thing is Judge already has a compact swing relative to his size. I’m not sure how much more he can shorten it considering his arms are like four miles long. Rizzo made the adjustments on his own and he deserves a ton of credit from transforming himself into a superstar after it looked like his career might stall out in the minors. Judge’s size makes him extremely unique. I’m not sure how much the Yankees could realistically shorten a 6-foot-7 dude’s swing. Strikeouts are just going to come with the territory with Judge. It sucks, but it is what it is. As long as he smacks some dingers, gets on base, and plays strong defense, they’ll be worth it.

Drew asks (short version): Greg Bird question. Right now it looks like the 1B is his to lose. What is a viable plan B if Bird needs more time to develop? His MLB sample size is small and now one year removed because of injury. I’m not sold that he can just walk right into the starting role, but I hope I’m wrong.

I think it’s Tyler Austin all the way. I really do. If Bird needs more time in minors to get back to being himself following shoulder surgery, the Yankees just might stick Austin at first base everyday. I’ve been beating the Steve Pearce drum for a while and maybe they’ll sign him or someone like him, but I would bet against a huge money signing like Edwin Encarnacion. The Yankees want Bird to be the guy at first base, but they’re not going to push it. If he needs more time in the minors, they’ll give it to him. Austin and I suppose Rob Refsnyder are the backup plans. Maybe they’ll pick up a James Loney type (groan) to stash in Triple-A next year too.

Travis asks: If the deadline for adding players to the 40-man (for Rule 5 protection) has passed, and a trade occurs which sends an eligible player to a new team (that has room on the 40-man), can that player be added by his new team or does the new team have to wait to see if he is claimed?

Eligible players can not be traded between the 40-man roster deadline — that’s usually November 20th — and the actual Rule 5 Draft. So if the Yankees don’t add, say, Dietrich Enns to the 40-man this offseason, they can’t officially trade him until after the Rule 5 Draft. The workaround here is the ol’ player to be named later move. The Yankees could trade Enns as a PTBNL between the 40-man deadline and the draft, then wait until after the Rule 5 Draft to actually name him. That happens a few times every year.

P.J. asks: If James Kaprielian pitches well in the AzFL and builds upon that when the minor league season resumes if there a chance he will join the Yankees sometime during the 2017 season even if it’s as a Sept. 2017 call up? Or is 2018 the earliest we will see him in pinstripes.

It’s possible he arrives in 2017, though I think the Yankees will be very conservative with Kaprielian next year given the injury this year. They might limit his starts to four or five innings or so for a few weeks early in the season before really turning him loose. There’s still definitely a chance Kaprielian can reach Triple-A next year, in fact I expect it to happen as long as he stays healthy, though they may not push him to the big leagues. He has the ability to force the issue though. The most important thing is his health. Let Kaprielian get a full season in and see where he’s at come September.

Adam asks: GM Al Avila said there would be changes coming to the Tigers this off-season. How can that benefit the Yankees?

Avila kinda sorta hinted at a rebuild, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Tigers owner Mike Ilitch still wants to win and soon. And even if they do decide to rebuild, the only players on their roster I’d really want are potential building blocks: Nick Castellanos and Michael Fulmer. Those are guys you keep and build around, right? Fulmer is self-explanatory. Castellanos is starting to tap into his power and the Yankees have a long-term need at third. He stinks defensively, but you can make it work for another few years. I don’t want the Yankees to take on big salaried veterans like Justin Upton or Justin Verlander. Castellanos and Fulmer would be the guys to target.

Castellanos. (Greg Fiume/Getty)
Castellanos. (Greg Fiume/Getty)

Steve asks: The new CBA is obviously a factor here, but are the Yankees now clear of their bonus limits from the 2014-2015 spending spree? If they can, do you see them overspending one more time before an inevitable international draft?

Yes. The current signing period, which began this July 2nd and ends June 25th (or thereabouts) is the last one in which the Yankees are limited to bonuses of $300,000 or less. They’ll be able to spend freely again during the 2017-18 signing period when it opens next July 2nd. MLB is pushing for an international draft as part of the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement, but the report said the draft wouldn’t happen until March 2018. That gives the Yankees one last chance to spend wildly on international amateurs and I think they’ll do it. We could see another huge international spending spree a la the 2014 haul against next year. It could be the team’s last chance to do it.

Luke asks: In the last mailbag you guessed some sort of Aaron Hicks/Mason Williams timeshare in LF if Gardner gets traded in the off season. You also speculated that Frazier could end up in CF long-term with Ellsbury in LF (due partially to Ellsbury’s shortcomings). If Gardy is traded, why wouldn’t we jettison Ellsbury to LF now? Hicks and Williams are clearly better defensively, and Ellsbury’s arm (lack thereof) makes me want to break down and cry.

I don’t think the Yankees will do that yet. Jacoby Ellsbury is still a capable center fielder and I don’t think they’ll move the big money free agent until it’s necessary. My comment about moving Ellsbury to left wasn’t so much about his current defensive limitations. He’s still really good in center. It’s just that at some point he’ll lose a step and have to move to a corner. Bernie Williams did it. Johnny Damon did it. Are the Yankees better defensively with Ellsbury in left and Hicks/Williams in center? Yeah, probably. It just seems unlikely they will move the veteran right now, especially since Hicks/Williams aren’t guaranteed to stick long-term. They don’t want to move Ellsbury to left only to have to move him back to center because the kids are hitting like .150.

Liam asks: Let’s say CC Sabathia has a similar season next year compared to this season, would you re-sign him? I think he would be good to keep around as a veteran presence for what should be a younger team in the near future.

If Sabathia repeats his 2016 in 2017, yes, absolutely I’d re-sign him. There’s the obvious risk that he’ll continue to decline with age, but pitching figures to be so hard to acquire that rolling the dice with Sabathia another year (or two?) makes sense. The Yankees know him, so there’s no concern about an adjustment period, and that’s not nothing. Also, Sabathia’s family lives in New Jersey full-time, and he might be willing to take less to stay at home. He’s not an ace anymore, but there’s always room for another average-ish innings dude at the back of the rotation. Let’s see how the 2017 season plays out, but right now, yes, I’d re-sign Sabathia if he repeats his 2016 effort in 2017.

Duffy asks: Do you think the Yankees could turn to the Rule 5 Draft to potentially patch up the middle relief corps? The Blue Jays had success taking a mediocre minor league starter and letting his stuff play up in the pen with Biagini. Could you see the Yankees doing the same? Is there anyone you would be interested in targeting?

Teams seems to be getting better at digging up quality players in the Rule 5 Draft. They’re not stars or anything, but Joe Biagini had a nice year in relief for the Blue Jays, ditto Matt Bowman with the Cardinals. Odubel Herrera has been good for the Phillies the last two years after being a Rule 5 Draft pick. The problem for the Yankees is 40-man roster space. Will they have an open 40-man spot on Rule 5 Draft day? It seems unlikely. The 40-man crunch is real. If they don’t have an open spot, they can’t make a pick. My guess is the 40-man will be full this winter, but if it isn’t, sure, they would look to add a bullpen arm in the Rule 5 Draft.

Julian asks: I know a retired number is unlikely, but is it possible that Teixeira gets a plaque in Monument Park?

Possible but unlikely, I’d say. Mark Teixeira was a very good player for the Yankees overall, but he only had one truly great full season, and just the one World Series title. Don’t get me wrong, the World Series is cool, though it would probably take two or three rings for Teixeira to get serious Monument Park consideration. The Yankees have been pretty liberal with plaques in recent years, so maybe he gets in. I would be surprised though.

Mailbag: White Sox, Moss, Valbuena, Kennedy, Hernandez

We’ve got 15 questions in the mailbag this week. Remember to use the RABmailbag (at) gmail (dot) com email address to send us anything throughout the week. Questions, comments, links, whatever.

No bats, only rebar. (Brian Blanco/Getty)
No bats, only rebar. (Brian Blanco/Getty)

Chris asks: Do you think the White Sox could be a potential landing spot if the Yankees want to trade McCann? Obviously, McCann would need to waive his no-trade clause. The White Sox seem intent on competing and really need a catcher.

Interesting. I hadn’t thought about that. Chicago’s catching depth chart is capital-U Ugly. Look at this, from the team’s official site:

White Sox catchers

Alex Avila signed a one-year deal last offseason and will become a free agent after the World Series. Omar Narvaez hit .239/.291/.314 (74 wRC+) between Double-A and Triple-A and isn’t ranked among the team’s top 30 prospects according to MLB.com. Kevan Smith is a 28-year-old rookie who hit .219/.291/.399 (98 wRC+) while repeating Triple-A this season. So yeah, the ChiSox need catching.

Brian McCann would certainly fit with the White Sox given their roster and needs. Would he accept a trade to Chicago? Who knows. McCann might not even know right now. The bigger question is what can the ChiSox send to New York? McCann for David Robertson crossed my mind, but I think you need more back. I’ve said this before, but I wouldn’t trade McCann for the sake of trading him. Having two starting caliber catchers is quite a luxury.

If the White Sox want McCann, I’d focus on Carlos Rodon. The Yankees can (and would have to) add pieces to make it work, but that’s the guy I’d focus on. A young lefty starter with five years of team control and upside. McCann would be massive upgrade behind the plate for the ChiSox and he’d bridge the gap nicely to Zack Collins, a catcher and their first round pick this year. Outside Rodon, I’m really not sure what else Chicago has to offer. I’m not trading McCann for two or three Grade-B prospects.

Paul asks (short version): Cashman said: “Ultimately, we know when the dust settled, when it’s all said and done, the 2016 season did not achieve the stated goal, which was the first get to the playoffs and try to compete for a championship in October.” Am I reading too much into him saying the objective is playoffs first, then -compete- for a championship?

Yes, you’re reading too much into it. Based on Brian Cashman‘s tone during his press conference, it was clear winning the World Series is the priority, and getting to the postseason is step one. Both Cashman and Joe Girardi were asked whether the “World Series or bust” mentality has to change as the Yankees go through this rebuild transition, and both emphatically said no. While I understand the merits of a full blown Astros style tear down, I do appreciate the Yankees refusing to be an abject embarrassment on the field. This past season was their worst in a long time, and they still won 84 games. We’re spoiled.

P.J. asks: With basically all of the “expensive” contracts off the books after the 2017 season. What are the chances that the Yankees might be willing to eat a portion of what’s remaining on Ellsbury’s deal $65MM+/- to move him?

I don’t know what the chances are, but I do think the Yankees would be more receptive to eating money to move Jacoby Ellsbury once they shed some more payroll. Mark Teixeira is gone this year, and next year CC Sabathia and Alex Rodriguez‘s contract will be gone too. Maybe Masahiro Tanaka as well. With all that money going away, eating say $10M to $15M a year to move Ellsbury may be more palatable. There will only be three years left on his contract after next season too, so they might not have to eat $65M. It might only be $30M.

Michael asks: If Gardner gets traded this off season, who do you think starts in left to start 2017?

My guess is the Yankees would go with Aaron Hicks and Mason Williams in some sort of timeshare, with Rob Refsnyder and Tyler Austin getting a look out there in Spring Training for show. Clint Frazier is the obvious long-term solution out there, though eventually Ellsbury is going to have to move to left — a move is inevitable, center field is a young man’s position, not somewhere you stick a guy in his mid-30s — so it’s possible Frazier could end up in center long-term with Ellsbury in left. Frazier has the speed for center. To start next year though, Hicks and Williams with a little Austin and Refsnyder mixed in is my bet.

Dan asks: If the Yanks trade away a veteran bat, what do you think of them going after Moss or Valbuena? Both have lefty pop and position versatility. They shouldn’t cost that much, and probably won’t have have a QO attached.

Either guy could work. Both can play first base, but Luis Valbuena has the advantage of being able to play third base. Poorly, but he can play it. Brandon Moss can play the corner outfield spots, and while that’s not nothing, the Yankees are pretty well covered there. Here are their 2016 numbers:

Valbuena: .260/.357/.459 (123 wRC+) with 13 homers, 12.9% walks, 23.7% strikeouts
Moss: .225/.300/.484 (105 wRC+) with 28 homers, 8.4% walks, 30.4% strikeouts

Valbuena only played 90 games this season because of a hamstring injury, otherwise he would have cleared 20 homers rather easily. He doesn’t have Moss’ power, but he’s a better all-around hitter because he makes more contact and draws more walks. Valbuena’s on-base ability would be a welcome addition to a lineup that needs more OBP.

Part of me thinks the Astros will slap the qualifying offer on Valbuena. The crop of free agent third basemen is so bad — it’s basically Justin Turner and that’s it — that there could be quite a bit of competition for Valbuena. He’d give the Yankees protection at the corner infield spots and another DH option. Could be a nice fit. I really have no idea what it’ll cost to get him though. Chances are more than you think. That’s a good rule of thumb these days.

Valbuena. (Bob Levey/Getty)
Valbuena. (Bob Levey/Getty)

Pounder asks: Ian Kennedy. I know his contract is a financial mine field, should we consider trading for him?

Kennedy will turn 32 in December (we’re all old and going to die soon) and he had a nice year with the Royals, pitching to 3.68 ERA (4.67 FIP) in 195.2 innings. He’s owed $62.5M through 2020 and he can opt-out next offseason. Doing so would leave three years and $49M on the table. I think you have to assume he won’t opt-out right now. You have to plan for that money to be on the books.

Anyway, I’m going to say no to Kennedy because he’s such an extreme fly ball pitcher. He had a 33.2% ground ball rate this season and his career rate is 37.4% in over 1,400 innings. This is who he is. The Yankees have a chance to field a pretty good defensive outfield next season, but the big concern is home runs. Kennedy had a 1.52 HR/9 this past season. It was 1.66 HR/9 the year before. Only once in the last five years has he had a sub-1.20 HR/9. Put him in Yankee Stadium and it could get ugly. I don’t see Kennedy as a fit because his fly ball tendencies and the ballpark don’t mix.

Doug asks: Tyler Austin.What do you see for his Yankee future? After his walk-off I think he struck out 10-11 times in a row? I saw him getting pull happy and he didn’t touch a ball. He missed everything by 4-10 inches while trying for left field. Joe sat him for two weeks and he came back with his opposite field stroke!

Last year at this time Austin was a non-factor. Now he at least has a chance to be part of the Yankees going forward. I think we learned two things about Austin during his relatively short big league time: his opposite field power is very real, and he should be limited to first base defensively. You can run him out there in right field if necessary, but he’s not an everyday option out there. He looked rather Trumbo-esque in right.

I see Austin as a good role player, not a cornerstone piece. He complements Greg Bird well at first base and he could also get at-bats at DH. Play him at first base everyday and Austin will probably leave you wanting more. Play him, say, half the time or two-thirds of the time, and he could really help. I guess that makes him a Mark Reynolds type? Less power, fewer strikes, but same general role. It’ll be interesting to see how Austin and Bird co-exist at first base next season.

Dan asks: I was just reading the MLB.com prospect page and noticed that Vicente Campos in No. 3 on their list (!!!). Is the Dbacks farm system really that bad or did we really overpay for Tyler Clippard?

No, their farm system is really that bad. Probably the worst system in baseball besides the Angels. I don’t remember where Campos ranked on the Yankees’ list before the trade, but it was in the 20s somewhere. That was before the trade deadline moves beefed up the farm system too. Campos got called up in September and threw a handful of innings for the Diamondbacks before suffering a fracture in his elbow. He needed surgery and will miss eight months. Brutal. Poor guy has really good stuff, but he can’t stay on the field. At least he’s on the Major League disabled list and will pick up service time and big league salary while rehabbing next year.

Frank asks: How much say do the Yankees have in how much their players play in AZ? One would think they’d want Bird to play everyday to get AB’s. And is Tebow stealing AB’s something other teams would get upset about – or are they just happy ESPN is covering the team because he is playing?

Total control, essentially. Each Arizona Fall League team includes prospects from five MLB organizations, and those organizations get together ahead of time and pick positions. They negotiate the roster spots and then pick players accordingly. The Mets had a starting outfield spot and used it on Tim Tebow. He’s not taking at-bats away from players in other organizations. I’m sure the Yankees lobbied hard for a first base/DH spot for Greg Bird’s rehab. It’s not like the Yankees sent Gleyber Torres to the AzFL and hope he’ll get time at second base. They already knew that spot is open when they picked him for the roster.

Tom asks: What do you think about trading Headley, moving Castro to third, and signing Utley?

Eh. Two or three years ago I was in favor of acquiring Chase Utley, when the Yankees were cycling through guys like Brian Roberts and Stephen Drew. Utley will be 38 in December and while he still plays super hard and gives a quality at-bat, he basically stopped hitting in May. I’m talking .236/.292/.381 (83 wRC+) after June 1st. Can’t hit lefties either (27 wRC+). Chase Headley is a better player at this point. I’d sign Utley as an emergency stopgap only. I wouldn’t trade Headley to make room for him.

Hernandez. (Justin Berl/Getty)
Hernandez. (Justin Berl/Getty)

Torrey asks: I saw an article recently about how Cesar Hernandez is the type of young, improving player the Yankees should target. He doesn’t hit for much power but he has good contact skills, gets on base, has speed and seems like a good number 2 hitter. Would be fit with the Yanks? If so, what do you think it would take to acquire him?

Hernandez is a nice little player and one of the league’s best kept secrets. The 26-year-old switch-hitter put up .294/.371/.393 (108 wRC+) batting line with lots of walks (10.6%) and not an excessive amount of strikeouts (18.6%) in 2016. Add in quality second base defense and the guy was a +3 WAR player in 2016. (+4 WAR per FanGraphs.) He’s not going to hit for power. That’s the biggest knock against him.

The Yankees could put Hernandez at second — he has shortstop skills but lacks the arm for the left side of the infield — and slide Starlin Castro to third, where I think he’d do well. That’d allow them to flip Headley elsewhere. I’m not sure what the Phillies would want for Hernandez, but he’d give the Yankees some much-needed on-base ability in addition to improved up-the-middle defense. I like the idea. I doubt the Phillies will give him away cheap though.

Mike asks: I have three Rule 5 questions: 1) If a team loses a player in the draft can that team withdraw their remaining eligible players from the draft? 2) And if the team cannot remove their eligible players but have lost a player in the draft can that team move a player from the eligible list to their 40 man roster, thus “saving” at least one player from the draft? 3) Can a team with a full 40 man roster draft a player in the Rule 5 pool if they lost a player in the draft and their roster is then at 39?

Consider this a quick Rule 5 Draft primer. Here are the answers to Mike’s questions:

  1. No. There’s no limit to how many players you can lose. The Yankees lost four players in the 2008 Rule 5 Draft, for example (Reegie Corona, Zach Kroenke, Jason Jones, Ivan Nova).
  2. No. If the player is not added to the 40-man roster by the deadline, usually November 20th, he’s eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. You can’t add him later.
  3. No. You can’t lose a player off your 40-man roster in the Rule 5 Draft. Only non-40-man players are eligible. If you have open 40-man spots, you can pick a player. If not, then you can’t.

Generally speaking, college players from the 2013 draft and high school/international kids signed in 2012 are Rule 5 Draft eligible this offseason. If those guys are not on the 40-man roster, they can be picked in the Rule 5 Draft. This is a way to give players an opportunity in the big leagues. The MLBPA doesn’t want teams to be able to stash guys in the minors forever.

John asks: The Giants. While their system is thin, could they have (reasonably) put together a MLB/MiLB package for Chapman or Miller that you would have preferred over the deals the Yankees did make?

Sure, if they were willing to trade Joe Panik or one of the Brandons (Crawford or Belt). That wasn’t going to happen, obviously. The Giants actually had five players on Baseball America’s midseason top 100 prospects list, but all five were on the back half of the list. Give me quality over quantity. I’d rather get one top notch prospect like Frazier or Torres (plus stuff) than two second tier guys (plus stuff). Riskier? Sure. But the Yankees have prospect depth already. Give me the upside.

Travis asks: With the Giants losing because of the bullpen implosion and the fact they wouldnt part with Panik for Miller, I wonder if the Yankees could get the Giants to part with Panik plus others for Betances?

I assume the Giants are just going to throw money at their bullpen this offseason. Why trade Panik for Dellin Betances when you could sign Aroldis Chapman or Kenley Jansen or Mark Melancon? San Francisco is a high payroll team — they’ve been top five or six in payroll for several years now — and they have a lot of money coming off the books this winter (Jake Peavy, Angel Pagan, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez). Spending big for a closer doesn’t figure to be an issue. There’s always room for another great reliever in the bullpen, but I’d be surprised if the Giants parted with Panik to make it happen. They’re smart. The ninth inning meltdown the other night won’t push the front office to make a knee-jerk move.

Bobby asks: I’m confused about what teams owe guys who are up for arbitration. If the Yankees cut Eovaldi, for example, are they on the hook for anything or because he hasn’t signed a free agent deal does he have nothing guaranteed to come his way?

They don’t owe him anything. Nathan Eovaldi, like most pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible players, was on a one year contract that expires after the end of the World Series. The Yankees control his rights for next season, that’s why he won’t become a free agent, but they figure to non-tender him because he’s going to miss 2017. Players signed to multi-year contracts are owed the balance of their contracts if they’re released. Guys on one-year deals have nothing coming to them.

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.