After taking last week off due to the ALCS, our mailbags are back. They’ll be here on Fridays at 9 am going forward again. This will be an offseason filled with questions for the Yankees as they try to retool a championship-caliber roster that has now fallen short of the ultimate prize three consecutive seasons.
As always, send your questions to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com for inclusion in next week’s post. We choose our favorites every week and this week there are four great questions. Let’s get right to it.
Craig Asks: While the fatigued bullpen certainly played a role, the failures of the Yankees’ offense were probably the main reason we lost. The Astros’ staff is all right-handed. Doesn’t this suggest that adding a powerful LHB should be a priority? (Brett and Didi–even though I sincerely hope both will be back–are not sufficient, and while Judge, LeMahieu and Gleyber did well, our lineup was still full of holes.)
There are a few layers here, so I’ll start with the basics: in the most narrow sense, the Yankees’ offense was not sufficient to win the pennant. The Yankees hit .214/.289/.383 as a team and managed to score just 21 runs despite hitting 10 home runs. The RISP struggles were also evident to anyone who watched the series. So, yes, on the surface level, the offense was to blame.
But I’m not ready to make that sweeping claim, because there’s another layer here. Houston hit .179/.281/.318 as a team, scored just 22 runs, and hit only 8 home runs. They also struggled to hit with RISP, garnering just 5 hits in such situations…but three of those hits were three-run home runs. That was the difference in Games 4 and 6. They also had two enormous home runs in Game 2, which was the difference in that game.
In other words, the Yankees actually out-hit and out-pitched the Astros in the ALCS. The difference was that when the Astros did get a hit, it was a consequential one. That’s enough to change a series and it’s why extrapolating anything from these series is a waste of time, in my opinion. These two teams played each other close but Houston did just a bit better when it counted. Play those games again and the opposite result may have happened.
As for the LHB situation, I do think it’s a bit strange, especially after the years of big powerful lefties adorning the Yankees’ lineup. It seems to fit Yankee Stadium so well. But the offense did not struggle at all this season and I am not too worried about it. I also don’t think this is why they struggled in the ALCS, which was mostly because the vast majority of Houston’s innings were pitched by Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Ryan Pressley, and Will Harris. Those are good pitchers. Don’t forget that.
I’d like to see the Yankees add a lefty bat, particularly with Hicks now sidelined until midseason. I’m not sure who that is or who they’ll replace in the lineup, but a trade for a lefty bat with some pop to play in the outfield seems like a good enough idea to me. They should also bring back Gardner and Didi, though I sadly expect only the former will be in pinstripes next season.
George Asks: What kind of a pitcher would a Sanchez and Clint Frazier trade bring back?
Gary Sánchez is going to be the subject of much trade speculation this offseason, and I think it is extremely silly. Gary is clearly a streaky hitter with some defensive flaws (even if overstated) and has struggled with injuries. He also looked really rough in the playoffs when the scrutiny is highest. That’s all true. I am the biggest Gary fan in the world and I won’t deny that at all.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind some context here. Across over 64,000 plate appearances since the start of 2017 (Gary’s first full season), catchers leaguewide are hitting roughly .235/.310/.380, which comes to about an 86 wRC+. Gary, on the other hand, is hitting .238/.320/.495 (115 wRC+) over that stretch, and here are some of his rankings among catchers in that period:
- Home Runs: 85 (1st)
- Slugging Percentage: .495 (1st)
- wRC+: 115 (tied for 2nd)
- Runs: 192 (3rd)
- fWAR: 8.3 (4th)
- wOBA: .343 (5th)
- Walk Rate: 9.4% (7th)
- OBP: .320 (10th)
That’s what the Yankees have in Gary Sánchez. One of the most valuable and unique catchers in the league, warts and all. It’s important to remember that context. And he’s only just now entering into his arbitration years, which means he’ll still be earning a relatively low salary (though higher than it was this year).
In short: that’s a very valuable player and one who would probably command a sizable return in a trade package. That’s especially true when you add in Clint, even if he has probably lower trade value now than at any point in his career. Gary is a valuable player and there’s no way the Yankees try to move him or, if they did, receive a package they consider worth it. At least not in my opinion. They’ve adamantly stuck by him all this time, and I wouldn’t expect that to change now.
Jamie Asks: So far, Patrick Corbin has 28 strikeouts in 14.1 innings. I can’t help but lament that having him in a Yankee uniform this postseason would have been a plus. Agree?Embed from Getty Images
I couldn’t agree more. I wrote it at the time and still believe that not signing him was a mistake. They should have gone the extra year. Now, would it have made the difference this year? I’m not sure. It’s always impossible to say those things definitively.
What I can say is that he absolutely would have been a plus not just in the postseason but all year. He threw 202 innings of 3.25 ERA (72 ERA-) ball for the Nationals this season and that is extremely valuable. Masahiro Tanaka’s 182 IP was the most thrown by a Yankee this season. J.A. Happ’s 162 ranked second if you can believe that.
Those innings would have saved bullpen arms for the playoffs–I don’t think it’s even a question that the bullpen was on fumes by the end–and that’s to say nothing of the fact that he may have been able to give some length against Minnesota or Houston. That, in turn, may have allowed for some of the key bullpen arms to rest even in games the Yankees won in those series, allowing them to be fresher and possibly even more effective. It didn’t happen, though, so no use crying over spilled milk. Although…
Jon Asks: What does the market look like for Gerrit Cole this offseason? I know every team should be in on him, but what teams actually might make a run? It’s becoming increasingly obvious that a workhorse starter is critical in the postseason to give the bullpen a break.Embed from Getty Images
…there is a pretty good starter on the market this offseason, too. (And another one from Corbin’s own team!) A much better starter, actually. Gerrit Cole is the best starter to hit the market since Max Scherzer in 2014 and I think Cole is even better than Mad Max was then. I’ll be profiling the key players in the free-agent market once the World Series wraps up, so I won’t get too deep into Cole here. We all know how good he is.
As for his market, I’m not really sure. The economics of the sport are so truly broken right now. All 30 teams should try for him as he’s a true difference-maker, but probably only a handful will. He’ll probably end up signing close to February, if not later unless some team just blows him out of the water. Right now, though, I think the market shakes out like this, in alphabetical order:
The Yankees have already said they’re in on him. Arte Moreno in Anaheim said that they’d be fine to raise payroll (imagine!) and the Padres aren’t afraid to make a big splash, plus Cole is from the West Coast and may prefer to return there. The Astros will almost assuredly try to retain his services, the Phillies may try to capitalize on their window (they were in on both Machado and Harper last year and signed just the latter) and you can never count the Dodgers out, even though you can basically count them out.
The market should be bigger and I’m sure there will be others involved in some way, but that’s how I see it shaking out. There will be a lot of talk about Cole’s preferences over the next few weeks. Don’t buy it. At the end of the day, the team that gives him the most money over the longest period of time will snag him. That’s how this works, and it’s how it should work.