Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees are back on YES today, so if you haven’t been able to watch recently, today is your day. The game’s at 1:05 pm, and I am looking forward to it. And here’s some additional good news: we’re almost a week through Spring Training and Clarke Schmidt is the only injury casualty so far. Let’s keep it that way, shall we?
Anyway, it’s time for today’s mailbag. Four great questions today. As always, please send your questions to email@example.com to be considered for an upcoming Friday mailbag. We choose our favorites each week. Answers after the jump.
Steve Asks: Why is nobody talking about Miguel Andújar?
The short answer is that nobody knows what the hell to do about Miguel Andújar and it seems unlikely that he makes the roster out of Spring Training. That is a bad combination for speculation. As I have said before, Miggy is a Major League talent without a Major League home. It was not by accident that Miggy Mantle posted a 129 wRC+ in 149 games in his 2018 rookie campaign. The dude can play…
…but he has not played since then. He has just 33 games under his belt since the end of the 2018 ALDS. It’s been a combination of injuries and pandemic that did him in. Worse yet, he did not even have a proper minor league structure in which to rehab last year. The Alternate Site is great, I guess, but it is essentially glorified Spring Training. It is nothing like a full-on Triple-A experience. He is also positionless at this point and was essentially Wally Pipp’d by Gio Urshela, who has been as good or better offensively with significantly better defense at the hot corner.
So, add that all up and you get a weird cocktail of an extremely talented young player that most fans like without a clear home on the roster. It’s similar to the Clint Frazier situation, but with less drama. But fear not. I think Andújar will be in the Bronx this summer, just not right away. Again, he will get screwed by the pandemic – the delay in the Triple-A season hurts him – but I think he just needs a steady diet of game action to get back up to speed. Once he does, I bet he’ll force his way back into the conversation – and, at that point, many people will be talking about Miguel Andújar.
Sam Asks: If you are Brian Cashman and Hal Steinbrenner demands that you extend Aaron Judge before Opening Day, what is your offer?
Sigh. I have been staring at this question since it came in, because I have absolutely no idea. I’ll be honest: I have no clue how to evaluate Aaron Judge for an extension. That, I am sure, is why Judge and the Yankees did not even have this conversation this offseason.
On the one hand, Judge is as good as it gets. On a rate basis, he is as good or better than anyone in baseball. He ranks near the top of every WAR leaderboard since his 2017 debut campaign despite barely being on the field, a true testament to his incredible offensive ability and hidden defensive prowess. Judge is also the face of the current Yankees, an avatar for their recent success, and a fan favorite. It is not one to one, but it is clear that he models himself after Derek Jeter – and it is not totally unwarranted.
On the other hand, he just cannot stay healthy. He has been injured in every single season of his Major League career, including 2017. He stayed on the field in 2017 but was battling a serious shoulder injury. We all know what happened in the other seasons. Some of the injuries – getting hit by a pitch, for instance – were just bad luck. Others were more worrying soft-tissue issues.
Judge is 28-years-old at present, and will be 30 when he hits free agency in 2023. If the Yankees were to break their “only sign an extension one year before free agency” rule for Judge, and I were in charge of it, I’d offer him 6 years, $150 million. This is certainly low based on his true talent, but let’s consider a few factors.
First, it’s a $25 million annual salary – a significant raise for Judge, who will earn just a hair over $10 million in 2021 – and provides long-term stability for the team and the player. Second, the way extensions have generally worked is that they benefit the team. (Remember, Aaron Hicks earns just $10 million per year!) The player trades future earning potential for a short-term pay raise now and the team buys out some free agent years. Finally, this guarantees Judge stays in New York through his prime and early decline years. It removes that animosity and keeps a fan favorite at home. Win-win.
This won’t happen, though. Maybe next year, but even then, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankees let Judge test the free agency waters and negotiate with him there. I guess we’ll have to see how the CBA shakes out. But if I had to make him an offer today, that is what I’d offer: 6 years, $150 million.
Daniel Asks: Obviously it’s next to impossible to predict, but what is the timeframe for the Yankees’ drought before ownership finally says forget the luxury tax and spend whatever it takes to get a title? Once this core is gone? 10,15 or 20 years?
This is wishcasting from fans. It is just not going to happen, as much as you and I would like it to. Since this title window unexpectedly flew open in 2017, the Yankees have twice slashed about $50 million from their payroll. It happened inexplicably after the 2017 season and again this year. I have said this many times and the retort is always the same: the Yankees have also added Giancarlo Stanton and Gerrit Cole, so it’s unfair to say they’re cheap.
That is a fair enough point. I’m not calling them cheap, though. They have gone out and added some big fish to the pond and paid the price to get that done. This isn’t a Tampa Bay Rays situation, obviously. But I am saying that they have twice slashed about $50 million from their payroll in the middle of a wide-open title window. That is a fact and there is no getting around it. The Yankees will sometimes add a big salary. They also prioritize keeping payroll at a certain level, and make sacrifices to add that big salary. We’ve seen it time and time again.
This brings me back to your question. If right now is not the time to “spend whatever it takes to get a title”, then it is difficult for me to imagine a time in the future when this will be the case. The ideal scenario is right now and it is still not enough.
The only possible way this changes, in my opinion, is through a structural reorganization of the sport’s economics. This is actually possible. There will be new CBA negotiations after this season, so maybe something will change to incentivize more spending. I am not holding my breath, though, and neither should you.
Daryll Asks: With so many streaming services no longer carrying the YES Network, have you heard any updates in regards to Amazon taking coverage of some of the games? If I recall, they were slated to broadcast some of the games that were being aired on PIX 11 last season.
There has not been an update here to my knowledge. You are right that the YES Network and Amazon came to an agreement last year to stream 21 live games, but that deal fell apart due to the pandemic. YES decided to keep every game in the short season for itself, which makes sense. There were not a lot of games.
That is the last we’ve heard, but now is about the time we would hear about these sort of things. If anything new comes out on this front, we’ll keep you posted.