Mailbag: Executive of the year, injuries, Kluber trade, Encarnación’s contract, Boone

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Thanks for sending in your questions for this week’s mailbag. We received a ton yesterday after putting a call out on Twitter, so many that we can’t get to all of them today. For future mailbags, please send your questions for consideration to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Paul asks: Does Brian Cashman deserve consideration for executive of the year award because of the tremendous depth he amassed, or should he be shunned because he didn’t make any deadline additions?

Cashman absolutely deserves strong consideration for the awards. Yes, awards with a plural. The Sporting News has given this prize out since 1936 and Baseball America has done it since 2006. Major League Baseball started giving one out last year too.

Indeed, the big reason Cashman is deserving is because of the team’s depth, particularly from position players. Most teams wouldn’t overcome the array of injuries that the Yankees have dealt with. Nonetheless, here we are thanks to many of these guys:

PlayerPAwRC+fWAR
DJ LeMahieu5861364.9
Gio Urshela4231433.2
Brett Gardner4911113.1
Mike Tauchman2961282.6
Luke Voit4531311.6
Cameron Maybin2261241.2
Edwin Encarnación  1941150.7
Troy Tulowitzki131180.0
Kendrys Morales7562-0.4

Urshela, Tauchman, Voit, and Maybin have proven to be incredible trade acquisitions. LeMahieu has arguably been the best free agent signing from the offseason. Gardner, who looked washed up at the end of last season, has justified the team’s desire to retain him. None of us knew that the Yankees needed Encarnación until so many guys kept getting hurt. Tulo and Morales didn’t work out, but that’s inconsequential. Cashman (and the front office) hit a ton of home runs on unexpected players. There’s no question that this will go a long way in determining who gets hardware.

Now, as for the trade deadline inactivity. I can see how that would detract from Cashman’s case, but at the same time, it probably won’t. First of all, these awards are voted on before the playoffs begin. That helps Cashman’s case because of where the Yankees are positioned to finish the regular season. In the end, not making any deadline deals didn’t wind up hurting them (too much) in the regular season.

Could Cashman have done better by July 31st? Possibly, but he’s also been given a budget that he has no choice but to adhere to, like it or not. Just because Cashman didn’t get a pitcher at the deadline doesn’t mean that his other pitching acquisitions before the year were no good. He certainly didn’t have nearly as much success as he did with position players.

PlayerInningsERAFIPfWAR
James Paxton138 2/33.963.923.2
Adam Ottavino62 1/31.733.431.2
JA Happ146 1/35.105.381.0
Zack Britton57 1/32.043.940.7
David Hale37 1/32.893.290.7
CC Sabathia100 1/34.935.960.2

Happ and Sabathia haven’t worked out, unfortunately. But, Ottavino and Britton have been quite good while Hale was an unheralded finding. Meanwhile, athough Paxton scuffled for a decent amount of this season, he’s really come around of late. Cashman’s trade for him is starting to look really, really good.

Rich asks: Given the (staggering) amount of injuries this year, can we expect any tangible changes to the team’s conditioning staff/processes during the off season? I get that each player probably has their own program but if the entire team has injuries over the course of the year, doesn’t that reflect at least a little bit on the conditioning staff?

Since we received this email, Encarnación and Gary Sánchez got hurt. Seriously, Rich sent this in at just after 10am yesterday.

Anyway, it’s really hard to play the blame game from the outside. However, the optics are absolutely awful. The team has suffered a rash of muscle injuries throughout the season with almost no end in sight. Seriously, make it stop!

At this point, I do anticipate changes this offseason. There’s simply too much that has happened to merely stand pat. From miscommunication to setbacks to recurring muscle injuries, something’s gotta give. The good news is that its certainly something the team has thought about. I answered a similar question recently and included a quote from Cashman about the team self-evaluating its processes.

Lionel asks: Will Cleveland trade Corey Kluber over the winter and should the Yanks make a strong offer? What would it cost New York?

Cleveland dangled Kluber prior to this season, so it stands to reason that they’d do so again this coming offseason. However, it’s probably going to be challenging to do so this winter because of how much time he’s missed. Kluber made just seven starts before he suffered a forearm fracture on a comebacker to the mound. While he was supposed to return before the season’s end, he strained his oblique in late August while rehabbing. Now, it seems like he may not be able to return at all in 2019.

With that in mind, I don’t think Cleveland can get the return they would hope for. In all likelihood, potential suitors will be hesitant without seeing how Kluber looks post-recovery.

To further complicate things, I’m sure Cleveland wants to get a similar return to what the White Sox received for Chris Sale. Aside from health, that was more realistic last winter for two reasons: one, the acquiring team would get Kluber for up to three years which was exactly the same circumstance for Sale. Plus, Kluber was also an ace.

Even still, I’d absolutely expect the Yankees to go after Kluber if he’s available. Kluber has been an ace since 2014 and showed little sign of slowing down before he got hurt. Moreover, Kluber’s contract would fit in well with the Yankees’ budget. He has two very team-friendly club options for 2020 and 2021 which could help the Yankees avoid or minimize luxury tax owed while improving the team.

I’d be very happy if the Yankees nabbed Kluber, but priority number one should still be Gerrit Cole. Sure, he’ll cost a lot more money — but that’s all he’ll cost. On the other hand, trading for Kluber could cost the Yankees someone like Clint Frazier.

Ryan asks: What is the Yankees responsibility on Edwin Encarnación’s contract and option at the end of the year? Is there a luxury tax difference between declining the option, paying the buyout, then signing EE to a $15 million contract?

According to Cot’s, the Yankees are on the hook for $8 million of EE’s $20 million salary for this year. The 2020 club option ($20 million salary in 2020 or $5 million buyout) rests solely on the Yankees.

The buyout is already included in the luxury tax hit for this season, so there are no further tax implications there. There’s a cash impact of course; the Yankees will have to pay Edwin the buyout should they choose to go that route.

For luxury tax payroll computation purposes, club options are treated as a separate one year deal. So, if the Yankees exercise his $20 million option, the luxury tax number for 2020 is just that.

Unless I’m missing something, the idea of paying Encarnación the $5 million buyout and then re-signing him to a one year, $15 million deal would actually benefit the Yankees from a luxury tax standpoint. The 2020 salary inclusion would be lower even though the total cash given to EE would be no different. Of course, this doesn’t quite benefit Encarnación. He’s owed that $5 million no matter what and he’s under no obligation to do the Yankees a favor and re-sign for $15 million.

Seth asks: Aaron Boone has made some curious decisions when it comes to deploying low leverage relievers in the hope they can close out a game. The most recent example was Tuesday when the Yankees blew a 6-0 lead to Detroit and ended up losing. If the Yankees can’t secure home field advantage, how will this impact the way he is viewed by the front office?

I don’t think it will change anything. Home field advantage is important, no question, but the Yankees should have been able to hold off Detroit in that one. The Tigers have the worst offense in the league; there’s really no excuse to let them score 12 runs. Even if it’s lesser pitchers like Nestor Cortes and Luis Cessa doing much of the damage. And yes, Gleyber Torres’s error was costly too. It was all around bad baseball and not necessarily Boone’s fault. I gave him some grief for using Chance Adams in the ninth, but it’s a team effort at the end of the day.

I want the Yankees to get home field advantage, but at the same time, the team’s bullpen is vital to a World Series run. Boone needs to keep using some of his middling relievers this month in order to keep guys fresh. Could it cost them a game? Maybe. It’s a difficult balancing act and I don’t envy Boone for it.

Ultimately, there are two main things that could sway Boone’s standing in the front office’s view: poor decision-making in the playoffs or a fractured clubhouse. The latter is obviously not an issue. Boone appears to be quite popular in the clubhouse. How he handles the bullpen in the playoffs is another story which we’ll get a better idea of in a few weeks.

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7 Comments

  1. Wire Fan

    Kluber for Frazier? In a heartbeat. There is no way Cleveland would do a deal like that, even with Kluber’s value a bit down.

    A 109 wRC+ bat that is borderline unplayable in the field? Cleveland already has a guy like that in Franmil Reyes. I can’t see Frazier being a headliner in a deal for any significant piece.

  2. Everyone is upset about the pen usage in that game and I was one person who was fuming too. But, after finding out TK was unavailable, what is the gripe? They used both Otto and Britton and were saving Chapman for a save situation (I know this is not the best strategy, but many managers do it). Knowing that Chance was your closer after burning Chapman I’m actually happy they didn’t go to Chapman, as I have 0 faith Chance Adams could hold any lead for one inning at this point. It looked horrible at the time because my thought process was “good job Boone, you wanted to punt, used Otto and Britton anyway, and lost.” Knowing Kahnle (and Green) were not available though, who was he gonna go to instead? You could split hairs about the order guys pitched in I guess.

  3. brian

    EE has a $20M option for 2020. Exercising the $5M buyout, then signing him to a $15M deal for 2020 seems like luxury tax shenanigans that MLB wouldn’t stand for.

    • tom ballaro

      I don’t think that the original statement is true. If they pick up the $20mil option then I believe the luxury tax hit for 2020 is actually $15mil because they already factored in the $5mil buyout. They don’t pay on that twice if they don’t exercise the buyout following 2019.
      So I don’t think there is a difference in the 2 scenarios tax-wise.

      • This makes sense. The clubs wouldn’t let the $5m enter their LT calculation twice. Only the players would bargain for something that dumb.

  4. CountryClub

    Didn’t Cash win in 2017? It’s possible, but I’m not sure they’d give it to him twice in 3 years.

  5. Madrugador

    I don’t think Boone has any choice when it comes to which pitchers are available to use when they are throwing a bullpen game. He either gets a list from the front office of who he can use or lives by a set of rules that dictate who is available and who is not. He already uses the no-three-days-in-a-row rule. Seems reasonable to think that his decisions are driven by the front office.

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