Mailbag: Dodgers vs. Yankees, Lindor & Arenado, Taijuan Walker, All-Time Yankees Team

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Happy Friday, everyone. This time next week there will be actual photos from Spring Training. Hope you’re all ready. I know I am. It’s been a long offseason, even though it’s been an unusually entertaining one as far as baseball season goes. Big players signed. Big trades happened (or maybe didn’t happen?). There was definitely drama. A lot of this energy should carry over into the 2020 season, and I’m personally very excited about it. March 26 can’t get here fast enough.

Until then, it’s mailbag time! Four more great questions today, and as always, send yours in to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com if you want to be included. We choose our favorites each week.

Dan Asks: Are the Yankees better than the Dodgers post-Mookie?

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This question was sent in the other day before there was new uncertainty about the Mookie Betts deal. Let’s assume that the deal goes through for now and that it goes down under similar parameters. Mookie is a huge, huge upgrade for the Dodgers. A week ago, I would have said the Yanks and Dodgers were the two best teams but that the Yankees were better on paper. With Betts, though, that gap is all but completely gone.

To answer your question, let’s try to make this one semi-empirical. Here is the 2020 ZiPS projection for the Dodgers, which obviously came before the trade:

So, before adding in Betts, that’s 48.8 fWAR added, and, when combined with the 48 WAR baseline for a replacement level team, comes out to be a 96-97 win projection. That’s very, very good! Adding in Betts only makes the Dodgers more potent: ZiPS projects him for 5.7 fWAR, or a net gain of 3.6 over Verdugo. The addition of David Price, too, adds about 2 additional wins. Overall, that puts the Dodgers at a 102 win projection. Insane.

But the Yankees are every bit as good. Let’s run through the same exercise with them. Here is there ZiPS projection:

As I noted in a mailbag a few weeks ago, if you add that all up you get a…102 win projection for the Yankees. Exactly the same as the Dodgers! Kind of boring, isn’t it? But that’s just the reality of these two teams right now. They’re the two consensus best teams for a reason.

Of course, it’s never as simple as “adding up the (projected) WAR.” Injuries happen, as do insane breakouts like 2019 Gio Urshela. Dramatic regression can happen, too. As they say, that’s why the play the games! It’s what makes it fun. At the same time, it’s only February 7. The projections – and our own eyes – can tell us something. What both of these tell us is that these two teams are capital-S Stacked. They are the two best teams in baseball for sure.

The stage is set to rekindle a historic rivalry between America’s two largest cities – and one that has been dormant since 1981. You know MLB wants it. Hell, *I* want it. There are likely very few differences between the two teams if we’re being honest. If I had to choose one roster, it would be a tough call – but c’mon, it wouldn’t be that tough. This isn’t Views from Chavez Ravine. I am taking the Yankees every day of the week and twice on Sunday.

Dan Asks: Am I crazy to be interested in Taijuan Walker as the 5th starter?  He never lived up to his potential, but he’s still only 27!  Much higher ceiling than Happ has. 

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No, you’re not crazy. In fact, Derek wrote about Walker as an option just yesterday. He is a former top prospect who is still somehow only 27-years-old, as Dan notes. There’s a lot to be enticed by, especially considering the complete overhaul of the Yankees’ pitching apparatus recently. Maybe they can finally unlock that potential after all this time. In this context, sure, why not? Offer him a MiLB deal and see what he’s got in the tank. There is absolutely no downside to doing so.

Back in reality, though, that’s a very unlikely scenario. Consider a few factors. First, he hasn’t really pitched in the Majors since 2017, when he went 9-9 with a 3.46 ERA (3.93 FIP, 100 ERA-) in 157.1 IP for Arizona. While his strikeout rate (21.4%) and walk rate (8.2%) were essentially league average, his under-the-hood metrics were not: he got hit hard, doesn’t have great spin nor velocity. Sometimes pitchers just don’t pan out. Remember, there is no such thing as a pitching prospect.

He’s only thrown 14 innings at the big league level since, which is very significant time away from the game. He had Tommy John surgery in 2018 – you can come back from that! – but also got hurt in his rehab last year.

Bob Nightengale reported the other day that Walker worked out for a number of MLB scouts, and his velocity was way down:

These are all worrying signs to me – enough to say that no, I don’t think Walker deserves an MLB deal with the Yankees. He’s a perfect candidate for a rebuilding team trying to take a flyer on a guy who might finally realize his potential. Unfortunately, he doesn’t belong anywhere near the Yankees’ 40-man roster. On a MiLB deal, though, sure. Like I said, no downside there.

Bryan Asks: Let’s say the Yanks decide to throw caution to the wind and really throw their money/assets around to create a juggernaut. What are those moves (actual trades), and what impact do they have on the luxury tax situation? Does it start with a trade for Arenado?  Do they go after Lindor and extend him? Do they acquire both?

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Well, as I noted above, the Yankees already have compiled a juggernaut. That’s what they did when they went out and got Gerrit Cole, after all. But I am always in favor of improving on a team — the 1998 Yankees won 125 games, including the playoffs, and traded for Roger Clemens after the season – and I like the spirit of this question.

In an ideal world, but still one that recognizes the inherent reality that there are a limited number of prospects and tradable players, I want Lindor. How can you not? He’s a 26-year-old shortstop who won’t be a free agent until 2022 and is a career .288/.347/.493 (119 wRC+) hitter with sterling defense. He is basically the ideal baseball player. Unfortunately, the Yankees just don’t have the prospect power to get it done, I don’t think. if there was a bidding war over Lindor, the Yankees would lose. Nor do I think Cleveland will actually trade him (yet). So, with much regret, I am going to rule him out.

Arenado, on the other hand, would be a lovely addition. I wrote about what I think that package would take here, and Derek covered why he’s such a good player here. This is all pretty self-explanatory, and his contract means that the Yankees could probably get him in a trade similar to what they gave up for Stanton (again, if he’s actually available). It would be like a free agent signing, essentially.

As for what he’d do to the CBT, well, he’d add a lot. Spotrac has the Yankees at a $257 million payroll for CBT purposes – a few million less than my estimate here. That’s well over the $248 million threshold. Arenado commands a $32.5 million CBT hit for the team, so they’d be around $290 million. Historically, that’s where the Yankees should be, and the actual payroll tax wouldn’t be that bad. (It’s not as much as anyone makes it out to be, ever.)

But it’s not going to happen. It just isn’t. If this scenario were to happen, though, Arenado is the likely mega addition they’d make. If only this was MLB: The Show. As it stands, the Yankees are pretty good now.

George Asks: Name your all Yankee team by position, from all eras, vs. your all non-Yankee team.

This is a fun one, but I’m going to cheat a bit. As you might have guessed, I know a bit more about Yankees’ history than other teams’ or the league more broadly. I’d have to think a lot more about my “non-Yankee” team and I just don’t have the same depth of knowledge on players, so I’m going to just stick to the Yankees for now. I’ll just pick players, not choosing an individual season or anything like that.

But I am going to complicate it a little bit. I’ll choose my overall “best Yankees team”, which is always a bit easier with the Yankees. There are just so many great players to choose from. So I will also add, in parentheses where applicable, the players I’d choose out of those I’ve seen play. Here it goes:

  • Catcher: Yogi Berra (Jorge Posada)
  • First Base: Lou Gehrig (Mark Teixeira)
  • Second Base: Robinson Canó
  • Shortstop: Derek Jeter
  • Third Base: Alex Rodriguez
  • Left Field: Joe DiMaggio* (Hideki Matsui)
  • Center Field: Mickey Mantle (Bernie Williams)
  • Right Field: Aaron Judge
  • Designated Hitter: Babe Ruth (Jason Giambi)

Yes, yes, I know. DiMaggio wasn’t a left fielder. Don’t care! He played 60 games there in his career and if I’m assembling this team, I’m not leaving him off. That would be unconscionable. He’s moving to left. And is Judge an ambitious choice? Absolutely. Do I care? No, I absolutely do not care. Not at all. I want to see our man hit with these guys. I think this lineup would be good! Just a hunch.

Here’s the rotation, with the all-time rotation on the left and my rotation on the right:

  1. Roger Clemens
  2. Whitey Ford
  3. Andy Pettitte
  4. Ron Guidry
  5. CC Sabathia
  1. Roger Clemens
  2. CC Sabathia
  3. Andy Pettitte
  4. Mike Mussina
  5. David Cone

Despite their absurd offensive history, the Yanks have surprisingly few no-doubt Hall of Fame pitchers in their history. Fun fact: did you know that Masahiro Tanaka’s 17.4 bWAR ranks 23rd all time among Yankee starters? Me neither! But it’s true. He should continue to rise into the top 20 with a normal season this year, too. Pretty wild. (This also means that several years of Peak Cole™ will make him one of the best pitchers in Yankee history pretty quickly.)

And, finally, an abbreviated bullpen:

  • Setup Guy: Dellin Betances
  • Closer: Mariano Rivera

I mean, obviously. Don’t need to explain this one.

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5 Comments

  1. JG (Ben Francisco)

    Clemens on the all time Yankees pitching list is crazy, not gonna lie. Ruffing, Gomez, Hoyt, Reynolds, and maybe even Pennock are more deserving.

  2. DanGer

    Arenado just makes more sense in how NY operates – buy low on a premier talent on a huge contract.

    Miami is paying something like 12% of Stanton’s contract plus they took on Castro’s contract so maybe COL makes Arenado a $25M to $28M player in return for, say, Antonio Cabello and TJ Sikkema? I’m a huge Arenado stan so just make it happen, Cashman.

    The only way I see them getting Lindor is if CLE reaaaally likes Dominguez.

  3. MikeD

    There may be an understandable recency bias with that all-time pitching list, specifically CC, who is great but can’t really put him ahead of Lefty Gomez or HOF’er Red Ruffing. Ruffing won 231 games, had a .651 winning percentage, and a 119 ERA+ with the Yankees in over 3,100 innings. Lefty Gomez made seven straight All-Star games, and had two of the best years ever by a Yankee starter. Clemens has an argument as the greatest starting pitcher ever, but his Yankee years were strangely some of his weaker ones, posting a 4.01 ERA and a 114 ERA+. Good, but not vintage peak Rocket. All-time, I’d go:

    1.Whitey Ford
    2.Ron Guidry
    3.Andy Pettitte
    4.Lefty Gomez
    5.Red Ruffing

  4. DJ Lemeddardhieu

    Dan Asks: Are the Yankees better than the Dodgers post-Mookie?

    Not even close, Dan. The Dodgers are now the Evil Empire and the team to beat. This is why I didn’t want Mookie traded. He was no threat on Boston. He was like Trout on the Angels. We were going to win the division anyway. Tampa is out biggest threat not Boston. People say well now we get to beat up on Boston all year. So does Tampa. It only hurts us come the World Series in October, which is the only goal this season. Mookie gives them a superstar bat and Price gives them a reliable arm. And you know they’ll add payroll at the trade deadline and we won’t.

    Dan Asks: Am I crazy to be interested in Taijuan Walker as the 5th starter? He never lived up to his potential, but he’s still only 27! Much higher ceiling than Happ has.

    You’re crazy as hell, Dan. Are you related to the Dan from Question 1? Sure a lamp post would be better than Happ but Happ is now the 4th starter, which scares the bejeezus out of me. The 5th starter should be Monty not some injured guy we’ve never heard of. Monty was on pace to be the next Andy until he got hurt because of that awful Stevie Donahue’s training regiment. Monty is younger and has more upside and deserves the chance to earn his spot back.

    Bryan Asks: Let’s say the Yanks decide to throw caution to the wind and really throw their money/assets around to create a juggernaut. What are those moves (actual trades), and what impact do they have on the luxury tax situation? Does it start with a trade for Arenado? Do they go after Lindor and extend him? Do they acquire both?

    This is a “If George were alive” question, Bryan, which I love. If George were alive we’d have a few more rings on our fingers, the Astros and Sox never would have gotten away scott free with cheating the game and we’d still be the Evil Empire. That title has now moved to the Dodgers. We’re another championshipless decade away from becoming the loveable losers. Trading for Mookie Betts woulda been a George move. Getting Lindor and Arenado and an All Star at every position would be the priority instead of saving a couple bucks on drycleaning under this current regime.

    George Asks: Name your all Yankee team by position, from all eras, vs. your all non-Yankee team.

    Yankees –

    C – Yogi
    1B – Gehrig
    2B – Nuney
    SS – Jeter
    3B – Alex
    RF – Paulie
    CF – Mickey
    LF – Hideki
    DH – Ruth
    SP – Ford, Guidry, Andy, Rocket, Moose
    Relievers – Mariano, Nelson, Goose, Mendoza, Betances, Drob, Coney
    Bench – Romine, Tino, Bernie, DiMaggio

    Non-Yankees –

    C – Bench
    1B – Pete Rose
    2B – Jackie Robinson
    SS – Ripken Jr.
    3B – Schmidt
    RF – Aaron
    CF – Mays
    LF – Bonds
    DH – Ted Williams
    SP – Cy Young, Koufax, Gibson, Nolan Ryan, Pedro
    Relievers – Hoffman, Eck, Lee Smith, Wagner, Rollie Fingers, Greg Maddux, Walter Johnson
    Bench – Cobb, Musial, Hornsby, Piazza

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