Happy Friday, everyone. We are now two days away from the Yankees’ first Grapefruit League game. Pretty incredible. And it will be on TV! (We will have a full broadcast schedule up on the site later this afternoon for your convenience.) Can’t wait for it. Last season was just not right being only 60 games. We need the full grind.
Before we get to that, though, it’s time for some mailbag questions. We have seven really good ones today. As always, please send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for an upcoming Friday mailbag. We choose our favorites each week. Answers after the jump.
Michael Asks: What helps the team more in 2021: 280 games from Judge/Stanton or 50 starts from Cole/Kluber?
This is a tough one. One the one hand, the obvious choice is Cole and Kluber, especially because Cole is essential. As Derek outlined yesterday, he is a true differentiator for the Yankees. There just are not a lot of Gerrit Cole’s out there. And while the Yankees have a lot of pitching depth – as Derek also outlined – they are also taking a pretty big gamble on pitchers like Kluber being effective and healthy. Fifty starts between the two of them would mean that Cole stayed healthy and at least one of the Kluber/Taillon stayed healthy all season. I think you have to choose this option.
Here’s what that would mean according to PECOTA, which does project 50 starts (54 to be exact) between them:
- Gerrit Cole: 30 starts, 2.68 ERA (66 DRA-), 193 innings, 5.5 WARP
- Corey Kluber: 24 starts, 3.63 ERA (86 DRA-), 138 innings, 2.4 WARP
Give me that every day of the week and twice on Sunday, right? Obviously! At the same time, though, it is also hard not to dream about finally watching a season in which Judge and Stanton are both healthy. Let’s turn to PECOTA again, which again assumes health:
- Aaron Judge: 589 PA, .255/.365/.522, 36 HR, 4.7 WARP
- Giancarlo Stanton: 521 PA, .232/.335/.469, 28 HR, 1.9 WARP
It’s pretty rough on Stanton, but I’m smashing that over button if he actually gets 500-600 plate appearances. It’s a tantalizing option. But I think it’s pretty clear that the Yankee offense is going to hit and will be able to withstand some – but please god not too many – injuries to big hitters. Fifty starts of Cole and Kluber (who will be good if healthy, I think)? That’s just too good to pass up. That’s if I have to choose. The real answer is that we should have both. We deserve it at this point, honestly.
Iron Mike Asks: You have made a clear case regarding the Yankees being better off releasing Domingo Germán. If you had to play devil’s advocate, what reason(s) do the Yankees have for keeping Domingo Germán?
This one is actually pretty easy. I have made the case many times already for the Yankees cutting ties with Germán, and that is what I believe. Still, it’s not that hard to play devil’s advocate here: he might be pretty good! It’s really that simple. The 28-year-old was in the middle of a damn good season the last time we saw him. He was a key cog in the 2019 rotation. There were signs he made real tweaks underneath that improvement. And the Yanks have always liked his stuff.
In other words, there’s a very real chance – far from a lock, given the time he missed, but a real chance – that he is a fifth starter with mid-rotation upside for the Yankees in 2021. For a team that is betting on upside across the entire roster, Germán makes sense. They are diversifying the risk the more solid depth they have on the roster. Sometimes the simple answer is the correct one. This is why Germán is likely not just to break camp with the Yanks this season, but make the MLB rotation. (And this doesn’t even account for the fact it allows them to manipulate service time for younger players if he wins the job, which is another factor here.)
Philip Asks: Based on the longer-term makeup of the Yankees (current contracts and minor league prospects), if you could reallocate the money spent and contract on one player on the team and apply it to another player of a different position (so no OF for OF type swaps) from another team (with a similar contract), which player would you jettison from the Yankees and which player would you bring in?
Fun question! I bet most people expected me to choose Giancarlo Stanton here, but I’m not going to do it. Before I get to my answer, let me just walk you through the process here. I wanted to retrofit my choice to choose Jacob DeGrom. God, imagine the Yankees with Jacob DeGrom? But I set myself up with some ground rules that meant I would go by the CBT tax hit, not the total value of the contract or the player’s actual salary. That may be cheating, but I think it’s in the spirit of the question. It swaps a player without adding a dime to the payroll in 2021. (It also limits Stanton’s “trade” value, as there aren’t many better players carrying a $22 million cap hit.)
Second, I limited this to really looking at the 2021 roster. The Yanks are in win-now mode and I am not a GM. I am a fan who really wants them to win the World Series in 2021. So, in other words, which player would help them most do that? For that reason, I limited myself to the players earning the minimum currently on the Yankee payroll. They are as follows:
- Albert Abreu
- Domingo Germán
- Kyle Higashioka
- Jonathan Loaisiga
- Mike Tauchman
- Tyler Wade
They are all pre-arbitration and they are all earning the league minimum of $575,000 this year. Finally, I interpreted “no outfielder for outfielder swap” to mean “no pitcher for pitcher” swap in the broadest possible sense. That means a starter can’t be swapped for a reliever.
Okay, with that out of the way, it was tough. I obviously wanted to add a pitcher, leaving me Mike Tauchman, Tyler Wade, or Kyle Higashioka to dump. Higgy needs to stay around and Wade has some value as a backup, but I’m selling hard on Tauchman. So he is my choice to go, especially with other obvious internal replacements. So who to replace him with?
I was stuck choosing between Nick Anderson or Shane Bieber. Anderson has probably been the best reliever in baseball for the past two years and he’s on a divisional rival. He is an obvious replacement for Tommy Kahnle and would make the Yankee bullpen an even more incredible force. I’d take him every day. He’s a stud even if he was overused last posteason.
But how can I choose anyone other than Shane Bieber? He is a 26-year-old with nearly 10 fWAR in his last 300 innings and last year’s Cy Young recipient. The Yanks could add him for no additional salary tax increase and then work with him through arbitration before he hits free agency at age 31.
Sign me the hell up for that. We could start planning the parade down the canyon of heroes tomorrow, honestly.
Asher Asks: Has there been any update on the Jacoby Ellsbury grievance? Let’s say the Yankees end up settling or even winning this, Is there even a chance that retroactively their tax number from the 2020 season falls below the threshold, which would automatically reset them for the tax? Although it’s probably too late for that as they sat out the Bauer sweepstakes…
Not to my knowledge. We haven’t heard anything since the MLB Player’s Association filed a grievance on his behalf. (Remember, the Yankees witheld his 2020 salary and want to avoid a $5 million 2021 buyout.) The situation was contentious and weird, but it went radio silent. This isn’t all that surprising, really. Grievances like this take years to resolve even without global pandemics as a backdrop. Just look at the Kris Bryant situation in Chicago.
As for what happens if the Yankees win the grievance? I have no idea. The Yanks were on the hook for Ellsbury’s $21.8 million CBT hit last season even though they didn’t pay it. My best guess is that if they win, it would change the salary total and bring them under for 2020. Would the league have to provide them with their tax dollars back? I guess, so, right? I don’t know and can’t think of a comparable situation to reference. Uncharted waters, I think, but it ultimately doesn’t matter. This is a dispute over money that is unlikely to result in any tangible roster differences. That ship is already sailed, as you said.
Liam Asks: With Brett Gardner resigning recently it made me look back to the days when the Yankees had both Gardner and Melky in CF. Back then I did not think that Gardner would become a career-long Yankee between the two. Fast forward to now, if you had to pick one (or multiple) current young homegrown Yankee on the 40-man, who would you pick to be the under-the-radar guy to spend his entire career as a Yankee.
Another tough question. The current 40-man doesn’t really have any “under-the-radar” type players like that, really. With the exception of Oswald Peraza and Estevan Florial, nearly all of their young up-and-comers are pitchers. Of course, pitchers are the least likely to remain on one team forever, so I’m discounting them out of hand. I don’t see Peraza or Florial sticking around forever either, especially since the spirit of the question implies they’ll have a long MLB career. And there aren’t many other true “homegrown” Yankees either. (Judge is the obvious choice, so he’s out immediately.)
Anyway, I’m am choosing Gary Sánchez. I don’t know if you consider this cheating or not, since he’s hardly under the radar, but he’s so damn controversial. He is always at the center of some roster speculation. A good catcher, however, is pretty rare, and Sánchez does still own a 117 career WRC+, even with his struggles. Still, Gary is going to need to deliver a rebound season in 2021 for this to become reality. He’s not a free agent until 2023, but this is a big year for him. As you know, I am confident in him, so I’ll say he’ll defy the odds and be a Yankee lifer.
James Asks: If Anthony Seigler and Josh Breaux are from the same draft class why do they have different Rule 5 eligibility?
They’re different ages. Rule 5 eligibility is based on age, not service time or draft class. Players signed at 18 or younger are Rule 5 eligible if they are not placed on a 40 man roster within five seasons. By contrast, players signed at age 19 or older must be placed on a 40-man within four seasons.
That’s the difference with Seigler and Breaux, both of whom were drafted in the 2018 draft. Seigler was 18 at the time of the draft, picked by the Yankees straight out of high school. That means the Yanks have 5 seasons to place him on the 40-man. Breaux, by contrast, was a 20-year-old college sophomore, meaning he has to be added within four years.
Tom Asks: Will local broadcasters be allowed to be travel to road games this year?
I don’t know. Broadcasters were not allowed to travel last year, which meant that John and Suzyn (and the YES crew) were calling road games based on monitors at Yankee Stadium. Very weird! Understandable, but super weird. I haven’t seen anything either way, honestly. One thing we do know: the NBA is not allowing broadcasters to travel now. That suggests MLB might follow suit, but who knows. Things are different now. Suzyn Waldman, for example, is vaccinated. That changes things. Stay tuned on this – will update on the site when we know for sure.