Hope most of you were able to enjoy the holiday and win yesterday. It’s another mailbag Friday and we have four questions to cover today. Send your questions for next week’s edition to: viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. Onward:
Matt asks: What are the chances we see Luis Severino or Dellin Betances this year?
I don’t have a great feeling about Severino’s likelihood to return this season. Not only has he now had a few setbacks, but we’re also starting to run out of time. Remember, he’ll probably need a month at extended spring training before being major league ready.
We’re now within the 5-to-7 day window of Severino’s latest shutdown from throwing, so we should get a new prognosis soon. If it’s good news, we’re talking about Severino returning to the Yankees by mid-August. That doesn’t leave much cushion for another setback.
One more thing worth noting: Severino is part of the team’s long-term plans, so they’re likely to err on the side of caution (even though they just made a mistake with his rehab).
Unlike Severino, I think there’s a good chance that Betances returns this year. For one, he’s actually expected to begin throwing soon. That still leaves him a ways away from getting back, but there are other reasons at play. Betances will be a free agent at the end of the year, and not having a strong showing to close out an injury-shortened season would really hurt his market value. Not pitching at all hurts it too. So, coming back to his dominant form would do wonders to regain his odds of signing a big contract.
Meanwhile, the Yankees have a couple of incentives here. Obviously, winning is a huge priority and Dellin helps in that department. Moreover, the Yankees don’t have him under contract next season, so they may not be as inclined to protect him as they are with Severino.
Bob asks: You have spent a lot of time since this blog started bemoaning Austin Romine’s lack of offense and seemingly overrated defense. My question is, who do you propose that the Yanks sign who would a) provide better offensive performance in a backup role, and b)(probably more importantly) provide that offense while willingly serving in a backup role? (Oh, and I guess c) provide at least comparable defense.)
Have we been that hard on Romine? I know I wrote about him earlier, but I don’t think we’ve regularly bashed him. Nonetheless, he’s made for an easy target over the years because of his empty bat. This year, the catcher owns a paltry 36 wRC+. Not a high bar to exceed for any potential replacement. His glove and rapport with the pitching staff is much tougher to quantify, though certainly a more challenging aspect for a newcomer to fulfill.
As I wrote in my piece linked above, I think the most likely scenario in which the Yankees part ways with Romine is in the offseason. It’s really the only way to make a clean break. Anyway, that would mean that the Yankees would either turn to Kyle Higashioka, a trade acquisition, or free agency.
Higgy may be able to meet all of the criteria the question lists. Offensively, he hasn’t had much success in limited major league time, but Higgy has hit Triple-A pitching quite well. Still, his ZiPS wRC+ projection is no different than Romine’s for the rest of the season.
I’m not going to bother guessing trade candidates, but since we do have a listing of upcoming free agents via MLB Trade Rumors, let’s take a look at potential replacements available over the winter:
- Alex Avila (33)
- Welington Castillo (33) – $8MM club option with a $500K buyout
Jason Castro (33)
- Francisco Cervelli (34)
- Robinson Chirinos (36)
- Travis d’Arnaud (31)
Tyler Flowers (34) — $6MM club option with a $2MM buyout
- Yan Gomes (32) — $9MM club option with a $1MM buyout
Yasmani Grandal (31) — $16MM mutual option with a $2.25MM buyout
- Nick Hundley (36)
- Chris Iannetta (37) — $4.25MM club option with a $750K buyout
- Jonathan Lucroy (34)
- Martin Maldonado (33)
- Russell Martin (37)
- Brian McCann (36)
- Matt Wieters (34)
I’ve crossed out the guys that I think will definitely get starting jobs. Of the rest, who doesn’t meet the criteria laid out? Not too many. The Yankees should have plenty of options to choose from should they decide to let Romine walk.
John asks: If you look at the Yankees system, almost all of the exciting high upside players seem to be international. Deivi Garcia, Cabello, Rodriguez, Florial, etc. and now the mother load from what I’m reading, Jasson Dominguez (his scouting reports and tools on the 20/80 scale sound cuckoo). At this point do the Yankees get more talent from the international signings, or the amateur draft?
Short answer: international signings. The Yankees’ BOARD on Fangraphs is littered with international players. Only one of the team’s top ten prospects, Anthony Seigler (8th), was a draftee. Dominguez, who they just signed this week, is already the team’s top prospect according to Fangraphs. So yeah, it’s pretty safe to say that as of late, they get more talent internationally.
Even homegrown players who’ve recently graduated from the farm system have mostly been cut from the same cloth. Gary Sánchez, Luis Severino, and Miguel Andújar have been great successes. On the draft side, of course there’s Aaron Judge, but not much other impact.
There’s good reason for this, though. In the draft, the Yankees have not had access to the top talent for decades because their first pick is always at the end of the first round. On the flip side, the Yankees are only limited to a bonus pool in international free agency (IFA). So, they can still sign the best prospect in any given year (just like this one with Dominguez). Or, as they did in 2014, they can make a mockery of the procedure by going overboard and accepting the bonus pool penalties.
Paul asks: I don’t want to ask this but at this point it seems relevant: how long does Clint have to stay in the minors to get an extra year of control?
By my count, Frazier has 1.134 years of major league service to date. With 90 days left this season and 172 days required to accrue a full service year, the Yankees would gain an extra season of Frazier if they kept him down for 53 more days (please check me on my #math).
Now, is this relevant to the Yankees’ decision making? I don’t think so in this case. The Yankees are in win-now mode and shouldn’t worry about getting Frazier’s 2024 campaign. Still, I find it odd that he’s toiling in the minors while Giancarlo Stanton’s out, but that’s another story.
Clint Frazier: It’s a tough pill to swallow. It’s never fun, especially with how much I felt like I’ve contributed to the team this year. pic.twitter.com/V3lxQ9f5EQ— YES Network (@YESNetwork) June 16, 2019
So, there’s almost certainly more to Clint remaining in Scranton than the Yankees gaming his service time. The more plausible reasons are:
- In good faith, they want him to play everyday and improve his defense.
- They’re mad that he used all of his collectively bargained 72 hours to report to the minor leagues after the team traded for Edwin Encarnación.
- They plan to trade him.
I hope the real reason is the first one, but the last two wouldn’t surprise me.