Mailbag: Injuries, Replacing Romine, IFA vs. Draft, Frazier Service Time

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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.

(MLB Gif Hub) I miss this.

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.

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.

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11 Comments

  1. Stevie B

    Extended spring training is over…so Severino won’t be going there. I’m sure they can get him some simulated games in Tampa, but once he makes an actual rehab appearance he will have 20 days.

  2. lightSABR

    Fun fact for everyone to remember: Jacoby Ellsbury is still a Yankee.

    Okay, maybe “fun” isn’t the word. But it still catches me off guard every time I think about it.

  3. Madrugador

    Noah Syndergaard had a latissimus injury last season and pitched in two games in 2017 after he returned. Granted, his last game before his injury was 4/30 so I guess we might see Severino sooner than 2020 but if the Yankees are counting on it, they are probably mistaken.

    And now for something completely different:
    Jasson Dominguez is 16 yo. The Yankees can pay him whatever they want to sign but 16 yo is a long way from MLB. How are there so many that are so certain that this kid is the next Mike Trout? I mean, maybe he is but seems like a real long shot to me.

    • Madrugador

      Check that…Syndergaard’s injury was in 2017.

  4. And now for some unrelated levity:

    Chris Davis’ stats since signing his contract after the 2015 season.

    .199/.294/.386/.680

    474 GP
    1915 PA
    1675 AB
    86 HR
    213 RBI
    208 BB
    686 Ks
    OPS+ 83

    The man has hit under .200 for the past FOUR seasons. Here’s to the weekend.

  5. SM

    Anyone but Gardner at this point. He has had a nice career, but he isn’t Derek Jeter. Stop the madness of playing him every day.

    • Brad

      I’m okay with Gardner. He still plays excellent defense, typically has tough ABs and is a team leader. With Stanton out, playing Gardner makes sense. This team has enough offense to sacrifice some for Gardner’s defense over Clint’s offense.

      • BigDavey88

        And still excellent base running.

      • Bill Smith

        gardners defense has slipped a little bit and he is terrible offensive player with a bad arm. His throws are always bouncing on the dirt. Frazier never should have been sent down
        On Severino if there is not enough time to get him built up he would be a upgrade as a releiver for the rest of this season

        • RetroRob

          He has 97 OPS+, which is just about league average. (League average is good). Still rates a plus defender, and he’s always had a quick and accurate arm. Easily remains the Yankees best base runner. Overall, a solid 1.6 rWAR through the first half. That’s important since, well, unlike the other Yankee OFers, he actually shows up to play, and thankfully this year he did. He also is the back-up CFer.

          That all said, I’m realistic on him. Age is age and he’s in his mid-30s. The Yankees clearly wanted to transition him into the 4th OFer role, but once again, the other Yankee OFers weren’t healthy. Health is a skill. Ideally, Stanton can take over in LF. He’s solid defensively and should be acceptable (not great, but acceptable) defensively. Frazier? I don’t what to make of his glove, specifically his horrible routes on balls. He has zero chance of taking over in LF based on what he’s shown this year, but I never heard he was THAT bad. He’s a good athlete with a strong arm. How the frig can this guy filed worse that a little leaguer? Embarrassing.

          I’m still hopeful Frazier is called back up after the All-Star break and can show enough to make him an option in LF.

    • lightSABR

      Fun fact: his slugging percentage so far this year is the highest of his career. His OBP’s down, and his offensive value is down overall, but it’s not like he’s a zero. With above-average defense and slightly below-average offense, he’s basically been a league-average starting outfielder.

      I’d like to see him move to the fourth-outfielder role, too, but when Brett Gardner’s your worst hitter, you’re in very good shape.

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