Happy Friday, everyone. We’re now less than two weeks away from Opening Day. Pretty exciting. There was a comment on Ana’s great piece yesterday that the rotation clicking would be a nice reprieve for all of us following a miserable year, and I couldn’t agree more. The same applies to the whole team, really. It would be so nice for the Yanks to be a juggernaut from the jump.
Anyway, time for another mailbag to hold us over while we daydream. A bunch of great questions today. As always, if you’d like to be included in a future edition, please email us at email@example.com or shoot us a note on Twitter. We choose our favorites each week. Answers after the jump.
Ethan Asks: If the baseball gods magically replaces Aaron Judge with a 29-year-old Derek Jeter for the 2021 season, would it make the Yankees better or worse? What do you think the defensive alignment would be in that case?
I love this question. Two things to consider. First, adding 29-year-old Jeter makes the Yankees better, at least in theory. Listen, I love Aaron Judge. His potential is outrageous and his raw skills mean he could easily have one of the best offensive seasons in MLB history. Coupled with his outstanding defense, that means he could be more valuable to the Yankees than even Jeter was in his prime. However…our man cannot stay healthy. I don’t like it any more than you do, but it’s true.
As we’ve always said, staying on the field is a skill. Jeter had it. In his first 17 seasons (1996-2012), Jeter played in 148 or more games 15 times. That is durability of which Judge can only dream. (Technically, Jeter’s age-29 season was the one in which he played the fewest games. It was a freak injury – the shoulder on the slide into third on Opening Day 2003 in Toronto– so I’m not taking that into account for the question.) That really matters.
That brings us to the second point: roster fit. Aaron Judge is the cornerstone of the Yankee team. It’s not literally built around him – after all, he always misses time – but it might as well be. Replacing Judge with Jeter would add to a crowded Yankee infield and take away from the outfield. It would mean that Giancarlo Stanton would need to patrol right to keep all of DJ LeMahieu, Derek Jeter, Gio Urshela, and Gleyber Torres in the lineup. It’s hard to even imagine how the roster would function, and that also matters here.
So while Jeter makes the Yankees better in theory, and you’d sign up for his 4-5 WAR and steady lineup presence on any team, the current Yankees are built around Aaron Judge’s health and presence. Nothing can be more valuable to the current day Yankees than 150 games of Aaron Judge. Let’s hope he gives us that.
Dan Asks: At what point does Brian Cashman become responsible for winning on World Series in 20 years?
He already is responsible. To begin with, he is at the helm of the team and they haven’t won since 2009. Do we think that doesn’t bother him or keep him up at night? And fans complain about this all of the time. I don’t think people don’t hold him “responsible”, whatever that means. If what you mean by responsible in this case is “get fired”, then I wouldn’t hold your breath.
It is very frustrating that the Yankees haven’t won a title since 2009. It is no secret that there have been some frustrating playoff losses in that time. All of them, really. The 2010 ALCS, 2011 ALDS, and 2012 ALCS were all frustrating in their own way. (The 2011 ALDS will bother me until my last day. That damn rain delay.) And the recent run is even more frustrating because there was no post-World Series glow. I wish they won the title in all of these years and more, perhaps more than anyone.
It is also silly to pretend that the Yankees are not consistently one of the best teams in the league. They are, and Brian Cashman is also responsible for that. Check out the winningest teams from 201o-2020, during the recent title “drought”:
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 962-718 (.573)
- New York Yankees: 954-726 (.568)
- St. Louis Cardinals: 929-749 (.554)
- Washington Nationals: 905-774 (.539)
- Tampa Bay Rays: 900-781 (.535)
That’s pretty good! And it even includes the down years in 2013, 2014, and 2015, when the Yankees had no shot at winning a title. The Yanks are a clear cut above all but the Dodgers, too. They’re the class of the league in this regard. Now, the Yankees and the Rays are the only teams on that list who have not won a title in that stretch. Frustrating, but also misleading – remember, this starts in 2010. Talk about an arbitrary endpoint. Let’s change it up a bit, shall we? Here’s the same list, this time from 2009 through 2020:
- New York Yankees: 1057-785 (.574)
- Los Angeles Dodgers: 1057-785 (.574)
- St. Louis Cardinals: 1020-820 (.554)
- Boston Red Sox: 991-851 (.538)
- Tampa Bay Rays: 984-859 (.534)
This time, the Yankees are tied for first on the list, and are included in the World Series winners. All but Tampa have won in this stretch, and even they won a pennant. (With the same arbitrary endpoint hurting them, as including 2008 makes it 2 pennants.) Only Boston has won twice.
So, let me turn the question on to you: when does Brian Cashman get credit for building the most consistent, two-decade winner in baseball, all while competing in the best division in the sport?
Iron Mike Asks: Should the Andújar injury serve as a reason for the Yankees to block players from playing Winter Ball? Andújar said that is when it started bothering him, which leads one to believe he hid it from the Yankees.
I don’t think so. Injuries happen. It’s unfortunate, but this is dangerous logic. I hate turning to using “slippery slope” as a rhetorical device, but this thinking is a slippery slope. When does Winter Ball turn into MiLB ball? And on and on. Players, especially those recovering from extended hiatuses, need to play in order to get back into MLB condition. They also need to play in games to continue their development. I’m very wary of prioritizing a lack of injuries over development time and in-game opportunities.
Andújar’s injury should hopefully have no bearing on those decisions, but who knows. (Besides, he might be fine soon, anyway.) More importantly, the bigger problem is hiding the injury. Every player does this, and it is infuriating to me. Injury deception almost always costs the team more than honesty does. I hope that players will stop this eventually, even if I know they won’t.
Adam Asks: Since CC Sabathia works for the Yankees, do you think it is significant that he spoke highly of Jay Bruce on the R2C2 podcast last week and will it correlate to his chances making the roster?
Not really. CC is a Yankee employee in so far as he has some input and it keeps him associated with the team but he has absolutely zero decision-making power when it comes to who makes the roster and who doesn’t. It is much more important how Bruce (and Dietrich, etc.) perform. Of course, Bruce has looked good so far. That is much, much more important than anything CC says.
It is probably telling, though, that he speaks highly of Bruce. CC is a trusted ambassador for baseball. He knows most of the league, I’d bet, and has a good sense of who is a good dude and who is not. This is especially true of the Yankees. He is clearly still in contact with his old teammates. Him raving about Bruce probably means he’s a popular guy in the clubhouse, which is not nothing.
Hornick Asks: Of Dietrich, Bruce, and Luetge, which of the three would have the best chance of sticking around for the entire season if they make the Opening Day roster?
I say Bruce, who is a perennial MLB player with more than 1,600 games under his belt. If he makes the team, it is likely because he earned it – and I can see him sticking around all season. That’s not to say he will, of course, but it wouldn’t shock me. If he makes the roster, which he very well might, I think he’s the best bet to stick around for the championship parade.
That said, none of the three would surprise me. Dietrich is another MLB regular (about 750 games under his belt) and he does not have a minor league option, obviously. His positional versatility gives him added value for the Yankees specifically, too. So if he makes the roster, he’s probably a good bet to stick around.
Luetge is another category all together. He’s almost certainly going to make the team, and he’s not in competition against the aforementioned players. (Two of these three will likely be rostered.) He has not pitched in a game since 2015, but he’s been so, so good this spring. His peripherals are incredible and the Yanks love him…but he’s never made his mark.
Now, pitchers sometimes come out of nowhere to succeed. So would it completely shock me if he was a hidden bullpen ace in 2021? I guess not, based on what we’ve seen. But it’s Spring Training. We can’t bet on that, so while also does not have a MiLB option, if he is bad, they’ll just cut him. He’s least likely of the three to stick around for 162, in my opinion.
Let’s hope he makes me look stupid, as he very well might.
Mr. Rodgers Asks: With Germán all but earning the 5th spot over García, will Deivi still get “minor league time” while at he alternate site for service manipulation? Or must we wait until the Triple-A season starts in May?
Players at the dystopian sounding “alternate site” do not accrue MLB service time. That means the same game applies this year as it does in every other non-2020 season: teams wishing to extend their players’ team control just have to keep them off the active roster for 15 days. In Deivi’s case, it’s a bit more complicated. He was credited with 58 days of service time in 2020, so he’d have to stay in Triple-A for about two months to earn another year. Of course, that’s easiest to accomplish at the start of the season. We’ve seen it time and time again.
As you note, it is all but certain that Germán will be the fifth starter, and he is clearly deserving of it so far. He’s been very sharp this spring. Deivi will be relegated to the alternate site, where his clock won’t start until he returns to the Bronx. That will delay his free agency by a year, Triple-A season or otherwise.