Mailbag: Judge Extension, Prospect to Watch, Ideal Player, Metal Bats

It is Friday again, and the Yankees play baseball tomorrow. We are all waiting anxiously to hear more about Luis Severino’s mysterious new injury. Until then, might as well focus on some good things, like the fact that we have four good questions in today’s mailbag.

As always, send in your questions to viewsfrom314 at gmail dot com if you want to be included. We choose our favorites each week.

Daniel Asks: Obviously the Yankees front office knows more about these players than anyone else in the world. Personality, family, medical info, etc. As Judge enters what will be his age 28 season, at this point should we *not* expect an extension for him?

Good timing on this one! Randy actually covered the potential of an Aaron Judge extension just yesterday, so be sure to check that out if you haven’t yet. The understandable conclusion of that piece was, of course, that the Yankees should extend Judge. He’s one of the best players in the league by nearly any measure and he is 100% the face of the current Yankees. There’s no question about it. In that context, and perhaps that context is the only one we as fans should care about, extending Judge makes a lot of sense.

Of course, ours should not be the lens through which we view these sorts of discussions. There is also the point of view of the team to consider and what it’s likely going to prioritize. Unfortunately, I don’t think an extension for Aaron Judge is likely. Let’s game this out.

The point of the extension, from the team’s point of view, is to keep a player around through their prime years. They are usually structured to save the team money – that’s the ultimate goal – and there are no shortage of examples to which I could point. One close to home, though, is Aaron Hicks, who earns a $10 million salary with his extension. There’s no question he’d earn more than that on the market, but the plus for him is that he gets a $70 million guaranteed pay day.

For Judge, this calculus doesn’t quite work. He will be a free agent after the 2023 season, when he’ll be 31-years-old. The general consensus is that hitters peak at age-30, so the Yankees don’t have much to gain by buying out any of his free agency years. They’re already getting his best seasons and paying him less than market-value to boot. (Judge will still command a hefty arbitration salary toward the end, so he may not be inclined to do a team-friendly extension, either.) It’s a system that’s very unfair to the players, but it’s the system that we have. It’s just the way it is.

Alex Asks: Who is the under-the-radar Yankees prospect to watch out for? I know he was a 2nd round pick, but I don’t hear much about TJ Sikkema and I like his potential. I’m excited to see what he does in a full season in the minors. 

Sikkema, a 21-year-old lefty pitcher selected in the supplemental round last year, is likely slated for High-A Tampa this season. He got a brief cup of coffee with Staten Island, where he was good (he surrendered 1 run in 10.2 IP with 6 H, 13 K, and 1 BB). It is true that you don’t hear much about him. He throws a low-to-mid 90s fastball with a slurve, slider, and change. He’s not the most exciting prospect — he projects as a back-end starter or reliever — but there’s plenty to like. Baseball-America, for example, says scouts are “impressed with his combination of aggressiveness and stuff.” So that’s nice. In other words, he’s worth following.

As for me, I’d say I’m keeping my eyes on a few other guys, too. Kevin Alcantara in particular. At just 17, he is a long way away from the big leagues but there is a lot of noise about him. FanGraphs shocked me and included him in their Top 100 prospects, for example. Seems a bit early to me, but hey, what do I know? FanGraphs clearly emphasized future potential. There’s no doubt Alcantara has that in bunches.

Alcantara is 6’6 outfielder with an above-average arm and speed defensively. Offensively, he hammers the ball and still has to fill out physically. He also has a reputation for being studious — he has “been known to diligently use batting practice as a time to refine his reads and jumps” according to Baseball America — on top of the physical tools. Exciting!

He’s a career .255/.305/.360 hitter in 41 games so far as a professional in the Gulf Coast League (GCL) and Dominican Summer League (DSL). His development has a long way to go, but it’ll be exciting to follow for sure. He’s one guy I have my eye on, whether he’s in the GCL or otherwise. The upside is tantalizing.

Mickey asks: If you had the power to take any former Yankee in their prime from the last 30 years and add them to this 26 man roster in 2020, who would improve the team the most?

Come back to me!

This is a fun question. Full disclosure: I’m making assumptions with the rules. I’m interpreting them to be a player in their prime during their time with the Yankees. In other words, I’m not choosing Randy Johnson. (He’s the answer if it’s a prime year from anyone who wore pinstripes since 1990.) This is also tough because, man, the Yankees have been so good. There are tons of options.

Here’s who I think makes sense choosing just three:

Offense

Pitching

  • Bernie Williams
  • Robinson Canó
  • Alex Rodriguez
  • Mariano Rivera
  • Mike Mussina
  • CC Sabathia

Choosing one of these guys is going to be hard. For example, how can you pass up A-Rod? Imagine 2005 or 2007 A-Rod suiting up in between Judge or Stanton. I feel sorry for the baseballs would take on a new meaning! Bernie and Canó, aside from being awesome, also are lefties at premium positions. Bernie suiting up in center field makes sense in the context of the 2020 Yankees’ needs and lineup. So does Canó.

In terms of pitchers, you can’t go wrong with Rivera. I don’t need to explain that one. Mike Mussina’s 2001 is probably the most underrated pitching season in recent Yankee history. (He should have won the Cy Young!) CC Sabathia, of course, would be a lefty workhorse atop the rotation.

Given Severino’s injury, I think taking a pitcher makes the most sense. I say Mussina — you can’t go wrong with CC either — only because he never got a ring. I want to change that. A few days ago, before the Severino news, I’m taking Canó. Give me that swing, that lefty bat, and that defense on this team every day and twice on Sunday. Can’t go wrong with any choices.

Iron Mike Asks: If the league wanted to increase offense, What do you think would help hitters more: using the college level metal bats, or moving the pitchers mound back a foot? 

Oh, I think it’s metal bats for sure. There is scientific evidence that exit velocities are way, way higher off aluminum bats. Swings are faster, sweet spots are larger, and balls fly off the bat. It would make the 2019 season look like 1968. Moving the mound back would probably help batters too, but metal bats would have an outrageous impact. After all, there is a reason that it hasn’t ever happened despite the game advancing in so many other ways with new and emerging tech. That’s because of how dangerous it is. Someone would get killed.

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6 Comments

  1. MikeD

    Bernie definitely, and A-Rod of course. One of the best offensive players at either SS or 3B. Is this picking a single year, or adding the player for his career, or peak years? I’d probably go with Jeter above Cano. Jeter’s peak offensive season comes in at 153 OPS+, which bests Cano’s best season. Jeter’s 11-year peak offense averages 125 OPS+, marginally lower than Cano’s best 11-year stretch at 129. Jeter was more athletic, and, yeah, I’ll take those intangibles as well as Jeter’s ability to match his in-season production during the postseason against the best pitchers. Cano pretty much tanked in the post season with a .222 AVG and an OPS in the .600’s. The only hesitation I have is having a lefty AB in the lineup of Cano’s quality would be sweet.

    • Mateo Can (Could) Hit (Kinda)

      Becuase it’s the best season I’ve ever seen anyone play, I just want to reiterate that The Rod in 07 hit .314 with a .420 obp, smacked 54 dingers and even stole 24 bags. Was still a solid defender at 3b too. He was sooooo good that year.

  2. dasit

    96 mariano because i didn’t fully appreciate what i was seeing back then

  3. DanGer

    The bat technology questions has me wondering – will we ever see another material replace wood, or is that sacrilege? Bamboo? Plastic? Some sort of composite material?

    • MikeD

      We could see it, although the composite replacement would have to produce a sound that imitates the crack of the bat. I don’t see MLB every adopting the “ping” of the bat that comes with aluminum.

  4. JG (Melky Mesa)

    For hitters I think you need to take 05 or 07 Arod. For pitchers I would go 97 Cone.

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