Mailbag: Looking to the trade deadline (already), bench construction, favorite game from 2013

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We have a couple of inquiries to address in this week’s mailbag. As always, send any questions you have to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We’ll consider and select our favorites each week. With that, let’s get to what in store this morning:

Daniel asks: Who do you think will be available at the trade deadline?

I think you’re going to see a spillover of some names we heard come up this winter. Kris Bryant and Trevor Story immediately come to mind as the two top players who could be available a few months from now. Hell, if the Bryant/Mets rumors from previous weeks have any validity, he may not even last until July.

The key thing that Bryant and Story have in common is that both are free agents after this season. Both don’t seem particularly likely to stay put on their current teams, either. The Cubs (Yu Darvish) and Rockies (Nolan Arenado) have just traded core players, clearly signaling a rebuild. Plus, Bryant’s relationship with the Cubs is icy and the Rockies never seem to hold on to their top players.

Now, I don’t really expect the Yankees to go for a big rental like Bryant or Story. That’s just not something they’ve done in a long time. Wouldn’t surprise me to see the Yankees go after an infielder midseason, but definitely not a top tier guy. Someone like Baltimore’s Freddy Galvis should be available. If not Galvis, likely another upcoming free agent.

It’s more likely that the Yankees go after another pitcher at the deadline. We’d all like to have Luis Castillo in pinstripes, but let’s not get carried away. I really doubt he’ll be available. The Reds have absolutely no good reason to trade him. In combing through pitchers in contract seasons, a few stood out as potentially available come the deadline:

  • Dylan Bundy
  • Zach Davies
  • Kevin Gausman
  • James Paxton

Bundy has fascinated me as a target since last summer, and I’m including him again. The Angels aren’t actually going to contend, right? Right. The Cubs just picked up Davies in the Darvish trade and there’s no reason to think they’re keeping Davies if they aren’t in the hunt. Then there’s Gausman, who the Yankees have had interest in before. Finally, why not a reunion with Paxton midseason? What if he’s back to throwing in the mid-to-upper 90s? The Mariners aren’t going anywhere. We know Paxton can pitch in New York. As strange as that would be, it could work.

Andrew asks: If Gardy isn’t re-signed, who has a better chance of sticking as the last outfielder? Mike Tauchman or Greg Allen?

Before picking one, it’s necessary to illustrate what the Yankees’ bench could look like opening day. Since there’s no limit to the number of pitchers carried on the 26-man roster, the Yankees could have only three players on the pine. A backup catcher (Kyle Higashioka), a reserve infielder (Tyler Wade), and a fourth outfielder (Tauchman/Allen). Should they go four, both Tauchman and Allen could make it, in theory. It just seems more likely that the final spot would go to a more bat-centric player. Perhaps that’s Miguel Andújar, or seemingly more likely: a lefty bat with pop like Jay Bruce, Derek Dietrich, or Mike Ford.

As tempting as it may be to carry 14 pitchers to start the season, I really feel that 13 will be sufficient. Thus, a four man bench. I know the Yankees (and other teams) want to protect their pitchers after a short season without full workloads, but is an eight man bullpen really not enough to do that? What do I know. In any event, let’s assume a four man bench. That means we can’t rule out Tauchman and Allen making the team. Still, it feels like one of the bat-first players I mentioned before grabs that last spot, leaving Tauchman and Allen to duke it out for the fourth outfielder role.

Now, to answer the question. Tauchman is the safe bet here. He’s someone the organization has clearly liked since 2019, in spite of us screaming into the void after each swing-and-miss on a middle-middle fastball during 2020. At least projection systems like ZiPS (101 wRC+) foresee a rebound. More importantly for the bench role is that he’s a good defender. No, he’s not a true center fielder, but he won’t embarrass himself at that position.

Even if you’re down on Tauchman like I am, at least he’s had some semblance of offensive success in the majors (2019). Allen hasn’t. He has a lifetime 70 wRC+ in 618 plate appearances, with no individual season above 76. The one leg up he has on Tauchman is defense. Again, Tauchman isn’t a true center fielder, whereas Allen is certainly comfortable in that spot. I just doubt that will be enough for Allen to seize the job.

Steven asks: What is your favorite game from the 2013 season outside of Mo’s final one?

Can’t say that 2013 was a particularly memorable Yankees season, so this isn’t easy to answer. The team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2008 and just second time since the 1994-1995 strike. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez spent a lot of time on the injured list. The replacements included past-their-primes Travis Hafner and Vernon Wells. CC Sabathia took a step back. There wasn’t much joy after the team came down to earth after April, so it took some box score sleuthing to remind me of notable games that year.

Now, even if I could choose Mariano Rivera’s last game, I’m not sure I’d pick it as my favorite. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but it took 56 batters to come and go in a meaningless regular season game before Rivera entered. It was definitely a good moment as Mo walked off that mound one last time, but the rest of the game was meh.

I’m having a hard time picking a favorite game between the following two:

Andy Pettitte going the distance in his final game

Ton of build up in this one. And no, the game didn’t have any playoff implications, but the fact that it was close from start to finish, Pettitte’s last hurrah, and that he did it all by himself was enthralling. The Yankees didn’t lead until the sixth inning and Pettitte hadn’t gone the distance since 2006, mind you. But he got the job done: a 116 pitch complete game victory, 2-1 over Houston. Even the last out was nerve-wracking: a sharp grounder to the error-prone Eduardo Núñez with the tying run on first base, which followed Joe Girardi’s mound visit.

A-Rod getting revenge in Yankees’ comeback back at Fenway

It was so satisfying to watch A-Rod get payback for Dempster purposely throwing at him earlier in this one. That it kickstarted the Yankees’ comeback wasn’t bad, either. Last but not least, it’s always fun to win a game like that in a hostile environment like Fenway Park.

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8 Comments

  1. MikeD

    I suspect Allen is a hedge, picked up in case they don’t come to an agreement with Gardner. They will need someone who can play CF, and it doesn’t appear they have faith in Tauchman as a CFer. Allen will stick with the club through camp, but being that he’s out of options, he either makes the team, or is traded/released. Once Gardner shows up in camp, and I believe he will, Allen’s brief stay as a Yankee will be done.

    I suspect the four man bench will be:

    Higgy
    Gardner
    Tauchman
    Bruce

    • MikeD

      Wait, I keep forgetting we’re forced to keep Wade as a SS. Hmmm, well, in that case, Bruce may not survive either. Ford seems to have zero chance of remaining. How did he stick on the roster all season? I guess because they were carrying more than a 26-man roster. He’s toast. Being forced to keep Wade and his non-bat is a problem.

    • Mike Fetkowitz

      Who’s the backup infielder?

  2. I’d like to see the Yankee bench allow Boone to be able to create some favorable match-ups & in order to do that, the Yankees need solid situational hitters who are adept from the left side of the plate. This would make the Yankees less prone to dominant, right handed pitching (thinking back to how Tampa was able to keep the Yankees in check with their parade of relievers who all throw 98 mph..etc.

    After watching the Dodgers balanced lineup produce a World Series Championship, I’d really like to see the Yankees become a little better balanced. Cashman has publicly stated he has refrained from doing that for the sheer sake of balance & at the expense of talent & I’m pretty sure we all get that. I’m not here to debate the matter, I’m just hoping to see better balance as time goes along.

    For better balance to happen, perhaps a good place to start would be the bench. The problem is, in my humble opinion, the best player with offensive upside that could earn a bench spot is Miguel Andujar & he is another right-handed hitter, who like many Yankees, hits right-handed pitching pretty well. In 2018, Miggy put up a season better than ANY hopeful Yankee reserve-role candidate & it’s not even close.

    In the age of Three Outcome Baseball, Miggy is a throwback. He’s a bad ball hitter who doesn’t walk, hits for average & laces extra base hits at an amazing clip. Compared to some of the alternatives, I’ll say it right now. Mark me down for Miggy to earn a roster spot….but, can he succeed as a part time player? He’s never shown this to be the case, but his performance as a reserve player is too small of a sample size to draw any real conclusions about.

    I lost a ton of confidence in Mike Ford, Mike Tauchman and Tyler Wade last season, but I keep reminding myself that it was a highly unusual season, not to mention a ridiculously small sample size. That said, this season appears to be a make or break year for Ford, Tauchman & Wade.

    I’m 100% okay if Cashman wants to upgrade the bench & quite frankly, Cashman’s off-season moves were pretty darn intriguing, given Hal’s self imposed budget restrictions. With what he had to work with, Cashman really made some fun moves. I know, it remains to be seen if any of these moves really pan out or not. Time will tell.

    Circa 2017 Jay Bruce would be interesting, in a lineup already laden with big bashers, but even at his best that year, he was striking out at a 25% clip. He’s actually not an atrocious Outfielder & he hits right-handed pitching. He’s willing to go with a pitch & take it the other way also. I have to admit, I’m intrigued with him.

    I also think Mike Tauchman deserves a look, but if his power has vanished, he becomes a lot less intriguing. Last year, his complete lack of production really was discouraging, especially after such a solid 2019, where he still didn’t get nearly enough AB’s for us to fall completely in love with him.

    That brings me to Derek Dietrich. He’s a poor defensive Outfielder who has value perhaps as a part time 1B but considering Voit hits right-handed pitching pretty well, I don’t see how he fits into the roster. In his best season, which was 2018, he struck out 28% of the time. He is accustomed to coming off the bench though. This may work in his favor.

    The Yankees really should consider a 4 man bench comprised of Higgy (who could very well be the Yankees starting catcher by the All-Star break, if Sanchez continues his prolific dive), Miggy, Wade & Bruce. Here’s why:

    First off, the lineup benefits from Bruce slotting in #6.

    1. DJ – 2B
    2. Judge – RF
    3. Hicks – CF
    4. Stanton – DH
    5. Voit – 1B
    6. Bruce – LF / Miggy DH & LF (& Stanton LF)
    7. Torres – SS
    8. Urshela – 3B
    9. Higgy / Sahchez – C

    The roster still has issues & the lineup, as constructed, is vulnerable & too right-handed. The Yankees lack a viable backup SS, who if called upon could play a month or more due to unforseen injury to Torres. The Yankees lack a reliable backup CF who could do the same not if, but when Hicks gets injured yet again. Wade was supposed to be a poor man’s Ben Zobrist who could do these things, but…he ain’t. Kid can’t hit. Boone doesn’t play him in the OF either.

    Hicks is also not an ideal #3 Hitter. He’s far better off batting #9 due to his low batting average but high OBP & Speed.

    The Yankees now have Chrinos as insurance against very possible Sanchez ineffectiveness. He’s a serviceable backup Catcher I suppose.

    I’d have rather seen Yadier Molina added & Sanchez dropped to be honest. May not have possible though. I’d also loved to have seen a trade for Lindor along with retaining DJ but that would have blown the self-imposed Steinbrenner budget to smithereens. I’d have loved a trade for Jose Ramirez even more but Cleveland isn’t moving him. I also loved the idea of Tommy LaStella but once DJ was signed & given that LaStella doesn’t play SS, plus the fact that LaStella got a pretty sweet contract from the Giants, it was clear dreams of him on the Yankees bench instead of Wade were quite unrealistic financially speaking, not to mention that Wade is on okay glove as SS with a strong arm.

    Given what was available & the budget constraints imposed by Hal Steinbrenner, I have to say I’m content as a fan. The Yankees strategy & focus on Pitching – with Bauer & Tailion and O’Day & Wilson is absolutely a fun one with a ton of reward possible.

    Grabbing Bruce on a minor league deal was a poor man’s equivalent of adding Kyle Shwarber kind of. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Bruce stick & that’s kind of a shame because I had really hoped that by now, Estevan Florial would be pushing Hicks over to LF where he belongs.

    • villapalomares

      You overlooked Frazier in left.

      • Cary Green

        Yes I was just thinking of the bench players here. Absolutely Mr Frazier is our starting left fielder for sure. It’s going to be very interesting to see what he will do with regular AB’s over the course of a full major league season. Major League pitchers will adjust and he will have to counter adjjust,probably numerous times.

        The real question is, whether or not Red Thunder can improve in his pitch recognition. With those quick hands of his, if he does this, he has a real chance to be a very good OF. I have a little skepticism on his defensive ability simply because he doesn’t really take the greatest routs to balls at times & we’ve gotten used to Brett Gardner playing a pretty solid OF.

        There’s a lot of intrigue with this roster and Frazier is definitely one of the players that all eyes will be on. Lots of questions need to be answered.

        Can Torres play SS effectively enough to remain there? Can Judge stay healthy enough to play meaningful innings? Can Sanchez bounce back or did the Yankees make a big mistake in tendering him? Will Stanton ever make his way back to the outfield or is he a full-time DH going forward, for the remainder of his contract?

        Speaking of Stanton, what will be the effect of his new training regimen in allowing him to get back out into the outfield at least on a part-time basis? Is German going to be able to contribute meaningfully or is he destined for the bullpen? Was it a mistake to bring German back?

        Can Hicks stay healthy? What happens if Sanchez can’t rebound? Can Higgy step up for the long haul?

        Then we get into the most important questions regarding Kluber & Co. I can’t remember a season with more questions than this one.

  3. Cary Green

    Nice coverage as always! I was particularly drawn to what the Yankees benchmate look like given that so many interesting players have been invited to camp this year. I would think based on balance, we’d be looking at some left-handers earning spots on the 26-man roster. I would also guess that anybody who’s stashable in the Minors would pair the list of potential opening day candidates down a little bit.

    Also I thought last year the rule was that there was a limit on the number of pitchers that could be carried and therefore teams had to carry 4 extra position players. Did that rule change from last year to this year?

    I was thinking the interest of speeding up the game we would want to definitely limit the number of pitchers managers have access to in a given game. Of course the three batter minimum rule certainly eliminated some of the single batter picking changes that stat happy managers were making. Can’t say as I really enjoyed watching those types of changes so I guess the rule from my perspective is a good rule. I’m not sure it really speeded up games though. That would be above my pay grade to determine lol. Thoughts in these questions?

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