Happy Friday, everyone. We’re just a few hours away from Game 5. In the meantime, let’s open up this week’s mailbag. I’m only answering two questions because so many of this week’s questions related to the offseason after losses in Game 2 and Game 3. Let’s wait until the Yankees are actually eliminated (if they are eliminated!) to discuss the 2021 plans.
As always, shoot your questions to viewsfrom 314 [at] gmail [dot] com. Away we go:
Dan asked/suggested: The Yanks need to rethink their bullpen usage. Considering the no off days and the fact that they have only three good relievers, the Yanks should try using starters out of the pen on their throw days. It worked for the Nats last year. Do you think Masahiro Tanaka or JA Happ are up for it?
I understand this sentiment, but the Nationals didn’t have much of a choice last year. The only reliever Washington could really trust was Daniel Hudson. Sean Doolittle too, I suppose. The Yankees have a deeper bullpen that’s really good on paper, inconsistencies aside. And sure, the lack of off days this postseason makes it more difficult on the Yankees’ traditional relievers, but it’s not as if that makes it any easier for starters as well.
It’s also important to point out that Washington really only did this with Patrick Corbin, who came out of the ‘pen five times last October. Yes, Stephen Strasburg relieved in the do-or-die Wild Card Game and Max Scherzer made one bullpen appearance in the NLDS, but that’s it.
Corbin, mind you, had a 3.25 ERA in 202 innings as a starter in the regular season. Masahiro Tanaka and JA Happ simply aren’t of that caliber and seem less certain to translate into good relievers. And it’s not like this strategy paid off for Washington right away. Corbin got bombed in his first relief outing against the Dodgers.
On top of that, Washington could afford to weaken its rotation. Having Scherzer and Strasburg up top allow that. Meanwhile, Corbin didn’t pitch very well in his two starts following relief work (11 innings, 8 runs). There’s a good chance he wasn’t as effective because those relief outings were much more strenuous than a traditional throw day. I don’t think the Yankees can afford to hurt its non-Gerrit Cole starters any further. The depth just isn’t there.
Now, to directly answer the question of whether or not Tanaka and Happ are up for the task? I guarantee you Tanaka is. You may recall this before he joined the Yankees:
That was Game 7 of the Japan Series. A winner take all scenario where everyone’s available. Maybe we see Tanaka tonight. Remember, this is different than pitching on a throw day: the Yankees have to win this one. Everything is thrown out the window here. Pitching Tanaka in relief in the middle of a series? I’d rather not.
And Happ? No way, especially after we saw how he handled Game 2 of this series. Not like I’d want to see him getting big outs in relief anyway.
A few asked a variation of: What’s Gary Sánchez’s future with the Yankees?Embed from Getty Images
It’s really starting to feel like Sánchez won’t be back next year, isn’t it? Gary’s started just two of the Yankees’ six postseason games this season after a really dreadful 2020 regular season. The team’s patience with him has seemed to wear thin, and in fairness, Kyle Higashioka has done well in his opportunities (.313/.353/.500 this postseason).
Sánchez, who is three years young than the 30 year-old Higashioka, isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2022 season. So, the Yankees could very easily bring him back next season and try this all over again. One reader asked if he could be sent to the minors, and the answer to that is no. He has no more options remaining, so it’s the majors or bust.
A trade really feels like a possibility. I can’t say I want to trade him: catchers don’t grow on trees, you know. Are we sure that Kyle Higashioka and a free agent signing (i.e. James McCann, Jason Castro, or Tyler Flowers?) are a better option than trying to run it back next year? And no, they are not signing JT Realmuto.
Now, the Yankees know that catchers are hard to find and I’m not sure they necessarily want to trade Sánchez, as bad as he’s been. But like what happened with Sonny Gray, it may just be time for a change in scenery. The Yankees sold low on Gray even though they still needed pitching and he’s done great in Cincinnati. I have this vision of Gary getting traded to the Marlins and blossoming down in Miami.