Mailbag: Revisiting Old Moves, Gleyber’s Defense, Josh Hader, HR Milestones

Woof, that was a rough week. The Yankees lost a number of players to injury and fell into second place all while getting swept by the Rays at Yankee Stadium. Did not like. And now, of course, there is no Yankees game tonight after the Mets had two positive COVID cases. This also probably means the whole weekend series will be moved. There won’t be a way to wash away the stink just yet.

Here’s a mailbag to hold you over. We have four great questions today. As always, send yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We answer our favorites each week.

Paul Asks: I looked it up and the Yankees somehow got Luke Voit, Gio Urshela and Mike Tauchman for 1 (one) bag of (not even magical) beans. How is that possible? Did the Yankees have them all tweak their swings to transform from nothing’s into All-Star caliber players? I seriously don’t understand how this happened. Did people from the teams they came from get fired over this? 

The short answer is that the Yankees are very smart. They’re a well-run operation that relies on a robust analytic team that doesn’t treat any transaction or pickup as “minor.” All things are not equal in terms of analytics, scouting, and modeling. Some teams are better than others. Let’s run through each of these trades in more detail, though:

  • Luke Voit Trade: Yankees get Voit, Cardinals get Chasen Shreve & Gio Gallegos
  • Gio Urshela Purchase: Yankees get Urshela, Blue Jays get $25,000
  • Mike Tauchman Trade: Yankees get Tauchman, Rockies get Phil Diehl

On the whole, those are pretty lopsided trades. Again, though, they are not all created equal. The Yankees long believed in Voit, with the analytic staff believing he had an extremely high ceiling due to his minor league batted ball data. This trade was a good match, too: St. Louis got a very good reliever in Gio Gallegos, though I’m sure they’d rather have Voit. (Voit has been better than Paul Goldschmidt, who St. Louis traded for that offseason.) It’s not quite as much of a “steal” as the others, though it certainly was ideal for New York.

The others aren’t as straightforward. Cashman “felt there was potential impact with [Tauchman’s] bat” and it sure seems like they’ve tapped into that potential. As for Urshela, well, everyone is surprised by what he’s become – including Cashman. He told Ken Rosenthal last year that “we didn’t have that type of predictive model at all that would project this.”

There’s one other element here, too: and that’s the organization itself. Gio tweaked his swing in Triple-A once he got to Scranton and has been hitting ever since. The Yankees clearly have a skill for unlocking offensive value in these sorts of transactions, and we can’t ignore that. There’s no guarantee that Gio or Tauchman are as productive in Toronto or Colorado. Far from it, and that goes into evaluating these too.

In other words, this hits the holy trinity of transactions. They identified something in Voit and their faith paid off immediately. With Tauchman, they saw a versatile fielder with offensive potential that he found in the Bronx. (I don’t know if they tweaked his swing from Colorado to New York, but it wouldn’t shock me.) And with Gio, they may have just lucked into a perfect marriage. Sometimes, that’s all it takes.

Paul Asks: Can the Yankees win a World Series with Gleyber Torres at SS?  

Evaluating his performance in 2020.

Yes. I get that we’re all reactionary, but the freakout over Gleyber’s defense is a bit much to me right now. Let’s get the obvious part out of the way: he has not been good so far in 2020. He’s been bad by the advanced metric. He’s failed the eye test. And he’s made plenty of errors on what should be routine plays. This all matters.

However, he is 23-years-old. That’s always been the meme with Gleyber, right? And for good reason: because it implies that he can get even better than he already is. Usually, that applies to his bat – you’ll see tweets after he hits a home run, for example. But it should also apply to his glove. He can, and likely will, get better defensively, even if he never turns into Ozzie Smith.

And you know what? Even if he doesn’t, that’s just fine. Our man has a career .272/.338/.495 (120 wRC+) line offensively so far in his very young career. He was an absolute force last year. His bat is so good it overcomes his defensive deficiencies. We are Yankee fans. Aren’t we supposed to be comfortable with a mediocre defensive shortstop with a big bat? That rings a few bells!

If it turns out that Gleyber can’t man short in the long-term, so be it. The Yankees will find a spot for him. I am not worried about this at all, and neither should you. Anyway, all of this concern should be gone now. Gleyber is sidelined, so his defensive woes at short aren’t an issue. In fact, the Yankees now have two plus defenders up the middle in Thairo Estrada and Tyler Wade. Problem solved. Right?

Jack Asks: If there is one area where the Yanks will seek help in advance of the trade deadline, I would guess it’s the bullpen. Since Hader has pitched all of about six innings, and the Brewers need offense (where the Yanks have a surplus and redundancies) would he be available? What would it take to pry him away?

The Yankees have been connected to Josh Hader before. It happened last year and again after the Gerrit Cole signing. There is good reason for this. I mean, just look at Hader’s rankings among the 136 qualified relievers who pitched in 2018-19:

  • Strikeout Rate: 47.2% (1st)
  • Batting Average Against: .143 (1st)
  • fWAR: 4.9 (2nd)
  • Innings Pitched: 157.0 (5th)
  • FIP: 2.65 (8th)
  • HR/9: 1.38 (24th highest)

He’s been just as good this year in 7.1 innings, as he’s yet to surrender a run and has a 44.4% strikeout rate. He is simply one of the best in the business and there’s no way around it. The loss of Tommy Kahnle and now Zack Britton means the Yankee pen is now much more of a concern than it has been in the last three years. It would make sense to pursue an arm like Hader, even if the pen was normal. Now even more so.

Prying him away, though, feels like a tall task. He has just over 2 years of service time and is just arbitration eligible in 2021. He’d be here a while and he doesn’t command a big salary yet. Besides, the Brew Crew are just under .500 and probably aren’t super motivated to trade him.

For fun, though, I think the best comp is the Sean Doolittle trade to Washington back in 2017. Hader has been better than Doolittle was, and Doolittle was signed to an extension, but they both have similar innings totals (212 for Hader vs. 250 for Doolittle). It’s definitely not a perfect comp but there’s not a lot of comparisons out there. Anyway, the Nats gave up their 15th and 17th ranked prospects in addition to Blake Treinen. It was a haul.

In other words, the Brewers – who is younger! – would demand quite a lot from the Yankees. Fairly so! I’d guess they’d want a top-10 prospect, another top 20-25 ish guy, and an MLB-level player. It wouldn’t be cheap, and I don’t see it happening.

Christopher Asks: How many home runs would Trout need to hit this year to register as the greatest home run hitting season of all time? Nobody has ever hit 40 in a 60 game stretch. If he gets to 50, would people say “Bonds holds the record at 73 but Mike Trout hit 50 in that 60 game season and probably would’ve broken it”?

Great question and I’m really not sure. I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do this year that would ever top Bonds’ HR production in 2001. The man walked 27% of the time and hit 73 home runs in 476 at-bats. That is absolutely insane. I know Bonds has his flaws, but I really don’t think this season is appreciated for how good it was. That he played in 153 games (remember, seasons were only 154 games long before 1961) only adds to the mystique. There’s nothing anyone could do this year to do that.

I guess if Trout or someone else hit 50, yeah, that would do it. That would be beyond belief, but that just won’t happen. The Angels have played in 25 games and he has 10 home runs. That’s great! It is nowhere near 50, though. He’d have to hit 40 home runs in the next 35 games, and that is just not happening.

I think the best anyone could do is to hit 30 homers to enter this conversation. That’s at least one every two games, which is nuts and slightly better than Bonds. It’s also realistic in that people have done it before. And while everyone will always say “wow, I wish he could have done that over a full season”, that would be a damn impressive accomplishment. But I’m not holding my breath. And Bonds would still be more impressive.


Game 25: Swept Away By The Rays


Thoughts after the Subway Series is Postponed

1 Comment

  1. Terrible news for the Mets with Covid cases but man, the fewer games the Yankees have to play short-handed the better. We’ll see how the schedule shakes out coming from this but with any luck at least Judge will be back by the time they play again.

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