Category: Mailbag Page 1 of 10

Mailbag: Zack Britton, J.A. Happ, 2021 Rotation, Alternate Site, & More

Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees are 9-3 and sit comfortably in first-place, with a four-game lead over Baltimore and Tampa Bay in second. The season is now 20% through, believe it or not, so this is about as good a position as you could reasonably want from the Yanks at this point. Things are good.

It’s time for another mailbag. We have six good questions today. As always, please send in yours to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com to be included in a future edition. We answer our favorites each Friday.

Iron Mike Asks: With the dominant closing of Britton, shouldn’t the Yanks consider keeping him at closer? He has been a groundball machine which is in contrast to Chapman, who has much more of a track record of being wild.

Aroldis Chapman is probably the best reliever in Yankees history to give fans this much agita. From a purely on-field perspective alone, it is completely unwarranted. To wit, here are Aroldis’ statistics and associated rankings since joining the Yankees in 2016, (including two months in Chicago):

  • fWAR: 8.1 (1st)
  • FIP: 2.07 (1st)
  • Average Fastball Velocity: 99.6 mph (1st among RP w/ 1,000+ fastballs)
  • ERA: 2.33 (3rd)
  • HR/9: 0.42 (4th)
  • Strikeout Rate: 38.3% (5th)
  • Batting Average Against: .147 (5th)

The point here is that Chapman, wild though he may be at times, is one of the most consistent and reliable relievers in all of baseball. The only argument against having him be a closer 100% of the time would be to use him in the higher leverage situations, if possible. That’s not going to happen, but he is the best reliever the Yankees have. They treat him as such, and they should and should continue to do so.

It’s also true that Britton has been great in pinstripes. He has a 2.04 ERA (3.74 FIP) in 91.1 IP with a preposterous 77.2% ground ball rate. The walk rate (12%) is high, but this sample includes his recovery from an achilles tear. He’s looked better with basically every appearance. But he’s still not Chapman. Britton will not – and should not – replace Chapman as the closer, assuming Chapman is healthy.

Jeff Asks: Why shouldn’t the Yankees straight up release J.A. Happ right now?  The simple answer I’m assuming is “depth”, but what good is that if he can’t get anyone out?  I’d rather watch a Schmidt, Garcia, King, etc. struggle than Happ.

The simple answer is always the correct one. The Yankees shouldn’t release J.A. Happ because they’ll need the depth. Pitchers across the league are getting injured at a historic rates in 2020. That’s not speculation: it’s measurable and true. As bad as Happ has been – and he’s been bad – I don’t think the Yankees should get rid of a stretched out MLB arm. You just never know what might happen.

With that said, though, let me be extremely clear: J.A. Happ should not start another game for the 2020 Yankees, barring those major injuries. He has been very bad. Thursday’s start was infuriating to watch. This is not a James Paxton situation, where a star pitcher is struggling and needs to get right. Happ is getting older with declining velocity and spin rates coupled with worsening control. He shouldn’t be “figuring it out” in the MLB rotation for a team competing for a World Series. Give those innings to Clarke Schmidt, please.

The Yankees should use him in a long relief role where he primarily faces lefties. He was much better against LHB (.652 OPS against) than RHP (.830 OPS) in 2019. To the extent that Happ is salvageable, I think that is the role best conducive to his skillset right now.

Jonathan Asks: Gut feeling where do you think the rotation will be next year? With Sevy injured and Tanaka, Paxton, and Happ (hopefully) free agents. It’s just Cole and Gumby. I know the Yankees are loaded with good position players but the rotation is in major flux. I think the Yankees will re-sign Tanaka and go with the Schmidts, Kings and Garcias of the world. The Gleybers, Judges and Sanchezs of the world will get expensive so I think the Yankees will go cheap on pitching even though they need more. What do you think? 

I agree about Tanaka. I think the Yankees/Tanaka marriage is working for both sides and I fully expect the two sides to work out an agreement to keep in him pinstripes for the next few years at least. It’s tough to say beyond that right now though.

The ultimate variable is James Paxton, who has just looked horrific so far in 2020. He’s not right, but there is a mechanical issue reason and the Yankees insist he’s healthy. Still, if his velocity drops 5+ mph and he’s unable to regain his 2017-19 form, it’s a big blow to him as a free agent. Perhaps the Yankees re-sign him to a cheap 1-2 year deal and try to get him right. And even if he does regain his old form soon, his free agency profile is really complicated by all this. I don’t know. We need to see more.

As for the rest of the class, there probably aren’t a lot of pitchers out there in whom the Yanks will be interested. Marcus Stroman and Robbie Ray, two pitchers formerly connected to the Yanks, are the headliners of the class. We all remember Cashman’s comment about Stroman not being good enough to crack last year’s playoff rotation, and Ray has his own issues. I don’t know that they’re going to commit dollars to these guys, but the market will be weird and probably depressed. Shrug.

If there is going to be a big splash for the Yanks in the rotation, it’ll probably come in the form of a trade for a cost-controlled starter with upside, like they did with James Paxton after 2018. I’ll have to think more about who that might be, though.

Max Asks: Is there coaching support for players at the alternate site? For example, the Triple-A staff. Also, can players not on the alternate roster play with players that are, for development? For example, Jasson Dominguez.

The best way to imagine the dystopian-named Alternate Site is to think of it like Spring Training 2.0. There are organizational coaches there running drills, organizing simulated games, and the like. Remember, these are the guys who can get called up at a moment’s notice, and the entire point of the site is to theoretically replace the entire team in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak.. They have to be ready.

Twins outfielder Lane Adams gave a pretty good overview of what’s happening at the Twins’ alternate site here. I imagine that is roughly equivalent to what’s going on everywhere, including in Scranton for the Yankees’ other 30 guys. It’s not a MiLB season, but it’s better than nothing, I guess.

That’s what non-rostered players – like Jasson Dominguez – are dealing with right now. Nothing. Their contracts are currently suspended and they’re even allowed to play with independent league teams to get regular reps. It’s truly unprecedented. My guess, though, is that a number of the Yankees’ big-time prospects are in regular contact with the team, working out with MiLB/development staff, and getting their reps in.

Paul Asks: If a starting pitcher pitches all 7 innings of a doubleheader game, does he get credit for a complete game?

Yes. A pitcher earns a complete game in any circumstances in which he was the only pitcher to make an appearance for his team during an official game, however long it lasts. It’s not the pitchers’ fault that the game is only seven innings. This is why, if you check Gerrit Cole’s 2020 statistics, you’ll see he has a complete game on the ledger – from the rain-shortened season opener in Washington. Is it quite a bit cheaper? Sure. But it’s a complete game nonetheless.

Sam Asks: Rob Manfred decrees that in 2021 there will be a Designated Fielder, a 10th person to play defense who isn’t in the lineup. Where would you put that person in a standard defensive alignment?

Love this question, but I’m afraid to even answer it. I’m afraid doing so will speak it into existence. But it’s fun, so why not. In most cases, I’d put the extra defender behind second base as a fifth-infielder. You basically get the benefits of the shift without having to move anyone out of position (and protect against bunts, which actually do work against the shift).

And of course, you could use that person as a super shifter. Put them into the outfield when a pitcher or batter has extreme FB rates, etc. It is a fun thought experiment but let’s hope nobody gets any ideas.

Mailbag: Andújar’s Playing Time, Plate Approach, Suspended Season, Luxury Tax

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(via Yankees)

Happy Friday, everyone. I’m tired, but it feels good to be tired after the Yankees won a late night game, doesn’t it? The 4-1 Yankees – their best start since 2003 – will take on the Boston Red Sox in tonight’s home opener. But first let’s enjoy Judge’s go-ahead blast last night one more time:

Can’t get enough. Anyway, it’s time for a mailbag. We have four great questions today. As always, send your questions in to viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We choose our favorites each week.

Alex Asks: Can’t help but think it will be hard to see what Miggy truly has this season barring injury. The Yankees seem loathe to play him at 3B, and LF time is few and far between with Gardy and Tauchman also in the mix. Do you think Miggy will start >20 games this year? Does Gio stick as the everyday 3b if his bat does not wake up? 

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Andújar has already played in two games in the outfield: Sunday against Washington and last night against Baltimore. In both cases, the opposition ran out a lefty starter and Andújar got the nod over Brett Gardner, who struggles against southpaws. Pretty easy to connect the dots there. It’s worth noting that Tauchman has not started any games in left field. He just gave Hicks a spell in center before replacing Andújar in the outfield last night after the rain delay.

In other words, the Yankees will give Andújar opportunities. If Gardner continues to slide – something I wouldn’t bet on – then I’d expect to see even more of him either in LF or as a DH. (Believe it or not, Giancarlo can play in the outfield.) That’s a good thing. Andújar’s bat can be a real difference maker. As for 3B, though, I think that ship has sailed. He’s just not an MLB-caliber defensive player at the hot corner.

For the broader point, it’ll be hard to see what anyone really has this year. 60 games is just simply not a lot. We shouldn’t be changing our opinion on too many players in that sample, especially given all of the weirdness with the scheduling etc. If Aaron Judge or Cody Bellinger or Francisco Lindor struggle, are they bad? Etc. We’re in uncharted waters. It’s going to be weird for player evaluation, especially for guys returning from injury like Andújar or coming off a breakout season like Urshela. We will need 2021 to answer those questions. It’s just how it is.

Fabrice Asks: Do you think that the shortened season will encourage a “strikeout friendly” team like the Yankees to adapt their plate discipline?

I don’t think we’ll see any team dramatically adjust their offensive strategy for this season. The short season changes a lot of things but I feel like the teams that will have the most success will be the teams that stay true to themselves. That’s especially true for the Yankees, who are an offensive juggernaut.

Yes, it feels like they strike out a lot (23%), but 18 (!!) teams struck out more than the Yanks in 2019. Just 11 teams, by contrast, walked more than the Yankees (9.1%). The Yankees have a dominant offense with a proven approach that works for them. A 60-game season introduces more variance and noise, especially on an individual level, but it’s long enough for the truly elite teams to be elite. The best way to get those results is to stick to what works.

Paul Asks: The current season is looking less and less likely to reach its natural conclusion. If it does, in fact, get banged, do you think MLB and the MLBPA might consider an earlier/longer/modified season for 2021? Maybe a 3 month winter season Nov-Jan in domed stadiums followed by a month off and then back to spring training in March?

It’s a tough call. First of all, I’m not sure that the season won’t reach its natural conclusion. I thought that the other day, for sure, and today’s news about the Cardinals is certainly not encouraging. More positives, now in a different region. A fifth of the league is not playing tonight due to players or staff testing positive for the virus. It’s definitely not good. That said, it certainly feels like the league is going to just keep going. At least, that’s the case right now.

Still, your idea makes sense. Stopping it all for a few weeks, identifying an area for a secure area for a bubble, as the NBA/WNBA/MLS is doing, and setting up some sort of a tournament could certainly make sense. In fact, you could argue that this is what the league should be doing right now.

All I know is that the league is going to do absolutely everything it can to keep the season moving as close to full-steam ahead. They’ll probably also be as flexible as possible if they suspend the season and do something to get games on the calendar again. What that will look like, if it comes to that, is anyone’s guess.

Asher Asks: How does the luxury tax work this season? Is the tax line just prorated to 60/162 of the regular number?

First things first: no, the luxury tax threshold is not pro-rated. That’s because the value of a contract in a specific year isn’t what counts against the threshold – it’s the average annual value of that contract – so the pro-rated salaries don’t matter. That’s how it’s working this year, too. According to the Boston Globe, “the full-season, average annual value” of contracts will determine the 2020 luxury tax penalties.

There is a catch, however. The league will suspend the luxury tax if they have to end the season before August 31. For accounting purposes, the league would pretend it’s 2019 – so if you were over the line in 2019, you were over it in 2020, too. There is no reset, but there’s also no tax. Still, that would sting teams like the Red Sox, who maneuvered all offseason to shed salary. By contrast, the Yankees, who are in a higher tier in 2020, would benefit.

Really, though, let’s hope this situation doesn’t come to pass. More safe and healthy baseball, please.

Mailbag: Concern About James Paxton, Zack Britton in Extras, Aaron Judge’s Injuries, Ma and Pa Pinstripe

Happy Friday, everyone. We’re now less than a week away to Opening Day, and now we even have a venue for the Yankees’ first game. Imagine that. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to have some baseball to watch – even the intrasquad games are comforting – but I just hope it can work. Adding in travel schedule, plus all of the additional personnel, is where this whole thing will fall apart if it’s going to. We’ll see, I guess.

Anyway, four good mailbag questions today. As always, drop us a line at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com if you have questions for a future edition. We answer our favorites every Friday.

Twitter User CouldntCareBear Asks: Should we be worried about James Paxton? I know it was only an intrasquad game but 2 HR’s in the 1st inning?

Not yet – or at least not for that reason. I’m not really focusing on intrasquad results, even at this late point in camp. There’s two sides to the coin here, right? Paxton gave up two home runs on Wednesday (bad) but Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge hit them (good). That makes it a bit more challenging from an analytical POV.

Anyway, for pitchers, I’m more interested in their workload, how their stuff looks, and what their velocity is. That’s where it’s more reasonable to be concerned about Paxton. He is recovering from back surgery, and while he’s going to be ready for Game 2 of the season, that is always cause for concern.

And, as I noted yesterday, Paxton’s having some predictable issues for a man in his situation. He’s been working to correct an issue with his delivery and his velocity still isn’t where he wants it to be. That’s more concerning to me than any results in camp. If there’s anything to be worried about, it’s that.

Now, with that said, I’m not losing any sleep here. He says he’s fixed the delivery issue and also explained away the lack of velocity. On the one hand, what else is he going to say? But, on the other hand, the Yankees slotted him in to Game 2 of the season despite other options. That means they’re confident Paxton will be A-OK next week. If they feel good about it, I do too – but I’m still going to be watching his upcoming exhibition game closely.

Dave Asks: Will the Yankees consider holding Zack Britton for the 10th inning in tie games given his ground ball ratio and the new extra inning rules?

This is an interesting idea that came during a discussion of Adam Ottavino’s potential extra innings vulnerability. The idea would be to hold Britton for extras given his extreme ground ball rates. Aaron Boone certainly has other capable weapons in a tie game, and perhaps this would be a way to maximize Britton’s unique skillset. As Derek noted earlier this week, the man just does not surrender fly balls:

That could matter a lot. With the new extra innings rule, teams are going to bunt a ton. That means we can expect a man on 3rd with 1 out in many cases. There is certainly some value in having a guy on the hill who is far less likely to surrender a sac fly than anyone else. It also opens up the option of intentionally walking whoever is up, putting runners on the corners with 1 out, and going for the double play.

That strategy comes with obvious risks – putting runners on in tied or close games is not preferable – but it’s at least something to consider. Now, do the Yankees want to hold Britton for the ideal situation? I don’t think so. (It also might not even be the ideal situation, as a high K% guy is preferable.) Always use your best arms as soon as possible – something Britton knows all too well – and that’s what the Yankees should do. Depending on the situation, though, it could work. And it’s something the Yankees could consider depending on who is available and when, but likely won’t come into play until Chapman returns. I’m fine with that.

Jonathan Asks: MLB history is full of terrific players whose careers were ruined by injuries. Greg Bird was a recent example of just such a player. For those of us who are more senior, the Brooklyn Dodgers (remember them?) had a young star outfielder Pete Reiser who kept running into walls and injuring himself, eventually ending a very promising career. Is Aaron Judge another Pete Reeser?

Let me start here by saying I love the reference. It prompted me to lookup Reiser, who I’d never heard of before this, and that guy had a fascinating, sad career. He also missed three years for World War II service in addition to his apparently chronic injuries. Still, he hit .295/.380/.450 (128 OPS+) in 10 seasons that included 3 top 10 MVP finishes. Not bad!

I’ll take your word on the root cause of his injuries, too, because I think that makes this a better question (and comparison) than simply asking if Judge is “injury-prone.” Judge’s most recent injury – “stiff neck” notwithstanding – came from him laying out in a meaningless game in September. He broke his rib on this play:

Ouch! Another prominent injury of his came on a HBP in 2018 and a banged up shoulder from hard play in 2017. These are not “made of glass” injuries, despite what the Twitterati may say. And it’s not going to change anytime soon: “You break a bone in your ribs from diving, trying to make a play for your pitcher, get hit in the wrist by a pitcher – it’s just freak things. I’m going to keep playing this game hard, and that’s all I know,” Judge said on Wednesday.

The point is that it’s premature to call Judge injury prone. He has battled injuries every year in his short career, sure, but I think they’re freak things. Maybe Judge will be perpetually hurt and I’ll look dumb for this. Certainly wouldn’t be the first time. But Judge is certainly no Greg Bird, and his injuries haven’t been as persistent Reiser’s. Let’s hope he stays healthy all year and next. Then we can finally put this to bed.

John Asks: John Sterling and Suzyn Waldman are the soundtrack of summer for our family of six Yankees fans. Have you heard if John and Suzyn will be broadcasting home and away games this season?

The rules for broadcasting are understandably different in 2020. There is a limit to the number of media members allowed in the park for a game. This is a good thing, given the pandemic. TV broadcasters are not traveling. That’s a universal rule. Radio is supposedly exempt. This is all still a work in progress.

For our purposes, it doesn’t matter. John and Suzyn will call home games as usual but won’t travel. (Again, that’s good, given their age.) Don’t fret, though: they’re still calling road games. They’re just doing it remotely from Yankee Stadium. Weird? Yes. But Ma and Pa Pinstripe will still be calling every pitch of the season this year, however long it lasts.

Mailbag: Judge and Stanton HR Record, Yankees vs. Dodgers, Stadium Ambiance, Jasson Dominguez, J.A. Happ, Rule 5 Draft

Happy Friday, everyone. The Yankees have returned to the Bronx and that means it’s time for the return of our mailbag. Exciting! It’s been a while, but it is good to have baseball to talk about again. I’m sure everyone else feels the same way.

If you have any questions, please send them to our gmail at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com. We choose our favorites each week and answer them on Friday. Today, we have six good questions. Let’s get right to it.

Iron Mike Asks: In a 60 game series, what statistical records would the this Yankees  roster be most likely to beat, i.e. DJ batting over .400 or most K/9 over a full season for a bullpen?

Yankees at Orioles 4/4/19

This is a good but tough question. We’re going to have to really change our point-of-view for a “dominant season” this year. Just check out this list of 60-game or fewer season “records” to get a sense of that. So, whatever record we’ll see will probably be something “boring” like K% or at-bats per home run. Something where a short, torrid stretch can really make a difference. I’m going to go with AB per HR. Barry Bonds, of course, holds the single-season record with a HR every 6.52 ABs in his record-setting 2001 season. The Yankees have two prime candidates to beat this mark in Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge.

Let’s start with Giancarlo, who ranks 5th all-time in this category (minimum 3000 PA), hitting a home run once every 13.81 at-bats. The only players better are Jim Thome (13.76), Barry Bonds (12.92), Babe Ruth (11.76), and Mark McGwire (10.61). Wild, right? This makes him a natural fit to break this record.

Not to mention, we’ve already seen Stanton rip off an incredible, Bonds-esque 60-game stretch. It happened in 2017, during his 59 HR season. From June 22 through August 29 of that season, Giancarlo hit .317/.422/.824 (212 wRC+) with an absurd 33 home runs in just 60 games. He had 221 at-bats over that period, meaning he hit one HR every 6.42 at-bats. That’s disgusting, and that mark be the single season record. He’d just eek out ahead of Bonds. Of course, it’s unlikely Stanton will ever be this good again, but he did do it before. It’s at least possible.

The other option, of course, is Judge. He has a HR every 12.9 at-bats in his career (he obviously doesn’t qualify for the list above), which is even better than Stanton. It’s the same as Bonds (!), believe it or not. Also in 2017, Judge hit a HR every 10.4 at-bats, leading the league. An insane stretch from Judge might make a run at this at this record. I’d like to see it!

It’s extremely, extremely unlikely, to be fair. It’s almost certainly not going to happen. But this is the record I think we might see a Yankee break this year. An ideal world has both Judge and Stanton repeating their 2017s, but let’s not get greedy. Just one will do.

Andrew H. Asks: If the most exciting World Series matchup actually happens (Dodgers vs Yankees), who benefits more from the universal DH? Is it the Dodgers who can throw another bat into their loaded lineup or is it the Yankees who don’t need to waste their 9th slot with inexperienced AL pitchers trying to hit?

The correct answer here is both teams. Pitchers hitting is dumb and I will die on this hill. Both the Yankees and the Dodgers benefit from having a real hitter in that slot. Therefore, we win as fans. Everyone’s happy, except for cranks who can’t accept change that first began when [checks notes] Richard Nixon was President of the United States.

It’s tempting to say the Dodgers here – do they need another bat? – but I’m going to say the Yankees. The Dodgers didn’t construct their roster with a DH in mind. The Yankees did. Letting the Yanks go to Chavez Ravine with their normal lineup instead of a handicapped one feels like advantage Yankees, but I’m possibly viewing this through my pinstriped glasses. In any case, though, I don’t think it matters that much. I’d just like to see the Yanks and Dodgers in the World Series. That’d be nice.

Paul Asks: Any idea what the atmosphere is going to be like for games without fans? Organ music, CHARGE calls, etc. Empty seats or some kind of filler (the A’s are letting fans pay to have a cardboard cutout of themselves be in the stands?). It’s going to be weird, but, like, how weird are we talking?

It’s going to be super weird. Dystopian, even. I am excited to watch the Yanks take on other teams and for the games to count again, but I really don’t know what they’re going to feel like. Watching the simulated games, fun as it has been, is extremely weird. It’s the only applicable word. I imagine that those practices are going to be treated differently than real games, at least, but I’m really not sure.

I hope the Yankees don’t do organ music or charge calls, though. That seems to invite a whole new level of dystopia. At the same time, so does playing in a totally empty park, where players would likely hear the announcers calling the games, so who knows? I really don’t know what to expect, but I’m also very ambivalent to the idea of cutout fans in Yankee Stadium. Too weird, even if I get why it’s happening in some places.

For what it’s worth, the Yankees have begun to play music during the scrimmages now, according to Lindsey Adler. That feels like a happy medium. Play some music in the background to fill the Stadium for the players while we still hear the announcers.

James Asks: Do you know how contract incentives will be applied to the shortened season? Doesn’t Happ have an option that vests if he hits a certain number of innings or something? Does that get prorated or is it impossible for him to hit it in 60 games?

J.A. Happ is the big one, as noted here. Under normal circumstances, Happ would need to make 27 starts or throw 165 innings for his 2021 option to vest. That, obviously, is not going to happen in 2020 – but, fortunately for Happ, it doesn’t need to. This is all prorated now: Happ just needs to start 10 games or throw 61.1 innings for his option to vest.

As Derek noted here, this actually feels like a better deal for Happ. He just needs to make one start every six games for the option to vest, which feels very much like it could happen. As with so much else this season, we don’t know how it will play out, but let’s hope that 2020 Happ looks more like 2018 Happ than the 2019 version. (I do think there’s a chance of that happening, believe it or not.)

Bill Asks: Are you surprised Jasson Dominguez, Austin Wells, or any of other valuable prospects who are still far away from the majors didn’t make the satellite team? It seems we have a few guys on the expanded roster who won’t be expected to play for the big club this year, and it’s a shame that the Martian and some other kids won’t be getting hands-on development time. 

I’m not surprised at all. That’s because of some of the technical rules at play that are easy to miss. The big one: removing a player from the 60-man roster has actual consequences. Teams can remove players from the 60-man, but any removed player has to clear waivers. That’s true even for non-40-man players like Jasson. If there are a slew of injuries and/or a COVID outbreak, the Yankees would either have to call up Dominguez (or Wells) or lose them entirely. That’s a level of risk the Yankees just won’t take to get a guy a few extra weeks of development. They want to win the World Series, which means only including impact players on the roster.

So, there are real incentives in place that encourages contender teams to roster only players who can help at the MLB level this season. In other words, the Yankees’ 60-man roster makes a lot of sense. I’m sure Dominguez, Wells, and other lower-level prospects will have some sort of development plan in place. I don’t know what it is, but I’m sure it exists. We’ll find out more soon, if I had to guess.

Eric Asks: My question is about the Rule 5 Draft, do you think there will be any changes to it with the minor league season being canceled or if it isn’t changed do you expect a greater amount of prospects taken in the draft?

As far as we know, there aren’t any substantive changes to the Rule 5 Draft yet. Each December, teams without a full 40-man roster draft non-40-man players from other organizations in the Rule 5 Draft. Eligible players include anyone who signed while 18 or younger who is not on the 40-man roster within five seasons of signing or any player who signed while 19 or older who is not on the 40-man within four seasons of signing.

There are two things important to know about this year’s draft. The first is that there are no changes yet. It will proceed as it normally does in December. The second is players will accumulate service time in 2020 even though they won’t be playing. That’s good news for players, as anyone who would have been Rule 5 eligible in normal circumstances still will be eligible.

As for how it will impact teams’ strategies, I really have no idea. We’ve already seen owners say that they’re not going to spend a lot in the offseason on free agents, so in theory they should be even more interested in securing marginal advantages at the edges to round out rosters. But, at the same time, that same tendency may mean fewer real prospects are even left unprotected. I see both sides here, and I ultimately have no idea. Time will tell.

Mailbag: Shortened Season, MiLB Treatment, Best NYY Athlete, Finances

Yesterday should have been Opening Day. Instead, it was the first day the baseball shutdown really hit me. There’s just something about Opening Day that’s special and I felt really empty without it. I love to watch Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS – I’ll watch that bad boy every time it’s on – but it’s not the same. It just isn’t. Oh well.

On to today’s mailbag, I guess. It’s the best we can do! There are four good questions today. As always, please feel free to reach out to us by email at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com with your questions. We answer our favorites each week.

Joseph Asks: Does a shortened season World Series victory mean as much in the history of the sport as a regular-length season World Series victory?

Photo by Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

We covered this on this week’s podcast, but I wanted to touch on it again here because it’s been an ongoing discussion in baseball-land these days. This seems to have all started when Mariano Rivera got his best Goose Gossage on, saying that a 60-game regular season wouldn’t produce a “real” champion because that isn’t long enough for a baseball season. I understand this sentiment – the marathon season is one of baseball’s distinguishing characteristics – but I don’t agree with it.

To me, a “real” baseball season is any season in which baseball is played. I don’t care about anything else. We collectively spend too much time worrying about things like this. These are sports. They’re basically all fake anyway and just exist to entertain us. This is all to say that if the Yankees win the World Series in 2020, if a season even happens, I will lose my damn mind with joy. I don’t care how it happens, just bring me number 28.

To really drive this point home, I want to bring up a historic example. I’m sure every reader here remembers the 1918 World Series. That Fall Classic is seared in baseball’s collective memory, especially for Yankee and Red Sox fans. (At least it used to be.) Obviously, the Red Sox won the World Series in 1918, traded Babe Ruth to the Yankees after it, and did not win again for 86 years. Did you know that Major League Baseball shortened that season due to the First World War? Do you think that stripped any meaning from the title? Reader, I posit to you that it did not. (Yes, I know they still played 140 games, but still. The point holds. It didn’t even come up as a taunt by Yankee fans.)

Jamie Asks: The Yankees are one of the richest sports clubs in the world. Does anyone know if they’re taking care of their minor Leaguers during these troubling times? (I mean from a salary standpoint. I know they’re delivering food to the quarantined kids.)

This is a bit of a complicated question, so let’s start with the basics. Last week, Major League Baseball announced that teams would support MiLB players with a “level of uniform compensation” in a lump sum. The total is equivalent to what the players would have earned through April 8, which comes to $400 a week ($57 per day). It doesn’t apply to players who are receiving housing, food, or other services from their teams, which is unfortunate. The full release is here:

The Yankees are a unique case because two players in their system tested positive for COVID-19. Of course, that meant that players were quarantined for two weeks per the CDC’s recommendation. The Yankees, to their credit, provided a lot of support to those players (who I imagine represented a sizable portion of the system).

Per James Wagner’s reporting in The New York Times, the Yanks hired a local catering company which prepared three meals a day for each player. (They’d drive to a team hotel to pick up their meals.) The team also increased the daily meal stipend from the usual $25 to $75 for the mental burden of the quarantine. It was a good gesture from the Yankees and it should not go unnoticed. Now that the quarantine is over, qualified players will receive the $400 a week like everyone else.

I’m on record here as saying that I don’t think this shutdown is going to be over anytime soon, let alone by April 9. Let’s all hope that the teams take this decent first step even further and provide even more support for MiLB players, who often live paycheck-to-paycheck as it is. (I’ll have more thoughts on this later when I write something up about last night’s new agreement between MLB and MLBPA.)

George Asks: Getting cabin fever, so here’s an off the field  ( or off the wall) question. Who was the Yankee who was the best overall athlete?  Dave Winfield comes to mind. 

This is a tough question but a fun one. Winfield fits the bill to me from everything I’ve read about him, but I never saw him play. So those are going to be my rules: if I didn’t see a player play, he doesn’t count for me. That leaves mostly players from the mid-90s onward, where there are still a ton of options.

Alex Rodriguez comes to mind first. Obviously one of the most talented players in baseball history, A-Rod was also a superstar quarterback in high school. He was so good that Miami University offered him a scholarship to play quarterback. Here’s what Miami’s head of recruitment told Ken Rosenthal: “He had size, he had speed, he had smarts. They were recruiting him for baseball, but we were recruiting him for football, too.” Not bad!

Another option is also obvious: Mariano Rivera. Teammates often referred to him as an incredibly understated athlete and he was a fixture in center field during batting practice. (I’m sure we all remember his devastating 2012 injury.) Rivera even wanted to play center field in a game before retiring. I think he’s certainly a contender for this unofficial crown.

I’m not sure the answer, really, since baseball doesn’t highlight athleticism in the same way that, say, basketball does. I imagine that Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton, for example, would come across much differently in a different sport. So, while this is a bit of a cop out, it’s a fun question. All that really matters is that they’re all much better athletes than you and I are. That’s for sure.

Brian Asks: There is some evidence that the Marlins are run on a shoestring budget (apparently they have looked for additional funding, slashing payroll, etc.).  Do you have any reason to think that a prolonged shutdown could systemically endanger their ability to operate?

Rumors about the Marlins have been going around since the new ownership group, which includes Derek Jeter, purchased the team back in 2017. As Jon Tayler noted at Sports Illustrated, Miami missed out on the regional sports network bonanza that floods the game with cash. Barely anyone goes to the games, so they’re not making that up at the gate. These issues are compounded by the fact that the ownership group is either unwilling or unable to fund a competitive payroll.

When the Miami Herald reported that the team was planning to strip payroll after the 2017 season, which it then did by selling off Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich, ownership was on record as saying that it had “little liquid capital” to put into payroll. Worse, MLB knew this before approving the sale.

The group sought additional investment just months after purchasing the team, after all, and there was a legal dispute with Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and the Marlins over profit-sharing from the sale of the team. (That’s because off clever offshore registration.) You could make a compelling argument that the league should never have approved this deal in the first place. For what it’s worth, the team did recently commit $1 million to help support ballpark workers during the shutdown.

As for what the shutdown will do to the ownership group, I could not even fathom a guess. I’d hope that the team’s finances are stable enough to withstand this, but who knows? Certainly not me. It’s worth watching though, for sure.

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