Mailbag: Judge extension, Vasquez’s Rule 5 Eligibility, DeJong

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Good morning, everyone. Hope you all had an enjoyable weekend. Surely, it was better than the one my preferred football team had. I guess the Mike White era is over, but I digress. In baseball news: the Tigers have made the first free agency salvo, signing left-handed starter Eduardo Rodríguez to a five-year deal. It sure looks like they’re going for it, and why not? The Central division is not all that great.

There’s nothing doing (yet) on the free agent front for the Yankees, but expect a flurry of transactions this week. The Rule 5 protection deadline is Friday, and the Yankees currently have a full 40-man roster, so something’s gotta give. Whether that’s trading Rule 5 eligible prospects or waiving current 40-man players remains to be seen. We’ll keep you up to date on everything that goes down.

In the meantime, it’s mailbag day. As usual: send your questions to viewsfrom314 at gmail dot com. We’ll pick our favorites each week. Note that your questions may be edited for clarity.

A few asked: What does an Aaron Judge extension look like?

I’m not the first to suggest this, and I assuredly won’t be the last, but: an awful lot like the contract George Springer signed with the Blue Jays last offseason. Judge is on a similar career trajectory as Springer, though the performance has come in a slightly different shape. Additionally, the two make for a great comparison because of age. Springer inked a six year deal worth $150 million entering his age-31 season. Judge turns 30 in April and is a free agent after 2022, so his extension or free agent deal will begin in his age-31 season as well.

Cumulative WAR via FanGraphs

The two have performed eerily similar through their respective age-29 seasons, just before the final year of team control. Judge actually has the edge in Baseball-Reference WAR (26.4 vs. 25.6), though Springer has number 99 beat per Baseball Prospectus’ WARP (24.1 vs. 20.8). Regardless of your preferred WAR metric, these are inexact measures of performance, and both are close enough on all three cited sources that it’s pretty clear the two are neck-and-neck.

Now, Judge is an undeniably better hitter than Springer. Judge owns a lifetime 151 wRC+ vs. Springer’s 133 wRC+ through Judge’s current age (it’s now 135, for what it’s worth). The game isn’t all about hitting though, and while Judge is a terrific outfielder in his own right, Springer gets some extra credit for playing a capable center field (even if part time with Houston). Throw in some better health than Judge over the years and you get a dead heat per WAR.

As an aside, WAR shouldn’t be the end-all-be-all in determining a fair deal for Judge. Keep in mind that he’s the face of the franchise. There’s a dedicated fan section to him in right field. Those kind of things add value that obviously aren’t accounted for in WAR, and arguably make him worth even more than the Springer deal, at least to the Yankees compared to other clubs.

The CBA is the elephant in the room here. As similar as Judge and Springer look statistically, making $150 million over six look like a slam dunk, the new CBA could alter how the Yankees (and other teams) value someone like Judge. Either way, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign Judge to an extension now, especially if it can be tacked on to whatever his arbitration award is for 2022. Doing so will lower his AAV, something Hal Steinbrenner certainly would find attractive.

John asks: In The Yankees’ 2021-2022 Offseason Calendar, Derek said that Randy Vasquez, among others, would be first-time eligible to be selected in the 2021 Rule 5 Draft if he is not placed on a 40-man roster by November 19. Many other media sources have reported the same thing, including FanGraphs Roster Resource. Are you sure about that? Based on my review of the current CBA, he doesn’t appear to be eligible.

John, who is an attorney, sent us a very detailed explanation outlining why he believes Vasquez is not Rule 5 eligible, and thus wont’ be protected by Friday’s deadline. And it turns out…he’s right! I confirmed with someone I know who works with a team too. Rather than me explain why, I’m going to share how John determined this. Here’s what he wrote:

I reach the conclusion that Vasquez will not be eligible to be selected until December 2022 (assuming that the Rule 5 draft is left unchanged when and if there is a new CBA).  Here is my reasoning:

MLR5(c)(1)(A) provides that a player not on the 40 man as of the November cutoff date first becomes eligible to be taken in the fifth Rule 5 draft following his signing date to his first major or minor league contract, if the player is 18 years of age or younger on the June 5 immediately preceding the player’s initial signing.

MLR5(c)(1)(B) provides that a player not on the 40 man as of the November cutoff date first becomes eligible to be taken in the fourth Rule 5 draft following his signing date to his first major or minor league contract, if the player is 19 years of age or over on the June 5 immediately preceding the player’s initial signing.

I believe that those who say that Vasquez is eligible to be taken in the 2021 Rule 5 draft might be assuming that Vasquez comes under MLR5(c)(1)(B).  After examination of the exact text of the rule (available to anyone at Cot’s Contracts) and the relevant Vasquez facts (available to anyone at the Randy Vasquez player page at MiLB.com), I believe that Vasquez’s initial eligibility for the Rule 5 draft is determined under MLR5(c)(1)(A).

The relevant Vasquez facts are:

1. Date of Birth: 11/3/1998

2. Initial Signing Date: 5/21/2018

3. The June 5 date immediately preceding 5/21/2018 was 6/5/2017.

4. Anyone born on 11/3/1998 would be 18 years of age on 6/5/2017.

5. Vasquez did not celebrate his 19th birthday until 11/3/2017.

 Although Vasquez was 19 years of age when he signed on 5/21/2018, Rule 5(c)(1) clearly provides that the actual age on the signing date is not determinative. The age on the June 5 immediately preceding the signing date is determinative.

Therefore, the first Rule 5 draft following the signing was held in December 2018. Vasquez was not eligible to be picked.

The second Rule 5 draft following the signing was held in December 2019, and, again Vasquez was not eligible to be picked.

The third Rule 5 draft following the signing was held in December 2020, and, again Vasquez was not eligible to be picked.

The fourth Rule 5 draft following the Vasquez signing is to be held in December 2021, and, under MLR5(c)(1)(A), Vasquez is not eligible to be picked, and the Yankees do not need to waste a 40 man roster space by protecting him a year prematurely.

So, when the Yankees don’t add Vasquez to the 40-man roster on Friday, there’s no need to panic. The key here, as John pointed out, was Vasquez’s age on June 5 the year before he signed with the Yankees. I have always thought the rule was based on age at signing, but it’s actually not. So, the team won’t have to make a decision on Vasquez, who had a breakout 2021, for at least one more year. Good for the team, albeit not as good for Vasquez.

Just to provide a little more background on Vasquez, for those unfamiliar: he’s a 23 year-old righty who started the year with Single-A Tampa, moved up to High-A Hudson Valley, and finished with Double-A Somerset. He received some well-deserved attention among scouts this season thanks to his nasty high-spin curveball and the results that came with it. Across those three levels, he recorded a 2.52 ERA in 107.1 innings and fanned 28.6 percent of hitters while walking 8.4 percent. Additionally, he was included in an early iteration of the Joey Gallo deal, though thankfully he remained put.

Toshiki asks: What about trading for Paul DeJong for SS instead and give the SS prospects time to develop? I think/heard the Cardinals are open to trading him, especially after the emergence of Sosa and Gorman in the future. He has solid defense and power – but, is he another another “Gallo” that plays SS?

Sure, DeJong is an option, but only if the Yankees strike out in free agency, and I just can’t see that happening. This class of shortstops on the open market is simply too good for the Yankees not to walk away with one of them. Whether it’s Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, or Trevor Story, someone is coming to the Bronx. Nonetheless, let’s talk DeJong for a bit.

Toshiki is correct in that DeJong is a very good defender at short (OAA, UZR, DRS, and FRAA all like him), but the bat isn’t great. He got off to a nice start at the plate in his first three seasons, posting a .251/.318/.467 (108 wRC+), but he’s been comfortably below average ever since.

This year, he hit below the Mendoza line and delivered a sub-.300 OBP, which is pretty brutal. If you add in the 2020 numbers, DeJong owns a .213/.295/.378 (86 wRC+) in his last 576 plate appearances. What’s worse: it’s not like there’s much upside per Statcast. DeJong ranked in the 8th percentile in Exit Velocity and 27th in Whiff rate. As such, comparing him to Gallo isn’t fair at all. While Gallo does strike out a lot, he does still hit for power and gets on base a ton. DeJong doesn’t really do either anymore, though perhaps there’s something to unlock considering he had very good pop up until 2019 (.216 ISO).

So while DeJong would be a much needed defensive boost at shortstop, I get the sense that he’d be maddening to watch at the plate. The Yankees don’t need that, especially with who’s available in free agency.

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1 Comment

  1. Anthony Rizzeddardo

    There is news, Derek. The Yankees hired failed Mets manager Luis Rojas as their 3rd base coach. Can’t be any worse than Nevin but I do wonder why they always hire all these failed retreads. If that’s the biggest offseason acquisition we’re going to be in for a long year. Who’s going to be the next hitting coach, Kevin Long? Get some new blood in here. Look how great Matt Blake was as pitching coach.

    To me the Judge extension should look like whatever Judge wants it to. He’s the face of our franchise and we can’t afford to lose him. He’s the only guy that got even close to hitting .300. He was healthy all year, can play all 3 OF positions and is young enough to have 5-6 more MVP type years. Give the man what he wants.

    Paul DeJong? Where do people come up with these questions? Another .200 hitter that strikes out too much. Great idea. And we’d have to give up prospects instead of just signing one of the many great SS free agents. I want at least a .280 hitter and we can get that in Seager or Story or Correa. Don’t overthink it for christ sake. This is the reason you stayed under the luxury tax threshold, to reset and go on a signing splurge. The last time we did that was in 2009 and we all know what happened in 2009.

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