The IIATMS Mailbag, Volume 1

On Tuesday afternoon, I made a call to arms as a means to both encourage discussion, and to ensure that I am writing about something that the readers are interested in. And the fact that our first crack at this exercise resulted in ten-ish (mostly) quality questions is simply gravy. Let's jump right in, shall we? Courtesy of Jay Robertson:

Do you really believe the Yankees can get to the playoffs with their current starting rotation; if not, do you think the team will suck it up and stand pat; if they do get a starter – who would they get, and at what cost?

Heading into last night's action (thirteen starts), the Yankees rotation had the following line:

73.2 IP, 5.01 ERA, 3.70 FIP, 8.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, 51.6 GB%, .338 BABIP

That's the second best GB% in baseball, the third best BB/9, the tenth best K/9, and ...the fifth worst ERA. There is some bad luck at play, as evidenced by the very high BABIP (the third worst in the Majors) and the large gap between the team's ERA and FIP (the fourth highest differential). They're middle-of-the-pack in metrics like HR/9, hard-hit percentage, and HR/FB, which somewhat belies these discrepancies, but it's also so early that most if not all of these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt.

Why bring them up, then? Because they illustrate just how weird baseball is.

All that being said, I don't think that this is the rotation of a playoff team, unless said playoff team is an offensive juggernaut. The Yankees don't appear to have the same sort of 'oomph' that they had last season (again, though, small sample size), and I'm skeptical that the bullpen can make up for the rotation's issues. There has been a great deal of discussion about Sabathia being toast, Pineda throwing too many strikes, Eovaldi being style over substance, Tanaka's elbow, and Severino's inexperience ... and, even if most of that is unnecessary handwringing, we watch much of this story unfold last season.

The Yankees need Tanaka to continue to pitch like a top of the rotation starter, and at least two of the other guys to step-up and perform as competent mid-rotation starters. If that can be done, they could certainly make a push. I don't know if a trade is really out there at this point (the pending free agent class stinks), but I do think that James Kaprielian could be the ace in the hole, a la Severino just last season.

Courtesy of James Dogg:

Cashman comes back from lunch and he has two messages-

1. Colorado Rockies called and they offer Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez for Nova, Gary Sanchez, and Aaron Judge.

2. Florida Marlins called they offer Jose Fernandez, Jarred Cosart, and Justin Bour for the same 3 plus Arod.

Which, if either, should Cashman do, and which will be a better deal come say October of 2017.

Gonzalez is only under contract through the end of next season, and I don't really see a spot for him on the roster right now - and I'm not sure that I'd want to make room, either. He's a career .257/.312/.444 (102 wRC+) hitter on the road, and he has a lengthy history of injury problems. If Ellsbury wasn't around, I may be spinning a different tale. But as it stands, I don't want Gonzalez.

I'm a huge fan of Arenado, and he had no real home/away split last season, with a 120 wRC+ in Coors and a 119 mark on the road. He just turned 25, and he's a potential franchise player - the greatest issue I see is that he doesn't have great plate discipline, and his high-contact approach can be a blessing and a curse. And I think Headley would be much easier to move than Ellsbury (and such a move would be much more likely).

With the Marlins deal, I similarly don't care all that much about Cosart or Bour (though, I suppose Bour would replace Rodriguez as the DH). Fernandez is obviously incredible (both as a talent and a personality), and he won't be 24 until this Summer. Having a Tommy John Surgery on his resume is a bit disconcerting, though, and there has been a great deal of talk regarding his mechanics leading to further injury.

All that being said ... I think the Marlins deal makes more sense right now. Having to make additional moves can cause several issues, and I don't think that it would look great for the Yankees to have to bench or move at least one of Headley, Ellsbury, and Gardner (unless CarGo went to the bench). That's my concern with the Rockies deal. That, and the fact that I'm always at least a bit skeptical of Coors guys. Under the gun, though, I'd probably do both deals - Arenado and Fernandez are young, legitimate studs.

As for the end of 2017, I'm not sure which would look better. Probably the Marlins deal, at least artificially, as Judge and Sanchez will look a hell of a lot better hitting in Coors...

Courtesy of yankeerudy:

What’s the over-under on Big Papi HR this season?

ZiPS had him at 30 this season - a mark that he has reached in each of the last three seasons. I'd probably set the over/under right around there; say, 30.5? And I'd take the over. As much as I hate to say it, Ortiz is still an incredible hitter.

Courtesy of anonymous:

Are you a closet Red Sox fan?

I'm not sure that I've ever been accused of being a closeted fan of any team, let alone the Red Sox. I try to be as unbiased as possible when writing about or discussing baseball ... so much so that I don't know if this is a joke that I'm humoring, or an actual accusation. The answer is no, though. I like several of their young players and prospects, but I could never root for that organization.

I admittedly have soft spots for the Rays and Mets, though. The former because of how much I admire the organization's strategies, and the latter because much of my family and friends are Mets fans. I never root for either over the Yankees, though.

Courtesy of Longtimefan:

Realistically can we look forward to getting to the playoffs and if so going deeper than last season with primarily the same offense that disappeared last September?

If they make it to the Wild Card game again, anything can happen - particularly if Tanaka is on. Winning that game is technically getting deeper in the playoffs, right?

I don't think that that's the spirit of your question, though. I've worried about the team as a whole since the off-season, as I always kind of felt that the offense peaked last season, even with some of the injuries and underperformance. I'm trying to avoid confirmation bias with the early season struggles, but their offense hasn't changed my mind thus far.

Again, though, it's so early in the season that we're still a couple of weeks from worrying too much (barring a significant injury, of course).

Another from James Dogg:

Will Ellsbury be worth $21 mil in 2020?


Will Ellsbury’s production in 2020 be more worth $21 mil than Arod ‘s will be worth $21 mil this year? 2017?

The answer to both may end up being yes as salaries escalate, and the value of a win increases. And that's the only way I see the answer to the first question being yes.

Last night's 3-for-5 performance notwithstanding, Ellsbury hasn't looked like a legitimate hitter since last May. I know that he was hurt at that time, but his injury history is so extensive that I have to wonder if the cumulative effects are simply too much for him to completely recover from. The fact that his defense and base-running appear to be slipping don't help matters, either.

That being said, I don't know what to make of Rodriguez's value. FanGraphs pegged last season's performance at $21.4 MM, so he just made it. I'm not sure if that happens again, considering his late Summer swoon, early season issues, and age. I'd rather have Rodriguez's next two years than Ellsbury's next five, though.

Courtesy of Nate the Great:

Is there anything to Luis Severino’s early struggles?

Most of the discussion about Severino's flaws hinges on mechanics and size. His delivery is not the most efficient, and he's on the smaller side for a power-pitcher. That being said, the greatest issue with his mechanics is not the injury risk - it's the fact that his command has been consistently inconsistent as a result. His release and landing points often shift dramatically over the course of the game, and that oftentimes results in him leaving the pitch up and over the plate (which happened last night, resulting in a home run by Mark Canha).

To be fair, though, I don't think that there's anything new to worry about. The defense torpedoed his efforts in his prior start, and last night he was fine but for one pitch. I'm not too concernced.

Courtesy of Allen:

Can we get a podcast soon?

I shall do my best to get one in the works. We have plenty to talk about, after all.