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Ask Pinstripe Alley 3/11/16: Plans for Mateo and Kaprielian, A Didi Gregorius trade, and more

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OK, it's my turn to answer your questions for the latest installment of the Pinstripe Alley mailbag. I put out a call for questions a few days ago, so i'll draw a few from there, and we also received some via email. I won't be answering all the questions we have in the pipeline, but someone will get to it in due time, so don't worry. Our first question comes to use over email:

When all the fanfare and bluster is over and done with, what can we really expect from Ben Gamel, Slade Heathcott, and Mason Williams? Are any of them potential every day outfielders or platoon/4th outfielders type?

At the end of the day, I don't really see any of those three as full-time starting outfielders for the Yankees. Slade and Mason have had too many issues to be expected to step up and start in the outfield at this point. If Mason gets healthy and continues to impress after reawakening his value, he probably has the best chance to stick on the major league team over the next few seasons.

While Slade had a few good moments in 2015, it can't be ignored that he still missed a major amount of time to injury yet again. He's missed so much development time already that there's just no way I trust him to remain a competent hitter over a full season. I doubt the Yankees do either.

Ben Gamel has been good for all of one season, so it's hard to really figure out what is for real and what was just one fluke year. He might not be as good as he was in 2015, with a league-leading 14 triples, but he's probably better than the rest of his pedestrian career.

All three are strong defenders, giving them a chance to have some kind of a role on the major league roster. Unfortunately, they are all left-handed hitters, so there can really only ever be room for one of them at a time–unless something very bad happens. When Carlos Beltran leaves in free agency, the Yankees won't be looking to any of these three to fill the role. Mason probably has the best chance to make it as a starter if he gets traded to a rebuilding team who can afford to give him a try. Slade and Gamel are destined for bench roles.

imramet asks: How slowly do the Yanks plan to go with guys like Mateo and [Kaprielian]? Does Mateo go back to Tampa to start, or do they challenge him (looks to me as though he could probably handle AA)? How about Kaprelian? Tampa, maybe, to start?

The only real choice the Yankees can make with both Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian is patience. They both played well last year and have looked good so far this spring, but both are much younger (21 and 22) and less experienced then we really want to admit. The Yankees like to be cautious with their prospects, and who can blame them. The organization probably already knows where they will be assigned to open up the season, but that doesn't mean spring training performances are meaningless for them

Mateo played all of 21 games at High-A Tampa last year, and while he could probably hold his own in Double-A right now, it's probably best for him to start the season in A-ball. The Yankees like to promote players in the summer, but there's no reason they can't be a little more aggressive with him if he's hitting and push him to Trenton before July. He'd be young for any league he plays in at this point, and they can let him take his time in the upper minors with Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro in the majors.

The Yankees drafted Kaprielian because he was extremely advanced, and wouldn't require too much time to develop. There's already talk of him making his major league debut this season–but the Yankees won't really have a rotation spot open for him for at least another year. He's pitched 11 innings in the organization so far, so he needs some time to get everything in order and figure out the advanced competition in full-season pro-ball. That's why I believe the Yankees should let him pitch in Low-A Charleston to get his feet wet, then promote him to Tampa in a month or two.

itisgone4298 asks: How will the whole "staying under the luxury tax" philosophy affect the Yankees free agent spending over the next few years? Lots of money coming off the payroll, but will Hal just pocket a lot of it?

Hal Steinbrenner recently spoke to ESPN, and he all but admitted the Yankees payroll was going to go down from where it is right now:

"We have a lot of money coming off the payroll in the next two years, $100 million from four guys," he said, in reference to the expiring contracts of Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Carlos Beltran and CC Sabathia. "And we're going to put a lot of it back in. But that doesn't mean I need a $240 million payroll."

Sure, a lot of money is coming off the books over the next two seasons, but that doesn't mean they have to fill that payroll space. Teixeira and Beltran come off the books at the end of the year, but they're being replaced by in-house options like Greg Bird and Aaron Judge (possibly). One reason why it was such a bad idea not to spent on free agency this year was that next year's class is so bad. If there's no one worth signing to a big free agent deal then that money gets eaten. Things get better after that, but by then it's already too far out to be planning who will and will not sign.

The bottom line is that, yes, some–hopefully a good portion of that money–will go back into the payroll, but there's far too good of a chance that most of it gets lost in the shuffle next year when there's just no one worth signing and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

AJSMind asks: Would it be totally outlandish to see what kind of haul Didi [Gregorius] could land from the Cardinals?

Yes.

The Cardinals just lost starting shortstop Jhonny Peralta to thumb surgery, so it would make sense to dangle Didi out there to see if St. Louis would bite, but it's just not going to happen. The Cardinals have literally been through this before. They lost Rafael Furcal to Tommy John surgery in 2013, and were so determined not to be beat in a trade for a replacement shortstop that they decided to start Pete Kozma for 143 games instead–and they reached the World Series. I won't try to guess at who might be in a potential trade, but the Yankees will want starting pitching, and the Cardinals will be hesitant since Peralta will only be out until June.

It's not that Didi is untradeable forever, but I think he is in 2016. The Yankees went out of their way to trade for Starlin Castro to keep Rob Refsnyder away from second base–they aren't going to trade the superior glove in Gregorius, move Castro to short, and put Refsnyder at second. Sure, unexpected things happen and plans chance, but the Yankees would probably need one heck of a return to surrender Didi's defense and stick Refsnyder in the field again.

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Let us know what you think of our responses below! Remember, you can submit questions for our next round of mailbag answers by emailing us at pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail.com or dropping a comment in the next call for questions.