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Ask Pinstripe Alley 12/25/17: Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Moustakas, and all the pitching

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The answers to your Yankees mailbag have arrived.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

Last week I asked you to submit questions for our holiday edition of the Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag. In that time, you responded with nearly two dozen questions! That’s one of the largest mailbags in recent memory. I’m going to try my hand at a few of them this morning, but don’t feel bad if yours is left out. Another editor may answer it later in the week. So, fix a cup of cocoa and pull up a seat by the fire. Let’s get to it!

Chuck Benz asks: Who in their right mind would take Jacoby Ellsbury? Does he turn into A-Rod and they let him go, with pay, in 2019 or 2020?

Make no mistake, Ellsbury has an onerous contract. It has to rank among the worst in baseball given his production. That said, I think that the deal is especially bad for the Yankees considering their outfield logjam.

On his own, Ellsbury isn’t a terrible player. In fact, he’s just about perfectly average. Ellsbury hit .264/.348/.402 with a 97 OPS+. By contrast, the league average center fielder posted a .264/.333/.431 batting line with a 104 OPS+. That’s about as average as one can get.

There’s value in league average performance, too. He’s just not a fit for the Yankees at that price or position. Other teams could use an average center fielder. The Giants , a team for whom Ellsbury would consider waiving his no-trade clause, managed a .257/.327/.391 batting line with a 107 OPS+ by their center fielders. The Mariners received the league’s worst production from center field and now have to resort to Dee Gordon to field the spot.

The Yankees won’t get anything of value back for Ellsbury. That’s not the point though. They should be looking for any modicum of salary relief and a free roster spot. If the Bombers absorbed, say, $48.4 million of the $63.4 million owed to Ellsbury would another team bite? Am I being unreasonable to assume he could land a three-year, $15 million deal in free agency? In that instance, a deal isn’t as farfetched as one assumes.

HighFlyers28 asks: What are your thoughts on giving Mike Moustakas a > three-year deal to lock down third base, as opposed to going with a short-term option and waiting for Manny Machado next year?

The Bombers have an opening at third base, but I’m pretty opposed to making a lengthy commitment to Moustakas. The 29-year-old has generated some buzz around Yankees fans after Buster Olney speculated that his market could lead him to signing with New York at a discount price. This seems like wishful thinking, though. In fact, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for the Yankees.

Olney figured that Moustakas profiles well for Yankee Stadium considering he’s a left-handed batter who hits a lot of flyballs. The short porch rewards those types of sluggers, after all. At the same time, however, he struggles to reach base. His on-base percentage consistently grades out below average.

Credit: FanGraphs

For a year, that’s fine. The Yankees could probably live with that given his power output. Over a longterm deal, however, that leaves a lot left to be desired. Especially when Machado approaches free agency. That’s who the Bombers should really look to add.

Also, the likelihood of a complete market collapse isn’t great. Moustakas’ name may not surface in many rumors, but this has been a slow moving offseason. It’s only a matter of time before he finds a club willing to pay him. The Cardinals, for example, have a pressing need at third base. His longterm contract will come together, and hopefully it won’t be from the Yankees.

Evan Wetzel asks: With CC Sabathia back, how serious is the Yankees’ push for an extra starter?

Brian Cashman shored up the rotation on December 16th, signing Sabathia to a one-year deal. With that move, the Yankees will essentially go forward with the significant pieces from last year’s staff. On paper, that’s a very good development. The Yankees received quality performances from their starters in 2017. They managed a 3.98 ERA with a 4.18 FIP. Solid stuff!

That doesn’t mean that Cashman can take the rest of the winter off. In fact, there are some compelling arguments to be made for adding another starter. Both Luis Severino and Jordan Montgomery set career highs in innings pitched last season. Severino tossed 209.1 innings, including the postseason, in 2017. That eclipsed his previous high of 161.2 innings in 2015. Montgomery, on the other hand, logged 163.1 innings last year. His previous career high? 139.1 innings set back in 2016.

Bringing in another arm would take some of the burden off Severino and Montgomery. The Yankees will definitely monitor their workloads next season, and the easiest way to do that is by adding another starter. Plus, it’s tough to gauge how many reliable innings Sabathia can give the Bombers. That’s why I believe their push is pretty serious. I would be surprised if Cashman doesn’t reel in another starter. Will it be one of the frontline pitchers the team inquired on? It’s hard to tell. Expect another arm, though.

long time listener asks: The Yankees play the Orioles 19 times next year. I’m setting the over/under for number of home runs by Yankees batters at 47.5, an average of 2.5 per game. Are you taking the over or the under?

The safe answer to this question says that we should wait to see how the Orioles’ offseason shakes up. It’s likely that Dan Duquette makes a move or two to bolster the rotation. Then again, that staff needs a lot of help. Their depth chart only runs four starters deep!

Credit: MLB.com

Upon further review, sign me up for the over. I cannot wait to watch Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez terrorize Baltimore’s pitching. It should be a great season for disrespecting Flanny.

Greg Kirkland asks: What does your traditional Christmas dinner look like?

Christmas Eve steals the show for my family. We’re Italian, so that means the Feast of the Seven Fishes. We have baccalà, fried smelts, calamari, and every kind of pasta imaginable. Christmas Day features a more traditional dinner, with a ham and turkey. Nothing beats Christmas Eve, though. That’s the party of the year, for sure.