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Ask Pinstripe Alley 3/17/17: Yankees vs. WBC teams, second base trades, and more

The answers arrive for this week’s Ask PSA.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

This week, I put out a call for another Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag, and you came through, both in the comments and via e-mail. If I did not answer your question, it is likely only because I didn’t want this post to be too long. Another editor very well might decide to answer more of these later. For now though, here are my responses.

repeater1990 asked: How does the current Yankee squad stack up against the teams of the WBC?

I like this question. It can be tough comparing an MLB team with inherently more active depth against the WBC squads, but it would be interesting to see how, say, just the Cubs would fare in a tournament. The Yankees are a middling club right now, but they would probably do pretty well.

To keep it simple, I’ll run through all six teams currently active in the WBC. (There’s really no point comparing the Yankees to Team Israel, which featured Triple-A type players at best, or Team Cuba, which has a couple great talents but also mostly plays in Serie Nacional, which roughly translates to the High-A level.) I limited the countries’ rosters to who was on there at that time and assuming that there are just clones of the Yankees playing in the tournament (maybe that’s the real “Dylan Betances”).

Dominican Republic vs. Yankees

This comparison is simple because the Dominican lineup is absolutely ridiculous. Here’s just one that they used in the tournament:

That lineup combined for 251 homers in 2016 alone. Even Masahiro Tanaka would have a tough time keeping them down, and though their rotation is not nearly as dominant, I would take the pitching trio of Carlos Martinez, Edinson Volquez, and Wily Peralta over the Yankees’ current top three.

Edge: Dominican Republic

USA vs. Yankees

Team USA tends to perpetually underwhelm in the WBC, but that doesn’t mean their roster is bad. In fact, their lineup is almost as talented as the Dominicans, with big sluggers like Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt, and Giancarlo Stanton leading the way. The offense is so stacked that in their most recent game, the ninth-place hitter was up-and-coming Astros wunderkind Alex Bregman, whose .478 slugging percentage in 49 games as a rookie last year was better than superstar teammate Carlos Correa.

Throughout the tournament, Team USA has started Chris Archer, Drew Smyly, Danny Duffy, and Marcus Stroman, which would be a terrific front four. They also have a couple excellent Yankee alums in the bullpen in Andrew Miller and David Robertson. This club is too talented to pick against here.

Edge: USA

Puerto Rico vs. Yankees

This is a tough one because Puerto Rico was so good that they were runners-up in the last WBC and recently handed the loaded Dominicans their first WBC loss since 2009. They could very well win the whole thing. I’m just not blown by their roster in nearly the same way. It’s very top-heavy.

There’s no denying that any Yankees pitcher is going to have fits dealing with Correa, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Beltran, and Javier Baez. However, while Yadier Molina is still a great receiver, he has only been a league-average hitter over the last three years.
They’ve also been regularly trotting out Angel Pagan (currently a free agent), T.J. Rivera (who was solid for the Mets down the stretch last year but isn’t quite that good), and a minor league outfielder named Raymond Fuentes.

The pitching staff is only brings more question marks. Their best starter is Seth Lugo, who was a great rookie in 2016 but does not stack up to Tanaka. After that, it’s Twins prospect Jose Berrios, Brewers prospect Jorge Lopez, and 38-year-old Orlando Roman, who never pitched in the majors. The bullpen is unimpressive outside of Mariners closer Edwin Diaz. This might be controversial, but I just don’t see the Yankees’ hitters having any problem against this bunch.

Edge: Yankees

Venezuela vs. Yankees

There’s more controversy since Puerto Rico has played much better than Venezuela, but that team is underachieving. Their lineup at the start of the tournament was absurd:

Gracious. There are no holes. That’s with Yangervis Solarte on the bench, too. The pitching staff is much weaker though, with a declining Felix Hernandez at the front followed by the perennially underachieving Martin Perez, 28-year-old minor league Omar Bencomo, and normal long reliever Yusmeiro Petit. The bullpen has been a tire fire. I think the offense has the capacity to wreck the Yankees’ pitching, but there’s little reason for the Yankees to fear the Venezuelan arms. This is too close to call.

Edge: Push.

Japan vs. Yankees

God, I don’t even know. Unlike with the other active rosters, Japan’s players are almost exclusively playing in the NPB, save for Nori Aoki. They have shown that they are a well-oiled machine, grinding through teams left and right in the tournament and undefeated to date. Hell, they’ve only lost the WBC once in three previous attempts. Frankly, if the Yankees were stuck in a tournament setting, I think Japan could beat them.

Over the course of a 162-game season though, I would still have to go with the Yankees. No, not every borderline major leaguer can go over to Japan and crush NPB pitching in the manner of Wladimir Balentien and Tuffy Rhodes, but the fact that it’s not unusual at all makes me think that the Yankees would do quite well playing Team Japan over a full season. NPB play is a little below the MLB level anyway, even if this is the best of the best over there. The pitching just isn’t as hard to hit, save for a select few, and Shohei Otani is not playing.

Edge: Weird answer, but in a short series? Probably Japan. Over a season? The Yankees.

Netherlands vs. Yankees

As much fun as it is watching the Dutch baffle baseball with their runs deep into the WBC, that pitching staff would just be annihilated by MLB hitters on a regular basis. Their best starter is Jair Jurrjens, who was last an effective pitcher in 2011. The infield of doom with Xander Bogaerts, Jurickson Profar, Andrelton Simmons, and the Didi Gregorius clone would be a pain to work through, and Balentien’s far from a slouch, too. I just can’t see the Yankees losing that many games to those Dutch pitchers too, even if they get to add Kenley Jansen for the championship round.

Edge: Yankees

XrayReb asked: Regarding Starlin Castro: has Gleyber Torres, Jorge Mateo or even Tyler Wade and Ronald Torreyes shown the Yankees enough that Castro could/should be on the trade block right now?

Castro should absolutely be on the trade block. He’s a fine bridge to the next generation of prospects and his 20-homer power is welcome after a couple years of Stephen Drew and Brian Roberts. Being better than Drew and Roberts is no great achievement though and does not make for a player who should be given 100 percent trust. That sometimes gets lost in the fans’ evaluation of Castro. He’s had just one season with an OPS+ better than league average since 2012.

Torreyes is a non-factor, but the fact that the Yankees do have Torres, Wade, and Mateo waiting in the wings is a nice plus. The team is not lacking for infield prospects, and even further in the system, there are more intriguing infielders like Wilkerman Garcia and Hoy Jun Park, just to name a couple. So yes, if the right deal for Castro comes along, there’s little reason to decline it. His contract only has $22.6 million guaranteed on it over three years, so it’s certainly movable. They don’t need to trade him or anything, but I would be surprised if Brian Cashman wasn’t at least listening to offers.

Aidan Ridings asked: Will Rob Refsnyder get traded during the season? What are some teams the Yankees could look to trade him to?

The massive amount of infield depth is a big reason why Refsnyder is on the trading block, too. There’s no obvious spot for him on the MLB roster, and even if he hasn’t shown that much at the MLB level, he’s an MLB-caliber player. He’s just not quite fit for the Yankees’ roster right now because he’s pretty limited defensively (just because he can stand at first, second, third, and right doesn’t mean he can adequately cover them) and they have better hitters than him who can hang around on the bench.

So it’s best to realize that whatever the Yankees get in return for Refsnyder alone is not going to be an overwhelming return. Perhaps he will be part of a package, but he’s probably not going to be the difference-maker in a deal. An ideal club for him would be one that’s second-division right now where winning isn’t the be-all and end-all, and he could play every day at second or right, just to see if his bat can handle MLB pitching over a 162-game season.

I don’t want to get into the business of making trade proposals, but any club with openings that’s not really going anywhere in 2017 could use Refsnyder. Billy Beane previously expressed an interest in him, and the A’s certainly fit the rebuilding bill. Former Yankees executives-turned-GMs Billy Eppler in Anaheim and John Coppolella in Atlanta have shown an affinity for picking up Yankees prospects, so they could be in the mix. Since the Reds, Marlins, and Phillies likely won’t be doing much either, maybe they could be involved. Either way, don’t expect the market to be big.

Jeffrey Dilson asked a couple questions:

First, it was a couple/few years ago that the Yankees went on a bid international spending spree. What kind of results did we get from this?

Second, I am a supporter of free agency. It is only fair for the players. It certainly has helped the Yanks over the years. But I HATE long term contracts. My approach would be to give players shorter but higher paying contracts.

For example, instead of eight years at $20 million a year, why not four years at $25-$28 million a year? Pay for the prime years and then if the player is still deserving, another short but high paying contract. Raises the cost now, but you don't get stuck with the dead years at the end. I'd like your opinion.

To answer the first question, I actually did an update at the end of last season on how all the main 2014 international free agents fared in 2016, so I’d recommend checking that out! Not much has changed since last October.

For the second, yes, it would be better to sign players at shorter contracts for higher annual value. However, players understandably put a premium on job security and staying in the same place for a longer amount of time. Players and their agents often prefer signing longer-term deals then higher AAV ones. For example, the Yankees offered Robinson Cano a seven-year, $175 million deal ($25 million AAV) but he took the Mariners’ ten-year, $240 million offer since that lasted longer and the AAV was barely lower. It’s less risky for the player since he doesn’t know how good he’ll be after a shorter amount of time.

It’s nice to want to stick to a policy of only paying high value for prime years and eschewing long contracts entirely, but since the baseball contract landscape is not changing, that’s just not going to attract the best free agents. It’s unfortunate in a sense, but it’s true. Teams have to pay top value for the top talent, and skimping out on total years will only handicap the Yankees if they do pursue Manny Machado or Bryce Harper in free agency one day.