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Ask Pinstripe Alley 12/25/18: Ace starting pitching, Manny Machado, and Bryce Harper

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The answers to your Yankees holiday mailbag have arrived.

Ask Pinstripe Alley

Last week I asked our readers to send in questions for the second-annual holiday edition of the Ask Pinstripe Alley mailbag. Since then, we received nearly a dozen questions! I’m going to answer 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, pour a glass of eggnog and grab a seat by the fire. Let’s have at it!

y4nkees asks: Cashman said he wanted to add two elite starters. So far he has added an elite starter, and a mid-rotation guy. Does he trade for another elite starter and move CC to depth, or keep the rotation as it is?

During a radio interview on November 14th, Brian Cashman said that he wanted to overhaul the team’s rotation. “I’ve got to get two starters in here, preferably elite, which those lists are smaller,” he noted. “But the better quality — No. 1-, 2- or 3-type starter — that’s what we need. So I need multiples of those.”

Importing James Paxton and bringing J.A. Happ back seems to satisfy the criteria Cashman laid out last month. That probably won’t stop him from looking to upgrade the rotation, though. That’s especially the case with the various health question marks around around the starting staff.

The most likely course of action is for the Yankees to sign a number-six, swingman type pitcher. That represents the path of least resistance. Could you count Cashman out for exploring larger splashes? I don’t think so, especially after he engaged the Mets in talks for Noah Syndergaard. If Miguel Andujar is as available as reports indicate, then one can expect discussions for a frontline starter to continue.

#UsetheOpener!!! asks: Cashman refused to pull the trigger on Corbin and Eovaldi. Is it likely he does the same with Machado? If so, what does this newfound hesitation mean for the Yankees in the future in terms of their ability to get the biggest names on the market?

Until I see the Yankees flex their financial muscle again, I’m going to count them out on spending big. The MLBPA did a real nice job of allowing a quasi-salary cap, and owners have convinced fans that cheap, homegrown talent is preferable to paying free agents. Just look at the Dodgers. They had to resort to a convoluted, NBA-style trade to lower their luxury tax hit. This is a systemic problem that needs addressing, and a labor stoppage appears the only way to do so.

That aside, I can’t see the Bombers engaging in a bidding war. They will most likely name their price and see if Machado prefers to play for them, not the highest offer. That strategy sounds smart until you miss out on every single premier free agent.

They absolutely should open the checkbook and sign Machado, and Bryce Harper, too. This winter is the baseball opportunity of a lifetime. Instead, we’ll get Hal Steinbrenner talking about how a team doesn’t need a $200 million payroll to win a championship.

Chuck asks: While Manny Machado would be a nice addition, shouldn’t the team focus on the fact that they lack left-handed batters in a stadium that cries out for that as an advantage? So therefore Bryce Harper makes more sense from a balance perspective.

While there is some merit to balancing the lineup, I think that argument gets overplayed — especially when discussing elite batters. The Yankees shouldn’t pass on Machado because he’s a right-handed batter, nor should they pursue Harper because he’s a left-handed hitter. Sign them because they’re incredibly talented baseball players.

Consider these two data points:

Machado vs. RHP: 139 wRC+
Harper vs. RHP: 137 wRC+

One also has to remember that bullpen matchups aren’t nearly as motivated by handedness as one thinks anymore. In the late innings of a game, a manager most likely won’t call on a LOOGY. He will probably summon one of his three super-relievers. Passing on Machado because he’s a right-handed batter is something that a team will regret immediately.