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Yankees Mailbag: Aaron Judge for Max Scherzer, trade market, London Series

Your mailbag answers have arrived!

Ask Pinstripe Alley

Hello, everyone, happy Friday! We have a fairly large mailbag this week, with seven questions getting responses. Keep submitting if I didn’t answer yours. I can always try it for next week.

Steve asks: The Yankees need another quality starter. Who out there is available?

For a starting pitcher, the most realistic trade targets include Madison Bumgarner, Marcus Stroman, and Matt Boyd. If the Mets continue to crater, expect them to shop Zack Wheeler. Trevor Bauer likely won’t get moved because Cleveland remains in the mix for a Wild Card spot. There also is almost no chance Max Scherzer gets traded, as the Nationals think they can mount a comeback. PSA alumnus and current FanGraphs writer Craig Edwards did a fine job explaining why Scherzer rumors are likely just noise.

That list is by no means exhaustive; I just rattled off the first names that came to mind. We’re starting our PSA trade target posts on Monday, however, so be on the look out for more in-depth coverage.

Hakim asks: This is an incredible trade: Judge for Scherzer. We do not need a third or fourth starter as we have plenty of those (Happ, German, Loaisiga, Montgomery), but we do need an ace for the playoffs. We have a ton of outfielders and can live very well without Judge. Our current record is evidence of this. We can start Stanton and Frazier in right and left, with Gardner and Maybin as defensive replacements. Of course it would be better to trade Frazier and a pitching prospect for Scherzer, but I doubt Washington would do that.

I mentioned above that the Nationals have no reason to trade Scherzer. Let’s just assume, for the sake of this question, that they did. Even if they shopped their ace, there’s no way the Yankees would offer Aaron Judge for the right-hander. Two reasons come to mind: one baseball related, and one on the PR side.

From a baseball standpoint, Judge is a unicorn. On a one-to-one basis, few players could match or eclipse his value moving forward. You can probably count them on one hand, and none are pitchers. Scherzer owns a claim to the title of best starting pitcher since 2016 or so. He’s prodigiously good at what he does! That, however, doesn’t put him at Judge’s value level. The Yankees won in his absence, but the team cannot “live very well without Judge”. He’s as close to indispensable as they come.

Also, think about it from the Yankees’ perspective. They employ one of the most famous athletes in the world. In terms of jersey sales, Judge led all of baseball in both 2017 and 2018. He has high-profile sponsorships, he appears on Jimmy Fallon, and he’s a global ambassador for the Yankees’ brand. If the team traded him, they wouldn’t be the New York Yankees anymore.

In many ways this reminds me of last year, when the New York Times suggested trading Judge to the Mets for Jacob deGrom. Flipping Judge wasn’t the right move then, and it still isn’t now.

Ducky Buckin Fent asks: This spring it was reported that Masahiro Tanaka was working on a new pitch. He was tinkering with a knuckle-curve. From what I can tell, he’s not throwing one. Has this been abandoned, or am I just missing it?

You’re right, Kento wrote extensively about Tanaka experimenting with a knuckle-curve during spring training. It looks like that’s all it was though. So far this season, Tanaka has thrown a curveball 3.6% of the time. That rate represents the pitch’s lowest usage percentage since joining the Yankees.

Masahiro Tanaka’s curveball usage

Pitch 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Pitch 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Curveball 5.7% 7.1% 5.5% 5.9% 3.9% 3.6%

Compared to Tanaka’s other pitches, the hook has a relatively low whiff rate (11.8%). It operates as a show-me pitch more than anything. Turns out the new knuckle-curve was just one of those spring training storylines that stay in Tampa.

#UsetheOpener!!! asks: What are the rules regarding the London Series? Are the Yankees allowed to carry more than 25 players? I would imagine it being difficult to call somebody up from Triple-A if (when?) somebody gets hurt.

While MLB has yet to announce the rules for the London Series, I suspect they will be similar to when teams visit Japan. Think about when the A’s and Mariners opened the season at the Tokyo Dome. In that instance, clubs had a 25-man roster, but they brought 28 players along. Expect an extra bench bat and maybe two pitchers.

Mark asks: Have they finalized the dimensions for the field in London yet? Rumor was it was going to be a very short outfield.

Olympic Stadium, home to the London Series, will have wonky dimensions for sure. According to reports, home plate to the foul poles will run 330 feet, and to center field 385 feet. Put the Yankees and Red Sox in that bandbox and watch the balls fly out.

As an aside, Ben Lindbergh and Sam Miller discussed this on a recent episode of the Effectively Wild podcast. I highly recommend giving it a listen.

Robert asks: How many people are allowed in the dugout, and are there any rules with regard to dress code for players not on the 25-man roster?

The answer to this question lies in the Official Baseball Rules, specifically entry 5.10(k):

Players and substitutes of both teams shall confine themselves to their team’s benches unless actually participating in the play or preparing to enter the game, or coaching at first or third base. No one except players, substitutes, managers, coaches, trainers and bat boys shall occupy a bench during a game.

A commentary adds:

Players on the injured list are permitted to participate in pre-game activity and sit on the bench during a game but may not take part in any activity during the game such as warming up a pitcher, bench-jockeying, etc. Injured players are not allowed to enter the playing surface at any time or for any purpose during the game.

So it looks like there is no official limit, and that checks out. Think about September when rosters expand. The dugouts get super crowded.

As for the uniform rule, it applies only to active players. That said, anyone in the dugout wears team gear. You won’t find someone hanging out on the bench in street clothes during a game.

Alison asks: YES Network cameras often showed Judge in the Yankees’ dugout while he was on the IL, but never Stanton (at least never when I was watching). Was Stanton there as well? And if not, why was Judge with the team but Stanton elsewhere?

Many players rehab at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa. Stanton got a lot of his work in there, but he also found time to join the team on the bench. Here’s a photo of him in the dugout on May 11:

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There he is!

As is typically the case with Judge, he proves the exception to the rule. It was notable when he insisted on traveling with the team while injured.