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Yankees Mailbag: Signing Gerrit Cole, Gary Sanchez’s slump, Cameron Maybin’s return

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The answers to this week’s mailbag are in!

Ask Pinstripe Alley

Hello and happy Friday! We have a larger mailbag this week, with six questions getting answers. If I missed yours, don’t feel bad. There will be another one next week. Just keep submitting.

Doug asks: The Yankees passed on Patrick Corbin last winter, spending their money elsewhere. They’ve long liked Gerrit Cole. Do you see there being any real chance they take the savings from expiring contracts and go in big on Cole? He’s probably going to cost more than Corbin, but he’d bring a pedigree arm to a rotation that lacks such.

Longtime readers know that I love Cole. I got quite excited when the Yankees tried trading for him a few winters ago. I’d say he’s my favorite pitcher not playing in pinstripes. The 28-year-old has managed a 13.50 K/9 rate with a 3.03 ERA (3.01 FIP) over 136.2 innings this season. He’s so good it’s silly.

At the same time, I have serious doubts about the Yankees signing him this offseason. Ken Rosenthal (subscription required) hinted that the going price for Cole will exceed $200 million. Every move that Brian Cashman has made over the last few years point towards the club passing on the opportunity to go big-game hunting in free agency.

The Bombers don’t have many contracts expiring this year besides CC Sabathia, Brett Gardner, Dellin Betances, and Didi Gregorius. Aroldis Chapman could also opt out of his deal, but that remains to be determined. If they add a controllable pitcher at the deadline, that only lowers the team’s incentive to pay top dollar for Cole.

Unless Scott Boras tricks the Yankees into thinking that Cole is a can’t-miss reliever, I don’t see them splurging on the right-hander. I sure hope I’m wrong.

Range Rider asks: Behind the scenes, are the Yanks chalking up the high rate of player injury to just “bad luck” or are they undertaking a serious evaluation process to determine if the issue is related to their training protocols?

I usually stay away from questions about the medical and training staffs because I don’t have access to all of the necessary information. In this instance, however, the Yankees gave us an answer. After Luis Severino suffered a lat strain, Cashman told reporters that he would launch an investigation into how the setback occurred, consulting with the various parties involved in the rehab.

“I’m waking [sic] through the entire process. I’m not going to deliver a Mueller report whenever I conclude it,” said Cashman to James Wagner last spring. “But we’re going through and I’m personally engaging every aspect.”

The Yankees general manager revealed in June that he concluded the exploration. “I’ve gone through the process and I’ll leave it at that,” he told George King at the London Series. “We always evaluate our processes. If there (are) gaps or problems or mistakes made by us, then they are dealt with.”

When it comes to running an organization, few do it better than the Yankees. They’re exceptionally smart and not afraid to change something that isn’t working. They wouldn’t keep any process—or person—that doesn’t benefit the club. I’d say it’s safe to trust Cashman and the front office on this one. They legitimately know best here.

MAP88 asks: Is Gary Sanchez really never going to be the prolific hitter we thought he’d be? He’s closer to Salvador Perez than he is Mike Piazza from the looks of it. Will we ever get The Kraken back?

Sanchez’s recent slump, which includes a -8 wRC+ on the month of July, has fans revisiting their 2018 criticisms. That’s rather unfortunate. Few great players get as excoriated as Sanchez.

I say that deliberately, too. Sanchez is a great player. He hits the ball harder than nearly anyone else in the league. The Kraken ranks in the 93rd percentile when it comes to exit velocity! Good things happen when a player makes that kind of contact.

Credit: FanGraphs

He has the results to show for it, too. Sanchez owns a career 120 wRC+. Before his slump, he was hitting .261/.330/.588 with a 134 wRC+. That put him on pace for his best season since his Ruthian debut in 2016. Sanchez is a flat-out remarkable batter.

Comparing him Sal Perez doesn’t hold water, either. Perez owns a career average 97 wRC+. He is famous for being the catcher who made a couple of World Series appearances and started a few All-Star Games before Sanchez debuted. For context, Sanchez’s down year in 2018 saw him hit to the tune of an 89 wRC+. That was what Perez hit in 2016, and better than the mark he posted during the Royals’ 2015 World Series run.

As for Mike Piazza, he’s literally a Hall of Fame catcher. Expecting a player to keep up with that comparison will only result in disappointment. Enjoy Sanchez for who he is: the best hitting catcher in baseball today. I’ll never get it why that’s so difficult for some Yankees fans.

thedozen asks: Could CC Sabathia end the season in the bullpen?

If the Yankees acquire a starting pitcher, they will have to do a little roster shuffling to get him to fit. Someone will have to move to the bullpen, unless the Yankees opt for a six-man rotation. They might try that for a turn or two, but they haven’t given any indication that it’s a long-term strategy.

Sabathia, 38, has pitched to a 4.50 ERA (5.82 FIP) this season. His 97 ERA- is a tad better than league average, but also his worst mark since reinventing himself in 2016. That said, the left-hander is too well respected to get demoted in his retirement season. He isn’t 2014 Derek Jeter levels of unplayable, so he will in all likelihood keep his rotation spot. Don’t get too comfortable, J.A. Happ...

Mark asks: Where do you see Cameron Maybin fitting in with the team the second half? And is he really faster than Brett Gardner?

As it turns out, the Yankees need a fourth outfielder right now. Gardner landed on the 10-day IL yesterday with knee inflammation, which opened the door for Maybin to rejoin the club tonight. He will pick up right where he left off. It’s kind of wild how these things work themselves out, don’t they?

As for speed, I’m going to go with Gardner. Since Statcast began measuring sprint speed in 2015, Gardy has averaged 28.88 ft/s. Maybin, on the other hand, falls a hair behind at 28.76 ft/s. While both players have maxed out at 29.1 ft/s, Gardner also has a second 29 to his name. Maybin only has one. They’re both extremely fast, and it would make for a great race. I kind of want to see them compete in a 100 meter dash now.

Larry asks: Any idea what Yankees prospects will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft this year?

The Yankees have several high-profile prospects Rule 5 eligible this season. They include Deivi Garcia, Estevan Florial, Luis Gil, Mike King, and Trevor Lane to name a few. For a full breakdown, check out Pinstriped Prospects’ catalog.