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Yankees Mailbag: Gio Urshela, Miguel Andujar, postseason pitching

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The answers to this week’s Yankees mailbag are in.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a busy week around the PSA offices, but we still have time for a Friday mailbag. There are eight questions this week. Remember to submit yours in our weekly call for questions or by email to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

psualum9931 asks: Does the emergence of Gio Urshela increase the likelihood of trading Miguel Andujar next year? The Yankees have an abundance of designated hitter/first base types, but not third basemen. What are the odds that Urshela can keep up average to slightly above average production?

Remember when Miguel Andujar hit to a 128 wRC+ and Wally Pipp’d Brandon Drury? Now it looks like he got Wally Pipp’d himself by Gio Urshela. The 27-year-old carries a .336/.377/.567 batting line with 18 home runs (145 wRC+) into Friday night’s game. He’s legitimately a top-20 hitter in baseball. Pair that with strong defense at third base and it feels like Andujar’s on the outside looking in.

Could the Yankees trade Andujar this winter? Sure, it’s possible. That said, his value is probably at it’s lowest. Last winter teams reportedly had concerns over his defense, and those questions still linger. Now it’s unclear how his bat will play after labrum surgery. If the Bombers moved him now, they would certainly be selling low. It probably makes more sense to hang on to him and incorporate him into a revolving door of quality position players, kind of like what the Dodgers have done over the last few seasons.

As for Urshela, he looks more legit with each passing game. A few mechanical tweaks, however, have allowed the third baseman to crush the ball. He also adopted a pull-happy approach that has worked to great success. “I knew I had power,” Urshela explained to Rustin Dodd of The Athletic. “In BP, I can drive the ball. But in the games, I don’t know how to use it. So I was hitting the ball in the air with no legs or anything.”

The juiced ball obviously helps as home runs leave the park at an historic rate, but there’s no denying the substantive changes Urshela made to his game. Maybe he settles in as a 115-120 wRC+ guy moving forward. That still would serve as a stunning success story. The fact he’s transformed into peak Manny Machado for 2019 is probably worthy of a daily reminder article.

TommyJohn asks: Is CC finally cooked? How bad do you think he would have to be for the Yanks to cut him loose?

CC Sabathia being one of the worst starting pitchers in baseball makes me sad, y’all. He’s my favorite player and it sucks to see him struggle. The left-hander owns a 5.01 ERA (5.96 FIP) over 93.1 innings. His signature soft contact has evaporated and batters are mashing him to the tune of a 2.41 HR/9. Barring a sudden turnaround down the stretch, Sabathia’s final season in baseball will amount to a disappointment.

The Yankees, however, will never cut him loose. He means too much to the team. He’s a clubhouse leader and that would send a horrible message. They kept a zombie Derek Jeter in the two-hole throughout 2014, remember. Sabathia will probably see his playing time diminish in September, and he likely won’t pitch in any high-leverage situations in the playoffs.

Whatever, it will all be worth it when he gets to go out with a ring.

Many have asked: What about trading J.A. Happ this offseason?

Speaking of pitchers who have been unplayable, meet J.A. Happ. In December the 36-year-old signed a two-year deal with a vesting option for 2021. Since then he’s posted a 5.58 ERA (5.69 FIP) with a 2.16 HR/9. Oops.

The Yankees, in theory, could move Happ after the season. His contract isn’t onerous and teams might be on the lookout for a warm body with some upside. The 2019-2020 free agent market doesn’t have a ton of quality starting pitching options, so it’s possible. The Yankees would probably have to attach a prospect to make it work, like the Bryan Mitchell and Chase Headley trade.

Signing an impact starter—hello, Gerrit Cole—and trading Happ makes the most sense for this offseason. It’s definitely possible! I just don’t know how likely it is.

Tampa Fred asks: Would you explain the postseason roster rules? Seems like MLB has tweaked them so much the last 15-20 years. Would Jordan Montgomery be eligible if he’s a September call-up? Include the substitution for injured players once rosters have been set and games started for a particular series.

In short, anyone on the 40-man roster or 60-day injured list at 11:59 PM on August 31 is eligible for the postseason. That means Montgomery would be fair game, as he’s on the 60-day IL. Exceptions can be made through the Commissioner’s Office, but those players have to be in the organization before September 1.

As for the postseason itself, here’s what the official rules have to say:

Teams submit a 25-man roster prior to each round of the postseason comprised of postseason-eligible players. A club may request permission from the Commissioner’s Office to replace a player who is injured during the course of a series, but that player is then ineligible for the rest of that round and the subsequent round, if there is one. A pitcher may be replaced only by another pitcher, and a position player only by another position player.

Range Rider asks: Will Aaron Judge be the next Yankee to be named captain?

Judge meets all the leadership requirements for team captain, and he’s arguably the most recognizable player in baseball. That said, I don’t think the Yankees will give him that title right away. Remember, Jeter didn’t get named captain until the 2003 season. By then he had four World Series titles and a mega-contract under his belt. The Yankees feel no need to rush these things.

Larry asks: Why is Cameron Maybin playing ahead of Clint Frazier? He is worse defensively and is less of a threat with the bat.

Fun fact: Cameron Maybin has hit .301/.381/.505 with eight home runs (134 wRC+) over 210 plate appearances with the Yankees. That’s a best case scenario batting line for Frazier, right? Maybin’s been so good this season and that doesn’t get talked about enough. Like Urshela, there are some reasons to believe the changes he made are lasting. Lindsey Adler of The Athletic did a nice breakdown of this. I also talked about why Frazier was still in Triple-A during our last mailbag. That piece is worth revisiting.

David asks: Is the man who interprets Japanese for Tanaka the same individual that does the Spanish interpretation? If so how many languages does he speak? What’s his name and background? He is talented.

The Yankees have two primary translators in the clubhouse. Shingo Horie serves as Masahiro Tanaka’s translator, while Marlon Abreu translates for the Spanish-speaking players. Both are immensely talented and have interesting backgrounds. Abreu previously worked in the Yankees’ IT department, as noted by Mark Feinsand. Horie, meanwhile, used to work in broadcasting. Ryan Hatch has a fascinating profile of him at NJ.com.

byomtov asks: What’s that orange rectangular thing on the pitcher’s mound?

That would be a cleat cleaner. It comes in handy when field conditions are messy. Teams are allowed to have that and a rosin bag on the back of the pitcher’s mound.