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Yankees mailbag: Josh Hader trade, clubhouse leaders, 2020 free agents

The answers to this week’s mailbag have arrived!

Wild Card Round - Milwaukee Brewers v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Hi, everyone, happy Friday! I was pressed for time this week, so I have a shorter mailbag for you. I saved a bunch of questions for later in the offseason though. As always, if you have questions, you can send them to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com. Thank you and enjoy your weekend!

Derek asks: Why are the Yankees so aggressively pursuing Josh Hader? They will essentially have the same bullpen in 2020 as they did in 2019, which was probably the strongest area of the team and one of the best in baseball.

The Yankees’ relief staff had an ERA- of 89 last season. That’s really good, and it does indeed rank near the top of the league. It just isn’t as good as fans are used to seeing. That mark placed them fifth in baseball, behind the Indians, Rays, Astros, and Athletics. For comparison, the Yankees’ bullpen in 2018 had a 79 ERA-, good for second in baseball.

I suppose that means you could make the case for an upgrade, and Hader would certainly do that. The 25-year-old pitched to a 2.62 ERA (3.10 FIP) with a 16.41 K/9 rate across 75.2 innings in 2019. The Yankees keep popping up in rumors, but it’s unclear if the Brewers will actually move him.

The Yankees love to shorten the game, but the cost for Hader should be high. That complicates matters, as does the luxury tax implication. I think this is a rumor to keep an eye on, but there’s more smoke than fire at this point.

NYCKING asks: What is one American League park outside of Yankee Stadium and one National League park where you would like to watch a game?

Fun question! In the AL, the answer has to be Camden Yards. As for the National League, I’m going to go with PNC Park. The Pittsburgh skyline beyond the outfield makes it second to none.

Mark asks: What are the worst losses this offseason from a clubhouse perspective?

It’s often tough to answer these types of questions without access to the clubhouse, but I think there’s enough evidence to say the Yankees lost several team leaders this winter. CC Sabathia retired; Didi Gregorius signed with the Phillies; Dellin Betances joined the Mets; even Austin Romine departed for the Tigers. All four of those players had key roles in the clubhouse. Heck, you can probably even count Cameron Maybin among them even though he only played for a few months in New York.

Brett Gardner is back, and Aaron Judge has taken on a leadership role since 2017. Expect Gerrit Cole to help the vacuum too, and maybe another player like Gleyber Torres or Giancarlo Stanton. I think it’s easy to overvalue clubhouse chemistry, but you can also erroneously dismiss it altogether.

Yanks4ever asks: It’s never too early to look ahead to next winter. What free agent targets do you see the Yankees pursuing in 2020?

James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka! That is my way of saying it’s too early to look ahead to next winter.