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Yankees Mailbag: Aaron Judge to first base, offseason plans, more

The first mailbag of the offseason has arrived.

Division Series - New York Yankees v Tampa Bay Rays - Game Five Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Good morning everyone, there were plenty of questions tossed in for this week’s mailbag. I’ll try to get to a bit more of them than usual, but there’s probably going to be an overflow into next week as well. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

NYYROC asks: Instead of listing the old traditional stats on the screen, BA, HR, RBI, W-L etc., what “advanced” stats would you show on TV?

I am admittedly a bit too attached to the traditional stats that broadcasts throw up on the screen myself, but there’s room for a mixture of both. For instance, I don’t think there’s any reason to drop something like home runs from the lower third, though something like batting average can easily be dropped for on-base percentage. Win-loss is largely irrelevant, but it’s the header for a whole list of stats whenever a pitcher enters the game, so I don’t mind seeing that either.

There’s precious few things I will praise ESPN’s broadcast for, but they’ve actually been one of the only stations that I’ve seen begin to make this change. They lead off a batter’s stat line with his OPS now, and then list some more traditional stats, and I think that’s a good adaptation. I’d also like to see pitchers’ FIP be listed below his ERA for comparison’s sake. Small, incremental additions like this is probably the best way to go about it.

jjpf asks: Owners’ man Manfred has already hinted that there will again be more than 10 teams in the 2021 playoffs — pick a number from 10 through 16 and give your reason(s) why.

I’m a fan of making the playoffs a 12-team race. I think that MLB did the right thing in expanding to 10 teams and introducing a penalty to the Wild Card teams, but I’ve never been a fan of the single-game elimination. Having the Yankees play through three of those games certainly didn’t help improve my opinion of them, but even when they were first conceptualized I think it was a bit too drastic a shift from making the Wild Card a free entrance into a heavy-handed punishment.

Expanding to 12 teams allowed for a system similar to how the NFL has run for years — rewarding your top two seeds from each league and then making the remaining eight teams battle it out in an extra round. It doesn’t dilute the pool enough to encourage mediocrity, but it might cause some more teams to stay in the hunt. I would honestly be a bit outraged if MLB kept this current 16 team system, and still annoyed if they kept 16 teams but tried to make it a bit more weighted to the top teams. Any other number seems too awkward to form a system for, personally.

Shoducky asks: How long until we move Judge to 1B? He can’t seem to stay healthy in RF, so isn’t it inevitable that he moves to 1B? That would free up Cash to trade Voit for a starter or whatever and open RF for a free agent lefty bat — say Joc Pedersen. Also can we admit we made a mistake and re-sign Didi? Just sayin’.

Well, moving Judge over from right field to first base isn’t going to solve the calf strains he sustained this season just from batting, so I don’t think this would be a wise move. Besides, Judge’s defense at right field is elite and you’re not going to replace that with anyone on the market, especially not Pedersen. Also, as much as the lack of left-handed batters is discussed, I don’t think it’s enough of a priority to make such a drastic move like that. The offense disappointed for exactly one game this postseason, and it happened to be the last game of the year. Any semblance of pitching in prior games and there never even is a Game Five.

Now, for the other half of your question. It does seem like the Yankees will shop Voit around a bit after a career year, though I’d hope that they don’t pull that trigger unless someone blows them away with a stupid offer. Even if we assume he does get traded, in your scenario with Judge moving to first there’s no room in the infield for a reunion with Didi Gregorius. There’s definitely a world where DJ LeMahieu doesn’t re-sign and thus a spot opens up, but I think that would be a downgrade overall. The Yankees surely miss his capable glove, but I believe the ship has sailed for Didi in pinstripes.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: What should be the five things the Yankees should look to accomplish this offseason? In 2019 they went in with a specific check list of needs and came back with Otto, Happ and DJL. In 2020, it was obviously Cole or bust. What should the checklist be this winter?

In order of importance, I’d say the checklist should be: secure starting pitching depth, scour the trade market, pick up a reliever from free agency and work on improving the defense.

The first is self-explanatory, and they can go a long way to completing that if they bring back Masahiro Tanaka. That alone won’t be enough though, as it was clear the team lacked quality arms behind Gerrit Cole all season and they won’t have many options available at the start of 2021. Trevor Bauer is a name that will be thrown around all offseason, but personally I’d like to see if the team can make a second attempt at acquiring Marcus Stroman.

The second step overlaps quite a bit with the first, but Brian Cashman should and will be wearing out the phone lines over the next couple of months. A starter will be the primary target, but there will be notable names like Francisco Lindor being shopped. I think a Lindor trade is less likely than some hope, but it wouldn’t hurt to listen in and see what the price will be. More importantly, the Yankees have a field of prospects getting closer to the majors without many spots to play them, and their farm system projects more towards quantity than quality. They need to start cashing in some chips if they want to maximize the value of their system, and a lot of those evaluations to see which players will be kept around has to happen this offseason.

Finally, while they’ll need to partially improve their bullpen from within, it would be prudent to shop for one of the key arms on the market this winter. Names like Liam Hendriks, Trevor Rosenthal, Alex Colomé and Trevor May should highlight the relief corps available, and snagging one of those players would be a big boost to a segment of the Yankees that unexpectedly struggled in 2020.

Regarding the team’s defense, I don’t think there’s going to be many — if any — moves to bring in players for that purpose. The team will likely rely on their players putting in the work to improve in this aspect, and that’s the prudent move. New York hasn’t committed long-term to Gleyber Torres or Gary Sánchez yet, and thus don’t need to make moves to replace what they’re producing at shortstop and catcher, respectively. They do need to see improvement soon, however, or else they will have to make moves down the line. For now, the priority remains on pitching, so let’s see what these two can show in 2021.