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Yankees Mailbag: Gio Urshela, the bait-and-switch and offseason arms

Here are the answers to this week’s mailbag.

American League Division Series Game 3: New York Yankees v. Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Good morning everyone, your answers to this week’s mailbag are right here. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

ypar70 asks: Is Gio Urshela having a better season than Scott Brosius on the ‘98 Yankee Dynasty? And how do the postseason stats compare — if possible at this point?

This is an interesting comparison, let’s dive into it a bit. Brosius has a similar background to Urshela in that he was a longtime member of a different organization — in this case, the Athletics — but never really emerged as a consistent player with the bat before breaking out in his first season in pinstripes. The main differences, however, are that Brosius spent his time with the major league club while Urshela was mainly a minor leaguer with the Indians, and Brosius did have a great 1996 season while in Oakland.

Talking specifically about 1998 Brosius, it was undoubtedly the third baseman’s best season in pinstripes. He slashed .300/.371/.472 with 19 home runs and 98 RBI, good for a 123 wRC+ and a five fWAR season. Urshela hasn’t had the full season to accurately compare to Brosius’ numbers, but what he compiled in this 60-game year looks to be on a similar pace. Urshela slashed .298/.368/.490 with six bombs and 30 RBI, collecting a 133 wRC+ and 1.6 fWAR. If we assume Urshela plays to that performance throughout 162 games instead of 60, he’d end the year with around 18 homers, 80 RBI and 4.2 fWAR. Not quite on par, but close.

Steve asks: I am sure you will be fielding a dozen questions on this same topic, but it seems obvious to me the “García/Happ” decision is not one that Boone made, or at a minimum, certainly not on his own. Seems like a front office level decision. Would you agree?

Yup, I think that sounds about right. Boone’s hiring was pretty much predicated on the idea that the front office was going to be more involved in the game-level decisions, and that they wanted a clubhouse guy to run things in the dugout. Everything that we’ve seen over the last three years points to that, as Boone has certainly run a looser ship than Joe Girardi did, and the team has leaned more heavily on analytics and matchups than before.

Cooper wrote in detail about the bait-and-switch earlier this week, and I mostly agree with his analysis of the situation. I do think that in a short series like the ALDS, there is a risk with using your starters in a way that they aren’t used to, and clearly for J.A. Happ that was a scenario where he wasn’t comfortable. I don’t know how different the series would look if they had simply gone to Masahiro Tanaka in Game Two and then started Happ outright for Game Three, but it’s a moot point now. Tanaka didn’t perform, and the Yankees are still alive for the moment. Hopefully they’ll have a chance this season to consider what they learned from that attempt and apply it going forward.

Charles asks: This postseason has once again revealed the Yankees’ pitching shortage, so in this offseason will the team go for another pitcher besides re-signing Tanaka?

Never trust pitching depth is the new “there is no such thing as a pitching prospect,” apparently. The Yankees have had some promising rotations in the past couple of seasons get completely upheaved by injuries, and while it’s impossible to just go out and sign three or four guys to guarantee they’ll have depth, they do need to address their rotation again.

Gerrit Cole is the anchor that they’ve needed for a long time now, and Tanaka, despite his struggles in this postseason, should be a top priority to bring back. Beyond that, however, there are plenty of question marks to answer. James Paxton is as good as gone, which will open up a slot. Luis Severino will miss significant time in 2021, and if his 2019 campaign is any indication there’s no guarantee that he can be plugged straight into the rotation in May-June. He’ll need time to ramp up, so as it stands New York will have a lot of young pitchers filling in for two to three nights a week.

The market for pitchers will be thin this year, and the Yankees have a surplus of pitching prospects that haven’t had a chance to prove themselves with not enough slots for all of them. Personally, I’d like to see Brian Cashman start to cash his chips in by packaging prospects for another tier-two pitcher that can hold the fort down. I don’t think that Cashman can reasonably be expected to swipe away another team’s ace, but someone like Luis Castillo could be available.

The team has some promising prospects, but they’re entering the portion of their window with this core where they should look to go all-in before they need to lock guys like Aaron Judge and Gleyber Torres to long-term deals. They can no longer be held back by a fragile rotation, and re-tooling the starters will be one of the biggest decisions Cashman will face this offseason.