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Yankees mailbag: Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado, and James Paxton

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The answers to this week’s mailbag are in

Chicago Cubs v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Hi, everyone, and happy Friday! We have a short mailbag today, but I think they were fun questions. Remember to send in your submissions to our weekly mailbag call or by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Yanks4ever asks: If the Yankees were to somehow trade for one of the third basemen available, who would theoretically be more likely: Kris Bryant or Nolan Arenado?

The Yankees reportedly love Arenado. Last winter, rumors surfaced suggesting they weren’t heavily invested in the Manny Machado derby because they wanted to wait out Arenado’s free agency. That of course happened before he signed an eight-year, $260-million extension. Hal Steinbrenner has said before that he would exceed the third luxury-tax tier for the right players, but recent history points to him avoiding another contract of that magnitude.

Bryant, on the other hand, stands out as an intriguing target. The 28-year-old lost his grievance with the Cubs last month, so he remains arbitration eligible through the 2021 season. He will earn $18.6 million in 2020.

Who makes for the better target? To get a feel for that, consider how they performed over the last three seasons:

Arenado - .307/.375/.577, 6.1 K-BB%, 130 wRC+
Bryant - .284/.390/.511, 9.2 K-BB%, 137 wRC+

When it comes to defense, Arenado stands unrivaled at the hot corner. He’s the best third baseman in baseball, and it’s not particularly close either. His 17 Outs Above Average in 2019 bested Matt Chaman, the second-place finisher, by three whole outs. In comparison, Bryant managed an OAA of two. He does have more versatility than Arendao, though, with the ability to cover spots in the outfield. The Yankees definitely value that.

Overall, I would love to see either in pinstripes. The contract likely rules Arenado out, sadly, but Bryant would be a fantastic consolation prize. I’d say he has greater upside at the plate and his positional versatility is a bonus. I don’t expect either, but these are players worth the Yankees cashing in all their chips.

Mark asks: James Paxton is to miss three to fourth months. Is that in the season or calendar months? Is there any history of other players having that surgery?

Paxton, 31, underwent a microscopic lumbar discectomy earlier this week. That’s a fairly routine procedure to remove a herniated disc. The presence of a peridiscal cyst is less common, but Dr. Andrew Dossett successfully extricated it as well. He is expected to return to the mound in the majors in three to four months. That makes May or June reasonable targets, assuming his rehab goes well.

According to a 2015 study in Clinical Orthapaedics and Related Research, approximately “...75% to 100% of the elite athletes studied were able to return to their prior level of competition after lumbar discectomy, which is comparable or better than that of the general population.” The article also notes baseball players return to action postoperatively at a higher rate than other sports.

Anthony asks: What about using David Hale in a long-relief role? He did well when healthy.

Hale, 32, pitched 37.2 innings with the Yankees in 2019, registering a 3.11 ERA (3.32 FIP) before a lumbar sprain ended his season. He signed a minor-league deal to return to the Bombers this offseason and received an invitation to spring training. The Yankees clearly like Hale, having signed him to five separate contracts since the start of 2018. It’s not a glamorous role, but hey, it’s better than nothing. I think if healthy, Hale has a leg up on the competition for the long-reliever, especially after Paxton’s injury.