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Yankees Mailbag: Salaries, Clint Frazier and pieces of metal

We’ve rounded up your questions, now here’s the answers in our weekly mailbag.

Washington Nationals Victory Parade 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.

Kevin asks: Because of the shortened season, the Yankee payroll will be drastically reduced. Will they have to pay the luxury tax?

Yep. Even though teams are paying pro-rated salaries, in effect their payrolls are the same as they would’ve been if the full season had been payed. This means that teams like the Red Sox who traded Mookie Betts to get under the max-level tax didn’t trade a generational superstar for nothing, and it also means that the Yankees will be paying for going all in on 2020. There was a proposal to absolve the tax for this season, but it ultimately wasn’t ratified.

George Olney asks: With the player’s salaries prorated for the season, I was wondering what is the impact on the Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury’s salary arbitration?

We’re two-for-two on salary questions. Unfortunately, I don’t have any information to share with you here, because Ellsbury’s situation has been completely silent for months. If I had to speculate, I imagine that should Ellsbury win his case to receive his pay the Yankees would counter by requiring it to be pro-rated like all the other salaries this year. I don’t think there’s anything that Ellsbury’s camp could do about that, since players who are actively playing had to accept this too and it was a union-wide negotiation.

Kyle Ren asks: Clint Frazier, do you see him staying or going? I think there may be room for him next year if they elect to not re-sign Gardner...your thoughts?

I’ve been very impressed with Clint this year. Obviously, he’s not going to get a full season to truly make a statement on whether he’s for real or not, but I don’t think there’s ever been much of a question about his bat. His adjustments have made his power more pronounced so far, but in general his offense has been the most appealing aspect of his game.

The real test would be his play in the outfield, and that’s something that can be judged within the amount of games that are available. He’s definitely been more solid, though he still draws some moments of hesitation before he comes down with the catch. I’m a firm believer in that, ring or no ring this year, Brett Gardner’s tenure should probably end, which opens up a role full-time for Clint which has been hard to come by. Mike Tauchman is still a candidate, but I’d feel more comfortable letting Gardy go with both of them remaining on the team.

The one reason I could see Frazier leaving is that as far as movable trade chips go... the Yankees don’t have much for this year specifically. They’re limited to the 60 players they selected as members of either the main or alternate site rosters, and they’re unlikely to send away some of their pitching prospects that are close to the show. A trade simply may not be feasible considering the larger issue of the pandemic going on, but if the Yankees can line up a deal they may not be able to secure an agreement without parting with Frazier.

Ciabatta220 asks: Can the Yanks bring home that piece of metal in October if they enter the postseason with Cole at #1, and then consider Tanaka’s turn and Paxton’s turn (assuming no one else steps up) bullpen games going into them? They’d obviously take advantage of any length they can get out of Tanaka and/or Paxton, but go into those games not counting on it at all.

My gut feeling is no. It’s hard enough to tax a bullpen with a normal amount of starters that just have to get lifted after two turns through the lineup, like last year’s Yankees demonstrated, but asking them to do the heavy lifting for three out of four games is begging for disaster.

Unfortunately Paxton may be out of commission so counting on him is unlikely, but I expect Masahiro Tanaka to get his arm fully built up by October (assuming he stays healthy, which is apparently a big ask these days). From there, you could some candidates emerge to follow him — Jordan Montgomery has looked good more often than he hasn’t, Clarke Schmidt could be called up to bolster the rotation or a trade could be made for reinforcements. Should the Yankees be contending for that piece of metal, I doubt that Brian Cashman will allow the rotation to look like it has throughout the remainder of the year.