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Yankees mailbag: Playoff opponents, roster concerns and legacies

Check out the answers to your questions in our latest mailbag.

Houston Astros v Oakland Athletics Photo by Ezra Shaw/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.

Miguel asks: Right now, the first round in the postseason is a best of three at Tropicana or at the Coliseum. Which option is better for us? I hate both.

I hate them both too, Miguel. Technically the Yankees may not be dealing with either location, as rumors of a playoff bubble have been floating around for some time now, but I’ll deal with this question as a straight-up which would you prefer. Either the Bombers would be dealing with the devil they know in Tampa, or facing an unknown with a talented Oakland squad.

Both of these teams have been among the most consistent rosters in the American League, and each presents their own set of problems for New York. Personally, I would prefer to deal with the mystery of facing Oakland. Tampa has been a struggle for the Yankees all season, and while a fully healthy version of the team may put up a better fight than the current iteration has I just think the Rays have had their number this year. So many of their games have been not just defeats, but lifeless performances where you’re just waiting for it to end. Overcoming that in a short postseason series would be a great revenge story, but sitting through two or three more of these matches would be beyond painful.

Oakland is certainly no pushover, and even with the likes of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton back the Athletics could certainly take a three-game set off of the Yankees. Part of the oddity of 2020, however, is that these two teams won’t face each other until a potential postseason series, and that could lead to a bit of chaos with no prior matchups. It’s definitely more appealing than going back to the Trop, at the very least.

Ruff Trade asks: Considering the constant stream of injuries to certain repeat players (Sevy, Judge, Stanton, Hicks) and the sad underperformance of Gary Sanchez, should the Yanks be looking for players with better health track records and stronger depth? For example, I’d resign Didi to fortify the infield and be looking for stronger back-up catcher candidates for the days when Gary isn’t behind the plate. Same with the rotation. I know it’s ridiculous to be planning a team three pieces deep at every position, but the Yanks can’t expect to get by on so many AAAA players again.

There are certain points that I agree with you here. I do think that the Yankees should invest in a solid back-up catcher, because even if Sanchez returns to form modern catchers aren’t going to play the same amount of games as regular starters, and it acts as a fail-safe if Sanchez underperforms again. Tyler Flowers would be the ideal backstop pairing, but Jason Castro could be serviceable too. Both shouldn’t command too high a price, especially with most eyes being drawn to J.T. Realmuto’s free agency, so there’s a decent target to go after in the offseason.

I don’t think the stars will align for a reunion with Didi, however, or any other notable infielder for that matter. I don’t think the depth there has been particularly questionable, Tyler Wade is a fine backup, perhaps you could upgrade from Thairo Estrada behind him but it’s like you said — they can’t plan a team three pieces deep everywhere.

The outfield depth has been notably strained, but I think that’s a larger symptom of the team placing their trust in overperformance. Brett Gardner was never likely to repeat his standout 2019, but bringing him back was never a question because of his leadership qualities. Now it’s more likely that they could move on from Gardner, with Clint Frazier set to step in as the everyday left fielder. Your depth below him is Tauchman, who hasn’t lived up to his breakout performance last year either but is still a serviceable backup, and they can shop for another backup to fill Gardner’s slot on the roster.

The rotation is a quandary that I don’t think is possible to solve with so many parts set to move, but it’s become clear that the Yankees choice between James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka has been decided for them. Paxton has dealt with injuries and their effects on his velocity all season, while Tanaka has rebounded from a scary incident to mostly return to form. Paxton is a sure bet to walk and find his next opportunity elsewhere, while Tanaka should be brought back. Beyond that, Jordan Montgomery has not inspired much confidence while Deivi Garcia has emerged onto the scene with Clarke Schmidt waiting in the wings.

There’s room for a free agent to try and solidify this rotation, which has been in need of solidifying for several years now, but the problem is there’s no sure thing on the market. Trevor Bauer probably is the headliner for the starting pitcher class, but he has question marks beyond the mound that may result in the Yankees going in another direction. The team could make a second attempt at acquiring Marcus Stroman, this time just for money, but it certainly seemed like he felt slighted when the Yankees didn’t trade for him at the 2019 deadline. Outside of those two I really don’t feel confident in the rest of the class, at least as far as locking down multi-year deals is concerned.

Robert asks: Do the American League fans consider the Yankees to be the Cardinals or the American League, or not that good?

I honestly can’t tell if this question is a troll attempt or not, but I found it humorous and thus a fitting conclusion. No, the Yankees are not considered the Cardinals of the AL, they are considered a lot more highly than that. The only comparable NL team to the Yankees would be the Dodgers, at least in terms of gigantic budgets, massive marketplace and fanbases. Obviously though, in the end the Yankees have more than double the amount of championships than the next best team — which, to be fair, is the Cardinals.

The Cardinals, to me, compare more like the San Antonio Spurs — two small market clubs that became iconic in their respective sports for being one of the best teams for several decades.

They do have that devil magic though. Honestly, the Yankees might need some of that this year.