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Yankees Mailbag: Deadline deals, left field and Gary Sánchez

Get the answers to this week’s mailbag right here.

Philadelphia Phillies v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/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.

Imramet asks: Is there a single deadline deal where you thought the Yankees should have topped the offer?

I think the only enticing deal that the Yankees had their eyes on was the Mike Clevinger to San Diego trade, but I wouldn’t choose that personally. While it does fit the team’s greatest need in starting pitching — and for a controllable, quality starter to boot — the price tag that the Yankees would’ve had to beat was already pretty high. The Indians reportedly asked for two of Clint Frazier, Clarke Schmidt and Deivi García from New York, and that was before the Padres upped the ante that ultimately won them Clevinger. A raise from the Yankees perspective probably would’ve meant sending Miguel Andújar off as well, and while that still doesn’t hurt the current roster in any way I’m not sold on that being the right move.

Instead, I would turn my eyes to a smaller, but still important trade. The Marlins netted Starling Marte on deadline day from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Caleb Smith and Humberto Mejia. Baseball Trade Values estimates both Marte and Smith to have around $21 million in median trade value, so it’s essentially a swap of one current for one future player, with Mejia as a toss-in lottery prospect.

The Yankees don’t have a singular prospect that they’d be willing to part with in a trade for the rental Marte — he has a $12.5 million team option for next year, but it’s unlikely the Yankees would pick it up — but they could go to their preferred method of dealing in bulk. A package of Domingo Germán and Luis Gil would roughly equate to Smith’s value, and a prospect like Mike King, Roansy Contreras or T.J. Sikkema could’ve been the kicker to beat the Marlins’ offer.

Getting Marte would function similar to the Edwin Encarnación trade from last year, except Marte is a more balanced hitter and plays the field. It means a higher cost, but for a team struggling to get the bats going it could’ve been worth the price. A Marte-Hicks-Frazier outfield would be solid, and would hold the team over until Aaron Judge (hopefully) returns near the postseason.

Mark asks: Is it time to start believing that Clint Frazier is a much better player than Mike Tauchman and give him the playing time if/when Aaron Judge comes back? It seems like he’s not the huge liability in the field he was last year and the bat speaks for itself. Should we even consider him over Gardner in left? It’s getting late very early this year.

This year has given us few bright spots to look forward to, but one of them is Clint Frazier. I don’t think there’s a question that Brett Gardner is playing in his final season with the Yankees — whether he’ll hang up his cleats or pursue another opportunity is another question — and the question became who would the future in left field be centered on. Tom wrote a piece the other day highlighting the concerns that have re-emerged in Tauchman’s game, and his prognosis is one I agree with — Frazier has surpassed him on the depth chart.

As you mentioned, Frazier’s bat speaks for itself. He has been electric in a lineup that has looked stagnant, one of the few players making scoring opportunities happen of late. The question has been his defense, and it was really a question that only emerged as a result of the series of concussions he sustained earlier in his career. He was never a great defender in the minors but he was definitely not a poor one, and he simply couldn’t track the ball on the field following the repeated blows he took to the head. He seems fully healthy again, and his judgment has improved immensely. The Yankees didn’t want to move Frazier for anybody over the deadline, and it seems obvious why that was so. Frazier is a long-term piece for the team, even if it’s a few years later than some may have hoped. Expect him to be patrolling left field for the foreseeable future.

Jesse asks: I understand Gary hit a grand slam the other day that ultimately was the game-winner, but I still want Cashman to deal him this offseason and get J.T. Realmuto in free agency. Your thoughts?

I have no argument against the obvious — this is the worst season of Gary Sánchez’s career. Even when he comes up with the occasional great moment, such as Sunday’s grand slam or any of his earlier home runs, it gets followed by another stretch of just being completely unable to make any contact. Sánchez’s value has always come from his bat, even though there are qualities to his play behind the plate to like, but when he struggles this much it is an ugly sight to see.

Despite this, I don’t think this will be the decision the Yankees make in the offseason. For one thing, there’s the factor that’s making it so difficult to accurately judge anyone’s play this season — the incredibly small amount of games in such a short window to prepare. Plenty of guys are playing below their standards or are banged up from the brutal schedule, and we’ll never get to know how much that’s effecting Sánchez.

The larger detail, however, will be money. Sánchez is in the first year of arbitration, meaning the team can control him for two more years at an efficient cost. Realmuto will cost a pretty penny on the market, even one as weird as this year is bound to be with the pandemic still in play. The Yankees are already going to have to open the bank to keep DJ LeMahieu and at least one of Masahiro Tanaka or James Paxton in pinstripes, and several other Yankees will be earning raises. Adding Realmuto only complicates that, whereas betting on Sánchez to return to at least his 2017-2019 form will likely be the safer play.

This isn’t to say the Yankees should be married to the idea of securing Sánchez as the franchise catcher. If he continues to under-perform, they’ll have to find a replacement. But if the trade deadline is any indication, the Yankees aren’t going to rock the boat much from the core they’ve developed.