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Yankees Mailbag: Blake Snell hindsight, Jasson Dominguez and James Paxton

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Check out the answers to this year’s first mailbag.

World Series - Tampa Bay Rays v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Six Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, we’re kicking off the new year with a round of mailbag questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Jonathan S. asks: Considering how little the Rays got for Snell, were the Yankees ever in the running to trade for him? Or, did Cashman not even bother to call? Or were the Rays never going to trade Snell to the Yankees even though they could have gotten a better deal?

It’s a mixture of the first and third, I believe. The Yankees weren’t ever in the running, mainly because the price that the Rays would’ve asked from the Yankees would be way higher than the price they’d ask for other teams. Not only are they a division rival that they’re still actively competing against, but the Yankees in particular draw the ire of many teams from a trade perspective. I don’t doubt that Cashman reached out just to see the price as, to paraphrase him, he makes calls to everyone but the Red Sox — there just wasn’t going to be any sort of middle ground that these two teams would deem acceptable. That being said, even if the price wasn’t going to be higher for the Yankees, I don’t think they ever would’ve offered the best deal for Tampa in the first place, so it’s a bit of a moot point.

Steve F. asks: I have to say I am a bit stunned at how willing some fans/bloggers seems to be to move Jasson Dominguez for pitching. Obviously everyone is touchable for the right player, but we are talking about a VERY special prospect. I’m not really a prospect hugger but every single pitcher always seems one pitch away from TJS. Imagine gutting your system for three years of control for a guy who gets injured halfway through that first year. That would be absolutely devastating. The Yankees do need starting pitching, but there are other means. Thoughts?

It’s valid to think that Jasson Dominguez is valuable enough to not trade him for any of the players that have been rumored or eventually traded so far this offseason, but the conversation is less that the Yankees should trade Dominguez and more so they should at least consider it. Dominguez is the team’s top prospect and is stashed away as an untouchable when he’s 17-years-old and years away from ever helping the team.

It’s true that he’s drawn incredible hype and interest at such a young age and that’s promising, but without ever even seeing professional innings it’s a bit early to bestow titles like the next Mike Trout on him. And while the Yankees’ down years aren’t long enough to truly count as windows of contention relative to the rest of the league, there’s no doubt that their current core is either nearing or already at their peak. How long they stay there remains to be seen, but they need some help to get over the hump.

In a lot of ways, this runs parallel to the issue of fans wanting the all-in mentality versus the sustainably competitive model that the front office prefers. The Yankees more than likely won’t trade Dominguez, even if they are presented with a couple of tempting offers, because he has a good chance to at least be serviceable in the majors and maybe blossom into a star. They made this same choice when the Baby Bombers were prospects, standing firm on denying offers that involved Aaron Judge, Gary Sánchez and Luis Severino, and that choice worked out.

The difference there is they had several high-profile prospects that they could promote together. Dominguez, for all his lack of experience, stands alone in the farm system. The other players in the minors simply haven’t interested teams enough to form a major trade. That makes it a more difficult conversation around whether one key prospect is worth waiting for or whether he should be moved to improve the current core. It’s very possible that with the Yankees’ information, it becomes clear that Dominguez is worth the wait, but without that knowledge there is going to be some growing frustration around the team’s lack of improvement.

jjpf asks: Any update on Paxton/possible Yankee interest? Caught the news about the showcase, the 94 mph or so fastball, the 20 or so ML teams who attended the audition, I’m assuming a Yankees rep was there. With his injury history in mind, do you think he is capable of a CC-like adjustment of pitching style?

James Paxton throwing 94 mph is a great sign for his recovery, and it should be interesting whether the Yankees are interested in giving Paxton a chance to rebound. I don’t think you have to look to a CC-esque adjustment for Paxton to have success in 2021, his problems seemed to complicate off of never getting to ramp up properly at the start of the year. The injuries are what they are, the Yankees traded for Paxton expecting him to come with some downtime — they just expected him to be very good when he was able to pitch.

In 2019, that was exactly what they got. In 2020, not so much, and there’s been plenty of evidence to point to all of the problems that the league in general had with the restart between spring training and summer. Paxton managed to avoid surgery after he suffered a flexor strain that kept him out for the 2020 postseason, so if the velocity is back then Paxton should be at or near 100%. If it’s only going to take a short-term deal to bring him back, the Yankees should be more than interested in rolling the dice again on Paxton.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: How scary good can the Padres be this season?

Dodgers-Padres games should be the most watched divisional matchup this season, for all of the hype that San Diego has generated around their offseason moves. I’d still bet on the World Series champs taking the NL West for one more year, but if this core solidifies for San Diego this year and then they add Mike Clevinger back for 2022 they should be a treat to watch.

This is the second time that AJ Preller has gone wild with trades to push the Padres all-in, and it looks to be a lot more promising than the former attempt. There is one concern I have about this version of the Padres, and it’s the same weakness that the 2015 Padres had — their offense is a little thin. It’s not as bad as then, of course, as Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado easily surpass any of the guys they ran out then, but beyond them it gets harder to believe that Wil Myers and Eric Hosmer will be enough.