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Yankees Mailbag: Tanaka vs. Kluber, pitching plans and development

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Check out the latest answers to your questions in this week’s mailbag.

Division Series - Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees - Game Three Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Good morning everyone, are you ready for another round of mailbag questions? Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Chad W. asks: Did you think it was a bad move to give Kluber $11 million, apparently at the expense of Tanaka? I would rather see Tanaka get $11 million, and I think he would stay at that price. He’s a proven commodity, especially in the playoffs — last year notwithstanding. No one knows what to expect from Kluber who’s been hurt the last two years.

So independently, I have no problem with giving Corey Kluber $11 million. The man has tremendous upside and the Yankees have top-tier information on whether he’s in shape to play. I don’t doubt that they’re banking on a comeback from him, and I like that move.

Signing Kluber at the cost of losing Masahiro Tanaka, however, is a different story. As much as I’ve loved watching Tanaka pitch, I do think the choice between them favors Kluber. The Yankees are good enough to make the postseason handily with their offense and Gerrit Cole alone, but the problem once they get there has been having the better staff to outduel opponents. Of the two, I’d rather take the small gamble on Kluber’s ceiling over Tanaka’s consistency if the goal is to win a World Series.

That being said, with the deficits in the remaining spots in the rotation, I wanted the Yankees to sign both. Unfortunately it looks like that isn’t happening, and I think the comparison should be more focused on signing just Kluber and keeping under the tax versus signing both, tax be damned.

Yankees456 asks: After DJL and Kluber, what are the Yankees plan to improve the much needed pitching to compete in 2021?

This segues us nicely into the next question. Since the plan appears to be field as competitive a team as possible while remaining under the tax, that doesn’t leave them a lot of room left to maneuver. Spotrac has the Yankees with just under $5 million left to spend before they hit the first luxury tax bracket, and the market for free agent starters has been surprisingly strong for the players signing one-year deals.

It’s unlikely that the Yankees can sign one of the remaining enticing free agents, unless they are able to move salary somewhere else. Likewise, the trade market doesn’t feature many cheap pitchers either. I’m not certain whether the team is better off attempting to sign a lesser free agent with some of their remaining cash, or hold off until the trade deadline and roll with the younger arms like Deivi García and Clarke Schmidt. I think I’d lean towards the former since at the bare minimum you get some innings taken care of, and Brian Cashman has held firm on making deadline deals over the past couple of seasons.

Larry S. asks: Why do the Yankees draft pitchers if they do not want to develop them, the grass is not always greener. Imagine if the Dodgers gave up on Koufax after his first few seasons or the Yankees on Guidry.

I don’t think the Yankees have a problem with developing pitchers so much as it’s inherently a lot harder to develop a pitcher in today’s league. So many pitching prospects either fade or deal with significant injuries before they even make The Show — to the point where there’s an acronym for such an occasion — that it’s difficult for a team in contention to rely on the potential of pitchers versus going after established arms.

Also, aside from Luis Severino — who they stood firm on developing — the Yankees haven’t had a pitching prospect with the upside of a Guidry. They draft pitchers simply because they need them, and while they have some promising arms it’s a total guess as to whether they make it to the majors. Even the ones that get there, like García or Schmidt, project to be more low-to-mid rotation types. If the Yankees can turn García into a third starter that’d be a fantastic hit, but they could trade him for an established pitcher that already is at that level for a lot less effort and risk on their part.