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Yankees Mailbag: Six-man rotations, the Ottavino trade, and Estevan Florial

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The mailbag is back, and this week’s conversation is on the future of this year’s roster.

Arizona Diamondbacks v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, let’s dive into another round of mailbag questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

lioneldubinsky asks: With all the pitchers not throwing many innings last season, what are the chances of the Yankees deploying a six-man rotation?

I’d say it’s non-zero, but highly unlikely that the Yankees go to six starters. For one thing, they haven’t used it in the past when players like Masahiro Tanaka benefited from the extra rest. More relevant to today’s rotation, however, is that there isn’t an inherent benefit from doing so.

The Yankees bet on high upside with this rotation, and while they definitely want to see Kluber and Taillon — plus Severino later in the year — stay healthy, they also want those guys getting as many starts as possible in order to maximize their value while they are here. Adding an additional starter taking up games through the rotation lessens the value if they hit on those pitchers, and makes the strategy far less valuable. Plus, with more starters going comes the risk that the bullpen will get involved and taxed more, something that the Yankees should avoid considering there is less certainty around their bullpen than in recent years.

Ray R. asks: I don’t understand why the Yanks didn’t make a play for Benintendi in [the Ottavino] trade.

Well, reason 1a is because the Yankees traded Ottavino for salary relief and Benintendi will be paid $5 million. Reason 1b, however, is because he isn’t worth picking up. Benintendi has fallen off hard after 2018, posting a league-average 101 wRC+ in 2019 before plummeting to a 44 wRC+ last season. Obviously the short season is a small sample, but the struggles that Benintendi have been going through have persisted for longer than that. The Sox are reportedly shopping him, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees should be interested.

EldestGruff asks: I’ve seen several comments both here and on other sites referring to Florial as being close to MLB ready, including one suggesting a salary dump of Hicks and starting Florial. Is there any reason to think they’d jump him up from single a to the majors on a full time basis? It sounds like wishful thinking to me.

Yeah, I think that’s not a feasible plan. Florial did appear in a major-league game this past season, but that was a case of filling in while the roster was battered and badly hurting for an extra backup outfielder. Additionally, they only had the players in the alternate training site available to call up, so the pool of options was limited.

Outside of that appearance, Florial has never played above High-A — and he’s taken a lot of time at that level. Florial will likely need a few more years before he’s a MLB-caliber player, so elevating him to even a backup role now — let alone a starting spot — seems foolish. The Yankees don’t have much, if any, center field depth that can play at the majors right now. Florial is a while away, and so is Jasson Dominguez. Hicks’ injury history can be frustrating at times, but a $10 million per year bet on him is still well worth it.