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Yankees Mailbag: Outfield additions, infield shuffling, and the Rule 5 Draft

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The mailbag arrives with another bundle of your questions.

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time for another edition of the mailbag. From here on out, the mailbag will be running every two weeks, due to a slower amount of information trickling in and a lack of action going on. Without further ado, let’s open up the mailbag for more of your Yankees questions. Remember to send in your questions for our (bi)weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

Byron Fear asks: I’m still not sure why there are talks of another outfielder, as I still think a daily lineup of Stanton, Gallo and Judge is a good outfield, and as I’ve said before play Stanton in the outfield and Voit be our DH, it’s been proven to work ... Gallo and Stanton do have awards for those positions …

The Gallo/Judge/Stanton outfield is indeed a strong outfield, and if it were even remotely guaranteed to be used regularly then there wouldn’t be much talk about adding another outfielder — but it is far from guaranteed. The trio had great success in the limited run they made trotting them out in 2021, but Aaron Boone quickly reverted back to playing Stanton at DH and leaving Luke Voit on the bench. Voit did end up injured to end the year, but there was a decent stretch of time where he was simply not playing in games where he was available.

It’s been very unclear what the process to get Stanton working in the outfield has been like, but it took a long time to get going this year, and ultimately was only used sparingly. It’s frankly hard to understand what goes into this, considering Stanton had no choice but to play the outfield in Miami and did play regularly at the start of his Yankees tenure as well, but at this point I’ll believe they’re regularly having Stanton play the outfield when I see it.

Jf0046 asks: If the Yankees trade for Matt Olson, what’s the left side of the infield next year? If the Yankees get Olson, Voit is as good as gone and they may end up trading Gio to the A’s or in a separate deal. Also, if they want to re-sign Olson in two years I don’t know how that might interfere with their search for a shortstop this year because neither will come cheap.

I don’t think an Olson acquisition would prohibit the team from signing one of the big shortstops this offseason, regardless of how interested they’ll actually end up being on that market. Brian Cashman has to think about allocating a potential Judge extension, but the money coming off the boards from Chapman, Britton and other players’ expiring contracts should keep the payroll from getting too bloated. As for worrying about whether or not they would want to re-sign Olson in the first place, I’d say two years is a solid window to figure out whether a player is worth keeping around, and Olson’s future contract shouldn’t be too burdensome.

Now, for the players heading out on this potential move — I agree that Voit would not have a place on the team with Olson in tow, but Gio Urshela is in a weird situation. He’s been solid and dependable throughout his Yankees tenure until this year, and he may have come back down to earth after leapfrogging from a career minor leaguer/backup into the starting gig. I don’t think he would be part of an Olson swap, and lean towards giving Urshela another year at the hot corner with internal options to replace him not yet ready, but I don’t think he’s in the long-term plans of the organization by any means.

fivetwos asks: If the Yankees have a middle of the road farm system with not many … if any, that are considered MLB ready, why are they reportedly in such danger of losing players in Rule 5? One would figure the teams with the top farm systems would be having this problem much more than we would … and who can realistically stick on another teams active roster all next season? Is this an exaggeration due to the Whitlock disaster?

The Yankees’ struggle with the Rule 5 Draft boils down to the same issue that haunts them around the trade deadline — they have a decent farm system that is built on quantity more than quality. They have started to rise in ranking thanks to the performances of players like Anthony Volpe and Oswald Peraza, but for the most part their minor league teams boast players that could soon fill-in for MLB playing time, but would struggle to get that opportunity on a contending team like New York. Also, their cautious approach to promoting prospects leads to several promising players qualifying for the Rule 5 Draft before they’ve gotten much time in Double-A, let alone Triple-A yet.

The Garrett Whitlock fiasco will inevitably lead to more scrutiny on this issue than in the past, but that was a symptom of hanging onto one or two incorrect choices for roster spots than anything else. Was there overconfidence that Whitlock would be passed by? Yes, for sure. But if the team reassessed the guys they protected ahead of him and decided that they’d seen enough out of a Brooks Kriske (which would’ve been accurate even before the hindsight of this season) then they never would’ve been in the position to lose a talented arm. We’ll see if they’ve learned from their mistakes.

The Gregorius B.I.G. asks: Were the top four in the AL East in 2021 historically good? Looking at the rest of the divisions, I see two that the Blue Jays would have won pretty easily, and two more where they would have at least come extremely close. That’s gotta be really rare for a fourth place team, right?

Yes, it was the first time since the modern MLB divisions were formed that a division had four 90-game winners. It did happen in the AL East back in 1978, but that was a larger division with only an East-West divide across the league instead of the format we have today with the Central included.

It’s possible that this becomes what having three teams win 90+ games in a division was a decade ago. That feat had only happened three times prior to 2011 under the six-division format, but then the 2011 and ‘12 AL East, ‘13 and ‘15 NL Central, and ‘18 AL East all held three 90+ winners in a short span of time. It would take a few concentrated divisions where most teams are highly competitive while one is completely tanking, which is what wound up happening this year, and that could be the case with an expanded postseason on the horizon.