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Yankees Mailbag: Roster depth, deadened baseballs and franchise locations

This week’s mailbag jumps through several topics on the team and the sport at large.

Division Series - Tampa Bay Rays v New York Yankees - Game Four Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Good morning everyone, we’re nearly done with the offseason variety of mailbags. The team should give us some more natural talking points as the season gets going, but we’ve still got some interesting discussions ahead. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

imramet asks: At what position are you least comfortable with the roster depth, such that you would look to add to the 40 before Opening Day?

There’s been some buzz around the remaining relievers left and the possibility of the Yankees adding one more before spring training, but personally I am least comfortable with the outfield depth at the moment. As far as the bullpen is concerned, another arm definitely couldn’t hurt, but between the excess starting pitchers who can fill into the back-end of the ‘pen and the availability of quality relievers at the deadline I don’t think it’s a pressing need.

The outfield depth, however, is worrisome. Since Stanton is effectively a pure DH in the Yankees’ plans, that leaves just Mike Tauchman and Greg Allen as backups on the 40 who could feasibly be on the Opening Day roster. Perhaps Tauchman can bounce back to his impressive 2019 form, or at least find a compromise between that and his 2020 showing, but I’m inclined to believe that more competition couldn’t hurt. There aren’t any especially appealing options left on the market, so whoever could be brought in would likely just be on a minor-league contract with an invitation to camp. I’d look to see if a Kevin Pillar or a Cameron Maybin-type of player could be brought in and see how they show up in spring.

Wombat21 asks: With MLB changing/deadening the baseballs after record HR rates in recent years, do you think this will have a large impact on the team (on both batting and pitching) and what pitchers/hitters do you expect to be the most affected? I don’t know the extent to which they plan to change the ball, but off the top of my head, I’d say Torres is someone who comes to mind as not a barrel-heavy hitter who would hit homers regardless like Judge, Stanton.

Peter tackled this issue for the hitters yesterday, and I’m inclined to agree with his conclusion that the Yankees lineup won’t be too harmed by the deadened baseball. The pitching side of the coin is a different discussion, and my initial expectation is that while it won’t be a significant benefit, it will still be a benefit for them. This could particularly be a boon for the two newest Yankees — Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon — since both feature nasty breaking balls that might not be punished as hard if they find too much of the zone. I’d say this shouldn’t affect Gerrit Cole, but he did have an odd year in terms of dealing with the long ball, so it could correct that blip in his otherwise stellar statline.

Peter R. asks: I see that MLB is once again thinking about expansion. With the potential disparity caused by more low revenue teams and the dilution of talent, I think there is a better alternative. MLB would like to bring baseball to new markets, so why not have two cities share a franchise? With 81 home games, it would be very doable.

To summarize the argument for this idea, since the question was originally longer than this, the benefits would be that the franchise in question could sell cable rights to two markets and could feature locations split in the colder northern climate for summer and then the warmer southern cities for the playoffs.

Unfortunately, I don’t think these benefits outweigh the significant hurdles that setting up such a scenario would entail, nor do I think that networks would be thrilled at bidding for a team that would only be in their market for half of the season. When I read this idea, my immediate reaction was to compare it to Tampa Bay’s proposal to split time in Montreal, which was met with harsh criticism.

The costs of setting up a MLB franchise, location-wise, are often offset by the local government throwing money at the team to cover the building of their stadiums. Low revenue teams, which would be the most likely candidates for such a proposal, would certainly require this in order to consider building effectively a second stadium. I’m already not a fan of millionaire/billionaire owners doing this to cities in the first place, but to do so just for a stadium that they won’t even be in half of the time seems absurd. Just off of that issue alone I’d call this concept dead on arrival, but there’s certainly more logistical nightmares that would pop up trying to set this up.

I don’t think the push for expansion on MLB’s side comes so much from a desire to tap into new markets — they already cover nearly every major city in the United States and as noted, many franchises are struggling as is — so much as it would be a counterweight to playoff expansion. By adding new teams, MLB can comfortably expand playoff spots without making it feel like half of the league gets into the postseason automatically. I’m not in favor of expansion just yet, namely for this reason, but when MLB presses the issue on the postseason (read: as soon as the CBA expires) it may end up as a necessity.