Good afternoon everyone, let’s open up the mailbag for more of your Yankees questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.
PinstripedPride1994 asks: That the Yankees need a good center fielder is one of the most obvious facts in baseball right now. Of all the potential options on the market, who do you feel the team should most heavily target and why?
The best center fielder that could be on the market would be Pittburgh’s Bryan Reynolds, but it would be a tough fit to get him in pinstripes. Reynolds hasn’t even entered his arbitration years, meaning he’s valuable and controllable — and depending on the team’s projections for Estevan Florial and Jasson Dominguez, they might prefer to look for a short-term solution for this year.
That leads us to Arizona’s Ketel Marte, who has a decent shot of being on the market since the Diamondbacks can hardly remember what winning feels like. Marte’s contract is only guaranteed through 2022 — though he has a pair of club options that could keep him around until 2024. Those option years could be a blessing or an unnecessary surcharge depending on how things play out, but he’s as good of a bridge player that you could find in center, and most importantly he could help the Yankees win this year. There are other options, but these two will be the ones GMs will be calling in on the most, and New York figures to be one of the most insistent callers.
NYCKING asks: How do you see Yankees looking like in next five years something like combination of early 2010s Phillies and Tigers, competitive team that falls off planet earth or Yanks remain Yanks competitive with one ring or no ring to show for?
I think this roster is in too critical a moment to truly be able to project their outlook very well — a year or two ago it was unfathomable that this team would struggle to make the cut for the postseason, and now we’re looking at a scenario where the Bombers will have to put it into high gear to stay above water. I do think the comparison to those specific teams doesn’t fit well enough, since those were teams that held championship aspirations for a time before completely bottoming out.
For all their frustrations and concerns this season, the Yankees haven’t come close to the bottom — they’ve been mediocre, which in some ways you can argue is worse, but a mediocre team with the Yankees’ resources can bounce back quick. It’s far too early to stick a pin in this team’s chances, but it does seem like there should be a sense of urgency that hasn’t been noticeable yet. They’ve come close with two near-misses in the ALCS, but have also had two extremely disappointing flare outs in the ALDS. Five years could bring five deep postseason runs and a ring or two, but it could just as easily only bring one or two real shots at the Fall Classic.
To me, this team compares closer to the Chicago Cubs, with a little less success. Both teams built a core that analysts fawned over as potentially dynastic, and both kicked off their runs with deep October runs — the Cubs coming away with some hardware — but recently have had the wind knocked out of them. Both cores have come into question, and the Cubs opted to part ways with some members and retool with only a few key holdovers from 2016 remaining — guys like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo (and both of them faced an onslaught of trade rumors as well).
The Cubs have surprisingly been in the running this year when most ruled them out for these decisions, but I don’t know if I’d be comfortable calling them a contender despite the early success. The Yankees are staring at this fork in the road currently, with players like Gary Sánchez and Gleyber Torres coming under scrutiny and facing questions about their capabilities. It would certainly be easier for the Yankees brass to opt for this path, but I think it would be premature — this core can succeed, though they certainly could use some help right about now.
Bleachers1976 asks: Quite frustrating to watch a left-handed batter park one into the right field porch at Yankee Stadium almost every home game. Has ANY Yankee team ever been so bereft of left-handed hitting? Can you name ANY Yankee team that won a pennant so bereft of lefties?
I didn’t check every iteration of the Yankees, but of their championship years, only one team featured a starting lineup as dominated by right-handers as this year’s roster. The 1956 Yankees trotted out a lineup that had one lefty (Yogi Berra) and one switch-hitter (Mickey Mantle).
Now, obviously those are two Hall of Famers, and the ‘56 Yankees were anchored by another Hall member in Whitey Ford — these days the Yankees have Gerrit Cole, but Brett Gardner and Rougned Odor aren’t quite matching that comparison. The old days also had a wider bench due to the lack of a DH and letting starters go deep far more often, so the ‘56 Yanks had more lefties on call in the dugout, but for the most part, they let the best players play regardless of handedness advantage.
That’s the motto that these Yankees have to go off of, and it’s what they’ll end up doing. Would it be nice if they had a few more lefties? Sure, but it’s honestly not that crucial a problem. A lack of lefties didn’t make DJ LeMahieu pound everything into the dirt for half the season, nor did it make Gary Sánchez lose his timing on his swing. They’ll succeed or fail by the merits of their own skill, end of story.