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Yankees Mailbag: Setting the rotation, Rafael Devers, and beating Houston

The mailbag dives into the new-look Yankee rotation and debates the effectiveness of this offseason in regards to their top priorities.

New York Yankees Introduce Carlos Rodon Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time for another edition of the mailbag. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

BigYankeeFan asks: Assuming health, how do you set the rotation? By hand, by stuff, by contract value (lol)? Does that change in the playoffs? Do you go to a three-man rotation in the playoffs with two backups then the pen?

Given the current arrangement, you could truly place the rotation in several different orders. That being said, the most likely lineup is Gerrit Cole at the top with Carlos Rodón right behind him, followed by either Luis Severino or Nestor Cortes and then wrapping up with Frankie Montas. Rough stretch run aside, Montas as a fifth starter is pretty ridiculous to consider — plenty of teams would be running him way up near the top of their rotation. Considering the ceiling of the remaining four pitchers, this shapes up to be an unreal rotation so long as health does indeed hold up.

As far as a way-too-early playoff rotation is concerned, I don’t think a three-man rotation is needed. This past postseason was egregiously punishing in terms of rest thanks to the lockout, but even without that factor it becomes difficult to get guys multiple starts in a single series. Relying on the quality of your rotation and giving the ball to an 85-90 percent rested Cortes or Severino versus a 60 percent Cole is probably the safer play, and helps the team outlast almost any other opponent they could draw in October.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: Any possibility of a rare Boston/New York trade including Rafael Devers? Boston’s obviously not going anywhere this year, and Devers is in his final year of arbitration. If the Yankees can’t make the deal for a big bat in LF, third base is the next easiest upgrade and Devers would be a perfect fit.

While I would love for Devers to be out of Boston (and the way that their offseason is going, it seems more likely than not that he’ll walk at the end of the year if they don’t trade him), I hold no illusions that he could end up in pinstripes this year. Boston would be (rightly) crucified for letting him go to their archrivals for anything less than a king’s ransom, and even then there would be plenty of dissidents up north about such a move. Likewise, the Yankees are not keen on moving any of their top three prospects, and it would take a haul that doesn’t look worthwhile to form a proper package with any of the remaining options.

Third base is definitely the next-best place to upgrade the offense outside of left field, but unfortunately there are too many barriers there compared to getting a new outfielder. Donaldson’s deal looks more like an anchor than Hicks in terms of the luxury tax, and there aren’t as many quality third baseman on the market that they could feasibly trade for. Never say never, but it seems like it is left field or bust in terms of lineup improvements.

jshep12 asks: The Yankees don’t hit Astros pitching. They’ve added nothing and changed nothing to deal with this issue. The Astros are still going to throw Javier, Valdez, Urquidy, and now Hunter Brown at them. What’s the plan to deal with the Astros pitching that the yanks simply don’t hit well against?

For one, it significantly helps that Justin Verlander isn’t pitching for them anymore. That being said, the rest of the Astros’ rotation was indeed a problem for the Yankees, but I think that was more a case of the lineup being extremely one-dimensional by that point in the year. Aaron Judge looked gassed and struggled in the postseason, and with several paperweights towards the bottom of the lineup that left just Anthony Rizzo and Harrison Bader producing at a quality clip. Judge’s performance is always going to be critical to beating Houston — no amount of changes that they could’ve made this offseason would change this fact, so retaining him and looking for seasonal improvement with an upgrade still potentially looming in left field was rendered the best course of action.