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.
The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: I’ve joked about this in the past, but I want to frame a serious question around this thought. If the Texas Rangers offered Corey Seager straight up for Jasson Dominguez, would the Yankees be wrong to decline?
It might generate some mixed emotions among the fanbase, but I think the answer should be yes. Obviously the team could have signed Seager for just cash a mere few months ago, but for the sake of the argument you could replace Seager with any critical name that would’ve pushed the needle for the Yankees — say the case was Scherzer for Dominguez straight up at the last deadline, and Scherzer was willing to go to New York at the time. It’s fair to say that Dominguez represents an elite talent in the making, but who knows what his timeline is and whether or not he’ll live up to the massive hype generated around him. You don’t move him for a so-so return, but an all-in move for a proven All-Star would be a fair trade.
The reason that in reality it is no, however, is that you don’t make this move alone. You make it on top of things like signing Freddie Freeman, and being aggressive at this year’s trade deadline, when we know the Yankees are unlikely to do all of that in tandem. It’s frustrating, because the ability to revamp the team is readily accessible and yet hope has to be placed instead on rebound efforts from a large portion of the roster.
Casey H. asks: Let’s have some fun. Construct your dream MLB roster of active players. To make it a little more difficult, you have to keep your payroll under the luxury tax limit. Use player’s current contract or estimated contract to establish their luxury tax hit.
I’m game. The first levels of the luxury tax kick in at $210 million, so we’ll set that as our hard cap. I don’t think I’ll bother with unsigned players since there’s only a handful that would be desirable and the estimates can end up a ways off — Seager and Semien have already surprised in this offseason — so we’ll use currently signed players and the value of their 2022 contracts. I’m also using Spotrac as my reference for all of the salaries mentioned.
Since we’re only worried about one particular year, AAV is the name of the game rather than worrying about how big the overall contract is. So let’s start with the obvious — we’re putting Aaron Judge and Gerrit Cole on this team. Cole’s contract is one of the biggest in history, but the Yankee ace has to be a part of this, and Judge’s deal in the final year of arbitration should manage to fit in decently. That puts us at $53 million off the bat, so while we’re spending let’s add some superstars on relatively low payouts: Jacob DeGrom to help anchor the rotation, Fernando Tatis Jr. as the shortstop, and Bryce Harper as one of our outfielders. That adds just over $77 million on the payroll, giving us a grand total of $130 million for five players.
Now its a game of finding the best bargain remaining. There’s no better value at third base than with Jose Ramirez, and Whit Merrifield is also a steal for second. Throw in Vladimir Guerrero Jr. at first base, and we’ve completed our infield for under $20 million! Catcher is a tough gamble, but Willson Contreras offers a solid baseline and doesn’t break the bank at $6.65 million. Luis Robert offers All-Star upside at just $8.3 million as well to round out our outfield, and we can tackle two birds with one stone by adding Shohei Ohtani as our designated hitter and third ace. Lance Lynn fits in great as a fourth starter, and we can throw in another Yankee by betting on Luis Severino and his $10 million salary for a high upside fifth starter.
Our total payroll sits at $204.7 million with all of our starters in place, allotting roughly $5 million for a bullpen and bench players. Neither are too concerning, since the Yankees have proven they can build a bullpen on the cheap and it shouldn’t be too hard to find players willing to take the minimum to backup this All-Star roster.
Jonathan R. asks: How about a new younger infield battery — Volpe and Peraza at shortstop and second base? Let’s go with the homegrowns, trade Gleyber for some pitching, a catcher, or some prospects — he still has some value and plenty of teams would be interested. And then maybe Sweeney blossoms into a third baseman? Infield for years!
I don’t think that the initial prompt is far-fetched, but it’s definitely too early to push this. Neither Volpe or Peraza will be starting the season at the major league level, and Volpe in particular will be beginning the year at Double-A for the first time — it’s not unprecedented to make that big of a leap in a single season, but planning on it is a high risk gamble. Not to mention. trading Torres at this point in time would be accepting the absolute lowest return possible, even if there still is value to recoup. Better to let the year play out and see what Gleyber’s got after a late resurgence and a return to second base.
As for the larger point though, it’s dangerous to buy into your own prospect pool this much. No one hits on every prospect, and even the highly rated ones can flounder. I’m optimistic that one of Volpe or Peraza will click and establish themselves as a solid player in time, but its more likely that the team will trade whoever they see as less likely to fit in order to maximize value and boost the current core’s chances of winning a title. Hoping for Sweeney to jump into the mix is just pushing it, since he’s not on the same MLB debut timeline and frankly hasn’t had the time to showcase much yet.