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Yankees Mailbag: Owners’ strategy, prospect shuffling, and Matt Olson

The mailbag is here to discuss what’s on your mind.

Major League Baseball London Announcement - Regent Street Cinema Photo by Kirsty O’Connor/PA Images via 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.

Hal Steinbrenner asks: It’s my opinion that the owners want more teams in the playoffs — isn’t locking players out, not negotiating for weeks on end, dragging out the process, canceling Opening Day all part of a strategy to reduce the season (a win for the owners) and get the playoff scenario they want?

In the sense that the owners are holding out for the 14-team postseason that they desire (and pre-emptively negotiated broadcasting rights for), yes this is a part of their strategy. An expanded postseason seems inevitable, as the union was open to bargaining with a 12-team adaptation and the league was willing to plan scenarios in their underwhelming proposals for both varieties.

Are they hoping to shorten the season solely to enact an expanded playoffs, à la their 2020 solution? That I doubt, since the issue is already a core aspect of the current negotiations and would be resolved one way or the other. The finances around sitting out April and doing their best to keep the luxury tax down factor just as much into the owners’ decision-making here.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: The Yankees have a truckload of SS prospects in the minors right now. Obviously, those prospects could conceivably move to other positions if needed as other positions are generally easier to play than SS. Which of their prospects could be the most likely to be converted to a center fielder?

It’s a bit unusual, since traditionally we don’t see many prospects flip from the infield to the outfield instead of just shifting to second or third base. Center field especially is the most difficult of the outfield trio, so with that said, I think the prototype we’re looking for here is a prospect who is actually strong defensively but would be blocked by prospects higher up the ladder. For that reason, I’m going to say Alexander Vargas would be my pick — he’s got great speed and a solid arm with a contact-oriented bat, but is currently only in Rookie ball.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: Will the delayed start/shortening of the season actually change the Yankees off season philosophy or might they use it as an excuse to hold serve with what they have for the most part. In other words, Are we going to get stuck watching them grab any run of the mill SS, and run out virtually the same team that churned our stomachs through most of last season?

I doubt that the delayed start will change much of their plans, regardless of whether it’s a short-term delay or one that eats into a quarter or a third of the season. If it’s only a few weeks of play, then the team can continue to plan around potentially making a play for Freddie Freeman or Matt Olson, and then otherwise getting a stopgap at short. If it’s a lengthier delay, then the philosophy might change to thinking that the season becomes a crapshoot like 2020 was — but the results likely wouldn’t change. In that scenario, management might see even less of a reason to change things up and just hope for internal improvement, with an eye towards 2022 for real change.

Mark R. asks: Hypothetical trade scenario for you ... Olson for Voit, Torres, and a prospect like Clarke Schmidt? Is this too much or not enough?

I see this as a proposal that neither team would like too much, for different reasons. On the Yankees’ side, they’d be selling low on Torres and still be forced to dip into the prospect pool to make a slight upgrade. For the Athletics, they’re being considered universally as sellers because they want to cut costs. Adding Voit and Torres, who will only get more expensive through their arbitration years, doesn’t make a lot of sense for a team expected to tear it down. They want prospects, plain and simple, and while the Yankees might be able to make that happen, it wouldn’t be for just one prospect like Schmidt.