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Yankees Mailbag: Underperformance concerns and paying young stars

The mailbag dives in to some early season concerns and tackles a larger problem in MLB.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees Photo by Jim McIsaac/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.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: It’s obviously early and a super small sample size, but how long do the Yankees wait for underperformers before trying one or two of the prospects?

The spotlight is on Isiah Kiner-Falefa here, but there’s a number of players that constitute a struggling bottom half of the lineup: Aaron Hicks, Gleyber Torres, and Kyle Higashioka are a few of the names that people have their eyes on for various reasons. I’ll echo John’s words from earlier this week in cautioning against expecting a quick hook on any of these players. The last time that they had a stopgap situation in place, they were waiting on one of the top prospects in baseball that feasibly could have been called up the year prior were it not for injury — Oswald Peraza is a top 100 prospect, but there’s a big difference between being on that list and being near the top of it.

As for the others, the options become more muddied. Estevan Florial is off to another hot start, but he’s taken his time to grind through the minors and the Yankees have been seemingly hesitant on keeping him up in the big leagues for longer than a spell. Torres’ backups would be the same as Kiner-Falefa, and if you exclude Anthony Volpe due to him only starting at Double-A this year then the options dwindle fast. Higashioka should be splitting time regardless once Ben Rortvedt is healthy so it’s less of a concern about finding options there, but the Yankees’ strong catching prospects are still lower in the minor league system. Staying the course seems to be the prudent move for now, but if things aren’t gelling by May then you might start to see rumblings about the trade market.

workermonkey781 asks: I was certainly expecting better from IKF and its still early, but if he continues to struggle defensively, aren’t we just better off running Gleyber out there so at least he can hit?

We’re zeroing in on Kiner-Falefa specifically now, but I think the question is varied enough to warrant it. I don’t know how much of a factor it was on his hitting, but Torres’ struggles at short were so pronounced that I doubt they return to it full-time — at best, you might see him slide over there when pinch hitters and runners dictate the remaining infielders in the game. LeMahieu’s value in playing around the infield and the general necessity of giving most of the lineup a day off occasionally means that as the roster is currently constructed IKF needs to play a majority of the time. We’ll just have to wait and see if he can handle it, and while it is concerning that the defense has been a bit shaky when that’s his calling card it seems that he’s aware that nerves are getting to him a bit right now.

Robert M. asks: Fans are giving Judge a hard time because they think he seeks overpayment for his future years. But they forget he was underpaid for his first years as his MVP numbers nearly carried them into the World Series. Don’t you think it’s possible to add to the CBA some kind of “Pay for Performance” matrix that pays young superstar players like Judge, Vlad Jr. and Soto extra so they don’t need to seek extra money on the back end of their careers?

The union did try to address this in the CBA talks this offseason, and to a degree they managed to get a solution for the next generation of players. The players wanted to establish a bonus pool for players who outperformed on their rookie deal, and a small one was established — but the money allocated was far less than what they were originally asking for, and certainly doesn’t account for the type of money that top players would earn on the open market. Part of the issue is also establishing just what metrics determine who earns what, and how many players would qualify for such a bonus, but the groundwork is in fact there.