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.
Mike S. asks: A little bit of an odd one here, but isn’t it almost ‘bad’ to be one of the two teams to get the bye for the wildcard round? Baseball players are creatures of habit, and that’s something like five sudden days off for a team that might be playing well to close out the season ...
One of the classic debates of the NFL playoffs can now make its way over to MLB. The bye-week argument is a lengthy but largely situational one — it’s hard to pinpoint which teams would be affected by it positively and which ones would be negatively impacted. In baseball, however, I’m willing to bet that regardless of the result in the next round, teams will covet the bye, since in this sport, there are varying lengths to each round as opposed to the one-game-a-week model the NFL runs.
The Wild Card Game proved to be a major annoyance for teams, and having to play up to three games just to advance to the Division Series isn’t a major improvement in terms of unpredictability. In five- and seven-game series the better team should feel more confident — though of course, MLB’s playoffs are still to some extent a crapshoot.
The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: When was the last time the Yankees gave up significant prospects for an offensive player via trade? Or for anyone? Last year’s Rizzo and Gallo deals didn’t really include significant prospects, so I’m curious about the last time they traded a legit top-three prospect or two for a position player.
It’s been a while — both since the Yankees have had a prospect in this echelon and been able to trade them. They’ve also rarely traded them for bats, but they do have a history to looking for pitchers. Jesus Montero never quite reached top prospect in baseball status, but he was a consensus top-10 and reached into the top-five of some rankings. He was dealt in the Michael Pineda trade that became a bit of a ‘meh’ result for both sides (but easily in favor of the Yankees in the end). Nick Johnson made it to fifth in Baseball America’s standings before getting dealt after a year in pinstripes in the (first) Javier Vasquez deal, and Drew Henson snuck into the top-10 before getting traded in 2000 for Danny Neagle.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t really answer the question of the last time they spent big for a bat. You could argue that Alfonso Soriano being a part of the A-Rod deal counts since he was a former top prospect, but Soriano had long-since graduated from prospect status and was an established major league talent. Beyond that, the Yankees simply didn’t operate that way — they either graduated the big bats themselves or signed them in free agency.
Richard W. asks: My question relates to the playoffs and beyond. I’m petrified of a Mets playoff squad armed with Scherzer and DeGrom and an offense that scores a ton of runs without needing home runs. I don’t think Cashman has any realistic way to fortify against a one-two punch like Scherzer-DeGrom through the trade deadline front. We have a deep cadre of really good starting pitchers, but I don’t think anyone (in MLB) matches up with them on the top end, in a Game 1 or 2. What do we do? I guess we just let the cards play out.
A couple of things here: first, if we’re getting worried over a potential World Series matchup being difficult, that’s a good problem to have, though I think the more immediate problem is solving the Astros’ pitching staff. As for the Mets themselves, it is fair to say the Scherzer-deGrom is one of if not the nastiest one-two combos in the league ... but they haven’t played much. Scherzer is getting back into the swing of things and his injury history is less worrisome, though he’s getting up there in age, but deGrom hasn’t even pitched since July 7th of last year. When he’s around, he’s electric, but I’ll worry about facing him in the playoffs when he’s able to pitch in one.
As for the Yankees’ postseason strategy, it is true that their staff as a whole has been their success with less emphasis on who is the No. 1 and No. 2 (the default here is that Cole will be No. 1 and the rest can be figured out). In a longer series that should benefit them, and the flexibility to have one of their starters on standby should the planned starter not have it that night is a major benefit that few teams have. If you expect to take one of Game 1 or 2 against any given opponent (and the Yankees should), then you should reasonably be able to favor their depth for the remainder of the series.