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Yankees Mailbag: Bader in left, Cole’s contract, and Spencer Jones

The mailbag is back to talk about the outfield injuries and how to deal with them, as well as some future concerns.

Chicago Cubs v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Scott Kane/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: For playoff purposes, assuming Bader is healthy, wouldn’t the best outfield alignment be Bader in LF, Judge in CF, and Cabrera in RF? They don’t really have a left fielder right now and considering the difficulty of playing LF in Yankee Stadium along with injuries and limitations for Stanton and/or Carpenter give them limited LF options.

This checks out to me. Cabrera’s ability to field right field more than adequately is a truly lucky development, because without Andrew Benintendi at the moment the outfield alignment would’ve been so sketchy. Aaron Hicks has depreciated to unplayable status again, Estevan Florial isn’t actually an answer to replace him (more on that later), and Tim Locastro doesn’t inspire much confidence as a starting option rather than a pinch-runner/defensive replacement late in games. That this hopeful playoff outfield is still hypothetical itself because of Bader’s absence isn’t ideal, but hopefully one of Benintendi or Bader will be ready to make this viable.

Novymir asks: Will Cole opt out after 2024?

It’s a bit early for this discussion, but my initial gut reaction to this question is no. Cole’s contract came about at the perfect point in his career, entering that offseason coming off of his best season and getting fueled by a bidding war between two pitching-starved franchises in the Yankees and Angels with the Dodgers in the mix as well. Given that he hasn’t been quite as dominant in New York as he was the two years prior in Houston, it would be easy to assume that he got a better deal then and wouldn’t beat it at 34 years old on the open market again.

That said, there are some other factors to consider. The most immediate is that if Cole opts out the Yankees can simply add another year to his current contract and void the opt-out, which might be enticing to do. The market has also continued to climb since Cole signed his deal, with deals like Trevor Bauer’s and Max Scherzer’s surpassing his average annual value albeit on shorter deals (which would likely be what he’s looking for if he did opt out at that point). Finally, this is a conversation that can’t truly be held in earnest until two years down the line, when we know what Cole looks like and what his body of work has been right before the opt-out point. The only real barrier separating Cole from his prior peak has been his tendency to give up the long ball and the one bad inning, so should he adjust in the future he could easily still command a top-tier salary and might want to test it.

Robert B. asks: I have a few questions. What do the Yankees really think of Florial? I think he should be getting some at-bats, not just playing defense late in a game. During the offseason do they have anyone of value to trade other than Torres? Lastly, Spencer Jones is crushing it at Low-A, why not move him to High-A to push him a bit?

Let’s run through some quick hits on these questions real quick. First, the Yankees have been pretty averse to giving Florial consistent playing time, and I think it shows that they don’t want to expose his value beyond his stellar Triple-A numbers. They’re in a bind currently where they need to start him because of Hicks’ slide and Benintendi’s injury, but given the choice the team would seemingly rather have him down in the minors and potentially have him as a trade piece. Whether someone else would bite on that with the (admittedly small but consistent) sample he’s shown in the majors is a different discussion.

As far as the major league roster is concerned, Torres is the only name I can see being moved and getting something valuable back. Donaldson could also get dealt, but a deal for him would likely be a dump or swapping a bad contract for another. From there, it’s mostly prospects where the Yankees have their resources allocated for a trade. They certainly could be active on the trade market then, but we won’t know who is available and what the team’s needs are until they get to check out the free agent field.

Finally, Jones has been a treat to watch jump into professional baseball and immediately succeed. He’s nearly played the same amount of games as last year’s first-round pick, Trey Sweeney, who got an aggressive promotion straight to High-A to start this year and recently moved up to Double-A Somerset. The problem though is that there wasn’t a top prospect blocking Sweeney’s promotion with room on the infield to share with Anthony Volpe (and Volpe himself got a promotion soon after). Hudson Valley has Jasson Domínguez on their roster, and the organization likely doesn’t want either player to be shuffled over to a corner outfield role at this point. So, the likeliest solution is to close out the year and look towards next year where Domínguez can start at Double-A and Jones can start at High-A.