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Yankees Mailbag: Donaldson’s spot, early trade speculations, and scheduling

The mailbag is covering all corners this week.

Toronto Blue Jays v New York Yankees Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Good afternoon everyone, it’s time to dive back into the mailbag and answer some of your questions. Remember to send in your questions for our weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.

yankeeinmass asks: Trading Gleyber Torres doesn’t make any sense to me. Why not keep Gleyber at second and let one of either Volpe or Peraza play third after Donaldson is gone? It seems like that would be a young infield with very good defense and great hitting.

I think this is the eventual way to settle things if Torres stays, which he’s certainly making his case to. Torres’ defense is adequate for second, and his previous trouble shifting over to shortstop inhibits a potential gamble moving him over to third base if and when Oswald Peraza makes his jump back up to the majors. Instead, having Peraza or Anthony Volpe slide over and holding DJ LeMahieu as the utilityman infielder makes for the optimal infield alignment — and depending on how Josh Donaldson holds up this season we may see a glimpse of it this year.

Donaldson is currently dealing with a hamstring issue, and it is unknown at the time of writing whether he will require an IL stint or not. Assuming the team wants to play it safe and does sideline him temporarily that could be a ticket up for Peraza, though the team could also more easily fill the short-term gap by starting LeMahieu at the hot corner and having Isiah Kiner-Falefa man the backup duty for the entire infield. However, given Donaldson’s age and status on the team, as well as IKF’s apparent placement on the depth chart relative to Aaron Hicks, there may come a time later in the year where the team pulls the trigger on this proposed alignment.

The idiot that said, “Harper is coming” asks: While it’s way too early to predict, if the Phillies don’t pull themselves out of this slow start, is there any chance they trade Aaron Nola at the deadline? He’ll be a free agent after the season, they could pull a Yankees/Aroldis Chapman type move and get some good prospects and would still be able to re-sign him after the season.

It’s definitely too early to start delegating the Phillies a role as sellers, but a spot side-by-side with the Washington Nationals at the bottom of the NL East is not where they wanted to be in the early going. The Phillies are going to be hard-tasked with powering through without their superstar outfielder Bryce Harper in the first few months, but overall it would be a tough slide for them to be far enough out of the running to warrant selling once he gets reinstated into the lineup alongside offseason addition Trea Turner. The Phillies have been one of the bigger contenders in terms of being aggressive in adding pieces lately, so this doesn’t feel like a situation that would play out.

Even entertaining the thought for a moment, I don’t think the Yankees would be a favorite to land Nola’s services. A starting pitcher is far more valuable than a reliever for the stretch run, and a pitcher of Nola’s caliber would warrant a return similar to what Max Scherzer fetched when the Dodgers rented him out in 2021 (that deal included Turner of course, but even the proposed Padres deal that got beat last minute would’ve had a high cost). Meanwhile, the Yankees have promoted their top prospect into their starting lineup and have plans to insert another of their top three within the year. Jasson Domínguez talk gets floated around every season but I truly believe the Yankees are committed to developing him and would only be swayed by a blockbuster deal, and that leaves not many prospects with top-100 potential on the table. The Yankees made their move to improve the rotation by bringing in Carlos Rodón, and while he was shelved for the opening weeks hopefully his presence will be felt as soon as he gets back on the field.

OLDY MOLDY asks: What’s the early strength of schedule this year? Will they tank again in July and August like the last 2 seasons or will they peak this summer in time for the playoffs?

Who knows what truly went down to inspire their second-half collapse, but it would be hard to bet on it happening again. The clubhouse seemed to be shaken after a wild trade deadline, and until Harrison Bader stepped in to hit several bombs in the postseason the Jordan Montgomery trade looked dicey at best. Injuries also played a massive part in their flatlining, something that they’re overcoming in the early going here, so that’s promising. Still, you play the games that are in front of you and you don’t worry about what the team will look like three-four months out.

Similarly, it’s hard to put a pin on what the early schedule will provide considering how different many of these teams look from their 2022 counterparts. There’s a healthy dose of matchups with the Rays looming in May, an always challenging team that look like they’re off to the races in the first week of the year, both series against a revamped Rangers team are in the first half, there are several series against the contending teams in the AL Central upcoming, and they’ll get a look at both the Padres and Dodgers by early June. That’s not a cakewalk by any means — but the good teams win more than they lose, and we expect this Yankees team to be good, so they should be well in the hunt regardless of who is in front of them.