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Yankees Mailbag: Clay Holmes, the kids, and the early seller’s market

The mailbag is rolling with the punches as the team struggles to get going.

Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees Photo by Sarah Stier/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.

Darth_Lazarus asks: Is there a point where Holmes falls out of the circle of trust?

If there is one, Aaron Boone’s leash is apparently very generous. Clay Holmes has been struggling since the second half of 2022, and outside of a few outings in early April every outing this year has come with its fair share of tension. His latest two outings were truly a breaking point if ever there was one — Boone summoned Holmes to try and wrap up an absolute gem from Domingo Germán that he promptly fumbled, and then he was brought back two nights later to try and get the very last out of a one-run game that got blown as well.

It’s clear that the team still highly values Holmes’ first half of 2022, and believe that there was legitimacy to his dominant run then. We’ve talked at length about his struggles and whether they could be due to command or release point or injuries, but at a certain point he has to show some grasp of that form when so many others are on point in the bullpen currently. That doesn’t mean an outright demotion to the bottom of the ‘pen or anything — guys like Ian Hamilton and Jimmy Cordero are going to have to sustain this run for longer than a month to earn that kind of trust — but even if the team doesn’t want to limit Michael King to the ninth they have very capable arms in Wandy Peralta and Ron Marinaccio. Perhaps getting some of the pressure off of his back will be the best thing for him in the end.

David H. asks: Do you think Volpe, Peraza, and Cabrera have enough offensive punch to help this year or is it really about next year? I think a Correa would have made sense for this year.

Going into this year, it was fair to assume that at at least two of these players would be on the roster, and the two frontrunners in Peraza and Cabrera impressed offensively in their stint, but it was probably fair to assume that one of them would take a step back to start this year. Volpe’s incredible spring pushed him to the forefront and temporarily sidelined Peraza, but all three have struggled to find their footing in the batter’s box. Volpe has remained a step ahead, getting the most consistent playing time as the Yankees’ starting shortstop and producing only slightly-below average to this point. Cabrera has gotten slightly fewer at-bats but has truly struggled, only managing a bottom-of-the-barrel 32 wRC+, and Peraza has only gotten about a third of Volpe’s looks to the tune of a 65 wRC+.

I’m very bullish on Volpe’s bat, and do think that he’ll round into form as the year gets going. He’s already made some improvements from his initial weeks and has jumped up from one of the bats stuck at the bottom of the lineup to a deserved spot leading off — both because of his adjustments and the overall ineptitude of the rest of the team. Cabrera is also traditionally a slow starter and definitely a better hitter than the one he’s been up to this point, even if he doesn’t bounce back to his 111 wRC+ mark from last year. Peraza still faces a tough task in getting playing time, not even considering if he’s about to go on the IL after coming up limping on a steal attempt Wednesday night, so I don’t think he can factor into an offensive restart, but the other two are going to be crucial factors into the offense turning around.

Of course, the biggest factors into the stagnant lineup have been the two big boys being missing, but the young kids are vital to ensure that pitchers don’t feel too comfortable pitching around Judge and Stanton. The ultimate question of whether they can figure it out this year slightly misses the point — the Yankees can’t afford to take that gamble. Some sort of addition is going to be necessary to add insurance that they will be competitive, and then go from there.

David Y. asks: I sadly began wondering if the Yanks became trade deadline sellers — what trade chips do we have to offer, and what pieces would we target to get back? Are there takers as desperate as 2016?

Oof, the times truly are tough lately. It’s waaay too early to say whether the team will end up being sellers, and definitely too early to look into which prospects the team could potentially have their eye on due to not knowing who the biggest buyers are and how their organizations will look by midseason. You could, however, examine which players the Yankees would be willing to part with in the short-term that could bring back pieces to the future of the team.

First, we’d have to go over the guys on expiring deals. Unfortunately, we’ve been over these ad nauseum — Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Josh Donaldson, and Frankie Montas aren’t going to be drawing any trade interest anytime soon. Harrison Bader, however, could be a flip candidate to a team in need of a defensive-minded outfielder. Then it would be a matter of going over the bullpen and considering which arms the team would be most comfortable putting on the table — a lot of contenders could use a King or a Loáisiga or a Peralta shoring up the late innings.

The difficulty there is figuring out the risk/benefit ratio of trading away guys that could still be useful to future postseason pushes versus what the market offers. Beyond that, the rest of the roster mainly features players with enough baggage to inhibit a massive return or core members of the competitive window. This is why this discussion is more prudent in June and July, because right now few teams if any are desperate for a reliever and those are the most moveable players from a team expecting to retool rather than strip things down.