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 bi-weekly call by e-mail to pinstripealleyblog [at] gmail [dot] com.
Howard H. asks: I believe the jury is still out whether last year was a one-year aberration or the start of a decline for both LeMahieu and Rizzo. With that said, what kind of depth and options available do you foresee for both of these positions and players?
Currently, the major league depth for these positions is murky, particularly first base where LeMahieu is probably the backup to Rizzo. Oswald Peraza is the first man up from the infield depth and could cover third base, though considering how often he’s been on the trading block and the lack of current playing time for him it’s very possible that he isn’t on the team by the time the trade deadline rolls around. The organization’s minor league depth was mostly veterans and roster filler, with Andrés Chaparro at third and Jake Lamb at first base. Both became free agents at the end of the year and Chaparro has moved on with a minor-league deal in Arizona, so that’s one option off the board.
At this moment, the likeliest depth we’re going to see for the corners is more of the same type of players brought on via minor league signings. The organization is flush with middle infield prospects that could move over after time, but many of them are young and still in the lower levels of the minors, so the Yankees are going to give them every chance to make it at the tougher defensive position first. If both LeMahieu and Rizzo stumble in 2024 and the farm doesn’t step up in time to fill the gap, then I could see the Yankees more aggressively moving to address this issue, but for now its on the backburner.
MSP Giant asks: Weigh in on Luzardo. IMO he is a great get, almost equivalent to Yamamoto. What would it take to get him?
I’ll refrain from putting together a specific package, but reports over the past week have indicated that the Marlins are looking for a haul of top prospects to move their current No. 1 pitcher with Sandy Alcántara out for the year. Jesús Luzardo is seemingly at his highest value, just entering arbitration for the first time and having put together his first full season over 100 innings in the big leagues to the tune of a 3.58 ERA and 208 strikeouts. That’s very promising for a 26-year-old with three years of control left, and it is why the Yankees would have a difficult time prying him away.
After dealing away several of their top prospects and major league talent to the Padres for Juan Soto, the Yankees’ supply of blue chips are much lower than at the start of this offseason. Assuming that Jasson Domínguez is firmly in the untouchable category, a bid from New York opens with Peraza and then has to include several of Spencer Jones, Everson Pereira, and Chase Hampton. Roderick Arias is also a name to consider, but he’s far from the majors and the Marlins, like the Padres, envision themselves as retooling rather than rebuilding so upper minor-league talent is likely a necessity.
Personally, while I think that Luzardo is an incredibly promising pitcher, I don’t think the Yankees will go hard for him. The team needs starters that will be solid and last throughout the year, and while I think the upside of Luzardo is high, handing the farm off for a pitcher that only has one successful full season as a starter is a risky gamble. Brian Cashman has sought to build up the floor of the rotation after missing on Yoshinobu Yamamoto and started that process by bringing in Marcus Stroman, and I think he’ll continue that process by aiming to trade for one of the more-established arms that have less years of control remaining.
Mitsu M. asks: Can you envision Cashman going cheap and signing a reclamation project as the fifth starter on a one-year deal to save a spot for Rōki Sasaki?
This was asked before the Stroman deal materialized, but I do see a similarity in the process of handing out a short-term deal to a pitcher that they viewed in the B tier of free agents. I don’t think they’re outright going to “save a spot” for Sasaki, because this is a year where they need to go more all-in than they have over the course of the Baby Bomber era and the pressure is on to retool the rotation as soon as possible.
That being said, I do think that they have viewed the offseason through the lens of going extremely hard for the one guy they identified as being a game changer, and once they missed then the strategy changes to plugging and playing smaller pieces. This is a more sustainable way of utilizing the Yankees’ financial power while aiming to keep the competitive window open, and they’re free to restart the cycle next offseason for Sasaki if that’s what they choose to do. Of course, they’ll also have to contend with the free agency of their own newest star in Soto, and the money that gets wrapped up there may constitute him being “the guy” of that year.
It’s also possible that the Yankees simply don’t view Sasaki in the same vein as they did Yamamoto, and that next year they’ll try but not go so deep down the well for him in general. We’ve got a whole year of scouting and in-season action to determine what goes on then, so without getting too far ahead of ourselves it’s fair to summarize the situation as a wait-and-see scenario.