Not The Weekly Mailbag: 12-18-2020 Thoughts
By Andy Singer
Photo Credit: Vaughn Ridley – Getty Images
I just want to take a moment to thank all of you who write in to the SSTN Mailbag and read it weekly. I wasn’t sure how the Mailbag would work in 2020 when the pandemic tanked readership of baseball writing across the internet landscape, yet so many of you have stuck with this feature. We bond through our shared love of the New York Yankees and baseball, but I admit that I feel like I’ve gotten to know some of you through this feature. There are names I recognize the instant they pass through the SSTN Mailbag or comment on the Mailbags themselves, and more than just names, I consider all of you part of this community we’ve built and shared together for the last 3+ years. In what has been a difficult year for so many people, I have personally taken great comfort in interacting with all of the familiar personalities (and new friends!) who participate in this community. The SSTN Mailbag will be on hiatus until January 1st, 2021 (don’t worry, we’re just missing one week, in reality), but just know how much I appreciate all of you. I look forward to a better 2021, and hope that all of you choose to enter the fray and send in questions and comment on the Mailbags. As I’ve always said here: the more, the merrier. I promise: I don’t bite…much…anymore.
It’s been awhile since I’ve done a general thoughts post, and I think that today is a good day for it, given the lack of activity we’ve seen thus far. Here are my current Yankee and baseball thoughts, in no particular order:
The Yankees made 3 minor league signings this week: RHP Matt Bowman, SS Andrew Velasquez, and familiar face RHP Adam Warren. Bowman signed a two-year deal, and is getting paid to recover from Tommy John Surgery he underwent in September 2020. He’s a non-factor for 2021. Velasquez doesn’t and hasn’t hit a lick at any of his stops, but he is regarded as a good fielding infielder who can ostensibly push Wade and Estrada while serving as depth at AAA. Warren is the interesting signing. Warren will now begin his 3rd (4th) stint in the Yankee organization after undergoing Tommy John Surgery in September 2019. The Yankees had previously signed him to a minor league deal prior to last season, but released him over the summer. Warren must be far enough along in his recovery for the Yankees to see reason to give him a shot. Warren’s best years have been with the Yankees, as he’s struggled elsewhere throughout his career. In his most recent big league stint with the team, Warren’s K-rate had steadily ticked up, only to see it fall with the Mariners and Padres. I wonder if the Yankees can coax solid performance out of Warren a third time, for a bullpen that desperately needs stability in the middle innings. To me, Warren is the only interesting signing here.
Somehow, I think we’ll look back on 2021 and find that Warren, as uninspiring as many of us likely find his stuff and previous performance, was the Yankees’ 3rd best reliever. After all, Warren has produced an ERA+ of 123 and 125 between both of his Yankee stints, respectively, despite horrid performance elsewhere. I’d like to see some magic one more time.
Like many of you, I am concerned about the 2021 Yankee rotation. However, I don’t think that the situation is as dire as many have indicated. Risky and volatile? Certainly, but I think we need to keep the big picture in our sights. Gerrit Cole is an ace, period. No problems there. Most of us now agree that Deivi Garcia should be a young stud that can be counted on for 150-ish innings in the back of the rotation, while possibly providing the performance of a #2 or 3 if everything breaks right. The in-between is where our worries lie, but should they? Jordan Montgomery is treated like a giant question mark, but I’m not sure that’s fair. Don’t let small sample size volatility in 2020 cloud who Jordan Montgomery is as a pitcher today. As I’ve written previously, I think Monty is a much better pitcher than people realize. His velocity is up, and he located the ball as well as ever in 2020 with an array of pitches. Most importantly, he came through 2020 without showing any ill-effects from Tommy John Surgery. Check out his underlying numbers at Statcast. Monty has turned into the king of inducing soft contact, his walk and strikeout rates were better than at any point in his career, and Statcast sees a lot of bad luck in Monty’s outcomes, crediting him with a 3.86 xERA. I think Monty can both eat innings and produce above-average performance in 2021 in the Masahiro Tanaka role. I know that Sevy is a question mark until we see his stuff post-Tommy John, but I think even a diminished Sevy is better than almost anything available on the Free Agent market. By the 2nd half of the year, I expect the top half of the rotation to be in tip-top shape. Does that mean that I don’t want the Yankees to acquire some depth? Of course not! I’d love to see a Tanaka return and a reclamation project like Corey Kluber fill out the rotation, because you can never have too many arms (as we’ve seen the last couple of years). I hope to see moves like that, but I feel pretty good about the guys that are already around.
Watching the Yankees and LeMahieu negotiate through the media deep into December is getting tiresome. Realistically, $25+ million sounds like a large amount of money in negotiations, but we’re likely talking about a scenario where the Yankees offered 4 years at “X” salary, while LeMahieu’s camp asked for a 5th year with a little more on an annual basis. I genuinely understand both sides’ arguments here, but this was where everyone expected the offers to be way back in October. Watching it drag out is painful. LeMahieu should figure out what the market will bear, and based on that, the Yankees will determine if they are comfortable with the market rate. I just want it to be over already. I’m leery of a long-term deal for DJ, but he’s a great player who has both earned a good deal and can help the Yankees win a championship in 2021. The Yankees have made him the clear priority this offseason, so let’s get it done.
I’ve heard some rumors that teams have inquired about Mike Tauchman. If that’s the case, and the Yanks can get more than a bag of balls, they should be all over it. I’m not sold on Tauchman as the 4th outfielder, and would rather see Gardner return as the team’s 4th outfielder in 2021.
Just saying: Albert Abreu has been tearing up the Dominican Winter League. I really, really like his arm, and think he could be a surprise in the 2021 bullpen. I’m officially on the hype train.
That’s all from me for today. I’ll probably have a post or two up over the next week, but I’d like to wish all of you a Happy and Safe Holiday, however you choose to celebrate the season. See you all in 2021!