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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Arraez, A Star Relief Arm, Pitching Injuries, And Veteran Worries!



The Yankees had an off-day! It feels like it's been a playoff-style sprint through the early part of the season here. Part of that is because of the Yankees' difficult early season schedule, but some of it is the relative lack of off-days. The Yankees have had just two since Opening Day, which isn't much. I feel like I've been more worried about wearing out the bullpen than I normally am at this time of year, but some of that is due to the lack of off-days, in all likelihood. For instance, it sure seemed like the Yankees' bullpen was stretched thin during the Marlins' series (because it was), but the off-day yesterday gets everyone a bit fresher, which should help a lot. That coincides nicely with next step in building up pitch counts for the Yankees' starters. I would expect that just about everyone should be capable of throwing 95-105 pitches the third time through the rotation, so the strain on the bullpen should hopefully be a bit less.


In fact, I am going to be a bit bolder than most. Some people I respect highly have noted with varying levels of concern the lack of strikeouts the Yankees' pitching staff has generated so far this season. It is also true that the Yankees have targeted groundball pitchers who induce soft contact, particularly in the bullpen, but also in the rotation (Marcus Stroman, as an example of this philosophy). Yes, strikeouts are optimal, but getting strikeouts also force pitchers to use a lot of pitches. The Yankees do not likely have a starting staff capable of absorbing tons of pitches, even if Cole returns on a full-time basis in June. Given that fact, it behooves the staff, both starters and relievers, to be more economical. I, for one, actually like the philosophical shift the Yankees have shown. The Yankees can still get big strikeouts when they need it, but they have other tricks in the bag as well. To quote Bull Durham, "Strikeouts are boring, and besides that they're fascist. Throw some groundballs, it's more democratic."


As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll evaluate the idea of trading for Luis Arraez and a star relief arm, discuss the injury epidemic among MLB pitchers, and decide whether we should be worried about Judge and Gleyber yet. Let's get at it!


Paul asks: Would Luis Arraez be a player the Yankees could acquire to play second base if they decide to let Gleyber Torres walk (or if he signs elsewhere) after 2024?


Would it make sense, if he is available to grab him now (or soon)?


Luis Arraez is a unicorn in the modern game (probably even the pre-modern game as well), and I mean that in the most appreciative way possible. Luis Arraez is the answer to the following question: how would a player perform if we gave him an 80-grade hit tool, average athleticism, the body of a slightly misshaped middle infielder, and no other average tools? In case you're curious, the answer is that he's still a very valuable player!


Arraez can flat out get the bat on the ball in basically any situation. He doesn't walk much, doesn't strike out hardly ever (though, interestingly, he is both walking and striking out more this year), and he doesn't hit for almost any power. What he does is put the ball in play with absurd frequency, and quite often, it finds holes on both the dirt and grass. He also hits left-handed, which is obviously great for anyone hitting at Yankee Stadium, though it likely doesn't mean much for Arraez as he doesn't lift the ball with enough authority to take advantage of the short porch.


On the minus side, Arraez is basically position-less. He's tried 3B, 2B, 1B, and LF with limited success; his best spot is DH, particularly with a pitching staff geared towards contact. I also have concerns about what happens when Arraez inevitably loses some of his reaction timing and his 80-grade hit tool becomes even a 65-grade hit tool. That player is probably a nearly unplayable bench bat.


All of that being said, acquiring Arraez now would allow a team to ride his prime years now through next year before Arraez becomes a free agent. While he's flawed, he's still incredibly valuable due to his incredible hit tool. He fits what the Yankees need right now as a championship caliber team. The only problem is that they don't have a place to play him right this second, but it's always better to acquire talent and find a place to play them later. Yes, were Arraez available right now, I'd go get him in a heartbeat because I can use him through next year, when his skills should remain intact. I can envision either batting Arraez in the lead-off spot in front of Soto, or the unorthodox move (which I also like) would be to bat him behind Judge in the cleanup spot, as he's likely to move runners with his propensity for contact. Offensively, he fits this lineup beautifully.


Arraez is a unicorn, which makes pinning down his value tricky. I think that his defense (or lack there of) pulls his value down just enough that baseballtradevalues.com has his value in a pretty good spot. According to them, here's what a trade could look like from a value perspective:



I'd do this trade in a heartbeat, which means the value is likely still light. Add a mid-level pitching prospect, and I think that we're probably talking on a deal for Arraez.


However, given the Marlins' likely status as a seller this season, I'd be interested in getting more out of a deal with the Marlins. Just for kicks, I wanted to look at what a deal for Arraez and the guy he displaced at 2B, Jazz Chisholm, would look like:



If you're a prospect hugger, be sure to look away, but this trade would make a lot of sense for both teams. The Marlins get significant pieces to begin their rebuild, and the Yankees get two players who fit like gloves on the roster this year and next year. Gleyber Torres will be a free agent after this year, and Chisholm was an excellent 2B who only moved to accommodate Arraez. Chisholm could get Judge out of CF this year, and move back to 2B the following year. A guy can dream, I guess.


I don't think a super-trade is nearly as likely, but it's fun to dream. I think the first package, plus a pitcher, makes a lot of sense for both teams, and is something I would explore if I were Brian Cashman.


Jeff K. asks: Andy, another question for next week. Are the Yankees considering trading for a high leverage reliever? Not the "Jake Cousins" or the "JT Brubakers" out there, but a true established STAR closer? Clay Holmes, I think is more suited to a "setup" role, pitching the 7th and/or 8th innings, rather than being the 9th inning closer. Is there any chance that the Yankees might trade for a true 9th Inning closer to take Holmes's place in that role? Someone like Emmanuel Clase of Cleveland maybe or someone else who can fill that role successfully?


This topic is even more pressing given the recent injury to Jonathan Loaisiga. I am not necessarily as worried about the closer spot; I think one of the Yankees, either Burdi or one of Hamilton/Gil can emerge as a lockdown 9th inning arm should Clay Holmes prove to be too shaky back there. However, I do think the Yankees should be on the hunt for a good relief arm to hedge against the possibility that the injured trio of Kahnle/Trivino/Effross don't return to health or form.


I expect that the deals won't exist on that market until late-June/early-July. Cleveland is absolutely a team that's on my radar, because the pitching staff is in shambles and I'm not sold that lineup will produce enough to stay in the hunt, even in a bad division. The Marlins have some very interesting arms were they to be used in relief, as do the Pirates. The question is really going to be price, and that will really be dependent on who shakes free.


Someone like Emmanuel Clase would certainly be costly, but I'd do it in a heartbeat if the Yankees are steamrolling towards the playoffs by the end of June. I'd even be willing to overpay, as long as the Yankees aren't dealing a Dominguez/Jones level prospect.


The Yankees will need more bullpen arms as the season rolls along; the real question in my mind if someone internally can emerge before the trade deadline.


Brian asks: What's your take on all of the injuries on pitching injuries across the sport and what's causing it? They're dropping like flies out there...


I think we have a multi-faceted problem on our hands, one that doesn't involve a simple answer. Gerrit Cole deserves a pat on the back for the right statement: both the Players Association and MLB should be ashamed of their public statements thus far, and cooperate to study the issue more deeply, as this has significant impacts to both of their pockets. The issue remains that the problem likely has its genesis far before the MLB level.


Kids now are specializing in sports as young as 9 and 10 years old. Frankly, it's disgusting. I've known too many kids at 13, 14 years old who are on the travel circuit, trying to throw max effort all the time for Perfect Game and other really damaging organizations. Those kids are damaged goods by the time they are 18 and ready for professional level ball.


Throwing max effort all the time at the professional level is also a problem and adds strain to the arm. Pitch design may make your pitches nastier, but those design sessions sometimes put added strain on arms for additional inches of drop or sweep.


And yes, I think in any athletic event, the more time you have to recover, the more your muscles and tendons can perform safely. So yes, baseball should study the long-term impact of pitch clocks.


Unfortunately though, none of these things are issues that can be solved overnight. People like me have been screaming about these issues for a decade, but little has been done, and now baseball has to reap what it's sowed. It's going to take a generation to even begin to untangle all of it. It's sad.


David asks: At what point do we start to worry about Judge and Torres? Is it two weeks from now, six weeks from now, right now?!?!?!?


OK, breathe!!!! Kidding aside, we are a long way off from needing to worry. The underlying stats show that Judge is getting really unlucky, even if his underlying numbers aren't quite as good as they were last year. I think he's still feeling the impact of a short Spring Training, and we need to wait until mid-late May before we worry.


Torres is another guy who looks close, and is having good at-bats. He's seeing pitches, working counts, but he hasn't put a charge into anything yet. If he keeps this approach, I feel pretty confident that the hits will come. Let's revisit Torres at the end of April.

25 Comments


Melfman1
Melfman1
Apr 12

I don’t get the idea of trading for Arraez and Chisholm. If Chisholm takes over in CF, then where do Judge, Soto, Verdugo & Stanton all play? Let alone Dominguez when he’s healthy. On top of that, to give up those prospects, makes it a non-starter in my opinion.


Trading for Arraez alone is much more palatable. But I’d rather see how Gleyber responds to moving down in the lineup as he clearly isn’t suited for leading off.

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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Apr 13
Replying to

My father read the Mailbag and noted that this week's addition proves I was dropped on my head one too many times...he may be right. :⁠-⁠)


Flags fly forever; the Yanks are great right now, but I don't see Stanton keeping this up (he's still not catching up to good fastballs), and someone will inevitably get hurt. I think you acquire good players and playing time works itself out.


The flip side is that this team sure seems to have really good chemistry, and I wouldn't want to mess with that. This is more a hypothetical, as in if the Marlins engage in a fire sale. Arraez fits, and Chisholm fits long-term, and I think there's still untapped potential there.


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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Apr 12

Thank you for answering my question. You had mentioned Luis Gil. Being that Gil throws extremely hard, and has already been through Tommy John surgery and elbow injuries, as hard as he throws, he may be another injury waiting to happen. I am wondering if maybe Luis Gil, once Gerrit Cole returns to the rotation could be that 9th Inning Closer. He has "strike 'em out", "blow 'em away" stuff, and maybe if he only pitches the 9th inning, it would preserve his arm, being that he would only have to get 3 outs, instead of all the outs a starter would have to get?

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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Apr 13
Replying to

I've always projected Gil as a strong backend reliever just given his pitch profile (lack of fastball and breaking ball command will bite him eventually). I agree he'd be special back there, but it's sure nice to have him stretched out right now. Good thing the Yankees didn't listen to me and convert him to relief this off-season!

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Paul Semendinger
Paul Semendinger
Apr 12

(This seemed to work with Stanton...)


Judge is a shadow of himself. Ever since the injury he hasn't really hit. He's a drag on the lineup and he's making too many outs. He clogs the middle of the order. Bat him 7th if you need to play him at all.

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Jeff Korell
Jeff Korell
Apr 12
Replying to

The toe injury from last year may still be effecting Judge's swing. Batters often use their big toe as an anchor when they swing, and if the ligament in his toe is still bothering him, it could make his swing and his hitting less effective.

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Mike Whiteman
Apr 12

I always look forward to the mailbag. I think all bullpens are kinda gassed right now. Amazingly enough, Yankee starters on average have pitched just bit further into games than the average team. I too want Cashman to always be looking for upgrades in the middle/setup slots. If we know one thing about pitchers now, a team needs lots and lots of them :) The interesting thing about Holmes that in spite of the increase in blood pressure he brings, he's one of the better closers in the sport. Last year his save conversion was 89%, which was higher than guys like Hader, Jansen, Clase, etc. Clay just gets the job done with some more excitement :)

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jeff
Apr 13
Replying to

And those "less than 10" become the most coveted by most MLB teams.

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fuster
Apr 12

while worrying about Judge's relatively light firepower in the young season, we might do well to note that pitchers (and managers) remain fearful of his capacity for clout

guess who is leading the AL in walks?

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fuster
Apr 13
Replying to

I'm still noticing too-low strike calls against Judge

too early to determine whether the frequency is reduced from last season

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