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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Joey Votto, How High For Yamamoto, And The Bench!


I don't know about the rest of you, but I am seriously hoping that the Yankees can find one more big gift this holiday season. Many of us hoped that gift would already be unwrapped while we all jumped for joy, but alas, free agency doesn't work on our timelines. There is really stiff competition for the present that most of us want, and I find myself trying not to get my hopes up too much. I think most of you know that I love Yoshinobu Yamamoto; I've been saying that he's one of the 10-15 best pitchers in the world to anyone who would listen since early last year. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Yankees have kept the number 18 (the "ace" jersey number in Japan) free since the beginning of last year. The Yankees clearly want him as badly as I do.


And if they don't get him? I'll be upset, but I won't blame the Yankees. For once, they have proven that they are really "all in" to try to win a championship in 2024. I have spent seven-plus years bashing Hal Steinbrenner on the internet. While I still have plenty of issues with the team as a corporation, I can't fault him for the manner in which the team has operated this off-season. The Yankees are truly going for the best options to upgrade the roster, and that's all any of us can ask for this year and every year.


As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll talk about the relative merits of Joey Votto, how much I'd be willing to pay for Yamamoto's services, and the composition of the bench in 2024. Let's get at it:


Oscar asks: If Stanton should be traded replace him with Joey Votto on one year deal maybe.


Regardless of what much of the fanbase wants, Giancarlo Stanton is almost guaranteed to begin the season on the roster. I admit to being incredibly frustrated by Stanton, but despite recent evidence, I still believe there are body and mechanical changes that can help him get back to being a middle-of-the-order threat. Surely, the Yankees are going to give him at least half a season in the lineup to prove that he can be just that. With the team trying to win though, I think Stanton will likely have a shorter leash than in years' past, but he will be the DH to begin the season.


For the sake of discussion, let's imagine a world where the Yankees and Stanton agree to part ways, the Yanks eat a ton of salary and find an acceptable landing spot for Stanton. Is Joey Votto really the guy we want to replace him at DH? Sure, Votto is left-handed, has a history of great performance, and likely would be a great fit in the locker room.


That's just about where the positives end. Votto will play the 2024 season at age-40, an age at which very few players maintain above-average offensive performance, something that is paramount from the DH spot. He also has not hit well since 2021, a surprise year in which Votto changed his traditionally patient approach to a significantly more aggresive one, which surprised pitchers. It hasn't worked since he hurt his shoulder in 2022, and his pop and ability to impact the baseball has been significantly hindered. You could squint and say that Votto might be able to return to above-average performance a full year following shoulder surgery, but again, his age is working against him there.


Joey Votto was a very fun player for a long time, but I don't think he's a fit for the Yankees now. Without Stanton around, I'd rather have Soto, Judge, Wells, and others rotate through the DH spot.


Michael asks: The rumors are peaking that Yamamoto is going to sign for $300 plus million. This seems insane for a guy who has never pitched in the majors and blows by what other Japanese pitchers have gotten coming over. How high are you willing to go and why?

I want to be the highest bidder at the end, so if that means crossing the $300 million threshold, so be it. Unless I'm mistaken (and please let me know if I am), I believe Gerrit Cole is the only pitcher to break that $300 million threshold, and it was the Yankees that gave it to him, so there is precedence here.


I do understand the concern about giving Yamamoto a deal in the stratosphere when he has never pitched in the Majors, but he is a very different case than recent Japanese pitchers who have made the jump. For example, Senga had gaps in command and control and relied on a feel pitch for success, which gave me (and others) pause about how he would translate to MLB. Senga has been good, but command and control issues remain, and could make that contract an overpay.


Yamamoto has no such concerns. Yamamoto shows the ability to work both his fastball and his curveball up, down, left, and right on command both in and out of the strike zone. He works the splitter down at the bottom of the zone and just below the zone with good, late break and consistency. He is even able to mix in a slider that flashes plus and a cutter to show something different (the cutter and slider have very similar shapes from my video watching, so they are likely similar grips with different gapping in the fingers to produce different velocities and depth). More importantly, Yamamoto is truly a pitcher as opposed to a thrower. He has experience working very deep into games with efficiency, and has proven that he can work at 130+ pitches, if needed. He can change speeds on both his fastball and curveball throughout an outing, often cruising at 94 MPH, only to uncork a 99 MPH fastball with two strikes. He also completely modified his delivery between 2022 and 2023 to put less strain on his body, moving from a big leg kick typical in Japan to an almost no leg kick stride that produced similar results. In short, I think Yamamoto is the total package.


I really thought 7 years/$215 million would get it done before the off-season, and I was way off-base. I think Yamamoto will approach $300 million, and I'd just say take my money.


Jay asks: How would you configure the bench in 2024?


In my off-season plan, I outlined the following bench:


C Trevino/Wells

OF Grisham

UTIL Cabrera

-Defensive Specialist infielder to be named later


That exercise assumed that Gleyber Torres would be dealt in attempt to duck beneath the last luxury tax threshold, but luckily, the Yankees have signaled that they won't do something that stupid this year. In that scenario, that brings Peraza back to the bench, which fills in the "defensive specialist infielder" role beautifully.


However, I remain higher than others on Oswaldo Cabrera's potential, and given that he has options remaining, I'd love to see him start the year in AAA to get some reps and confidence back before a return to the Majors. In that scenario, I'm hoping the Yanks can bring in someone like Brad Miller, a vet with experience around the diamond and some modicum of bat to come to camp and compete. We won't know who's around probably until January/February to fill that role on a non-roster invitee deal, but that's how I'd manage the back of the roster.

8 Comments


Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Dec 15, 2023

Honest question:


The league-average statistics at DH last season were.245/.325/.430, .755 OPS, 106 wRC+. Last season was the very first that Stanton didn't exceed the league average at DH, and given the bar set above, how likely do you all think it is that he will exceed that in 2024, even if he only gets his customary 400-450 plate appearances due to injury?


Frankly, I think Stanton's a pretty decent bet to at least bounce-back to something above the level seen above, a bar that isn't terribly high. Let's take it a step further; if Stanton hits .220/.325/.470 (basically his 2022 performance, and not a particular stretch to imagine), I think he's better than almost anyone else they can pu…

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fuster
Dec 15, 2023
Replying to

honest answer


Stanton isNOT better than anyone else the Yankees can DH in 2024.


they acquired a better DH along with a centerfielder


the more salient question is whether Stanton can maintain his health and hitting ability to the extent that the team will benefit from distorting and weakening the outfield defense by playing Soto in the field in oder to allow ABs for Stanton

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fuster
Dec 15, 2023

Stanton is not entirely washed-up

but it's probably not the best idea to keep both Soto and Stanton on the active roster


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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Dec 16, 2023
Replying to

I wouldn't worry too much about Soto and Stanton being on the Yankee roster in 2025. Stanton will be able then to go back to having the DH job all to himself.

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