SSTN Mailbag: Torres, Peraza or Volpe, And Donaldson!
It's not the right thing to do, but it's human nature that when things aren't going well, it's easy to look to someone else who's having a rough time and say, "Well, at least I'm not that guy." As a Yankee fan, that's how I feel looking at the Mets. I give the Mets a lot of credit for being willing to spend beyond other teams in their pursuit of a title. If you just look at the high-level names on their roster, it is certainly impressive. Where I have raised concerns is with the Mets' pitching depth, which is frankly even worse than what the Yankees have currently. The Mets' pitching staff is dependent on ace starting pitchers who are 38 and 40 years old, respectively; a 3rd starter who has never thrown the MLB ball in professional action, coming from a smaller baseball, and is dependent on a pitch that requires the pitcher to spread his fingers almost across the equator of the ball; a 34 year old starting pitcher who has one good season in his last 4 and has been prone to injury; and a bullpen that has an elite closer and a collection of middling parts. Those were my concerns about the Mets' pitching staff, and I wrote about them more extensively in previous pieces. Well, Senga (transitioning to a new baseball), has finger tendonitis; Quintana is out until at least mid-July; and now the all-World closer, Edwin Diaz, is out for the season following a complete patellar tendon tear celebrating a save at the WBC. The Yankees have some worrying injuries; it's nowhere near as bad as what the Mets are facing right now. Sad though it is to say, the Mets' current woes make me feel a bit better about the Yankees.
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 a potential Gleyber Torres trade, choosing Peraza or Volpe, and use our crystal ball for Josh Donaldson! Let's get at it:
Jason asks: Volpe and Peraza (and Oswaldo Cabrera) look like the future in the middle of the infield. That leaves Torres as the odd man out. Does trading Torres make sense so that the Yankees can get someone else in a useful spot and what could they get for him?
As my introduction to this week's Mailbag notes, depth has a funny way of drying up very quickly. I would like everyone to think back to last Spring Training. Much of the uproar then was about finding at-bats for DJ LeMahieu as the super utility guy. I noted at the time that I was really not concerned about it because a.) there were plenty of ways to get DJ some at-bats every week as a roving infielder while keeping other guys fresh, and b.) things would have a way of working out...which is exactly what happened. Even with missed time for an injury, LeMahieu still reached 467 ABs last season, and likely would have hit the 500-550 mark I predicted for him prior to the start of the 2022 season.
In short: too much depth is rarely a bad thing. I know that Torres is seemingly the most valuable "expendable" infielder at the moment, which makes him trade bait. However, I don't think trading Torres makes a ton of sense (I'll get to how I would clear the logjam in an answer to a question below). Depending on which flavor of WAR you prefer, Torres still produced either an average or near-All-Star season in 2022. I have said that I think last year represents "year 1" of the Gleyber Torres offensive rebuild campaign, and I think he can be even better this year. The Yankees need more offense, not less, and I think that Torres can help.
Now, does Torres have value on the trade market? Absolutely. Baseballtradevalues.com assigns a median trade value of $11.6 MTV for Gleyber Torres, which seems...a little light, if I'm being honest. Now, there is volatility in his offensive profile, and he's only got 2 more years of team control (including 2023), so he's no longer a cheap middle infield commodity. Could Torres bring back a starting LF? Not one of Bryan Reynolds' caliber, by himself anyway. Given that fact, I'd hold on Torres and let the chips fall where they may as the season gets underway.
David asks: Who of Peraza or Volpe should get the SS job?
It's hard to pick anyone other than Volpe right now, right? The kid looks like the real deal, and though Volpe's arm is a hair light, I think he more than makes up for it with his reactions at the position, and he's proven to have enough arm to make some tough throws in Spring Training.
Frankly, I think both Peraza and Volpe deserve to make the team. Make one the SS, give the other a rotating role at 2B/3B, and occasionally spelling the other at SS. It's so beyond obvious that they are both one of the 9 best players that deserve to play the field everyday. My pick for SS is Volpe, but if both are playing and on the MLB roster on Opening Day, I'm happy.
Mike asks: Do you buy that Josh Donaldson could have a better year in 2023, as the Yankees say, or is he cooked? How would you handle that situation - a trade?
I mean, sure, Donaldson could bounce back. I think it's about as likely as the Yankees calling me to audition for a role as a lefty out of the bullpen, but you know, I suppose there's a chance.
In all seriousness, it's almost impossible for me to build a case for Donaldson having a dead-cat bounce, as they say in the trade. He still hits the ball hard, but the contact is rarely barreled, he's late on fastballs, and where he sits on the aging curve suggests that he's in the middle of a precipitous fall from performance grace. The only reason Donaldson is still on the Yankees' roster is his salary, full-stop. Believe me, if Brian Cashman could have found a taker for Donaldson, he'd already be gone.
In reality, the Yankees should view Donaldson as a sunk cost and dump him as a way of finding playing time in the infield and DH spot for some frequent combination of DJLM, Volpe, Peraza, and Torres. Three of those four are versatile enough to cover some or all of the positions on the infield dirt; Donaldson does none of those things, and he can't even hit like Torres.
I doubt Steinbrenner will allow Cashman to just dump Donaldson, but I've been wrong before on that front - after all, I never thought the Yankees would release Ellsbury before his contract expired...a guy can dream, right?!?