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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Weakest Link, Tonkin, And One Trade Target!

I've had a long couple of weeks. What began as a short 3-4 day work trip has turned into a 2-week odyssey that meant a reasonably absurd number of working hours. Even worse, I haven't been home at all in those two weeks, as the work I've been doing required working through the weekend. The worst part of that is, obviously, being away from my family. After that is the fact that I've hardly watched any Yankee games in 2 weeks, aside from catching some of the series against the Dodgers. I return home today, and besides spending plenty of quality time with family (and, hopefully, a few extra hours in bed), I am really looking forward to finally watching a lot of baseball. There's something cruel and unusual about finally having a team that's worth rooting for, but not being able to see any of their games. I plan to rectify that this weekend. Anyway, if this Mailbag (and last week's) is a bit shorter than usual, the above is my explanation. Things will get back to some sense of normalcy next week.

As always, thanks for the great question and keep them coming to In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll talk about the weakest link in the rotation, Michael Tonkin's ascent, and one trade target for the trade deadline! Let's get at it:

bigpapacom says: One of the weakest links in the Yankees armor right now is Marcus [Stroman] every time he takes the mound is a accident waiting to happen. He gives up to many hits and walks and far to many home runs. He should thank the Yankees great offense for the record he has. When Cole comes back the should keep the boy wonder Gil and send [Stroman] down.

OK, so first things first: Stroman has enough service time that he can't be sent to the minors without Stroman agreeing to it, and beyond that, I'm fairly certain he's out of minor league options, so sending Stroman down to the minors ain't happening. While I've written previously about my concerns about Stroman, the one I've neglected to write at all about is Nestor Cortes. If you asked me which of the current Yankee starters is most likely to wind up in the bullpen (based on performance alone), Nestor would be my choice.

As worrisome as Stroman's underlying numbers are, Nestor worries me even more. Nestor has guile and fights like all heck up on the bump, but his stuff has very clearly taken a step back from his peak in 2022. He is allowing more fly balls than ever, and his stuff is relatively loopy, so if hitters guess correctly, his stuff is hittable. Nestor got a lot of press about his struggles on the road in his early outings, but I think when the law of averages and sample size takes full effect, he could have significant trouble at Yankee Stadium in the summer heat.

There's still plenty of time for both Stroman and Nestor to right some of the underlying issues I see in their respective ships, but both need to find an out pitch and pitches that keep more balls on the ground.

Steve S. asks: The Yankees picked up Michael Tonkin off of the scrap heap and all of us assumed that he wasn't long for pinstripes. He's now become a pretty major part of the bullpen with all of the struggles everyone who isn't Holmes or Weaver have had. Is Tonkin for real and has anything changed since he got to the Yankees?

I know that some of our readers have a problem with Matt Blake, but we've long since passed the point where we know for absolute certain he can take guys who are fringe relievers, tweak their pitch mixes and pitch grips, and watch as they become valuable arms. I think that Tonkin is the latest example of that trend. I'm not sure that Michael Tonkin will always pitch like a back-end guy, but I think the pieces are there for him to be a valuable bullpen arm.

The first thing the Yankees did with Tonkin was get him to decrease his fastball usage by a significant margin. He was throwing the pitch close to 60% of the time early in the year, and he now throws it just over 46% of the time. Tonkin throws two types of sliders, a traditional short slider with good drop and the sweeper slider that is currently in vogue. Both are useful pitches for him, depending on the scenario, but the shorter slider has more deception and is getting more swings and misses. Tonkin is a big body, and his delivery helps him hide his arm behind his body until just before he short-arms the ball towards the catcher. This makes him difficult to time, and I would bet that his slider is tough for hitters to read out of his hand due to that deception. Tonkin has also moved to throw the traditional slider as his primary pitch, and hitters have struggled to square it up. Tonkin's new pitch mix also allows his fastball to play up a bit above it's weight, and hitters are now hitting it on the ground with greater frequency now that they're not sitting on it as much.

Do I think that Tonkin is now a set-up man? No. Do I think he can be a capable middle reliever for the Yankees based on these changes? Yes, I do. Even better: he's stretched out enough to be a multi-inning guy out of the bullpen, which is always useful.

Michael asks: Can you pick one trade target on offense and in the bullpen that you want the Yankees to pursue? It can be big or small, whatever you think makes an impact.

I want a flamethrower for the back of the bullpen. I still think Nick Burdi is capable of being that guy, but as always, he's banged up. The White Sox are an absolute dumpster fire and they have abused Michael Kopech dating back to his prospect years (seriously, if ever you needed evidence that Tony La Russa didn't belong as a decision maker in baseball anymore, just dig into how Kopech was handled under La Russa's regime). At this point, they should be tearing it all down (again). I have a feeling Kopech will be available, and despite all of his previous arm injuries, Kopech retains special stuff and has remained healthy since moving to the bullpen. His numbers aren't spectacular, but I have a feeling the Yankees can turn an arm like Kopech into a real weapon with real coaching, which Kopech hasn't received with the White Sox.

On offense...I said it in the off-season that 3B should be a priority, and the case remains. It would take quite a list of prospects to get this deal done (and I have no idea if this guy will hit the market), but I think Ryan McMahon would be a great fit. He's on a team-friendly contract extension for the next couple of years, is generally considered a great defender at 3B (though the metrics this year say otherwise...I'd bet on those stabilizing), he bats left-handed, and he makes plenty of hard, line drive oriented contact all over the field. He's the total package for a team ready to win.

The Rockies may want to build around McMahon rather than deal him, but with the Rockies, who knows; they might be the 2nd or 3rd worst-run franchise in baseball, which is saying something when the A's and White Sox exist. Given where the Yankees are in their development cycle, this is one of the few players I'd be willing to deal Spencer Jones for.

So, for me: a deadline that includes McMahon and Kopech would be a "wow" trade deadline. I don't expect it, because these feel too much like video game trades, but boy would that be fun.


Jun 14

Ryan McMahon was DJ LeMaheui's replacement with Colorado. The Rockies thought enough of McMahon to let LeMaheui go and be his replacement. There are many examples of players who didn't do well after they left Colorado, but LeMaheui did prove, at least his first two years with the Yankees, that he CAN hit well away from Coors Field. Others proved they can hit elsewhere as well, like Matt Holliday and Larry Walker, who continued being good hitters after leaving Colorado and joining St Louis. So with McMahon, it could go either way.

On the other hand, I am usually concerned about the Yankees picking up pitchers from Oakland. Like Sonny Gray or Frankie Montas. That enormous foul territory at t…

Jun 14
Replying to

Rumfield is ready. Hardman is not. Hardman's fielding at 3B is atrocious.


Jun 14

why is 3b more priority than 1b? maybe even 2b? it seems Gleyber is coming around with the bat. I would guess if they can get something that seems like fair value they would not be opposed to trading Gleyber, but I think the most likely scenario is he stays. IF we are only adding one hitter (and adding 1 hitter or none, seem the most likely scenarios) does it really matter if he plays first or third? DJ defense is better than Rizzo, isnt it? as i have said a lot, i like Wade from the Giants. but mostly I just want us to get the very best hitter possible and i dont care what of 1b, 2b…


Jun 14

i guess i did not think Kopech would be overly expensive, but yes I guess I can see CHW attempting to attach bad contracts in trades. the good side of that is it means we give away less valuable trade pieces.

I JUST finished writing about Kopech in the game summary about yesterday. I think there is so much talent / ability there. i totally agree that if we can get him straightened out the upside is huge. seriously, I think the ceiling is one of the best closers in the game


Ed Kisko
Ed Kisko
Jun 14

McMahon is a TERRIBLE idea. High K rate. Coors phony. Like Story. .223/.309/.682 career on road. 30 less HRs, 93 less RBIs. Better internal options. And he's getting 44m total from 25-27. Need to save for Soto. We refused to trade Jones for far better players.

Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Jun 14
Replying to

"Yes, Mr. Soto's Agent, we have Ryan McMahon, so our need for your client's services is materially lessened."

Cue Agent blowing coffee out his nose. I hope it's iced coffee and not McDonald's thigh-scalding version.


Jun 14

great ideas, Andy..... especially for a distracted, tired man.

McMahon might be a really solid addition..... and am hoping that, given a little R&R, you'll flesh out a deal proposal for next week.

also, I absolutely agree that Nestor should be the guy moving to the pen. he's just the guy to benefit from more rest and more limited exposure.

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