By Andy Singer
So…the offseason drags on. I know that we’re only in the first week of December, and the big moves don’t typically happen until at least mid-December, but I have a strong gut feeling that we could be in for a very long winter. As you’ll see from my answers to this week’s questions, I think that the events of the last week tell us a lot about what is to come this offseason.
In this week’s mailbag, we’ll talk a lot about the Non-Tender deadline news, and I’ll pick one impact reliever from the current crop of prospects! As always, keep your questions coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com, and I’ll select a few each week to answer. As always, thanks for the great questions. Let’s get at it:
Steven asks: A lot of players got non-tendered at the deadline. The Yankees have been rumored to like Schwarber for years and he’s left handed with power. Does he, or anyone else, make sense for the Yankees?
It’s crazy to see some of the players that were non-tendered this year. In a normal year, the non-tender deadline is of little consequence to the rest of the offseason. Generally, players who are non-tendered are players who aren’t even within shouting distance of being worth their projected raises in arbitration, or they’re guys whose performance just doesn’t warrant a 40-man roster spot anywhere in the league. That is far from the casee this year. I’ve been saying it since the summer, and I’ll reiterate: this is going to be a long, cold winter. The owners have made it clear that austerity measures are coming across baseball, so fans should be prepared.
In theory, yes, there are some non-tendered players who could fit the Yankees’ roster, depending on how the Yankees plan to shape the roster through Free Agency and trades. Right off the bat, here are the guys that I think pass the sniff test:
Kyle Schwarber, LF/DH
Eddie Rosario, OF
Albert Almora Jr., OF
Curt Casali, C
Archie Bradley, RHP
Carlos Rodon, LHP
That’s quite a list! All are available relatively cheaply, so the Yankees should by all means do their due diligence. To me, Schwarber is a left-handed Gary Sanchez: certainly talented at the plate, with some of the best exit velocity and hard hit numbers in the Majors, but comes with major defensive questions, strikeout issues, and maddening inconsistency at the plate. Sure, he’s left-handed and a power, left-handed bat is tantalizing at Yankee Stadium, but the Yankees already have enough swing-and-miss in their lineup and they do not project to have the flexibility in the outfield or at DH to get Schwarber consistent at-bats. As much as I like Schwarber as a player, and think that he will make another team very happy, I don’t think he’s a fit for the Yanks.
Rosario is a useful left-handed power bat who isn’t very good defensively, but is at least playable in LF. Rosario doesn’t walk much, but he’s got enough pop and makes enough contact (generally) to be a solid complementary piece. Unless the Yanks move Frazier this offseason, I don’t see a fit.
Almora is a very good defender at all 3 outfield positions, and reliable defense at all 3 outfield spots would definitely add something that’s missing from the current Yankee roster. However, Almora’s offense has fallen off a cliff in recent years, with declining production and some of the worst exit velocity and infield pop numbers in the Majors. Most recently, it looks as though he fell into the launch angle trap, which caused some of the issues that he saw in 2020. If he finds a way to hit like he did in 2017 again, Almora is an asset, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Depending on where the Yanks go with the catcher position, Casali is interesting. He’s a veteran who is a good pitch framer with acceptable defense and plenty of pop. He’s not someone who can be counted on as anything other than a part time player, as the bat would be exposed with additional playing time, but he could be an interesting player to pair with Sanchez. Personally, I prefer Higgy’s defense to Casali’s bat, but I could see the logic for employing a catcher like Casali.
I admit to being surprised that Archie Bradley was really non-tendered by Cincy. He’s a solid reliever with an emerging change-up that could make him viable over multi-inning appearances. He has top prospect pedigree, and he has a history of good-to-All-Star performance. The Yankees need someone who can reliably soak up innings between the 4th and 7th innings as-needed, and Bradley would be a great choice. I’d go after Archie Bradley in a heartbeat.
Rodon has never managed to stay healthy long enough to capitalize on his obvious talent. Rodon was ridden so hard in college, that I wonder if his days as a starter are behind him. However, despite the horrific numbers, his slider remains one of the best single pitches in the Majors. Rodon, to me, is an obvious candidate to be converted into a multi-inning reliever who can make a big impact from the left-side if he leans on his slider.
To make a long story short, I’d make a run at Bradley and Rodon. I think they could easily become weapons for the Yankees out of the bullpen, which would strengthen what was quietly one of the Yankees’ weakest links in the playoffs this year, more so than lineup balance.
Eddie asks: Any surprises by the Yankees at the non-tender deadline? Anyone you thought the Yankees should have non-tendered but didn’t like Sanchez?
I’m not surprised the Yankees tendered a contract to Sanchez, and it would have been very short-sighted to just let him walk for nothing. Even a partial rebound to his 2019 season makes him worth more than his projected $5.5-6 million salary. The Yankees may be frustrated with Sanchez, but they’re not stupid.
If I was surprised by something, it was that more relievers were tendered contracts than I expected. The Yankees will make more moves in the coming months, so more players will be jettisoned from the 40-man roster, but I was surprised by some of the bottom-of-the-roster types that were tendered contracts. Ben Heller is a good example. Heller has a lot of talent, and the Yankees clearly like him given that they’ve stuck with him through numerous injuries since acquiring him from the Indians in the Andrew Miller trade. However, if there was a place to save a roster spot, that seemed like an easy one. There are others like Heller we could point to, but I think the Yankees should be applauded for making a rational decision to maintain options for as long as it makes sense when we’re talking about money that is negligible to the bottom line.
Holder was the obvious non-tender candidate. His performance and underlying numbers are easily replaceable for similar or less money. The Yankees have multiple reliever conversion candidates in the minors that deserve a shot ahead of Holder. The Yankees can pocket the projected $1 million and spend it on two of the kids who could likely replace Jonathan Holder’s performance.
Dave asks: You’ve talked a lot about giving some of the Yankees’ pitching prospects a shot in the ‘pen. Of the young guns that have populated the Yankee prospect lists, who do you think will become the next ace reliever?
I LOVE this question. There are plenty of guys from whom we can choose. I’ve long said that Albert Abreu could be devastating out of the bullpen, utilizing just his fastball and wicked breaking ball to confound hitters, even if he never really figures out where it’s going. Same goes for guys like Luis Medina, Yoendrys Gomez, or Luis Gil if they prove that starting isn’t in the cards.
However, for 2021, I think the Yankees’ breakout reliever will be Nick Nelson. That sounds like a boring answer, and the surface stats don’t look exciting. However, small sample sizes really messed with a line that was really excellent. Nelson’s second MLB outing was a disaster. He gave up 6 earned runs in 1.2 innings pitched. Thereafter? He threw 16 innings, pitching to a 2.81 ERA. In those outings, he threw more than 1 inning five times out of nine appearances. Add in the fact that he has struck batters out at every level, and I believe that he is on the precipice of being a very good bullpen arm for the Yankees.