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  • Andy Singer

SSTN Weekly Mailbag: Shortstop, Oswaldo Cabrera, Revisiting The Sale Trade, And Covering Nestor!


Two weeks, two SSTN Mailbags - one more, and they call that a winning streak...it has happened before. Luckily, since we last got together for a Mailbag, things are looking up for the Yankees. While many were willing to write the season off and chuck it into the East River a week ago, the Yankees remembered that there's still plenty to play for. The Yanks mercifully took one from the Blue Jays, swept the Mets at home by beating none other than Max Scherzer (a series that had some October vibes, if I do say so myself), and pounded the heck out of Oakland last night. In short, rumors of the Yankees' demise have been greatly exaggerated. It's amazing what the combination of a glut of short-term injuries and a heart of the lineup that gets cold at the same time will do to a team's performance. I just want to remind everyone of one thing: they call these the dog days of summer for a reason. We may not all agree with the Yankees' strategy of rest and caution as their division lead dwindles, but the timeline for the return of almost everyone of import to the Yankees' October chances is a week and a half away. I'll be blunt: I don't care one iota about the best record in baseball or getting hot in August. I care about the Yankees being healthy and settled heading into October. All of the current decisions related to IL stints and lineup shifting have been made with October in mind. Ditto for every trade made at the deadline. Sure, we all know which of those trades looms large as a risk, but the Yankees made an evaluation, one that indicates that certain players (cough, Harrison Bader, cough) make the Yankees a more formidable October opponent. Despite the recent cold streak, I like what I see, and I like how things line up for the Yankees. I am completely willing to eat crow if I'm wrong (as I showed when the lineup was significantly worse than I expected last season), but right now I feel good.


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 who should man shortstop for the remainder of the year, talk a little more about Oswaldo Cabrera, revisit the Chris Sale trade, and discuss covering Nasty Nestor's IL stint! Let's get at it:


Brian asks: If you had a say over Yankee operations, who would be the starting shortstop for the Yankees for the remainder of the 2022 season?


That's actually a really tough question for me to answer. IKF was never intended to be anything more than a stopgap shortstop who could play his way into being the super utility guy once the Volpe's, Peraza's, and Cabrera's of the world were ready to produce. I stumped pretty hard for IKF this offseason, as I thought he was the best of a handful of mediocre or bad options. I've also been very hard on IKF this season, as his arm grades way lower on a daily basis than I ever expected based on his reputation, and guys with empty batting averages grate on me after awhile. The truth, though, is somewhat different: IKF's statistics at most publicly available sites match his projections. Via Baseball-Reference, IKF has been a 2 bWAR player, with an 85 OPS+ (identical to the previous season), with excellent defensive metrics. He's on pace to be slightly less than that at Fangraphs, while Statcast is the lone site that pans his defense. Every bit of information we have shows that he runs the bases really well, and is among the fastest players in MLB according to Sprint Speed. IKF is exactly who I thought he was, yet I remain underwhelmed.


When Oswald Peraza was hot in July, I really thought the Yankees should call him up and give him a shot everyday at SS. However, the flip side is that the Yankees made some major shake-ups to the clubhouse at the trade deadline, and that could have been a bad time to bring in a new rookie to start over a veteran. I put less stock in that theory, but I may undersell its importance (we all have biases). Peraza has been a bit cold in August, and he got hit in the hand a bit over a week ago, so the calls for Peraza to play as anything other than a September call-up might be misplaced.


Oswaldo Cabrera has been hotter than almost anyone in the minors, and he's now getting a chance to play everyday. He's played all over the field, looking great defensively, and you can squint and see a player that might one day hit with some pop. I'm not sure that day is today, but I love that he's getting a chance to try.


I think that Cabrera is really auditioning to unseat IKF for the remainder of the season. The Yankees know what they have in IKF, a steady, but unspectacular player. Cabrera might be able to outplay him right now. Cabrera needs to prove that he can make all the plays on a consistent basis while making enough contact to move runners along in the very least.


My heart says Cabrera for the remainder of this season, my head says IKF. I'm going to punt and revisit this question in two weeks; I think we'll know a lot more then. I'd bet anything the Yankees are doing the same thing.


Care Bear asks: Is Oswaldo Cabrera a future full-time regular player or, is he destined to be a utility-man?


I wrote extensively about Oswaldo Cabrera yesterday, and elaborated on my feelings/projections in the comments. My answer to this question can best be summed up by: can't he be both?!? Cabrera's hands are so good and soft defensively, and his arm has improved to the point that I think he can conceivably line up at multiple defensive positions and be useful to a lineup. That defensive versatility will afford him plenty of opportunity to stick and see if the bat plays.


I threw out the name Ben Zobrist (a lite version) when talking about Cabrera yesterday, but discomike144 brought up Chris Taylor in our comments section, and I think that's an even better comp. Cabrera's defensive versatility is part of his value, and if he hits the way I personally think he can (20 HR, 20 2B, 15 SB in 550 PA with a .330 OBP type of player if everything clicks), that's a guy that plays 4-5 days a week at multiple positions. That's an everyday player in most books.


Fuster asks: if you factor in salary cost @ 1WAR being worth $8m did either Boston or Chicago 'win' the Chris Sale trade?


While this trade was a 4-1 deal between the White Sox and the Red Sox, we really only need to talk about three players: Sale, Yoan Moncada, and Michael Kopech, as the others didn't spend any significant time in the majors for Chicago.


Moncada and Kopech have been worth 17.1 bWAR for Chicago since the trade, which equates to roughly $136.8 million in value. For the three seasons of Sale (we're excluding the contract extension for the purposes of this analysis), the Red Sox got 14.5 bWAR, which equates to roughly $116 million in value, but Sale was also the anchor of a rotation that won a World Series, so I think that basically evens this thing out.


Both teams got what they wanted, though Chicago likely is underwhelmed by the return. Moncada's WAR is buoyed by one big year, and he's been largely disappointing otherwise. Kopech appears to be the real deal though, so he may yet anchor a big-time rotation for Chicago.


Tim asks: How will the Yanks cover Nestor Cortes' starts while he's on the IL?


Everyone (myself included) was upset that the Yankees sent Clarke Schmidt down to AAA to stretch out as a starter following the trade deadline, but the reality is that it was a necessary evil due to the sudden loss of upper level pitching depth. Schmidt is sufficiently stretched out to start, and now he can cover Nestor's IL stint for a couple of weeks, then slide back into the bullpen for the October push.

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