SSTN Weekly Mailbag: Trade Possibilities, Clubhouse Chemistry, and Estevan Florial!
By Andy Singer
I almost always tell people that I’m a baseball fan even before I’m a Yankee fan. Somehow, I don’t think most people believe me, so I’ve been met with surprise by family and friends when they find me watching World Series games. My wife has summed it up the way I think a lot of Yankee fans feel: “The season’s over – the Yankees aren’t playing anymore.” As my SSTN bio notes, I remain a misplaced baseball rat, so I can’t get enough of the game. I haven’t watched every inning, but it’s been an interesting World Series thus far. As I watch the games, I’ve seen some stunning displays of gritty baseball: Charlie Morton facing three batters with a broken leg might be one of the most gutsy things I’ve ever seen (Curt Schilling and your ketchup stained sock, eat your heart out); AJ Minter following Morton by throwing more pitches in a game than he ever had at the MLB level while allowing no runs; Jose Urquidy bearing down and tossing a gem in Game 2 after a disastrous appearance in the ALCS; and plenty of clutch hitting.
You know what I’ve also seen? Some sloppy fielding and occasional mental lapses. From a total talent perspective? I don’t think the Yankees are that far off. I also think there are pieces of the roster that have shown similar grit to what we’ve seen in the World Series. Luis Severino pitched admirably in the 2019 playoffs with what we now know was a torn UCL with just two of his pitches (we know now that he couldn’t throw his change-up comfortably); DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit have both consistently played through injuries with varying levels of success; Gerrit Cole was dominating in both the 2019 and 2020 playoffs under pressure; and though he’s much maligned now, Aaron Hicks has a history of coming up clutch in the playoffs (see: 2017, 2019, and 2020). I know that many people think that the Yankees as currently constructed are missing a certain “It” factor, but I think we just need to acknowledge that everything that could go wrong in 2020 went wrong (predictable though it might have been)…and the team still won 92 games. Some bounce-back from key members of the team, smart roster supplementation, and just some modicum of luck will almost certainly yield better results. I just don’t see two teams in the World Series this year that are light-years ahead of the Yankees. OK, rant over.
As always, thanks for the great questions, and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week’s SSTN Mailbag, we’ll discuss some more trade ideas, clubhouse chemistry, and Estevan Florial’s role in 2022! Let’s get at it:
Oscar says: Yankees should look into Simon Muzzotti.
Felix proposes the following trade: Zach Britton and cash to the Philadelphia Phillies for Didi Gregorius and Scott Muzzotti.
I’m going to lump these two together. Let’s start by taking a dive into Simon Muzziotti and the Phillies. Muzziotti is a decent centerfield prospect who does a lot of things well. Muzziotti has made gobs of contact for his entire minor league career, and is credited with a bat that is likely to produce average to above average contact in the Majors. Muzziotti is a slightly above average runner underway, though he doesn’t steal a ton of bags. Despite middling speed, Muzziotti gets great jumps on balls in centerfield and uses excellent routes to show range well above what his speed would indicate. He also has a solid arm that allows him to play in either outfield corner. Lastly, he has rarely struck out throughout his minor league career, peaking at a 13.3% strikeout rate in a vastly shortened 2021 season, while showing advancing patience at the plate leading to a walk rate that projects to be average at the MLB level.
However, Muzziotti hits for almost no power, and though he continues to add strength, his severely limited pop limits his upside significantly. He also missed significant development time in 2021 as he dealt with visa issues in re-entering the US, only getting 83 plate appearances in the minors this past season. His floor is solid as a productive 4th outfielder, but it is likely that he is never more than an average regular on a 2nd division MLB roster. That’s a useful guy to have around, and the type of role player the Yankees and every team wants to have around, but not someone to sell the farm over.
Further complicating matters is the Phillies’ current situation. The Phillies desperately need some youth, athleticism, and depth on the MLB team, and dealing role players like Muzziotti does not accomplish that goal. Zack Britton won’t pitch at all in 2022, so trading him in the last year of his deal is a non-starter. Additionally, though Sir Didi was one of my favorite Yankees of all time during his years in pinstripes, his performance has fallen off of a cliff, and it is unlikely to return in any significant way at his age. Muzziotti is a nice player, but I don’t really see a workable trade here unless the teams could agree to a rare prospect-for-prospect swap.
Percy proposes the following trade: Aroldis Chapman to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prospects.
Aroldis Chapman is in the last year of his deal and the Dodgers have had interest in Chapman’s services in the past. His contract is also significant for a reliever, and the Dodgers already have significant payroll commitments, not to mention we have no idea what the financial structure of baseball will look like in 2022 and beyond. The Yankees have one last shot to win with this core, and trading Chapman for prospects, or even in a contract swap does not get the Yankees any closer to a championship in 2022. If the Yankees were going to trade Chapman, the time to do so was 2021.
Dave asks: The New York papers have a lot to say about the Yankees’ clubhouse chemistry all of a sudden. Is this a problem moving forward for the team, or is the media making a bigger deal of it than it needs to be? Why is this stuff just coming out now?
First off, I think that the reason a lot of this information is only just reaching the public now has to do with the lack of media presence in clubhouses due to pandemic-related media restrictions. I don’t think it’s anything more sinister than that, though I think that absence has led to more sensationalized stories about the Yankee clubhouse. Frankly, I don’t put a ton of stock in either the Gardy/Cole spat or the manner in which Joey Gallo lays out his uniform prior to a game.
Gardy is the known lead prankster in the Yankee clubhouse, has been for years. Think about people in your own life that are like that. Even if you really like those people, haven’t there ever been times that a joke wore on you the wrong way? That’s all that’s happening in the Cole/Gardy story, and the story even notes that Cole and Gardy made up following the incident – it didn’t linger well into the year. As for the Gallo story? I don’t care how players handle their uniforms, nor do I think it says anything about their ability to handle New York. Baseball players are superstitious in all kinds of strange ways (for proof, look up how Jorge Posada used to toughen up his hands…now imagine how that would have been handled by the media today), and Gallo is no different.
I don’t think the Yankees have a clubhouse issue, but I’m not opposed to bringing in guys from the outside who help loosen up the roster as a whole, as the team just looked tight a lot of the time. Right now though, these issues are being overblown.
Brian asks: Does Estevan Florial project to have a role on the 2022 Yankees? He looked like he gave the team a spark in his short time with the team and Cashman was wrong to leave him in the minors all year.
In short? No, Florial has done nothing to earn a role on the 2022 Yankees yet. For all of the clamoring to give him a longer shot in 2021, he did nothing at Scranton to earn it. Florial hit .218/.315/.404 at AAA, with a 30.9% strikeout rate. I know he looked OK to many Yankee fans in a super small sample size at the MLB level, but even a month’s worth of at-bats would have exposed Florial terribly.
Frankly, I was right on the money with my Florial predictions heading into 2021. He has always had significant issues with pitch recognition, issues which are very difficult to fix, and can only be fixed with consistent playing time at advanced levels of the minor leagues. Florial missed years of development, and he struggled mightily to recognize and hit upper level breaking balls, and missed hittable fastballs when he guessed breaking ball. Florial is ultra athletic and has the tools to be a good defender, so he may eventually be a useful 4th outfielder if he can’t put the pieces together at the plate, but he has shown nothing that indicates he should be counted on for a significant role in 2022. Florial needs at-bats everyday and to force his way up.