Weekly Mailbag: Lesser of Three Evils, Kendrys Morales, and More Trade Talk!
In this week’s mailbag, we’ll talk about a trade for Corey Kluber and Brad Hand, Kendrys Morales, and more trade targets! Let’s get at it:
Lionel asks: suppose the Yankees have the opportunity to acquire Corey Kluber and Brad Hand but have to send one of Judge Sanchez Torres which one would you send?
Let’s start with one thing: Judge, Sanchez, and Torres are the three guys on my nearly untouchable list. There is almost no one that I would trade for using Judge, Torres, or Sanchez as my primary trade piece. Additionally, Kluber will not be ready until at least August following a serious arm injury, and his performance was shaky even prior to hitting the IL. Off the top of my head, Trout is the only guy I can think of that would make me consider a trade. However, I think that Lionel knows this, and is looking for a ranking of sorts.
Picking between these three guys is almost impossible, and it would be a public relations nightmare if the Yankees traded any of the three. Judge has become one of the faces of the franchise, Sanchez has blossomed into a top-5 catcher in all of baseball, and Torres is just 22 years old (!) and is already a 2 time All-Star at 2B and SS. These are building blocks that teams drool over, particularly given the fact that they all have varying amounts of team control remaining. Each of these guys is worth 5+ WAR using any of the publicly available metrics systems per 600 plate appearances. They are all studs who may yet have MVP seasons in them. Projecting trade value for any of the three is very difficult, and I really do think that it would take a Trout-like talent to pry any of the three from the Yankees.
My opinion will be an unpopular one. If I had a deal that was too good to be true, and I had to deal one of the three to get it done, I would trade Aaron Judge. I know, I know, but hear me out for a second. Judge is already 27 years old, older than the other two. He plays a non-premium position, whereas Sanchez and Torres play premium, up-the-middle positions. Lastly, despite the additional years of team control Judge has over Sanchez, Judge’s body scares me past age 31. There are very few comps for guys that are Aaron Judge’s size, and no comps if we take the value Judge provides into consideration. There is just not enough data to tell us how Judge’s body will age banging around in RF. While his bat will likely play in the event he has to move to 1B, there is no question but that part of Judge’s value is tied up in the fact that he plays an above-average defensive RF. We’re splitting hairs, but if Trout were available, I’d trade Judge over Sanchez or Torres.
Again, all three guys are nearly untouchable for me. I hope Sanchez, Judge, and Torres play in pinstripes for the next decade, and that we are talking about them as the core of the next great Yankee dynasty.
Mark asks: Did we ever learn who the player to be named later was in the Kendra’s Morales trade?
It’s funny, I could have sworn that I remembered reading that the Yankees sent cash to Oakland to complete the deal, but now I can’t seem to find any information corroborating my memory. In any event, even if there is a Player-to-be-Named-Later, it will be an insignificant prospect, but my bets are still on cash being the return that Oakland receives for Morales.
I always kind of like Morales when he played for the Angels and the Jays. Any ability he had to run was sapped by the horrific injury he suffered years ago while celebrating a walk-off homer, but he was a productive hitter for a long time. He also was at the front end of the wave of Cuban talent that found its way to the Major Leagues in the last decade or so, and I’ve always felt that he is historically important for that reason. Sadly, he just got old very fast.
Morales does highlight the caution with which we must proceed when evaluating the newly available Statcast data. The Yankees were likely intrigued by the fact that despite Morales’ awful statistics with Oakland, his batted ball data was still well above-average. His average Exit Velocity is a healthy 91.9 MPH, his Hard HIt % is 48.3, and his xwOBA (expected weighted On Base Average based on batted ball data) is .373. Those statistics all indicate that Morales was due for some positive regression. Sadly it just didn’t happen in pinstripes. Sometimes, the batted ball data can help uncover diamonds in the rough (see: Luke Voit), and sometimes, it’s little more than excess noise bound for regression, or it is a statistical anomaly.
It reminds me of when FiP (Fielding Independent Pitching) came into vogue in the mid-2000s. Plenty of us (myself included) banged the drum for guys who’s ERAs were underperforming their FIPs, and while some of those guys certainly did turn it around, some of them consistently underperformed their FIP. No statistic is foolproof, and Morales seems to be one of those cases now.
Don’t get me wrong – the new batted ball data is still really useful, but it just didn’t work out this time.
Brian asks: Can you tell me about someone who you think may be a Yankee trade target who we’re not talking about right now? If you have one, should we make a deal, and what would it cost?
Fun question! We’ve talked a lot about the starting pitching market thus far. Something tells me though, that if the starting pitching market proves to be too expensive, I would not put it past Cashman to try to bolster the bullpen to create the super-bullpen he thought he had coming into the year. If that is the case, I would not be surprised if one of his targets is Will Smith.
We know that the Yankees have been talking to the Giants, and most have assumed that those conversations have centered around Madison Bumgarner. I think that the Giants’ asking price for Bumgarner is likely to be astronomical just given what he has done for that franchise, but there’s no reason they can’t talk about Smith. Smith has always been a decent reliever, but he has really kicked it into a different gear last year and particularly this year. He has never allowed fewer baserunners, allowing just a 0.786 WHIP, and he’s striking out more matters than ever before, K’ing a whopping 13.9 batters per 9 innings. Smith is also a lefty, which would diversify the bullpen nicely. Even if the Yankees can’t bolster the rotation, adding a guy like Smith would allow the Yankees to turn playoff games into bullpen games after the 3rd or 4th inning once or twice a series. I would go for that in a heartbeat.
What will it cost? I’m not sure. Smith has an expiring contract at the end of the year, but he is also cheap, with just a pro-rated amount of his $4.225 million contract remaining. The Giants need to rebuild desperately, so I think the asking price would be high. Given the Yankees’ outfield depth for the foreseeable future, I would be willing to trade Florial straight-up for Smith. It may not get the deal done, but it’s a good start. Smith would be a fantastic addition for the Yankee pitching staff. Now i hope this happens. Trade season should get going in full-force shortly though. It should be interesting now that MLB has made the end of July deadline a hard cap on trades. We’ll see what the Yankees do, but Smith looks to be a great fit.
That’s all for this week! I hope that everyone had a great 4th of July holiday, and that everyone enjoys the weekend!
The Weekly Mailbag will be taking a one-week hiatus next week in favor of a special feature. Feel free to keep sending in questions during that time (they’ve been great!), as I may decide to answer them for the next mailbag, but there will be no mailbag next Friday. Be sure to check out next week’s feature (I think you’ll enjoy it)! The mailbag will return on Friday, July 19th. See you all soon!