Weekly Mailbag: Stanton, Boone, Trading Voit, and the Pitching Staff!
By Andy Singer
I haven’t written anything about the Yankees since their Game 5 loss in the ALDS. On the one hand, yes, the loss upset me greatly. The Yankees were one break or two away from reaching the ALCS, where I really wanted to see the Yankees get over the playoff hump against the Astros. More to the point, the Yankees had the Rays exactly where they wanted them, facing Gerrit Cole in an elimination game. You couldn’t really draw it up much better than that. So yeah, the loss stung a bit.
On the other hand, I’m of the opinion that it is important to have perspective. The sting of a loss can cause us to make grand pronouncements about the state of a team, so I wanted a bit of time before I wrote anything. I’ll be back in the coming days, and you’ll get to read what I think about the Yankee roster (and staff), and how those ideas could impact the Yankee off-season. We have some good questions for the mailbag this week, and I’ll briefly touch on my thoughts for each, but you’ll see my thoughts in fuller form over the coming weeks. Keep sending in your questions (and if you’ve never written in, start!) to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. I’ll answer 3-5 questions each week.
In today’s mailbag, I’ll answer questions about Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Boone, trading Luke Voit, and the state of the pitching staff! Let’s get at it:
Many of you (paraphrasing): Is there any way to deal Stanton now after a huge playoff performance? Cashman was stupid to make the move for Stanton in the first place, and it looks worse with every year. He’s on the books for the next 7-8 years?!?!?
I decided to paraphrase because the mailbag received multiple questions and comments that were very similar in nature (shout out to Edward, Kyle, Joe, and Tim for your Stanton related questions and concerns). Stanton has been a divisive figure in pinstripes since day one. Frankly, I think it is really important to remember the context in which the trade was made.
I see a lot of wistful comments about what George Steinbrenner would do with this team if he were alive right now. Interestingly, I don’t hear this in context to the 2017-2018 off-season, because acquiring Stanton was about as “George” a move as humanly possible, only George would have paid more to do it! At the time of the deal, Stanton was coming off of an MVP season in which he played good outfield defense and simply annihilated opposing pitchers. Even in his non-MVP seasons with the Marlins, he was an All-Star, and consistently 50% better than the rest of the league at the plate (by OPS+). Yes, Stanton occasionally battled injuries, but the result was always a net-positive. The one caveat was the long-term contract Stanton signed with the Marlins that would pay him through his age-37 or age-38 (with a buyout) season. The Marlins were looking to slash and burn following the 2017 season, and not many teams could handle that contract. One team that could was the Yankees.
We need to remember who the Yankees were in 2017. We had heard for 3 years all about the young core that would arrive from the Yankee minor league system. We caught a glimpse in 2016 when Sanchez burst onto the scene, but it appeared that the Baby Bombers had arrived early in 2017, surprising all of us with a run to the ALCS. Aaron Judge had emerged as an MVP candidate; Severino had arrived as an ace; Sanchez was one of the best hitting catchers in baseball; we had hope that Greg Bird could turn it around; and the Yankees still had veteran leadership to guide a young team. The Yankees appeared to be very close to a championship, or more to the point, a dynasty if everything broke right.
2018 was set to be Stanton’s age-28 season, meaning there was still plenty of prime years left on his deal, and the luxury tax hit was manageable for a player of Stanton’s stature. The Yankees eventually gave up almost nothing to acquire a talent like Stanton – Starlin Castro, Jose Devers, and Jorge Guzman. No, the Yankees are not losing sleep about losing any of those guys, much as Devers and Guzman were okay prospects (though they are a dime-a-dozen in the Yankee farm system).
I see a lot of people complain about the financial aspect of the deal – this is the New York Yankees! Pre-pandemic, I don’t think there’s anyone who could reasonably argue that this deal is unaffordable to the Yanks. Moreover, in addition to Stanton, the Yankees are receiving $30 million from the Marlins this year (assuming that Stanton doesn’t opt out…which no one sees happening), and $10 million from the Marlins in each of the final 3 years of the deal. For a contending team, this is a move you make every single time.
I sort of understand the frustration with paying someone this kind of money to DH and likely spend some time on the IL, but this is the exact type of trade you hope for the Yankees to make as a fan. The Yanks were a contending team, trying to put themselves over the top, much like the Cole deal signed this last off-season.
Bob asks: Aaron Boone’s decisions in games make me sick. Is it time for him to go?
Boone’s status is one that will be debated for at least the next calendar year. I admit, I’m not thrilled with Aaron Boone as manager myself. Boone was billed as a hybrid of new school and old school in the dugout, but right now, I see a manager who consistently fails as a tactician in both schools of thought. If you listen to the Bronx Beat Podcast, you know that I didn’t necessarily fault the premise of utilizing two starters in Game 2, but using J.A. Happ when he obviously didn’t buy-in to the strategy and really wasn’t the right platoon matchup anyway was really not smart. Throwing Garcia for 2-4 innings, then piggybacking with Monty would have made far more sense from a matchup perspective.
We can analyze a host of decisions like that. From a tactical standpoint, I don’t see real growth from Boone over his 3 years in the dugout. However, the Yankees love his ability to communicate between the front office and the players. We really have no insight into his performance there, so I can’t say for certain if it’s time for the Yanks to make a change.
Personally, I was a Girardi guy – I thought he was excellent tactically, and was a really good hybrid between old school and new school. I’m willing to give Boone another year, but I think his seat is getting warm.
Al asks: Does it make sense to trade Luke Voit? He’ll probably never have a better season, He’s right handed in Yankee Stadium, and the Yankees need more lineup flexibility. I love him, but does this make sense?
Count me among the crowd that’s firmly against trading Voit. Yes, the Yanks should try to build depth this off-season. Yes, the Yankees should explore trade options that make the team more flexible, with greater balance in the lineup (I too recognize that the offense disappeared behind Cole in Game 5). No, trading your cleanup hitter is only likely to set you back.
At the end of the day, Luke Voit is still a first baseman coming off of an injured foot. The Yankees are not likely to get nearly enough value in return in a trade to offset what they would lose in value at the plate.
I love Voit’s story, and I’m thrilled he shut people like me up who wanted to see more Mike Ford. I can’t wait to have fans in the stands again to hear the LUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUKE chants for years to come.
Mike asks: What needs to be done about the pitching staff? The Yankees’ bullpen was not reliable as in years’ past in 2020, they didn’t have enough starters, and just couldn’t trust anyone after Gerrit Cole. Is the answer free agency, prospects, trades, all of the above?
I really encourage everyone to read our own Matthew Cohen’s article from a couple of days ago. His point is one that Yankee fans need to hear: the pitching staff we saw in the playoffs is not the staff the Yankees planned for in 2020. At their best, Sevy and Paxton could be considered an excellent 1-2 punch, even without Cole (and they nearly got the Yankees to the World Series in 2020). Losing those two hurt the Yankees immensely.
I also think the loss of Tommy Kahnle was more important than any of us fully realized at the beginning of the season. Having even one more reliable bullpen arm could have been the difference in the 2020 ALDS, as the Yanks were forced to go to Chapman early in Game 5.
To answer Mike’s question, all of the above. I have a hunch the Yankees will be looking for a solid, innings-eater to fill-in the middle of the rotation, and that could come via either the trade market or free agency. I also think it’s time to cut bait on some of our prospects as starters, and let them prepare this off-season as relievers full-time. I wonder how much this will help guys like Nick Nelson, Albert Abreu, or even Jonathan Loaisiga (who still trained as a starter, despite every indication that he can’t start).
We’ll talk about this with greater specifics this off-season, but pitching is going to be a major topic, yet again.