Weekly Mailbag: Yankee Free Agents, Lindor Trade Possibilities, and One Prospect for the Roster!
Welcome back, everyone! We had enough questions for the mailbag this week, and that’s a great thing to see. We’d like to keep doing this on a weekly basis, so keep sending your questions to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com, and I’ll answer 3-5 each week. In this week’s mailbag, we’ll talk about the effect of the short season on some Yankee Free Agents, some trade possibilities for Francisco Lindor, and I’ll choose one prospect about whom I would be most excited to see on the roster. Let’s get at it:
Rudy asks: How do you think the short season will impact the Yankees’ plans for their impending free agents? Will they move to lock some up, or hope that salaries this winter will be depressed?
For reference, the highest profile potential Free Agents for next season are Brett Gardner, DJ LeMahieu, James Paxton, and Masahiro Tanaka. I talked about 3 of those 4 players earlier this week as it relates to Free Agency earlier in the week, so if you haven’t read that post, be sure to check it out. I think it’s pretty difficult to argue that salaries won’t be depressed for all but the absolute top Free Agents available in this year’s class. This is true for multiple reasons, including the loss of revenue teams incurred during 2020, likely small sample size noise from all statistics in 2020, and a smaller number of teams willing to enter the Free Agent fray, just to name a few. However, each of these players have slightly different situations.
Brett Gardner is an aging leader in the clubhouse, and he had a renaissance season in 2019. As a fan favorite, people like me want to see Gardy stay a Yankee forever, and if his body continues to feel good, there’s little reason to expect Gardy to stop playing. On the other hand, the Yankees will have a crowded outfield situation for years to come, and Gardy isn’t getting any younger. Gardy’s stats may look artificially good in 2020 given the fact that he should be able to remain healthy and fresh the entire year in a shortened season. Gardy is typically a far better player in the first half of seasons, so I think it’s likely he’ll be a key player on the 2020 team. However, as good as the Yankees look on paper, the volatility that will inevitably come from a short season will mean that if the Yankees don’t win a World Series in 2020, Gardy will likely want to give it another go in 2021.
DJ LeMahieu had the best season of his career in 2019, producing 5.9 bWAR/5.4 fWAR largely due to increased power production at the plate. He was a steady force at the top of the lineup while playing good defense at 2B and 3B (and a few cameo appearances at 1B), and one could argue that he was the Yankees’ most valuable player last season. However, LeMahieu had never produced a season of that caliber previously. Even his 2016 season, his best prior to last season, was very different by comparison. LeMahieu’s BABIP was .388 that season with very little power, making that level of success at the plate unsustainable given his lack of speed and power. Obviously, the power came last year, but why? LeMahieu hit the ball as hard as ever and with a high degree of frequency, but his launch angle doesn’t show the type of improvement I would typically expect to see from someone who is ready to be a perennial power threat. DJLM’s defense provides him a solid value floor prior to his decline-phase, but there are reasonable questions about his power production last season, particularly given the fact that teams cannot count on what the ball will do from one season to the next.
James Paxton is something of an enigma as a Free Agent option. The skills and stuff are so obvious, and the performance even matches for large stretches…but then it can all fall apart so completely for short stretches. Paxton had a decent year in 2019 despite some struggles to begin games, and he was particularly excellent in August and September. However, Paxton needed significant surgery during Spring Training this year to alleviate a herniated disk in his back. While Paxton appears to be back to full health now, I’m not sure that teams will look favorably on his prospects for long-term health. As good as Paxton can be, health and inconsistency could play against him in a Free Agent bid.
Masahiro Tanaka’s case is familiar to pretty much every Yankee fan. Prior to last season, he’d been the ideal mid-rotation starter on a championship-caliber team, rarely giving games away while proving to be adaptable and resourceful on the mound. By all reports, Tanaka is also a great guy to have in the clubhouse, and I’ve personally always loved watching him pitch. However, he has been pitching with a partially torn UCL in his pitching elbow since 2014, he struggled with the “new” ball last season, putting up the worst season of his career thus far, and his shortened 2020 season could potentially be delayed due to a gruesome and unfortunate injury in his first simulated game of the Summer.
As much as I like all of the players above, they all have enough question marks heading into Free Agency to make their value this Winter questionable at best. If I were the Yankees, I would see if I could sign all of them to team-friendly extensions. However, the Yankees have not been known for throwing extensions around even in the best of times, so I’m not sure we can expect it here. I expect all 4 guys to enter the Free Agent pool this Winter, where it would not surprise me in the least if they re-signed to shockingly small contracts.
This next question comes from a conversation that took place in the SSTN comments section between frequent reader, Lionel, and I. Lionel and I have frequently discussed the possibility of a Francisco Lindor trade for at least the last year, and he asked me for what I think a fair trade would look like. Here is my answer:
In the conversation, Lionel proposed sending Cleveland Deivi Garcia, Miguel Andujar, and prospect Kevin Alcantara. Lionel’s proposed trade passes the bar set by probably the best trade value simulator on the internet, which he used to craft a deal that seems plausible on the surface. However, I have my doubts that this trade is enough in this case.
Deivi Garcia is a fantastic prospect who is Top-100 caliber by most evaluators. He is a fine piece as part of a trade for a superstar of Lindor’s caliber. The biggest issue with the trade, as I see it, is that the Trade Simulator overrates Miguel Andujar’s current trade value by a relatively large margin. Andujar is coming off of a significant shoulder injury, and while the early evidence is promising, I don’t think we can say with any certainty that Andujar is even back to being the player he was as a rookie. Add in the fact that there is little evidence that he has a current playable position, particularly in light of the shoulder injury, and I don’t see any team being willing to place significant value on his inclusion in a trade until he proves his health. Even at that, as much as I’m likely the most bullish writer on the internet on Andujar’s future prospects, even I have to admit that his offensive profile is risky due to his all-contact, almost no walk profile. These are the factors that make Andujar almost un-tradeable at the moment. So, we would need someone else to be trade part 1B to make this trade work, even if we accept that Lindor’s value has decreased likewise.
A trade for Lindor is going to hurt, a lot. Even with decreased trade value, he is the face of a franchise, meaning that Cleveland can’t get away with trading him from a public relations perspective without getting significant pieces in return. Garcia is a good start. Now we need a valuable big league asset or a relatively sure bet in the upper minors and/or a better lottery ticket. Kevin Alcantara is a nice lottery ticket, but the Yankees will not be able to part with significant big league assets, so the lottery ticket needs better odds.
Personally, I think the Yankees would need to go huge right now. My idea passes the Trade Simulator as a significant overpay, but sometimes it makes sense. I would offer Deivi Garcia and Jasson Dominguez and see if Cleveland blinks. I don’t think I could stomach making that offer, but I think that’s what it would take to get it done right now given the additional value Lindor has as a franchise icon.
A trade for Lindor would be nearly impossible right now, as Cleveland has just as much of a chance in a shortened season to make the playoffs as any other mid-level team. I think a trade is much more likely after the season, with Lindor one year closer to Free Agency. If Cleveland is as desperate for money as it seems they might be, Lionel’s trade offer may be closer to the mark.
Gary asks: If you could pick just one prospect to join the Yankees for the entire 2020 season, who would it be?
This is a fun one! I think that most people would argue that Clarke Schmidt should be the choice. He has excited in every opportunity in big league camp, and his fastball/breaking ball combo is truly electric. Schmidt could be a lot of fun to watch in 2020, but I’m going off the wall with my choice.
I would most want to see Luis Medina on the Yankee roster in 2020. He has some of the best stuff in all of baseball, 3 plus pitches, has shown emerging control, and he’s already on the 40-man roster. Medina could truly be one of the most electric things to hit NY in a decade in 1-2 inning outings. I still think he can start long-term, but Medina would be great out of the Yankee bullpen in 2020.
That’s all for this week! Great questions, and keep them coming. I’ll see you all next week here on the blog, so have a great weekend!