If the Yankees find themselves in the American League Wild Card Game, who will manager Joe Girardi hand the ball to?
-- Skylar P., Warren, Vt.
Even though Luis Severino stumbled this week in his first look at the Twins, all indications are that Girardi is still leaning toward handing the young right-hander the ball if the Yankees wind up in a win-or-go-home postseason game, though that's less than certain. The idea behind shifting Severino to Wednesday was that he can now still pitch twice before the end of the regular season, should the Yanks have a chance to catch the Red Sox and avoid the Oct. 3 AL Wild Card Game altogether.
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Let's say Severino pitches in the Wild Card Game and the Yankees win. You'd likely have Sonny Gray and Masahiro Tanaka in the first two games of the AL Division Series, with Girardi then selecting between Severino (on regular rest) and Sabathia for Game 3. But if Severino pitches in the last week of the season, that would knock him out for the Wild Card Game. It'd be a gamble, but it tells you how much the Yanks would love to avoid that must-win game.
Even though he lasted just three innings against the Twins, throwing 46 pitches in a third inning that included an epic 13-pitch battle with Joe Mauer, Severino said he was glad that he had faced Minnesota.
"Of course; now I know how they hit," Severino said. "They like to bunt a lot, but they didn't bunt today. They've got a good team. They can hit the ball. That was good that I faced them today."
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Carsten Sabathia has pitched extremely well for a guy coming off a major knee surgery. Has he done enough for the Yankees to re-sign him this offseason?
-- Jack F., via Twitter
I believe Sabathia should warrant a one-year, incentive-laden offer from the Yankees, though obviously at a guaranteed value well below the $25 million he is earning this season. He has been a leader in the clubhouse for years, and the Sabathias are quite comfortable in the New York area, so it's conceivable that he would accept a discount to stay.
The Yanks' 2018 rotation figures to be headlined by Severino, Gray and Tanaka, and Jordan Montgomery belongs in that mix as well, but having Sabathia available to fill a slot at the back end could be valuable. Sabathia has said that he wants to pitch for as long as he can, though he understands he's closer to the finish line than he'd like; when he walked off the mound with right knee pain in Toronto earlier this season, there was legitimate concern that his pitching days could be over. Thankfully, he was able to return and continue to get big outs at this level.
In which area of the roster are the Yankees most vulnerable going into the postseason? Pitching, hitting or defense?
-- Michael B., via Twitter
My answer might have been different earlier this month, but the way the Yankees have played of late -- fattening their record by going 10-2 against the Rangers, Rays, Orioles and Twins -- there haven't seemed to be many weak spots. They're heating up at the right time, and I would argue that the Yanks can hold their own in all of those departments. That said, October baseball is a different animal, and many of their players will be experiencing that level of pressure for the first time.
Of the clubs that would be in the postseason if the regular season ended today, the Yankees produced winning records this season against the Twins (4-2) and Red Sox (11-8), but they were just 2-5 against both the Astros and Indians. Maybe that would be the concern going in; the Yanks have been solid (and exciting) for most of the year, but how do they match up against Cleveland and Houston, and can they raise their game to match those levels?
How highly do the Yankees value Shohei Ohtani? Do they think he'll be a star and sign him, or should he be expected to sign elsewhere?
-- Adam P., Conn.
There is legitimate interest, and not just from the Yankees -- 13 clubs were in attendance for one of Ohtani's recent starts in Japan. The fact that general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman flew 6,000 miles to see Ohtani pitch while the Yanks are fighting for a postseason berth speaks volumes; that wasn't just a sightseeing trip, though Cashman did say that "Sapporo is a beautiful city."
Here's a thought: The Yankees held off on trading for Chris Sale this past offseason because Cashman said that the club wasn't one piece away from being a World Series contender. Maybe this season's success has changed that thought process, and it could be much more palatable for the Yanks to engage in a financial bidding war for Ohtani than it would have been to dangle the likes of Clint Frazier and Gleyber Torres to the White Sox for Sale.
Do you think the Yankees will extend an offer to Todd Frazier in the offseason? The guy plays a stellar third base and is loved in the clubhouse.
-- Andre V., Austin, Texas
I'm not sure. Frazier has been nothing but a pro since the trade that brought him to New York from the White Sox, and you're right in that he fit in immediately -- Sabathia recently mentioned that it feels like Frazier has been part of the Yankees for years. Frazier has said he would love to play in New York for the rest of his career and would be open to moving off third base to make it happen, but the Yanks will still have Chase Headley under contract for one more year, with prospects Miguel Andujar and Torres on the rise. Maybe Frazier fulfills that goal of staying in New York across town with the Mets? They could use a veteran third baseman.
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When will Andujar get a chance to help at the big league level?
-- Terry C., Easton, Pa.
I had wondered if Andujar might pick up some at-bats down the stretch as a designated hitter, given his impressive debut back in June, but he has been limited to just one pinch-hit at-bat since being recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He has been working with the team's coaches, and he might be able to pick up some playing time after the Yankees secure a postseason spot, but it seems pretty clear that they are thinking of him more for 2018.