Inbox: Will Yanks ever name a new captain?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from fans

January 24th, 2020

As Derek Jeter begins to work on the Hall of Fame induction speech that The Captain will deliver this summer in Cooperstown, N.Y., the Yankees are eagerly preparing for the Feb. 12 report date of pitchers and catchers to their spring home in Tampa, Fla. Let’s take a time out from packing to field some of your questions in this week’s installment of the Yankees Inbox.

Do you think that it is time for the Yankees to name another captain?
-- Jeremy S., New Milford, N.J.

I don’t sense that there has been any urgency on the part of club brass to fill the vacancy created by Jeter’s retirement -- in fact, general manager Brian Cashman went on the record a few springs ago to state that he believed the captaincy should be retired with Jeter. Then again, the Yankees once said the same about Lou Gehrig.

As Cashman has said, leadership comes from many different areas on the roster -- even during Jeter’s captaincy, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and CC Sabathia were among those who set the example for the pitching staff. In the present day, this has clearly become ’s team, especially now that Sabathia will be transitioning from the mound to the front office.

Judge may not have the official title of captain, but over the last several seasons, he has done a terrific job of setting the tone and providing an example for his teammates to follow. Others assist with those tasks -- for example, ’s value cannot be measured just by what he does between the lines -- but the atmosphere has seemed different during Judge’s stints on the injured list, something that has not gone unnoticed within those clubhouse walls.

Ultimately, the decision of when (or if) to name another captain rests with the Steinbrenner family, as it did when George M. Steinbrenner decided that a June 2003 trip to Cincinnati was the appropriate time to make Jeter the first Yankees captain since Don Mattingly. Perhaps if the Yankees win another World Series and reach a long-term contract extension with Judge, not necessarily in that order, the time will again be right.

With Domingo Germán suspended for the first 63 games of the season, will this change Cashman's plan of trading away ? If Happ is traded, who do you think would be the fifth starter?
-- Michael D., Thomaston, Maine

Regarding Germán, I believe that the Yankees were preparing for a significant suspension even when they were gauging interest on Happ during the Winter Meetings in December, so the discipline should not necessarily change their stance on him. Cashman told the YES Network this week that he expects Happ to be the Yanks’ fifth starter to begin the season, an indication that teams weren’t exactly clamoring to take on Happ’s substantial contract coming off a disappointing season.

While the Yankees would love to use their payroll efficiently, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said at the press conference that he expects the club to exceed the third luxury tax threshold, so jettisoning Happ for cents on the dollar does not appear to be a priority. If there is a trade match found and Happ begins 2020 elsewhere, would be considered a front-runner for the No. 5 slot, challenged by Deivi Garcia, Michael King, Jonathan Loaisiga and Nick Nelson.

Do you think the Yankees are serious about playing the field?
-- Cindy H.

With Gardner and Judge entrenched in center field and right field, respectively, they’d love to see Stanton handle at least a part-time role in left field. Stanton’s health will be a determining factor, though he’s expected to be fully recovered from the various ailments that limited him to 18 games last season, including the Grade 2 quadriceps strain that he sustained in the American League Championship Series against Houston.

If you saw this week’s social media posts of Stanton swinging a sledgehammer and bench-pressing supermodel Adriana Lima, it appears Stanton should be prepared to do more than DH. ’s versatility at all three outfield positions provides depth while the Yankees wait for to return from Tommy John surgery, potentially as early as June, and Clint Frazier will compete for reps in the corners.

Is Judge visibly upset about the results of the 2017 American League MVP Award, not to mention the chance to play in the World Series?
-- Eric A., Austin, Texas

Eagle-eyed Internet sleuths noticed that Judge apparently deleted an Instagram post from November 2017 that congratulated Jose Altuve on winning the AL MVP Award the year Judge was recognized with a unanimous selection as the AL Rookie of the Year.

Judge has yet to comment on the Astros developments, other than a quizzical, “Wait… what….?” in response to The Athletic’s story that quoted former Astros pitcher in November 2019. It’s safe to assume that Judge would be far more upset about not having his team reach the World Series than in missing out on individual hardware.

Did Gerrit Cole know about what was happening in Houston?
-- Mary M., Cedar Grove, N.J.

Cole was directly asked about the Astros situation at his Dec. 18 press conference at Yankee Stadium, and he said that he “didn’t see anything” during his two seasons with the Astros.

“I've heard everything that you guys have read about, and I've read it,” Cole said that day. “I did not see anything and have not done anything illegal in any way. The gamesmanship in terms of the game on the field today, and all that kind of stuff, that’s been going on. … I didn't see anything illegal [with the Astros], and I haven't been questioned by MLB because I really wasn't involved. Fortunately, I'm kind of on the outside of it.”

What will Sabathia’s role be in the front office?
-- Terry P., Mahwah, N.J.

Sabathia said that he’s open to anything, especially speaking with players at the Minor League levels. He plans to attend Spring Training as an instructor, but has said that he is not interested in a full-time coaching or managing position. Instead, Sabathia said on his "R2C2" podcast that he would like to delve into the analytical side of the game, potentially opening the door for an expanded front-office role in the future.