The Yankees may seem quiet at the moment, but gears are churning close to the surface while the team regroups to take another run at a championship in 2021. As we wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving holiday, here is a peek into what fans are discussing in the latest edition of the Yankees Inbox:
What are the chances of a Luke Voit trade?
-- Julian G., Oakland, N.J.
That has been suggested in a few media reports, proposing that the Yankees could cash in on a breakout season in which Luke Voit led the Majors in home runs to obtain a starting pitcher. At this point, that idea does not seem to have generated real traction in the front office. Those around the team believe that Voit’s 2020 performance was real and can be replicated in ’21 and beyond, especially his power and ability to drive the ball to all fields.
Coaches were impressed by the physical condition Voit showed coming into Summer Camp -- he dropped about 15 to 20 pounds by what he called “clean eating” -- and continued that routine even while dealing with plantar fasciitis. Voit is a legitimate middle-of-the-order bat, so while his trade value could be substantial, so is his importance to the Yankees. He recently told the YES Network that he hasn’t been bothered by hearing his name in Hot Stove rumors, but he would prefer to remain in New York.
“It’s part of it; everyone’s name is going to be thrown around,’’ Voit said. “Everyone is a GM, and everyone wants to talk baseball somehow and make the perfect trade. You don’t know what is going to happen.’’
Is the front office chalking 2020 up to COVID or is there real panic over how the anointed offseason favorites finished behind the Rays, losing in the ALDS?
-- Alex L., Washington, D.C.
I would characterize it more as disappointment than panic. The term you always hear managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman use is “championship-caliber,” and they both believed that the 2020 roster was strong enough to win a World Series. The inconsistency of the year is what sticks out; the Yanks looked terrific early, winning 16 of 22 before going into a 5-15 tailspin. That was followed by a 10-game winning streak when they were crushing the ball at a ridiculous level, and then a limp to the finish line. Even in the playoffs, they left Cleveland after sweeping the AL Wild Card Series and got through the first game against Tampa Bay believing that they would go all the way, clicking at just the right time.
That inconsistency might have smoothed out over a 162-game schedule; we’ll never know for sure. Every loss in the shortened season felt like it counted more than a win. Cashman recently said that he was telling people a couple of years ago that the Rays were legitimate and would be a thorn in their sides for years to come. We all see that now, and with real dislike between the clubs, it is shaping up as a rivalry to watch.
It appears that the DJ LeMahieu outcome will trigger many other possible moves. When can we expect to get an answer on DJ?
-- Todd L., Western Massachusetts
That’s the million-dollar question -- by some estimates, perhaps as much as $100 million. In a recent MLB.com roundtable, we pegged DJ LeMahieu for a three- or four-year deal in the ballpark of $20 million per year. The latest reports have LeMahieu seeking a commitment of five years, and it’s not surprising to hear about multiple teams interested in his services, despite the uncertain financial landscape. LeMahieu has said many times that his preference would be to continue wearing pinstripes, so if the money is close, I still expect him to stay.
Do you see a reunion with Didi Gregorius as a backup plan if LeMahieu doesn’t come back?
-- Rich B., New York, N.Y.
It’s probably not off the table, even though Didi Gregorius went on WFAN last month and said that he doesn’t believe they want him back. I do believe the Yankees are ready to go forward with Gleyber Torres at shortstop, but there’s a strong argument to be made that Torres is a better fit at second base. If LeMahieu goes elsewhere, Gregorius would be on the short list of free-agent shortstops, along with Andrelton Simmons and Marcus Semien.
Do you think we will see a full season in 2021?
-- Staci B., New York, N.Y.
I’m hopeful for 162 games, as are Major League Baseball and the Yankees, though the virus will have the ultimate say. There are already a few players working out at the team’s facility in Tampa, Fla., with more expected after the Thanksgiving holiday. The league is preparing as though everything will begin on the normal schedule, meaning pitchers and catchers report to camps in Arizona and Florida in early February. The Yanks’ first game of Spring Training is set for Feb. 27 against the Tigers, though as manager Aaron Boone says, 2020 has taught everyone to “stay in the athletic position” if changes are necessary.
Is there any update on a Francisco Lindor trade, and are the Yankees interested?
-- Pete J., Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Indians’ cost-cutting measure with closer Brad Hand signaled a likelihood that they will look to trade Francisco Lindor this offseason. Would you prefer a Yankees infield with Lindor and Torres up the middle, rather than Torres and LeMahieu? That’s a debate worth having, though the price tag for acquiring one year of Lindor’s services would give me pause.
MLB.com recently suggested that the Yankees could swap Clint Frazier, Miguel Andújar and two of their top pitching prospects -- Luis Gil and Albert Abreu -- to Cleveland for Lindor. That seems like a plausible ask on the Cleveland side, and simultaneously too high of a price for the Yankees to pay. Why not wait until Lindor reaches free agency after the 2021 season?
What are the chances that James Paxton and Tommy Kahnle come back on rehab deals?
-- Mike L., Edgewater, Fla.
Tommy Kahnle seems more likely to return than Paxton, perhaps on a two-year contract that would allow him to rehab for most of 2021. Kahnle was a significant loss for the bullpen last season, not just for his on-field performance but the joviality he brought behind the scenes. Several players have said that Kahnle’s energy would have made a difference in the tough stretches of the season, and he would have been a nice option for Boone during the playoffs.
Despite James Paxton’s injury history, agent Scott Boras has said that there is a great deal of interest in the lefty, who’s probably one of the top five free-agent starters available. Boras has said that Paxton is close to throwing for teams and believes he can have a full 2021 season. If the Yankees had to choose between Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka, my sense is that they’d prefer to keep Tanaka.