Inbox: Will LeMahieu or Torres start at 2B?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch fields Yankees fans' questions

January 17th, 2019

Is there any chance that DJ LeMahieu would start over at second base?
-- Emily P., Newark, N.J.

The use of LeMahieu figures to hinge upon 's health. If Tulowitzki is ready for everyday duty at shortstop, then LeMahieu can bounce around the infield, envisioned as a -type of super-utility player who can fill in at second base, third base and shortstop. Because Tulowitzki hasn't played in a big league game since July 28, 2017, that plan is hardly a lock.
LeMahieu has won National League Gold Glove Awards in each of the past two seasons, so the middle infield seems to be secure if Tulowitzki is unavailable and Torres has to hold down shortstop until Didi Gregorius returns this summer. LeMahieu said that he was told to "bring a lot of gloves" to camp, so all possible scenarios should be covered in the Grapefruit League.
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Since the primary need is a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher, who are the best pitchers who might be available via a trade?
-- David K., Washington, D.C.

The Yankees remain engaged with the pitching market, both starters and relievers. The most enticing buzz connected them to the Indians' and the Giants' , though obviously no match has been found as of yet. There was also a link to the Mets' that dominated bar discussion for one evening at the Winter Meetings in December.
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General manager Brian Cashman entered the offseason aiming to add at least one prominent starter, which they believe was accomplished by securing and J.A. Happ, but they are open to adding more.
How much playing time will get in 2019 if he's healthy?
-- Alexander P., Gainesville, Va.

How about 162 games? At least, that's what Frazier recently replied to a fan on Twitter. Why not set the bar high? The outfield picture has not changed much from last year, when Frazier came in facing an uphill climb due to the crowded outfield. is envisioned as the starter in left field, with Frazier among a cast of characters challenging him.
Frazier logged only 41 big league plate appearances last year, but had he been healthy for all of 2018, there would have been more time available -- consider that , and combined for 69 plate appearances and got 114, largely in response to 's injury. In addition, manager Aaron Boone believes that Gardner played more in the second half than he should have, a workload that could have been eased by a healthy Frazier.

What are the chances that the Yankees would trade Gardner and sign ?
-- John A., Casselberry, Fla.

This should probably be two separate questions, as Gardner alone is not what is keeping Harper out of the outfield. Over the years, there have been numerous overtures from other clubs about Gardner (including this offseason), but Cashman has thus far rejected everything to cross his desk. It seems unlikely that they would have moved so quickly to re-sign Gardner, then attempt to send him elsewhere. More on Harper in the next question.
I have been dreaming about Manny Machado being the third baseman since his rookie year. Why is he not a Yankee yet?
-- Ruben E., Rockport, Texas

A couple of years ago, when the Yankees were unloading veterans and embracing the "Baby Bombers" prior to the 2016 Trade Deadline, it was easy to look at this offseason and wonder if they might spend a half-billion dollars to add both Harper and Machado, perhaps in one wild Las Vegas Winter Meetings spending spree. That clearly has not turned out to be the case.
It's simplistic and incorrect to say that the team isn't spending -- 's mega-contract hit the books a year ago, and they are on track to exceed the luxury-tax threshold in 2019 -- but Cashman has said several times this offseason that the preference is to "field the best team you possibly can, at a cost-effective price if possible."
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Those words have been ringing in my ears over the past few weeks, as the likelihood of a Machado deal seems to have faded and they have appeared to sit out the Harper sweepstakes. As we learned with Stanton, it's wise to never say never. I'll believe they're truly out when Harper and Machado have news conferences holding up other teams' jerseys.
Judge is eligible for arbitration next year. When does Judge get locked up in a long-term deal?
-- Bob C., Hoboken, N.J.

The Yankees have historically opted for the headache of the salary-arbitration process, though there have been exceptions. In February 2008, they pounced on a deal with -- then 25 -- that paid about $55 million over the next six years, with the team picking up options for '12 and '13.
The dollar figures would be greater, but as someone that the team is building the future around, there is logic in controlling Judge's salary beyond his arb years. Then again, with appearing to be headed for a hearing over $850,000, a Judge deal might have to wait.
Why not extend ? He could be the best reliever on the market next season, and we wouldn't have to worry about the back end of the bullpen.
-- Nathan K., Waimanalo, Hawaii

Cashman recently said that there have been internal discussions about extending Betances, Gregorius and , all of whom are potential free agents. Even with Gregorius' injury, we should expect to see the topic broached with all three of those players at some point before Opening Day.
It's worth noting here that Betances said the free-agency process "will be a little easier" after his contentious February 2017 arbitration hearing, though those fences seemed to have been mended in '18.
What are some of the records that would be about to tie or break?
-- Kevin S., Comerio, Puerto Rico

The Yankees' media-relations team compiles a list of potential milestones prior to each game, and they will once again be busy with regard to Sabathia this coming year. Sabathia's 246 wins rank 50th on the all-time list, and he is 14 strikeouts shy of becoming the 17th member of the 3,000-strikeouts club.
Sabathia's 2,986 strikeouts rank third all-time among lefties, where he'll remain behind Randy Johnson (4,875) and Steve Carlton (4,136), and he leads all American League left-handers with 2,858 strikeouts.
On the franchise list, Sabathia is fourth all-time in strikeouts (1,539), trailing Ron Guidry (1,778), Whitey Ford (1,956) and Andy Pettitte (2,020). Sabathia is seventh in starts (284), 11th in wins (129) and 12th in innings pitched (1,810 2/3).