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Inbox: Rivera, Jeter unanimous votes for HOF?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers questions from Yankees fans
Former New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, right, stands next to his Monument Park plaque with former teammates Jorge Posada, left, and Derek Jeter before the Yankees' baseball game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday, Aug.14, 2016, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (Rich Schultz/Pool via AP) (Rich Schultz/AP)
January 10, 2019

NEW YORK -- We're inching closer to Spring Training. Here's the latest Inbox.What do you think the chances are of Mariano Rivera being a unanimous Hall of Famer this year and Derek Jeter next year? -- Ebe A., Jersey City, N.J.In my opinion, those should be two of the easiest

NEW YORK -- We're inching closer to Spring Training. Here's the latest Inbox.
What do you think the chances are of Mariano Rivera being a unanimous Hall of Famer this year and Derek Jeter next year?
-- Ebe A., Jersey City, N.J.

In my opinion, those should be two of the easiest boxes for a voter to check, though eight decades of results do not exactly inspire confidence that either will sweep into Cooperstown. Ken Griffey Jr. appeared on 437 of 440 ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America in 2016, and his 99.32 percent stands as the highest ever, surpassing Tom Seaver's 425 of 430 (98.84 percent) in 1992.
One writer has already publicly announced that he wouldn't vote for Rivera, but since that person is abstaining from sending in a ballot, it won't count against Rivera's tally. So far, the excellent Ryan Thibodaux has compiled 159 ballots that have been publicly announced, and Rivera's name appears on all of them. Don't be surprised, however, if at least one voter leaves off Rivera -- perhaps as a strategic move to offer help to a player on the bubble.
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Regardless, I'm confident that Rivera and Jeter will both be enshrined as first-ballot Hall of Fame inductees. Rather than focusing on the small number of voters who may leave their boxes unchecked, the inductions this summer and next should serve as opportunities to once again applaud and appreciate a pair of wonderful careers.
The Yankees need a left-handed power bat to balance the right-handed lineup they currently have. They should be after Bryce Harper. Why are they not making a play for him?
-- Dave P., Clinton, N.J.

The spending spree for Harper and Manny Machado that many Yankees fans envisioned this winter has not materialized, though at least Machado was brought to Yankee Stadium for a visit. With regard to Harper, they have never seemed strongly connected to him.
General manager Brian Cashman appeared to be surprised when asked about Harper during the Winter Meetings, rattling off the names of the six outfielders that the club already had on the roster (Jacoby Ellsbury, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton). Cashman later softened his stance, remarking that the front office could shift its attention to Harper because it is a "fully functioning Death Star," but that pivot has yet to take place.
Where does Jacoby Ellsbury fit in with an already stacked outfield?
-- Drew H., Bronx, N.Y.

As one of the previously mentioned six outfielders, Ellsbury will have an opportunity to prove his health after missing all of 2018 with a left hip issue that required surgery in August. If active, Ellsbury will be in much the same situation that he appeared to be last spring, competing against Gardner in left field and slotted as a backup in center field.
What are the possibilities of having Sonny Gray pitch on the road and not letting him pitch at home? And have they figured out why he pitches so poorly in Yankee Stadium?
-- Jim S., Western Australia

I understand the concept, as the difference between Gray's home and road numbers was staggering. He had a 6.98 ERA and permitted a .318/.406/.527 slash line in 59 1/3 innings at home last year, compared to a 3.17 ERA and a .226/.295/.320 mark when away from the Bronx. No wonder the Yankees believe that whoever trades for him will be getting Oakland-vintage performance from Gray, but it would create many headaches in terms of roster management if the Yanks tried to carry Gray as a road-only starter in a six-man rotation.
As for the why? Cashman recently said, "This environment can bring out the best in certain individuals. It can bring out the worst in certain individuals. This is a unique environment. This, Boston and Philly are different places to play, and maybe others in terms of scrutiny and intensity. … Someone, if they trade for him, is going to get the player that we wanted. I fully expect that. It just hasn't worked out here."
What will Zach Britton's role be in 2019?
-- Alexander P., Gainesville, Va.

Britton should pick up where he left off last year, having bounced back from his right Achilles tendon surgery to approach his previous form and earn the Yanks' trust in high-leverage innings. From Sept. 4 through the end of the regular season, Britton did not allow an earned run in 10 appearances spanning 9 2/3 innings, permitting three hits and four walks while striking out nine.
Along with Dellin Betances and Chad Green, Britton projects to help a strong mix that will try to get the ball to Albertin Chapman in the ninth inning, while offering a proven option should closing opportunities pop up. The club remains interested in free agent Adam Ottavino as well.
Any news on who is going to play first base in 2019?
-- Kevin E., Lewisville, Tex.

Luke Voit has earned the first crack after slugging 14 homers in 39 games at the end of last season, and the Yankees hope that they struck gold by acquiring the burly right-handed slugger from the Cardinals last July. Greg Bird will come into the spring facing an uphill climb for playing time, though Cashman has promised that Bird will have a chance to "resuscitate" his stock after a forgettable 2018 campaign.
Is there any possibility that Miguel Andujar could be an option at first base?
-- Jarrod Z., Saint Joseph, Mich.

Early last season, there was talk of having Andujar play 20 percent of his Minor League games at first base, though those circumstances changed when Andujar nailed down third base in the Bronx. Athletically, he could probably handle the challenge, but all 6,086 of Andujar's professional innings have been played at third base. Because he is an unfinished product at the hot corner, the team would prefer that he focus his energy there.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.