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If the Yankees make the postseason, who gets the ball first? | BP Mailbag

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After weeks of deliberation and speculation, baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline has officially passed once again. There’s no need to review what the Yankees accomplished over the weekend (as that’s already been exhausted), but general manager Brian Cashman patently stuck to his word and approached the market as “careful buyers” — focused on short-term and long-term goals for the franchise.

Anyway, here’s another BP Mailbag. This edition is rid of trade rumor questions and focuses around the Yankees’ chances of winning the division as well as reaching the postseason. For those who chose to play along and sent questions, thanks.

Here we go.

Answer: The Yankees are going to encounter a new high-end problem once Aaron Hicks comes off the disabled list, and right now it’s unclear what the solution may be. They’ll have five healthy outfielders (Hicks, Aaron Judge, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, Jacoby Ellsbury) on the 25-man roster, which is one outfielder too many, in my opinion. Could the Yankees go about their business with five guys? Sure. But who would be demoted to make room for Hicks? Probably someone from the bullpen, right? To take away from a position of strength isn’t the greatest idea.

A little over a week ago, Brian Cashman accidentally hinted at the possibility that Frazier would head down to Triple-A until rosters expand in September. But a few days ago, Cashman rephrased his answer and said the team will make a decision when Hicks is closer to returning. Cashman realizes how much the fans like Frazier, and since he was promoted to the majors one month ago, he’s rightfully earned a spot in the starting lineup. It’s difficult to picture the Yankees moving Frazier right now even if Hicks picks up right where he left off. So, would Ellsbury be the odd man out? The 33-year-old veteran has become a rather expensive platoon man/pinch runner, and the primary reason why he hasn’t been cut is due to his massive contract (he’s making $21M this season). There’s no disputing that an outfield of Judge, Gardner and Frazier works best, but it’s not a perfect world. Although Hicks has significantly contributed this season, it seems like Frazier has taken his job for the time being, and maybe the solution would be to have Hicks serve as the fourth outfielder once again. And as for Ellsbury, maybe he sees more bench time or playing time in the minors. It’s an all-around tricky dilemma.

Answer: If the Yankees play in the less-desirable wild card playoff game, Luis Severino gets the ball. He’s been the ace in the hole this season, and based on Masahiro Tanaka’s inconsistencies, Severino gives New York the best chance to win. Although Sonny Gray has experience being a team’s No. 1 option, I don’t think the transition from Oakland to New York will be that easy for him. My guess is that he’s the Yankees’ No. 2, and if the team advances to the ALDS, Gray would then pitch Game 1. Next in line would be Tanaka at No. 3, followed by CC Sabathia at No. 4 and Jaime Garcia at No. 5. Since the Yankees aren’t planning to work a six-man rotation after this week, it’s safe to assume that rookie Jordan Montgomery will eventually head to the bullpen due to an innings limit. This rotation order makes the most sense in my mind, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Gray excels in the next month and Severino takes a step back. If that turns out to be the case, maybe it’s best to hand Gray the ball in a do-or-die situation. But right now Severino has earned the title of ace. 

Answer: Adding White Sox relievers David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle takes a little pressure off of Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman, but the Yankees still need those two guys to keep their feet on the gas pedal. Both Betances and Chapman are the Yankees’ best bullpen pieces, and if the team continues to play in a number of close games, they’ll most likely dictate which direction the team goes in the next two months. Robertson and Kahnle are solid alternatives, but compared to Betances and Chapman, they’re complementary pieces. If anyone is feeling less pressure it’s probably manager Joe Girardi, who can make relievers’ leashes shorter with more options at his disposal. But if Betances and Chapman want to succeed, they should embrace the pressure and think of Robertson and Kahnle as competition. As of late, Betances and Chapman have found a groove which is great news for them and the team.

Answer: Although the Orioles (53-54) are only 5.5 games back of first place in the AL East (and 2.5 games back for that second WC spot), it’s technically too early to count them out. But don’t let Baltimore’s recent hot streak fool you. This team has a run differential of minus-60 this season, which is ranked 10th-worst in baseball. They also don’t have a starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.24, and that’s a major concern. The Orioles don’t have a mediocre lineup, but their lack of quality arms has kept them down and will continue to keep them down. Too early to count them out? Yes. Are they a playoff team? No. Tampa Bay and Kansas City are in better positions than Baltimore.

Answer: I don’t think Girardi needs to make any major tweaks to the lineup. Gardner hitting leadoff makes the most sense, and Clint Frazier hitting right behind Gardner offers plenty of speed. Those two guys are efficient table setters for Judge and Gary Sanchez, and with a red-hot Didi Gregorius and Chase Headley hitting 5th and 6th, it’s hard to point out any holes at the moment. Actually, I’ll take that back. Matt Holliday has been disappointing as he’s hit a measly .136 (11-for-81) since July 14 when he returned from that peculiar three-week illness. Other than that, there’s nothing wrong with Todd Frazier and Ronald Torreyes hitting 8th and 9th, respectively. Once Starlin Castro returns to action, he’ll be slated back in the middle of the order, and Torreyes will go back to the bench and Frazier will likely hit last. That’s a pretty dangerous lineup when everyone’s contributing.

If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.

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