Inbox: Could Pineda be next Miller?

Beat reporter Bryan Hoch answers Yanks fans' questions

Inbox: Could Pineda be next Miller?

Why don't the Yankees move Michael Pineda to the bullpen? With a great fastball and nasty slider, I think he could be the next Andrew Miller.
-- Bentzy G., Vancouver, B.C.

Generally speaking, a lot of struggling starting pitchers have seen their stuff play up in the bullpen, but Pineda was recently mentioned by MLB.com's Mike Petriello as a prime candidate for this kind of switch, along with free agent Andrew Cashner and the Marlins' Jarred Cosart.

Who could be the next Andrew Miller?

In Pineda's case, it won't happen for the 2017 season, as the Yankees have made it clear that adding to the rotation and the bullpen is going to be a priority. They need to supplement their starting depth behind Pineda, Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia, not subtract from it. Pineda is going to be eligible for free agency after the year, and so if his future truly is in the bullpen, that'll probably happen in a different uniform.

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Yanks manager Joe Girardi called Pineda's 2016 season "mind-boggling," and you can be sure that the coaching staff is spending part of their offseason trying to crack the code on a year in which Pineda's BABIP (.339) and K/9 (10.61) were both sky-high, and he seemed to struggle the most when there were two outs in an inning (.325 opponent average).

Starters with reliever potential

Will the Yankees pursue Japanese phenom pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani?
-- Jose C., Utuado, P.R.

What's not to like? One industry person recently compared Ohtani to Yu Darvish on the mound and Hideki Matsui at the plate. Yeah, the Yankees could probably find a spot for Ohtani on their roster.

There are 30 Major League teams monitoring to see when the right-hander/designated hitter will be posted by his NPB club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, though there is a sentiment that may not happen until 2018. If and when it does, let's hope Ohtani winds up with an American League club. It'd be great to see a true two-way player who can DH on his four days between starts.

I understand the youth movement, but why wouldn't the Yankees pursue Chris Sale?
-- Tony B., Bluffton, S.C.

Let's remember that there was a time when the Yankees and White Sox mentioned Sale and Gary Sanchez in the same discussion, but even after stockpiling some very promising prospects, Cashman has strongly hinted that the Yanks don't plan to move their future pieces for a stud like Sale.

Cashman said that the Yankees' roster is capable of competing and playing into October, but that it still has flaws. Simply put, they do not believe they are in the position where one player -- even an ace -- would put them over the top for a championship.

"If you're an organization that's one piece away, and you back the truck up with four or five players to finish off -- you'd have to be one piece away," Cashman said. "And I would not recommend that type of decision making as we approach the 2017 season. I think that would be a dangerous approach."

Will the Yankees actually get Yoenis Cespedes, or are those just rumors?
-- Eddie H., Brooklyn, N.Y.

There's some smoke. Cashman bumped into Cespedes' representatives at the recent General Managers Meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. He said that the Yankees have requested Cespedes' medical information, along with about 25 other players, and added that they are still very much in the information-gathering phase.

Cespedes declines offer

Cespedes' middle-of-the-order bat could help a lineup that ranked 22nd in the Majors with 680 runs scored this past season, but to fit him in, the Yanks will likely have to pull the trigger on one of those Brian McCann or Brett Gardner trades we've been hearing about.

Do the Yankees lack leadership? When Derek Jeter left the field for the final time and McCann pinch-ran for him, I thought that was a "passing of the torch." But with McCann potentially being traded, who will be the leader on the field and in the clubhouse?
-- Gary S., Bloomfield, N.J.

To the contrary, it feels as though the Yankees have done a good job spreading out leadership among several players following Jeter's retirement. McCann, Gardner, Sabathia and Chase Headley immediately come to mind, while Carlos Beltran, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira were also important influences on younger players in the clubhouse.

The Yanks aren't likely to replace Jeter as an official "captain" for quite some time -- if ever -- but their leadership has been fluid. There are strong voices in that room and that should continue to evolve over the next few seasons, regardless of what happens with McCann this offseason.

Why is Rob Refsnyder not a starter? He is young, had a better average than Aaron Judge, and shows a lot of promise.
-- Tim A., Tappan, N.Y.

In some sense, it seems as though the Yankees are still trying to figure out how Refsnyder fits into their future plans -- or if he does at all. He played five positions in the Majors this past year as the Yanks seem to be trying to shoehorn him into a role as a super utility player.

Refsnyder's nice catch, throw

There's value in that, though the Yankees still have concerns about Refsnyder's defense, and they seem to believe that he won't hit for enough power to grab a starting job. In September, Refsnyder told Fangraphs' David Laurila that he is going to try to hit for more power in 2017, adding that he planned to watch lots of Brian Dozier video to help. Girardi said that Refsnyder would profile best as a right fielder if he were to be a starter.

This is a change-of-pace question: will the Yankees ever issue No. 21 again?
-- Charles C., Trinity, Fla.

Poor LaTroy Hawkins. Remember that? The Yankees issued Hawkins No. 21 in 2008 because he wanted to pay tribute to the legacy of Roberto Clemente, but he wasn't counting on what that number meant in pinstripes. The resulting fan outcry was so loud that the reliever changed his number in mid-April.

Infielder Morgan Ensberg had worn it earlier that spring, but also decided that it wasn't worth the headache of hearing Paul O'Neill comments all day.

It has been nearly a decade since the Yanks have toyed with the idea of breaking No. 21 out of mothballs, and while "The Warrior" now has a plaque in Monument Park, his number is technically available. It'll probably remain unofficially retired unless a player specifically asks for it.

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.