Examining the A.L. East at Outfield
by Cary Greene
February 15, 2022
This article concludes my complete study of how the Yankee position players stack up to their Division rivals. It was a fascinating exercise for sure. The previous articles are as follows:
My goal in this running series is to examine how each American League East Division rival has positioned their rosters up to this point in the offseason. Obviously, rosters aren’t fully sculpted yet, as the CBA lockout has put a deep-freeze on both free agent signings and trades. We will hopefully see a squall of activity once a new labor agreement is ratified by both the MLB Player’s Union and MLB Ownership.
My evaluations take into account anticipated performance for the upcoming season, so in each provided team chart, 2022 Projected WAR is measured positionally. Players who play multiple positions contribute WAR at various positions and each chart factors this in. I’ve also looked at each team’s anticipated production versus each team’s payroll spend, to determine which teams are best using their resources. Lastly, I’ve compared the overall organizational depth of each Division rival and also factored in total years of team control at each position, in an attempt to understand which teams have done the best job of planning for the future while also trying to win today.
Here’s a deep dive into the outfields across the American League East:
#1 OUTFIELD: YANKEES
STARTERS: GALLO, HICKS, JUDGE
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: CENTER FIELD
PIPELINE: TOOLSY PROSPECTS A LONG WAYS AWAY
The Yankee outfield is loaded on the corners and a little questionable for the long haul in center field but still, the outfield is the Yankees biggest positional strength. The Yankees expect their outfield to bash home runs and play excellent overall defense.
Providing the Yankees with a 4 ½ game advantage in WAR, the Yankee outfield will be expected to carry the team offensively. On paper, that plan always looks good but when we consider the significant challenges of keeping players like Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge healthy, it’s no wonder that players like Brett Gardner wind up getting significantly too many at bats every season.
During the first part of the season, the Yankee outfield was dragged down by the play of Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner and Miguel Andujar. Then, after injuries and Covid took their tolls, the Yankees starting outfield was almost laughable on paper – players like Tim Locastro, Greg Allen, Brett Gardner, Estevan Florial, Ryan LaMarre, Jonathan Davis and Trey Amburgey filled in and surprisingly, the defense and the baserunning suddenly improved and the Yankees made it through an unbelievably tough stretch of the season, carried by strong starting pitching and a refreshing small-ball approach that many fans, including myself, absolutely relished!
Questions do abound for the coming season of course.
Will Giancarlo Stanton play more regularly now that it’s clear that he’s more productive when he’s playing defense regularly?
Will Aaron Judge see time in centerfield this year or will the Yankees try Joey Gallo there for spells?
Will Aaron Hicks stay healthy enough to contribute and if he breaks down yet again, what does the Yankee center field depth look like?
Does Brian Cashman intend to go into yet another season without a safe plan in center field?
Lastly, what is the long term outlook, will the Yankee farm system be able to help?
Surprisingly, it doesn’t appear that centerfield is actually as huge an issue as fans like me think it is! More on that in a moment, but first: Fangraphs projects the Yankee outfield to create about 12.6 WAR this season! With that kind of production, if it came to fruition, it would be game changing. We Yankee fans seem to think we have a great outfield every year, but it rarely winds up actually panning out. It all seems to hinge on that darn conjunction that I’m going to use as a noun here: IF!
No team in baseball does a better job of over-hyping their prospects and Yankee bloggers like me talk so much about prospects that they almost become household names. Down on the farm, Jasson Dominguez and the word hype go hand in hand. Much has been written that he really struggled last season and at the heart of most of the Dominguez critiques are high strikeout rates. Peeling back the strikeout onion, we see that in particular, most of the issues are due to timing as his high leg-kick is making it tough for him to catch up to quality fastballs thus far in his limited career. Dominguez is only on-time for heaters roughly half the time and this is a big factor in regards to his 30% K-rate in Low-A.
Scouts outside the Yankee organization feel that Dominguez would greatly benefit from either toning down the leg kick or eliminating it altogether. With that being said, this is an 18-year-old with 200 minor league plate appearances who possesses arguably the most impressive toolset in all of the Minor Leagues. His impressive physique is well documented and his bat speed is elite from both sides of the plate. When right, his power is big-time. What we do know is that his arrival is a long, long way off as Dominguez is now only 19 years old. It was good for him to go through his first professional season and with the experience under his belt, it should help him mature and improve.
While it is true that the Dominguez hype train went off the tracks a bit last season as his trade value dropped by about 50%, the Yankees are committed to helping him make the necessary adjustments to be successful. Dominguez’s tools are real and if he does adjust, watch out!
Jasson Dominguez’s Scouting Grades: Hit: 55 | Power: 60 | Run: 65 | Arm: 60 | Field: 55 | Overall: 55
Another far-off prospect the Yankees are very high on is 20 year-old righty Everson Pereira, who the Yankees signed in the 2017 International Amateur signing period for $1.7 million. Pereira is capable of playing all three outfield spots but he might be best suited to left field in Yankee Stadium. Pereira really took his game to the next level in 2021, especially in the power department as he exploded for 20 homers across all levels this season. He destroyed Low-A pitching with Tampa and was promoted to High-A Hudson Valley where he spent the bulk of the last season.
I got to see Pereira in person two times last year and besides his throwing arm standing out, his batting-practice sessions showed tremendous pop. In games last year, Pereira hit home several home runs to dead center and also to the opposite (right) field, recording exit velocities over 110 MPH on several occasions without a ton of effort in his swing. On a couple of occasions that I observed, Pereira lunged at breaking balls that were off the plate so he’ll probably need to gain better recognition of the strike zone as his 27.6 K% suggests, but his bat speed is terrific and this allows him to drill baseballs all over the diamond.
Defensively, Pereira gets a lot better jumps on balls than say, Estevan Florial – who is not good at all instinctually. Pereira has really good outfield instincts and he’s fast enough cover ground and take a few base hits away. Dominguez is lightning fast though, so I think ultimately for the Yankees, Pereira has a chance to be an everyday left fielder and he’d look terrific alongside Dominguez at Yankee Stadium. Here are Pereira’s scouting grades:
Scouting grades: Hit: 50 | Power: 50 | Run: 55 | Arm: 55 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45
While the prospects offer a glimmer of hope, depth is the big concern for New York heading into the coming season, but what if I told you that the Yankees had acquired a left-handed hitting three-time gold glove caliber center fielder with a career .280 average to go along with a .333 OBP with multiple seasons of 20 or more stolen bases under his belt – all that at the major league level? Indeed many fans might be quite stoked.
Well, the Yankees did precisely that this offseason as Cashman signed Ender Inciarte to a stealthy, under-the-radar minor league contract. I’ve had a chance to process this signing and get over the Yankees passing on the best available center fielder – Starling Marte, who by the way was arguably the top performing center fielder in all of baseball last year on the way to putting up a 5.5 WAR season. Marte was an igniter and I personally think he would have been amazing at the top of the Yankee lineup, but Cashman clearly decided to save money and try to fix the depth issue with some creativity.
Ultimately, Marte signed a 4 year, $78 million contract with the Mets back on December 1st. With Cohen in charge, the Mets were not afraid to flex their financial muscles and bring in a true difference maker and as the market for Marte ballooned, Cashman pivoted to… Ender Inciarte instead? Did I just type that? Indeed I did. It appears the Yankees feel the Jumbo package as a backup plan for Aaron Hicks and his next series of injuries, with a little Estevan Florial and a little Ender Inciarte in reserve will get the job done over the course of 162 games.
Inciarte was available because he didn’t finish the 2021 season on a team’s 40-man roster or the 60-day injured list. Having him around provides exactly the kind of defensive depth the Yankees need, considering Aaron Hicks is almost a lock to get injured as usual. I think if Inciarte gets called up at some point, Yankee fans might really like his defense, his speed and ability to get on base. With visions of Marte rolling in Cohen’s money dancing in my mind as he steals bases, perched atop our cross-town rival’s lineup, I can accept this resolution, I think it’s creative and all I can say is, I hope it works!
One of the first orders of business for MLB, once the CBA is hammered out, will be to conduct the major league portion of the Rule 5 Draft and a player that Cashman decided to leave unprotected is the speedy Double-A centerfield/second base prospect Brandon Lockridge, who is 24 and has become eligible. While another club might take a flier on Lockridge in the Rule 5 Draft, perhaps for a bench role, I don’t think the Yankees would be very affected now that they have Inciarte stashed in Scranton.
Lockridge is by far the fastest prospect in the Yankee system and he has shown the ability to play plus centerfield defense with flashes of surprising power, breaking out in a big way last season after he was promoted from High-A Hudson Valley to Double-A Somerset. That said, it sure would be neat if no team selected him the Yankees got the chance to continue to develop him. His scouting grades are quite intriguing and you’ll notice the speed is truly off the charts.
Brandon Lockridge Scouting grades:
Hit: 45 | Power: 50 | Run: 75 | Arm: 45 | Field: 60 | Overall: 45
Overall Assessment on the Yankee Outfield:
Brain Cashman is spending significantly more than twice what the nearest free spending division rivals are shelling out for their outfields. Not counting Giancarlo Stanton, who I pray to Zeus that he plays at least 75 games in the outfield this year, Cashman is scattering $40.4 million of Hal Steinbrenner’s money all over the outfield grass in the Bronx this year.
The supposed difference maker is going to be Joey Gallo, a man who posted a 3.5 WAR season while managing to strike out 34.9% of the time – which was the lowest his strikeout rate has ever been during his seven year major league career to date! He walks a lot and he plays superb defense, so while the Yankees are happy to have a left-handed hitter on the team who can play left-center-right and even first base, Brain Cashman may want to consider adding a left-handed power bat that is capable of protecting Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton because Gallo was flat out awful at protecting them during the stretch run last year.
Personally, I think the Yankees are dead ducks if the plan is bat Gallo cleanup. It just doesn’t work. He’s a 6-7-8 hitter who’s good for occasional home runs, oodles of strikeouts and a fair share of free-passess as well.
That said, defensively the Yankee outfield looks pretty sharp on the corners, with Gallo, Judge and or Stanton acting as bookends. The “Jumbo-Package” of Gallo, Judge and Stanton in the outfield is an amazing and very intimidating look, but we probably won’t see it much, save for the occasional road trips in NL ballparks.
Enter Mr. Injury! Aaron Hicks. He’s supposedly made a full recovery from his latest issue, which was an injury of major concern. Hicks tore the sheath in his wrist at the end of May last year and of course was lost for the season. Nothing against Hicks, he’s a good teammate by all accounts and all, but counting on him to be a healthy, everyday player is pretty darn risky.
All signs point to the Yankees needing to turn to either Estevan Florial or Ender Inciarte for help and if Hicks should either struggle with the wrist and wind up being not productive enough, or if he gets injured yet again, as he seems to do, might we wind up seeing Joey Gallo slide over to centerfield as a possible solution? Should that happen quasi-regularly, we may see Aaron Judge play left field more when the Yankees are at the stadium, but that would be entirely dependent on Giancarlo Stanton’s ability to play right field and also the Yankees willingness to let him.
It sure feels like “Mr. Insurance Policy” is going to be back for yet another season. Brett Gardner? Count on it. I forecast a 100% chance he’ll be signed to the usual infinitesimal deal.
The Yankee outfield just isn’t complete with Gardy, so I’ll pose the question now, since we know he’s just got to be coming back: Will Gardy once again surpass expectations and get 300 at-bats or more? (Don’t forget, he had 464 plate appearances last year on the way to a remarkably solid 1.4 season)
If Judge can stay healthy and if Hicks can stay healthy and if Stanton can stay healthy then the Yankee outfield will be hard to beat. You get the point!
Meanwhile, the Yankee system will sputter and spurt, with that familiar rattling in the pipes and it tries to produce another genuine big league outfielder, which will be very important given that Joey Gallo is in his remaining and final year of team control. An excellent way to gauge how desirable prospects are is to look at their trade value and mlbtradevalues.com is the premier place to do that. The Yankees best outfield prospects total a 34.6 in value, making the Yankee farm system’s outfield prospects third, trailing both the Orioles and the Rays.
#2 OUTFIELD: RAYS
STARTERS: AROZARINA, KIERMAIER, MARGOT
RESERVES: MARGOT, MEADOWS, PHILLIPS
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: NONE
PIPELINE: TOOLSY PROSPECTS, MANY ALREADY KNOCKING AT THE DOOR
Fangraphs is projecting the Rays outfield to produce a combined 7.8 WAR this season. Yankee-killer Randy Arozarina plays both corners and he anchors an outfield filled with speed and amazingly good defenders like Kevin Kiermaier, Manuel Margot, Brett Phillips and Austin Meadows. Tampa expects their outfield to suppress runs, create havoc on the bases and contribute power.
Tampa is spending only $22.8 million to field what is presently the American League East’s second best outfield. Even more impressively, the Rays have the second-best outfield prospects in the division, as their combined trade value totals 44.0.
Set to make an impact in centerfield for the Rays as soon as this season is Josh Lowe, 23, a sweet swinging lefty, was the No. 13 overall pick in the 2016 draft and he’s a true 5-tool player with a blend of power, speed and fielding ability that has been described as “tantalizing” by scouts outside the Tampa organization. His blend of superb athleticism, speed and power that absolutely translates would make Yankee fans ecstatic if he were in the Bomber’s pipeline.
Lowe projects as the future centerfielder for the Rays, potentially pushing out Kevin Kiermaier and he rode a breakout season in Triple-A to a widely regarded status as one of baseball’s 100 best prospects. Imagine if the Yankees had a highly regarded centerfield prospect who they could plug and play? No disrespect to Estevan Florial, but Josh Lowe is the real deal.
Josh Lowe Scouting Grades: Hit 45 | Power 55 | Run 60 | Arm 60 | Field 60 | Overall 55
#3 OUTFIELD: BLUE JAYS
STARTERS: HERNANDEZ, SPRINGER, GURRIEL JR.
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: COULD USE A CORNER OF UPGRADE
PIPELINE: SYSTEM IS VERY SKIMPY IN THE OUTFIELD
Fangraphs projects the Blue Jays to receive a combined 7.4 WAR from their outfield this season and between George Springer, Teoscar Hernandez, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Randal Grichuk, Toronto’s potential is extremely good, though a lot hinges on Springer staying healthy and avoiding any recurring issues due to the significant wrist injury he had last year.
The Blue Jays have committed only $22.2 million to their outfield for the coming season so there is certainly an opportunity to upgrade if a free agent were deemed to make sense. Toronto is extremely strong up the middle and signing George Springer last year to a six year, $150 million served notice to the rest of the American League East that the Blue Jays are aiming to win the division outright.
During the past three years, Springer has become more of a pull hitter and his batting average and OPS have suffered a bit. Combine that with getting hit by a pitch and fracturing his right wrist during a game on July 1st last year and the division dodged a bit of a bullet last year. If Springer was at full strength last year, his impact might have been enough to put the Blue Jays into the playoffs, at the expense of the Yankees. Springer is valuable enough to change the outcome of the division at this point and he’s an immensely important part of the Blue Jays plans.
Steamers is projecting 36 home runs, 92 RBI’s and 105 runs from Springer to go along with a .260/.348/.498/.846 slash line and this is bad news for the American League East.
Springer is bookended in right field by “Mr. Seeds,” Teoscar Hernandez – who dumps sunflower seeds on the heads of Blue Jays players who smash homeruns. Hernandez is widely considered the second most valuable outfielder in MLB and the 3.9 WAR season he had last year was supercharged by a .296/.346/.524/.870 season in which he led the Blue Jays in RBI’s with 116 while also clubbing 32 bombs. Considering it was Hernandez and not Vlad Guererro Jr. who drove in the most runs last year, the Blue Jays expect massive offensive output for the foreseeable future.
Springer’s other bookend is left fielder Lourdes Guerriel Jr who drove in 84 RBI’s last year and also slugged 21 dingers. Randal Grichuk is the fourth outfielder and he gives the Blue Jays yet another power threat, he hit 22 home runs last year while playing all three outfield positions. Grichuk logged 735 innings filling in for Springer in center field and his defense was fair enough to get by, though he’s a much better right fielder than he is a center fielder.
The million dollar question is will the Blue Jays look to close the gap on the Yankees outfield supremacy by pulling off another big move to improve their own outfield this offseason? There are some very intriguing options on the market which I’ll dive into shortly, but if I were a betting man I’d say the chances are very good that Toronto makes some sort of move to acquire an outfielder who can move the needle.
Turning our eyes inward, the Blue Jays system has been producing mightily for some time now but Toronto lacks high end outfield talent in their system, which is why I believe there is a good chance that Tornoto makes some sort of move.
#4 OUTFIELD: ORIOLES
STARTERS: HAYS, MULLINS, SANTANDER
RESERVES: STEWART, MCKENNA
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: COULD USE A LEGIT RF UPGRADE
PIPELINE: SYSTEM HAS A FEW VERY PROMISING, BUT FAR OFF PROSPECTS
Baltimore is only projected to receive only 6.0 WAR by fangraphs.com so this places the Orioles fourth in the division and considering they are only spending a paltry $5 million to field their outfield, it’s amazing they aren’t dead last. The Orioles rebuild is coming together very nicely and their prospects are the most valuable in the division.
Baltimore’s strength is up the middle and after Cedric Mullin’s break out season last year, all eyes in Baltimore will be on Mullins this season as he has become the catalyst of the offense. The Orioles chose not to trade Mullins at last year’s July Deadline and clearly there wasn’t any real need to do so as Mullins is under team control for four more years. 30-30 players are very rare in today’s game and if the Orioles can build around Mullins, they’re going to become exponentially better.
The Orioles are doing precisely that. Flanking the speedy center fielder Mullins is uber-prospect Austin Hays, a speedy centerfielder (turned left fielder) himself, who is finally just starting to realize his vast potential now that he’s finally feeling 100% healthy. In 2020, Hayes actually opened the season as the Orioles’ leadoff man and center fielder, but his offensive woes sent him to the bottom third of the order before a broken rib landed him on the injured list. Hays moved to left at that time, amid the early stages of Cedric Mullins’ breakout and the Orioles believe an outfield built around Hays and Mullins has the makings of big-time success.
The Orioles will open the season with Anthony Santander in right field and the rebuild’s most ready outfield prospect, Kyle Stowers, who is a bat first prospect that Baltimore has been developing, will more than likely debut this year as well.
Baltimore’s top outfield talent, Colton Cowser, who had the best bat in the 2021 draft and is the Bird’s number five ranked prospect per mlb.com may turn out to be the corner outfield option of the future for Baltimore, but he’s two years away at best. In the meantime, Ryan Mountcastle, who will primarily play first base for Baltimore, may play a little corner outfield for them until Stowers gets his chance.
In the meantime, DJ Stewart and Ryan McKenna will provide the depth as spare outfielders for the Orioles.
#5 OUTFIELD: RED SOX
STARTERS: DURAN, BRADLEY JR., VERDUGO
BIGGEST WEAKNESS: NEED A RIGHT HANDED STUD IN LEFT FIELD
PIPELINE: SYSTEM IS EXTREMELY SKIMPY IN THE OUTFIELD
Presently the Red Sox have the worst outfield in the American League East, Fangraphs is projecting a measly 5.4 WAR this season. Bloom has tightened the purse springs up in Beantown and he’s only committed $14.1 million to the Red Sox outfield to date, so Boston has a massive opportunity to move and shake here this offseason.
They dearly lack a right-handed power bat, ideally one who could play a corner spot. I would be shocked if Boston’s Chaim Bloom didn’t fix that once the CBA is ironed out. Boston has been rumored to be all in on Seiya Suzuki, who the Hiroshima Carp of the KBO posted just prior to the MLB lockout. Suzuki, who is now entering the prime of his baseball career at 27 years-old, hit .317/.433/.636 with 38 home runs in 2021, and he is a career .309/.402/.521 hitter in 4,132 plate appearances over nine seasons in the Japanese League.
Suzuki also has more walks (259) than strikeouts (237) over the past three seasons, and he is also a three-time winner of Japan’s version of the Gold Glove award, so he would be a most ideal fit for the Red Sox. Hopefully Brian Cashman is aware of this and making every attempt to block this from happening and Suzuki would also look terrific in a revamped Yankee outfield as well. Also noteworthy, Toronto has been rumored to be highly interested in Suzuki as well. This is a big deal so we will have to monitor the Suzuki sweepstakes once MLB is open for business.
Another free agent target the Sox might pivot to is Nick Castellanos, but I would think Bloom would have a massive preference for Suzuki. Castellanos, a 29-year-old, was an All-Star for the first time in his nine big-league seasons, hitting .309/.362/.576 for a 136 OPS+ with 38 doubles, 34 home runs and 100 RBI. He also tallied a career-high 3.2 WAR, finished 12th in NL MVP voting and won Silver Slugger honors. The biggest knock on him throughout his career has been his defense, he posted a -7 DRS, -1.9 UZR/150 last year. If the DH winds up being adopted in the National League, I would expect Castellanos to be picked up by any number of teams that will want his bat in their lineup.
Perhaps the Red Sox might also take a run at Kris Bryant, who they might feel would look good in left field – so certainly Bloom will have options.
What the Red Sox do feature is a core group led by Alex Verdugo who is on the verge of becoming an All-Star. Boston also has terrific defense in center field with the return of Jackie Bradley Jr and beyond that, super utility prospect Jarren Duran will team with Kike Hernandez, who primarily plays second base but who also plays center field. Rounding out the depth is old friend Rob Refsnyder along with Christin Stewart and Franchy Cordero. Imagine sliding Suzuki into the Red Sox Outfield? If that happens and providing his skill set translates like scouts think it will, Boston’s outfield would be considered elite.
Aside from Duran, the Boston system is pretty barren in terms of legit outfield prospects so all signs point to Boston fixing this issue with either a splashy international signing, a free agent, a trade or perhaps even a combination of these moves.
Below is a chart that compares each American League East team’s outfields. It should come as no surprise that the Yankees outfield is the least tradable unit in the Division. This is due to Giancarlo Stanton’s massive contract, his no trade clause and his inability to stay healthy and play consistently above average defense in the outfield. That said, he is once again integrating himself back into the mix and Yankee fans are hopeful he will play significant innings this season, which for him, might be in the range of 60 to 75 games.
Brain Cashman pays about twice as much as even the closest free spending rivals do, but unlike the poor bang for the buck he gets from his infield, on paper and if the Yankee outfield can stay healthy, the projected WAR is significant, making the Yankee Outfield the clear strength of the team positionally.
The position player portion of my review is now complete. When we add both the infields and the outfields together and also add in the designated hitters, the next chart compares each American League East division rival’s position player portions of their rosters. The way things stand presently, before any further moves are made and assuming we’re going to have a MLB season, the Yankees are in the best overall shape of any team, from a needle-moving standpoint.
Brain Cashman is paying significantly more money to achieve the advantage his roster has on paper. The Rays have highly valuable, controllable players. They have the speed, the defense, the base running and versatility. The Red Sox are spending significant money while the Blue Jays, based on what they’re getting, are doing a fantastic job in the bang-for-the-buck department.
OVERALL YANKEE POSITIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
The rest of the Division is much better off in their infields than the Yankees are. The reason for this is primarily the left side of the Yankee infield. Assuming Gio Urshela is NOT the opening day starting shortstop, he’s just not giving the Yankees enough bang for the buck. Third base is actually a festering problem. Shortstop is a complete disaster presently. If Cashman executes a stop-gap solution type of strategy, that means he will have formally passed on both Carlos Correa and Trevor Story. This would be a huge mistake, because a massive opportunity exists to move the needle at shortstop.
I can understand passing on Correa. His contract demands are outlandish. However, Story is a lot more palatable and he’s the best two-way option left on the market. Spending money to fix this glaring issue helps the Yankees immensely and they can make big gains on their Division rivals in doing so. A stopgap strategy puts a warm body at shortstop but it doesn’t move the needle enough while also pressuring the top internal prospects to not only pan out, but become stars. That’s asking an awful lot, especially for a team with need at third base and in centerfield.
I haven’t even mentioned the catching yet, which is another huge problem with this roster. Gary Sanchez provides very little value in terms of production and has a significant injury history and Kyle HIggashioka is a backup who also comes with a concerning injury history. Cashman has done nothing for several years now in this department and it could easily become this team’s undoing. Even if both Sanchez and Higgy stay healthy, the Yankees have done a poor job drafting actual catchers and they have players they are trying to develop who may not even be fit to play first base in the future, making them slow, defensively challenged DH types. The one hope is Antiono Gomez but he has significant hitting issues to overcome if he’s going to be anything other than a late game, defensive replacement or bullpen catcher. I’m not sold on him yet.
Teams like Baltimore and Toronto are going to be providing the American League All-Star team with its catchers for years to come, the Yankees are going to suffer until this issue is properly addressed.
Lastly, first base is a much smaller issue than many are making it out to be. Adding a star first baseman will be costly, either financially or in terms of prospects. I’m against trading for someone like Olson, though I definitely think he’d be a fine player for the Yankees, I’m against giving up Oswald Peraza and I’m pretty sure it would take him as a centerpiece in a three for one swap, providing Oakland was interested. The money spent on Freeman is better allocated to signing Trevor Story and adding a left-handed, true middle of the order bat.
Any chances the Yankees have of fixing their problems rests with Cashman’s ability to shore up the left side of infield, import some effective, left-handed hitting and fix the catching long term.
We all imagine, “if it were up to me, I’d do this…” but the reality is, it’s really up to Hal Steinbrenner. Hal receives the input from his Analytics department and then the Yankees make their plans. I’m not sure this type of decision making is capable of delivering a World Series championship to the Bronx. The Yankees need better scouring, better drafting, increased ability to translate prospects to the big leagues and more financial flexibility.
All of this said, there are some things Cashman could do creatively, but it would take money that I doubt Hal is going to be willing to spend at this point. What would you like to see the Yankees do?
Me? I need some lineup balance. The Yankees desperately need some quality left-handed hitting. Trading Voit isn’t going to net much of a return, but he is tradable. If kept, he’s a one dimensional DH or platoon option at first base, but he can’t be depended upon. The knees are just too worrisome. Something does need to be done with first base. I’m on record for wanting the Yankees to sign Kyle Schwarber and just live with his terrible defense at first base, while benefiting from his bat in the middle of the lineup. I wouldn’t mind a platoon of Voit and Schwarber.
I’m also cool on bringing back Anthony Rizzo as there are worse things the Yankees could do and they do need a left-handed hitter. Rizzo might be more reasonable than Freeman. Voit wouldn’t be needed if the Yankees signed Rizzo, whereas it might be smart to keep him around if the Yankees signed Schwarber.
I’m 100% in on Story. I’m 100% in on Seiya Suzuki and I’m 100% in on Kyle Schwarber. If some trades need to be made after these players are inked, so be it. Let the chips fall where they may. Suzuki is the new starting right fielder. Judge moves to left field. Gallo and Hicks play center field.
Meanwhile, the infield would be pretty set with Story at shortstop. Oswald Peraza and Anthony Volpe could come up at their own pace and matriculate to third base, second base and perhaps some center field. I’d much rather see DJ LeMahieu flexing in a super-utility role and I think his presence helps both Peraza and Volpe settle in at their own respective paces.
What I don’t want is another 350+ at-bats from Brett Gardner. I need more thump, more effective contact, more production. Schwarber can separate Judge and Stanton. With Hicks supposedly back, Gardy doesn’t have much of a role on the team. I’d use his roster spot for Suzuki, who would start and provide a ton more value.
My new lineup looks like this <chuckling>
Lastly, I would make a trade for a solid left-handed starter and based on who’s out there, what the cost associated would be and how the Yankees match up, I still like the idea of making a deal with Oakland for Sean Manaea. Manaea slots in between Cole and Severino and I think his presence makes the Yankees a lot tougher of an out in a shorter, postseason series.
I think it makes good sense to go fishing for role players and the Yankees do have a few major league assets they could part with. Domingo German heads this list so I’d start there. I’d be looking for bullpen arms, quality left handed bats or catching upgrades.
More than likely, what WILL HAPPEN will be vastly different than what I’d like to see happen. The Red Sox or the Blue Jays will likely wind up winning the bidding war for Suzuki, who is a superb defensive outfielder with a tremendous bat. This allows Division rivals to close the gap on the Yankee area of strength and thus the balance of power in the division tilts away from the Yankees. I would love Cashman to block this from happening .
I would like to see the middle of the order fixed and I doubt Steinbrenner will spend big to do it. NY will probably rely on Gallo to bat cleanup and that’s a plan that will lead to problems. Pitchers will pitch around Judge to get to Gallo, playing the percentages with favor lots of strikeouts. Schwarber is much better at protecting batters and he’s entering the prime of his career.
I doubt Steinbrenner will go for Schwarber. I also doubt he’ll go for Freeman. Perhaps the Yankees will sign a shortstop and then trade away either Peraza or Volpe, going all in for Olson at first base. A move like that feels like it has legs. Unfortunately, it only fixes the problem for two years. Also, Olson had a career year last year. What if he regresses playing in the Bronx? I’d rather see four years of Schwarber batting third or cleanup and then see what Peraza can do at second, third or in center field, while also functioning as the defacto backup shortstop. Volpe will probably move to second base and it feels to me that the Yankees are hanging onto Gleyber Torres to increase his trade value and buy them time to develop Volpe.
I doubt the Yankees will make any outfield moves. I do think they may yet trade for a starter and also perhaps trade a starter or a reliever or two. I also think we will see a stopgap shortstop strategy which will be very underwhelming.