How The Yankees Can Fix Their Problems (Pt. 3, The Outfield)
How The Yankees Can Fix Their Problems (Pt. 3, The Outfield)
By Cary Greene
March 21, 2022
This series of articles are meant to be part of an outside the box piece intended to present some solutions to Yankee problems that might not cost Hal Steinbrenner much at all, yet wind up providing some phenomenal solutions for Aaron Boone and company. I call it How the Yankees Can Fix Their Problems!
My first call out was to go to a six-man rotation, using Jonathan Loaisiga as an uber opener, trading Jameson Taillon for a high leverage reliever and then trading for the A’s Sean Manaea. These moves make the Yankee rotation more left handed and more playoff worthy and also fortify the Yankee bullpen.
Executing these moves gives the Yankees a vastly improved starting rotation, one that could wreak havoc in the playoffs of course, but one that could protect Loaisiga from fatigue while also accommodating Luis Severino’s innings limit this season, as he continues to build arm strength after his Tommy John surgery.
However, at the time of this writing, the White Sox and other teams are pushing hard to trade for either Frankie Montas or Sean Manaea. Obviously this would blow up my plan. I also would have liked to have seen Carlos Rhodon in the Yankee rotation but he is off the table now, having signed with the Giants. Lastly, I suggested potentially signing David Robertson to fortify the bullpen even further, but alas, he’s now with the Cubs.
My next order of business is to offer an internal solution that would fix centerfield without spending a nickel. In this plan, Joey Gallo becomes the new centerfielder! He’s athletic. He has a strong arm. He’s a plus defender in center. He’s played 403 innings in center during his career and he has an UZR of 4.8 – why would the Yankees play Aaron Judge there when Judge, while completely serviceable, has a -.8? It makes no sense!
In my plan, Aaron Hicks would become the Yankees switch-hitting 4th outfielder. Using Gallo in centerfield in this, the final year of his contract, would provide a much greater level of reliable coverage for the Yankees, who must fear when (not if) Hicks might get his next major injury. Hicks just doesn’t have a good track record and the Yankees truly need an impactful solution in centerfield this season. This is a plan to ensure that the Yankees won’t be left high and dry and wind up scouring the market for a centerfielder at the next trade deadline. Also, Let’s be real. Aaron Hicks isn’t tradable. I know a lot of fans want Hicks traded, but per mlbtradevalues.com, Hicks has a negative $24.2 million trade value. The Yankees still owe this guy $52.5 million, so if you want to trade him, you’d have to either pay $24.2 million to your trade partner in order to simply receive a warm body in return (who has zero trade value) or you’d have to throw in valuable prospects simply to get rid of him. For all intents and purposes, moving him would be a horrendous business decision on Cashman’s part. It will never happen. Yes, we could always pray that some team, due to injury, or immediate need suddenly would be willing to eat Hick’s full contract, that could happen, but it’s not likely. As I see it, Hicks isn’t going anywhere.
Is it possible for the Yankees to successfully execute a trade of Aaron Hicks and get away without paying any of his remaining contract? In theory yes, but the Yankees would need to toss in Jasson Dominguez, who has a Trade Value of $22.9 million presently, to square things up, so that the other team would be willing to eat Hick’s full contract. This should serve to frame how untradalbe Hicks has become. There isn’t a team in baseball that’s going anywhere near him, considering his contract and his injury history, it’s just not happening!
Besides, Hicks could be a good 4th outfielder for whatever portion of the season he can stay on the field and perhaps, by playing less, he would stay healthy. In this scenario, the Yankees could finally move on from Brett Gardner.
Gallo athletically solidifies centerfield and he’s projected to have a big bounce-back season. If he does this, the Yankees may want to even consider extending him. Therefore, I suggest the Yankee centerfield problem simply be fixed from within!
A byproduct of moving Gallo to center field is that it creates a void in left field though right? Yes, so Aaron Judge becomes the team’s new left fielder. This makes all the sense in the world. Left field is an expanse in Yankee Stadium. Judge is fast. He covers a lot of ground and he has a cannon for an arm.
Not to mention, the Yankees have a plus right fielder that they’ve been mollycoddling for long enough. Giancarlo Stanton is capable of playing right field quite a bit more than the Yankees chose to use him there last season. I’ve been a staunch supporter of the Yankees playing Stanton in the outfield and here’s why: If the Yankees use Stanton as a designated hitter for the majority of the time, he just isn’t that valuable. He makes a big impact offensively, but if Stanton can’t contribute defensively, all that impact is washed down the drain and a replacement level player would be equivalent to his production. Why operate like this when you have the 2017 NL MVP on your roster?
A unit featuring Judge, Gallo and Stanton is truly the jumbo package and with Aaron Hicks rotating through it, the Yankees would have a fairly solid way to give people off days. The DH position could be used creatively as well, which would allow the Yankees to keep all three of the big bats their outfielders have, in the lineup more regularly.
Last year, many Yankee fans were shocked when Stanton looked so good defensively in the outfield, but remember, he was the NL MVP in 2017 and he has posted some extremely good seasons in right field throughout his career. If the Yankees went to this alignment, they’d certainly move the needle and wind up winning a good deal more games than they would if they played Stanton mostly at DH again.
Playing Stanton 4 to 5 days a week in right field causes his WAR to go up substantially and as we saw last year, he’s a far better hitter when he’s staying loose in the outfield. In 2017, when Stanton was the NL MVP, he had a +8.3 UZR. Stanton is an outstanding athlete and he can pick-it. He’s also got a cannon for an arm. He’s not 2017 Giancarlo Stanton any more as that was probably his career-year. But he’s not chopped liver either and he’s not an injury trainwreck, though he has endured a number of preventable injuries. The Yankees need Stanton fully engaged. He’s a solid outfielder. They HAVE to play him in the outfield more. They simply have to.