If I Were the GM: Looking Ahead to 2020 – The Outfield
This article is the fifth in my series on how I would build the 2020 Yankees.
You can see the previous segments here:
I went into this exercise very optimistic about my outfield. But then reality hit me.
Once seen as the strength of the Yankees, their outfield heading into 2020 does not seem so strong… at all.
Let’s break this down…
Aaron Judge – Judge will be, of course, the key component of the 2020 Yankees outfield. Judge is a great talent. He plays excellent defense. He has a rifle arm. As a hitter, he is patient (almost to a fault) and he possesses tremendous power. Aaron Judge is great. He’s simply great.
In 2017, Aaron Judge blasted 52 homers. 52! In 2017, he drove home 114 runs. Yeah, baby!
That was the good news. Here’s the bad news. In the two seasons since 2017, Aaron Judge has hit a grand total of 54 homeruns. In those two seasons, he has driven in a total of 122 runs. Over the last two years, Aaron Judge is averaging 27 homers and 61 rbi’s a season.
Please go back and read the last sentence of the previous paragraph.
Aaron Judge is a great talent. A great great talent. He just doesn’t stay in the lineup. Here is a big stat number:
What does that number represent? That’s the total amount of games Judge has missed the last two seasons. He is averaging 55 games missed a year for each of the last two years.
The Yankees have to hope that Aaron Judge is healthy in 2020. They need a healthy Judge.
If I were the GM, I’d be very concerned about Aaron Judge being healthy in 2020.
When people think of the current Yankees, they think of a team with Aaron Judge in the lineup. The problem is that he just isn’t in the lineup enough.
And that’s a problem.
Giancarlo Stanton – Ouch. (Literally and figuratively.) In 2019, Stanton played in only 18 games. The man was hurt all season. All season. This isn’t good. At all.
Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 homeruns in 2017. Since then, he’s hit a total of 41. Ouch.
To his credit, what people do forget is that Stanton played in 159 games in 2017 and 158 games in 2018. It is assumed that he’s always hurt. He’s not. But he was in 2019.
Now 30-years old, Giancarlo Stanton’s lost 2019 season is a cause for concern. I wrote about this before, but when one takes a look at the most similar players to Giancarlo Stanton for his age and career there’s a lot of concern. For a variety of reasons, many of the most similar players to Stanton were past their prime, winding down, or washed up once they hit their early 30’s. This list includes Kevin Mitchell, Jason Bay, Richie Sexson, Jay Buhner, Geoff Jenkins, Josh Hamilton, Rocky Colavito, Jose Canseco, Darryl Strawberry, Ruben Sierra, and Juan Gonzalez, among a few others. All of those players were stars or superstars for a time, just like Giancarlo Stanton.
We’d all like to think Giancarlo Stanton will be great in 2020. I don’t think that’s a sure thing. At all.
Brett Gardner – As a General Manager, one has to separate emotion from reality. A GM has to look past the great story and gaze ever forward. Gardy was awesome in 2019. He turned back the clock (possibly with some help from a baseball that might have been juiced), but Brett Gardner will turn 37 in August.
In 2018, he hit 12 homers. He hit 28 last year. Which seems more likely in 2020?
Brett Gardner hit .236 in 2018. He hit .251 last year. Which seems more likely in 2020?
If I’m the GM, I have to be very concerned that Brett Gardner just completed his last best season. If I’m the GM, I’d be very concerned about having to play a 36/37 year-old player in 140+ games again as the Yankees did in 2019.
The problem is… he’s the Yankees best (and only) option for center field.
and then there’s Aaron Hicks. Aaron Hicks has NEVER played 140 games in a season. Ever. He played in 137 games just once. He played in 123 games just one other time. In every other season of his Major League career, dating back to 2013, he’s played in fewer than 100 games. The Iron Horse he’s not. And he’ll be out for a long portion of 2020 due to Tommy John Surgery.
Quick trivia – What is Aaron Hicks’ lifetime batting average?
Aaron Hicks will be playing (if he plays) in his own Age-30 season. He’s no longer young. His history and performance speaks for itself. Is Aaron Hicks a cornerstone player?
Aaron Hicks’ lifetime batting average is .236. Yeah, not great. That’s over 654 games. It’s not a small sample size. I know that batting average isn’t everything, but it is an indication of a player’s performance and .236 just isn’t great. It’s not.
For his career, the following are the highest season homerun totals for Aaron Hicks: 27, 15, 12, 11, 8.
None of this is very good. Aaron Hicks is more of a dream player than a reality. WE dream about what he might be, but he hasn’t been that player consistently…really ever.
After Judge, Stanton, and Gardner… who do the Yankees have to play outfield in 2020?
Clint Frazier – A player whose stock is way down. He showed he can hit, at times, in the Major Leagues, but his bat might be more promise than performance. And while I think he can be an adequate defender, with time, he has a lot to prove out there.
If you were building a World Series team for 2020, would Clint Frazier be an outfielder on that team?
For me, he’s a nice piece. But, he’s a work in progress. He’s not the answer. He’s not even a big trade chip any longer.
(The good news is that he’s young enough (at 25) that he still has a future…)
Bryce Harper – That ship sailed last year. I just added his name for fun. How many Yankees outfielders hit 35 homers or drove in 114 runs last year? Yeah, none.
Of all the players listed thus far, who seems most likely to put up a 30 HR/100 RBI season in 2020? Harper is the only guy on this list to do that in each of the last two seasons.
And Harper is younger than all of the guys (not famed Frazier) listed above.
If I was the GM, I’d remind my owners that we cannot let young superstar players entering their prime get away from us in the future.
Cameron Maybin – What a year he had! You have to love this guy. He’s a young player with so much upside and enthusiasm.
Ok, the enthusiasm part is correct. Young, he’s not. He’ll be 33 at the start of the season. I love having Maybin on the team (he’s not currently signed). Last year he hit .285, which is great, but there are also concerns with him. In his whole career, dating back to 2007, Cameron Maybin has hit above .270 only one other time (2016 when he hit .315 for Detroit). He’s a supplemental piece.
Mike Tauchman – He’s the only lefty of the bunch. He’s 28 (older than Harper). He also had a magical year in 2019. Was it for real?
As the GM, I sit back and look at this collection. I have the following:
Two superstars who don’t stay healthy (Judge and Stanton)
A player with a ton of talent who has not lived up to that talent, and also doesn’t stay healthy (Hicks)
An aging/old veteran coming off a career year (Gardner)
An older reserve outfielder coming off a resurgent year (Maybin)
An older prospect who might be a one-year wonder (Tauchman)
A prospect that is a huge question mark in the field (Frazier)
I’m not inspired. At all. This does not seem like the core of an outfield that screams, “World Series!” If I knew Judge and Stanton would be healthy, it does, but I don’t think I can bank on that.
What was supposed to be a strength of the team is, instead, a series of gigantic question marks.
I’m worried and concerned.
I determine that the Yankees outfield needs a consistent player, younger than Gardner, who can be counted on for solid, steady, above-average play.
I open up the list of Free Agent outfielders and am not overly inspired. There are a grand total of three outfielders who are age-32 or younger who had a 2.0 WAR or better in 2019. Just three:
Marcell Ozuna (29, 2.6 WAR)
Nicholas Castellanos (28, 2.8)
Kole Calhoun (32, 2.5)
Castellanos is the youngest and the one with the most upside. But he’s a converted infielder who only plays right field, and not well. He can’t be the guy.
Ozuna is a right handed hitter, former Marlin who had a big year in 2017, and can only play left field. We have one of those already. He’s not the guy.
Calhoun also only plays right field. He’s coming off his best year – as a 31 year-old. That’s never a good bet to bank on. He’s also not the guy.
I look deeper to find to Corey Dickerson, a good hitter for average with not much power…
What am I going to do?!
A TRADE! But who? I look at all of the outfielders who are on the trade block…
The Red Sox are not trading Mookie Betts to the Yankees…
There isn’t a ton out there that fits my criteria. I need a guy who plays regularly. He needs to hit for power. I’d like him to be able to play center field. A left-handed hitter is (almost) a must. A younger player would also be a plus.
And I finally find one guy who pretty much fits the bill. I find that he is also available.
This guy is a left handed hitter. He can play all three outfield positions. He’s got good pop with four 25+ home run seasons in five years. He was a 3.3 WAR player last year. He’s played 148 and 149 games the last two years. And, he’s only going to be playing in his Age-28 season.
I’m liking this guy, a lot. He doesn’t hit for a high average (.248 and .249 the last two years), but I’m thinking that his average and homers would go up in New York. He has been playing in a pitcher’s ballpark.
I call up the Dodgers and swing a trade for Joc Pederson.
I then re-sign Cameron Maybin and keep Mike Tauchman handy at AAA and hope, beyond hope, that Judge and Stanton stay healthy. Brett Gardner now becomes the 4th outfielder and the caddy for Pederson who also plays a bit of LF and RF to rest the big guys.
My 2020 Yankees as reported thus far:
MGR – Aaron Boone
PITCHING COACH – Dave Righetti
1B – Carlos Santana
2B – D.J. LeMahieu
SS – Gleyber Torres
3B – Miguel Andujar
UTL – Gio Urshela
LF – Giancarlo Stanton
CF – Joc Pederson
RF – Aaron Judge
OF – Brett Gardner, Cameron Maybin
SP – Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton, Luis Severino, Madison Bumgarner, Cole Hamels
(Jordan Montgomery, Deivi Garcia, and Michael King are waiting in the wings.)