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Looking Ahead to the 2021 Yankees – My Approach To The Off-Season, Part 3 (Too Many Right-Hand

Over the last few weeks, I have opined on what I would do to build the 2021 Yankees.

In the previous installments of this series, I have made the following suggestions:

Keep Brian Cashman as the GM

Keep Aaron Boone as the manager, but hire an old sage as his bench coach

Not offer a contract to free agent D.J. LeMahieu

Today I will discuss how I would address the next of the Yankees big problems – the fact that the team has too many right-handed hitters.

In a sense, this article finishes my discussion of the D.J. LeMahieu situation while also addressing my feeling that the Yankees have far too many right-handed hitters, both in the starting lineup and on the bench. The Yankees have been too right-handed for the last several years, and it has not worked.

Traditionally the Yankees have been built on left-handed power hitting, but the Yankees of today have no left-handed hitters capable of hitting 20-homers. In fact, they have no left-handed starting position players. The closest to a left-handed batter they have is Aaron Hicks who only once (2018, with 27) has ever hit more than 15 home runs in a season.

That is not a model for success.

Let’s take a look at the Yankees historically since they acquired Babe Ruth for the 1920 season and see the seasons that the Yankees did not have a left-handed slugger with at least 20 home runs in a season:

1945 – Nick Etten (a left-handed batter) led the team with 18 homers. The Yankees finished in 4th place.

1947 – Joe DiMaggio (a right-handed batter) led the team with 20 homers. Tommy Henrich had the most of any left-handed hitter with 16. The Yankees won the 1947 World Series.

1959 – Mickey Mantle hit 31 homers to lead the team. He was, of course, a switch-hitter. Yogi Berra led all left-handed Yankees with 19 homers. The Yankees finished in 3rd place.

1965 – Tom Tresh (a switch-hitter) blasted 26 homers. Mickey Mantle had 19. Joe Pepitone led all lefties with 18. The Yankees finished in 6th place.

1967 – Mantle (22) and Tresh (14) led the Yankees in home runs. Joe Pepitone hit only 13 that year. The Yankees finished in 9th place.

1968 – Mantle had 18 home runs. Roy White (another switch-hitter) had 17. Joe Pepitone had 15. The Yankees finished in 5th place.

1981 – The Strike Year, Reggie Jackson had 15 homers. The Yankees went to the World Series and lost to the Dodgers. Stats for 1981, though, are skewed.

1982 – Dave Winfield (right-handed) hit 37 homers. Roy Smalley (switch-hitter) hit 20. Graig Nettles and Oscar Gamble led the lefties in homers with 18. The Yankees finished in 5th place.

1988 – Jack Clark (27) and Dave Winfield (25), both right-handed, led the team Don Mattingly paced the left-handed hitters with 18. The Yankees ended up in 5th place.

2000 – Bernie Williams (30) and Jorge Posada (28), both switch-hitters, led the team in homers. Paul O’Neill had 18 that year. The Yankees won the World Series.

Only once, in the Yankees’ long history, 1947, did they have a team that won a World Series without left-handed power in the lineup. But, even without looking at it historically, it only makes sense that a team looking to compete for a championship should have a balanced line-up.

The Yankees of 2020 did not. At this point, the Yankees of 2021 will not.

They cannot win without this critical balance. A change must be made.

Let’s take a look at the right-handed hitters in the lineup and determine who could be replaced for a left-handed bat:

Luke Voit, first base – There is a lot of talk about jettisoning Voit after he had his best year in 2020. It’s never a bad idea to sell high. Voit might never be this good again.

D.J. LeMahieu, second base – A free agent. I would not bring him back for the four or five years I believe he will command as a free agent. He will turn 33 in 2021. I would consider bringing him back for three years, or better yet, two, but I don’t see that happening.

Gleyber Torres, shortstop – One of the Yankees’ future stars. He’s not going anywhere.

Gio Urshela, third base – A defensive wizard who proved he can hit. He’s only 29. He’s not going anywhere.

Clint Frazier, left field – Still unproven, though he seemed to establish himself a bit in 2020.

Aaron Judge, right field – He’s not going anywhere.

Giancarlo Stanton, designated hitter – He is owed, I think, a gazillion dollars. He’s not going anywhere.

Gary Sanchez, catcher – Coming off a few down years, he’s never been worth less. I’ll write a post on Sanchez soon. I think there is a good argument to just move on from Sanchez at this point, but he will be only 28 next year and with his talent there is also good reason to keep him.

Miguel Andujar, 3b?, OF?, DH – He got hurt and missed 2019 and then didn’t see much big league time in 2020. Is there even a position for him?

Based on the above, the Yankees really only have a few players who can conceivably be traded. These are Luke Voit, Clint Frazier, Gary Sanchez, and Miguel Andujar…

The big question is what would any (or all) of them bring back in a trade?

If the Yankees do not bring back D.J. LeMahieu, it would up second base for Gleyber Torres. If I were the Yankees, I would then move Heaven and Earth to trade for Francisco Lindor. He is young, he’s a positive clubhouse guy, he’s great defensively, he gets Torres off shortstop where he doesn’t belong, and he’s a high quality left-handed bat. Outside of Jasson Dominguez and Deivi Garcia, I would offer almost anything else to the Indians for Lindor.

The first step the Yankees can take to help solve this right-handed bat conundrum is by putting Lindor at shortstop and signing him to a long-term deal (which would have to be a part of the trade).

The only other starting positions where the Yankees could address this problem are left field and first base.

I will look at those spots in my next article in this series. I will also look at the bench in that article.

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