My Thoughts on Harrison Bader
by Cary Greene
June 7, 2023
Should the Yankees Extend Harrison Bader?
Considering that the Yankees roster is all too often riddled with players that miss too much time due to injuries, the notion of doing a long term deal with a player like Harrison Bader just seems like a bad business decision. Bader, who was acquired by Brian Cashman at last year’s Trade Deadline, has already missed 120 days as a Yankee, due to foot and oblique issues.
Bader is an elite defensive player who hits enough to make him very valuable, so there is little doubt that when he’s on the field, he can absolutely help a ballclub. In only 90 at-bats this season, he’s posted a 1.1 bWAR. An elite defensive center fielder like Myles Straw of the Guardians by contrast, has double the at-bats as Bader (187), but he’s only been worth 0.6 bWAR - mainly because his bat simply doesn’t remotely compare to Bader’s.
There are plenty of reasons that a baseball GM might want to spin the risk-reward roulette wheel every now and again, taking a chance on a player who has a track record of being often injured, but in my estimation, the Yankees should instead be attempting to galvanize the roster with players who aren’t sure bets to miss large chunks of time due to injuries.
As is the case for not just the Yankees, but really for all teams, good health is the first piece towards getting the most out of a roster. Our own Andy Singer did his SSTN Weekly Mailbag, going in depth on the injury related failures the Yankees have experienced in recent times under Brian Cashman’s leadership.
Last season, the Yankees had a whopping 29 players miss a total of 1,563 games, with the Yankees spending 17.5 percent of their payroll ($46.8 million) on the games missed by injured players, thanks to their cumulative in-season injured list which bit deep into their 40-man roster. However, before we raise the Red Cross flag and waive it in surrender, it’s probably best to look at the Yankees injury issues not from a perspective of the Yankees in a vacuum, but rather, I’d challenge writers and fans alike to evaluate the Yankees training staff against the rest of MLB.
The Yankees did seem to be absolutely ravaged by injuries to pretty important players last season, but the results actually show that the 1,563 games that Yankees players missed last season ranked as only the 11th worst in baseball, which placed them in the 65th percentile in league. This means the Yankees injury issues were 15% higher than league average, so while it wasn’t great news for the Yankees, 35% of MLB teams were worse off. Committing resources to Harrison Bader would do little to improve this trend.
17.5% of the Yankees payroll was spent to cover games that injured players missed, which was also very close to the MLB average of 17.3% - so characterizing the Yankees as being unusually snake bitten is a bit off base. Based on the money the Yankees are spending, the medical staff presently would get a grade of C-minus, which represents a very large opportunity for Cashman to improve the process by which he evaluates which players to sign and which ones he elects to pass on. After all, Cashman is the one who is ultimately responsible for putting together such an injury prone roster.
Believe it or not, the teams most negatively impacted by injuries last season were the Reds, Twins, Rays, Cubs, Nationals and Dodgers, Red Sox, Marlins, Pirates and Tigers, who all had worse injury issues than the Yankees did.
Meanwhile, the teams the Yankees played in the expanded MLB playoffs last season were by contrast extraordinarily good at avoiding injuries. Finishing in the first percentile in MLB at avoiding injuries, the Guardians were easily the best in baseball in this department. Their 40-man roster only took a 708 total games missed hit, for which they only wasted a paltry $2.5 million, which was a miniscule 3.8% of their payroll.
Considering that 17.5 percent of the Yankees payroll was hampered by injuries, when you contrast that against a team like the Guardians, it might behoove Hal Steinbrenner ask Cashman to model whatever techniques the Guardians medical staff is utilizing - because Steinbrenner’s payroll is hemorrhaging. In simple terms, the money Cashman is spending to field a team is highly inefficient and it does represent a major opportunity for the Yankees going forward, especially if the goal is to stay ahead of Divisional rivals in this area - like the Blue Jays and Orioles who’s medical staffs both seem to be running rings around the often battered Yankees.
While I respect Harrison Bader’s abilities, the Yankees should pass on committing long term to him. A more prudent move might simply be for Cashman to tap into the Yankees farm system more while perhaps Hal Steinbrenner might also consider spending whatever it takes to fill the roster in with better players where necessary.
Center field is a pretty important position on the diamond and signing Bader long term equates to the Yankees also needing to have a “backup” who they’d be comfortable with giving the lion's share of the at-bats to each season, considering Bader is a virtual lock to miss substantial time.