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  • E.J. Fagan

The Yankees Need Some Replacement Players

by EJ Fagan

May 1, 2023


NOTE: The following comes from EJ Fagan's substack page and is shared with permission.

Please check out EJ's substack page for more great articles.


The Yankees Need Some Replacement Players

Stop the bleeding

The Yankees fielded their worst lineup in recent memory the other night:

We all know how we got here. Aaron Judge is injured and could be headed for the injured list. Anthony Volpe needed a rest day. A lot of guys are on the IL. Those things happen.

Injuries and rest days are going to happen over the course of the long season. That’s why major league teams have bench players and farm systems. When we measure how valuable a hitter’s performance is, we consider the counterfactual: what if we had to sub in a player from Triple-A to fill in? Thus was born the phrase replacement level.

The Yankees have a lot of replacement players getting a full share of playing time these days. How are they doing? Not great:

Cordero, Cabrera, Calhoun, Kiner-Falefa and Hicks are all playing well below replacement level on the season. Oswaldo Peraza and Kyle Higashioka are barely keeping their head above water. It’s bad.

What about pitching?

So what can the Yankees do about it? They’re already swapping Franchy Cordero for Jake Bauers, which should help. Harrison Bader is on the verge of returning, so that will knock out another outfielder. Assuming that Judge is going to need an IL stint, I have a few suggestions:

  • Call up Estevan Florial. He’s hitting .280/.455/.560 to start the season in Triple-A. He can’t be a worse offensive or defensive player than Aaron Hicks. Maybe he’ll click and be a good major league contributor.

  • Call up Andres Chaparro. Imagine a Willie Calhoun type that has actually hit over the past three years. Chaparro’s problem has always been that has no positive. However, he can mash. With Stanton out, the Yankees need a better designated hitter than Calhoun.

  • Trade for a Chi Chi Gonzalez type. The Yankees need some innings. They need a pitcher who is going to allow some runs, but will keep them in the game. Brito and Schmidt aren’t it. The Triple-A rotation is a disaster at the moment, with five starters posting ERAs well over 5.00. The Yankees made a mistake by trading away so much pitching depth at the deadline last year. Chi Chi Gonzalez is sitting at Triple-A for the Marlins, as are a dozen other similar veteran pitchers. They need bodies, and Gonzalez is as good of a replacement level pitcher as anyone.

  • Release Hicks. I’m going to write a longer post about Hicks at some point, but looks done out there. He’s slower than ever. He’s not hitting a lick. He looks defeated. Estevan Florial isn’t the only replacement player that could do better. He’s done.

The general rule of thumb should be to replace negative value with replacement-level value. The Yankees are still a very good team up top. LeMahieu, Torres, Volpe and Rizzo are a strong top-4, and Judge doesn’t sound like he’ll be out for months. However, the Yankees have too many guys hitting .170. If they can replace them with guys hitting .220, and maybe find one diamond in the rough like Bauers, they can still win a lot of games when the starters return.

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