Yankees Send Down the Guy Who Should Be Starting in Centerfield
by Cary Greene
August 7, 2021
The deadline came and went and Brian Cashman did all he could do given the financial constraints he was operating under, thanks to an owner who despite having the greatest revenue of any MLB team, refuses to spend commensurately. One thing Cashman just wasn’t able to fix is the glaring problem in centerfield. Therefore, this is an issue the Yankees will simply have to manage. I believe this issue is the single most important controllable area of focus for the Yankee offense and defense.
Giancarlo Stanton played the outfield in two of the three games in Miami and wow, did he look terrific. However, he’s been relegated to DH duties in the games since that series and Brett Gardner is back to starting more than he should. The Yankees are winning, so that’s a positive step, but the centerfield dilemma IS actually being mismanaged.
In theory, playing Stanton more in the outfield should help the team, but it doesn’t really help the Yankees is he doesn’t hit. If we were talking about Stanton the “wrecking ball” then yes, by all means, play him in the outfield as much as possible. But right now, that’s actually not the most prudent course of action.
And, while Gardy is getting on base, scoring runs and flashing a very good glove, he also shouldn’t be starting games in centerfield for the Yankees. Gardner is no longer a threat to steal bases but more importantly, the contact he makes is still mostly uneventful and non-impactful. Gardy is a fifth outfielder at this stage and the Yankees need to start using him as such.
All of this begs the question – How should the Yankees handle the centerfield situation in the short term and also, what should they do for the remainder of the season?
When the rosters expand to 28 men in September, the Yankees may well give Estevan Florial a chance, but that’s weeks away, and the time to address the concern is now.
Every single game right now is critical. Catching the A’s is not the only task facing the Yankees. They also need to gain some separation from the surging Blue Jays who suddenly have a formidable rotation and are closing fast!
Who should be playing the most – Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge/Joey Gallo, Jonathan Davis, or should the Yankees call Florial back up ASAP?
I think the Yankees’ best choice for centerfield was the player they demoted yesterday – Greg Allen.
Allen has clearly been the Yankees best option in centerfield. No matter how you slice it, he plays plus defense in centerfield, better than any player on the team. He’s also an on base machine who is an absolute threat to seal and score runs at a high clip – he sprays doubles, he makes super contact and he’s a great base runner who can leg it out and go first to third or second to home like few players on the team can. I think he does everything better than the newly acquired Jonathan Davis.
I was initially dumbfounded by Cashman’s reasoning for demoting Allen. It seems that because Allen was promoted to the Yankees as a COVID-19 replacement player in July, he did not need to clear waivers to return to the minors. Sending him down was the easy roster move to keep Davis on the big club. It also keeps Gardner on the team, where he does provide leadership and some depth. Yet, from a baseball move, an on the field move, I’m not thrilled with the decision.
The Yankees took advantage of the Covid/Replacement Player loophole Wednesday to maintain outfield depth after claiming Jonathan Davis off waivers from the Blue Jays and adding him to the active roster. Aaron Boone coyly said before the game, speaking of Greg Allen, “That was obviously very difficult, just because of — first and foremost, what a good pro he’s been in the room, but also he’s performed and helped us win games.” He then added, “Kind of a unique situation of the opportunity to get a guy like Jonathan Davis. Obviously, one trade deadline now, so … no waiver trade deadline at the end of August.” Rambling on, Boone finished with, “The opportunity to create depth, in any season, but especially what we’re going through in 2021, you probably can’t have enough depth moving forward.”
Davis is a righty who hit .143 with four steals and a .482 OPS in 52 games this season for the Blue Jays. During the month of July, the Blue Jays barely used Davis. He was inserted as the starter in center field last night against the Mariners, going 0 for 3.
There is no denying that Greg Allen had become a real factor for the Yankees. He was called up on July 16th.
Below is the snapshot of how Allen has performed compared to the other Yankees who will patrol centerfield (all since July 16). In this chart, I’ve listed Davis’ full season stats below to help us understand what Davis brings to the table and also illustrate why demoting Allen was a terrible decision on Cashman’s part.
This situation is about to reach critical mass.
Luke Voit will be back any day now. When he returns, he’s going to have to fight for at bats with Giancarlo Stanton. Voit can certainly play a little first base. Stanton can certainly play a little outfield. Brian Cashman of course tried to avert this logjam from happening when he shopped Voit at the trade deadline and according to mlbtraderumors.com’s Darragh McDonald, the Yankees actually had three potential deals on the table involving Voit. With the clock ticking down, the trade partner Cashman had settled on backed out and so no trade was made.
Of note, Voit’s trade value has plummeted due to serious concern about his knees. Joel Sherman of the Post was very astute this past offseason when he suggested the Yankees should unload Voit while his value was at its peak. Indeed, Cashman could have moved Voit for a starter to bolster the rotation, but he failed to do that.
Joey Gallo had been in a horrible slump prior to last night’s game winning home run. Giancarlo Stanton has been slumping as well, though he’s also showing some signs of getting back on track.
Aaron Judge plays centerfield very competently and he may well start a few games there in the playoffs when the Yankees might look to put a power lineup together, which I think would be a grave mistake by the way because the Yankees need a few table setting players in the the lineup to help ignite what has long been a home run or bust approach.
I believe a strong case can be made that Allen should be starting regularly in centerfield right now for the Yankees and batting in either the leadoff spot, or the number 9 spot. It makes a ton of sense to roll with Allen, yet Yankee decision making has once again made a very questionable choice that will absolutely cause the lack of production in centerfield to continue to fester. It’s amazing how Brian Cashman often fails to recognize that many of the answers to the team’s problems are right under his nose.
This might be the worst Brian Cashman decision I’ve ever seen, in my lifetime. The Yankees now lose Allen’s speed and tremendous base running skills, which were wreaking havoc on opposing defenses. Allen had been nothing short of a dynamic table setter. He laced doubles, he was getting on base, he stole numerous bases and scored runs. Not to mention, he’s a switch hitter. Why in the world would the Yankees discard him at this critical juncture of the season? In order to add more depth is not a suitable answer for this one Greg Allen is that depth, plus behind him is Estevan Florial… and Brett Gardner… and the rotation of Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge in center. All of that provides enough depth. I feel that Allen is better than Jonathan Davis in every way. The depth Davis provides was not worth casting out Allen for. This was just poor decision making in action.
I predict that the decision to add Jonathan Davis will cause the Yankees to continue overplaying Brett Gardner, who will platoon with the offensively inept Davis in centerfield. That’s a bad plan – especially when the Yankees already had the answer in Greg Allen. As a switch hitter, he was, already a platoon.
Greg Allen made his case and there is zero doubt that the Yankee offense is quite a bit more dynamic with him as the catalyst.
With this move, the Yankees took a step backwards, all for no good reason.
The better answer to the centerfield question is now in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.