Every team has needs. Sometimes big, sometimes small. Aside from size, they can be categorized temporally, too: immediate and future, short-term or long-term. Given that designation, the Yankees have both immediate and future needs.
In the short-term, the Yankees just need to hit better. Better at bats, better swings, better…something. Recent injuries haven’t helped, of course, but whatever the reason, whatever the process, the Yankees need better results.
For the long-term, meaning the rest of the 2021 season and playoffs, the Yankees need to figure out center field and the right side of the infield. Derek outlined some potential outfield trade targets recently and I agree with him; outfield is where the focus should be. Given the lack of internal options–barring a Brett Gardner rebound or dead cat bounce–going external is the only path to replacing Aaron Hicks with someone worthy of a playoff/World Series run.
The infield situation can be solved internally and the solutions may already be playing themselves out. That is to say there isn’t really a solution beyond the two-pronged approach on the field right now.
As it stands, the Yankees have at least two players who can man second in DJ LeMahieu and Rougned Odor and another who could if needed in Gleyber Torres, not to mention Tyler Wade. But the prolonged absence of Luke Voit has forced and will continue to force the Yankees’ hand in a less than ideal right side alignment. So, really, a first base issue has affected second base as well.
One ‘prong’ has them playing Mike Ford at first with DJ LeMahieu at second and Gio Urshela at third. The other has them playing LeMahieu at first with Odor at second and Urshela at third. Both options have warts, like DJ playing away from a position where he’s a premium defender and Mike Ford playing at all.
Even with some clutch hits and generally good defense, Odor isn’t exactly a shining option out there, either. Perhaps he could be hidden if others were hitting up to their potential, but they’re not and his flawed bat is becoming more and more exposed. The argument could be made that they should trade for an upgrade at second, but I doubt the Yankees will do that. Having already spent resources in the form of prospects to get Odor, I doubt they do it again for another second baseman (or shortstop to move Gleyber back to second).
However, either approach would more or less cement LeMahieu as a first baseman, which is, as mentioned, a waste of his defensive talent. And given his relatively low offensive output this year, LeMahieu looks a lot worse as a first baseman instead of a second baseman.
If the Yankees could find a solution at first–which is likely easier than acquiring a middle infielder–it would shift Odor back to the bench where he should be and let DJLM play his natural position.
Before looking outside, the Yankees do have two more options in Scranton: Chris Gittens and Derek Dietrich. Our Derek discussed Gittens here and I, once again, agree. Dietrich, alternatively, offers the Yankees a little more assurance since he’s done it at the Major League level before, but there’s also some Odor potential in him.
Both choices let them kick the can down the road a bit, whether that road is waiting for Voit to get healthy or looking for an external upgrade. Again, I doubt the external road is taken; they have internal options and it’s not like Voit is going to be out the whole season.
If you asked me two months ago if I thought the Yankees would need to upgrade offensively in some way, I would’ve thought you were crazy. But, as a certain announcer might say…
The Yankees have nailed it, more or less, on the pitching front and find themselves in such a position that just modest improvement on offense would really complete them as a team. Whether they fill that need internally or externally remains to be seen. But they need to fill it.