Did you realize that the triumvirate of Tyler Wade, Thairo Estrada, and Jordy Mercer accumulated 170 plate appearances in 2020? That was nearly a third of the team’s total plate appearances at second base and shortstop. Both DJ LeMahieu and Gleyber Torres spent some time on the injured list which quickly exposed the Yankees’ lack of depth up the middle.
This problem was something we clamored about last winter when Didi Gregorius departed. It’s something the team needs to address this offseason even after re-signing DJ LeMahieu or acquiring a shortstop like Francisco Lindor.
Here’s how this should play out. If LeMahieu returns, the Yankees still need to bring in another infielder capable of playing shortstop. Going another year of Wade/Estrada just isn’t going to cut it. If it’s Lindor (or another shortstop), Torres can act as the reserve shortstop when he’s not at second base. That doesn’t mean the team should rest on their laurels, though. In fact, it might make it easier to obtain a bench infielder upgrade since said target wouldn’t have to be able to play shortstop (though it’d still be nice).
With that in mind, let’s get into a few options that the Yankees should look into this winter.
No baseball for the Yankees today, but there are five games on the schedule against the Mets this weekend. I have a few things on my mind at the moment that are Yankees-related, so let’s get to them here:
1. The Yankees stink right now, but it’s hard to get flustered by it. The Yankees had a downright dreadful day yesterday. Not only did they lose both games of the doubleheader in Atlanta, but it looks like they may be without Aaron Judge once again. It’s all frustrating, but frankly, it all pales in comparison to what’s going on in this country right now. I’m really having a hard time getting worked up about all of the Yankees’ injuries and the team’s five game losing streak, because it’s just not a big deal.
Yesterday, we saw the players in NBA and WNBA take the lead in deciding to walk out and not play scheduled games. Some entire MLB teams and some individual players on other teams followed. Exhausted by constant violence against Black folks and professional leagues’ empty gestures, players started to take things into their own hands. Not the Yankees, however, which was disappointing albeit unsurprising. The news about the Milwaukee Bucks striking began to unfold toward the end of the first game of the Yankees-Braves doubleheader. Maybe there wasn’t enough time between games for the teams to discuss the issue at hand. Eh. As Randy tweeted yesterday, thirty minutes is more than enough time to make a decision.
Maybe the Yankees will take a stand this weekend. Bobby tweeted about the reach the team has and the impact it could have. There’s no doubt about that. I’m not holding my breath, though. Need I remind you the affiliations this front office has? Plus, the Mets, who the Yankees will face this weekend, didn’t take a stand yesterday and left one player to speak on his own: Dom Smith. Although Smith played yesterday, we saw some teams play while one of its own Black players chose to sit out (Jason Heyward with the Cubs).
I love baseball and the Yankees and I selfishly want to keep watching them play this season. It’s admittedly been a distraction for me from everything going on in the world. But Clinton Yates’ piece today for The Undefeated make an important point: expecting Black athletes to perform for the sake of our entertainment while they are in anguish is wholly unfair. And responding with something like: “what does a walkout actually accomplish?” is absurd to ask as well. It doesn’t have to accomplish anything immediately. As Yates writes:
Which gets to the question that keeps coming up: What does this solve? What do you want? Maybe they don’t know. They shouldn’t have to. A collective bereavement pause on the league might be what everyone needs anyway. Lord knows how tough 2020 has been on everyone. But the point is that should be good enough.
2. If you haven’t rage-closed your browser yet (good riddance), here’s a Yankees thought: the team should sign recently released Brock Holt.Matt wrote about Holt back in the offseason and much of what he said still applies. In fact, one sentence from Matt’s piece really stands out to me: “The predictability he offers is preferable to the upside of Tyler Wade and Thairo Estrada”. This rings particularly true with Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu sidelined.
Holt really struggled for the Brewers this year, which led to his release. He hit .100/.222/.100 in 36 plate appearances. Pretty terrible, but also a ridiculously small sample size to cut someone on. I guess the 13-15 Brewers wanted to shake things up. Holt is almost certainly not that bad though, and should be an immediate upgrade over Wade and Estrada.
Holt batted .286/.366/.407 (106 wRC+) for the Red Sox in 662 plate appearances across 2018 and 2019. He’s not going to hit for power, but he makes plenty of contact and gets on base frequently. Holt offers plenty of versatility too. He can play all over the infield and outfield. And it’s not like he’s faking it at those positions — he’s a good defender too. Last year, Holt was in the 80th percentile of defenders in Statcast’s Outs Above Average. Most of that credit comes from his time at second base, but Statcast also grades him as an above average glove at shortstop. The Yankees may not be able to sign Holt, but it would shock me if they didn’t try to.
3. On Aaron Judge, hurt again. I think our tweets from earlier today says about all that needs to be said:
I love, love, love Aaron Judge. But there’s absolutely no reason to ever take him seriously when he says he’s “fine” again. He had four (4) extra days and sat the first game today. No chance was he fully ready or healthy.
Remember, Judge argued to avoid the injured list entirely. So much for that. While it’s often seen as admirable to play through pain, this just isn’t one of those instances. It’s detrimental to the club because now he could be out longer than initially anticipated.
4. Trade deadline priorities. One starting pitcher came off the market this afternoon: Taijuan Walker, who the Mariners traded to the Blue Jays. If you listened to our podcast this week, you’d know that Randy and I weren’t too keen on Walker anyway. The Yankees still have four days to address the pitching staff, however. There are really only two guys that I think are a) available and b) could make an impact: Lance Lynn and Dylan Bundy. Mike Clevinger certainly would make an impact, but I’m not certain he’s actually available and I don’t think it’d be a good idea to bring him into the clubhouse.
Starting pitching shouldn’t be the only target for the front office, though. The Yankees should go after some middle infield help too, especially if they don’t sign Brock Holt. Not that Holt would have a huge offensive impact, but almost any bat is going to be a fairly substantial upgrade over Tyler Wade in the lineup. One other middle infielder that comes to mind: Freddy Galvis of the Reds. Good defender at shortstop, has some power, and is purely a rental. Cincy is 11-17 and may be sellers anyway. I might go in more depth in a trade target piece, but if not, he’s one guy to keep in mind.