Achieving lineup balance doesn’t mean making a painful trade

Trade me? Really?

It’s no secret that the Yankees’ lineup is dominated by right-handed hitters. Great righties, without a doubt. But at the same time, Kevin Cash’s Rays had no problem matching up against the Bombers’ bats in the ALDS. The offense still had some good performances in the series and is far from the only issue facing the Yankees’ roster, but it’s clear that it could use some balance. Aside from switch-hitting Aaron Hicks, the Yankees really lacked a threat from the left side this season. It’s something that should be addressed this winter. Randy and I discussed it on the podcast, too.

Inserting another good left-handed hitter is easier said than done, of course. From top to bottom, the Yankees’ lineup is built with some of the best righties in the sport. Trading Luke Voit for the sake of lineup balance is not a good idea. He’s been an elite hitter ever since the Yankees acquired him from St. Louis. Really, the Yankees are backed into a corner in terms of starters. The only open position this offseason is second base (or shortstop, if you want to move Gleyber Torres over), but at the same time, this team needs to bring free agent DJ LeMahieu back. I suppose catcher too if you really want to dump Gary Sánchez, but get back to me when you find a good left-handed catcher available. So, the Yankees will have to attack this balance issue differently.

The Yankees were counting on Brett Gardner, Mike Tauchman, and Mike Ford to offer some handedness flexibility in 2020. But aside from Gardner, who had a late season resurgence, Tauchman (79 wRC+) and Ford (36 wRC+) were disasters. And with Clint Frazier ready to take over left field in 2021, Gardner looks like no more than a bench piece if the Bombers want to bring him back. Which is fine, but again, is he going to really offer that much as a lefty swinger at 37 years of age? This is where the Yankees have an opportunity to improve its position player construction. The starting lineup doesn’t need to be reconstructed, but rather, the depth should be fortified.

With 26-man rosters here for good, the Yankees will have four bench slots next year. A backup catcher, extra infielder, extra outfielder, and one more player. Ignoring backup catcher, those other three spots are opportunities to bring in balance. And that doesn’t mean a reunion with Gardner can’t happen, by the way. Rather, it means bringing in upgrades over Tyler Wade and Mike Tauchman, who are both out of options and figure to assume those other two backup slots if the team is at full strength and no other moves are made.

The challenge in obtaining good role players is in free agency is often convincing starting-caliber guys to accept a lesser role. The Yankees did this with LeMahieu two years ago, although he also wanted to come to the Bronx in the first place. That said, I think the Yankees can make a strong case for players taking depth roles. For one, this isn’t the most sturdy of clubs and the injured list will probably fill up again in 2021. Plus, if expanded playoffs are here to stay, the Yankees are going to practice a lot of load management which opens up more playing time.

So, who would I pursue? One of my targets would be free agent Jurickson Profar, who the Yankees have gone after previously. In the outfield, there are guys like Michael Brantley and Joc Pederson. The former would be great, but the latter might be easier to sign because he had a down 2020.

Now, you might be wondering: what happens in the postseason with this group? Who of the righty stars will you bench to create lineup balance? That assumes a couple of things: good health, which is always uncertain with this group although things fortunately came together by the end of this season. Better to have Brantley, Pederson, and/or Profar in the wings if needed. Two, the Yankees seem keen on playing the hot hand. Gardner played a lot over Frazier this postseason and it mostly paid off. Who’s to say something similar wouldn’t happen in the future at another position?

In the end, the last thing I want to see is the Yankees trade away someone like Voit or Frazier and then replace them with an inferior left-handed bat. Improving depth while adding balance is a much better approach. The Yankees did have a bunch of lefties on the bench this season, but they proved not to be very good. Fixing that should be a priority this winter, and it doesn’t have to be a painful process.

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19 Comments

  1. Wire Fan

    Yankees vs lefties 97
    Yankees vs righties 122

    Are we sure there is a problem of too many righthanded hitters or has the Yankees obsession with platoon advantages just conditioned the fanbase into thinking it is a problem?

    Seems like they hit righthanded pitching BETTER this year…

  2. MikeD

    Stanton has had injury issues throughout his career, but a number of them were getting hit in the head by a pitch, or on the hands. His soft-tissue injuries and recoveries have been much worse the last two years. Well, here’s one idea. Maybe being just the DH leads to his muscles tightening, and more injuries and longer recoveries. Being just the DH might actually be contributing to the problem.

    I really dislike DH-only players because they clog the rosters by reducing flexibility. It would be great if Stanton could take the field for 60 or so games, but I suspect that’s not going to be the case. He has the impact bat, like an Ortiz or a Martinez, to be just the DH, but I still believe the Yankees are limiting their rosters by planning for him only to be the DH, and in the process, they may be contributing to his injuries.

  3. Rex Nolan

    Please can we have an analysis of the miscues by Boone over his tenure.

    I am still not sure how everyone interviewed was “on board” with Game 2.

    Here are the facts, they were up by a game, and it was a must win for the Rays; Happ was not considered good enough to be the starter unless they could trick the Rays.They got back the run after inning one.

    If they wanted to rest the bullpen and have the full “death star” level bullpen available for the series later on (though I dont know why that itself is a good strategy when you have the opponent compromised) a simple rule of thumb like “3 run deficit in the middle of the game (4.5 inning)” to make a change would have served both purposes.

    But in reality they didnt do that, letting Happ ride his ineffectiveness to a larger deficit and losing a game in which the team scored 5 runs is ridiculous. Someone has to take the blame for that period.

    I get Garcia is an unknown but so is Happ, and clearly Jordan M was off limits since he was trusted with the series saving game.

    The problem, along with Happ’s ineffectiveness, is Boone’s philosophy, this idea that in a position of advantage you can be complacent, because you will have more chips later is simply not a good strategy in a short series. A game 5 with Cole and a game with Tanaka is not a sure thing.

    Boone lacks the urgency needed for a playoff series.The blame for losing a game when your offense scores 5 runs is only on a few people –Happ and Boone and every one who was “on board”.

  4. CentralScrutinizer

    Yeah you can bring in guys like Profar and Pederson to replace Wade and (please!) Tauchman. But when are those guys going to play? It can’t be a straight platoon because the lefty batter is going to get the majority of the playing time since most pitchers are right-handed.

    Sure Aaron Judge shouldn’t (and probably won’t be able to) play every game. But how many times are you going to bench him just to get Pederson in the lineup? Plus can Pederson even play RF? I can’t imagine him playing LF in Yankee Stadium if he’s platooned with Frazier. From what I understand he’s more of a DH type so maybe he will be get some of Stanton’s DH time which I could see against some very tough right-handed pitchers. But how is Stanton going to take that? I’m not really concerned with his feelings but if he’s pissed off (as most guys of his stature would be if they are platooned or pinch-hit for) then he might be less productive.

    And will those free-agent lefties be content with a bench spot which is probably not going to pay was well as a starting spot or a straight platoon role if one is available to them. And even if they would accept a bench role can they be productive when not playing regularly? Not every player is able to succeed in that type of role.

  5. Troy

    I like the Pederson idea. He has been an absolute righty killer through most of his career. On the other hand, I am not writing Tauchman off. 2020 is not a year you base long term assessments on and he was too good in 2019 to ignore. But I would take Pederson over Gardner.

    Sure I would take Profar over Wade but I feel that is a less likely sign. I think he goes to a lesser team that promises him more playing time.

    As for Stanton, he needs to play the OF more. It might even help him stay healthy as opposed to always coming in cold off the bench.

    • CentralScrutinizer

      Tauchman’s 2019 was a mirage. His top line stats masked poor batted ball metrics (which got even worse this year) and he benefited from the 2019 rocket ball.

  6. Jose vargas

    I like Jonathan Villar at utility if

  7. The problem is that they insist on hitting a lefty in the middle of the lineup regardless of the quality of that left hander. So acquiring a 4th outfielder-type just means they’re going to throw that marginal bat into an important spot (whether it be starting or as a PH). They value the platoon advantage and lineup balance on the field, so the front office needs to put Boone in a position to execute that with a quality lefty.

    • Carlos

      That’s why I like Brantley in that spot. He’s a hitter that actually deserves to be in the top of the order.

  8. Charlie

    Trade Voit for pitching/left-handed hitting. His value is never going to be higher. The Yankees have enough one-dimensional right-handed power that isn’t going anywhere.

    • Agree.
      The Yankees, despite what Cashman says, have very few trading pieces. I read that the Yankee minor league system is stocked with amped arms, but they are all young, we will see, I remember the 3Bs.
      Yankees want a front of the rotation, #2 or #3, pitcher, have to give to get. Voit is the best option. His defense is not good, he is not quick, but he has a big bat. Torres cannot in anyone’s mind continue to play shortstop.
      So imho, Voit gotta go.

      • MikeD

        Why can’t Gleyber be traded? Or Voit? Or Clint? Or Andujar? Or Gary? Why can’t Garcia be traded? Or Schmidt? Yes, the Yankees do have trade pieces, of Gleyber is a very, very valuable one, which I why I listed him. What Yankee fans are saying is they don’t want to trade anyone they personally like or covet. Trading requires pain. You want to rebalance the team in some ways, put everyone on the table. Don’t be fearful.

        Not saying that’s what they should do, but they do have plenty of pieces.

  9. Carlos

    Brantley seems like the perfect fit, but do we really want to bench Frazier again? Or do you think he has actual trade value?

    • Derek

      He definitely has trade value — but I also don’t think this means benching Frazier. I’d keep him. There’s definitely 400-500 PAs for him next year. Remember, these Yankees are pretty brittle, and more playoff spots will mean more rest days for Judge/Hicks/Stanton.

      • CentralScrutinizer

        So you’re assuming expanded playoffs are here to stay? I really, really hope that abomination is shot into the sun after this post-season ends.

        • Derek

          Probably. Maybe not 8 teams in each league right away, but maybe go to 6 each. It’s always about the extra $.

      • MikeD

        I think it will be a problem for Brantley. Don’t worry Michael, are OFers are brittle, so they’ll be plenty of time for all. It may be true, or this could be the year when they’re pretty healthy. In that case, Frazier stagnates,or Brantley doesn’t play.

        I wanted Brantley a couple years back. He’s a lefty version of DJLM who rarely K’s. I’m just not sure he’ll be an easy fit. Sign Brantley, bring back Gardner as the 4th OFer and defensive replacement for Brantley (he’s not a strong OFer) and consider trading Clint. Holding everyone doesn’t allow you to make strong trades.

  10. mitch

    I would move Stanton back to LF, add a lefty SS (Didi? Lindor?), move Gleyber to 2B, DJ to 1B and Voit to DH. That improves your defense and helps balance the lineup. Frazier would be the odd man out, but they’re going to need to move someone of value to help fill out the rest of the roster.

    • Derek

      In an ideal world, yes, I’d try to put Stanton back in the OF. He’s a solid defender out there, but I also think it’s just safer to DH him for good. Seems like that’s what the Yankees are gonna do too.

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