The New York Yankees had a lot of questions to be answered after a disappointing postseason run in 2018, playing just five games before their exit. But with just two weeks to go until spring training begins, many questions still exist, specifically focused on position players.
The odds of getting all-star third baseman Manny Machado are becoming slimmer as time goes on, giving Yankees fans envisions of a possible six-man infield in Miguel Andujar, Troy Tulowitzki, DJ Lemahieu, Gleyber Torres, and a good possibility of Luke Voit and Tyler Wade.
Nobody really has an idea what will happen to Greg Bird after spring training. There had been a little talk about implementing him as part of a trade package for a starting pitcher, but with a rotation set that is no longer the case.
The New York Yankees need to organize the outfield:
With the roster filling out, the outfield situation remains one of, if not the biggest question. Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Brett Gardner remain obvious locks. Assuming that Tyler Wade will make the roster, we have seen in the past that he has the ability to shift into the outfield if need be, but the Yankees would much rather keep him in the middle infield.
Signing Bryce Harper seems very unlikely, so two men may be battling it out for a spot in the outfield. Those players are Clint Frazier and Jacoby Ellsbury, and dependent on which one makes it, if not both, it will have drastic impacts on how the outfield rotation may work, and Wade may help decide the roles of those two players, and himself.
After finding himself on the MVP ballot twice, finishing as the runner-up in 2011, and finishing third in the 2008 American League rookie of the year voting, Ellsbury hasn’t been that same player since coming to New York.
The good old days:
In seven years in Boston, he hit .297, had an OBP of .350, and a slugging percentage of .439. In his four years in the Bronx, he’s hit .264, has an OBP of .330, and a slugging percentage of .386; all of those numbers significantly down compared to when in Boston.
Three of his five years have been full of injuries, and him not appearing at all last season. It was like a game of two steps forward, one step back for Ellsbury last season. He would make progress in recovering from his injuries, then re-injuring himself again, before being shut down in August with hip surgery.
Ellsbury can still offer value:
Though his hitting numbers have been down, he’s still a threat on the bases, averaging a steal every five games since being in pinstripes. That speed is also valuable in the outfield, enabling him to cover more ground to track down balls. But when it comes to the bases, the Yankees have been relying on Tyler Wade for pinch running. Though he only has two career stolen bases, he is one of the fastest and smartest Yankees on the base-paths.
Both Wade and Ellsbury would be used in their respective positions for speed and defense since their hitting numbers have been low. Though Wade only occasionally plays outfield, he could affect Jacoby Ellsbury’s status on the Yankees.
This brings us to Clint Frazier. With Brett Gardner’s stats declining and Frazier spending the bulk of the season when healthy in Scranton to develop, there could be a good chance he is the Yankee’s starting left fielder. He has a similar player type as Gardner, just has more power; throwing power and hitting power.
Compared to Stanton, he is a better and faster defender, also better on the bases. It is more likely, I think, that Frazier will win the left field job with Stanton as your DH, rotating in and out of the corner outfield spots as necessary. Gardner can stand as your fourth outfielder, and in this scenario you would want to have Tyler Wade in the big leagues for pinch-running and utility, primarily 2B, SS, and CF if need be.
With all of that being said, it is really hard to imagine Jacoby Ellsbury having a role with the Yankees this season. A young, fast, group of core outfielders (and Tyler Wade) led by two veterans will be really tough to see Ellsbury playing this year. But injuries have been a problem in the past, Gardner is getting older and becoming more prone to injuries, and Aaron Hicks has had injury problems in the last few years.
An injury to the infield could see Wade being more involved there, giving a slight bit of an opportunity to pinch-run and play a OF for Ellsbury. Will the Yankees trade Ellsbury? Will he accept a minor league assignment? Will the Yankees finally give up and release him? Ellsbury creates a lot of questions, but as spring training approaches, we will start to know more answers.