Should the Yankees bring back polarizing outfielder for 2024 and beyond?

harrison bader, yankees
uMay 29, 2023; Seattle, Washington, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader (22) hits a single against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees face a critical off-season, with key free agents eyeing the open market. This is a pivotal moment for the team to reevaluate its roster and make decisions that will shape their future trajectory.

Pitching Woes and Potential Departures

Key starting pitchers, including Frankie Montas and Luis Severino, stand on the brink of departure. The onus falls on general manager Brian Cashman to decide whether to grant them one-year “prove-it” contracts. This comes in the aftermath of their underwhelming performances in the 2023 season.

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The Harrison Bader Dilemma

Harrison Bader, the 29-year-old outfielder, poses a unique challenge for the Yankees’ management. With only 72 games under his belt this season and crossing the 100-game mark just once in the past four years, his durability raises concerns.

Bader’s current stats, a batting average of .259, an OBP of .294, alongside seven homers, 37 RBIs, and an 89 wRC+ is coupled with a recorded 1.7 WAR, a 16.7% strikeout rate, and a 4.1% walk rate.

Although his offensive output has been lackluster for consecutive seasons, his defensive prowess cannot be overlooked. Boasting a .978 fielding percentage over 582.1 innings this season, he’s also credited with six defensive runs saved and 9 outs above average. But, can his exceptional defense make up for his offensive deficiencies?

The Yankees Should Consider New Avenues

With Bader’s inconsistent bat and his proneness to injuries, the Yankees might ponder a shift. Cody Bellinger stands out as a tempting alternative. At 28, Bellinger is in prime form, hitting .327, flaunting a .379 OBP, along with 18 homers, 59 RBIs, and a 149 wRC+. Such robust performance sets him up for a lucrative deal in the open market.

There’s also anticipation around Everson Pereira, a prospect the Yankees might promote. He could potentially cement his spot in the starting lineup for 2024 and the foreseeable future.

Financial Implications and Front Office Changes

Much hinges on the financial decisions of owner Hal Steinbrenner. After a disheartening season, he might lean towards financial prudence, focusing on shedding unfruitful contracts rather than heavy investments. There’s also a swirl of speculation around potential shifts in the front office, even though many consider Brian Cashman’s position to be secure.