At the close of the 2023 season, the New York Yankees face some crucial decisions.
Following the extension of Aaron Judge’s contract with a $360 million deal in the past off-season, a verdict on Harrison Bader, an outfielder with a history of health issues yet All-Star level performance when fit, must be reached.
Bader, who had to undergo rehabilitation for a lat injury during spring training, has since become a significant asset for the Bombers.
The Yankees are getting serious offensive value from Harrison Bader:
The 28-year-old outfielder boasts a .250 batting average and a .280 on-base percentage, along with six home runs and 19 RBIs. If his current home run rate were extended over a complete 162-game season, Bader would be on track to hit a staggering 38 home runs, a significant increase from his career-best of 16 in 2021.
The problem with Bader lies in his availability; he typically features in about 50% of games in a given season. He has competed in over 100 games just once in the last four years, with his second-highest total being 86. While he might surpass this total in 2023, investing in a frequently injured player always involves considerable risk.
When General Manager Brian Cashman exchanged left-handed starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery for Bader with the St. Louis Cardinals, his intention was that the dynamic center fielder would deliver considerable value in the postseason.
The Yankees have seen the impact Bader can make in high-pressure situations, with him hitting five home runs over nine playoff games, indicating his crucial role in a postseason pursuit.
The dilemma is how much the Yankees should pay a player like Bader and whether they should be prepared to commit a substantial sum to secure him for the next four seasons.
“ZiPS would offer him a four-year, $88 million extension, though Dan noted that he doesn’t believe Bader could actually get that in free agency, merely that ZiPS has a particularly high estimation of him.”Per Fangraphs.
Allocating $22 million per season for Bader seems excessive. A more reasonable contract could be a four-year, $72 million deal, offering him $18 million per season. This figure is still substantial but provides some protection for the Yankees, considering their poor record with player signings over the past decade.
Given Bader’s already impressive defensive statistics this season, with five defensive runs saved and five outs above average in just 23 games, the Yankees may find it challenging to sever ties with arguably the best defensive outfielder in the sport.
If Bader continues to demonstrate his power-hitting capabilities and exceeds 20 home runs this year, Cashman may have no option but to secure him for the long term, while hoping that Jasson Dominguez is prepared to make the leap in 2024, starting in left field.