Should the Yankees extend polarizing center fielder?

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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

In a strategic move just before the trade deadline of the previous season, the New York Yankees orchestrated a trade deal with the St. Louis Cardinals. This transaction saw the left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery being sent in exchange for the talented center fielder Harrison Bader.

Bader’s Impact Post-Trade Deadline

Despite grappling with plantar fasciitis that led to his absence for several weeks, Bader displayed his resilience upon returning to the field.

During the final stretch of the regular season, encompassing 14 games in September, his performance yielded a somewhat disappointing .528 OPS. However, as October emerged, Bader seemed to channel the prowess of baseball legend Mickey Mantle. The postseason showcased his explosive potential, with five home runs and an impressive 1.262 OPS.

High Expectations Leading into 2023

Heading into the 2023 season, the expectations from fervent Yankees fans were monumental, especially considering this marked the concluding year of Bader’s contract before impending free agency. Unfortunately, his performance thus far has not aligned with these lofty hopes. Over the course of 285 plate appearances, Bader’s stats present a rather middling picture: a .249 batting average, .285 on-base percentage, .381 slugging percentage, seven home runs, 14 stolen bases, and an 81 wRC+.

Contemplating Bader’s Future

The pivotal question arises—should the New York Yankees consider retaining Bader?

On the defensive front, Bader undeniably shines, boasting the qualities of a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder, a remarkable asset for any team. However, his offensive performance indicates that achieving league-average results is his pinnacle, not his baseline. Consequently, deliberating whether to extend his contract becomes a complex decision, heavily influenced by various factors.

Balancing Offense and Defense

The Yankees are in need of substantial offensive contributions, and Bader’s potential as an ideal fourth outfielder is undeniable. However, the team’s offensive requirements are pressing. Hence, the verdict hinges on the pricing dynamics and, crucially, the length of the commitment. Should Bader seek a multi-year arrangement with aspirations of a regular role, the Yankees might opt to part ways, seeking an effective short-term solution. This strategy could offer them the opportunity to await the maturation of Jasson Dominguez, who is poised to take center stage in the near future.

The Yankees Exploring Possibilities

Should Bader be open to a one-year agreement (a scenario that appears unlikely, yet possible), it would be strategically prudent for the Yankees to consider such an arrangement. This could position Bader as a stopgap player, temporarily bridging the gap while they nurture long-term solutions. It’s essential to acknowledge that while Bader may not represent the definitive answer for the team’s prolonged success, the emergence of Dominguez offers a promising beacon of hope on the horizon.

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