Yankees’ Brian Cashman might’ve struck gold with one trade deadline acquisition

harrison bader, yankees
Oct 23, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees center fielder Harrison Bader (22) hits a home run in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros during game four of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When recalling the 2022 trade deadline, New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was aggressive, to say the least.

The Yankees were all in on competing for a World Series, landing Frankie Montas from the Oakland Athletics and contact hitter Andrew Benintendi from the Kansas City Royals.

Both of those acquisitions ended up being duds, at least for now. The Bombers parted ways with a few low-level prospects in exchange for Benintendi, but he suffered a wrist injury that knocked him out of the 2022 post-season.

Montas ended up struggling significantly, wearing pinstripes, posting a 6.35 ERA and 4.68 xFIP across 39.2 innings. His 3.18 ERA with Oakland over 104.2 innings was a thing of the past, but a shoulder injury might’ve been the culprit.

The Yankees might’ve struck gold with Harrison Bader:

However, one big move panned out for Cashman, the acquisition of Harrison Bader from the St. Louis Cardinals. At the very last moment, the Yankees sent Jordan Montgomery, one of their efficient lefty starters, getting back an injured outfielder in the process.

Bader barely made a regular season impact with the Yankees, dealing with a plantar fasciitis injury, playing in just 14 games, hitting .217 with a 24.5% on-base rate. His impact was always supposed to be during the playoffs, in which the elevated his game beyond anyone on the roster.

Across nine postseason outings, Bader hit .333 with a 43% on-base rate, five homers, and six RBIs. He posted a 17.1% strikeout rate and 11.4% walk rate, putting together an explosive sample size that excited Yankee fans for the future.

Cashman knew Montgomery’s tenure with the team was coming to an end:

Essentially, Cashman traded one year of Montgomery for one year of Bader, locking down the centerfield position with an aggressive outfielder who projects to have an elite defensive season. He is set to earn $5.2 million for the 2023 campaign before hitting free agency in 2024. His Steamer projections indicate he will hit .248 with a 31.2% on-base rate, including 15 homers and 59 RBIs. In addition, he will steal 17 bases with a 21.8% strikeout rate.

However, with bigger bases and new MLB rules, it will promote aggressive baserunning, so Bader could increase that number beyond 20. He set a career-high of 17 in 2022 in just 86 games, so you better believe manager Aaron Boone will be extrapolating on that talent.

Harrison ranks in the 92nd percentile in sprint speed and has elite defensive metrics. In the outfield, he’s earned 48 career defensive runs saved above average and 57 outs above average. This past season, he tallied 7 outs above average, struggling a bit with the Yankees given Aaron Judge’s aggressive nature. They ran into each other on a few occasions, but that was simply a result of chemistry deficiencies.

The 28-year-old hit just five homers during the regular season after hitting 16 in 2021. His hard-hit rate dropped to 26.3%, the first time in his career it fell below 30%. His barrel rate also settled in at 3.4% with an 83.4 mph exit velocity. Those numbers should return to normal, if not increase beyond his averages in 2023, especially since the Yankees will change his batting approach — as we saw during the playoffs — “Hit strikes hard.”

It is nice to know that Bader will replace Aaron Hicks as the team’s everyday starting center fielder. Hicks was abysmal in 2022, and the Yankees have been trying to move him and his salary for the past few months. Unfortunately, they haven’t found any takers for obvious reasons, but we should expect them to be assertive in finding a left-fielder via trade in the coming weeks, essentially sending Hicks to the bench permanently.

While last summer’s trade deadline didn’t pan out exactly how the Yankees wanted, Bader could end up being a star for them and a long-term solution if they’re willing to continue investing in the outfield.

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