The New York Yankees made a surprise trade just before the trade deadline expired on Tuesday evening. General manager Brian Cashman sent left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Harrison Bader, arguably the best defensive centerfielder in baseball.
The problem is that Bader is currently dealing with plantar fasciitis, an injury that could keep him out for the rest of the season. In that case, St. Louis will send a minor-league prospect from a select list to the Yankees in addition to Bader, who still has one year of control left until becoming a free agent in 2024.
Bader spoke to the media on Wednesday, noting the injury and exactly how it’s impacting his mobility.
“It’s yanking on the heel bone,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you wake up in the morning and you’re reminded of it. It’s hard to put it out of your mind and it just got to a point where it wasn’t getting better. It was getting worse. So I had to make a decision.”
There is currently no timetable for return, but the expectation is that he will be ready in mid-September, just before the postseason. The Yankees will need his stellar defense in center field, shifting Aaron Judge back to right field where they can hopefully mitigate any injury.
“I wish someone had a crystal ball,” Bader said. “I’d love to talk to them. But I think this is a process and one that (Cashman) told me not to rush it, which alleviates some pressure for sure. I think that the people here in the city probably are capable of treating me.
Clearly, Cashman wasn’t too concerned about the foot injury, which has kept him out since June 26.
“This organization … they know this isn’t a big deal. No one is really concerned. I don’t think they’d have made the move if they were overly concerned. It’s just about being in the right hands and the proper care and coming back and being as effective as I’ve been in my career.”
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A look at what Bader is bringing to the Yankees:
On the season, Bader is hitting .256 with a 30% on-base rate, five homers, and 21 RBIs. He’s also contributed 15 stolen bases, a 4.9% walk rate, and 17.8% strikeout rate. Bader isn’t known for his power in the batter’s box, recording a 26.5% hard-hit right and 4% barrel rate this season. However, he makes great contact and has earned three triples this year alongside seven doubles, showcasing his ability for extra-base hits.
Former St. Louis teammate and current Yankee Matt Carpenter, spoke about his defensive qualities, spending 588.2 innings in center field this season. He has a perfect fielding percentage with 174 putouts.
“You cannot convince me otherwise that he’s not the best defensive center fielder in baseball,” Carpenter said. “I’ve seen it for years. Yankees fans are going to be amazed at the talent that he has in center field. It is very special.”
Of course, his success is heavily predicated on returning from injury. At the very least, the Yankees know he’ll make contributions in 2023, but his elite base running and fantastic range would be a major benefit for the Bombers in October. His usage would likely send Aaron Hicks to the bench, with Judge in right field and Andrew Benintendi in left.
“When he’s healthy, he’s going to be a force for us. So I’m certainly excited, and I’m excited he’s getting a chance to come home and play for the team that he grew up such a fan of.”