Yankees outfield preparing for major shakeup in a week

oswaldo cabrera, yankees
Sep 7, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Oswaldo Cabrera (95) makes a catch in the eleventh inning against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

With the New York Yankees suffering a few injuries in the outfield, things are about to receive a major shake-up in about a week when Harrison Bader is expected to return from injury.

Bader has been dealing with plantar fasciitis for several weeks, including during his tenure with the St. Louis Cardinals before he was acquired at the trade deadline in exchange for Jordan Montgomery.

The hope is that Bader offers excellent defense upon his return, despite still feeling discomfort in his right foot. Team doctors have already indicated that he can’t further injure his foot by playing on it, so now it is a matter of battling his pain threshold.

With Andrew Benintendi recovering from a fractured wrist bone and Giancarlo Stanton essentially useless in the outfield due to injury concerns, the Yankees really only have Aaron Judge and Oswaldo Cabrera to rely on out there. Aaron Hicks is a net negative and was benched mid-game on Friday, meaning we likely won’t see much of him the rest of the way.

Bader is expected to return in about a week as he starts a rehab assignment on Sunday with Somerset. How the Yankees shift their outfield positions will be interesting.

“It’ll probably be at least a week,” Boone said before Saturday’s game. “But then if we get through that week, and the build-up is going fine, he could be in play when we start the homestand [Sept. 20 against the Pirates].”

Bader indicated that he simply fighting the pain and discomfort rather than trying to get his timing back in the batter’s box. Before going down, Bader posted a .256 average with a 30.3% on-base rate, five homers, and 21 RBIs. He had stolen 15 bases, tying his career high from 2018. He also posted a career-low 17.8% strikeout rate but was struggling to get on base via walks, walking at a 4.9% rate.

“I’m not trying to get my timing back. I’m not trying to feel comfortable in the box,” said Bader, who posted a .673 OPS in 72 games with St. Louis. “I’m just trying to go and just understand that I can physically do something so I can come up here and play ball.”

How will the Yankees shake up the outfield?

Upon his return, it is possible that the Yankees utilize Harrison in left field, keeping Cabrera in right and Judge in center. Alternatively, they can move Judge back to RF, slot Bader in at center, and move Cabrera to LF.

It will be interesting to see how the Yankees shake out the outfield, especially with Cabrera providing seven defensive runs saved above average over such a small sample size. He’s been electric in right, so moving him might not be advisable. Bader is an excellent defender and can play any of the three spots, so keeping Judge in center makes sense, realistically, at least until Benintendi returns.