Just before the trade deadline expired, the New York Yankees and the St. Louis Cardinals completed a controversial deal at the time: Brian Cashman sent reliable starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery to St. Louis and got Gold Glove center fielder Harrison Bader in return.
The move was seen as risky at the time because the Yankees subtracted from their pitching depth after adding Frankie Montas from the Oakland Athletics, and because Bader was dealing with plantar fasciitis. He didn’t return until September.
It’s fair to say, however, that the risk paid off for the Yankees. Yes, losing Montgomery – a solid pitcher with an ERA consistently in the threes – hurt, but you have to give to get.
Bader hit .217/.245/.283 with a .528 OPS in 14 games with the Yankees during the regular season, but as it turns out, he was saving the best for the playoffs.
The Yankees deadline addition has had a marvelous series
In the four games the Yankees have played against the Cleveland Guardians so far in the AL Division Series, Bader is slashing .286/.286/.929 with an incredible 1.215 OPS. He has gone 4-for-14, and three of those four hits have left the yard.
The power that Bader has contributed so far in the postseason has been crucial to keep the Yankees in games. His three round-trippers represent the same output as the Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Anthony Rizzo trio in the playoffs and it has been one of the most pleasant surprise so far in the ALDS.
Bader, who has been hitting in the bottom third of the lineup, may be making a case to be brought up in the Yankees lineup for Game 5, as he is making hard contact in the air consistently.
As the Yankees try to fend off the pesky Guards, Bader’s two-way play – his defense remains outstanding – will be one of the keys to Game 5, and hopefully beyond.