The New York Yankees faced nearly unmeasurable losses last season with not fan revenues. Being strapped for money, the team will have to go through a transformation not recently seen if they want to get to postseason play in the 2021 baseball season. The Yankees have made it a priority to re-sign batting title holder DJ LeMahieu. Right next to that priority, they have to solve their pitching rotation behind last year’s major acquisition of Yankee ace Gerrit Cole.
If that wasn’t enough to deal with, they also have questions at the backstop and backstop. Of somewhat lesser concern but still important is if the New York Yankees will address their left-handed hitters’ shortage. When the Yankees failed to bring back shortstop Didi Gregorius last season, it left the team with only Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks to hit from the plate’s left side. Now there is the danger of Brett Gardner not being with the team either. If the Yankees don’t work out a deal with Gardner, they will have only one left bat in the regular lineup.
The Yankees do have Mike Ford and Tyler Wade that are lefties, but after poor seasons from both of them in 2020, you will not likely see them in the lineup unless there are injuries. No matter how they work it out, the Yankees need at least one if not two left-hand hitters in the otherwise righty heavy lineup. There are two excellent free-agent options out there. Michael Brantley and Kyle Schwarber.
Kyle Schwarber has been on the New York Yankees’ radar for some time. With all the outfield injuries in the last several years, general manager Brian Cashman has been actively interested in Schwarber. Still, he never could put a deal together to obtain him. When the Chicago Cubs surprisingly let him become a free agent, the Yankees really don’t have a great need for him.
Nevertheless, Schwarber could be a good addition to the lineup. Number one is that he is a lefty hitter. Schwarber has good power that can make an impact on any at-bat. He had 38 homers, a career-high, during the 2019 season and 11 during the shortened campaign last year. On the wrong side of the issue, the Cubs most likely let him go due to his .188 batting average last season.
Although the Yankees have plenty of outfielders, it would seem that there is no place for Schwarber. That is mostly true, but if you look at outfielders Stanton, Hicks, and Judge, you see the possibilities of injuries based on history. Having Schwarber in the mix would be helpful. Although he is not a utility player and can fill in at first base should Voit be injured, he could also give the injury-prone Gary Sanchez a rest as he has catching experience.
Another pro for Schwarber is that he stays healthy. In 2019 he played in 155 games of the 162 game season. The seven days off were for rest, not injuries. This past season he played in 59 of the 60 games played by the Chicago Cubs.
Michael Brantley is a different story, he hasn’t been on the Yankees’ radar, but the team and front office are very familiar with the lefty; he had done a lot of damage to the Yankees during his time with the Houston Astros.
The Yankees need more left-handed hitting, and among the players, they’ve had contact with: four-time All-Star Michael Brantley. But it seems possible that he would be a Plan B to D.J. LeMahieu; hard to imagine the Yankees would sign LeMahieu and Brantley.
Even if the Yankees sign DJ LeMahieu to the five-year contract he demands, the Yankees should also think seriously about signing Brantley. The hard-hitting Brantley is the perfect fit for the short porch at Yankees Stadium. Regardless of what Hal Steinbrenner says, the Yankees are not broke. Brantley would be a less costly addition to the lineup compared to LeMahieu. There is no reason the Yankees can’t have both. The other option is to let Brantley go to the rising Toronto Blues Jays with a strong interest in him. They had to face Brantley with the Astros; the Yankees don’t want to face him in their own division with the Jays.
Brantley’s only downside is that he is a left fielder, which the Yankees don’t need. However, with the up and coming Clint Frazier, he can play anywhere in the outfield. If the Yankees get creative, they could make it work.
The bottom line:
Here is this writer’s opinion. The New York Yankees need at least one more lefty bat whether they sign LeMahieu or not. My choice is to sign LeMahieu and Michael Brantley both. I would take Brantley over the overrated Schwarber any day of the week. Brantley, although not the home run hitter that Schwarber is, is very LeMahieu-like. He hit .300 this past season and has a career .297 batting average.