Do the Yankees suffer from having a predominantly right-handed lineup? The old school says yes. But pickings for free-agent lefties are slim. What now?
The Yankees won 103 games in 2019 with a predominantly right-handed lineup, so let’s begin there. If the 2020 season started today, the team would not field a left-handed bat in their lineup.
Big deal – or not? And if it is significant, is there a way the Yankees can recalibrate for next season?
At the moment, Gregorius, following the team’s decision to not extend a $17.8 million qualifying offer, is a free agent already drawing interest from the Reds, Padres, and White Sox.
Gardner is in limbo while the Yankees decide whether or not he has another year of production in him. Gardner is not shopping around as a free agent yet, but if the Yankees leave him hanging for too long, the market will come to the 36-year old outfielder in a New York minute.
Hicks? – well, Hicks is Hicks – injured again and not available to the team until mid-season.
A strategy built for decades around “The Porch”
Yankee Stadium, both the old and new venue, has a fabled “porch” in right field that is convenient to left-handed pull hitters. It’s where Roger Maris dumped his 61st home run off a 2-0 pitch from Tracy Stallard – a “drive” measuring all of 330 ft. to best Babe Ruth in 1961.
And it’s why George Steinbrenner grabbed up Mark Teixeria with the 39 home runs and 122 RBI he would contribute to the Yankee’s last World Championship in 2009.
Today, with so many relief pitchers involved in a single game, and “The Shift,” lefty pull-hitters like Teixeria are all but neutralized.
Still – there’s that inviting porch behooving the Yankees to take advantage of eighty-one games a season. Aaron Judge, Gio Urshela, and Gleyber Torres each found “the touch” last season in learning how to stay back on a pitch to park it in the right-field stands. Gardner found it from the left side 28 times, and others can follow his lead.
Is there a lefty free-agent the Yankees can use
If we assume, the Yankees infield is overloaded with battles already in place between Miguel Andujar and Gio Urshela at third base, and another one between Mike Ford and Luke Voit at first base – with DJ LeMahieu available almost anywhere, the scene shifts to the outfield.
There, we find two left-handed bats the Yankees can sign. Corey Dickerson (age 30), who hit .304 with 42 extra-base hits for the Pirates and Phillies, and Nick Markakis (age 36), who hit .285 with 36 extra-base hits. Check it yourself, but that’s it.
Yankees and back to square one
Short of the Yankees trading for left-handed balance in their lineup – or re-signing Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner while hoping Aaron Hicks can return full blast in the second half – The Porch will be more of an inviting target for their opponents than the Yankees.
This almost seems to suggest that somewhere in Brian Cashman’s long to-do list for 2020 has to be re-signing both Gregorius and Gardner.
Both are certified fan favorites, and their value to the team extends way beyond anything they do on the field. Brett Gardner, especially, as the lone heir to the last Yankees Championship with the retirement of CC Sabathia, is the link between the past, present, and future of the team.
Likewise, Didi Gregorius is widely respected in the clubhouse, and more significantly, perhaps, in the New York City community for his endless pursuit of charity work.
Brian Cashman can, and probably will seek to find replacements for both players. He should – that’s his job.
But in the end, the answers may be closer than he might think…