On the surface, the Yankees’ offense is very good. They have scored the third-most runs in the AL. But a deeper look reveals a very uneven lineup. The Yankees have five guys who are providing almost all of the offense, three guys who are severely hurting the offense and one guy right in the middle.
Based on OPS+, the best Yankee hitters are: Rodriguez, Teixeira, Gardner, Ellsbury, and McCann. All five have an OPS+ at of at least 120, meaning they are 20% above the league average. On the flip side, Headley is at 86, Gregrorius at 73, and Drew at 67. Right at the average is Beltran at 102.
So the obvious place to look for improvement is the quartet of Beltran, Headley, Gregorius, and Drew. And Drew would be the most likely candidate to be replaced as he is only signed through the end of this year, and only costs about $2.5-million the rest of the way. He had a strong June, and his defense is good, but he is still only hitting .176/.251/.360. His OPS is almost 200 points higher at home than on the road, so you have to wonder how much Yankee Stadium adds to the meager performance he has put up so far. Finally, his lefty/righty splits show little drop off, so you couldn’t just platoon him and expect a better result. In short, this is an easy place for the Yankees to upgrade as almost anyone would be better at this point.
What about the other three? Let’s start with Didi who isn’t hitting-overall. That’s a key caveat because you need to look at his monthly numbers to get a true sense of what Didi has done and what he is capable of doing.
(One day soon you will be able to do so)
So far, the average AL Shortstop is hitting .256/.296/.356, so Didi was right at average in June and close in May. Advanced metrics tell us his defense has been good and he is under team control until 2020. This will not be a place the Yankees look to upgrade. An average offensive shortstop who plays above-average defense and is inexpensive is something the Yankees will be more than happy to plug into the lineup regularly. Didi looks like he can at least be that.
Beltran is hurt, so a trade might make sense on that level, but the Yankees don’t want to lock up right field for very long because their best prospect is beating his way to the Bronx in a hurry. Judge tore up AA and has now reached AAA. He is a decent shot for a September call up and could be in the mix for a starting spot in right next season. The Yankees will not block him, so any trade for a right fielder has to be a rental at most. If Beltran is going to be out for a long time, I could see it, but Beltran put up an .816 OPS in May and an .856 in June. His overall numbers are average because of a terrible April. Barring a lengthy DL stay, they won’t make a trade for right.
And that brings us to Headley who is a mystery at this point. Last season he came over, played solid defense, hit well at Yankee Stadium and the Yankees signed him to a four-year deal. This season his defense has been bad and he hasn’t hit at all at Yankee Stadium. His numbers against RHP have been ok, but against lefties he is hitting only .208/.240/.365. He has always been a stronger hitter against RHP in his career, so maybe he is just losing it versus lefties. But he is young to do so, only 31, and the huge drop defensively makes me think something else must be going on with him. (He’s got 16 errors so far after previously only committing a high of 13 in a season). Perhaps there is, perhaps there isn’t, but with three years left on his deal the only way the Yankees make a trade for a third baseman is if Headley is part of what they give up.
So, besides the obvious hole at second, I don’t see much happening trade-wise in the lineup. However, the bench is another story and I will tackle that tomorrow.