For most teams this dynamic might present a problem, though, forcing a bench player into the lineup more often than you’d like to see, but the Yankees have gotten extremely fortunate with the production they’ve gotten out of Eric Chavez this season. Chavez has always been known for his defensive abilities at the hot corner, but this year he’s backing that up with well above average production as a platoon hitter, batting .302/.359/.550 with 8 home runs in 142 plate appearances against right handed hitters. What’s particularly nice about that is that, thanks to Brett Gardner‘s season long stint on the disabled list, Chavez has been forced into a de facto platoon at the DH spot when he’s not playing third.
What this dynamic does do, however, is complicate the Yankees’ reported interest in the trade market for outfielders quite a bit. Because right now the Yankees are essentially platooning Chavez and Raul Ibanez against right-handed pitchers, and those two have a wRC+ of 141 and 108, respectively, against opposite hand pitchers. Chavez, in other words, has been outstanding, and though you can imagine upgrading over Ibanez, you also probably need him as an insurance policy in case the infamously fragile Chavez doesn’t manage to finish out the season without getting hurt. The rest of the bench doesn’t offer much flexibility either when it comes to figuring out who loses their job to a new acquisition. Jayson Nix and Chris Stewart are safe, and Andruw Jones is starting to heat up and mash left-handed pitching, so he’s staying around too unless he gets hurt. That leaves Dewayne Wise, who might be an easy choice to cast off, except that he’s the only player on the bench who’s obviously capable of playing center field.
All of that adds up to one conclusion: adding a pure corner outfielder is probably not a great value-adding proposition, and any potential trade target is going to need to be able to play center. That does apply to Shane Victorino, but Victorino’s wRC+ against right-handed pitchers is a mere 65! To state the obvious, benching either Ibanez or Chavez for him would be a significant downgrade. Victorino does have a 163 wRC+ against left-handed pitching, however, so as a platoon option he could add some real value by allowing the Yankees to stop using Nix as a regular against southpaws, but the fact that his best value to this team comes as the “smaller half” of a left-field platoon serves to reiterate the fact that Victorino simply isn’t worth giving up anything of real value in return.
Of course, when you boil this all down the “problem” here is that Chavez is performing so well that he effectively can’t be relegated to a pure bench role without taking away from the lineup, which isn’t a problem at all. And neither is the Yankees’ lineup, which currently leads the American League in wRC+ by a pretty comfortable margin (the Angels and Rangers, who are tied for second best, are closer to eighth on the list than they are to the Yankees). That doesn’t mean the team can’t be improved at the margins, and there could definitely be some value in not forcing yourself to ask for too much from Ibanez and Jones given their age and health, but as far as improving the lineup goes, there just doesn’t seem to be any obvious way to do that (other than upgrading the catcher position) that would justify giving up any valuable assets in return in the short run.