Yankees will be hard pressed to improve lineup with trades

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.


About Brien Jackson

Born in Southwestern Ohio and currently residing on the Chesapeake Bay, Brien is a former editor-in-chief of IIATMS who now spends most of his time sitting on his deck watching his tomatoes ripen and consuming far more MLB Network programming than is safe for one's health or sanity.

22 thoughts on “Yankees will be hard pressed to improve lineup with trades

  1. Hey Brian, Here is your wild, probably not going to happen, not holding my breath believing it will happen thought. If the Yanks are looking for someone in the Brett Gardner mold there is someone who might be available and is in the last year of his contract. Would you consider a B or C level prospect to have Ichiro for rest of the year? I know he is not the player he was five years ago, and his slash line is lousy, but I believe it's worth thinking about.

    Like I said, I hold no delusions thinking this will happen. It's just a thought.

  2. Justin Upton says 'hi.' Against RHP you go Upton/Grandy/Swisher in the OF, Chavez at 3B, A-Rod DH. LHP and it's Upton/Grandy/Jones, A-Rod at 3B, Swisher DH. Mix in some time for Swisher at 1B if you want to give Teix half days off. Ibanez doesn't hit well enough against RHP to justify being a bad defensive OF in the long half of a platoon – relegate him to PH duties. Obviously this depends on Cashman and Towers finding a prospect package they both agree on and Upton waiving his NTC (for compensation?), but unless you think he actually is a true-talent league-average hitter now, he absolutely represents an upgrade offensively against RHP, and defensively every day.

    • Upton is a different case, since such a move would be as much about the next 10-12 years as it would be about the next 3 months.

      • Certainly such a move would be about the long-term, but that doesn't change the fact that it would he would also be a significant marginal upgrade over Ibanez' offense and defense against RHP and Swisher's defense against LHP.

        • I'm not so sure it would this year. Upton is already struggling at the plate, and adding a league switch to the mix doesn't really bode well for improving that performance down the stretch. That said, you still obviously make that trade off in order to acquire a potentially elite talent.

          • It depends on why he's struggling. If the thumb issue is sapping his power and it's not something that will heal with three weeks of rest, then you would be right. But if it's just random variation, ZiPS ROS has him .280/.364/.469 as opposed to the .248/.304/.429 it sees for Ibanez. And is there really any evidence about the league switch causing performance issues, or is that just a post-hoc narrative that gets tacked on every player who struggles for three weeks after a trade?

          • And for what it's worth, Upton has a career .332/.417/.500 line in Inter-league play. Sure, fluky BABIP and small sample size and all, but if he hasn't struggled with AL pitching in the past, why would we expect him to struggle post-trade?

          • Do the Yankees even have enough to trade for Upton? Remember, he's only one year removed from a near-MVP season at the age of 23. And he has a team-friendly contract. Why the hell is Arizona looking to deal him? I have a feeling they aren't really motivated sellers in this situation.

          • Like I said, it depends on Towers and Cashman agreeing on a prospect package. I do believe the Yankees have the goods in terms of absolute value, just not sure how much it matches up with what Towers wants specifically. Then again, I have no idea what the hell the DBacks are doing with this situation. All I know is that Justin Upton is an available outfielder and I believe he would improve the lineup if the Yankees were able to acquire him.

          • I agree 100% but it seems that Towers wants MLB ready guys now. I can imagine him calling Cashman and asking for Nova. Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

          • The Yankees probably stand a better chance of landing Upton if Arizona trades him during the offseason. Unless of course Towers is one of those guys who’s a big believer in Nunez.

          • Yeah, Towers wants an MLB-ready shortstop too. Nunez!

            In all seriousness, it depends on if Towers wants the entire package to be MLB-ready, if the Yankees can find a team that has prospects more to Towers' liking and can swap upside for closeness, on a whole bunch of factors. Towers does realize that insisting on MLB-ready guys means he won't get prospects that are as good, right?

  3. The Philies will ask for as much as they can get, but will Victorino, as a 2-month rental with no draft picks attached, having a horrible season, at his salary, command any kind of prospect in return? I'm more likely to think a warm body or two plus the whole salary may net Victorino.

    • As Brien pointed out, Victorino has added value because he can play a decent CF. It's not so much what Victorino is worth or what Philly may demand for Victorino, but whether the Yankees may have to bid for his services against another team looking for depth in CF.

      • Right. You look at a team like, say, Cincinnati, for whom Victorino is a clear upgrade even as is, and they could probably be convinced to toss in a C grade prospect or so to get him, which is a bigger price than I would give up if I'm the Yankees. Basically, if I'm Cashman, I offer to take on Victorino's salary and send them one or two longshot prospects and tell Amaro to take it or leave it. Whether that gets it done depends on what everyone else puts on the table.

  4. I don't think NY should be interested in Victorino at this point. NY is rolling, and Jones is getting hot. Ibanez has been decent with the bat and not as much of a disaster in the field as I thought he would be. The improvement would be marginal at best, Girardi would be hard pressed to find enough ABs for Ibanez, Jones and Victorino – no use in upsetting a well balanced apple cart for 2-3 months of meh.

    Upton is different as he could help this year, and replace Swish next (I love Swish but I don't think he'll be back). I wouldn't give up Nova or Hughes to get him though. Would have to go with Nunez and some minor league talent.