The New York Yankees just added another big bat in Edwin Encarnacion, but what is their next move following the trade?
Yesterday, per multiple sources, the Yankees acquired Seattle Mariners slugger Edwin Encarnacion for minor league pitcher Juan Then. To put that in layman’s terms, Cashman acquired Encarnacion and his American League-leading 21 home runs for pennies on the dollar. Talk about a con which puts The Sting to shame!
Coley Harvey of ESPN has since said Encarnacion will serve as the Yankees’ primary DH while also spending time at first base. However, some questions still remain.
Edwin Encarnación will becomes the Yankees’ primary DH, Aaron Boone says. Adds that Encarnación is “capable” of playing first, too. On Brett Gardner’s role once the OF gets healthier with Giancarlo Stanton & Aaron Judge’s forthcoming additions: “still expect Gardy to play a lot.”
— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) June 16, 2019
New York still needs to add a pitcher ahead of the July 31 deadline, so which players are on the chopping block? Moreover, what does this mean for the crowded outfield once Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton return from injuries this week?
Long story short, what is the Yankees’ long-term plan in trading for Edwin Encarnacion, who didn’t even seem to be on their radar at all? The endgame is coming, and even Doctor Strange would have problems figuring it out. There are so many reasons the Yankees could have made this trade, so determining the next move is tough.
Thus, let’s explore a few paths for what the trade’s aftermath could bring next.
Out of town goes Frazier
This is an outcome which would make some Yankees fans very sad. Clint Frazier has done great work filling in for the injured Judge and Stanton this season, at least from a hitting standpoint. He is batting .285 with 11 home runs and 34 RBI in 204 plate appearances and has showcased a knack for spreading the ball around the field.
The problem, however, is Frazier’s defense. He has a defensive runs saved (DRS) of -6 this year and has missed some easy catches, resulting in three errors. Frazier also didn’t win any new friends when, after a particularly bad game earlier this month, he refused to speak with the media about it.
Frazier did address the media a day later but still came off as combative. No further drama has happened since then, but it wasn’t a good look then or now.
That said, Frazier is probably going to see a drop in at-bats once Judge and Stanton return. On top of that, his defense is still suspect enough he can’t be trusted as the fourth outfielder.
What Frazier can be trusted as, however, is a viable trade chip. His bat is strong and he’s still just 24 years old. It also helps he won’t be arbitration eligible until 2021. That said, with top arms in Madison Bumgarner and Max Scherzer potentially being available, offering Frazier would give the Yankees an advantage in negotiations.
Such a trade isn’t what some of the fans may want, but Encarnacion’s presence means Stanton becomes an everyday outfielder. That makes Frazier a spare part and if dealing him for an arm means being stronger in October, so be it.
Brett Gardner may not be a Hall of Famer but is still important to this young Yankees team. The veteran outfielder plays great defense in left field and ranks 16th in MLB with 4.21 pitchers per plate appearance. For a quality at-bat, look no further than him.
There’s just one problem. Gardner turns 36 in August and has posted a mediocre line of .226/.306/.446. He can still get on base and has 11 homers with 27 RBI, but his bat isn’t what it used to be. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is only .223, so bad luck isn’t a factor.
Gardner’s line drive rate (LD%) has also continued to plummet, sitting at 12.3% on the year compared to 17.9% last year and 22.3% in 2017. Gardner’s career LD% is at 20.1%, so his bat speed is clearly abandoning him.
Manager Aaron Boone, as Harvey reported, plans to play Gardner “a lot,” but how? Save for giving Judge, Stanton, or Aaron Hicks days off throughout the week, when does he play? He also has 10-and-5 rights and can’t be traded without approving a deal.
Simply put, the Yankees already had a crowded outfield before Edwin Encarnacion. Now that he’s in pinstripes, the team must actually address the issue. Unfortunately, that could mean unloading a lifelong Yankee and great team leader in Brett Gardner.
Building a strength
Or, the Edwin Encarnacion could simply mean one simple truth: building up an already dangerous lineup. New York’s power will already receive a boost with Judge and Stanton coming back. What if the endgame is just to give them some extra protection in the lineup? After all, 21 home runs aside, Encarnacion also has a solid line of .241/.356/.531.
It’s also worth noting Encarnacion is also a .263 career hitter at Yankee Stadium with 18 home runs. Cracking under the pressure of a fiery Bronx crowd isn’t in the cards for the 36-year-old.
Not only that, but let’s go back to Clint Frazier. Sure, he has his issues, but who’s to say Cashman won’t tell potential trade partners he isn’t available? This is the same man who acquired Sonny Gray for two prospects who were out with season-ending injuries. He could just as easily fleece the San Francisco Giants in a deal for Bumgarner, or the Washington Nationals in one for Scherzer.
All in all, the Yankees’ next move is probably adding a pitcher. Luis Severino isn’t expected back from his shoulder injury for another month. Domingo German’s timetable from a hip strain isn’t fully established. Neither CC Sabathia nor J.A. Happ can be trusted to be consistent.
Just the same, standing pat and banking on the staff righting itself could easily be Cashman’s endgame. In fact, with reports saying the team is “lukewarm” on Bumgarner, it seems even more likely.
That means Edwin Encarnacion is in New York for one reason: enhance an already powerful lineup. In October, it could make a world of difference.
Simply put, the Yankees’ Edwin Encarnacion endgame can be summed up in three small words.
Win it all.