After the 2014 season, the Yankees acquired shortstop Didi Gregorius for pitcher Shane Greene to replace the retiring Derek Jeter. After losing Robinson Cano to free agency after the 2013 season, the Yankees used eleven different second basemen in 2014 and 2015 before trading for Starlin Castro from the Chicago Cubs for pitcher Adam Warren and infielder Brendan Ryan. The current season is the first one since 2012 where the Yankees middle infield has had stability because Castro and Gregorius have been healthy and are playing nearly all of their respective positions’ innings. How has the Yankees middle infield performed so far this season in comparison to the rest of the American League East? Here is a list of the second basemen and shortstops who are most likely to start for each team in the division for the rest of the season.
New York Yankees
Starlin Castro, 2B, Age: 26
WAR: -0.1, 87 wRC+, -12.2 UZR/150
Contract: $7.8 million this season, $32.5 million over the next three seasons
Didi Gregorius, SS, Age: 26
WAR: 0.7, 92 wRC+, -5.8 UZR/150
Contract: $650,500 this season, second year of arbitration eligibility next season
Boston Red Sox
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Age: 32
WAR: 2.1, 122 wRC+, 13.1 UZR/150
Contract: $13.1 million this season, $71.6 million over the next five season with $18 million deferred to 2021-2028
Xander Bogaerts*, SS, Age: 23
WAR: 3.9, 144 wRC+, 12.9 UZR/150
Contract: $650,500 this season, first year of arbitration eligibility next season
*Bogaerts leads the majors in WAR among batters according to FanGraphs and is a true MVP candidate.
Toronto Blue Jays
Devon Travis, 2B, Age: 25
WAR: 0.1, 52 wRC+, 17.4 UZR/150
Contract: $511,00 this season, first year of arbitration eligibility in 2018
Troy Tulowitzki*, SS, Age: 31
WAR: 0.1, 79 wRC+, -2.7 UZR/150
Contract: $20 million this season, $74 million between 2017-2020
*Tulowitzki was activated yesterday after being out since May 27th. In his place, the Blue Jays have gotten good value out of 30 year old Darwin Barney with 0.9 WAR.
Jonathan Schoop, 2B, Age: 24
WAR: 0.6, 97 wRC+, -1.9 UZR/150
Contract: $522,500 this season, first year of arbitration eligibility next season
Manny Machado*, SS, Age: 23
WAR: 3.6, 155 wRC+, 1.3 UZR/150
Contract: $5 million this season, first year of arbitration eligibility next season
*Machado was a top defensive third baseman in recent seasons. His poor defensive statistics so far this season are probably due to a small sample size.
Tampa Bay Rays
Logan Forsythe, 2B, Age: 29
WAR: 1.5, 143 wRC+, -4.3 UZR/150
Contract: $2.25 million this season, $7 million next season and a 2018 club option
Brad Miller, SS, Age: 26
WAR: -0.1, 94 wRC+, -36.9 UZR/150
Contract: $527,600 this season, first year of arbitration eligibility next season
Going off WAR alone, the Yankees have had arguably the worst middle infield in the AL East this season. There are still plenty of games left this season though, and the Yankees have to be happy that they’ve moved past the revolving door that was second base in 2014 and 2015. Gregorius and Castro are still young and neither have mega contracts like Tulowitzki or Pedroia, which really helps keep the roster flexible in the future. In other words, both Gregorius and Castro would be relatively easy to trade if the Yankees happen to acquire or develop a middle infielder who deserves the bulk of the innings.
Lastly, the Yankees gave up Brendan Ryan, Adam Warren, and Shane Greene to acquire their current middle infield. These low risk trades already appear to be shrewd moves by Brian Cashman. Personally, I was surprised to see how poorly Gregorius and Castro have performed, statistically speaking, relative to the rest of the division. It’s possible that after several seasons of instability in the middle of the infield, Yankees fans were primed to expect so little that this season seems more productive than it actually is. In particular, their defensive ratings are well below what they were expected to be. Hopefully, Gregorius and Castro start playing better defense soon and help the Yankees reach the postseason.