As I’ve written already this month in regards to bullpen strategy, the postseason has a habit of exposing glaring weaknesses. Sure, certain teams win the World Series in spite of their flaws. Yet, most teams do lose, and while you don’t want to overreact to a limited sample, small weaknesses can often be amplified when playing the best of the best.
One of those weaknesses is certainly at the designated hitter spot. While Matt Holliday finally got his first start of the postseason against left-hander Dallas Keuchel, the position has generally been a mix of Chase Headley and Jacoby Ellsbury. Those two players don’t fit the mold of a designated slugger.
Holliday did not get a hit, nor did Headley or Ellsbury out of the spot. In fact, they are hitless in the postseason overall, a designated hitter postseason hitless streak that extends to Game Three of the 2012 ALCS. While one could consider this a total coincidence—Ellsbury and Headley have hit at intermittent times throughout the season while Holliday totally faded down the stretch—it does highlight they do have a weakness at the position writ large.
The Yankees have put up just 0.6 fWAR at the designated hitter spot this season, which is 15th in baseball. No other AL playoff team is lower on that list. They hit a measly .239/.321/.443 (101 wRC+) with just 21 home runs. In the juiced ball era, this is pretty low.
The solutions, in an immediate sense, are null. The Yankees are stuck with the squad they have; I have some qualms about putting Holliday on the roster at all if he’s nearly unplayable, but it seems they don’t have many options. When it comes to the future, though, they have plenty of variables to play with.
Clint Frazier could find his way on to the roster. Barring an outfielder trade, Frazier, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Aaron Judge, and Ellsbury could all share time in the outfield and rotate out of designated hitter. Before Carlos Beltran was the de facto designated hitter, the position was a rotating half-day-off that Joe Girardi liked to deploy. Miguel Andujar could also play in the mix, as could Headley with Gleyber Torres on his way.
There are also external options. I doubt the Yankees make a massive splash this winter considering their luxury tax quest before 2019, but there are a few players available who might be worth a look: Yonder Alonso, Logan Morrison, JD Martinez, and Carlos Santana are all possibilities, with Martinez being the most expensive one.
While they would come with a price and a lack of positional flexibility, they would provide the biggest pop, something the Yankees sorely missed after Holliday fell apart. If there’s one thing the Bombers should keep in mind as they look to improve next year, regardless of this year’s playoff outcome, is that one more powerful bat could make an already imposing lineup terrifying.