Ready for the biggest understatement of the year? First base has not been kind for the New York Yankees in 2017. I’ll now accept my job as Pinstripe Alley’s resident Captain Obvious, thank you very much. Back to first base though, the Yankees need some production there desperately.
On what Cooper might bring to the table, Cashman said "The bar has been set very low at that position" this season for the club.— Erik Boland (@eboland11) July 14, 2017
Cooper isn’t seen as a threat to Greg Bird, who Cashman again gave confidence in as the “future” at first base.
Doctors finally figured out what was ailing Bird and he had for surgery on his right ankle. The expected recovery time for Bird is approximately six weeks, which would bring the Yankees right to the beginning of September. While it’s great that he could still come back this year, the Yankees are competing and waiting until September isn’t ideal.
So what can the Yankees do until then? Late Tuesday night, Cashman pulled off a trade that brought David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, and Todd Frazier to the Bronx. The expectation is Frazier will split work at third and first. Chase Headley is also open to moving to first.
hearing only that frazier will play both 3b & 1b, but this seems to be a first, unspoken admission chase headley wasnt quite doing it.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) July 19, 2017
If the Yankees are truly unhappy with Headley, could they could still make a play for a traditional first baseman?
Ryan Chichester recently looked at the Athletics’ organization to see if they could be a match. It’s no surprise that All-Star first baseman Yonder Alonso came up. At the time, Ryan said that Alonso might cost too much, especially since Cashman reiterated his support for Bird, but that was before it was known Bird needed surgery.
Even though Bird has vowed to be back this year, the Yankees are preparing as if Bird will be out the rest of the year. With him being out until September at the very least, should the Yankees try and pry Alonso from Billy Beane’s hands? It would depend on the cost, but he’d be worth taking a chance on as a low-risk/high-reward move.
The biggest point in favor of Alonso is that he wouldn’t block any long-term plans. As Cashman has said again and again, he still views Bird as the first baseman going forward. Alonso is going to be a free agent at the end of the year. He can, in theory, come in and help the Yankees now and the team would still be able to look to Bird for 2018 and beyond. Perfect for a team that’s looking at the future.
Not only would Alonso help the Yankees in the long term, he’d be an asset in the short term. While it is a rebuilding year for the Yankees, they’re surprisingly in the middle of a playoff race. Granted losing 21 of 30 isn’t going to keep them in the race for long, but Alonso could provide some stability to Joe Girardi’s lineup.
Alonso’s broken out this year after five-plus seasons in the majors. He made his first All-Star Game and is currently hitting .267/.365/.553 with 21 home runs and 145 wRC+. His numbers include an extremely strong May when he hit .303/.425/.803 with 10 home runs and 217 wRC+. Though he wouldn’t need to replicate his May numbers to be an actual improvement over anything the Yankees have gotten from first base.
While Alonso’s bat could certainly help the Yankees right now, offense hasn’t been the biggest concern for the Yankees during the recent slump. They’re still scoring for the most part, it’s just they’ve also started giving up runs, especially the bullpen. If the pitching stablize, especially with Robertson back on board and Kahnle in the mix, the Yankees should be competing come September.
If that’s the case and Alonso isn’t around, there could be pressure on Bird to come back quicker in order to help with the playoff push. Having Alonso would allow Bird to properly heal and not rush his rehab. The last thing
anyone most fans want is Bird re-aggravating his injury because of pressure to play before he’s 100% physically.
Acquiring Alonso would depend on the cost. How many contenders need a first baseman would set the market. Because he’s an impending free agent, he shouldn’t cost too much. If there’s a market for first basemen there’s no telling the cost (See: Aroldis Chapman/Gleyber Torres). Billy Beane’s likely to set a hefty price, though he has had some doozies (looking at you, Josh Donaldson-to-Blue-Jays trade).
Before the big White Sox trade, Cashman had already started kicking the tires on a potential trade.
Cashman has leverage right now, because he no longer needs Alonso. He’s still likely interested in Sonny Gray, but Alonso seems like a long shot. He might try and work in a package for the two, but again it all comes back to how much longer they’re willing to put up with Headley and the cost. If Cashman can snag him for a reasonable cost, it wouldn’t be the worst idea.
Plus it’d give me a great excuse to overuse phrases like “not all those who Yonder are lost” and “over Yonder!”
Season statistics provided courtesy of FanGraphs.