To the dismay of anyone watching the Yankees-Blue Jays game on Saturday afternoon, Billy McKinney crashed against the wall of Rogers Centre and landed on the disabled list. He was just called up to the Yankees, and it was a remarkable story. After a long road from top prospect to near-bust, a hot spring training that pushed him into the outfield conversation. An injury to Aaron Hicks finally put him on the 25-man roster, only to see him quickly jettisoned from it.
What this does highlight, though, is how crucial McKinney became to a club that already had Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Clint Frazier in the equation. I would have gasped if you told me two months ago he would have playing time in the first week, yet here we are.
I was one of the people that advocated the Yankees trade from their outfield depth to snag a pitcher, and I guess Brian Cashman thought the same thing. His offer of Clint Frazier, Chance Adams, and Tyler Wade for Gerrit Cole was not accepted, and I guess it’s a good thing considering Wade is now the de facto backup outfielder. I’m sure Cashman considered this a possibility, and I never really thought about it; I suppose that’s why I’m writing on a blog instead.
It does show how cost-benefit analysis can play out in roster construction. Sometimes being risk averse, or at least not making the wrong moves by chance, can work out when low probability events occur. I guess the issue becomes even more so if another injury were to strike.
The current depth beyond what is already out there is naught, to put it lightly. Estevan Florial remains a long ways off, and I doubt the front office expedites his time table because of need. It’s not how they work. So if their only Triple-A options are Shane Robinson, Junior Soto, and Mark Payton, it means the Yankees have to start looking outside the organization for help.
If we’re being honest with ourselves, would we be shocked if Hicks and Ellsbury missed more time? Both have had injury troubles over the last couple of years, and I wouldn’t in good conscience slot them in for over 100 games started this season. Luckily this is an unusually deep free agent market even into the season, so there are the likes of Melky Cabrera, Seth Smith, and even Jose Bautista if the need arose.
Frankly, that wouldn’t be a disaster. If the Yankees had to rely on one of them on a small, incentives-laden deal, would it be the end of the world? Would they be any worse than a replacement level addition that would require a 40-man addition anyway? I doubt it.
It could not even matter, because if Frazier ends up getting back, I would figure he ends up as the fourth outfielder proper. I would imagine the organization is itching to see what they have in him as Gardner’s contract comes to a close. All of this is to say that baseball is unpredictable as it always is, and the best laid plans of trading an outfielder for even more pitching sounds great on paper, but then this happens and causes you to prefer the universe where you held on to them.
Sure, there’s another universe where the pitching drops like flies instead, but here’s to hoping we don’t head in that direction. For now, at least, Cashman has stocked the team with depth all over the field, and it’s finally coming into play. Let’s see what the kids have.