On Sunday, Tyler explained how the 2018 Yankees are reverting to 2013-like measures to put a lineup together, thanks to an unfortunate string of injuries and an unshakable dedication to staying beneath the coveted luxury tax. As Tyler said in his post, the Yankees have eschewed external upgrades and instead have tried to frantically plug holes from within. All this because they avoid spending extra money on what they see as a temporary problem.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, and their fans, the problem doesn’t seem so temporary anymore. Aaron Judge went down with a fractured wrist just before the trade deadline, but we immediately heard that he could start taking dry swings within 10 days. That estimated (and probably way too optimistic) recovery time likely played a factor in Brian Cashman not adding an outfield piece before the deadline, and instead going with Shane Robinson.
As the team has learned over the last two weeks, Robinson can’t hit at the major league level. This revelation prompted Aaron Boone’s latest experiment of pushing veteran infielder Neil Walker into the outfield. He will not only hold the fort down until Judge returns, but to also rest Giancarlo Stanton’s tight hamstring.
It’s no use debating the luxury tax issues at this point, or clamor over what outfield upgrade the Yankees could have grabbed at the deadline. It’s safe to say almost anyone would have been an upgrade over Robinson. A waiver trade remains possible, but there hasn’t been a peep from the Yankees in terms of finding another outfielder. So, with the current roster, Walker figures as the best option to play right field. And he should be out there until Judge returns, or Stanton’s hamstring loosens up.
This has nothing to do with Walker’s defensive ability. Sure, he’s an established, versatile infielder who can possibly avoid disaster in the outfield. The move is strictly based on offense. Walker is batting almost .350 with an OPS of .907 since July 24th, just before Judge went down. His only issue at the plate was his struggles from the right side, but the proceeded to smack two homers on Friday night, one from the right side of the plate. Walker is heating up right when the Yankees need him to, and given the offense they have on the shelf right now, he has to be in the lineup, regardless of defensive position.
Who knows, maybe Yankee Stadium’s short right field makes things easier for Walker, giving him less ground to cover. Odds are it will still be an adventure for him, but it beats the alternative of Robinson. It would be nice to get Walker some reps at third while Miguel Andujar addresses his lingering defensive issues, but that would mean losing Andujar’s red hot bat, since Stanton has to DH for the time being. Welcome to the world of navigating through injuries.
Again, it doesn’t have to be this way. There were options available before the deadline, and there are still alternatives available now. Unfortunately, for the time being, it looks like the Yankees want to weather this storm internally. If that’s the case, Walker is your right fielder.