American League MVP runner-up Aaron Judge has been sidelined with a broken wrist since July 27th. To that point, he led the Yankees in practically every offensive category. While his team-leading 26 homers, 61 RBI, and 76 runs scored has since been eclipsed, Judge’s .398 on-base percentage, .548 slugging average, and .947 OPS still paces the club by a wide margin. With no current timetable for him to return, New York has struggled to fill the void.
The situation has been aggravated by Giancarlo Stanton’s nagging hamstring injury. Although Stanton has been DH’ing — and hitting up a storm — his inability to play in the field has forced the Yankees to go with other options.
Journeyman Shane Robinson has appeared in 15 games for New York since Judge went on the disabled list, including 11 starts, mostly in right field. He’s just 4-for-36 on the year, and carries an abysmal .114/.205/.200 slash line. His .405 OPS is the seventh worst in baseball among all non-pitchers who have had as many plate appearances (41). The right-handed hitting Robinson has no hits and only one walk in 14 plate appearances against lefties, good for an .071 OPS.
Neil Walker has also gotten some reps in right field, playing out of position, in Judge’s absence. The switch-hitting Walker has a respectable .321 on-base percentage against righties, but has slashed only .169/.222/.254 against southpaws.
This mismatched right-field platoon has mostly been a black hole in the Yankees lineup. Meanwhile, the August 31st trade-deadline for postseason eligibility is rapidly approaching. A number of players who could provide the Yankees with help in the outfield have already cleared waivers, which means they can be traded to any team. Here are a few outfield options:
Curtis Granderson cleared waivers on Tuesday. The left-handed hitting former Yankee has slashed .249/.347/.446 with a .793 OPS against righties for Toronto this season, while slashing .143/.280/.238 versus lefties. The 37-year-old Granderson carries a team-friendly $5 million contract and will be a free agent following this season.
Adam Jones also cleared waivers, and was subsequently offered by the Orioles to the Yankees. Jon Heyman of Fancred reports that Baltimore was rebuffed because the Yankees are counting on Judge’s return, and are concerned because they are only a few million dollars below the $197-million luxury tax threshold.
Jones has slashed .285/.317/.438 with 13 homers and 49 RBIs, and boasts very respectable platoon splits. As a 10-and-5 player, Jones has the power to veto any trade. He reportedly already exercised that right to nix a trade to Philadelphia. Jones is making $17.3 million this year and will be a free agent after the season.
The Orioles released veteran infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia last week. He has a long history of success against left-handed pitching, and slashed .303/.368/.505 with six homers and 15 RBIs in only 109 at-bats versus southpaws this season. Valencia is earning only $1.2 million this year, and since he was already released by Baltimore, the Yankees would only be on the hook for a pro-rated share of the major-league minimum if they sign him.
Other options may appear soon. Washington reportedly placed Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy on waivers Saturday. Although Harper has produced a 2018 campaign dwarfed by his MVP season, he has slashed .248/.383/.514 with 30 homers and 79 RBIs. Murphy, meanwhile is hitting .305/.347/.449. Both players carry hefty salaries, which could represent a significant obstacle for the Yankees.
While none of these players can be expected to produce like Judge (except maybe Harper), each represents an upgrade over New York’s current internal options. The Yankees expect Judge to return in September, so the August 31st deadline for postseason eligibility may not be a critical factor at this point. However, the team is locked in battle to determine playoff seeding, and every game counts. As recent losses to the Mets and Rays taught us, the Bombers could really use the help on offense.