The Yankees had a busy waiver trade deadline day, as they scooped up Andrew McCutchen from the Giants to shore up the outfield and later snagged shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from the Pirates. While McCutchen’s fit is more obvious, Hechavarria was a more niche pickup. Though the Yankees have an opening in the infield due to Didi Gregorius’ injury, he is expected to return soon, so Hechavarria is a bit of a wild card.
Still, Hechavarria can help the Yankees in a couple of different ways, chiefly in the defensive department. The Yankees have struggled on defense this year, especially when compared to other AL contenders. The infield defense in particular has been particularly shoddy, as Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar have committed 30 errors combined. No other member of the team has more than five!
This is where Hechavarria comes in. Although he is a light hitter, Hechavarria is a true defensive ace. Among shortstops over the last three years, Hechavarria has the fifth-most defensive runs saved. He also has a strong and accurate throwing arm; he’s made just two throwing errors over the last two years.
Hechavarria’s greatest trait though, is his range. Inside Edge classifies all defensive plays by the level of difficulty for the fielder, ranging from routine, likely, even, unlikely, remote and impossible. Take a look at this chart and you’ll see that Hechavarria has consistently made high-difficulty plays look easy over his entire career.
Hechavarria is definitely a plus in the field. He can take a few turns at shortstop while Gregorius rehabs, but he should still have a role even when Didi returns. While Hechavarria has played almost 97 percent of his MLB innings at shortstop, Aaron Boone can use Hechavarria as a late-game defensive replacement for Torres or Andujar. He is an optimal short-term fix to help improve the team defense, and allows Gregorius to take his time to heal.
While Hechavarria is a stellar defensive player, he doesn’t come anywhere close to Gregorius with the bat. In fact, Hechavarria is more comparable offensively to a Ronald Torreyes type – he doesn’t strike out, doesn’t walk much, and has an aggressive approach. He also hits to all fields and rarely makes soft contact. Hechavarria puts the ball in play in most of his plate appearances, which is definitely a lost art in the days of the “three true outcomes” hitters.
Still, don’t expect too much out of Hechavarria offensively. His 2018 OBP is just one point less than his BABIP, which indicates that Hechavarria doesn’t have good plate discipline. He is an average baserunner, and has no power (career .345 slugging). The Yankees didn’t invest in Hechavarria for his bat.
The Yankees gave up a player to be named later to acquire Hechavarria for one month. He’s 29 and could be brought back next year as a utility infielder, but in all likelihood, some other team will be in a better position to give Hechavarria at-bats at shortstop in 2019. With this minor trade, the Yankees acquired a player who helps on defense while giving up very little. Hechavarria wasn’t nearly as impactful an acquisition as McCutchen, but he still stands to provide some big league value to the Yankees down the stretch.