Shortly after the Yankees saw their season end at the hands of the rival Red Sox came even more heartbreaking news. Infield captain Didi Gregorius suffered an injury to his throwing elbow during the Division Series in Boston, and would require Tommy John surgery to repair it.
The surgery performed by Dr. David Altchek on October 17th “went as expected,” the team announced afterwards. General Manager Brian Cashman told Michael Kay in an interview on ESPN New York that Gregorius should return to action between June and August of the 2019 season.
Going without Gregorius for that amount of time represents a tremendous blow to the Bombers. The star received MVP votes each of the last two seasons, and anyone who watches the Yankees on a daily basis knows why.
The 28-year-old is a team leader who anchored a young and inexperienced infield last season. The left-handed hitter also carried a mighty bat for the Yankees, mostly batting third in a loaded lineup.
Cashman got busy this winter, signing both Troy Tulowitzki and DJ LeMahieu to shore up the depleted infield. LeMahieu is a three-time Gold Glove Award-winning second baseman, but hasn’t hit well away from Coors Field, while Tulowitzki hasn’t played since 2017 due to injuries. It would be surprising if either (or both) are able to match Didi’s 4.3 oWAR from 2018.
The Yankees have another option, though. They could slot Gregorius in at designated hitter, possibly beginning on Opening Day. That’s what the Angels plan to do with two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, who also suffered an injury to his throwing elbow and underwent Tommy John surgery in October.
Recovery time from the operation before a player can begin hitting is much shorter than what is required to resume throwing. According to surgeons familiar with the procedure, a player could start batting practice about three months after the surgery, and hitting is not considered perilous for a UCL.
There are pros and cons for the Yankees to consider. Putting Didi in the lineup at DH every day would mean playing Giancarlo Stanton — along with Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks — in the outfield. Stanton would likely play left field, where he has limited experience.
This would shift Brett Gardner — who has a reputation for being a stellar defender in left — to a bench role. He produced 0.9 dWAR and 10 DRS in 2018, and 2.9 dWAR and 20 DRS the year before. Stanton, meanwhile, compiled -0.4 dWAR and 5 DRS last year, and 0.4 dWAR and 10 DRS (in right field) in 2017.
Gardner produced only 1.6 oWAR in 2018, so the Yankees would have to weigh whether the weakened defensive alignment without him in the outfield is a price worth paying to enjoy Didi’s superior bat in the lineup. Remember, though, the Yankees acquired Andrew McCutchen via trade last year for the stretch run and postseason, in part, due to Gardy’s diminished production.
I’m an “offense first” guy, so I’d rather have Didi’s bat in the lineup every day, and use Gardner as a fourth outfielder and late-game defensive replacement. I also like the power that Gregorius brings to the plate. Without him in the lineup, the Yankees will really miss a player who slugged 27 homers and drove in 86 runs last season.
What do you think? Should the Yankees DH Gregorius every day, play Stanton in left, and push Gardy to the bench? Let us know in the comments section below.