A few weeks ago we were trying to figure out how the Yankees would manage the “logjam” in the outfield. It was one of the reasons some people didn’t want the team to sign Bryce Harper. They employ six players who could make a legitimate claim to a major league roster spot in Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier, and Jacoby Ellsbury. Obviously, the case is a bit murkier for the latter two.
Still though, the team’s problem was figuring out how they would manage this many bodies. There’s an old saying, however, that, “these things have a way of figuring themselves out.” Well, they did.
The Yankees intended to have an outfield of Gardner, Hicks, and Judge from left-to-right with Stanton being the primary designated hitter. Meanwhile, Jacoby Ellsbury isn’t expected to play until the Avengers save him from Thanos’ snap, and Clint Frazier was likely ticketed for Triple-A.
Then Hicks got hurt. Putting the pen to the paper on his extension took a lot out of him as within a week of the announcement, Hicks started dealing with back stiffness. He hasn’t played since and was officially ruled out from the Opening Day roster this past weekend. There were a few ideas on how the Yankees could proceed without Hicks, but the most-likely solution was also the simplest — shift Gardner to center, let Stanton play left field, and then let Greg Bird and Luke Voit split the first base/designated hitter duties. Tyler Wade would act as the fourth outfielder.
Letting Wade go north with the team would allow Frazier to play everyday in Triple-A and get up to speed. Then on Wednesday the team got a scare.
Tyler Wade says he felt a little tight coming to the ballpark this morning. Could’ve been the long bus ride down, he thinks. Didn’t get stretched out quite like he needed today. But he’s not worried. Says he just “wanted to be precautionary” with Opening Day so close.— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) March 20, 2019
So much for the logjam. Suddenly, there existed a non-zero possibility that Billy Burns could make the Opening Day roster. Clint Frazier would have been the fourth outfielder in the best-case scenario, but looked way too rusty this spring. Burns, Trey Amburgey, or Matt Lipka could have filled that role. However, none of them are on the 40-man roster.
Fortunately, the Yankees didn’t have to figure that out:
Tyler Wade was checked by the Yankees medical staff in Tampa this morning. He says he has all of his range of motion, and has no concern about being ready for Opening Day.— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) March 21, 2019
Looks like they avoided a problem this time, but things could turn ugly really quickly. The Yankees have been hit with a lot of injuries this year. Hicks, Luis Severino, and Dellin Betances are all going to miss Opening Day. Fortunately the Yankees did collect enough depth that they could withstand some of these injuries, but it’s terrifying that they’re going through all this and the season hasn’t even started yet. They’re one injury away from answering who will be this year’s Shane Robinson.
The Yankees lucked out with Wade being okay, but there’s no guarantee they’re going to come out of this last week the way they are right now. Their depth was always going to be tested, but no one anticipated it being tested this early. Hopefully this is it for now and nothing major comes up. Then again...
Clint Frazier says he’s fine. His day was likely about to end when he came out, he said. He was hit on his calf. https://t.co/3bOED9xove— Coley Harvey (@ColeyHarvey) March 21, 2019
...something could happen any moment now. The Yankees should be prepared to make any decisions they may need to.