I’m not here to argue that the Yankees acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion was a bad move. By acquiring the American League home run leader, the Yankees not only added a potent bat to their lineup, they also kept him away from a division rival in Tampa Bay. Encarnacion is an elite hitter, a great clubhouse veteran, and adds tremendous depth to an already deep lineup. However, with almost any deal, there are some potential negative effects to consider.
Encarnacion’s presence on the Yankees roster has a trickle down affect on almost everyone, but especially impacts Luke Voit, Giancarlo Stanton, and D.J. LeMahieu. Encarnacion, at age 36, is really only capable of playing first base or serving as the designated hitter. That means he’ll alternate with Luke Voit in the field and at DH. Voit has performed noticeably better as the DH this season, posting an .825 OPS in 46 games as the first baseman and a 1.006 OPS in 21 games as DH. Stanton has similarly thrived as a DH for the Yankees. Last season he registered a .942 OPS in 86 games as DH and an .849 OPS as a left fielder, where he’ll see most of his time moving forward.
The addition of Encarnacion also takes away much of the Yankees’ ability to use the DH spot to combat Stanton’s injuries, like they did last season when he was nursing a hamstring injury for much of the second half. With injuries to his calf, shoulder, and bicep already in 2019, Stanton might benefit from more DH bats than are projected to be available if Boone insists on getting Voit and Encarnacion on his lineup card. LeMahieu stands to be impacted by the addition of Encarnacion, because the plan was to squeeze him into the lineup every day by alternating between first, second, and third base. His first base appearances are likely out the window, making him more of an everyday third baseman, the only position where he might be a defensive downgrade for the Yankees.
Clint Frazier fallout
Frustration likely doesn’t begin to describe Frazier’s feelings about his recent demotion to Triple-A. The outfielder has maintained that he wants to be a Yankee, but there’s only so many times you can get bypassed on the roster before a trade request is made. The Yankees can use Frazier as trade bait as they look to upgrade their pitching, but his status as excess depth takes a bit of the Yankees’ leverage away. Frazier showed enough this season to have significant trade value, and he’s still great insurance in case of injuries, but Frazier (and his agent) could become disgruntled if he’s stashed in Triple-A for an extended stretch.
Less speed on the base paths
The Yankees are just below league average with 30 stolen bases this season (16th in MLB), after ranking 25th in MLB last season. Two-thirds of the Yankees’ 30 steals this season have come from players that won’t be in the Yankees everyday lineup with Stanton, Judge, and Encarnacion in the mix. Players like Cameron Maybin, Tyler Wade, Brett Gardner, and even Clint Frazier have brought an element of speed that the Yankees are trading for even more raw power. There’s something to be said for putting pressure on the defense and creating your own luck with speed on the base paths, but that element is old news for the time being. Gleyber Torres and LeMahieu lead the Yankees’ projected regulars with only three stolen bases each this season.
The Yankees jumped at the opportunity to acquire a bonafide slugger without giving up top tier prospects, and they’ll likely be happy they did. That doesn’t mean there won’t be some negative implications as they integrate Encarnacion into a lineup that’s quickly taking its shape for a second half playoff run.