The Yankee outfield has given fans a lot to cheer about this season. With injuries to Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron Judge, players like Mike Tauchman, Clint Frazier, Brett Gardner, and Cameron Maybin have all stepped up and contributed to wins. While their contributions are well documented, the Yankees will get back to full strength at some point (even if it’s in the offseason) and they’ll have a lot of decisions to make as they prepare the 2020 roster.
Hicks signed a seven-year $70 million contract that will take him through the 2025 season, so he’s likely cemented as the Yankees center fielder for the next three or four seasons at least. It’s hard to imagine the Yankees allowing Judge to reach free agency in 2023, and Stanton is under contract until at least 2027. That leaves the Yankees with one open spot for a fourth outfielder and a handful of options in house. You could make the argument that Frazier is a DH candidate, but the return of Miguel Andujar next season, in addition to Gio Urshela’s breakout 2019, could take that spot away from him.
The Yankees will surely take Estevan Florial’s growth into some consideration as well. Their top position player prospect has struggled after his return from a fractured wrist, but a late season surge and a strong spring could vault him into roster consideration at 23 years of age.
So what decisions do the Yankees have to make this offseason? First, they need to decide how valuable Brett Gardner is as a clubhouse leader and fourth outfielder. The longest-tenured Yankee has somewhat quietly put together one of his stronger seasons. He owns a career-best .473 slugging percentage and his highest wRC+ since 2014. It’s not hard to imagine the Yankees bringing Gardner back on a one-year deal, but what happens to Clint Frazier in that situation? Frazier undoubtedly possesses more offensive upside than Gardner–as evidenced by his .843 OPS this season–but he has work to do defensively and he doesn’t have Gardner’s vast experience going for him. If the Yankees can’t live without Gardner next season, they’ll have to at least consider dealing Frazier in the offseason.
There’s no denying Tauchman and Maybin have been clutch contributors to the Yankees this season, but they’re fighting an uphill battle to factor into the 2019 roster. If Tauchman continues to tear the cover off the ball and play solid defense, he could become the Yankees preferred fourth outfielder and they could part ways with Gardner. The 28-year-old left-hander is out of minor league options so the Yankees have to decide if he’s a part of their future plans, or if he could be trade bait after boosting his value in New York. He’s under team control for another five seasons and he’s been a tremendous find for the Yankees since being traded over from Colorado on March 23rd.
Maybin is currently tied with Tauchman for 27th in MLB with a 137 wRC+, putting them in the same offensive category as players like Juan Soto and Kris Bryant. The Yankees have managed to turn two depth pieces into well-above average MLB players in the absence of their stars, and that’s a huge reason they’re in first place. Maybin would appear to be the most obvious odd man out looking forward to 2020, but Aaron Boone has called him one of their greatest leaders and his teammates rave about his contributions. He’s having the best season of his career at age 32 and he loves being in the pinstripes, but he’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season and his performance could lead him to seek more playing time or money elsewhere.
The bottom line is, the Yankees have more productive outfielders on their roster than they can possibly employ to begin the 2020 MLB season. Constructing the 2019 playoff roster might even become difficult, assuming Stanton successfully returns from the injured list. There will be plenty of creative roster maneuvering this offseason, and it will be interesting to see what conclusions the front office ultimately reaches.