The Yankees have assembled one of if not the deepest 40-man roster in Major League Baseball over the last several seasons. Their 40-man depth was repeatedly tested last season as the Yankees suffered injury after injury and still managed to win the 103 games. The coming 2020 season is going to look like nothing we have seen before, with different rivals, schedules and likely a unified rule set. This unified rule set, specifically the universal DH will open up the trade market where the Yankees
The Yankees’ tremendous depth does not come without liabilities. Players like Clint Frazier, and Miguel Andujar and Mike Ford have shown at a minimum they can hit at the major league level, but have defensive limitations.
During his rookie season, Andujar’s 130 wRC+ was negated in some ways by his absolutely terrible -21 Defensive Runs Saved. Frazier’s struggles in the outfield are well known by Yankees fans, and were the stated reason that he was demoted to the minor leagues in 2019 despite posting a 117 wRC+.
Ford’s defense was not a glaring weakness like Andujar at third base and Frazier in the outfield, but he is limited to first base when in the field. First base is a position where the Yankees have solid depth at the major league level with Luke Voit, and DJ LeMahieu.
Rumors of a switch to a universal designated hitter for both leagues have been out there for several years. Many times those rumors focused on the position becoming a negotiating point for the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement.
With temporary realignment proposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a universal DH will likely be a reality in 2020 if there is a season. This trial run could easily become permanent. With this in mind, National League teams that have built their roster without a plan for a Designated Hitter may be willing to bring in another bat even if it comes with limited defensive value.
The Yankees are in a position to take advantage of this potential need for National League teams. Players like Frazier and Andujar both had a chance to break the opening day lineup for the Yankees due to injuries to Giancarlo Staton, Aaron Judge, and Aaron Hicks. It is now likely that two or even three of those players will be ready for a July opening day.
The lesson of 2019 is that the Yankees should not be too anxious to trade their depth, but they can also utilize that depth to improve the team. ESPN’s Buster Olney reported earlier this week that at least one front office had been instructed to lower payroll, especially for the 2021 season. While the report did not specify the team, at least one team in the Miami Marlins is preparing to furlough much of their baseball operations staff in a cost savings move.
If baseball comes to an agreement with the MLBPA, and front offices open for business the trade rumors could come fast and furious. Contending National League teams could be looking for another big bat to fill the DH roll. Other teams may be looking to slash payroll, but place a higher value on a player who may need to play DH on a regular basis. With multiple years of team control, players like Andujar, Frazier and Ford all have a chance to be attractive trade pieces for the Yankees.
I am in no ways advocating for the Yankees to give any of these players away for the sake of it. The initial proposal to the MLBPA reportedly leaves room for an expanded roster that could easily be filled by the names mentioned. The Yankees also know that they will not have Luis Severino for this season, and a trade that was not feasible in March might be on the table in June or early July.
The Yankees have major league level bats that National League teams could be looking for as they transition to a having a DH on the roster. With half the league potentially in the market for a position they have not had to fill, before the market value for players with big bats and limited gloves just went up. Throw into the mix that some of those same teams will be looking to shed salary, and the trade market could be opening in an advantageous way for the Yankees.