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It’s time for the Yankees to pay up for up-the-middle talent

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The Yankees are in desperate need of reliable players at shortstop and center field

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If you look around the league, you’ll notice a trend. Almost every single playoff/borderline playoff team this season has good to very good players up the middle of the field at shortstop and center field. Starting with the AL East, you have Xander Bogaerts and Kiké Hernández, Wander Franco and Kevin Kiermaier, then Bo Bichette and George Springer. In the AL Central there is Tim Anderson and Luis Robert.

Going out west, the Astros have Carlos Correa, Jake Meyers, and Chas McCormick. You may not know a lot about McCormick, but he was an above-average hitter in his rookie season and the metrics indicate he can be a great defender. If you include the almost-playoff team in Seattle, you see Jarred Kelenic and J.P. Crawford. Kelenic is a star prospect with a bright future, and Crawford was an average hitter with plus defensive skills.

In the NL West, the options are great too. The Dodgers can run out a mix of several all-star players. They have Trea Turner, Chris Taylor, and Gavin Lux in case Corey Seager isn’t available at SS. Taylor and Lux can both play center too! But they can run the former MVPs in Cody Bellinger and Mookie Betts in center as well.

Their division foes, the San Francisco Giants, have Brandon Crawford and a platoon between Steven Duggar and Austin Slater in center. The Padres didn’t make the playoffs, but they’re an extremely talented team and can run Jake Cronenwroth, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Trent Grisham up the middle.

In the central the Brewers finally acquired a shortstop of the future in Willy Adames. Even their platoon of Lorenzo Cain and Jackie Bradley Jr. will pay off because of the stellar defensive combination. Lastly, there is the combination of Edmundo Sosa and Paul DeJong at shortstop and Harrison Bader in center for St. Louis. At the very least, they deliver great defense.

I apologize for the rant, but all of that was necessary to point out that the Yankees’ title chances with their current situation at shortstop and center field are slim. Yankee fans, analysts, and observers have all consistently pointed out that the team needs to become more athletic and contact oriented. You know what positions those types of players play? You guessed it, center field and shortstop!

Don’t get me wrong, Gleyber Torres is a talented player, but he is obviously not a shortstop in any capacity. Gio Urshela’s days at shortstop should be over too. He doesn’t posses the range to play the position for an extended period of time.

Then there’s the center field situation, left by the consistent void of Aaron Hicks. He’s a fine player, too. There aren’t many switch-hitters with his kind of plate discipline that can also bring an elite arm to the outfield. However, can he really be relied on as a long-term option? The answer is no. His injuries aren’t of the bad luck kind; he appears to have biomechanical issues which will always ail him.

Yeah, he’s locked up through 2025 with a club option for 2026, but he makes $10 million a year. That amount is not a good enough reason to keep the Yankees from pursuing a younger center field option (I hear that, say, Byron Buxton has been on the trade block for years now). A healthy Hicks can play, but he’s aging and unlikely to stay completely intact going forward. The Yankees shouldn’t let his low-AAV, long-term deal keep them from finding an impact center fielder in his prime.

It’s time for Hal Steinbrenner to open up the big purse and acquire good, reliable players. This tweet from Randy Wilkins sums up the situation perfectly:

There comes a time when you don’t need to read in-between the lines and find the next DJ LeMahieu or Aaron Hicks. They don’t need to roll the dice signing and trading for high-risk, high-reward players. They have the resources to just sign straight-up impact contributors. With the Yankees resetting their payroll under the luxury tax, Steinbrenner has no excuse to not go out and upgrade the Yankees’ up-the-middle situation this winter.