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Harrison Bader will fill a hole the Yankees have had for years

Bader will be the best defensive center fielder this team has had in a decade.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Jordan Montgomery trade was genuinely a shocker. In my opinion, he had been one of the most reliable starting pitchers in Major League Baseball since the beginning of 2021. He has command of all his pitches. His upside isn’t sexy, but there is much value to be had in pitcher who can put up 2.5-3.5 WAR with reliability. He was drafted by the team and came up through the minor leagues as a pleasant surprise. He was easy to root for.

All that said, I believe this trade for Harrison Bader was a win for the construction of this team.

I’m going to be honest, I was dumbfounded when it happened, and even more so when it wasn’t followed up by a trade for another starter. However, over the last few days, I’ve reminded myself of this article. For the better part of the last three seasons, it’s been clear the Yankees have needed help up the middle, with both shortstop and center field consistently manned by players less than qualified for the rigors of the positions. While Aaron Judge proved he can be an everyday center fielder, it’s now clear the Yankees didn’t see that as a sustainable option. With the addition of Bader’s elite, and I mean elite, defense in center field, Brian Cashman filled a hole on this team that has persisted for too long.

Let’s be clear here. A healthy Harrison Bader is one of the best, if not the best, defensive center fielder in baseball. The defensive metrics back that up wherever you look, and if you’re not one for the metrics, then the eye test has an even more glowing review. He has a knack for the diving play, routine play, running play, literally anything.

I had previously said months ago that teams as good as this one, and with the resources of this team, should not play below average to replacement level players. There is not a valid reason for it! Waiting to see what you have in players like Aaron Hicks and Isiah Kiner-Falefa is not worth it. To me, it’s clear that Brian Cashman might agree with that. When Bader is healthy and ready to play everyday again, there is no question he will be penciled in for center field every night. He does just about everything better than Hicks except draw walks.

We tend to understate how difficult it is to find viable defensive players at positions like shortstop and center field, so when faced with the opportunity to get one of the best at the price of a pitcher who likely won’t start a playoff game, I see why one would take that deal every time. It’s not even comparable to signing a player like Carlos Correa, who is a great player and defender at a premium position in his own right. The acquisition cost was low, and while Bader won’t appear for another month, or more, the Yankees have the privilege of building their roster for the playoffs.

I know it hurts to lose a player who worked through your system and came up as an above average player, but we have to remember what so many of us have complained about for years, and that is a lack of athleticism on this team, particularly up the middle. When Bader is running around catching every fly ball that comes near him, I don’t think we will mind missing Monty all that much. With a little bit of patience, we will get there.