When do you just admit that things aren’t working out? Depending on the situation, it can be very difficult to come to grips with reality. Maybe your relationship with your partner has deteriorated too much, or your stomach just can’t handle three slices of pizza like you used to, or you thought you could fix Franchy Cordero and/or Willie Calhoun and you were just straight up wrong! There are long-term experiments, and there are short-term experiments. Neither of these warrants long-term opportunity.
With the first month of the season over, we have gotten to a point where it’s appropriate to accept that some fun experiments were never sustainable, and it is time for them to come to an end. The acquisition of Franchy Cordero before the season was surprising! I had assumed a combination of Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, and Estevan Florial would dominate most of the extra opportunities that were in the outfield, but Cordero’s entry into the fold with a split contract meant he would get plenty of chances to figure it out as a platoon hitter.
Through 30 plate appearances, he looked like the next coming of Matt Carpenter. He kept swatting clutch home runs and couldn’t be stopped at the plate. After that, well, he was regular ol’ Franchy Cordero. He continued to strike out over 30 percent of the time and hardly made any contact.
Franchy’s swings looked stagnant. When he saw a breaking ball, he either took it because he had no chance to make contact, or he never realized it was a breaking ball. When he did swing, it wasn’t great either, with Cordero currently running a 70.4 percent whiff rate on the 63 breaking balls he has seen. You don’t need a mechanical analysis or in-depth statistics to know that this guy is just not playable at the big-league level. With the return of Harrison Bader today and Cordero’s (second) demotion, it seems like the team is coming to grips with the reality that this isn’t a Matt Carpenter situation. Even with Oswaldo struggling as much as he has, it’s clear his short 2022 track record is significantly more reliable than whatever Cordero brings to the table.
And then there is Willie Calhoun. The 28-year-old’s prospect pedigree and knack for making contact always made him a compelling player! Even as I watch Calhoun navigate some at-bats today, I am still impressed at his ability to battle at the plate. However, he is running a higher strikeout rate than his career mark – indicating there is a further regression of skills from even last year. He hasn’t barreled a single batted ball either, so not only is the bat to ball declining, but the hard contact is as well. It’s unfortunate for him, but the Yankees cannot continue to run out a hitter who isn’t bringing anything to the table. Batting a hitter with a career 82 wRC+ and 37 wRC+ on the season in the middle of the lineup is not good decision-making, even if the team is limited in their choices.
The problem here is that the immediate alternatives aren’t all that appealing either. If the team calls up Estevan Florial and then needs to promptly send him back down when Judge returns, they will lose him. He is out of options and will be able to elect free agency the next time the Yankees attempt to send him down. If I was to guess, the Yankees don’t want to do that, and if they actually had any faith in Florial, they wouldn’t have DFA’d him back on April 1st in the first place. Alternatively, they could give MLB veteran Kole Calhoun a shot. He has always been a solid fielder and may offer better at-bats than what the other two have, though he is only debuting for Scranton tonight after signing a minor league deal on April 20th. Elijah Dunham could be an option, but that would feel like the team is rushing the development of a player who is a top-25 prospect in the organization.
So far, it seems they will take a chance on Jake Bauers’ hot streak. He got his call-up, but injured his knee before going getting a real shot. Luckily, he won’t require an IL stint and will likely seize opportunities when he is back feeling healthy enough to play, but even so, there is no guarantee his minor league hot streak will carry over. With Aaron Judge on the shelf for the next week or so, the team will need to rely on Bauers in some capacity both this week, and as other injuries come in during the season. In my opinion, rolling with a combination of him, the possibly still-rehabbing Bader, Cabrera, and Isiah Kiner-Falefa is better than Calhoun and Cordero getting burn. At least there is some possibility Bauers may be improved.
No matter which way you put it, there isn’t any time left for Franchy and Willie. The other options that are available, even if there aren’t many, are worth giving a shot. After all, they just have to be better than replacement level. Not only is this supposed to be one of the best teams in baseball, but they also have some of the best resources. They must know these two players just aren’t it, and they have to try out other options as they wait for their legitimate core of outfielders to get healthy. On the bright side, Judge won’t be out much longer, but that doesn’t mean the Yankees should accept rolling out guaranteed replacement level hitters.