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Since Didi Gregorius can't hit lefties, the Yankees need to get serious about a platoon

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Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

After an ugly start to the season where he hit .206/.261/.238 in the month of April, Didi Gregorius has turned things around in May and June to be an actual commodity for the Yankees instead of a liability. Unfortunately, while his game against right-handed pitching has been among the best in the league–an 81 wRC+ ranks him 11th on the list of qualified shortstops–he's one of the worst shortstops against lefties. Of the 26 shortstops who have at least 50 plate appearances against left-handed pitching, Didi ranks 25th with a 36 wRC+. In fact, between 2014 and 2015, he actually ranks as the absolute worst shortstop against lefties with at least 100 plate appearances against them. That's bad and it's a problem.

After acquiring him in the offseason, Brian Cashman addressed Didi's issues against lefties by declaring him a platoon bat:

He's a young athletic shortstop and his defense is very good. He's struggled against left-handed pitching and we believe he hits right-handed pitching well, so I think at the very least, we open up 2015 with him in a platoon with Brendan Ryan until he separates himself. So, the high end projection is that we think there's more in the tank there as he continues to develop. We think he's an exciting talent, but honestly he's not a finished product.

At the time, a platoon between Didi Gregorius and Brendan Ryan sounded so bad that it had to be misdirection. He's just 25 years old, they had to let him try to improve before they limited his playing time–especially in favor of Brendan Ryan–right? Later on Joe Girardi had something very different to say during spring training:

"I'm just going to play him," Girardi said, squashing any initial ideas of a platoon at shortstop. "You let him face lefties."

Two very different ideas on how to handle him, but when the season started, he was sat when the Yankees faced Wade Miley, and Kyle Lobstein, and Jon Niese. They were platooning him. Meanwhile, in place of the injured Brendan Ryan, Gregorio Petit hit an ugly .192/.267/.308, essentially turning the Didi Gregorius platoon into an even worse player than he already looked to be. It doesn't seem like Gregorius will be getting the chance to hit left-handed pitching any time soon now that Petit and Jose Pirela are both on the active roster. They're also in a tight division race too, so there's no time to really give him a chance.

Overall, Yankees shortstops have a 63 wRC+ against lefties–that's no. 25 out of 30 teams and that's unacceptable. Regardless of what the future holds for Gregorius, the Yankees need to get serious about a shortstop platoon for the remainder of the season. They need another infielder, one who can hit lefties, since Stephen Drew can't hit them either. Brendan Ryan is hurt. Again. Gregorio Petit is just not a very good option, so that leaves the Yankees with either Jose Pirela or–gasp–Rob Refsnyder. The Yankees aren't willing to commit to Refsnyder even with this predicament, so it's hard to count on him at all at this point. Essentially, they either need to give Jose Pirela a shot or they have to look externally.

The Yankees have said that they are disappointed in Pirela's .255/.283/.373 batting line in only 53 plate appearances, but have they missed the part where he's batted .391/.440/.609 against lefties this year? Yes, that's in only 25 plate appearances, but if they're going to judge him over such a small sample size then I can too, right? Pirela is never going to be anything more than a role player, but here we go: This is his role. Let him hit against lefties and give Gregorius the day off and see how things go. Pirela is a second baseman, but then that's where the versatility of Drew comes into play as you can shift him to short when the team faces a southpaw.

The alternative is going to be pricey for the Yankees. They could go out and grab Clint Barmes from the Padres as they prepare to sell this summer. Barmes has hit .320/.370/.520 against lefties this year and is owed only $1.3 million this season with a $2 million team option for 2016 that can always be declined. There's also Mike Aviles–owed $3.5 million in 2015–who the Yankees could easily pry from the struggling Indians. Aviles is one of those "he's a baseball player" types, but he's in the middle of his best offensive season (league average!) in years and he's doing it against lefties and righties. The most expensive option after those two would be Erick Aybar, who is owed $8.5 million this year and in 2016 as well. He's having a pretty bad season, but he's been hitting lefties well at a .323/.344/.371 clip.

There really aren't many clear upgrades to be made at the trade deadline for position players. Ian Desmond is having an incredibly bad walk year and three months of Ben Zobrist might be too expensive for the Yankees to make a move on. The best the Yankees can hope for are incremental upgrades when it comes to adding a bat, but they need to exhaust their internal options first. Jose Pirela might be their best bet right now. Stop yanking him around. They can reassess Didi Gregorius and the shortstop position in the offseason, but if they're going to have a platoon, they need to go all-in and actually create a viable platoon, not just throw anyone in there who has a right-handed bat.