Challenges mount for Yankees with injuries, gaps, unfulfilled requirements

Rookies Anthony Volpe and Jhony Brito of the New York Yankees at dugout, Yankee Stadium.
Sara Molnick
Friday May 5, 2023

Table of Contents

The New York Yankees’ performance during the first month of the 2023 season belies expectations of repeating the historic triumphs they had in the past. MLB’s most dominant team, which has 27 World Series trophies and countless moments to thrill fans, is a former shadow of itself this year.

Amid tension in the Bronx, the Yankees’ general manager took responsibility for the team’s struggle. However, he pleaded:

 “Don’t count us out, don’t give up on us. We’ve got a good group of people, player-wise, staff-wise, support staff-wise. It’s a championship-caliber operation from that perspective, but we’re not currently flying at the level that we would have expected because we’re missing some really important pieces.”

The Yankees need to make up ground on the Ryas, Orioles, Blue Jays, and perhaps even the Red Sox if they want to win the American League East division again.

The odds are tough for the Yankees

The Yankees have a 17-15 record and are currently dead bottom in their division. The Yankees’ offense has been struggling. They just ended a series against the Cleveland Guardians, though, and came out on top 2-1.

Brian Cashman, the general manager of the Yankees, has a large budget to work. According to Fangraphs, the Yankees have a payroll of $273 million, which is $74 million higher than last year. Compared to them, the Rays have a paltry $77 million and the Orioles have $63 million. The Toronto franchise has $213 million.

The disparity in payrolls is enormous, but the higher-spending team doesn’t necessarily win the division. When compared to the Yankees, the Orioles and Rays are getting a lot more value for their money.

Yankees Aaron Judge slides in to the base
USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Injuries choke, depth absent

Every team has players who get hurt. But the Yankees have taken a lot of bad luck. Injuries played truant last year and they began this season with many top-rated players nourishing their injuries. Here is a list of players who are currently hurt:

  • Aaron Judge– outfielder, hip strain
  • Giancarlo Stanton– outfielder, hamstring strain
  • Josh Donaldson- third baseman, hamstring strain
  • Carlos Rodon-pitcher, back pain (latest)
  • Lou Trivino-pitcher, UCL strain
  • Jonathan Loaisiga-pitcher, elbow surgery
  • Frankie Montas-pitcher, shoulder surgery
  • Tommy Kahnle-pitcher, biceps tendinitis
  • Luis Severino-pitcher, a strained lat
  • Harrison Bader-outfielder, strained oblique, recovered
  • Oswald Peraza-infielder, ankle injury

On May 3, Bader was taken out of the game after a collision with Isiah-Kiner Falefa in the short left. After a successful second-base steal by Peraza, he was forced to exit the game due to an ankle injury.

There aren’t many teams that could bounce back from so many fatalities. Losing Rodon and Severino from the rotation and Judge and Stanton from the lineup have significant, potentially season-altering impacts. Having players become hurt is one thing, but having voids in the lineup that aren’t addressed is another.

Left, 3rd base left open, rotation patched up

The Yankees might struggle even if all of their players were healthy. The Yankees have a massive payroll, but they still have holes to fill. This author believes they could benefit from adding a third baseman. The team needs an outfielder and one opener.

Josh Donaldson, who plays third base, hit .222/.308/.374/.682 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs last year. The Yankees who acquired him in a trade on March 13, 2022, clearly did not get the same player they had sought. He stands at 42 points below his batting average of that time. Donaldson’s early season struggles were notable. He had only two hits, one home run, and one RBI in his first 17 at-bats. Only five games into the season did he play before he went on the Injured List.

Aaron Hicks is in a refreshing mood during the Yankees spring training and after failing to hit against the Phillies on April 4, 2023.

Aaron Hicks, who is 33 years old, has been limited in recent years due to injuries. Hicks hit .216/.330/.313/642 with nine home runs in 384 at-bats last season. He is fast becoming a headache for the team.

The Yankees gave Donaldson and Hicks offseason consideration despite their lack of production and struggles. It appears that Brian Cashman, the team’s general manager, was pleased with the roster he had assembled.

When the Yankees signed left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon to a massive 6-year, $162 million deal this summer, they were aware of his injury history. Rodon was healthy last season, but he still missed significant time for the Chicago White Sox as a starting pitcher due to arm and shoulder issues. There is currently no timetable for Rodon’s return because of his ongoing back and forearm issues.

Right-handed pitcher Frankie Montas had shoulder arthroscopy in February, leaving the Yankees short a starting pitcher heading into spring training. Injuries have forced Luis Severino to spend time on the Injured List before. The Yankees were aware of Severino’s medical history. Having Severino start every game for the entire season was a gamble.

The team did not make any changes to their third base, outfield, or rotation during the offseason or during spring training. It’s growing more challenging to get players from other clubs as the season progresses.

Replacement are not adequate

To what extent have the Yankees been able to substitute their injured players? The outfield and third base are when things really start to heat up. The 34-year-old DJ LeMahieu can play many positions and has done so frequently. Even though LeMahieu has been struggling as of late, he is still a good player and he did have a good start to the season. He did manage a few hits in the most recent series versus Cleveland, though.

But can LeMahieu be the long-term solution at third base?

Left-handed hitters Willie Calhoun and Jake Bauers have seen experience in the outfield. A versatile player, Isiah Kiner-Falefa has spent time in both center and left field. That they are concerned about their outfield depth, particularly in left field, is evident from this. Kiner-Falefa is a talented athlete, but he isn’t someone this writer would want as a backup outfielder. In the outfield, he lacks experience.

Bauers, 27, is a left-handed hitter who made his MLB start with the Tampa Rays in 2018. Since then, he has had a string of bad seasons. He was sent to Cleveland in a trade, and in 423 at-bats for the Indians in 2019, he hit .226. In 2021, he played for Seattle. In 202 at-bats, he hit .220 with two home runs and 13 RBIs. Seattle got rid of him.

jake-bauers-new-york-yankees
Twitter

Bauers was signed by Cincinnati in 2021, but he was never called up to the majors. He signed with the Yankees as a free agent in the month of December. In 1,130 career at-bats, Bauers has a .213 batting average and 28 home homers. He doesn’t strike me as a typical member of the New York Yankees.

On the 3rd of May, Bauer homered against his former Guardians squad. In his time at Triple-A, Bauer slugged nine home runs. Before, Bauers was just an average bench warmer.

The Yankees also have high hopes for outfielder Willie Calhoun, a 28-year-old lefty hitter, who will provide their team with extra power. Two days apart on May 2 and 3, Calhoun blasted two home runs. He has only been in the majors for a short time, but his 34 home runs in 988 at-bats have helped give the Yankees a boost. In January, the Yankees signed Calhoun, who is 5 feet 8 inches tall and 205 pounds heavy.

Willie Calhoun is after hitting his first Yankees home run against the Guardians on May 2, 2023, at Yankee Stadium.
Twitter-NYY

Calhoun has spent portions of seven seasons with the Texas Rangers, during which time he has amassed a .241 batting average. Calhoun excels in a variety of positions. It’s unlikely that he’ll spend much time in the outfield. Unless the Yankees’ injury woes continue to plague them.

The current Yankees rotation consists of right-handed All-Star Gerrit Cole, right-handed Clarke Schmidt, left-handed Nestor Cortes, and right-handed Domingo German and Jhony Brito, who made his major league debut this season.

Clarke has had a hard time and reminds fans that the Yankees have, at best, a sparse rotation to select from.

The bleacher view

The Yankees’ projected starting order, power potential, and starting rotation have all been disrupted by injuries, but that isn’t their only issue. Fans continue to see that there are voids in the starting lineup, at third base, and in left field.

The Yankees have strengthened their roster with versatile new additions, but it remains unclear to me whether or not they will be able to challenge for the AL East crown even with the return of their injured players.

Seven of the Yankees’ next 10 games are against the Rays. They need more than a couple of runs in every game to beat the Rays.

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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