Spring Cleaning: What’s Wrong with the Yankees?

It's an illness rather than an injury that has another starting Yankee out

The Yankees are without their starting left fielder, center fielder, right fielder, No. 2 starter and No. 3 starter, and now you can add starting catcher to that list. Gary Sanchez tested positive for the flu, and now he’s also out. When will the injuries (and now illnesses) end? I’m really asking. When will it end?

Here are 10 thoughts on the Yankees as usual.

1. The Yankees’ mishandling of injuries is an embarrassment. Right now, the team will start the season without their entire starting outfield and No. 2 and 3 starting pitcher, and they won’t get their No. 2 starter back until 2021. The injuries to Luis Severino, James Paxton and Aaron Judge were all sustained last season and went untreated the entire offseason. Judge injured himself in mid-September, Paxton in late September and Severino in October and now all three will miss time in 2020 because of 2019 injures, and Severino will miss part of 2021 because of an injury from 2019. Even Aaron Hicks’ elbow injury which needed Tommy John surgery was delayed enough that he would miss somewhere around half this season, which didn’t have to the case. This can’t go on. It’s gone on since February 2019 and now just over two weeks from Opening Day 2020, the Yankees will field a starting outfield made up of depth players and a rotation that will likely feature an opener as the fifth starter. Over the last month, without real, meaningful baseball, the Yankees have severely watched their postseason and World Series odds take a massive hit because of injuries which could have been dealt with over the winter.

2. It’s Gary Sanchez’s turn to be out now. After complaining about back soreness following catching two games on back-to-back days, Sanchez has now tested positive for the flu. It was only a matter of time until illness was the reason for an expected Yankees starter to go down, and here we are.

That graphic is from April 20, 2019, and not much has changed. Severino, Sanchez, Stanton, Hicks and Judge are all injured. The only non-injured player in the graphic who is still a Yankee is Miguel Andujar and he’s returning from a shoulder injury and surgery that kept him to only 12 games played a year ago.

3. Without Severino, Paxton, Stanton, Hicks and Judge on the Opening Day roster, five roster spots will go to players/pitchers who weren’t going to be Yankees to begin the season or essentially one-fifth of the roster. That’s a big deal. It’s not like the five roster spots are going to bench players or mop-up bullpen arms or the 21st, 22nd, 23rd, 24th or 25th roster spots. They’re going to the entire starting outfield and the second- and third-best starting pitchers on the team.

4. It’s becoming more evident the Yankees are going to use an opener as their fifth starter to begin the season until either James Paxton comes back, a true fifth-starter option emerges or the opener plan fails. Given the way Chad Green was so successful as the opener last year and the amount of games the Yankees were able to win with the strategy they stole from the Rays, I’m all for the opener as the fifth starter. It’s better than Chad Bettis or Nick Tropeano going out and giving up five runs in three innings. If the Yankees are going to overwork their bullpen, they might as well actually have a chance to win the games they are going to do it in.

5. Brett Gardner is going to bat in the top third of the lineup against right-handed pitching early in the season. I’m ready to be upset about and I’m already upset about just the idea of it. Even with three of the team’s expected nine out, Gardner is no way belongs hitting anywhere higher than seventh in the linep … ever.

6. The Yankees wanted Miguel Andujar to learn how to play the outfield in advance of this season to make him more versatile and maybe play it in the event of an emergency like Thairo Estrada had to in a game last season. Now the Yankees might need him to play it out of necessity. I think the Yankees will go with an everyday outfield of Gardner, Clint Frazier and Mike Tauchman for now, but the Yankees are one more injury away from Andujar being an everyday outfielder after having never played the position before this spring training.

7. It’s been three-and-a-half years since Frazier was traded as the headliner in the Andrew Miller pre-2016 deadline selloff. Now 25, I feel like this is Frazier’s last opportunity to prove himself as a potential everyday player for the Yankees, and to showcase his abilities to the rest of the league in the event the Yankees are ever at full strength before this season’s trade deadline. I have always rooted for Frazier and wanted him to succeed even when he was playing the outfield like he was drunk last season. I thought it should have been Frazier and not Tauchman getting the everyday opportunities last season, and if there were only one starting outfield spot available now, I would feel the same. I can’t believe Frazier is still a Yankee, having been able to avoid four offseasons and three deadlines of trade talk, but he is, and this is it for him.

8. I was very anti-Tauchman last season at the beginning of the year, and rightfully so. He was awful. Before his midseason run where he was basically Mike Trout, Tauchman was an automatic out at the plate, and the Yankees kept playing him over Frazier and his .806 OPS. Tauchman’s absurd 34-game stretch through July and August in which he posted a .387/.452/.712 certainly can’t be expected really ever again, but I’m excited to see what he can do in what will be pretty much an everyday role right from Opening Day. The major-league futures of both Frazier and Tauchman rest on what they do before Judge and Stanton return.

9. Where is the Red Sox’ investigation? The release date of this continues to get pushed back, and it feels as though Major League Baseball is going to release it on Opening Day in order to have the focus be on actual baseball and not more electronic sign stealing within the game. Everyone thought it would come out at least a month ago, and as a recently as last week it was reported it was coming out last week. Unfortunately, I’m sure baseball will attach the Red Sox’ cheating to Dave Dombrowski, Alex Cora and any players or coaches who are no longer with the team to avoid a situation in Boston similar what has gone on with the Astros.

10. We’re at the part of spring training where it’s time for it to end and the regular season to begin. Gerrit Cole is striking out nearly every batter he faces and nothing good can come from him pitching in meaningless games over the next 15 days. The Yankees need to somehow get through the next two-plus weeks without anymore injuries and maintain what’s already a watered-down version of themselves for Opening Day.


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