The injury to Didi Gregorius has sunk in. The shortstop underwent successful Tommy John surgery, but will leave the New York Yankees without one of their few deadly left-handed bats. The operation, performed on Gregorius’s throwing arm, will realistically keep him sidelined until August. Now that the surgery is completed, it is time to analyze the best viable replacements.
The following players were graded on their ability to provide value by not only filling the Yankees need at shortstop but also other offensive needs to the team and the commitment that the team would have to make to them.
New York Yankees have Many Options to Replace Didi Gregorius
Let’s get this one out of the way quickly. Yankees fans have been drooling at the thought of Machado in pinstripes even before the injury. While he is the biggest name on this list, signing the best free agent at every position does not necessarily create a World Series champion. For proof, just check out the 2001-2008 Yankees. Not to mention signing Machado means agreeing to a long-term, high-cost deal that serves as a road block for Gregorius’s return.
The fact of the matter is that Machado simply does not fit on this team. Machado bats right handed, and the Yankees have a few too many right handed batters. In fact, Aaron Hicks will be the only left-handed batter in the lineup on Opening Day as it stands right now (unless they face a lefty).
Machado is also known for his power, but the Yankees already have enough of that, having just broke the single-season home run mark. He has averaged 36 home runs a year since 2015 and his career 16.4% career K% is above average. At the end of the day, another right handed power hitter is the last thing that the Yankees need at this time.
Yes, Neil Walker is a second basemen by trade, but Gleyber Torres is also a shortstop by trade. Walker got off to a rough start in pinstripes, in part to missing most of Spring Training and adjusting to a bench role.
After he shook the rust off, he played really well when given the opportunity though a late season slump left his overall numbers at .219/.309/.354 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with twice as many strikeouts as walks. In taking a bench role this season, Walker was willing to play wherever needed thus adding valuable versatility. As a result, he can also play first base, third base, or the outfield, should that be needed.
Walker is a switch hitter which plays well for matchups, but also gives the Yankees a consistent, left-handed bat to plug into the lineup and break up a plethora of right-handed sluggers. His numbers when getting to play every day are much more desirable. As a starting player, his slash line is .272/.341/.437. His strikeout to walk ratio is still two-to-one, but his K% of 17.4% is not far off from Machado’s. Walker is also sure to command a very manageable contract, most likely for a year or two without braking the bank.
The former New York Mets infielder may be the most intriguing option on the market for the Yankees. Aside from his Big Apple experience and being a left-handed bat, Murphy became a different hitter after leaving the Mets.
In seven seasons as a Met, Murphy hit .288/.331/.424 and struck out 12.1% of the time. Since leaving, he has hit .326/.375/.542 while striking only 11.4% of the time. He also led the league in doubles in 2016 and 2017 as well as slugging percentage and OPS in 2016.
Injuries did hinder his performance in 2018, but a deadline deal to the Chicago Cubs showed that not only can Murphy still contribute to a playoff team, he can hit out of the leadoff spot as well.
Murphy bats left handed which is just what the Yankees need, and he will not command a large contract. Coming off a three-year, $36 million deal and entering his age-34 season, a modest two-year contract should be able to land Murphy.
A solid defensive player, Hechavarria played well for the Yankees off the bench as a defensive replacement in September. His career fielding percentage is .980, with the league average fielding percentage at .974. His total defensive runs saved above average since 2015 is 31.
While defense is his strength, his offensive numbers leave a lot to be desired. In seven seasons, the right-handed hitter only has a .254 average, .290 on-base percentage, and .345 slugging percentage. Hechavarria can be signed for a small contract, but that is due to the smaller value he would provide.
Schoop is another intriguing option for the Yankees. The second basemen has All-Star talent and drove in 105 runs in 2017 for the last place Baltimore Orioles. Though a right-handed batter, he makes sense for two reasons. For starters, he does not make a whole lot of money and will be a free agent after 2019. The biggest reason, however, is that the Milwaukee Brewers are a good trade target for Sonny Gray.
Milwaukee targeted Gray when the Yankees acquired him, and Gray would love to reunite with his former Vanderbilt coach, Derek Johnson, who is the current pitching coach for Milwaukee. The Brewers’ use of their bullpen during the postseason indicates that starting pitching is still a need. The Yankees have expressed interest in dealing Gray, and a Schoop-Gray trade could satisfy both sides.
Tyler Wade is a left-handed batter with speed and versatility, but he has struggled to get on base in his two previous opportunities in the Bronx. The Yankees have always expected him to be a Ben Zobrist-esque player, capable of playing short stop, second base, and outfield at the major league level. The third time could prove to be the charm for Wade to prove himself.
He only has 20 hits as a major league player and over twice as many strikeouts than hits. His numbers with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders also took a major dip in 2018. Wade’s average dipped from .310 to .255, his on-base percentage from .382 to .328, and his slugging percentage from .460 to .360. He also saw a slight rise in strikeouts, striking out seven more times albeit in 22 more plate appearances.
Wade won the starting second base job out of Spring Training in 2018, but given his struggles, it will take more than a great pre-season to win this job. On the plus side, Wade is still under his rookie contract and a few years away from arbitration.
Currently the only middle infielder in the Yankees top 30 prospects listings, Estrada could fill the void while Gregorius recovers. A shortstop by trade, MLB.com regards him as a big league caliber shortstop that tends to be more steady than flashy. Estrada would make the league minimum salary as a rookie.
Though limited by a back injury and a gunshot wound (sustained while being robbed in the off-season) in 2018, Estrada contended for the 2017 Eastern League batting title while with the Trenton Thunder. He also hit .407 in the playoffs that season and ranked as the best shortstop in the Arizona Fall League that year.
There are two big issues with Estrada. Not only is he a right-handed bat, but there is an air of uncertainty surrounding him. 2018 was a wash, and he has never set foot on a major league infield. His expected year of arrival in the Bronx was 2018, but his injuries definitely set him back. He will probably need more time in AAA before getting a shot in the Bronx.
There are a slew of viable options to fill the void while Didi Gregorius is sidelined. While some are realistically much better fits than others, all of these players are some of a few that could step up and prove themselves in 2019.
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