Clint Frazier, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Tyler Wade all started 2018 in different situations with regards to their status as Yankee players. Frazier and Ellsbury were the odd men out of a suddenly hyper-stacked outfield that included the AL Rookie of the Year (and should’ve been MVP) and the National League MVP. To boot, Ellsbury’s big contract meant Frazier would be sent back to AAA, at least for a little while. Wade, meanwhile, had a legitimate shot at the second base job, even with a top prospect in the running. Bringing in Brandon Drury made that shot even more legitimate, as he seems more attached to third base than second.
All that sure stuff, though, is fleeting. We remind ourselves that in times of great depth, things tend to sort themselves out and the picture becomes more clear, if more shallow. In the outfield, that seems to be happening now and it almost happened in the infield yesterday when Tyler Wade appeared to be inches away from snapping his wrist; watching it live, I thought he broke it for sure. Even though Wade is apparently fine, it was still another reminder that baseball will get in the way of any of our best laid plans or anticipations.
The Yankees are deep and could weather most scenarios–even disaster ones–better than most teams could. Times like the last two weeks remind us of the long haul we have ahead. We’re ready for real baseball, but the great offseason the Yankees had and the relatively smooth time in Spring Training have maybe colored our glasses a little pinstripe-rosy. Baseball season is long. Baseball season is grueling. What has happened to Clint Frazier is a reminder of how cruel the game can be.
With Wade, if he’s fine, the Yankees should just have him jump back in. Whatever he’s doing this spring is working perfectly. With Ellsbury and Frazier, though, the Yankees should be cautious and take their time. There are worse fourth outfielders than Ellsbury, and the Yankees may be forced to use one. Billy McKinney has some upside and has been performing nobly in camp, but it’s likely that Ellsbury’s more reliable at this point. Frazier is important to the present and future of the organization and we’ve seen the likes of Ryan Church and Justin Morneau ruined by concussions in the past; it would behoove the Yankees to treat Red Thunder with the kiddiest of kid gloves until he’s 100% right.
These injuries shouldn’t fully tamp down our excitement for this season, but be gentle reminders to us–as gentle as injuries can be–of how much there is left to go and how many obstacles the team will have to navigate in the coming months. It’s doubtful we’ve forgotten about that at all, given what’s happened to Greg Bird in the last two seasons, but sometimes, a reminder is necessary. Let’s cross our fingers that this is the only one.