Last night Shane Robinson was in the starting lineup for the fifth time in the last six games and the eighth time in the last 13 games. He’s on the roster because Aaron Judge is out with a chip fracture in his wrist and he’s been playing so much because Giancarlo Stanton is nursing a tight hamstring and the Yankees don’t want to risk making it worse with too much outfield time.
Robinson has been in the lineup regularly the last two weeks and he may not come out of the lineup anytime soon. Following last night’s game Judge, who saw the doctor for a checkup yesterday, told Mandy Bell his wrist is “still fractured” and he’s not yet been cleared to swing a bat. He’s making progress. Slow progress, but progress. The original three-week timetable that put Judge on track to return late next week? Seems optimistic now.
“I feel like we’re close to that point (of swinging a bat),” said Aaron Boone to Laura Albanese prior to last night’s game. “Once the pain is out of there, then it’s a go … He’s been able to lift. He’s been able to do all his conditioning … I think it progresses pretty quickly (once he’s cleared).”
Basically, Boone is saying that once Judge gets the thumbs up to swing, it shouldn’t take him long to get game ready. That’s great, but how long until the fracture heals, Judge is pain free, and he can start swinging a bat? Remember, Boone said he was hopeful Judge would be able to start swinging a bat last weekend. Now it might not happen this weekend. Eh. The skipper seems a little too optimistic here.
The timing of the injury was really unfortunate. The Yankees traded Billy McKinney, their best healthy Triple-A outfielder, only hours before Judge’s injury. The trade was announced at 4:09pm ET. Judge was hit in his first at-bat of a 7:05pm ET game. Yeah. The timing stinks, but let’s be real, McKinney had a .299 OBP while repeating Triple-A. I’m not sure he’d have been much help anyway.
Well, whatever. No sense in crying over an injury and a trade that already happened. The bottom line is Judge is still on the disabled list and he’s not progressing as quickly as hoped given the whole “he could start swinging a bat last weekend” thing that didn’t happen. Maybe he’ll make a miraculous recovery and be back within a week. I’m not going to hold my breath. Wrists are tricky.
The Yankees have three options to replace Judge. One, they could continue to run Robinson out there. Not my preferred option but it is an option. Two, they could get creative and put Neil Walker in right field. Boone told Brendan Kuty he wouldn’t rule it out. That’s a little too “Lyle Overbay in right field”-y to me, but hey, it’s an option. Walker’s hitting, so put him out there for six innings, then let Robinson replace him for defense. I suppose they could stick Tyler Wade out there? Seems unlikely.
Or three, the Yankees could make a trade for another outfielder. They tried to do this before the trade deadline and came up empty. Brian Cashman said he didn’t like the asking prices. That’s fair. Doesn’t solve the whole “Shane Robinson starting five times in the span of six games” problem though. The Yankees have about $3.5M to spend under the luxury tax threshold, though it’s really more like $2M to $2.5M once you factor in September call-ups.
Ideally, the Yankees would add a right-handed hitting outfielder who could easily slide into a bench role once Judge returns. Cameron Maybin is nothing special but he’s better than Robinson, and he would’ve filled this role nicely. He went to the Mariners at the deadline. A few possible trade targets:
- Jose Bautista, Mets (101 wRC+): He stopped hitting weeks ago.
- Keon Broxton, Brewers (93 wRC+ in AAA): Would the Brewers trade him? Could be a fit.
- Carlos Gomez, Rays (91 wRC+): Like it or not he’s probably the best, most realistic option.
- Curtis Granderson, Blue Jays (106 wRC+): A left-handed hitter, but he’d work for me.
- Andrew McCutchen, Giants (114 wRC+): The Giants would have to eat money to make it work.
Do the Yankees ante up the prospects to get San Francisco to eat some of Cutch’s salary? Live with another lefty bat in Granderson? Hold your nose and remember it’s only temporary with Bautista or Gomez? Not sure there’s a right answer here. I’m kinda hoping Cashman pulls a rabbit out of his hat and finds a surprise outfielder who passes the “better than Robinson” test and soon.
I know this much: The Yankees without Judge are a very different team. He is a massive presence in the lineup. Would Rick Porcello and Nathan Eovaldi have pounded the strike zone against Judge like they did everyone else last weekend? Hell no. Judge is the kinda guy who leaves opposing teams counting down lineup spots until he comes up. There’s nothing the Yankees can do to replace him. He’s so good he is essentially irreplaceable. They just have to get by.
Robinson has been the Yankees’ answer the last few weeks and hey, if Judge were on track to return next week as the original timetable suggested, maybe sticking it out with a Robinson would be okay. Judge returning next week no longer appears to be the case though. The fracture isn’t healed yet and he’ll need some time to get back into game shape once it is healed. Finding a replacement outfielder should be the top priority right now.