If I Were the GM: Looking Ahead to 2019 - Left Field

Throughout the course of the off-season, I’ll share my vision for the 2019 Yankees. This article is the second in this series. You can see the first article here:

If I Were the GM: Looking Ahead to 2019 - The Manager

Today we will look at left field.

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Left field. If I were the General Manager, what would I do about left field?

Let me begin by stating that I am a Yankee fan who loves the big splash. I love the idea (and the history) of the Yankees going all out and getting the best players possible. This tradition is what ushered in the first decade of Yankee greatness when they acquired Babe Ruth and a host of other players. I love when the Yankees make a big splash.

In the years when I first became a Yankees fan, they acquired many big names: Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Dave Winfield… If a great player was out there, the Yankees seemed to get him.

This was a part of Yankeedom, as I learned it - If the star was available through free agency, the Yankees went all out to acquire him. This approach sometimes even made the winter months almost just as exciting as the regular season:

Now, all of those players didn’t necessarily pan out the way the Yankees had hoped. Some stars like Jack Clark fizzled in pinstripes. Some players who we hoped would be stars didn’t exactly fulfill their promise. It was still great though. I loved that the Yankees were always in the game. I loved that the mission was always “Get The Best Player.”

The goal was always to put the team in a position to win - and win big. I love that approach.

One of the Yankees’ most powerful assets is their financial strength. In my opinion, they should always use this to their advantage. Always. One frustration for me over the last many years has been that the team’s first priority has been getting under the luxury tax. They have basically said, “If we win while getting under the tax, that’s great, but if we have to go over that tax threshold to win, we’d rather not.” As a fan who spends more than my fair share of time and money on the Yankees, that’s frustrating to see. Now that the luxury tax penalties have been re-set, it is my hope that the Yankees jump back into the big pool and start making big splashes.

Last year, they started this by acquiring Giancarlo Stanton. Yeah, that was awesome. But it should only be the start.

This year, the Yankees should go all-in. All in.

This winter, two generational talents are available - Manny Machado and Bryce Harper. The discussion all winter will be the debate over which player is better and who better fits the Yankees. Everyone will be asking which player will be the difference maker on a championship club…

The way I see it…

The guy the Yankees need to get...

The player who immediately changes the entire line-up by making the middle of the Yankees batting order better is Bryce Harper.

Harper could easily just slot into left field. I think it was apparent that Brett Gardner’s big days are over. Gardner also has a huge option ($12 m) for 2019 that the Yankees will almost certainly decline. Gardner’s stock dropped so much in 2018 that when he played at the end of the year, he batted ninth. Now, I wouldn’t be against the Yankees declining Gardner’s option and bringing him back as a fourth or fifth outfielder to spell the other guys, but as a starter, the Yankees must go a different direction. (I also thought Andrew McCutchen was a great pick-up, but going forward, he doesn’t offer anything near what Harper does - and he also bats right-handed. As for Clint Frazier, sadly, he will need a quality spring training and some big months in the minors to prove he is healthy. I’ve always loved Frazier, but, since he is also a right-handed hitter, when he’s 100% back, he will probably be more valuable to the Yankees as a trade piece than as a starting player.)

In short, the Yankees need a big lefty thumper between Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton to better balance the attack. All great Yankee teams in history have been built on left-handed power. The Yankees currently do not have that type of hitter in the line-up. Harper is that player. He is available. He’s young (just turning 26 years-old). He’s powerful. He’s a generational talent. He fills a need in the outfield.

Harper also brings that superstar aura to the Yankees. He brings the swagger that came when the Yankees used to just go out and get the best players. He brings an approach that says, “We are out to win it and nothing will stop us in that pursuit.”

I believe the Yankees needed Harper even before the news of Didi Gregorius’ injury and upcoming Tommy John surgery. They needed another big lefty bat even when Didi was in the everyday line-up. Now, with Gregorius’ 2019 season in jeopardy, they need it more. A lot more.

One could argue that because of the Gregorius in jury, the Yankees need Manny Machado, an infielder, more. I disagree. Machado is great, but I honestly don’t think he’ll prove, over time, to be that much of a greater hitter than Miguel Andujar. (I’ll get to that in a future post.) Machado would add another big right-handed bat. That’s something the Yankees do not need. The Yankees line-up needs balance. It needs a true lefty slugger. The Yankees do not have any lefty sluggers even in the pipeline.

There is one lefty slugger available. His name is Bryce Harper.

The Yankees need Bryce Harper.

If I were the GM, I’d begin the off-season by signing Bryce Harper on the first day he’s available. I’d make the big splash quickly and announce to the world that the Yankees will stop at nothing to put themselves in the best position to win the 2019 pennant.