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The Yankees Are Facing a Good Problem

The New York Yankees will soon be forced to make some tough decisions as players like Gerrit Cole and DJ LeMahieu near returning from injuries. After Sunday’s win against the Chicago White Sox, the Yankees have a 33-15 record, which is the best in the American League. This is largely in spite of some key injuries; the Yankees have had to find guys to fill in both on the mound and in the lineup before the starters return, and the “substitutes” have been more than up to the challenge.

Gerrit Cole’s sub, Luis Gil, has arguably been the Yankees’ best pitcher thus far, and Oswaldo Cabrera has been solid at third base in LeMahieu’s absence. But despite their impressive performances, they’re unlikely to maintain their current roles after Cole and LeMahieu come back. Even the outfield may see a shakeup when/if Jasson Domínguez returns to the Bronx later this season. How should the Yankees adjust their starting lineup, and which players will give them the best chance to keep winning?

Yankees Facing a Good Problem as Players Return from Injuries

Starting Pitching

Surprisingly, the Yanks’ Cole-less rotation has been one of the best in baseball. Over their last six games (all of which are wins), starting pitchers have a 0.46 ERA. As mentioned, Gil has been their best starter, but he’s also the least likely to stay in the rotation once Cole rejoins. Some have called for Nestor Cortes, who has been inconsistent but has pitched well this year, to be moved to the bullpen. It would not be unfamiliar for Cortes, who spent time as a reliever for the Yanks in 2021. This move is unlikely though, because Cortes has done more than enough to prove himself as a legitimate number 2/3 starter. So it looks like Gil is most likely to switch to the bullpen, especially because manager Aaron Boone has taken caution to not overwork the 25-year-old who recently returned from Tommy John surgery.

As unfortunate as it is for Gil, the rotation should not suffer in the slightest. Having Cole on the mound will only benefit the team, and the bullpen has not performed as well as the starting pitching. Having a weapon of a long reliever like Gil in the ‘pen will provide more stability and put less pressure on relievers like Luke Weaver and Ian Hamilton to give the Yankees multiple innings.

The Infield

There is no question as to who is playing first base and shortstop (the Anthonys have seen to that). Second and third base are up in the air, however. Gleyber Torres has not performed well this season (0.1 WAR) and although he’s likely to keep his spot at second, there is a chance that he sees some of his time taken away by Cabrera and even LeMahieu. There’s no telling if “LeMachine” will have a bounce-back year, but Cabrera has certainly been better than Torres this season. If Torres continues to struggle, Cabrera may become the better option at second.

As for third, LeMahieu will likely become the everyday starter for his defense alone (and because he’s getting paid $15 million per year). The Yanks can only hope that his bat rebounds after being an average hitter at best over the past few years.

The Outfield

It’s not even worth talking about center and right field; it would take the end of the world for someone to usurp Juan Soto or Aaron Judge (if they stay healthy). In left, Alex Verdugo has proven to be a very solid addition, which unfortunately leaves little room for when Jasson Domínguez returns from injury later this year. Everyone wants to see “The Martian” help the Yankees in their march to October, but the Yankees have few options to make that happen. They could move Judge or Soto to DH, but that also means removing Giancarlo Stanton from the lineup, who has actually helped the Yankees this year rather than burdened them.

Domínguez will likely see some playing time, but sadly not a lot. This is no rag on Domínguez though, since after all, the majority of major league outfielders would sit behind the Yanks’ lethal Verdugo-Judge-Soto combination. He’ll have plenty of years to establish himself as a regular in the outfield.

The Last Word

The question of what lineup is best for the team is often difficult to figure out in baseball. But in the Yankees’ case, it is maybe the best problem that a team could have: too many good players with too little spots to play them. This only solidifies the Yankees as one of the deeper teams in baseball, something that can be a major factor in October. The Yankees haven’t seen this much roster stability in a while, and so far this year, this team appears to be one that could win New York their 28th World Series.


Photo Credit: © Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports


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