Yankees should give Tyler Wade a legit shot as their super utility player
Already $40 million over the luxury tax threshold and still with an overabundance on infielders, the Yankees should avoid signing a backup shortstop or fifth outfielder, and instead give Tyler Wade first crack at filling the gaps.
Even with Didi Gregorius taking his talents to Philadelphia on a one-year, $14 million deal, the Yankees still have more than enough infielders. With Gleyber Torres set to move to his natural position of shortstop, D.J. LeMahieu is likely to pick up where he left off as a Gold Glove-winning second baseman.
At the hot corner, Miguel Andujar returns to try and reclaim his spot from 2019 breakout performer, Gio Ursehla. And over at first base, Luke Voit will look to stave off Mike Ford’s left-handed power bat (which the Yanks could undoubtedly use to break up all their right-handed hitters).
Re-signing Brett Gardner to a one-year, $12.5 million contract shores up center field until Aaron Hicks returns sometime in August — and in left field, both Mike Tauchman and Clint Frazier are still in tow and will be utilized when and if manager Aaron Boone decides to DH Giancarlo Stanton.
Therefore, while bringing back fan-favorite Cameron Maybin is still on the table, why not utilize the extremely fast and well equipped Tyler Wade? Pre-arbitration eligible, Wade is slated to make under $600K in 2020.
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Coming up through the Yankees farm system as a shortstop, which is really the only backup position the big league team currently requires, former manager Joe Girardi first introduced the idea of Wade as the club’s super-utility player back in 2017.
In 30 games that season, Wade manned second, short and both outfield corners — making only three errors in 144 innings.
The following season, Wade took the field 36 times for the Yankees and played a total of six different positions — adding center field and third base to his resume. Across 182.2 frames, Wade made only one error in 57 chances.
However, for the second straight season, he hit well under the Mendoza Line, which forced the Yanks to send him back to Triple-A for more seasoning.
Then in 2019, Wade appeared to have turned a corner. During spring training, the 2013 fourth-round pick out of high school, slashed .308/.345/.500. However, he didn’t make the club because the Yanks opted to trade for Rockies career minor leaguer Mike Tauchman.
Luckily, acquiring The Sock Man paid off big-time — that is until he was lost for the season due to a severe calf strain suffered on September 9.
Once again, Wade would take the field at six different positions, totaling 271.2 innings — and made exactly one miscue in 96 chances.
Slashing a career-best .245/.330/.362 with two homers and 11 RBIs, Wade still has a ways to go to replicate his minor league production; .274/.351/.370 across parts of seven seasons.
Another reason to keep Wade around is that he is an elite base runner. Statcast ranks Wade’s speed in the 93rd percentile — as he’s been clocked at an estimated 29 feet per second (fastest on the Yankees).
A professional pinch-runner, Wade can manufacture his own run (7-for-7 in stolen base attempts in ’19), which is one reason why he was added to the Yankees recent postseason roster, although he was never called upon.
On a 25-man roster, Wade is precisely the guy you need at the end of your bench — especially if you’re bullpen-heavy.
It’s a tough situation for Wade, though. Much like Frazier, at 25, if an injury doesn’t enable play time this season, how much longer will the Yankees hold on to these former top prospects?
Wade requires consistent at-bats (many more than his career-high 94 in ’19) to prove he can handle major league pitching. At this time, though, it’s a catch-22, because he doesn’t deserve more plate appearances. And unless the Yanks were not to re-sign LeMahieu next winter (which would be a mistake), there doesn’t look to be a clear route to a starting position for Wade.
Under club control until 2025, Wade needs to make the most out of every opportunity he recieves and hope that he can carve a niche out for himself in New York — or that another team takes notice and facilitates a trade for him.