The Yankees need to find a way to increase contact AND lefty presence in their lineup. They’ve got to scoop up soon-to-be former Houston Astro in Michael Brantley.
The Yankees’ top task in an ideal offseason sounds downright impossible: Extend DJ LeMahieu, and then find more DJ LeMahieus. Make the whole damn team out of DJ LeMahieus.
Oh. Great. Awesome. Where do we start?
In more practical terms, the Yanks do need to find a way to balance their boom-or-bust offense, especially from the left side. This doesn’t mean ditching the home run and reintroducing the bunt, nor does it mean adding defense-first slap hitters in lieu of game-changers like Gleyber Torres. After all, DJ LeMahieu has molded himself into a reliable 20-homer bat; the difference is, he’s always putting the ball in play to make havoc happen when he’s not going yard.
The righty-heaviness of the everyday lineup is becoming an issue, too. It’s hard to deny that something’s not right, after fans watched righty relievers buzzsaw the lineup without encountering a single matchup issue all ALDS long. Unfortunately, it’s also difficult to wedge any new options into this well-established offense without making some drastic moves (Trade Urshela? Voit?). The infield is likely more complex than the outfield, though, where these traffic jams tend to work themselves out, unfortunately, when inevitable injuries occur to Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks.
Introducing, someone who could fit in seamlessly, some way, some how: Michael Brantley, professional hitter.
Brantley really checks every box: left-handed, battler, consistent, solid defensive outfielder, can fit at either corner.
And his hit tool cannot be understated; this is one of the best pure hitters with pop in the game. He doesn’t even come with the, “Yeah, but…” caveat that LeMahieu brought to the team; his home-road splits don’t involve the uncertainty of a hitter’s haven like Coors Field.
Every year, he’s at or over .300. Every time he must be retired late in a game, he’s going to annoy the hell out of the opponent (well, except at the tail end of 2019 WS Game 7…). His eminent smoothness at the plate evokes the very best years of the recent Yankees dynasty; it’s easy to get Bernie Williams vibes from his effortlessness.
It’s difficult to determine whether the outfield or infield will be the easier spot to make changes in the 2021 Yankees lineup, but whoever gets their hands on Brantley will get an instant offensive boost and calming influence to the middle of the order. He’s a complete image-changer.
If the Yanks pass on him, the slight will come back to bite them, just like when they let Charlie Morton waltz to the Rays. So why not get ahead of the problem?