The New York Yankees are having a difficult enough time filling one outfield vacancy this offseason, letting Andrew Benintendi take his five years’ worth of security with the White Sox while entertaining options like Michael Conforto and Max Kepler to fill his spot.
Imagine willingly trying to fill a second one next offseason when a perfect long(ish)-term solution in Harrison Bader arrived last summer?
It would be understandable if the Yankees wanted to wait until midseason to determine whether Bader’s Babe Ruth act in the 2022 playoffs was a fluke or whether the bat finally matches the glove. Every second they wait, though, they’re risking Bader gaining steam one summer after watching Aaron Judge do the same thing. They’re also letting him smell his own potential entrance into a players’ market.
Bader doesn’t have an All-Star Game on his resumé. He’s never had a season filled with as much notoriety as Benintendi’s 2018 with the Red Sox. He didn’t reach the big leagues with top prospect pedigree, and is still viewed as more of a folk hero than anything else. But couldn’t he get four years of security next winter, entering the market at the age of 29? He’s fresh off racking up 1.2 WAR (a good deal of it on defense) in under 250 plate appearances, then punishing Guardians and Astros pitching in the playoffs.
Perhaps the Yankees could take a shortcut here?
Projecting possible Harrison Bader contract extension with Yankees
When Bader moved from St. Louis to the Bronx, he was returning to his family; the 28-year-old grew up in the Westchester suburb of Bronxville before starring at Florida and turning pro. In his few months in pinstripes, Bader has embraced being a fan favorite, bringing his Statue of Liberty model glove to work every single day. You could catch him at team functions, like the All Rise Foundation gala, as well as local sporting events, like a regular-season Rangers game.
Bottom line? Bader’s already a part of it in New York, New York. He won’t take a “hometown discount,” but could a three-year, $45 million offer from the Yankees supersede a potential four-year offer from a franchise that wouldn’t be able to offer him the crucial benefit of being “back home”?
Bader won’t be as electric on a daily basis as he was during the ALDS and ALCS this past October, but the Yankees have stated quite clearly in recent months that their goal is finding Bader types up the middle who can defend at an elite level while providing an adequate bat (Jose Trevino comes to mind, Isiah Kiner-Falefa … was a swing-and-a-miss here).
Why move on from Bader himself if he’s the model acquisition? No time like the present to cut this off at the head — or, at least to begin talks for the offseason to give the 28-year-old an idea of where they stand.