Jordan Montgomery’s trade really came as a shock. In my opinion, he was one of the most reliable starting pitchers in Major League Baseball since the start of 2021. He is in control of all his pitches. His upside isn’t sexy, but there’s a lot of value to be had in a pitcher that can sustain a 2.5-3.5 WAR reliably. He was drafted by the team and made it through the minor leagues as a pleasant surprise. It was easy to root.
That said, I believe this trade for Harrison Bader was a win for building this team.
I’ll be honest, I was stunned when it happened, and even more so when it wasn’t followed by a trade for another starter. However, in the past few days, I have been reminded of this article. For most of the last three seasons, it was clear the Yankees needed help in middle, with both shortstop and center field constantly occupied by players less than qualified for the rigors of the positions. While Aaron Judge proved he could be an everyday center fielder, it’s now clear the Yankees didn’t see it as a sustainable option. With the addition of Bader’s elite, and I mean elitedefense in the center, Brian Cashman has filled a hole in this team that has persisted too much.
Let’s be clear here. A healthy Harrison Bader is one of the best, if not the best, defensive center back in baseball. The defensive metrics back that up wherever you look, and if you’re not one for metrics, then the sight test has an even more glowing review. He has a knack for the dive game, the routine game, the run game, literally anything.
I had already said months ago that teams as good as this, and with the resources of this team, should not play below average substitute-level players. There is no valid reason for this! Waiting to see what you have in players like Aaron Hicks and Isiah Kiner-Falefa isn’t worth it. To me, it’s clear that Brian Cashman could agree with that. When Bader is healthy and ready to play every day again, there’s no doubt he’ll be on center field every night. He does just about everything better than Hicks, except drawing walks.
We tend to underestimate how difficult it is to find viable defensive players at positions like shortstop and center field, so faced with the opportunity to get one of the best at the cost of a pitcher who probably won’t start a playoff game, I see why we would accept this deal every time. It’s not even comparable to signing a player like Carlos Correa, who is a great player and defender in a prime position in his own right. The cost of acquisition was low, and although Bader wouldn’t appear for a month or more, the Yankees had the privilege of building their playoff roster.
I know it hurts to lose a player who worked with your system and became an above average player, but we have to remember what so many of us have been complaining about for years, and that is a lack of athleticism in this team, especially in the middle. When Bader runs around catching every fly ball that comes near him, I don’t think it will bother us as much as Monty. With a little patience, we’ll get there.