As everyone around baseball knows, the story of the New York Yankees season has been injuries. As of Wednesday, there are 14 players occupying the Injured List. Nevertheless, the team sits at 36-19 atop the AL East, and they've gotten to this point thanks to a handful of smart roster moves.
Signing DJ LeMahieu
Many thought that LeMahieu, a career .299 hitter, would see a dip in production in a full-time role away from the hitter-friendly Coors Field. He's quickly dispelled that notion en route to becoming one of the Yankees most important players.
His .313 batting average certainly stands out, but his versatility in the field has paid dividends, with time split at third, second and first base. Around the game he has long been viewed as a "professional hitter," a title he has lived up to so far. He's hit .455 with runners in scoring position (3rd best in MLB), with 22 RBI's and four walks in such situations.
His knack for timely hits and slick defense around the diamond have made his two-year, $24 million deal look like a bargain.
Holding on to Clint Frazier
At one point, it seemed as though Frazier was sure to be traded. The young outfielder couldn't find playing time buried on the depth chart behind Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Hicks. His situation was made murkier following concussion issues that forced him off the field for much of the 2018 season.
This year, he's rewritten the script and blossomed into an impact player. Though his defense is still a work in progress, he's let his bat pick up the slack, with a line of .270/.525/.839, 10 HR and 28 RBI through 141 at-bats. Frazier, 24, has also proved to be a force in the clutch, as he's hit .414 with four home runs and 20 RBI's with runners in scoring position.
Aside from showing why he was the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, he's established himself as a legitimate hitter and again, a trade chip. It's not clear whether or not the Yankees would want to deal him at this point, but clubs will certainly ask about him in any deal for an ace, like Madison Bumgarner. Regardless of his eventual future, he's become an important player at a time of need for the Yankees.
Adding Gio Urshela
Where would the Yankees be without Urshela, the forgotten Indians' infielder who couldn't carve out a permanent role in Cleveland? I'm willing to bet that's something most fans didn't expect to hear rolling into June of the 2019 season. With Miguel Andujar lost for the season, Urshela has been far more than a fill-in, but a revelation.
He's quickly become a fan favorite, earning admiration for his phenomenal defense and production in nearly every situation. When the bases are loaded? He's 4-for-4. How about runners in scoring position? He's hit .378 with 16 RBI. Similarly to LeMahieu, Urshela doesn't hit for power. Rather, he excels at getting on base in a wide variety of situations.
In many ways, Urshela's brilliance represents the very best of GM Brian Cashman's recent depth acquisitions. Much like Luke Voit, he wasn't expected to break out, let alone play a significant role on the major league roster. His Gold Glove caliber defense and hot bat have been unexpected luxuries, ones the Yankees have certainly relished.
Believing in Luke Voit
Voit is 225 pounds of muscle, power and … smiles. The fun-loving 28-year-old has brought the Yankees life to a first base position that has sorely lacked even average production for quite some time. He also represents one of the most lopsided trades in recent memory. Remember Chasen Shreve, Yankees fans?
Voit has proven that last years run (14 HR, 33 RBI in 39 G) was no fluke, but in fact a small showing of what he was capable of. Among all American League first basemen this season, he's second in home runs (14) and just behind Jose Abreu for the lead in RBI's (38). His production is even more impressive when you consider that the Yankees had no idea what they were getting in Voit.
To this point in the season, he actually has slightly better numbers than Paul Goldschmidt, the man the Cardinals traded for and quickly extended. No one is saying Voit is better than Goldschmidt, who is widely considered one of the games best overall players. However, for a team that didn't necessarily need elite production from first base in an already-stacked lineup, Voit's play and clubhouse presence have been welcomed bonuses.
Trading for Domingo German
It's remarkable what German has been able to do while essentially filling in for staff ace Luis Severino. He's won nine of his 11 starts, the top mark among AL starters. Take out a seven-run clunker against the Royals and he's the owner of a 2.50 ERA.
In 60.1 innings, the right-hander has accumulated 63 strikeouts and 16 walks, while only allowing 46 hits. Though his pitch count will continue to be monitored, he's averaged just over five innings per start.
The third piece along with Nathan Eovaldi and Garrett Jones in the 2014 Martin Prado deal, German has played a vital role in keeping New York's staff afloat through the absence of key figures (Severino, CC Sabathia, James Paxton). While inning limitations will eventually catch up to him, German has been one of the Yankees most important players in the first half.