baseball

The Yankees shouldn’t count on these outfielders helping in the playoffs

For the first time in several days, we received an update about Matt Carpenter’s fractured left foot. He is “out of the boot”, and “will get another X-ray in nine or ten days,” per NJ Advance Media Brendan Kuty. MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reported that “Carpenter’s X-rays showed healing and he will be able to begin doing more. He’s standing in on a bullpen today. Best case scenario for both Carpenter and Andrew Benintendi would be activation in a postseason round.”

In other words: Carpenter will be re-evaluated in nine or ten days – the start of October – and then the Yankees will go from there.

The Yankees, obviously, miss Carpenter’s production. Even though he was coming down to earth a bit at the moment of getting hurt, he was still slashing .305/.412/.727 with 15 home runs, a 217 wRC+ and 2.3 fWAR in 154 plate appearances, unfathomable play from a veteran seemingly at the end of the line.

Suffice to say, the lefty masher was huge for the Yankees since signing a near-minimum contract, but he is running out of time to be a serious candidate to return. As a result, the Yankees should be preparing to move on without him in the postseason.

The same goes for Andrew Benintendi. The outfielder, who posted a .772 OPS between the Yankees and the Kansas City Royals, went down on September 2 with a broken hamate bone in his right wrist. Manager Aaron Boone said that “they should know in about 7-10 days if Benintendi can return this year.”

Even in a best-case scenario, Carpenter’s foot could get healthy in time for a postseason series, but he would be at a competitive disadvantage in comparison to all the hitters who have been playing regularly or semi-regularly for months.

If he returns, say, in the ALCS against some of the best pitching in the world while still looking to get his timing back, that would be less than ideal and, quite frankly, a bit unfair to himself, the organization, and fans.

Again, it’s a similar scenario with Benintendi, with the added ingredient that his injury is known for sapping power from hitters for a few weeks or even months upon returning. It simply makes no sense to wait on him and count on him to be a contributor in October.

The Yankees’ lineup could have been deadly with those two. Benintendi was just starting to find his stride in the Bronx when he suffered the untimely injury.

If the Yankees go deep enough in the playoffs and both players show that they are not only healthy, but also can get enough at-bats in simulated instances – ideally, this would happen in game-situations in Triple-A, but the calendar may not allow it – then the team could think about easing Benintendi and Carpenter back in. However, you also have to account for the limited roster spots and how valuable they are in the playoffs.

Unfortunately, it might just be too risky to gamble a precious roster spot on a player that might not have sea legs back. At full health and with the opportunity to go through a prolonged rehab process that allows them to reacquire their timing at the plate, Carpenter and Benintendi would both absolutely be part of the best possible Yankee roster. There just isn’t time to give them the recovery process that they deserve.

Simply put, it may be best to think about next season for them, whether that’s with the Yankees or not. Their injuries came in extremely inconvenient moments, which are too bad, because the Yankees really could use both of them right now, and the players themselves surely wish they could be contributing to a pennant push right now.

Fortunately, the Yankees have Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Harrison Bader and the up-and-coming Oswaldo Cabrera to deploy in the outfield (with Aaron Hicks and Tim Locastro also in the mix), and that’s not a bad group at all. The bottom line is that they’ll have to count on that group; It’s too much to ask for Carpenter and Benintendi to both heal and regain form over a few short weeks.

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