The New York Yankees have lost another important player to a spring training injury. On Friday, manager Aaron Boone announced center fielder Harrison Bader has a left oblique strain, per the New York Post, and on Saturday Boone said that Bader is expected to be out roughly six weeks. Barring setbacks or a revised time-table, that means Bader should return at some point in late April or early May. The Yankees open their regular-season schedule on March 30 at home against the Giants.
"He's one of the game's great defenders out in center field," Boone said Friday (per NJ.com). "Obviously he brings an athleticism on the offensive side. We all saw what he did in the postseason with the bat, too. He's a big part of our team. even though this may delay that a little bit, he's still going to be a huge part of the team this year on a long-term basis. We're confident of that too."
New York will also be without prized free agent addition Carlos Rodón when the regular season begins. He has a forearm strain. Frankie Montas (shoulder surgery), Tommy Kahnle (biceps tendinitis), and Lou Trivino (elbow sprain) are injured as well. Minor league catchers Josh Breaux (elbow), Ben Rortvedt (aneurysm), and Austin Wells (ribs) have also been shut down this spring.
Bader, 28, has played 367 of 546 possible regular season games since 2019, or 67%. His list of injuries includes a hamstring strain, forearm tightness, a broken rib, plantar fasciitis, and now a left oblique strain. Bader was on the injured list with plantar fasciitis when the Yankees acquired him from the St. Louis Cardinals at last summer's trade deadline.
With Bader on the IL, the Yankees could move Aaron Judge back to center field, where he played 78 games last season. The Yankees could also turn to perpetual prospect Estevan Florial, who is out of minor league options, or non-roster invitee Rafael Ortega as fill-in center fielders. Aaron Hicks and utility man Oswaldo Cabrera can also play center, if necessary.
Jurickson Profar remains unsigned and is far and away the best available free agent. If Bader is out long-term -- even minor oblique injuries can require weeks to heal -- the Yankees could look to bring in Profar, who is a full-time left fielder now. They would then have to put Hicks in center or right to make the pieces fit.
Because of the foot injury, Bader played only 14 regular season games with the Yankees after the trade, and slashed .217/.245/.283 with no homers. He had a monster postseason though, clubbing five home runs in the team's nine games. Bader will be a free agent after the season and will be one of the better players available in a thin market.
The Yankees went 99-63 and won the AL East in 2022, though they went 38-40 in their final 78 games as everyone other than Judge struggled to generate offense. New York was swept by the Houston Astros in the ALCS.