How Edwin Encarnación's arrival impacts the rest of the Yankees' roster

Encarnación -- and the returns of Judge and Stanton -- creates a lineup shuffle
Art or Photo Credit: Sarah Stier

The arrival of Edwin Encarnacion creates a ripple effect throughout the Yankees roster. (AP)
The Yankees' acquisition of a marquee player in Edwin Encarnación is cause for celebration. Yet, to make room for him, somebody must step aside. For most teams, a new designated hitter would set off a small chain reaction.
The Yankees are not most teams.
Between Encarnación and the impending returns of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, a lineup that has helped produce a division-leading 44-27 record is about to dramatically change.
Encarnación will share first base and designated hitter with Luke Voit. Aside from the occasional off-day, they'll regularly combine to fill both roles. Thus, the first domino to fall to Encarnación is Greg Bird. The latter has only recently resumed some baseball activities as part of a lengthy rehab process from plantar fasciitis. Bird, as you'll recall, was once a promising prospect who impressed as a 22-year-old back in 2015.
Now 26, he's yet to fully establish himself as a Major Leaguer thanks to a rash of well-publicized injuries. On top of that, Voit unexpectedly rose in 2018 to squash Bird's hopes of starting. Now the arrival of Encarnación likely consigns Bird to roster purgatory.
Furthermore, Stanton returns to the lineup Tuesday, and Judge won't be far behind him. Prior to Encarnación's arrival, we could expect both sluggers to share the designated-hitter role while they shook off any rust.
That in turn would leave room for at least two of Brett Gardner, Clint Frazier and Cameron Maybin to find semi-regular work. All three outfielders have performed as above-average players this season. By FanGraphs WAR, they're responsible for between two and three wins as compared with typical replacement options. Gardner is the Yankees' fifth-most valuable position player.
Nonetheless, Brian Cashman's offseason plans didn't exactly involve relying upon Gardner, Frazier or Maybin. The arrival of Encarnación, then, gives the club a chance to further bolster the lineup without depending so fully on so many role players in the outfield.
Soon enough Aaron Hicks will find himself consistently flanked by Stanton and Judge. Gardner will serve the role of fourth outfielder, defensive replacement and pinch runner. Maybin will probably stick around thanks to his defensive ability, while Frazier has already been optioned to Triple-A.
Gio Urshela, whose praises we sang last week, will likely see his playing time diminish. Despite Urshela's notable accomplishments, DJ LeMahieu has been one of the team's best players. Didi Gregorius remains the Yankees' starting shortstop now that he's healthy again, which means LeMahieu, Urshela and Gleyber Torres will split opportunities at second and third base.
Initially, the designated-hitter role offered a temporary pressure valve to get everybody into the lineup. Now, Encarnación and his power will fill that void. While Urshela has impressed this season, LeMahieu's track record and Torres' power (and prospect pedigree) give them more obvious paths to playing time.
Don't be surprised to find Urshela serving as the odd man out even as he competes for a spot on the AL All Star roster. (He's received the third-highest number of votes at the hot corner based on Monday's latest update.)
There's no denying the upside in acquiring a power hitter like Encarnación. Yet the move means three solid players in Gardner, Maybin and Urshela will see their roles reduced. The luxury of bringing two proven veterans and an All-Star caliber player off the bench will be the envy of most other clubs, of course. That just typifies the quality of depth that Cashman and the Yankees' front office have built on the roster. Each player rode to the rescue in the Yankees' hour of need.
As the club's offense transitions from a group of breakout players to - with the additions of Encarnación, Stanton and Judge -- one fully deserving the "Bronx Bomber" moniker, fans shouldn't forget the contributions of those who carried the team to first place in the AL East during a legitimate injury crisis. Given all the time still left this season, the Yankees will surely call upon them again.