The Yankees have re-signed Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, added Carlos Rodon, and still need a left fielder for next year.
There’s definitely an urgency factor now that Andrew Benintendi has signed a five-year deal with the White Sox. Aaron Hicks cannot be the starting left fielder on Opening Day, and neither can Estevan Florial or Oswaldo Cabrera.
No, the Yankees need a name outfielder now that Benintendi isn’t an option anymore. In that case, here are a few names general manager Brian Cashman can and should consider.
Daulton Varsho. The Arizona Diamondbacks have more talented outfielders than they can handle and Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republicreports New York likes three: Varsho, Alek Thomas, and Jake McCarthy. Varsho is the most enticing as he’s fresh off a career year that saw him bat .235 with 27 home runs, but only a 106 wRC+.
Though primarily a center and right fielder, Varsho is still an elite glove who posted a +19 DRS and +18 OAA last year. If the Yankees can meet the Snakes’ asking price, maybe they can right the 26-year-old’s bat too.
Ian Happ. MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand named Happ as the Cubs’ best trade chip last month, and he’s right. He just won a Gold Glove in left field and provides the combination of switch-hitting contact and power Hicks failed to provide last year. In 2022, Happ slugged 17 home runs with 72 RBI and also hit a healthy .271 with 42 doubles and a 120 wRC+. The only red flag is he needs to cut down his strikeouts.
Even better is Happ’s contract expires at the end of the season. If he proves to be Joey Gallo 2.0, the Yankees can just move him for minor league depth at the deadline.
Akil Baddoo. We’re going to break away from proven talent and focus on one of Cashman favorite traits: upside. Baddoo came out of nowhere in 2021 and posted a .770 OPS as a reliable outfielder in Detroit. He then regressed last year and got benched.
Why should the Yankees be interested? Well, his glove seems decent enough and his bat’s max exit velocity was in the 82nd percentile in 2021. Worst case scenario, Baddoo doesn’t work out and is let go at minimal cost.
Jesus Sanchez. And while we’re in the upside lane, Sanchez should absolutely be on Cashman’s radar. The 25-year-old had a cup of coffee in the shortened 2020 campaign before returning the following year and posting an .808 OPS with 14 home runs in just 63 games. Sanchez followed that in 2022 by batting a meager .214 with 13 home runs in 98 games.
So what happened? According to Fangraphs, his line drive rate dipped four points to 16.7%. His hard contact rate dropped almost a full nine to 29.3%. His medium contact jumped from 48.7% to 55%, so this reeks of Sanchez trying too hard to hit home runs.
The Yankees have talked business with the Marlins dating back to last season’s trade deadline. Maybe this winter, Sanchez can be acquired and prove more adaptable at hitting than Gallo. His Statcast page sure implies so, and having a plus glove that can play all three OF positions also doesn’t hurt.
Max Kepler. There are plenty of reasons for the Yankees to target Kepler. His left-handed swing could fare very well in Yankee Stadium. Even better, he doesn’t strike out and owns a .319 career weighted on-base average (wOBA). Sure enough, Joel Sherman of The New York Post reports the Yankees have reached out about Kepler.
There is one downside. Kepler has never played an inning of left field in his career. Yet, with a +60 career OAA in center and right, plus a strong throwing arm, he’ll be just fine. The cherry on top? He has a club option for 2024 in case Cashman wants to keep him around.