The Yankees have been among baseball’s biggest spenders so far this offseason. Dropping a record amount of money on Aaron Judge will do that. Adding Carlos Rodon to the tune of $162 million doesn’t hurt, either.
We’ve seen reports that the Bronx Bombers aren’t done spending before Opening Day. One would imagine they’d like to find another player to join Judge and Harrison Bader in the outfield. But if Brian Cashman doesn’t get his preferred option, he’s got New York prepared with a backup plan.
While the free-agent market for outfielders is quite bare with everyday options, there are still intriguing players who could be available via trade. Guys like Max Kepler and Ian Happ could fit the Yankees. However, New York appears to still be trying to pry Bryan Reynolds from the Pittsburgh Pirates’ grasp.
That desire isn’t a new one from those in the Bronx, but can it happen? These two squads may not line up perfectly as a trade match, so getting a deal done could be difficult. If it doesn’t, who will be playing left field for the Yankees on Opening Day?
Our own Josh Benjamin said this is a job Oswaldo Cabrera could fill for the time being. A shortstop by trade, Cabrera spent time there and at second base, left field, and right field during his 44-game cup of coffee in the big leagues this past season. Aaron Hicks is also still on the roster and could be a factor, although the Yankees would probably like to trade him.
If this ends up being the plan, who will be the backup to the backup plan? As we prepared to say goodbye to 2022 and ring in the New Year, Cash was filling the left-field depth chart.
This came in the form of agreeing to minor-league deals with Willie Calhoun and Billy McKinney. Calhoun’s deal includes an invite to big-league spring training, while McKinney was assigned to New York’s Triple-A affiliate. Recently non-tendered outfielder Rafael Ortega also just joined the party.
McKinney, a 28-year-old outfielder, is the definition of a journeyman player. He provides depth in the minors while also having big-league experience. There isn’t much to look at on offense for him. The left-handed hitter posted a 74 wRC+ and 0.0 fWAR through 116 games in 2021. Those numbers dropped to -10 and -0.6, respectively, through 23 games in 2022.
Ortega will be entering his age-32 season in 2023. Over the past two years for the Chicago Cubs, the veteran has slashed .265/.344/.409 with 18 home runs and 68 RBI in 701 plate appearances (222 games played).
Calhoun is the one New York probably hopes could be part of the team’s actual backup plan. A former top prospect, Calhoun has yet to put everything together in the big leagues. He did post a 110 wRC+ and 0.2 fWAR with 21 homers through 83 games played in 2019. However, this was the only time he finished a year with an above-average wRC+, a positive fWAR, and that many games played.
This is most certainly not the Yankees’ ideal situation for their open spot in left field. But, New York needs to be prepared for the worst-case scenario should another deal not come together. If Kepler, Happ, Reynolds, or another target doesn’t end up in pinstripes in the coming weeks, we might see the Bombers approach this roster issue with a mixture of Cabrera, Hicks, Ortega, and Calhoun.