The Yankees have continued their persistent search for a left fielder all offseason, and the Twins have been a consistent target for trades. They have expendable pieces with some of their acquisitions, like Joey Gallo and the stunning return of Carlos Correa, but could the Yankees entice the Twins to move one of their best bats?
We’ve seen that they’re willing to move core pieces at the right price, trading Jose Berrios two years ago and nearly doing the same with Byron Buxton as well before extending him. Minnesota is looking for pitching, and with the Yankees’ abundance of arms, perhaps a deal can be reached.
Luis Arraez would give the Yankees the bat they desperately need, but can they pry him from the Twins?
The Perfect Leadoff Hitter
While I have raved about how outstanding of a leadoff hitter DJ LeMahieu can be for this team, I would argue the only option on the market I’d rather hit at the top of the lineup is Luis Arraez. This isn’t a slight at LeMahieu, who’s a 115-125 wRC+ hitter with strong OBP skills and league-average power numbers when healthy, but Arraez is most likely going to lead whatever team he plays on in OBP. A career 8.7% BB% doesn’t scream “OBP Machine,” but when you hit for a high average, league-average walk rates convert into really high OBP numbers.
Last season Arraez posted a .375 OBP and is projected for a .368 OBP in 2023, meaning the Yankees can expect that he’ll consistently be on 1st for the fearsome Aaron Judge. He provides elite contact skills, as his 7.1% K% and 7.1% Whiff% are the two best rates among all qualified hitters. No one makes contact like Arraez, who’s able to consistently put bat-on-ball. You may think because he’s so contact-oriented that, he isn’t going to generate any power, but with 40 XBHs (8 of which are HRs), his .104 ISO is solid for his offensive profile.
When it comes to contact, there really aren’t many metrics Arraez doesn’t rank at the top of the leaderboards in, and that should bode well against most opponents in the league. Teams are going to try to pitch to whoever is in front of or behind Aaron Judge, who won’t repeat his 2022 but is arguably the best hitter in baseball. Good luck trying to get Arraez to swing-and-miss on pitches in the zone, as he had a 94% contact percentage on those pitches, the best in MLB.
With elite batted ball sprays that come from his 80-grade hit tool, Arraez is going to pepper anything he sees to try to get hits, and that approach makes him the perfect balance from the left-handed side for this lineup. Teams have often prioritized getting whiffs in the postseason since strikeouts are the surest form of out, and the Yankees have fallen victim to this frequently. This isn’t to say the Yankees have a strikeout problem; the league as a whole strikes out a ton in the postseason, but the Yankees can combat this with a hitter like Arraez.
Arraez’s 131 wRC+ in 2022 would have been 3rd on the Yankees behind Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, even though he slugged only .420 last season, showing just how elite he is at getting on base and getting hits. That’s higher than Bryan Reynolds last year, who’s going to warrant a top prospect like Jasson Dominguez to get moved. If the Yankees want a similarly great bat in the lineup, Arraez could be right there for the taking. While he’s not a switch-hitter, his 101 wRC+ against LHP last season shouldn’t draw much concern.
While power hasn’t been the subject of conversation here, the Yankees could see Arraez hit for more HR power in New York. Statcast has Arraez with six more HRs if he played at Yankee Stadium, which could have pushed his wRC+ well past 140. He’s projected for a 126 wRC+, so is it possible that Arraez is a consistent 130 wRC+ bat with improved power? You don’t want Arraez to make any changes to his approach, but generating more HRs without having to worsen your contact or whiff rates is always a good thing.
Luis Arraez is a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium and, most importantly, for the top of the lineup, but do the Yankees even have what Minnesota is looking for in a trade?
Is Luis Arraez Even Available?
This isn’t one of those articles deciding a good player on a bad team has a chance to be moved, as Dan Hayes of The Athletic reported early in the offseason that they’ve discussed moving Luis Arraez. Arraez would be moved if the Twins could get pitching in return, but as many know, the Yankees do not have many top-of-the-line pitching prospects, dealing most of them at the trade deadline and keeping their core of position players intact. This isn’t to criticize the front office, but on the surface, it could seem as if a potential offer from the Yankees couldn’t entice the Twins.
The best match for an MLB-ready starter with strong upside is Clarke Schmidt, who elicits some groans from Yankees fans but is genuinely a really talented arm. His breaking pitches make him extremely nasty, and perhaps in a full-time SP role, he could flourish. His Knuckle Curve has a 136.6 Stuff+, and his Slider has a 125.3 Stuff+, giving him two elite pitches to go alongside a solid sinker. His four-seam fastball and changeup are pitches that he throws for show, but perhaps a more breaking-ball-centric approach would work best for him.
While Yankee fans didn’t have a great experience with Sonny Gray, the similarities Schmidt has with his fellow Vanderbilt alumni are uncanny. Both have high-spin fastballs that profile as gyro fastballs and generate most of their whiffs through their breaking pitches. Clarke Schmidt still has the upside to be a strong SP in this league, and the Twins could be enticed by him as a starter for their rotation if the other pieces in the hypothetical deal are good enough.
The Yankees have some pitching prospects that are close to the big leagues and could start out in the Minnesota bullpen, like Randy Vasquez, whose sweeping curveball gives him a big-league pitch that should allow him to generate strikeouts as soon as he steps on an MLB mound. It’s genuinely got video-game movement, and just like Clarke Schmidt, he’s going to be a Stuff+ darling when we get public data on his pitch repertoire.
The Yankees also have position player prospects who could entice the Twins, who could use outfield help in the scenario that guys like Joey Gallo don’t pan out, and they need young internal talent to fill in the gaps. Everson Pereria has been an underrated prospect in the Yankees’ farm for a while now, and with a 128 wRC+ at Double-A, he’s a 21-year-old toolshed who has 20/20 potential. The strikeouts are an issue, but perhaps he curbs those with more time at Double-A in 2023. He’s already on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, so they clearly view him as an option to get called up this year.
People hate Baseball Trade Values as a website because of its outrageous trades, but as a site that estimates player value, it does a pretty good job for the most part. Like any tool, you can still use it poorly and miss the entire point of what it attempts to do, but we can generate rough estimates as to how much a player is worth VIA trade. When we add up the totals of the three players mentioned, here’s what we end up with:
- Everson Pereria: 16.8
- Clarke Schmidt: 10.8
- Randy Vasquez: 4.1
At 31.7, this is worth more than Luis Arraez in a deal (26.6), but that doesn’t mean the Yankees shouldn’t make this deal. The Yankees are getting what they’re looking for, and Arraez fits everything the Yankees need and more. There are initial concerns about how Luis Arraez would handle the outfield, as in his career, he has a -4 OAA in 326.1 innings out in LF, but this ignores the value he gets from his arm due to good throwing decisions. He’s got a cannon, averaging over 90 MPH on throws out there and having a +2 rARM in 2021, resulting in +3 DRS. Similar to Oswaldo Cabrera, he’s going to have mediocre range with great throws.
The Yankees might be looking at a league-average defender at best, but quite frankly, who cares? If you’re getting a 125-130 wRC+, no one is going to care if he’s a mediocre defender, especially the Yankees. This team needs bats, and if they can get a great hitter in Arraez, they’ll live with just having a good defensive outfield and the best defensive outfield in baseball.
Ultimately, the Yankees do have the pieces that, on paper could get a deal done, but it comes down to whether the Twins value those pieces as highly as BTV does. We can’t say for certain, but it’s definitely worth speculating on.
Putting the Yankees Over the Top
Speculation on whether the Yankees will be able to acquire Arraez or not aside, this is a move that would 100% put them over the top. They’d easily have the best roster in the sport with Luis Arraez in LF, and it would give the Yankees one of the deepest lineups in baseball.
- Luis Arraez LF
- Aaron Judge RF
- Anthony Rizzo 1B
- Giancarlo Stanton DH
- Gleyber Torres 2B
- DJ LeMahieu 3B
- Harrison Bader CF
- Oswald Peraza SS
- Jose Trevino C
While Arraez doesn’t have the allure of Bryan Reynolds, he is projected to be the better hitter between the two, so the median outcome is better, even if the ceiling isn’t. He’s also turning just 26 in April, so the Yankees could extend him and make him part of this young core the Yankees have coming up in 2023. Again, this all comes down to whether the Twins would actually move him or not, which we have evidence they could but not evidence that the Yankees would be the best potential fit. Minnesota could potentially move Arraez to Miami for someone like Pablo Lopez, giving them the frontline starter they’re looking for, but who knows?
Again, at the end of the day, all we can do is speculate on reports and rumors, but this is one that could catch the Yankees’ interest. I’d say it’s definitely less than a 50% chance that Arraez ends up getting traded to the Yankees, but this definitely qualifies as a “needle-mover” of a trade if they could pull it off. There’s talent in the bullpen the Yankees could also pull from as well, with guys like Ron Marinaccio, who have five years of control and could interest the Twins, but we’ll have to wait and see.
We did just see the Mariners deal a reliever in Erik Swanson for an elite bat in Teoscar Hernandez, but this situation would involve the Yankees needing to give up more since Arraez isn’t on an expiring contract. However it can get done, the Yankees should 100% explore his market and see how they can get their hands on such a promising young hitter who could give the Yankees elite contact skills they’ve shown interest in acquiring. There’s a reason they traded for Benintendi at the deadline, but Arraez doesn’t just provide contact, he provides a near-elite bat for the Yankees to have in their lineup.
While this isn’t a move the Yankees should be expected to make, this is one they should be doing everything they can to make happen. I rarely say a player is such a good fit that I’d be fine slightly overpaying, but this is one of those exceptions. I think the power upside here is high enough to generate double-digit HRs, and with his incredible ability to make contact and never whiff, he’ll enter his peak years as one of baseball’s best pure hitters.
Maybe the Twins end up keeping him, or maybe he’s dealt elsewhere, but what I do know is that he’s available for the right price, and the Yankees should be willing to match it.