Could the Yankees get creative in centerfield with versatile utilityman?

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With the Yankees currently having a hole in centerfield, they’ll need to find a way to fill that gap before the offseason comes to a close. While The Athletic reported that Kevin Kiermaier and the Yankees have had preliminary conversations, Jon Heyman of the New York Post has reported that the team could have an interest in Cody Bellinger. Both would be upgrades for the Yankees from the left-handed side, but perhaps the Yankees will go down the trade route to improve centerfield.

Tommy Edman has been one of the most versatile defenders with elite speed and contact tools, and following a down season in 2023, could the switch-hitting utility man be the Yankees’ solution in centerfield?

The Yankees Could Benefit From a Unique Skillset

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers
Sep 26, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Tommy Edman (19) celebrates after hitting a home run against the Milwaukee Brewers in the fifth inning at American Family Field. Mandatory Credit: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

Tommy Edman put up a 92 wRC+ this past season after slashing .248/.307/.399 across 137 games, but the Yankees could perhaps get surplus value from a player like Edman. Sure, the bat isn’t excellent, but the swings could be better at the Bronx, where Baseball Savant’s Expected Home Run metric details that Edman would have hit three more HRs at Yankee Stadium, and it’s easy to see where the offensive fit is.

A switch-hitter with a mere 15.9% strikeout rate would sound like an old-school argument to solve a modern-day problem, but instead, it’s the power that Edman could unlock at the Bronx coupled with a strong glove and great speed that entices me. While his BsR dropped from +8.4 to +1.8, Edman is one of the best base runners in the game, swiping 89 bases since 2021 and stealing 27 in just 31 attempts last season. His speed is remarkable, and the Yankees could be getting a hitter who was just a year removed from putting up a 106 wRC+.

Steamer projects him for a 99 wRC+, and his career wRC+ sits at 99, so perhaps the right field boost is the final nudge he needs to be a consistently average hitter who provides incredible defensive and base running value for the team.

Tommy Edman hitting 16 HRs instead of 13 last season might have boosted his wRC+ to match the 100 mark or exceed it, and that type of production from the bottom of the order could help this team. Defensively, Edman has +2 DRS and +6 OAA out in center field this past season, and that’s due to a solid arm and some excellent range with his 88th Percentile Sprint Speeds. The ability to play all over the diamond also means that, if needed, the Yankees could slot Edman into their infield for better defensive alignments or if they need insurance.

With club control through the 2025 season, the Yankees would also have an in-house solution at second base if Gleyber Torres were to depart or insurance at shortstop or the corner outfield if guys needed time off or were hurt. Versatility is extremely valuable in the modern game, and it’s why the 28-year-old speedster accumulated 2.3 fWAR and has never had a WAR below 2 across a full season.

The Yankees need to get faster and run the bases better, and they also need some better offensive production in centerfield than what Harrison Bader gave them, and while it’s not an upgrade that makes your lineup significantly better, paired with the right moves, it takes the Yankees to a different level as a team. Edman hitting ninth of the Yankees extends their lineup, and his glove in center gives the team support at a position they’ll be short-handed at while Jasson Dominguez recovers from Tommy John Surgery.

Edman pulls 36% of his flyballs from the left-handed side and hits 41.7% of his flyballs from the opposite field from the right-handed side, and in my eyes, there’s a lot to like here from the Yankees’ perspective. Defensively, it’s hard to argue that he isn’t one of the better options they could have out there, and with the potential to be a 100-105 wRC+ hitter with an elite glove and 30 steals, what would the Yankees have to pay for him?

Pulling Off a Deal for Tommy Edman

MLB: Washington Nationals at New York Yankees
Aug 23, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman talks with the media before the game between the Yankees and the Washington Nationals at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Easily, the biggest priority for the St. Louis Cardinals right now pertains to their lack of pitching, and I believe that this deal could work for both parties. While the Cardinals would look for an arm that helps their rotation and perhaps bullpen, I think their interest in Clayton Beeter could make him a piece in this deal. He can’t headline this sort of deal, but he can play a prominent role in it, and St. Louis could target him as a backend rotation arm.

Ian Hamilton, who the Yankees got plenty of value from this past season, could greatly help a Cardinals’ bullpen that finished with a bottom-10 ERA in baseball (4.47) and SIERA (4.08), struggling to get any strikeouts and limit walks. Hamilton, who has five years of service time remaining, could greatly help St. Louis fill out their bullpen and add to their rotation at the same time.

Edman, who has just two years remaining of control, wouldn’t require the haul that one would expect to deal for his teammate Brendan Donovan. While that’s because he’s the better player and has more control, Edman would still be a nice addition. As stated previously, his +6 OAA in centerfield is really good, and when you factor in the mere 310.2 innings played out there, you get a 19 OAA per 1,000-inning rate.

There’s a real chance that he could compete for a Gold Glove out there, and that’s due to the fact that he has great coverage out in centerfield with strong bursts and a solid arm. His value at positions like 2B, SS, and 3B also allow the Yankees to constantly mold their lineup around what their needs are, but strictly as a centerfielder, I see no reason why Edman couldn’t give the Yankees a 2-3 WAR season.

Both teams match up well in a deal, as for the Cardinals, they’d trade a surplus position player for pitching, allowing them to hold onto Brendan Donovan and Nolan Gorman and use their financial flexibility to acquire arms. It would also give the Yankees something they greatly need: speed, and it wouldn’t remove them from the Juan Soto sweepstakes, which is something you concern yourself over in regards to a potential deal involving Brendan Donovan.

Could the two parties link up for a deal? Only time will tell, but for centerfield, this could be a really underrated get for a slow and sluggish Yankee team.

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