Mike Trout? Juan Soto? Yankees could make blockbuster move to fix outfield

mlb: cincinnati reds at los angeles angels, yankees, mike trout
Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

In a turn of events that nobody saw coming, Yankees‘ star outfield prospect Jasson Dominguez has suffered a torn right UCL. This isn’t just sidelining him for the remainder of the 2023 season; it’s also putting a dent in his 2024 campaign. While Dominguez could potentially start hitting well before the 9–10-month recovery period, he won’t be back to throwing baseballs until at least next June.

Filling the Void: The Free Agency Conundrum

After promoting Dominguez from Triple-A, the Yankees felt they had avoided a looming outfield issue. Dominguez hit a remarkable four homers in just eight games at the young age of 20. However, they’re now left with a substantial gap to fill in centerfield, and let’s face it, the free agency market isn’t overflowing with talent.

The Cody Bellinger Dilemma

One potential target is Cody Bellinger. At 28, he’s arguably the best outfielder available, boasting a .317 batting average and a .360 OBP, along with 25 homers and 89 RBIs this season. The catch? He’s on track for a hefty contract, and the Yankees need to be mindful of their budget, especially given their rumored plans to offer international pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto a significant contract.

Yankees’ Trade Market Possibilities: Going Big or Playing it Safe?

The trade market could serve as an alternative, at least for the short term. This would not only resolve the centerfield crisis but could also reinforce the corner outfield positions until Dominguez is back to full strength.

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The Juan Soto Factor

First up is 24-year-old sensation Juan Soto. With just one more season before hitting free agency, locking him in would give the Yankees first dibs on extending his contract. Despite his defensive inconsistencies, Soto’s batting stats are impressive: a .260 average, .400 OBP, 29 homers, and 89 RBIs this season. Acquiring him would require a king’s ransom in trade value, a commitment the Yankees might hesitate to make. However, his compatibility with Yankee Stadium’s short right porch could make it a gamble worth taking.

Navigating the Farm System

The Yanks have been reluctant to dismantle their farm system in past trade talks. Waiting for Soto’s price to drop has seemed like the logical strategy, but competing interest from teams like the San Diego Padres could force a quicker decision.

A Mike Trout Curveball

Then there’s Mike Trout, a possibility mentioned by USA Today’s Bob Nightingale. While Trout’s injury history raises red flags, his generational talent is undeniable. The financial burden, though, is hefty; Trout will earn $37.1 million next season, with a $35.5 million luxury tax salary. A salary-sharing agreement with the Angels could make this more palatable, turning this into essentially a swap of Luis Severino’s contract plus an extra $2.5 million for Trout.

The Financial Balancing Act: Contract Concerns and Salary Caps

Trout has a full no-trade clause, which puts him in the driver’s seat regarding any move. If he’s open to relocating to the Bronx, the Yankees could secure an elite talent at a (relatively) reasonable price, despite the long-term commitment that doesn’t expire until he’s nearly 40.

Risks and Rewards: The Big Decision

It’s a tantalizing prospect: an outfield featuring Judge, Trout, and a recovered Dominguez. But it’s also fraught with risks, given Trout’s injury history and substantial contract. The Yankees might opt to take a different route, perhaps focusing on younger talent as they look toward the future.

In the high-stakes world of MLB trades and acquisitions, Yankees’ General Manager Brian Cashman is known for taking bold risks. However, given recent events, this approach may be up for reevaluation, making a Trout acquisition far from a sure thing.