If the Yankees could sign outfielder Jurickson Profar, it would’ve already been done, but there’s one big factor holding them back ahead of spring training. With Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera expected to compete in a position battle for the starting left field job, the Yankees are taking an enormous risk that one of the two will rise to the occasion, but neither performed well offensively in 2022.
We know Cabrera will offer athletic defensive play, considering his nine defensive runs saved in the outfield last season. Hicks looked lazy at times and failed to contribute offensively, but that hasn’t stopped general manager Brian Cashman from coming to his defense during every press conference.
The Yankees have been linked to Profar for weeks now, but the hesitation is his asking price, having turned down an $8.3 million player option for the 2023 season.
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The Yankees don’t want to spend big on Jurickson Profar:
Considering Profar turned down $8.3 million, he obviously wants a contract worth more money and more years. With the San Diego Padres in 2022, Profar hit .243 with a .321 OBP, 15 homers, and 58 RBIs. In Yankee Stadium, his switch-hitting bat would allow him to hit 20+ home runs, but he doesn’t move the needle significantly in the direction of the World Series appearance. He enjoyed s 110 wRC+ last season with a 2.5 WAR, but both numbers are expected to decrease according to his Steamer projections. They have him hitting .241 with a .326 OBP, 12 homers, 48 RBIs, a 105 wRC+, and 1.2 WAR.
If the Yankees end up getting a worse version of Profar in 2022, locking him in on a multiyear deal may end up being an awful decision. Especially since he may be looking for a contract worth $10+ million, the Yankees need to stand their ground and not make spontaneous decisions based on need.
The big factor holding the Yankees back from making any signings, though, is that they are incredibly close to the next luxury tax threshold. The next level is $293 million, and the Yankees currently sit at $286.8 million. Breaching that margin would force a huge tax, via Forbes: “Exceeding new third surcharge level ($60 million above the base tax threshold): 80% (1st), 90% (second consecutive year), 105% (third or more consecutive year).”
That leaves them with an extremely thin margin for adding new players, considering they only have about $5 million remaining to spend, and they may need to fill a spot due to injury.
Given the fact that Hicks and Cabrera are healthy going into the 2023 season, simply adding competition that won’t move the needle significantly may be a bad idea. Saving cash for a last-resort scenario is more efficient.
However, the Yankees can still offload a bit of money by trading Josh Donaldson, Hicks, or even Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who signed a one-year, $6 million deal. There’s realistically no chance that Cashman finds a way to get rid of Donaldson or Hicks’ entire contract, but he may be able to take on a portion of their salary just to get them off the books and open up some free cash flow for the future.
Alternatively, the Yankees stick with what they have, let Donaldson and his $21 million salary walk into the sunset after this upcoming season concludes, and roll over that money into a more prominent player. However, the team will have several openings next year, specifically in centerfield, with Harrison Bader hitting free agency and Luis Severino and Frankie Montas heading to the open market. I would be remiss not to mention Wandy Peralta, an extremely consistent bullpen arm for the Yankees, representing their only lefty in a heavy right-handed unit.
Allocating $10 million more to Profar over multiple years will likely stop them from retaining one of those players. Since Jasson Dominguez jumped to AA last year and could find himself in AAA this upcoming season, it’s not out of the question that he makes the transition to the majors in 2024, solidifying a young outfield with Aaron Judge in RF and Cabrera taking over in LF. That is not even mentioning prospects like Everson Pereira, who could get the call-up at some point in the future.