The Yankees have been adding minor-league talent over the past few days, notably a few outfielders, to compete during spring training. General manager Brian Cashman has remained patient and cautious filling the vacant left field spot, but that doesn’t mean a deal isn’t in the works for the Yankees with the new year upon us and additional improvement expected.
Rumors have been swirling over the past few weeks, specifically regarding players like Bryan Reynolds of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Max Kepler of the Minnesota Twins, and a few remaining free agents like Jurickson Profar.
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The Yankees have three choices in left field for 2023:
Blockbuster: Bryan Reynolds
If the Yankees truly want Reynolds, they must be willing to give up one of their top prospects, notably Oswald Peraza, Anthony Volpe, or Jasson Dominguez.
The Pirates are looking for a top pitching prospect in return, but the Yankees sent both of their top arms away at the trade deadline. Without Ken Waldichuk and Hayden Wesneski at their disposal, Reynolds seems like a longshot to begin with. It is possible that the Pirates change their needs and the Yankees offer a suitable return, but at this point in time, it doesn’t seem like Cashman is prepared to mortgage the team’s future and expend some of their young players who are ready to make an impact in 2023.
With that being said, Reynolds is only 27 years old and will be a free agent in 2026. He hit .262 with a 34.5% on-base rate, 27 homers, and 62 RBIs last season, earning a 125 wRC+. There’s no question he would be a star in left field for the Bombers, improving their chances to reah the World Series, but the Pirates want a major haul, and the Yankees don’t necessarily want to pillage their farm.
Content: Max Kepler
Kepler makes the most sense at this point in time, considering he’s set to earn about $7 million in 2023. At 29 years old, Kepler played in 115 games last year, hitting .227 with a 31.8% on-base rate, nine homers, and 43 RBIs. Kepler is an OK player offensively but provides star quality as a defensive outfielder.
Given his lefty bat and the short right porch in Yankee Stadium, Kepler seems like the most probable option if the Yankees are going to deal for a new left fielder. The cost to acquire him would be a fraction of what Reynolds will command, so there’s another benefit.
If Kepler performs well, the team will consume a 2024 club option, allowing them to keep him for an additional year. It is worthwhile noting that Kepler hit 36 homers back in 2019, so he has untapped power the Yankees can build upon. His 40% hard-hit rate and 7.1% barrel rate in 2022 suggest he could hit 20+ homers in 2023 if he finds his groove in the batter’s box.
Conservative: Oswaldo Cabrera
The conservative approach is simply to start Oswaldo Cabrera, a 23-year-old super-utility option who performed exceptionally well in the outfield last season.
Defensively, Cabrera posted nine defensive runs saved above average in the outfield with one out above average across 278.2 innings. He enjoyed a perfect fielding percentage but struggled to a degree offensively. He hit .247 with a .312 OBP, six homers, and 19 RBIs with a 111 wRC+. His Steamer projections have him hitting .237 with a 30% on-base rate, 14 homers, and 44 RBIs.
Considering he’s a switch hitter, there is a serious amount of value that Cabrera could offer the team next season, but it is just a matter of his playing time, whether it be as a supplementary player or a legitimate starter.
Cashman and manager Aaron Boone have already confided in their available talent to fill LF, and Cabrera will likely get the first crack at the starting job over Aaron Hicks since the Yankees have been trying to offload his deal for months.