The Yankees can still grab red-hot outfielder in free agency

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Chicago White Sox, yankees, cody bellinger
Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees experienced a disappointing free agency period, failing to secure crucial moves that could have fortified their outfield and boosted the offense. General Manager Brian Cashman refrained from procuring players with hefty contracts or trading prospects to fill the gaping hole in left field.

Currently, it appears the Yankees’ strategy lies in saving face and awaiting the conclusion of the 2023 season.

Consequences of Past Mistakes: Bad Contracts and Ill-advised Trades

Years of unfortunate contracts and regrettable trades are now coming back to haunt the team. Cashman, left with no other choice, is deflecting these missteps by justifying his decisions and suggesting the return value would have been subpar. However, considering his acquisition of Frankie Montas and Josh Donaldson, it’s safe to assert that almost any other move wouldn’t have been as disastrous.

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The Upcoming Winter Free Agency: The Yankees have a Chance at Cody Bellinger

Despite the setbacks, the upcoming winter free agency offers the Yankees a renewed opportunity to target Cody Bellinger, a left-handed power hitter entering the open market at only 28. Bellinger has been in impressive form, hitting .317 with a .367 OBP, contributing 16 homers and 49 RBIs, boasting a 15.7% strikeout rate, a 7.4% walk rate, and his career’s second-highest wRC+ at 142.

Prior to the deadline, Bellinger had been frequently linked to the Yankees. Nevertheless, the Chicago Cubs opted to retain their high-performing player. As Bellinger’s rental status expires, the Yankees will have another chance to secure his services in a few months. Given Bellinger’s fondness for the organization, he might lean towards the Bronx.

Analyzing Bellinger’s Market Value and Prospective Deal

After two underwhelming seasons, Bellinger’s recent resurgence with the Cubs provides the leverage he needs to negotiate a lucrative contract. Currently earning $17.5 million, Bellinger has a mutual option for the next year at $12 million. Given the prospect of a long-term extension with a higher annual salary, he’s likely to reject the option and instigate a bidding war among several teams.

In an optimistic scenario, the Yankees could sign Bellinger while retaining their prospects, an outcome far from the worst, especially as an immediate acquisition wouldn’t necessarily propel the team to a World Series run.

Highlighting Bellinger’s Defensive Prowess

Another crucial aspect to consider is Bellinger’s defensive value. A traditionally strong outfielder, he has played 507.1 innings this year, notching three outs above average. His career statistics include 31 defensive runs saved and 32 outs above average, indicating consistent performance. Furthermore, Bellinger’s flexibility allows him to cover first base, with over 2,000 innings under his belt in that position.

Given that Bellinger is unlikely to secure a 10-year contract, the Yankees could potentially sign him to a reasonable-length deal and extract significant value during his prime years.