The Yankees could make this position player swap at the deadline

Mike Yastrzemski, yankees
Apr 19, 2023; Miami, Florida, USA; San Francisco Giants center fielder Mike Yastrzemski (5) watches his two-run home run against the Miami Marlins in the 11th inning at loanDepot Park. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees haven’t found a permanent solution in left field for a while. In a sense of irony, Brett Gardner‘s inevitable age regression has still affected the Yankees, as despite multiple trades at the deadline for high-profile outfielders haven’t turned out the way they wanted.

While we can’t harp over the failed Joey Gallo trade and Andrew Benintendi‘s hamate bone snapping just as he turned the corner, we can look to the future and try to find outfield help for the Bronx Bombers. To say they’ve been bad in left field is an understatement; they currently have both the worst fWAR and wRC+ in baseball out of the position.

Safe to say, while Jasson Dominguez is an exciting young prospect, it would be foolish to rush him to the Majors and force him to adapt in a stressful playoff atmosphere against teams like the Rays, Blue Jays, and of course, the Astros.

The Yankees have an abundance of infield talent, and with Oswald Peraza surging in Triple-A, could the Yankees turn to their infield depth to fix an ever-present issue in the outfield?

The Yankees and Giants Could Make a Mutually Beneficial Swap

The Yankees and Giants have some notable faces that have been a part of both organizations, such as Wandy Peralta, Thairo Estrada, Jonathan Loáisiga, and Carlos Rodón, with both teams heavily involved in the Aaron Judge sweepstakes.

It’s an odd relationship, but there is an established trade tree between the Giants and Yankees that would suggest that these two teams wouldn’t be opposed to making a deal with each other.

The Giants have seen the rise of former Yankee farmhand Thairo Estrada, as he’s blossomed into arguably their best and most reliable position player.

On the other hand, a beloved icon in San Francisco is beginning to show signs of aging, as Brandon Crawford hasn’t just struggled offensively but defensively as well. Now, Estrada doesn’t provide much of an upgrade defensively at shortstop.

However, they could still be intrigued to move him there in order to keep Crawford out of the lineup and in more of a bench role. They were one poor medical report away from landing superstar shortstop Carlos Correa, and it’s obvious that there’s discontent with Crawford as their everyday starter there. This is where Gleyber Torres steps into the equation.

gleyber torres, new york yankees
Feb 26, 2023; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) singles during the first inning against the Atlanta Braves at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

I’m going to preface this by establishing two extremely important talking points before I mention the words “Trade” and “Gleyber” in the same sentence.

First and foremost, I believe Gleyber Torres is a good player who’s given far too much flak on social media for “lazy” play, especially considering how aggressive he is on the basepaths. I wouldn’t suggest that the San Francisco Giants would have any interest in Gleyber if I didn’t feel this way, it’s a far more nuanced situation than just trading Gleyber because of reasons that simply aren’t true, such as his hustle or performance on the field.

The second important thing for me to mention is that I also recognize that Oswald Peraza is not a sure thing and that by trading Gleyber Torres, the Yankees open themselves up for an infield that’s extremely volatile with two rookies in the fold.

That being said, there’s a legitimate argument to be made that the Yankees would get more value from having an upgrade in LF, Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe instead of their current LF situation, Gleyber Torres and Anthony Volpe. The variable in this “equation” is the outfielder. I’m suggesting that the Yankees could move Torres for veteran lefty Mike Yastrzemski.

Grandson of the legendary Carl Yastrzemski, Mike is one of the more underrated outfielders in baseball, consistently posting solid offensive numbers with strong defense and baserunning in a ballpark that’s not favorable for his swing path.

Yastrzemski is a pull-heavy flyball hitter, and Oracle Park isn’t a place that’s known to play well for left-handed hitters with triples alley and the giant wall in right field limiting a lot of potential home runs, converting them into singles, doubles, triples, or frustrating outs.

May 16, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Mike Yastrzemski (5) rounds third base after hitting a two-run home run during the top of the ninth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Mark Alberti-USA TODAY Sports

In 2022, it was apparent that Yastrzemski would try to hit the ball out to left field more, as that part of the ballpark is far more favorable for homers than right field is. If anyone’s read any of my articles that involve a discussion around pulling the ball, you’ll know that I’m a huge proponent of the pulled flyball, and that’s for good reason.

Pulled flyballs result in farther-traveling baseballs, and you can overperform metrics like xwOBA when you have elite directional sprays on flyballs. When we look at his flyball distribution at home and on the road, we see a clear attempt to change his approach and play at his ballpark more.

At home, he’s overwhelmingly an opposite-field flyball hitter, whereas on the road, his approach changes to a more even style of offense. When we include line drive rate in this sample with flyballs, we see a 7.4% increase in pull rate alongside a 5.3% decrease in his opposite field batted balls, further indicating an approach change on elevated batted balls.

At Yankee Stadium, this issue doesn’t exist, with pulled flyballs from left-handed hitters playing extremely well. Instead of altering his approach at home and on the road, which could cause complications with consistency, he can stay to his pulled flyball approach.

In general, pulling your flyballs and your barrels is a good thing, at Yankee Stadium, it’s a great thing for a left-handed hitter. Yaz already has a solid 108 wRC+ on the season, not too far off from Gleyber’s 114 wRC+.

It seems silly to suggest that the Yankees should trade a good hitter like Torres for someone who’s mustered a 102 wRC+ from 2021-2022, but you’re acquiring him in the hopes that his offense plays slightly better at Yankee Stadium versus Oracle Park.

With that being said, there’s another variable in this discussion, and that’s the value Oswald Peraza is going to bring to the table in this scenario.

Are the Yankees Better With Oswald Peraza?

Sep 25, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Oswald Peraza (91) hits a double in the fifth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

This feels like an impossible question to answer, and the indecision that the organization seemingly has between Peraza and Torres reflects this.

On the one hand, Oswald Peraza is an elite defensive shortstop with great speed and solid game power. Since 2022, Oswald Peraza has a 111 wRC+ in Triple-A with 22 HRs and 38 SBs in 113 games at the ages of 21 and 22, showing us plenty of offensive upside. If we narrow down this sample size to just his last 67 games played at Triple-A, we see a whopping 148 wRC+ with 17 HRs and 27 SBs, which, when extrapolated over a 150-game pace, gives us these gaudy numbers:

  • 38 HRs
  • 60 SBs
  • 102 RBIs

People may point to an extremely high BABIP (.366) which I believe is valid, but even if we regress the BABIP, he’d likely go from an elite-level hitter to a good but not great one.

Again, remembering that he’s an elite defensive shortstop means that he could end up being similar to prime Andrelton Simmons. Now, let me create a couple of key counterarguments to my own points about Peraza’s bat.

Firstly, Peraza doesn’t hit the ball very hard, and his walk rates haven’t been there at the MiLB level in spite of low chase rates. Immediately, you’d lose the high offensive ceiling Torres possesses through better raw power, but does that balance out the baserunning and defensive difference?

When we take a look at how ZiPS projects these two from 2023-2025, we’ll get a good comparison as to how these two could turn out as ballplayers over the near future. To create a fair playing field, we’ll take their WAR and average it out for a 600-plate appearance pace since it’s unfair to project how many games a player will play in 2025, considering injuries and anomalies can occur at any point in time:

On a per 600 plate appearance pace, we see that these two have remarkably similar projections, albeit in different ways. While Torres is consistently projected to finish with an OPS around .760, Peraza isn’t projected for a single season to post an OPS above .698.

That being said, could MLB data suggest that Peraza isn’t that bad of a hitter? Peraza doesn’t chase at all, and that’s led to his MLB walk rate being an impressive 9.5% with a mere 15.8% K%.

The issue lies in a high groundball rate and low game power, though all things mentioned above could just be a product of only having 95 MLB plate appearances.

I often hear comparisons between Peraza and IKF, but there’s never been a point in IKF’s professional career where he’s hit the way Oswald Peraza has. His career MiLB wRC+ is 113, and while that doesn’t mean he’ll post a 119 wRC+ in the big leagues, it does mean he’s not some poor offensive prospect who’s relied on defense and speed to get to the point he is today.

On the other hand, Kiner-Falefa had a 91 wRC+ in his MiLB career, with little time in Triple-A but a sub-700 OPS in Double-A.

Not to drag IKF down with this, because he’s turned in a solid MLB career for himself. He’s a career 10 bWAR player as a utility man, and that’s valuable. This is just to say that there has to be more to Peraza offensively in terms of establishing a ceiling than just being an okay offensive player. If he can replicate what Nico Hoerner‘s done for the Cubs, we could be looking at a player that ends up providing much more value than we initially pegged him for.

In his career, Hoerner has a 100 wRC+, and yet he has a 4.3 fWAR/600 pace. His excellent defense (+21 OAA) and baserunning (+5.5 BsR) have allowed him to put up strong numbers in spite of a relatively unimpressive offensive profile. He has league-average offensive numbers, a hard hit rate of 33.1%, and barrels just 2.0% of batted balls, and yet he’s one of the better middle infielders in the entire sport.

Oswald Peraza is a perplexing player because of the uncertainty regarding his bat and the lack of MLB experience, but his defense and baserunning are so enticing that you feel as if the floor is decently high here.

oswald peraza, yankees
Oct 20, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Oswald Peraza (91) throws to first base on a ground out by Houston Astros center fielder Chas McCormick (20) during the seventh inning in game two of the ALCS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Furthermore, it’s not a direct one-for-one swap with Torres and Peraza; in this scenario, the Yankees would go from having one of the worst LF rooms in the entire sport to having an above-average left fielder as well.

There’s no debating the fact that the Yankees do not have anyone in the organization that can perform better than Yaz in LF for 2023, whereas there’s a legitimate case to be made that Peraza could outperform Torres over the course of a full season due to his ability to play a more valuable position and being an elite baserunner.

Is Mike Yastrzemski the Bat the Yankees Need

One of the biggest caveats with this trade is that it hinges on the idea that Yaz is a player the Yankees could see improvement from rather than getting the player he is right now. Even then, the Yankees’ futility in LF would mean that if Yaz is nothing more than an okay hitter with a solid glove and baserunning, he’s still a massive upgrade over what the Yankees have at the position. Furthermore, the lack of outfield bat options available for trade raises an entirely different question on its own.

Cody Bellinger emerges as an option, but after being placed on the IL with a knee contusion and his shaky history in 2021 and 2022, is he the safest bet to maintain a wRC+ over 120? The Giants have both Joc Pederson and Michael Conforto, but Pederson is on his second IL stint and hasn’t played the outfield since 2022, and Conforto has just a 100 wRC+ with subpar defense and is coming off of shoulder surgery. Some niche options could gain traction on the market, but it feels as if the Yankees will be in a bind with outfield help at the deadline.

Furthermore, Yaz has two more years of control following this season, giving the Yankees a long-term answer in the outfield for relatively cheap. They’ll have an insurance plan for Harrison Bader if he hits free agency, and also allows them to not have to rush someone like Jasson Dominguez. It could also be a situation where if the Yankees have a blossoming Dominguez on their hands, they could use Yaz as trade bait for a position of need.

jasson dominguez, yankees
Oct 26, 2022; Surprise, Arizona, USA; New York Yankees designated hitter Jasson Dominguez plays for the Mesa Solar Sox during an Arizona Fall League baseball game at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Projections say Yaz is a near-110 wRC+ hitter, whereas Gleyber Torres is projected closer to a 115 wRC+ bat. Factor in the left-handed bat, better defensive value and versatility, and better baserunning, and that 5% decrease in offense seems negligible.

It’s also important to note that you’re going from a 115 wRC+ hitter in Torres to a 95-100 wRC+ bat in Peraza but going from a team 57 wRC+ to a 110 in LF. As mentioned earlier, it’s also possible that Peraza matches or surpasses Torres in terms of WAR value because of his defense and baserunning, alongside room for him to become a better hitter than most scouts pegged him as.

The Yankees getting league-average offense from shortstop with Peraza, improved offense with Volpe at 2B, and a 110 wRC+ bat in Yaz in LF would make a massive difference in the performance of this offense, even at the cost of a hitter like Torres.

For the Giants, they would also make an upgrade in their outfield with a younger bat that would be easy to extend, giving them a young middle infield combination in Estrada and Torres.

It would open up concerns about what the Giants would do in CF without the left-handed outfielder, but considering this is more of a deadline move, there’s time to address that part of the roster adequately before or after making a move like this.

Obviously, I’m not privy to how the Giants value Torres or Yaz, and the same goes for the Yankees, but if these two teams wanted to solve a hole on their roster, this position-player swap could prove to be a real win-win trade.

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