The New York Yankees have been taking an extremely patient approach to filling the vacant left field spot left by Andrew Benintendi in free agency. General manager Brian Cashman acquired Benintendi at the deadline this past summer, but they failed to secure him on a contract extension, electing to sign a new deal with the Chicago White Sox.
Cashman didn’t want to pay Benintendi $18+ million but rather hover around the $15 million range, so it is not surprising that the Yankees played a more conservative strategy. In addition, a five-year deal was always too long.
Nonetheless, the team still needs to find a new left fielder — Michael Brantley and Michael Conforto both represent available free agents. It is possible that Cashman looks to acquire a player via trade, potentially Max Kepler of the Minnesota Twins. However, who’s to say the Yankees don’t already have their future left fielder on the roster in Oswaldo Cabrera?
Why the Yankees could give the LF reigns to Oswaldo Cabrera:
At 23 years old, Cabrera expects to feature in a super-utility role, giving him the ability to fill it at multiple key positions in the outfield and infield. There’s an argument to make, though, that he should be getting everyday reps at a singular spot where he can develop his game and remain consistent.
Last season, the Yankees utilized him all over the defense, including 13.1 innings at first base, 19 innings at second base, 28 innings at third base, 28 at shortstop, and 278.2 in the outfield.
Across every defensive alignment, he produced 13 defensive runs saved above average, including nine in the outfield, specifically (under 500 total innings, which is incredible). Showcasing solid arm strength and phenomenal athleticism, Cabrera transitioned to a position he had never played before with ease, justifying more playing time in 2023. Offensively, there’s a lot left to be desired from the switch hitter, finishing with a .247 batting average and 31.2% on-base rate. In 44 games, he hit six homers with 19 RBIs and a 25.7% strikeout rate.
Cabrera featured a 34.8% hard-hit rate, a 6.3% barrel rate, and 86.8 mph of exit velocity on average. If he can improve his slugging capabilities, not only will he hit more home runs, but he will play right into the Yankees’ mantra, “hit strikes hard.”
One way or another, the Yankees will utilize Cabrera significantly this upcoming season, especially if DJ LeMahieu is dealing with an injury that shortens his campaign.
DJ was knocked out of the 2022 season due to a toe injury that became a serious issue. Allowing it to heal on its own may cause problems down the road, so having Cabrera and his diversified skill set will be a major bonus. However, if the team doesn’t want to spend on the top free agents at the left field position, they can easily situate Cabrera there and feel confident.