The New York Yankees can bolster their team with three players, all of whom are possibly being undervalued after being non-tendered a contract.
The Yankees have some big holes to fill this offseason
The Yankees went 82-80 last year, with a stagnated offense that was struggling due to the regression of its aging stars. First baseman Anthony Rizzo, outfielder Giancarlo Stanton, and utilityman DJ LeMahieu all have a chance to bounce back in 2024, but all struggled in 2023.
Furthermore, the Yankees have lost several players to injuries, trades, and free agency; top prospect Jasson Domingez is out for at least half the season with Tommy John surgery, Jake Bauers departed via trade, and Luis Severino, Frankie Montas, Billy McKinney, Domingo German, and Isiah Kiner Falefa all are free agents this off-season.
There are three players that the Yankees can sign to plug holes at a likely undervalued price, something that the Yankees may pursue along with their blockbuster targets.
Investing in Brandon Woodruff
The Yankees have made it clear that they are in the Yoshinobu Yamamoto sweepstakes, but could invest in Brandon Woodruff for two years while he recovers from shoulder surgery.
Woodruff was shockingly non-tendered by the Milwaukee Brewers after six years, two all-star appearances, and finishing fifth in CY Young voting in 2021. The Brewers likely non-tendered Woodruff because he is unlikely to pitch in 2024, with Woodruff set to hit free agency in 2024 anyway.
It’s no secret that Woodruff is one of the top pitchers on the market. Even in a limited sample in 2023, Woodruff has constantly stayed above a 29% strikeout percentage every year since 2019 and had the lowest ERA of his career in the 67 innings he pitched in 2023. The problem is the need to stomach capital without having Woodruff play in 2024, something many teams, including the Brewers, are unwilling to do.
The Yankees have had issues investing in injured pitchers, with Frankie Montas becoming an issue in 2022 and not pitching in 2023, and Carlos Rodon’s injury status throughout the 2023 season. But Woodruff’s major injury history is limited to a shoulder injury sustained in 2023, and a two-year deal for Woodruff is something the Yankees can take on for possibly $10 million a year.
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Reuniting with Mike Ford
Mike Ford had a very quiet 123 wRC+ in 2023, launching 16 home runs, and slashing .228/.323/.475. Ford also had a 17.8% Barrel rate, ranking 8th among players with over 250 plate appearances in 2023. The best thing about Ford is his relatively long history with the Yankees, playing three full seasons with them from 2019-2021.
Ford is only 31, and was non-tendered after his previous salary of $720,000, well within the budget of the New York Yankees for a potential reunion, and could be a solid designated hitter, or Rizzo at first, depending on either of their injuries statuses coming into the season. Ford also provides the Yankees with a needed left-handed bat in the lineup that could take advantage of the Yankees’ short porch in right field.
Austin Meadows comeback
Austin Meadows only saw 21 at-bats in 2023, leaving the Detroit Tigers to focus on his mental health struggles, intending to be back in 2023. Meadows is four years removed from an All-Star season with the Tampa Bay Rays, where he put up a 144 wRC+ and a 4.5 fWAR. Since then, Meadows has put up two seasons over 100 wRC+ with the Rays and Tigers, where he hit 27 home runs in 2021 with the Rays and hit .250 in 2022 with the Tigers.
It is unclear if Meadows will be like his old self in New York, but he could be an outfield plug-in for the injured Jasson Domingez and an upgrade from the tandem of Billy McKinney and IKF rotating in the outfield off the bench. Meadows is also a solid left-handed bat, with a Steamer 2024 projection of .260/.336/.458, and recently earned $4.3 million from the Tigers, which would be cheaper than retaining IKF.