Yankees: A difference-making center fielder could become available via trade

Andres Chavez
New York Yankees
Oct 16, 2017; Bronx, NY, USA; An view of the a field logo before game three of the 2017 ALCS playoff baseball series between the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

After losing Greg Allen and Tim Locastro to waivers and declining to pick up Brett Gardner’s option, the New York Yankees’ only viable, natural center fielder on the roster is Aaron Hicks. As you probably know, he is recovering from wrist surgery that knocked him out for most of the 2021 campaign.

The Yankees shouldn’t enter the 2022 season with Hicks as their only center fielder on the roster. Sure, Aaron Judge and Joey Gallo can play the position in a pinch, but what happens if Hicks doesn’t regain his form after the injury? It’s certainly possible, given how tricky wrist ailments are. That’s why the Bombers need to address the position.

Provided Gardner doesn’t return eventually, there are only a handful of attractive options in the free agent market: Starling Marte and Chris Taylor. However, the trade market may provide some answers, too.

The Minnesota Twins had a lousy 2021, but will, by all means, try to compete in 2022. To do that, they need their best player, center fielder Byron Buxton, healthy. And he hasn’t been the poster child for health during his career.

Can the Yankees entertain the possibility of acquiring Buxton?

This scenario has created some issues at the time of negotiating a deal between Buxton’s camp and the Twins. Those problems may end up with the two-way star on the trading block, and if he is ever made available, the Yankees should definitely pounce.

Here is the situation, as told by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Dan Hayes:

“Chairman Jim Pohlad, according to major-league sources, is reluctant to move Buxton, knowing such a decision potentially would upset a fan base tired of seeing the team part with homegrown stars. But the Twins have failed to reach an agreement on a contract extension with Buxton, their dynamic, yet oft-injured center fielder who is eligible for free agency after the 2022 season. … Before the Twins would move Buxton, they would want to make sure they are unable to reach an agreement with him on an extension. The parties continue to communicate, but have not made progress toward a deal, sources said.”

Buxton is at his prime (27 years old) and had an amazing 2021 when healthy. He slashed .306/.358/.647 with 19 home runs and a 169 wRC+ in just 61 games, accumulating an incredible 4.2 WAR over that span.

The Yankees should be all over him if the Twins are open to trading him, even though he only has a year of team control left. It could take quite a package, but the Bombers have the prospects and the money.