Yankees are aggressive in pursuit of 2 elite outfielders

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Atlanta Braves, cody bellinger, yankees
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

The winter hot stove is red hot, and the New York Yankees are cooking their Thanksgiving turkey. However, in the meantime, their focus is on improving the outfield, and they reportedly have interest in both free agent star Cody Bellinger and elite lefty slugger Juan Soto.

Both are extremely expensive acquisitions, and it is unlikely the Yankees will land the two talents, but reports are indicating that the front office is aggressive in their pursuit, and general manager Brian Cashman won’t stop until he finds an elite lefty bat to improve the lineup.

Is Cody Bellinger Worth The Investment?

Bellinger, 28, is coming off a tremendous bounce-back season with the Chicago Cubs. He struggled in 2021 and 2022, which should be a cautionary tale for the Yankees if they want to sign into a long-term deal. He hit .307 with a .356 OBP and .525 slugging rate, including 26 homers, 97 RBIs, and a 134 wRC+ this past season. He put together a campaign reminiscent of his MVP days, and the Yankees would certainly love to have him in the batting order, but one great season out of the last three certainly offers a bit of caution.

However, Bellinger isn’t only an offensive stud, he’s also one of the best center fielders in baseball with above-average competency at first base. He played 686 innings in the outfield last year, hosting a .990 fielding percentage with four outs above average. He also played 421.1 innings at first base with five defensive runs saved.

mlb: chicago cubs at colorado rockies, cody bellinger, yankees
Sep 11, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Chicago Cubs center fielder Cody Bellinger (24) slides into second on a double in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Can the Yankees Sustain a Defensive Liability?

Comparably, Soto is a terrible defensive player, one of the worst in baseball, but is a generational hitter, one that fits the Yankees’ needs perfectly. Not only is Soto 25 years old, but he’s played over 150 games for three consecutive seasons and played all 162 in 2023. He hit .275 with a .410 OBP, including 35 homers and 109 RBIs with a 155 wRC+. He was considered 21% better than Bellinger offensively, but he’s done it on a consistent basis, whereas Bellinger has struggled with his health at times and performance on a year-by-year basis.

Bellinger is expected to get a contract in the range of $200 million while Soto will cost $30 million in his final year of arbitration before landing a monster extension that could reach $400 million. The Yankees certainly won’t be handing out $600 million for the two combined, especially with Giancarlo Stanton still owed $98 million, but their interest in both certainly indicates they may walk away with one or the other this off-season.