Yankees can get incredible value from outfielder before inevitable departure in free agency

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Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

When the New York Yankees acquired Alex Verdugo from the Boston Red Sox, they anticipated he would become their starting left fielder for the 2024 season. Of course, both Verdugo and Juan Soto are in the final year of arbitration, preparing to head to free agency in 2025.

The Yankees have a storied history of investing in superstar talent at the peak of their performance, so extending Soto certainly isn’t out of the question.

On the other hand, if the Yankees want to spend big on the 25-year-old Hall of Fame talent, Verdugo may become the odd man out.

The Yankees Have Plenty of Youth Climbing the System

The Yankees have Jasson Dominguez and Spencer Jones waiting in the wings to take over starting outfield positions next year. Verdugo has historically competent offensive value and represents a decent defensive asset. However, he’s putting together a solid start to the 2024 season for the Bombers over 19 games.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Miami Marlins
Mar 4, 2024; Jupiter, Florida, USA; New York Yankees outfielder Spencer jones (78) hits a single against the Miami Marlins during the fifth inning at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

He’s hitting .242/338/.424, including two homers, five RBIs, a 10.4% strikeout rate, and a 13% walk rate with a 124 wRC+. He ranks in the 19th percentile in whiff percentage and 96th percentile in strikeout rate.

The problem with Verdugo has never been his plate discipline but rather his slugging metrics. He currently sits in the 9th percentile in barrel percentage and 5th percentile in hard-hit rate.

Specifically, he has a 23.7% hard-hit rate, the lowest in his career by a significant margin. In addition, he’s only barreling 1.7% of balls in play, which is another career low. Of course, these numbers should gradually increase as the season continues, but the Yankees’ new left fielder has done a good job making contact and putting the ball in play, even if it means getting lucky on occasion.

mlb: spring training-toronto blue jays at new york yankees, alex verdugo
Feb 25, 2024; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees right fielder Alex Verdugo (24) and right fielder Aaron Judge (99) talk in the dugout at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Verdugo has an expected batting average of .242, which is precisely what he has on the season. That essentially means he’s performing at an expected level, but he’s on pace for 16 homers, which would be a career-high in the MLB.

Ultimately, the Bombers are looking for a good season of the former Red Sox starter, and even though he may end up departing in free agency next year, the team will walk away with performance well above that of 2023, when the team featured Aaron Hicks, Oswaldo Cabrera, Jake Bauers, and more.

Verdugo isn’t just a productive player, though. He brings a unique character to the clubhouse. He’s been a focal point in starting the “dawgs” mentality and utilizing his energy as a catalyst.

Not to mention, he’s been a solid defender to open the year with a perfect fielding percentage over 170.2 innings. He’s already collected one defensive run saved and one out above average. He’s on pace for eight in each category.

Considering Verdugo has started to heat up over the past two weeks, the Yankees are getting extraordinary results at the bottom half of their order, which is precisely what they intended when they acquired him in the first place.

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