After about two weeks of consecutive spring training games, the New York Yankees have their first off day on Tuesday. We’ve learned a lot since the start of spring training, specifically regarding the left-field position and the infield log jam that is currently unfolding.
In left field, Aaron Hicks seems to be holding a slight advantage, but Rafael Ortega has stepped onto the scene and produced. In fact, Ortega, who is 31 years old, has tallied three hits, two homers, five RBIs, and four runs across just nine at-bats.
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There’s a strong argument to make that Ortega should be firmly in the mix for the starting left-field job, especially after Hicks dropped a routine fly ball during Monday’s win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
However, there are still rumors circulating that the Yankees could be intrigued by Jurickson Profar, the last remaining top left-field free agent who is holding out for a better deal. Profar has already rejected a $7.5 million player option from the San Diego Padres, essentially waiting for an injury or deficiency to pop up. Luckily for him, the Yankees do have a weakness there and may still be willing to reach a fair deal for his services.
Jurickson Profar is still on the market, but he was rumored to have been looking for approximately $10 million for a season after rejecting the $7.5 million player option he had for the 2023 season with the Padres, a person with knowledge of the team’s personnel decisions told The Athletic. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.Via The Athletic.
The Yankees need to find $10 million first and foremost:
Profar is looking for $10 million per season but may settle for a bit less, given the interest in the market is slim. Teams don’t normally make any big signings or acquisitions during spring training, so if he’s going to get plucked before Opening Day, it would likely be at the buzzer.
However, he would instantly be the Yankees’ best starting option in left field. The 30-year-old hit .243 with a .331 OBP last season, including 15 homers and 58 RBIs. He posted a 15.7% strikeout rate and 11.1% walk rate, enjoying a 110 wRC+ and 2.5 WAR. Given his switch-hitting bat, he can easily perform well in Yankee Stadium.
Defensively, Profar has played a number of positions throughout his career, including multiple infield spots and over 2,000 innings in LF. He has a career .987 fielding percentage and has posted 10 defensive runs saved above average at the position.
The question is, how can the Yankees open up $10 million to offer Profar for the 2023 season? Well, there are a number of ways. The team currently has a project to total payroll of $271 million, just below the next luxury tax threshold. They are desperately trying to stay beneath that, so the team could end up trading Isiah Kiner-Falefa, which would clear $6 million off the books.
Of course, Gleyber Torres is also an option, given he would save the team $10 million, the same amount that Porfar would cost. Nonetheless, Gleyber is a far more productive and valuable player at this point in time, but they could conceivably get back a starting-level contributor and the money to sign Profar by trading him. Ideally, they would move IKF and another player to save a few million, allowing them to open up enough cash flow and salary space to fit Profar on the books.
Some may argue that Oswaldo Cabrera should win the starting job, but the Yankees have been utilizing him all around in different alignments, preparing him for what seems to be a utility role.