Yankees could hang onto one veteran outfielder at $1.7 million

MLB: Houston Astros at New York Yankees
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees navigated a significant number of injuries during the 2023 season. The outfield was completely torn to shreds at times, but several supplementary pieces smoothed things over, even if it was inconsistent.

One of the team’s productive utility pieces was Jake Bauers, a 28-year-old outfielder and first baseman. While Bauers has had an up-and-down career in the MLB, he provided the Yankees with a bit of value at times despite his numbers trending downward toward the end of the season.

Across 84 games, he hit .202 with a .279 OBP, including 12 homers, three RBIs, a 34.9% strikeout rate, a 9.9% walk rate, and 89 wRC+. As a backup, he was considered 11% worse than the average player, but his ability to help out at first base gives him a bit more value as a reserve, something the Yankees may see the upside in.

Bauers played 367.2 innings defensively in the outfield last year, collecting -9 defensive runs saved and -3 outs above average. He’s certainly not a good defensive player by any means, but he came in at about breakeven across 170.1 innings at first base.

The Yankees May See More Upside in Jake Bauers

The Yankees did see a few decent months from Bauers, notably in July, when he hit .258 with a .324 OBP, including three homers and six RBIs. Before the All-Star break, Bauers hit .224 with a .312 OBP, .470 slugging rate, and .782 OPS, decent enough for a player who wasn’t expecting to feature as a prominent piece in the Yankee outfield.

The problem with Bauers is that he doesn’t have any minor-league options left, so if the Yankees feel as though he’s not playing up to par, they may have to designate him for assignment.

There could be players at a similar price tag but more valuable, so Bauers will have spring training to fight for his job, but he certainly has an uphill battle waiting for him in 2024.

At the very least, he’s a well-liked teammate, helped fill multiple spots when called upon, and did put together a few games that showcased his upside offensively. At a projected $1.7 million salary next year, he’s not an expensive player by any means, but the Yankees may prefer to utilize one of their prospects instead, keeping the costs down even further and betting on talent that has been refined in their own minor-league system over the years.

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