The New York Yankees are gearing up for an action-packed off-season, especially as they face the challenge of filling the void left by several departing players. While the departure of three starting pitchers is concerning, the task of finding an interim centerfielder to step in for Jasson Dominguez during the first half of the 2024 season is equally daunting.
Cody Bellinger: An Unlikely Pursuit for the Yankees
Despite the tempting prospect of Cody Bellinger, a 28-year-old fresh off a remarkable season, it seems improbable that the Yankees will extend an offer. Over 122 games, Bellinger boasts an impressive batting average of .311 and a .357 OBP, complimented by 26 home runs and 94 RBIs. His performance shines with a 138 wRC+. But given his history of two sub-par seasons, venturing into a deal with Bellinger might be too high a gamble for the Yankees. However, there’s no denying he’s currently the hottest outfielder available.
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The Rise of Dominguez
Before his unfortunate injury, Dominguez was the Yankees’ top choice for center field in 2024. The 20-year-old’s recent surgery on his torn UCL is a setback, but his track record – a .258 average, .303 OBP, and a commendable 162 wRC+ over just eight MLB games – underscores his potential. The Yankees have no doubt about his capability and eagerly await his comeback.
Kevin Kiermaier: The Perfect Stopgap?
Enter Kevin Kiermaier of the Toronto Blue Jays. The 33-year-old has been consistently good this season, posting a .270 average, .327 OBP, and contributing eight home runs and 35 RBIs. His stats further shine with 13 stolen bases and a 108 wRC+. Known for his exceptional defensive skills, Kiermaier, a left-handed hitter, could be a perfect match for Yankee Stadium.
Intriguingly, after a recent game, Kiermaier seemed open to a move to the Bronx.
“I like the AL East. I’ve played in the division my entire career. I especially like here and Fenway,” Kiermaier said this week, via the NY Post. “Feel like I’m always hitting homers here or playing well.
Kiermaier’s extensive experience, with 917.2 outfield innings this season alone, is impressive. With 17 defensive runs saved and 12 outs above average, he ranks among the elite.
The transition plan is clear: Kiermaier holds down the fort, ensuring a seamless switch to Dominguez later on. Alternatively, if Kiermaier’s form persists, Dominguez could be positioned in left field, allowing Kiermaier to continue impressing in center.
Kiermaier is optimistic about his future:
“I feel like I’ve put myself in a good position [entering free agency], coming off hip surgery and being 33, but still feel like I’m holding my own out there in center,” said Kiermaier, who is outstanding defensively, but would come with injury risks. “It always comes down to hitting. I can run the bases and play great defense every year.”
A Thoughtful Investment
Kiermaier’s performance this season should see him enjoy a final lucrative contract before he contemplates winding down his MLB career. For the Yankees, Kiermaier presents a safe bet. His 121 games this season vouch for his durability, offering the Yankees a reliable interim option until Dominguez’s much-anticipated return.