Yankees could target Diamondbacks slugger to fill left field job

lourdes gurriel, yankees
Jul 24, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Toronto Blue Jays designated hitter Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (13) hits a single during the fourth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The best option for the New York Yankees to fill left field at this point in time is via trade, whether it be Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler or even a blockbuster trade for Bryan Reynolds of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

However, general manager Brian Cashman could look in an entirely different direction, having connected with the Arizona Diamondbacks in addition to the Twins over the past few weeks. The Diamondbacks recently acquired Lourdes Gurriel Jr. from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for Daulton Varsho last week.

Gurriel, 29, is a right-handed hitter, so he doesn’t exactly fit the left-handed mold the Yankees have been looking for. However, he is a solid player, recording a 114 wRC+ last season across 121 games with Toronto.

In that timeframe, Gurriel hit .291 with a 34.3% on-base rate, five homers, and 52 RBIs. He recorded a career-low 16.8% strikeout rate and 6.3% walk rate, including a .743 OPS. Traditionally, Gurriel is a double-digit home run hitter on a yearly basis, slapping 21 in 2021, hitting .276 with a 32% on-base rate.

The Yankees can get value out of Lourdes Gurriel Jr.:

Being a righty hitter in Yankee stadium isn’t exactly preferable, but he’s young enough to continue improving and adjusting to different strategies. He earned a 45.3% hard-hit rate last season, including a 3.8% barrel rate and 90.6 mph of average exit velocity. His barrel rate was the lowest it’s ever been, recording a 9.6% rate in 2021 when he set a career-high in home runs.

There is a lot to like about Gurriel, who’s never dipped below a 107 wRC+ after his rookie season in 2018. Defensively, he played 896.2 innings in left field last year, accruing a .985 fielding percentage, three defensive runs saved above average, and -2 outs above average. He seems to be an average defensive player, which is all the Yankees need if they value his bat enough. Given the Diamondbacks have a plethora of outfielders, some of it which they are trying to move, Gurriel could be a good fit for the Bombers.

Lourdes still has two years left of MLB service time remaining until he becomes a free agent but did sign a seven-year, $22-million deal with the Blue Jays in 2017.

This means he would hit free agency in 2024, earning just $5.8 million in adjusted salary next season. At such a cheap price tag and having spent years in the AL East, the Yankees are familiar with his game and know what he can offer.

Considering he’s still below 30 years old, he might be a worthwhile addition who can compete in left field alongside Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks. At the very least, the Yanks know he makes solid contact and has a bit of power to add, two valuable attributes Cashman prefers.