Yankees could target perfect lead-off man via trade

mlb: chicago cubs at st. louis cardinals, brendan donovan, yankees
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees are actively seeking ways to reinforce their roster this off-season, and the trade market presents promising opportunities. The St. Louis Cardinals, in particular, are emerging as a potential trading partner, offering controllable assets that could benefit the Yankees, especially in exchange for pitching.

Focus on Brendan Donovan

Among the players discussed, Brendan Donovan stands out as a prime candidate for the Yankees’ lineup. At 26, Donovan has shown considerable promise in his second MLB season, despite being sidelined by an elbow injury towards the end. He is expected to be ready for spring training, potentially bringing his impressive batting skills to the Yankees.

During his rookie season, Donovan played 126 games, boasting a .281 batting average and a .394 on-base percentage, including five homers and 45 RBIs. His low strikeout rate (15%) and high walk rate (12.8%) contributed to a notable 128 wRC+.

Donovan’s recent season stats are equally impressive, with a .284 batting average, a .365 OBP, 11 home runs, and 34 RBIs. His strikeout rate remained low at 14.3%, and he maintained an 8.9% walk rate, resulting in a 118 wRC+. His ability to hit home runs, particularly to right field, could be further enhanced at Yankee Stadium.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Arizona Diamondbacks
Jul 26, 2023; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; St. Louis Cardinals second baseman Brendan Donovan (33) singles in the third inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Plate Discipline and Lead-Off Performance

Donovan’s plate discipline is a key aspect of his attractiveness as a player, with excellent percentile rankings in whiff rate, strikeout rate, and chase rate. Batting lead-off for the Cardinals, he hit .300 with a .354 OBP and .815 OPS. His on-base skills would be a significant asset for the Yankees, setting the stage for hitters like Aaron Judge.

Donovan’s performance with runners in scoring position was stellar, hitting .310 with a .453 OBP, a .552 slugging rate, and an impressive 1.005 OPS. His ability to produce in high-pressure situations would be valuable for a Yankees team that struggled in similar scenarios.

Donovan’s team control is an appealing factor, with free agency not looming until 2029. This contractual situation allows the Yankees to allocate funds elsewhere while adding a versatile defensive player. Donovan has experience in both the outfield and infield, making him a flexible option for the Yankees.

Yankees’ Potential Trade Scenarios

The Yankees could consider trading Clarke Schmidt or Michael King to acquire Donovan, enhancing their outfield and left-handed batting lineup. Donovan’s service time and cost-effective contract make him an attractive option for the Yankees, who are looking to balance spending with acquiring quality talent.

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