Yankees could target perfect short-term Jasson Dominguez replacement in free agency

mlb: kansas city royals at toronto blue jays, kevin kiermaier, yankees
Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

All eyes are on the New York Yankees as they potentially chase superstar slugger Juan Soto. However, filling the gap left by star prospect Jasson Dominguez in the interim is equally pressing.

While Soto might not be the best fit for centerfield and could take over a corner outfield position, the Yankees need a reliable interim solution for centerfield, the linchpin of the outfield defense.

Dominguez: The Yankees’ Rising Star

Dominguez showcased impressive potential during his brief eight-game stint in the MLB this year. At just 20 years old, he hit .258 with a .303 OBP and a .677 slugging rate. This tally included four homers, seven RBIs, and an impressive 162 wRC+.

With his evident elite power, the plan is for Dominguez to permanently fill the centerfield position once he fully recovers from Tommy John surgery. While the earliest he could return is July, the Yankees are hesitant to push him immediately after a major injury, especially given the promising future he holds.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Toronto Blue Jays, Kevin Kiermaier, yankees
Sep 10, 2023; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) gestures to the crowd at the end of the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Kiermaier: A Cost-effective Option

An affordable interim replacement might be the 33-year-old defensive stalwart, Kevin Kiermaier. Having played most of his career with the Tampa Bay Rays and recently with the Toronto Blue Jays, Kiermaier delivered solid numbers in his 129 games for Toronto this season. His stats include a .265 batting average, a .322 OBP, and a .419 slugging rate. His tally also features eight homers, 36 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases. With a modest 21.1% strikeout rate and a 7.1% walk rate, he consistently displays discipline at the plate. His 104 wRC+ indicates he’s 4% better than an average MLB player.

Kiermaier’s main attraction for the Yankees might be his top-tier defense. Over 981.1 innings in the outfield this year, he achieved a .989 fielding percentage with 18 defensive runs saved and 13 outs above average. Some argue that he even surpasses Harrison Bader in defensive capability while also offering a more potent left-handed bat.

Given the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium’s short right porch, Kiermaier could see a spike in his offensive numbers. Considering his age, a one-year contract in the ballpark of $10 million might suffice.

The Bigger Picture: Soto and Kiermaier Combo

With significant financial wiggle room, the Yankees could aim to onboard both Soto and Kiermaier. Since both players would be on expiring contracts, the Yankees can focus on extending Soto’s contract post-2024 season. This strategy would also ensure a smooth reintegration of Dominguez without hurrying his return.

Regardless of the specifics, the Yankees need a solution for centerfield. It’s unlikely they’ll want to risk moving Aaron Judge to a more demanding outfield position, increasing the likelihood of injury.

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