Yankees could target the perfect lead-off man via trade

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins, brendan donovan, yankees
Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees face a pivotal decision this off-season: Should they continue banking on older veterans or pivot towards a more sustainable approach by investing in youthful talent? With some hefty contracts already anchoring them down, the latter approach seems the way forward.

The Appeal of Brendon Donovan

At the trade deadline, one name caught the Yankees’ attention: Brendon Donovan of the St. Louis Cardinals. This versatile lefty, still under pre-arbitration, seemed like a glove-fit for the Yankees. But it’s worth noting that he’s been plagued with injuries recently.

An elbow issue in September landed him on the 60-day injured list, cutting his season short. Nonetheless, he’s projected to be fighting fit for the 2024 season. Over 95 games this year, Donovan’s stats impressed: a batting average of .284, an OBP of .365, a slugging rate of .422, coupled with 11 home runs, 34 RBIs, and five stolen bases.

His prowess doesn’t stop there. Donovan boasts a Gold Glove-worthy performance in the outfield. Plus, he’s dabbled in several infield positions, from second base to shortstop. Chris Kirschner of The Athletic endorses Donovan as the team’s potential lead-off man. He emphasized Donovan’s talent for consistently getting on base – a boon if batting ahead of Aaron Judge. However, the injury cloud over Donovan might make the Yankees pause given their own history of player injuries.

Kirschner notes, “Brendan Donovan… makes sense for what the Yankees need… His OPS would have ranked third on the Yankees behind Judge and Gleyber Torres. The Yankees simply need more good hitters heading into next season, and Donovan fills that hole.”

Flexibility on the Field

One of Donovan’s undeniable assets is his adaptability across positions. Whether it’s in left field or elsewhere, he offers the Yanks much-needed flexibility. And when it comes to batting, his stats, especially as a lead-off for St. Louis, are commendable. With runners in scoring position, he’s recorded impressive numbers: a .310 average, .453 OBP, .552 slugging rate, and an OPS of 1.005.

But securing Donovan won’t come easy or cheap. Given that he won’t enter free agency until 2029, the Cardinals will undoubtedly demand a premium in return.

Considering St. Louis’s penchant for quality pitchers, they might set their sights on someone like Drew Thorpe, the Yankees’ shining prospect who’s enjoyed a stellar season in Double-A. The Bombers could pitch Will Warren, but Thorpe’s recent 1.48 ERA over 30.1 innings puts him in the spotlight.

A Yankees Trade Opportunity to Consider

The bottom line? If the Yankees aim to be frugal in the free-agent market this off-season, they’ll need to leverage their minor-league talents for top-tier batters. And even though Donovan’s recent injury is a concern, his potential as a lead-off and multi-positional player positions him as an enticing trade opportunity for the New York Yankees.

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