Yankees could turn attention toward star rival outfielder as potential trade target

Anthony Santander, yankees
Sep 27, 2022; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder Anthony Santander (25) hits a home run during the third inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason has officially entered the grueling part for the Yankees, as we now have to wait all of January and the majority of February until we get baseball again. However, in that time, there are still many moves to be made, and the current team is certainly not the one we’ll see on Opening Day.

After seeing what the NY Post’s Dan Martin stated about how the team is looking to move Hicks, one outfielder to fill in for leftfield has been in the back of my mind. That outfielder is the talented and supremely underrated Anthony Santander of the Baltimore Orioles.

Why would the O’s trade Santander?

The first and most obvious issue to address is whether or not the Orioles would be content trading one of their better players to an in-division rival. To answer that question in one word, yes. Baltimore has spent years trying to build out a phenomenal farm system that they can rely on in the future whilst grabbing key guys to fill out the holes. However, that hasn’t exactly happened yet. Despite their fantastic season last year, where they were truly competitive until the very end, the front office hasn’t made any big moves this off-season.

Long hated for purposely not building out a competitive roster, this offseason was supposed to be different for the O’s. Yet, here we are, and their big signings remain to be Kyle Gibson and the return of Mychal Givens, and they’ve only acquired other low-impact players like James McCann and Franchy Cordero.

Perhaps that idea that they’d begin spending money and building out a competent roster was nothing more than a fallacy, but with Baltimore, you never truly know. Anthony Santander is one of the many outfielders they have vying for a spot, and they could look to capitalize and promote from within.

Santander is easily the biggest wildcard out of the current trio of outfielders the O’s run out (he, Hays, and Cedric Mullins), and Orioles’ GM Mark Elias has previously stated that the team will be making moves, and Santander is one guy who may be on the outside looking in.

Santander had spoken about what his thoughts are this offseason, and if he’s paid any attention to rumors saying, “You know me, I’m a relaxed person. I do what I can control. I come to the park and try to help the team win games. Whatever happens after that, I cannot control,” Santander said in October. “(A trade) is the front office’s job. If it’s coming, I’ll take it. If not, I’ll continue playing for the Orioles.”

The Yankees have made deals with the Orioles in the past, most notably the deal to acquire Zack Britton from them back at the deadline in 2018. In that package, they sent over Dillon Tate, who has become a very reliable reliever for the O’s, as well as Cody Carroll and Josh Rogers. Britton did quite well in Pinstripes until the injuries caught up to him, and maybe we could see the two franchises strike a deal once more. Santander would immediately fill a huge need for the Yankees, and that is a left fielder who can compete day-in-day-out.

What Santander brings to the table for the Yankees:

Santander is one of the better all-around outfielders out there, and despite some injury woes the last few years, 2022 was the year he finally put it all together. In the shortened 2020 season, Santander burst onto the scene with a remarkably efficient season, though he only played in 37 games. Albeit a small sample size, he posted a 130 wRC+, clubbed 11 HR, and only struck out 15.1% of the time. His following season, he would come back down to earth whilst missing significant portions of the season with injury.

He played in just 110 games, saw his wRC+ drop drastically back down to 92, and saw both his K% and BB% trend in the opposite direction from the year prior. He isn’t a guy that will be very patient at the plate, but he is one that can put up exceptional slugging numbers for someone of his build.

In 2022, it was the first year that Santander was able to show everyone just how talented of a player he is. His biggest flaws come on the defensive side of things, though he did play a very solid RF for the Orioles. His defense in left, on the other hand, was absolutely atrocious — though that can be attributed a bit to the travesty of a left-field wall that was installed in Camden Yards.

He posted 3 DRS to go with a dead even 0 OAA in right for the O’s, but leftfield was the polar opposite for him, as he put up -8 and -5 in the small time he played there. Left-field for the Yanks isn’t the easiest job in the world, but Camden’s LF wall makes life a living hell for any player out there.

Offensively, Santander is one of the best outfielders “on the market” and is one of the most sensible acquisitions for Cashman and new executive assistant, Brian Sabean, to snag. He smashed 33 homers last year to go with 24 doubles and a .214 ISO (isolated power). His 120 wRC+ was helped out by him working more walks (8.5% BB rate, up from 5.3%) and striking out less (18.9% K rate, down from 23.1%). Though not a crazy concept to grasp, he made the proper adjustments at the plate and was more patient and selective with what pitches he wanted to hit. Needless to say, it certainly worked out for him.

Comparing Santander to the other options:

Below I’ve listed a table that features two current options for LF, in Oswaldo Cabrera and Aaron Hicks, as well as Santander and the “prized possession” that is Bryan Reynolds. I wanted to put a side-by-side comparison to take a look at what each player does well and exactly where Anthony Santander would stack up:

CabreraHicksSantanderReynolds
PAs171453647614
OPS.730.642.773.807
wRC+11190120125
fWAR1.51.52.52.9
K% & BB% 25.7% / 8.8%24.1% / 13.7%18.9% / 8.5%23.0% / 9.1%
OAA (OF)11-4-7
DRS (OF)94-5-14
Info courtesy of FanGraphs

As one can see from the table above, Santander slots right in behind Bryan Reynolds as the most valuable of the bunch, though he did see the most PAs by a large margin. The stats would indicate that Oswaldo Cabrera could easily be the best option, though I feel like that would hurt his value a bit to the team. It seems like the Yankees want him to be their Swiss Army Knife and super utility option for this season, and who’s to say that his limited outfield showing will last for 130 or so games every day?

Santander is a great player who the team should absolutely look into acquiring, and he certainly wouldn’t cost a king’s ransom like Bryan Reynolds would. The Yankees are looking for a defense-first outfielder, or so it seems, but Santander is just average enough out there that I don’t think it’d be detrimental to the team. If his 2022 season is really the type of player he is, and if he can stay healthy, he would most certainly play a key role on this squad getting to the World Series.

He plays hard, makes good decisions with the bat in his hand, and has seen improvements across the board year over year. He posted an 88.6% Zone Contact rate in ’22, which was sandwiched between Jose Abreu (88.5%) and Kyle Tucker (88.8%). Those two guys are heralded as some of the best at their respective positions, and if the Yankees can snag someone with this much talent with a bat in his hands, it would be a great get. Santander would likely cost a few decent prospects, though there may be a bit of added tax due to the in-division aspect of it all.

Santander could man left for the Yankees, and being a switch-handed hitter would allow him to split the lineup up more and negate that desperate need for more lefties to balance. Think of him as a much better Aaron Hicks, though to Hicks’ credit, he was very solid in LF defensively. I would love for the team to continue to monitor the trade market, even after signing the likes of Willie Calhoun and Rafael Ortega to MiLB deals.

There’s no such thing as too much talent, and Santander is certainly talented enough to make a big impact.