Yankees finally let former top prospect go

mlb: new york yankees at toronto blue jays, estevan florial
Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

In what felt like was long overdue to happen, the New York Yankees finally parted ways with former top prospect Estevan Florial, trading him to the Cleveland Guardians on Tuesday in exchange for right-handed reliever Cody Morris, according to MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.

With their outfield all but set for next season after acquiring Juan Soto, Alex Verdugo, and Trent Grisham, there was no spot for Florial to crack on the Yankees’ MLB roster, and without any minor league options remaining, it left them with no choice but to move on from him.

Estevan Florial didn’t live up to expectations

Florial, 25, was never really given an opportunity to be a mainstay in the Yankees’ outfield. Last season was the most big league action he got, playing in 19 games, but he struggled to make a serious impact, hitting just .230 with no home runs, eight RBIs, and striking out 20 times in 61 plate appearances.

Once touted as a five-tool prospect, Florial has been unable to adjust to major league pitching the same way he did in the minor leagues. Part of that could do with the inconsistent playing time, but he also failed to show that he deserved to be given a longer leash.

Florial struggled immensely with plate discipline and swing decisions, as in four seasons with the big league club he had a ghastly 36% strikeout rate. He had shown flashes of being a solid defender in the outfield, but being that the team needed to prioritize offense in their outfield, moving on from him makes perfect sense.

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The Yankees get a serviceable bullpen arm in return

What the Yankees will get in return is some bullpen depth in Morris. The 27-year-old right-hander pitched to a 6.75 ERA in six relief appearances for the Guardians in 2023, but in his short two-year career he boasts a 3.41 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 31.2 innings pitched.

While it is unlikely that Morris will be used in high-leverage situations, he gives the Yankees a true bulk guy to go out of the bullpen and potentially eat some innings. His services could also be used as an opener for bullpen games if the Yankees elect to enter that route for their no. 5 starting pitcher spot.

This trade does not massively shake up the rest of the Yankees’ plans for the offseason, but it could come with a massive benefit if they can develop Morris into a weapon out of the bullpen. Unfortunately for Florial, he wasn’t able to enjoy a long career in pinstripes, but he may end up finding some more MLB playing time with Cleveland given their truncated outfield situation.

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