Yankees gearing up to change left field strategy with Conforto off the board

oswaldo cabrera, yankees
Oct 18, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees shortstop Oswaldo Cabrera (95) throws to first base to force out Cleveland Guardians designated hitter Josh Naylor (not pictured) during the fourth inning in game five of the ALDS for the 2022 MLB Playoffs at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, the San Fransisco Giants signed free agent OF Michael Conforto to a 2-year deal worth $36 million, containing an opt-out after the first year. Conforto was one of the last remaining “big bats” on the market, and now questions arise about what the Yankees may have in play.

Though the asking price for Reynolds remains quite high, for all we know, Cashman is nagging and playing hard to get, hopefully lowering that price. Many don’t understand just how good of a get Reynolds would be for the Yankees, and many are acting like he’s just not a very good player, which is the furthest thing from the truth.

The most likely option for the Yankees still remains Bryan Reynolds:

For starters, I hope everyone is as confused as I am about the Conforto to SFG deal, as for the team that got cold feet over Correa’s ankle injury history, they sure didn’t mind when they dished out nearly $80 million to both Conforto (has played 125 games the last two seasons), and Mitch Haniger who battled injuries all year this past season.

Reynolds, on the other hand, seems to be one of the most consistently reliable players in baseball. He’s played at least 2/3 of a season every year of his career, and after a slow start last season, he turned on the nitrous and left the doubters in his dust.

Reynolds isn’t a very good defensive CF, which is why I think the transition over to LF with the Yankees. He posted a 2.9 fWAR in ’22, to go with a 125 wRC+, 27 HR, and a .807 OPS. The year prior, however, he posted a .912 OPS with a 141 wRC+ and a whopping 6.1 fWAR. To put it in layman’s terms, Reynolds is elite, and there’s a reason his asking price is so high. He has three years of control left, is only 27, a switch-handed bat, and can man all three outfield positions (even if it’s at a below-average level).

B-Ry, as Stewie would call him, would slot in beautifully at the top of the lineup as the leadoff hitter, as putting him there with Judge, Rizzo, and Big G batting cleanup could be one of the best top halves of a lineup in all of baseball. He has posted a WPA — Win Probability Added — of at least 2.69 every year of his four-year career, except for the disastrous 2020 campaign. If he’s able to take a step forward in not chasing as many pitches as he did last season (career-high 35.6% O-Swing %, and 28% Chase Rate).

Reynolds is a perennial 4-win player, and adding him to this team would make them insurmountably better. The downside is that it would cost a haul of prospects, and many fans don’t think that it would be worth it. The Yankees would likely have to part with Volpe or Peraza and Dominguez, not to mention the fact that the Pirates want young top-end arms, and the Yanks’ farm system is position player heaven.

Max Kepler wouldn’t be the worst acquisition, but certainly wouldn’t be a game changer:

Max Kepler has been a name that has been floating around the Yankee sphere for some time now, as ever since his 36 HR season back in 2019. Sadly, Kepler was one of the many players that benefitted greatly from the juiced balls that Manfred and co swore weren’t real… well, they were. Since that bombastic season, 37 HR total across the last three seasons (granted, 2020 was shortened). Kepler isn’t a great bat, but he is very disciplined and picks his pitches to attack. His 14.8% K Rate last year was the best in his career, and he would fit the bill of what the Yanks want: a low swing-and-miss corner OF with fantastic defense. Let me tell you, Kepler’s defense sure is fantastic.

Last year with the Twins, Kepler posted 10 DRS and 12 OAA, and the year before that, he posted 9 and 8, respectively. Though he would have to move over to left field, I don’t think the move would be very tough on a guy who is known for taking excellent routes on flyballs, taking the proper angle and cutoffs for balls hit in the gap, and one that has a pretty solid arm as well. For as excellent as Kepler is defensively, his offense is an entirely different story. His K and BB numbers are very nice, but outside of that, it’s a lot of mediocrity. Since that ’19 year, he has posted wRC+’s that continue to get worse year-over-year (105 in ’20, 97 in ’21, 95 last season), and his power has almost disappeared completely.

Yet, acquiring Kepler wouldn’t be a bad move at all, even if the team wants to use him and Oswaldo Cabrera in a split role in that spot. Kepler, interestingly enough, has better splits vs lefty pitchers, meaning Oswaldo could see more time out there against righties on the bump, even though Kepler is a lefty. He posted a 2.0 fWAR and a 2.3 the year before, which would improve the Yanks’ current LF spot occupied by one Aaron Hicks tenfold.

Arizona D-Backs options are aplenty, but are any of them that appealing?

There have been talks that the Yankees and D-Backs are engaged in conversations regarding a myriad of outfielders, as Arizona realizes they have too many cooks in the kitchen. Their former top prospect, Alek Thomas, is one of the many on the table, along the likes of Jake McCarthy, Daulton Varsho, and maybe even Corbin Carroll. For starters, let’s talk about the two top prospects, Thomas and Carroll.

Carroll has absurd speed and was clocked at running the fastest time from first to home in the MLB last season when he made his debut. With that blinding speed comes a very sure-handed glove in the outfield and some solid pop in his bat as well. Despite only playing 32 games in the majors, he accumulated 1.4 fWAR to pair beautifully with a 130 wRC+ for the Sneks. One of his best tools has always been his eye, as he posted at least a 14% BB Rate the last three years in the minors.

As for Alek Thomas, his limited showing at the major league level last year was certainly not something to write home about. He played 113 games and only posted a 0.4 fWAR and an abysmal 72 wRC+. Yet, as JRR Tolkien would say, “not all those who wander are lost.” The Yanks must certainly believe in his minor league track record and think that last year was nothing more than growing pains for the youngster. Thomas, like Carroll, is only 22-years old and would bring some more youth and energy to this veteran-filled squad.

As for the other options, Varsho is absolutely the best of the bunch. He also could possibly be used as a backup catcher, as last year, he played 31 games behind the dish. He’s absolutely a better OF, though, as his 71 games in RF and 54 in CF would lead one to believe. His 4.6 fWAR was boosted thanks to him clobbering 27 HR and playing phenomenal defense wherever the team chose to play him at. His 105 wRC+ indivates that he’s a slightly above-average hitter but being that he’s a lefty hitter who’s extremely pull-happy (55% Pull Rate), he could be a demon in Yankee Stadium. Varsho would likely cost the most of these options, thanks to his proven pedigree and multi-positional value, as well as the fact that he’s only 26 and isn’t a free agent until 2027.

Finally, we have Rake — I mean Jake — McCarthy. Though he only played in 99 games, due to the mass number of outfielders the D-Backs had in rotation, he made those games count. He posted a 116 wRC+, swiped 23 bags, and clubbed 27 XBH. His power is certainly not why the team would acquire him, and despite the fact that he really just burst onto the scene thanks to an other-worldly 36-game stretch at AAA that saw him get promoted, he has some very solid tools. In that limited showing at AAA, he OPS’d 1.053, with a 165 wRC+ and a near 1-1 BB/K rate (11.5% BB, 13% K).

Any of these guys would slot in nicely in that LF spot in the outfield, and all of them have youth on their side. It would be interesting to see what the D-Backs would want in return and if the Yanks would be looking into a package deal of sorts as well. There’s still plenty of time left in this offseason, and it seems like Hal and co. are still making moves to improve this roster. Though they missed out on the big LF free agents, let’s not forget just how big of a fan of Jurickson Profar Brian Cashman has been. These options seem to be the best fit, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Profar popped up on the radar out of nowhere.