Yankees getting a first-class view at prime trade target

MLB: Chicago Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals, yankees, cody bellinger
Peter van den Berg-USA TODAY Sports

As we draw closer to the trade deadline, the New York Yankees are getting a first-class view of Chicago Cubs outfielder Cody Bellinger.

Following two relatively weak seasons, Bellinger is making a significant comeback this year, rendering him an appealing trade target for the Yankees. Their need for a left-handed hitter to exploit the short right porch at Yankee Stadium further magnifies Bellinger’s potential value.

Fortunately, Bellinger is projected to be available at the deadline as he enters the final year of his contract, with a mutual option for the 2024 season.

Bellinger’s Potential as a Yankee: When There’s Smoke, There’s Fire

The Yankees’ interest in the veteran outfielder has been a recurring topic of discussion throughout the year. In his 57 games this season, Bellinger boasts a .298 average, a .353 OBP, and a .493 slugging percentage. His contributions include nine homers, 29 RBIs, a 17.4% strikeout rate, a 7.9% walk rate, and a 125 wRC+.

While there’s a natural concern that any player the Yankees acquire may regress, Bellinger, a lifelong Yankees fan, is far from reluctant about the possibility of joining his boyhood club.

“The Yankees obviously mean a lot to our family,” Bellinger told NJ Advance Media on Friday, regarding his father Clay Bellinger. “He won a few championships here, a role player and pretty good player. It was obviously all in the old stadium, but still feels the same.”

At just 27 years old, there’s a strong case for the Yankees to extend Bellinger’s contract after the 2023 season, thereby securing one of their outfield positions, especially if they decide to let Harrison Bader walk in free agency.

A Closer Look at Bellinger’s Fielding Proficiency

Bellinger is an accomplished centerfielder, with over 3300 innings under his belt, a .989 fielding percentage, 12 defensive runs saved, and 20 outs above average. The Yankees, who currently have a void in left field where Bellinger has logged 315.1 innings, could benefit from his expertise.

Although left field isn’t Bellinger’s long-term strength, he could be a temporary fit for the Yankees for the remainder of the season. Despite having -2 defensive runs saved and three outs above average across 417.1 innings this year, Bellinger’s above-average defense and increasingly potent bat could be just what the Yankees need.

In light of Jake Bauers’ rotator cuff injury, Manager Aaron Boone has been compelled to rotate between Isiah Kiner-Falefa, Billy McKinney, and Franchy Cordero.

The Potential Trade: What Will the Cubs Want?

The key question is what the Cubs will demand in exchange for Bellinger. The Yankees might part with a few fringe prospects to cover his remaining salary for this season, viewing Bellinger as a rental piece.

Cashing in on Bellinger’s current value could be a wise move for the Cubs. He’s been on a roll, hitting .484 with a .500 OBP in his 31 at-bats at the start of June.

From the Cubs’ perspective, it could be the ideal time for a trade unless they are optimistic about their chances of making the postseason.

The Cubs currently trail the Cincinnati Reds by eight games in the NL Central, a daunting gap that shows no signs of closing. They may opt to sell now and start rebuilding for the 2024 season.

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