Yankees have discussed a potential trade for AL East rival outfielder

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox
Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

As the Yankees gear up to grab some outfield talent, they’ve been linked to multiple names on the free agent and trade markets. Juan Soto remains the top prize for any team looking for an outfielder this offseason, but the Yankees have also checked in on depth options to fill out the remainder of their outfield. In-division trades don’t seem to be off the table for the Yankees, who have reportedly engaged in trade talks with Manuel Margot, first reported by Jack Azoulay-Haron of MLBNerds.

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic has since then also reported that the Yankees had trade discussions with the Rays about the speedy outfielder, but what role would he play on the team and does the fit make sense?

Why the Yankees Are Interested in Manuel Margot

MLB: Wildcard-Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays
Oct 3, 2023; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Manuel Margot (13) is introduced before game one of the Wildcard series for the 2023 MLB playoffs against the Texas Rangers at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees are in desperate need of outfield help, but how does a right-handed hitter with a career 90 wRC+ aid their cause? First and foremost, it’s likely that they view Manuel Margot as a platoon partner, as he’s a career 109 wRC+ hitter against left-handed pitching with a .341 OBP. Right-handed pitchers have given him far more trouble, but with the Yankees’ rumored interest in Kevin Kiermaier, the two outfielders could potentially work as a platoon in centerfield.

Margot also has experience in all three outfield spots, and he’s a high-contact hitter with speed and defense that could play well in the 4th outfield role. Depth has long been an issue for the Yankees in the outfield, and Margot could fit their need for a versatile outfielder who can serve as a late-game substitution or make starts in all three outfield spots. Left field has long been an enigma for outfielders on the Yankees’ roster, and they finished tied for last in DRS (-14) and 18th in OAA (-7) at the left field position.

Sharpening up their outfield defense is important, and Margot would certainly help on that front. Athleticism is also something the team likely values heavily, as he ranks in the 75th Percentile in Sprint Speed, and following a season where the Yankees were the slowest team in baseball, getting a little faster and more agile on the basepaths is key. Since 2021, Margot is slashing .263/.316/.378 with a 97 wRC+ and 4.3 fWAR, which makes him roughly an average outfielder.

Does average outfield play help the team win more games? Definitely not, but it does help when trying to avoid stretches where the team is absolutely unwatchable. Depth raises a team’s floor, and from the Yankees’ perspective, they know they can’t enter another season without a proper backup in the outfield. They relied heavily on Isiah Kiner-Falefa to serve those duties, and he finished with -4 DRS and -2 OAA in the outfield in his first year as an outfielder.

MLB: Texas Rangers at New York Yankees
Jun 23, 2023; Bronx, New York, USA; A ball drops in front of New York Yankees center fielder Isiah Kiner-Falefa (12) allowing a run to score in the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees cannot expect to turn infielders into outfielders if they want to anchor their defense out there, and Margot would be a step in the direction of securing their bench. With +3 OAA in the outfield this past season, he’s certainly capable of holding his won out there, although his centerfield defense did take a step back this past season. His corner outfield glove has remained strong due to excellent range, and he does navigate one of the tougher outfields in the league.

He’s also hit much better away from Tropicana Field over the past two seasons, and it’s not crazy to assume this is a variable in the Yankees’ interest. Willy Adames, now in Milwaukee, discussed how the lights made it difficult to see, and his bat has taken off since leaving Tampa Bay, and his numbers since 2022 reflect that:

  • Home (343 PA)
    • .242 BA
    • .297 OBP
    • .314 SLG
    • 18.4% K%
    • 83 wRC+
  • Road (355 PA)
    • .295 BA
    • .335 OBP
    • .435 SLG%
    • 16.9% K%
    • 115 wRC+

The swing decisions have remained similar on the road and at home, but it’s the quality of contact that has such a massive discrepancy. His .306 xwOBACON at home and .365 xwOBACON on the road is pretty alarming, and perhaps the Yankees get a season closer to his Steamer projections (102 wRC+) than his previous season as a result. As a whole, this is a fit that only sounds appealing in a platoon role, as the Yankees sorely need bats who can hit right-handed pitching and Margot doesn’t add to that.

Owed $9 million this upcoming season, it’ll be interesting to see if the Yankees and Rays work out any financial compensation, or perhaps if that pricetag allows the Yankees to acquire Margot without giving up anyone notable in return.

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