The New York Yankees and general manager Brian Cashman have options to fill the vacant left field position. Aside from Aaron Hicks and Oswaldo Cabrera competing during spring training, the team could sign the top remaining free agent or look to the trade market for support.
The players available may not move the needle significantly. Still, it would provide an upgrade and allow Cabrera to serve in a super-utility role, which is likely his preferred spot, given the value he showed across the board defensively in 2022.
Cabrera was electric at multiple positions in both the outfield and infield. He enjoyed the 13 defensive runs saved above average combined, with nine coming in the outfield. At best, trusting Hicks to rise to the occasion is optimistic.
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The Yankees have two options to fill the left-field void:
Sign: Jurickson Profar
The Yankees settling on Jurickson Profar would certainly be underwhelming, given Andrew Benintendi and a myriad of other alternatives were available just a few weeks ago. Profar is 29 years old, spending his last three seasons with the San Diego Padres. He played 152 games last season, hitting .243 with a .331 OBP, 15 homers, 58 RBIs, and a 110 wRC+.
However, during the postseason this past year, he hit .250 with a .365 OBP, one homer, five RBIs, and struck out just eight times across 44 at-bats (it’s important to note Profar is a switch-hitter). He was a bit inconsistent throughout the 2022 regular season but showed up when it mattered most, which is something the Yankees desperately need after watching the majority of their players go silent during elimination rounds.
Profar doesn’t move the needle significantly in the direction of a World Series, but he’s better than Aaron Hicks, and Cabrera is better utilized elsewhere. Depending on the contract, he could be a good fit for the Yankees, but I wouldn’t look to overspend if he’s looking for a multi-year deal. A one-year deal with a club option for the 2024 season would be ideal.
Trade: Max Kepler
The Yankees have been linked to Max Kepler from the Minnesota Twins as an alternative to free agency. Kepler is also 29 years old, hitting .227 with a .318 OBP last season, including nine homers and 43 RBIs.
Kepler is a stout defender, an advantage he has over Profar. However, his offensive qualities aren’t as prominent, despite offering a bit more power, slugging 36 homers back in 2019. He would mash in Yankee Stadium as a lefty, but he has dealt with a few injuries the past two seasons, playing a max of 121 games.
Given Jurickson is durable and reliable, the Yankees may want to go in his direction. Another variable to consider is that Kepler would cost prospects and his $7M salary on the books for 2023.
If Cashman has a choice, I expect him to go with the free-agent route unless the Pittsburgh Pirates reduce the cost for Bryan Reynolds, who seems to be on his way out sooner or later.