Yankees linked to top free agent centerfielder

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Chicago Cubs, yankees, cody bellinger
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees always seem to be at the heart of trade and free-agent rumors, thanks in large part to their generous payroll and willingness to go big on marquee names. Yet, when the most recent trade deadline rolled around, the Yankees took a different approach.

Trade Deadline Choices: To Buy or Sell?

The Bronx Bombers had the option to go big at the trade deadline, being linked with several high-caliber talents. Instead, they chose to stick with their existing roster and promote a few prospects when things started to go south. The strategy left some wondering if they missed an opportunity to become sellers and acquire valuable assets.

Winter Free-Agency Frenzy: Cody Bellinger on the Radar

Already, chatter is picking up about the Yankees’ interest in upcoming free agents, particularly Chicago Cubs’ star outfielder Cody Bellinger. At 28 and fresh off a standout 2023 season, Bellinger is poised for a lucrative deal this off-season.

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Bellinger’s Comeback Campaign

This year, Bellinger seems determined to put his subpar 2022 season behind him. He’s currently batting .320 with a .363 OBP and a .549 slugging rate across 107 games. His stats include 23 home runs, 84 RBIs, and 19 stolen bases, not to mention a career-low 15.6% strikeout rate and a 6.8% walk rate, culminating in a 142 wRC+.

Versatility and Future Roles

Bellinger brings more than just an explosive bat. This season, he’s logged 633 innings in the outfield with a nearly perfect .995 fielding percentage and five outs above average. He’s no stranger to first base either, with almost 2,200 career innings at the position and similarly impressive defensive metrics. He could start as a centerfielder for the Yankees in 2024 and later transition to first base once Anthony Rizzo’s contract comes to an end.

The Jasson Dominguez Factor

While Bellinger’s left-handed bat would be an ideal fit for Yankee Stadium, the rapid ascent of prospect Jasson Dominguez complicates matters. The 20-year-old has already demonstrated significant promise, knocking two home runs in his first three MLB games and posting a 143 wRC+. Dominguez’s emergence could offer a centerfield solution and save them a significant chunk of change.

The Financial Equation

Bob Nightingale of USA Today reports that Bellinger could command a contract north of $200 million. Even for the Yankees, whose coffers are never really dry, this is a substantial commitment, especially given owner Hal Steinbrenner’s recent expressions of frustration.

Quality vs Cost: The Yankees’ Balancing Act

An outfield trio of Bellinger, Dominguez, and Aaron Judge could make the Yankees a powerhouse in 2024. If the Yankees can successfully elevate their prospects in other areas, they might find room in the budget for another blockbuster deal, even after handing out hefty contracts to Judge and Carlos Rodon.

Brian Cashman’s Recent Record: A Cause for Caution?

The final decision likely hinges on general manager Brian Cashman’s ability to deliver. After a few years of mixed results on big acquisitions, Steinbrenner may opt for a more cautious approach this off-season. Still, when it comes to the Yankees, it’s always a mistake to rule out the possibility of a headline-grabbing move.