It is no surprise that the New York Yankees have been connected to nearly every top free agent name this off-season. While it is likely they avoid the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, a player that will likely land a deal in the $500 million range, they can spend that money a bit more efficiently by spreading it out to several players.
All the attention is on a potential trade for Juan Soto and star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, but the Yankees still have their sights set on Cody Bellinger, who has family connections with the team and is coming off a phenomenal 2023 season.
The Yankees Need to be Cautious With Cody Bellinger
There are serious concerns with Bellinger, despite the fact he’s only 28 years old and hit .307 with a .356 OBP and .525 slugging rate, including 26 homers and 97 RBIs this past season. That is not to mention his 134 wRC+ and 4.1 WAR.
This was his best campaign since the 2019 season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, so there’s no surprise that many teams are considering him as a potential signing. The Yankees can simply spend money for Bellinger instead of giving up quality prospects, if not MLB-ready talent, for Juan Soto. Soto’s bat is generational, and he’s only 25 years old, so the prospects are well worth the return. This would also assume the Yankees extend Soto next off-season on a lucrative deal that could reach more than $400 million.
However, the Yankees and four other teams, notably the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, Seattle Mariners, and Toronto Blue Jays, have been connected to Bellinger, according to MLB.com. The Giants seem to be a potential big spender on the market, and the Mariners/Blue Jays have been willing to open the checkbook at times—certainly competition for a player that has MVP-caliber stuff when healthy and firing on all cylinders
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The Cautionary Tales
The major concern with Bellinger is the inconsistency and his hard-hit rate dropping to a career-worst in 2023. He has enjoyed one great season over his last three years and posted a career-low 31.4% hard-hit rate, 6.1% barrel rate, and 87.9 MPH average exit velocity this season.
Some may consider his most recent campaign relatively lucky, but good quality contact and confidence can go a long way. The Yankees prefer hard-hitting bats, and it is possible that Bellinger took some power off his swing to increase his probability of clean contact. His barrel percentage may suggest otherwise, but his overall production was simply fantastic.
The Yankees need to be concerned about regression to the mean since Bellinger may not be able to replicate these stats in a new environment, especially one as hostile as the Bronx.