Yankees lose out on yet another free agent left fielder

New York Yankees, Michael Brantley
Jun 17, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Astros designated hitter Michael Brantley (23) reacts after hitting a grand slam against the Chicago White Sox in the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is taking his sweet time finding a starting left-fielder for the 2023 season. Given he hasn’t jumped on a free-agent target, there is reason to believe that he may be scouring the trade market for opportunities.

The Yankees have been connected with the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks, notably for defensive maestro Max Kepler, but nothing has materialized up to this point.

Prior to Sunday, the Yankees still had Michael Brantley and Michael Conforto available on the open market, but Brantley re-signed with the Houston Astro Sunday afternoon on a one-year, $12-million deal.

Brantley is a phenomenal offensive weapon at 35 years old, hitting .288 with a 37% on-base rate across 64 games last season. He has dealt with some injury issues in the recent past, but he is one of the best contact hitters in the game, and he’s only gotten more efficient with age.

However, Brantley wouldn’t be able to play defensively on an everyday basis, instead relying on a platoon to get the job done. The Yankees already have Giancarlo Stanton solidified as their designated hitter, so Brantley would essentially be riding the bench unless Stanton is capable of playing some defensive reps, which is optimistic at best.

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The Yankees could target Michael Conforto as an alternative:

With Brantley no longer available, the Yankees could turn their attention to the 29-year-old former Met in Conforto. Conforto didn’t play in 2022, last featuring with the Mets in 2021 for 125 games. He recorded a .232 average with a 34.4% on-base rate, including 14 homers and 55 RBIs. Back in 2019, he slugged 33 homers with 92 RBIs, including a 23% strikeout rate. He’s only dipped below a 100 wRC+ once in his career, back in 2016, during his first full MLB season.

Given Conforto didn’t play last season, the Bombers may be able to scoop him up on a cost-efficient deal that he can leverage into a bigger contract down the road.

Defensively, Conforto has over 2000 innings of experience, including 10 defensive runs saved above average and eight outs above average.