Yankees make wild outfield decision, lose promising veteran

rafael ortega, yankees
Mar 2, 2023; Bradenton, Florida, USA; New York Yankees left fielder Rafael Ortega (71) hits a two-run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the second inning during spring training at LECOM Park. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees executed several roster moves after Tuesday’s spring training finale against the Washington Nationals. Of course, we had already learned that Anthony Volpe would be promoted to the 26-man roster, but a position battle was still unfolding in the outfield regarding one of the depth spots.

Despite having a stellar spring, the Yankees optioned Willie Calhoun to Triple-A Scranton, but he could get called up at some point. Calhoun is a force with the bat in his hands but offers lackluster defense, which undoubtedly played a part.

In the meantime, manager Aaron Boone decided that Estevan Florial and Rafael Ortega would join the team in New York, but that was before the veteran outfielder decided to opt out of his contract and hit free agency.

According to Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors, the Yankees have granted the release of OF Rafael Ortega.

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The Yankees should’ve DFAd Estevan Florial:

Losing Ortega as a result of keeping Florial on the roster due to having no minor league options left is a big reason for discussion. Ortega is objectively the better player at this point in time, having played 364 total games in the MLB, hitting .241 with a .331 OBP, posting seven homers and 35 RBIs last season.

Ortega logged 12% walk and 20% strikeout rates, hosting a 96 wRC+. His best season as a professional came back in 2021 with the Chicago Cubs, hitting .291 with a .360 OBP, smacking 11 homers and 33 RBIs with a 122 wRC+.

Considering the 31-year-old offers solid defense and a good lefty bat in Yankee Stadium, it is odd the Bombers decided to include Florial in the equation. Estevan, the team’s former No. 1 prospect, hasn’t been able to live up to the hype and potential.

Over 17 professional games last year, he hit .097 with a .200 OBP. This spring, he hit a measly .163 with a .280 OBP, including seven hits and eight RBIs across 43 at-bats.

Ultimately, the Yankees wanted more time to make a decision based on his minor-league options being out, potentially looking for a trade partner to recoup any value. However, they lost Ortega in the process, which hurts the team.

The reality is simple, Florial has value as a base-runner and outfielder with good range, but he’s inconsistent with the bat in his hands and cannot but trusted to supplement injuries. The Yankees have never given him a substantial sample size to prove his worth at the MLB level, which many have referenced when debating his quality. However, his elevated chase and strikeout rates indicate he’s a liability in the batter’s box, despite having a power-lefty bat built to crush in the Bronx.