Yankees may already have their future left fielder on the roster

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Sep 21, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees second baseman Gleyber Torres (25) and left fielder Oswaldo Cabrera (95) and shortstop Oswald Peraza (91) and center fielder Tim Locastro (33) celebrate after defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is taking a conservative approach toward filling the vacant left field spot. Free agency has dried up, and the Yankees don’t seem keen on parting ways with their top prospects, notably Anthony Volpe, Oswald Peraza, and Jason Dominguez.

Acquiring a left fielder via trade seems like the best option, but the Yankees will have to find a partner that isn’t looking to pillage their prized prospects. That is why Max Kepler makes the most sense, given he’s 29 years old and features a lefty bat. He’s never played in the field, but he’s traditionally a defensive star, so the transition shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The Twins OF hit .227 with a 31.8% on-base rate this past season, including nine homers and 43 RBIs. Slugging 19 homers in 2021, there’s reason to believe he can increase his production and power in Yankee stadium, featuring a short right porch.

The Yankees could just go cheap and happy with Oswaldo Cabrera:

Acquiring Kepler isn’t entirely necessary if the Yankees are willing to stick with one of their young prospects, Oswaldo Cabrera. At 23 years old, Cabrera enjoyed 44 games of action with the Yankees in 2022, enough to garner 178 plate appearances. He earned a .247 average with a 31.2% on-base rate, six homers, and 19 RBIs. He did strike out at a 25.7% clip and 8.8% walk rate, but his 111 wRC+ was far higher than the 95 wRC+ Kepler put together.

While there’s a lot left to be desired with Cabrera’s offense, he was a defensive stud for the most part. Across 278.2 innings in the outfield, he hosted a perfect fielding percentage with nine defensive runs saved above average and one out above average.

Cabrera’s Steamer projections have him playing in 92 games next season, hitting .237 with a 30% on-base rate, 14 homers, and 46 RBIs. That would be a sizable tick in the wrong direction offensively, but it would increase his home run totals by more than double. If he can get on base at above 32% and hover around the .250 batting average range, he would be a legitimate offensive contributor the Yankees can rely on toward the bottom of the order.

Defensively, he showcased talent at every outfield spot, so there is value if manager Aaron Boone doesn’t utilize him as a super utility option. Ideally, Cashman would bring in a starting-level left fielder with experience, allowing Cabrera to fill any position that needs supplementary help.

However, management has already indicated they are confident in their current options, meaning they could avoid landing a new left fielder altogether. Nonetheless, that wouldn’t be the most efficient move, especially since Cabrera is entering his rookie season virtually, and there’s no telling if he can replicate his numbers from this past season across a larger sample size.

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