Yankees Mock Trades: Gold Glove first baseman heads to the Bronx

MLB: New York Yankees at Arizona Diamondbacks
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees could look to find a first baseman if they’re not confident in Ben Rice’s defensive skills, as while he’s impressed with the bat, they could be aggressive for a bat. Christian Walker of the Arizona Diamondbacks is one of the best players at his position, and while the reigning NL Champions aren’t completely out of the pennant race, they could fall out of it soon. Two games under .500 as of today, Arizona sits 2.5 games out of a playoff spot and they still haven’t hit their stride yet.

A free agent at the end of the 2024 season, could the Yankees swing a trade for one of the best defensive infielders in the game?

Christian Walker Could Supercharge the Yankees’ Infield

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Philadelphia Phillies
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This has been another excellent season for Christian Walker, who is one of the best two-way players in the game thanks to his powerful bat and strong glove. So far on the season, he has a .256 average and .472 SLG%, totaling a 124 wRC+ and having 17 home runs at the halfway point of the season. Last season, the 33-year-old first baseman hit 33 home runs with +12 Outs Above Average, winning his second-straight Gold Glove.

He’s established himself as the best defensive first baseman in baseball by far, leading in Defensive Runs Saved (+31) and Outs Above Average (+33) since the start of the 2022 season. Nobody comes close to his defensive value at the position, and that makes him an incredibly valuable player for a team that has a lot of contact pitchers. Clay Holmes is their closer and he relies heavily on the groundball, so bringing in Walker could help not only on plays right to him, but also making tough scoops to bail out an infielder making an errant throw.

READ MORE: The Yankees could shake up their starting rotation when injured players return

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Arizona Diamondbacks
Credit: Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

As for a potential package, the Yankees would be dealing for a true rental, with no options that can vest or be picked up for next season. As a mid-30s infielder, his value may not seem high, but he’s just so good that I doubt the Yankees would land him without moving some notable prospects. Will Warren has struggled, but Triple-A is a weird run environment and his stuff has remained as good as it was when some outlets graded him as a potential top-100 prospect.

Jared Serna has broken out as an infield prospect, putting up a 126 wRC+ with 12 home runs and a 17.3% strikeout rate as he’s done a great job rounding out his offensive skill set. As a natural shortstop who can play all over the baseball diamond, the Diamondbacks could stick him in the infield at various spots if he moves up the Minor Leagues over the coming seasons.

His fellow teammate Jace Avina might be a more enticing prospect, cutting down his strikeout rate from 29.6% to 24.3% after jumping to High-A this season. His 134 wRC+ and .479 SLG% are excellent, and he turned 21 just a month ago. Avina is one of the youngest hitters in the South Atlantic League and should be considered a top 10-15 prospect in the Yankees’ organization at this point.

It’s a pitcher who can help the Diamondbacks this season paired with two position player prospects who are performing well at High-A, but Arizona could ask for more if teams start bidding aggressively for Walker’s services. If the Yankees get more production from Ben Rice they could be less inclined to make this deal as well, perhaps shifting their focus on second or third base.

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